Biopolymers & Biocomposites Research Team

The Biopolymers & Biocomposites Research Team (BBRT), established in 1995, promotes research in the development of biorenewable polymers from Midwest crops, encourages bioplastics in industry, and works towards new formulations and processing techniques.  We work with plant-based oils, proteins, adhesives, and composites.

Our team is focused on four major research areas:  biobased polymers, protein-based plastics, cellulosic-based composites, and design, characterization, and use of biopolymers and biocomposites.  The team consists of world leaders in research and teaching in these areas.


Human Computer Interaction Initiative

The study of the relationship between humans and computers has quickly become one of the most dynamic and significant fields of technical investigation. Iowa State University’s graduate program in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is an established leader in this rapidly changing field, making strategic investments to accelerate research, attract talented students and faculty, and expand the program of study.

Interdisciplinary by definition, HCI impacts nearly every area of our lives. The HCI graduate major reflects a broad recognition in academia and industry of the need to train researchers to meet the challenges faced by this rapidly evolving area of technological progress. HCI graduate students at ISU interact with faculty from departments representing every college in the University as well as researchers at the Virtual Reality Applications Center.

Students in the program engage in the interdisciplinary research and study of the interaction between people and technology and how that technology impacts society.


Virtual Reality Applications Center

Virtual Reality Applications CenterThe Virtual Reality Application Center (VRAC) is an interdisciplinary research center focused on the rapidly expanding interface between humans and computers.  The VRAC is administered by the Institute for Physical Research and Technology at Iowa State University.  Our research centers around computer interfaces that integrate virtual environments, wireless networking, pervasive computing, and emerging user interface technologies to amplify the creativity and productivity of people.  The VRAC is home of the C6, the world’s highest resolution, completely immersive six-sided virtual reality room.

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Seed Science Center

A national center of excellence in seed research, education and technology transfer.  It operates the largest public seed laboratory in the world and administrates the new National Seed Health System.  The center also is a leader in international seed programs and has conducted programs in 70 countries in the last 12 years.

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Safety Training Instruction and Research Center

A part of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, the Safety Training Instruction and Research Center (STIR) is a national resource for environmental, safety, and health information. Providing training; outreach and education; and encouraging continual process and human performance improvement in the workplace.  STIR is an innovative training center established with construction, general industry, and small businesses in mind.

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Plant Sciences Institute

Ernst Rutherford is attributed with saying “Biology is akin to postage stamp collecting” (1903).  This quote reflects the sentiment that Biology is a descriptive science without predictive models.  With a few notable exceptions, e.g., Population Genetics, most biological sub-disciplines continue to be largely descriptive.  In the last 20 years collaborations involving biologists, engineers and informaticists have resulted in development of high throughput bio-technologies that can generate and catalogue data on every genomic base, transcript, protein, metabolite and all of the interactions among these entities at every stage in the growth and development of an organism.  The emergence of these incredible technical capabilities prompted the National Research Council to commission a panel to develop a set of recommendations for biological research in the 21st Century.

The resulting recommendations are focused on providing solutions to societal challenges in personalized medicine, food production , renewable energy and environmental integrity.  To successfully address these grand challenges will require transdisciplinary approches that will transform biology from a descriptive to a predictive science.  In particular, modelers from the physcial science and engineering disciplines will be essential intellectual partners.

The Plant Sciences Institute has always fostered multi-disciplinary approaches to plant science because we recognize that novel solutions to scientific challenges come from research partners working at the interfaces of scientific disciplines.  ISU has the intellectual and technological capabilities to provide leadership in addressing the grand challenges of biology.  In anticipation of emerging federal funding initiatives to address the grand challenges, the PSI is actively promoting and supporting trans-disciplinary team development through competitive Requests for Proposals in both team building and team enabling activities.

