Category Archives: RESEARCH

TSU Football Players Teach Youngsters Importance of Physical Fitness

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The TSU Tigers’ football team recently took time to help some tiger cubs understand the importance of staying fit.

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TSU Tigers Middle Linebacker Chris Collins runs 2-5-year-olds through a drill in the Indoor Practice Field to show the young tigers the importance of physical fitness. The children are from the TSU Early Learning Center. (Photo by TSU Sports Information)

The program on April 1 was part of activities planned by the university’s Early Learning Center to engage its 2 to 5-year-olds in fun activities with the football players, while giving them an early start in physical fitness.

“It was all fun and an effort to get these young kids an early start in physical activities,” said Coach Rod Reed.

Dr. Beatrice Harris, the center’s director, said she enjoyed watching the football players interact with the youngsters.

“We really just wanted the football team to show the Little Tigers of the Early Learning Center how to catch and throw a football, “ she said.

Chris Collins, a middle linebacker with the Tigers and a sophomore mass communications major, said the experience with the children brought back old memories.

“I remember when I was a little kid, older kids would come and play with us and actually take us through football drills at summer camp,” Collins said. “It was just a lot of fun, and something these kids will remember for a long time.”

Collins, who led the drills in the Indoor Practice Field, said the children did stretches, ran up and down the practice field, and jumped over dummies, “like we do in real practice.”

“This teaches the kids a little discipline like we do as athletes to get ready and get warmed up for the season,” Reed said. “Hopefully this will teach them the importance of staying fit.”

The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences runs the Early Learning Center, which conducts research in all phases of early education and child development.

Seventeen children are enrolled at the center, which runs from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Event educates small businesses about contract opportunities with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently hosted a small business outreach event at Tennessee State University.

The one-day event on March 16 at TSU’s Avon Williams Campus allowed small business owners to learn strategies for identifying and pursuing contract opportunities with HHS, and meet with federal government representatives.

“We want to provide information to small businesses that can help them advance what they want to do, as well as advance the mission of HHS,” said Teresa Lewis, director of HHS’ Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

Lewis said the agency uses small businesses to assist in strengthening the health care of all Americans by advancing scientific knowledge, innovation, health care safety and accountability.

TSU was selected because the university is “doing some great things in the area of research that mirrors the work that we’re doing at the Department of Health and Human Services,” Lewis said.

Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, TSU’s chief research officer, said she’s glad the university had the opportunity to partner with the federal agency and looks forward to future collaboration.

“TSU, because of our interest in helping the community, economic development and because of our rich history in small business development, we agreed to be the partner in providing the venue for this program and in providing access to information on small businesses that’s beneficial,” she said.

Business owner Lincoln Tyson traveled from Washington, D.C. to attend the event because he wants to open a business in Nashville.

“Being a small business, I’m just trying to branch out and do some things in different parts of the country,” said Tyson, whose company does facilities-based work. “This is an opportunity to network, and gain information that will help me open an office in Nashville.

For more information about OSDBU, visit: www.hhs.gov/grants/small-business-programs.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Frances Williams, Distinguished Professor and Administrator, Joins TSU As Associate Dean in College of Engineering

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Dr. Frances Williams

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Dr. Frances Williams is the new associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the College of Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Tennessee State University.

In her new role, Williams will manage the graduate programs, provide oversight and coordinate research grants and contracts, as well as identify and initiate new research opportunities and collaborative partnerships for the college.

Before coming to TSU Williams was a faculty member and director of the Center for Materials Research at Norfolk State University. She also was the director of Norfolk State’s Micro- and Nano-technology Center Cleanroom, a premiere research facility for fabricating micro- and nano-scale devices.

Her research focus is in the areas of advanced materials and devices, biosensors, and nano- and micro-electromechanical systems processing and devices. She has received grants totaling $14 million as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator. In 2010 she received a U.S. patent for developing a micromachined sensor for monitoring electrochemical deposition.

Williams has received various awards including the 2013 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, the highest faculty award given out by the state. In 2012, she was named an “Emerging Scholar” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine. She also received Norfolk State’s top distinguished faculty award, the University Award of Excellence in 2010.

Williams is a member of several professional societies. She volunteers in various community programs that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education for students from elementary to college age.

Williams holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

National Science Foundation representatives educate local faculty, researchers about funding opportunities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Representatives from the National Science Foundation were in Nashville to tell faculty and researchers at local higher education institutions about research funding opportunities.

