<p>Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, engaged in research with a student.</p>

Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, engaged in research with a student.

<p>Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, pictured here in a campus lab.</p>

Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, pictured here in a campus lab.

<p>This&amp;nbsp;student&amp;nbsp;participates in&amp;nbsp;research&amp;nbsp;with&amp;nbsp;Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences.</p>

This&amp;nbsp;student&amp;nbsp;participates in&amp;nbsp;research&amp;nbsp;with&amp;nbsp;Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences.

  • <p>Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, engaged in research with a student.</p>
  • <p>Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences, pictured here in a campus lab.</p>
  • <p>This&amp;nbsp;student&amp;nbsp;participates in&amp;nbsp;research&amp;nbsp;with&amp;nbsp;Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences.</p>
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Kent State University has been awarded a training grant in the amount of $2,756,719 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under its Integrative Graduation Education and Research Training (IGERT) program. This is the first IGERT grant to be awarded to Kent State. The grant, which is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, runs through 2014.

The grant funds an IGERT project that focuses on environment aquatic resource sensing (EARS). The purpose of the program is to train doctoral students in environment sensing to learn how to protect and sense things in aquatic environments. The training provided by this project will prepare graduate students for a variety of future careers relevant to freshwater resources.

"The use of sensing technology allows us to monitor and understand what's going on in our environment," says Laura Leff, professor and assistant chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences and principal investigator of the program. "Humans are dependent on freshwater resources, and there is not much freshwater on the Earth's surface. There are many diverse threats that can impact our aquatic systems, and technology, such as sensors, allows us to ask questions we couldn't ask before."

The EARS project is interdisciplinary and involves Kent State and Miami University. "We want students to collaborate across disciplines to get a real hands-on experience and business experience in terms of technology transfer," Leff says. "The project provides a unique opportunity to bring together people in sciences, business and technology, serving as a catalyst of new partnerships to form not just between the sciences, but also with the colleges of business and technology."

A highly competitive program, Kent State was one of more than 400 pre-proposals for the grant award. Ultimately, only 25 were funded.

"This grant brings a lot of prestige to the university since it's a highly competitive award, endorsing the quality of our students and our sciences," says James Blank, chair of Kent State's Department of Biological Sciences. "This is a highly coveted award that will help transform graduate programs." 

Currently, three doctoral students from Kent State and three doctoral students from Miami University are participating in the EARS project. The students recently conducted a workshop at Lacawac Sanctuary in Pennsylvania where they tested sensors and collected data. They also will design an education outreach project that they will implement together, using what they are learning to educate students in local schools. IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. doctoral scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline and the technical, professional and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The IGERT program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. For more information on IGERT, visit www.IGERT.org. For more information on the IGERT Environmental Aquatic Resource Sensing, visit http://bioweb.biology.kent.edu/igert/home.html.

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