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National Science Foundation representative Dr. Laura Namy talks to faculty and researchers about research funding opportunities. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College hosted the event that was held Feb. 19 on Meharry’s campus. Participating colleges and universities included American Baptist College, Belmont University, Fisk University, Lipscomb University, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, who spearheaded the event and is TSU’s chief research officer, said the main purpose of collaborating with Meharry was to “strengthen the knowledge base about research funding opportunities among the various faculty members at the different institutions,” particularly historically black colleges and universities.

“In order for faculty members to be successful in attracting research dollars to support what they’re working on, they have to know what’s available to them,” said Crumpton-Young. “And one of the things that’s not commonly shared among HBCUs, or among small institutions, are the opportunities that are available.”

The conference focused on research related to social behavior and economic sciences, “the set of sciences that are related to the human experience,” said Dr. Laura Namy, program director in NSF’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences in the Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE). The three research divisions within SBE have a total annual budget of over $200 Million.

“The human experience is fundamental to every aspect of society,” said Namy. “And being able to conduct rigorous science to understand the processes by which people experience their everyday lives is really important for being able to both explain and optimize the quality of life for individuals.”

Dr. Orville Bignall, an associate professor of physics at TSU, attended the conference and said he plans to apply for a grant that will help him achieve collaboration between the psychosocial sciences and physics.

“This kind of collaboration will help me to get a process in place to help my students to navigate the proper channel that will help them to be more successful,” said Bignall.

Last year, TSU set a record with $51 million in new research awards. The university recently got a $350,000 grant from NSF to enhance its computing, network and security capacity. Crumpton-Young said the university is hoping to break another record this year, “and a big part of that is for faculty members to know what’s available so we can write those proposals and get funding.”

Dr. Maria de Fatima Lima, dean of Meharry’s School of Graduate Studies and Research, said Meharry and TSU currently have a partnership grant in cancer research and she hopes to see future collaborative efforts to inform faculty and researchers about funding.

“What I would like to see is for us to find other areas of common interest and expand this partnership,” Lima said. “We hope to see the faculty collaborating in research programs and enhancing the research of both schools.”

The National Science Foundation, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, is the funding source for about 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Showcases Research, Innovative Programs at Annual Day at the Capitol

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee lawmakers experienced a wave of Tiger Blue at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

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House Speaker Beth Harwell, left, talks with Dr. Nick Gawel, center, superintendent of the TSU Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tenn., and Rep. Kevin Dunlap, D-Rock Island. Dr. Gawel discussed research taking place at the facility with the lawmakers during TSU Day at the Capitol. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations).

Tennessee State University administrators, faculty, students, alumni converged on Legislative Plaza and the Hill to showcase the university’s research and other innovative initiatives at the annual TSU Day at the Capitol.

Displays from the school’s various colleges and departments lined both sides of the hallway in the plaza. Robotics, magnolia trees, research presentations and goats were among the booths showcasing the university’s diverse academic offering.

In the Senate chamber, the site of the kick-off ceremony, TSU President Glenda Glover thanked attendees for their participation and lauded state legislators for the funding they have provided the university. She noted Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent allotment of funding in his budget for a nearly $40 million Health Sciences Building at the institution.

Glover said TSU has been “good stewards of our state funding,” and encouraged lawmakers to continue supporting the university. She said the Day on the Hill is an opportunity to discuss the school’s legislative priorities with lawmakers.

“It’s very important that legislators are aware of our needs,” the president said. “The past and the future appropriations allow TSU to continue its long-standing legacy of providing a quality education to our most important customer and client, our students.”

Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, R-Hixson, was among several state lawmakers who spoke to those gathered in the Senate chamber. He thanked them for being engaged in the legislative process.

“Our system of government is not easy,” Watson said. “Democracy is not easy. It is the battlefield of ideas. And each of us has the right to have our voice heard, and you’re having your voice heard today. And I greatly appreciate you being engaged in that process.”

Rep. Harold Love Jr., a Nashville Democrat whose district includes TSU, said after the kick-off event that he hopes young people in attendance will become more interested in the legislative process, and even try to have a voice in policymaking.

“When we talk about active citizen engagement and forming policy, this is a prime example of what we would like to see from all of our students at colleges and universities across the state,” Love said. “This is what citizens are supposed to do, come down and be actively involved in policy formulation when laws are being passed or proposals considered.”

RaCia Poston, president of TSU’s Student Government Association, was among a number of students who participated in the special TSU day and one of 17 TSU students serving as interns during this session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

While she was motivated by what lawmakers had to say, she was particularly proud of TSU having the opportunity in general to showcase what’s happening at the university.

“A lot of times people only see what the media puts out about TSU,” said the 23-year-old Poston, who is a senior majoring in Social Work. “So for us to be here and show our smiling faces, and everything that we have to offer, from agriculture programs to engineering, I think it does a lot for TSU.”

Prior to the kick-off ceremony, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell greeted the TSU delegation to the Capitol and shared their pleasure of seeing such an enormous group. TSU held its first Day at the Capitol in 2014.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Four TSU Professors Receive USDA Capacity Building Grants for Research and Extension Services

USDANASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has divided its annual funding awards for capacity building in teaching, research and extension. With nearly $1.4 million, Tennessee State University is among the highest recipients of this year’s $18 million allotted for the 20 Land-Grant Colleges and Universities that submitted successful proposals.

The capacity building fund, attained through a competitive grant writing process, is an initiative intended to increase and strengthen food and agriculture sciences at the schools through integration of teaching, research and extension.

Four professors in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences will share this year’s awards in research and extension services, according to Dr. Carter Catlin, associate dean for Research. They are John Hall, Agnes Kilonzo-Ntheng, William Sutton and Samuel Nahashon.

“These grants help us build our capacity in new frontiers of research and education,” Dr. Chandra Reddy, the dean of CAHNS said.  “We have immensely benefited from this program by adding teaching and research capacity in many new areas such as biofuels, remote sensing, urban forestry, biotechnology, to name a few.  Our faculty have been doing a superb job of competing and securing these funds at the highest rate possible.”

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Dr. John Hall

Hall, assistant professor in Extension Services, received $455,923 to design a state-of-the-art mobile education trailer to increase agricultural literacy in urban communities across the southeastern United States. Additionally, the funding will support the creation and implementation of a comprehensive plan to recruit students for all degree programs in CAHNS as well as develop leadership training program for youth, collegiate, and adult audiences.

“This is an integrated project that seeks to meet teaching and extension needs,” Hall said.

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Dr. Agnes Kilonzo-Ntheng

In research, Kilonzo-Ntheng will use her $350,000 award in a collaborative effort with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to implement Good Agricultural Practices certification programs for small and medium-sized produce farms, and determine risk practices and profiles for generic E. coli, Salmonella and Enterobacteriaceae in produce farms. She will also conduct risk communication workshops for small and medium-sized scale growers, and increase students’ participation in food safety outreach.

“Produce growers have come under increasing pressure to ensure that their products are safe, wholesome, and meet the proposed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act, said Kilonzo-Ntheng, associate professor of Family and Consumer Sciences. “While the goal for GAPs certification is clear, limited-resource growers often do not pursue the certification due to the costs. However, to succeed in the 21st century economy, these growers must be GAPs certified and empowered to meet food safety requirements.”

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Dr. William Sutton

For Sutton, assistant professor of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, his $400,000 research award will study how landscape alteration in the form of forest management impacts wildlife conservation.

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Dr. Samuel Nahashon

Nahashon, professor and chair of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, received $100,000 to research new and emerging areas of biotechnology such as transcriptome analysis and computational bioinformatics. He will collaborate with an expert in computational bioinformatics at the University of Georgia to determine the mechanisms and modes of action of probiotics in conferring beneficial effects to poultry.

“This project is also an effort to continue strengthening the biotechnology research and teaching program in the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at TSU,” Nahashon said.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

School Teaches Farmers to Brew Own Biodiesel

Courtesy: Domestic Fuel

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Dr. de Koff, professor of Bioenergy Crop Production, and Project Director for the MBED demonstrates biodiesel production to students at Cheatham County High School on Sept. 19, 2014.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Farmers are known to be a pretty independent breed, and a school is teaching them to be energy independent by brewing their own biodiesel. This story from RFD-TV says Tennessee State University’s Agricultural Research and Education Center has a unique outreach program that teaches farmers about making their own on-farm biodiesel.

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Dr. Jason de Koff

“This is something where they can grow it, and they can make it themselves and they can use it on the farm,” says Jason de Koff, an assistant professor in agronomy and soil science at Tennessee State University. The school’s mobile demonstration trailer – think of it as a workshop on wheels – is making waves across the volunteer state.

“We were awarded a grant by the USDA back in 2012,” de Koff explains. “The grant was to create a demonstration that we could use to talk to farmers about producing their own biodiesel on the farm.”

TSU created this mobile biodiesel demonstration trailer at the university’s Agricultural Research and Education Center…where they even grow their own canola.

“The reason why we wanted to do this,” says de Koff, “is because we’ve estimated that anywhere between 1 percent and 3 percent of the farm acreage can be devoted to growing some of the oilseed crops for biodiesel production. The farmer can produce enough biodiesel from that to power their diesel equipment for the entire year.

“The canola seeds are stored here inside this bin and then they funnel their way down through this tunnel on the equipment. You can see that the seeds are then pressed for their oil, dripping down into this container. Down here on the end is everything that’s left over, something that can break off and be used in your animal feed. Once we’ve got the oil from the seed press, we can take it and put it in this biodiesel processor. This is where the actual conversion and actual production of biodiesel take place.”

The article points out that the cost to produce biodiesel on the farm is just $2.90 per gallon, a savings from buying at the pump. And farmers can apply for a Rural Energy for America grant program to help pay for 25 percent of the brewing equipment costs.

With Engineering Clinic, TSU Students May Soon Design and Build Computer Games, Small Machines

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A new “engineering clinic” will allow students to design and build products related to their discipline. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Engineering and computer science students at Tennessee State University may soon be able to design and build products such     as hand-held computer   games, mobile robots, computer apps and small machines, thanks to a new funding from the National Science Foundation.

A $1.7 million, four-year grant intended to revamp the curriculum and increase the graduation rate of African-American males in engineering, will also include the creation of an “engineering clinic,” which will allow students to design and build products related to their discipline.

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Dr. S. Keith Hargrove

“We are developing an innovative way of learning that would enhance students’ persistence and better prepare them for the rigors of the engineering coursework,” said Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering and principal investigator of the NSF funding.

According to Hargrove there is a demand to produce a more diverse workforce by developing curriculums that reflect theoretical and practical knowledge and allow graduates to immediately make a contribution to industry. But incoming freshmen are less prepared for the rigors of the engineering curriculum in such areas as math. Only 5.5 percent of black eighth-graders completed calculus five years later, and a mere 1.1 percent of the nation’s black college freshmen enrolled in engineering programs in 2010, an analysis by the National Association of Black Engineers shows.

With the new funding, Tennessee State University, the largest producer of African American engineers in the state, is responding to this workforce demand, Hargrove said.

Dr. Sachin Shetty
Dr. Sachin Shetty

“We have developed a pre-engineering sequence of courses for freshmen that students must take before embarking on the traditional four-year curriculum,” he said. “These courses are infused with hands-on design projects to motivate and inform students about the discipline, and promote team dynamics and engineering fundamentals.”

Freshman Mechanical Engineering major Isaiah Pirtle, a beneficiary of the pre-engineering program, has seen great progress in his performance.

“I was fortunate to participate in the ‘Engineering Concepts Institute,’ a summer pre-college program,” Pirtle said. “That experience gave me an excellent academic background for the mathematics required in my major.”

According to Hargrove, with that preparation, Pirtle and his fellow classmates’ program for the next five years will focus on more design-related projects with the development of the engineering clinic.

Dr. Sachin Shetty, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Co-PI of the NFS fund, will manage the project and the development of the clinic. The project will also support a retention study on the attrition of African-American students, with particular emphasis on black males. Faculty from the Department of Sociology Department and College of Education will coordinate the study.

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU to Host Fifth Annual Tennessee Local Food Summit Dec. 4-6

LogoJPEGblueNASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University will be the site for the Fifth Annual Tennessee Local Food Summit. The summit, to be held Dec. 4-6, will feature seminars and experts on a wide range of topics from backyard gardening, organic agriculture and rural economics to cooking, nutrition and climate change. More than 200 participants are expected to attend.

Sponsored by TSU and the Barefoot Farmer, LLC, the summit will also feature some of Nashville’s best chefs offering delicious, locally grown organic meals during a full-day of educational workshops, networking, and “the celebration of another great growing season,” organizers said.

Flyer with 3 logos[2]“Tennessee State University is pleased to host this important summit,” said the Dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences, Dr. Chandra Reddy. “It comes at a time when Nashville and Tennessee are moving toward healthy eating habits, protecting the environment and developing the local economy. This conference also provides an opportunity for our faculty and students to share their research and innovation in this field.”

Organizers say the annual summit is intended to make Middle Tennessee viable again as “the farmland that once fed Nashville.”

Speakers will include nationally and internationally recognized food and farm experts and consultants from Tennessee, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Australia, as well as TSU faculty members like Dr. An Peischel, Dr. Sandria Godwin, Dr. Lan Li, Dr. Dilip Nandwani and Dr. Arvazena Clardy.

For more information and to register for the summit, visit http://tnlocalfood.com

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

 

Safe Drinking Water: TSU Student and Faculty Research Help to Keep Nation Water Supply Free of Pollutants

JeTara crawling thru cave to sample site
JeTara Brown crawls through Mammoth Cave toward a water sampling sight. (Submitted Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University student and faculty-led research findings are helping to keep the nation’s drinking water safe. According to reports from the recent National Cave and Karst Management Symposium in Cave City, Kentucky, two TSU graduate students and their professors presented findings on ways to improve water quality in the karst landscapes, a unique and fragile set of ecosystems that are dependent on clean stormwater recharge. Two-thirds of Tennessee has karst or karst-like landscape, including all of middle Tennessee. Their findings at Mammoth Cave have application to Nashville and the surrounding area.

Graduate students JeTara Brown and Hung Wai Ho, along with their professors in the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, partnered with federal agencies to investigate management practices that improve storm runoff from parking lots and spills in the Mammoth Cave National Park in south central Kentucky. The cave and karst systems serve as a habitat for unique ecosystems and sources of drinking water for much of the population.

According to Hung Wai, their research focused on the assessment and treatment of different pollutants in stormwater runoff in an urbanized area.

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Hung Wai Ho conducts a tracer study with Rhodamine dye in Mammoth Cave. (Submitted Photo)

“Water is a vital part of the environment but anthropogenic activities have been causing impairment to the water quality, especially in the karst regions of Tennessee and Kentucky,” Hung Wai said. “Additionally, the National Park offers a dynamic and interactive environment for us to apply our academic knowledge in a real-world situation.”

 

The research was part of an agreement among TSU, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Western Kentucky University Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, to aid in understanding the transport of contaminants into the karst system.

“Over half of the U.S. population relies on groundwater as a source for water supply,” said Brown, a first-year graduate student. “Unfortunately, when it rains, contaminants can be transported into the groundwater through sinkholes and fractures that are unfiltered.  The more we understand how karst systems work, the better we can find ways to protect them.”

Dr. Tom Byl is a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey. For the last 20 years he has partnered with TSU conducting environmental research and teaching occasional classes.  Brown and Hung Wai are among the more than 150 students he has mentored.

“My students have conducted studies on a wide variety of topics, ranging from groundwater remediation to wetlands and cave systems,” Byl said. “Students bring new insight and energy to research projects.  Involving TSU students in field studies and lab research helps them understand that they can have meaningful careers in earth and environmental sciences.”

On the quality of the research, Dr. Rick Toomey, director of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, said it is “incredibly” important to the science of caves.

“We have been incredibly impressed with the students Dr. Byl brings from TSU,” Toomey said. “They have been involved in helping to provide us with critical information on park management and finding interesting patterns in pure science such as water chemistry change. Their work has been very valuable and we hope it is also providing educational opportunities for the students.”

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Dr. De’Etra Young crawls through Mammoth Cave toward a water sampling site. (Submitted Photo)
Byl said as a result of the students’ “outstanding” work, Brown and Hung Wai, along with their faculty advisors, have been invited to present their research findings at the Karst Water Institute in Puerto Rico in January 2016. The students were each awarded $200 toward travel expense to the conference by the prestigious Karst Water Institute.

“JeTara and Hung Wai are great examples of our talented students at Tennessee State University,” said Dr. DéEtra Young, a faculty advisor. “As coordinator of the College of Agriculture Dean’s Scholars Program, I’m working diligently to increase research opportunities for our students. It is our goal to actively foster the academic and personal development of our students in preparation for the workforce or the many graduate opportunities available.”

“There are very few minority scientists in this very important field of cave and karst management. TSU’s Ag and Engineering colleges are trying to train and fill this gap,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.  “Our faculty, Drs. De’Etra Young and Tom Byl, do an outstanding job in training students and the invitation they received to present at this important national meeting is a good indicator of that.”

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.