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National Animal Disease Center

It is the mission of NADC to conduct basic and applied research on selected diseases of economic importance to the U.S. livestock and poultry industries.  The goals of the research mission are to produce knowledge and technology to reduce economic losses from infectious, genetic, and metabolic diseases to the livestock and poultry industries and the associated rural agricultural community, to reduce or eliminate pre-harvest contamination or infection of livestock and poultry with food-borne human pathogens, and to prevent suffering and death caused by diseases in agriculturally important livestock and poultry.

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Midwest Forensics Resource Center

The Midwest Forensics Resource Center, a center for advanced research and development in forensic science, is a support and research facility in the Ames Laboratory on the Iowa State University campus. The center provides a program to identify and provide (1) access to university and laboratory resources for use in casework, (2) a regional focal point for the production and provision of innovative training and education, (3) a collaborative network for midwestern forensic science educators, (4) a center for advanced research and development in forensic science, and (5) a development center to advance innovative technology and management practices in crime laboratories.

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Microelectronics Research Center

The Microelectronics Research Center develops and characterizes advanced semiconductor materials, devices, and processing technology.  The Center researches and develops new semiconducting materials and technology for the next generation of electronic and photonic devices, interacts with industry in the commercialization of these new technologies, and provides a state-of-the-art learning laboratory.  The primary goal is to accomplish world-class research in a few carefully selected niche areas, including thin film electronic and optical devices.  The primary emphasis is on electronic and optical materials and devices for photovoltaic conversion, photonic bandgap devices and sensors.  These include fundamental studies of high-efficiency photovoltaic solar energy conversion materials, research on nanostructural electronic devices, intelligent plasma processing for advanced semiconductor manufacturing, and organic semiconductors and sensors.  MRC is a center of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of research and technology-transfer centers and industrial-outreach programs at Iowa State University.

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Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

The Leopold Center is a research and education center with statewide programs to develop sustainable agricultural practices that both are profitable and conserve natural resources. It was established under the Groundwater Protection Act of 1987 with a three-fold mission: (1) to conduct research into the negative impacts of agricultural practices; (2) to assist in developing alternative practices; and (3) to work with ISU Extension to inform the public of Leopold Center findings.  The Center is administered through the Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station and Iowa State University.

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Laurence H. Baker Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics

Faculty in the Center for Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics engage in research to develop computational, graphical, statistical, mathematical, or algorithmic methods to interpret or mine information from biological data; apply quantitative approaches in biology; and bridge separate experimental biology areas with creative computational approaches.  Data can originate from molecular, cellular, anatomical, physiological, population, ecological, and systems studies.  The mission of the Center is to facilitate and enhance research in bioinformatics and biological statistics by fostering communications among the faculty, external laboratories, and granting agencies.  Another important role of the Center is to inform diverse researchers about new opportunities for applications in biology.  The 80+ faculty have their homes in 17 diverse departments and research units.

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Iowa Water Center

The Iowa Water Center coordinates and administers an interdisciplinary, statewide program in water resources research.  It administers the research funds received from the U.S. Department of the Interior, as made available through the Water Resources Research Act of 1983, and from the State of Iowa.  Funds received from private, state, and federal sources are allocated for research in all aspects of water resources, directed primarily at solving state, regional, and national water problems.  Technology transfer and information dissemination are additional elements of the program.

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Iowa Space Grant Consortium

The ISGC is part of the NASA National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, authorized by Congress in 1987. The ISGC was formed in 1990 by the three Regents’ universities (Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa) and now includes Drake University, as well as affiliates from government, industry and nonprofit organizations. The mission of the ISGC is to coordinate and improve Iowa’s future in aerospace science and technology and to stimulate aerospace research, education and outreach activities throughout the state.  These goals are carried out through partnerships with the Consortium’s affiliates. The ISGC’s work is organized into the program categories of precollege, higher education, fellowships/scholarships, research infrastructure and informal education.

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Iowa Energy Center

The Iowa Energy Center is a research, demonstration, and education organization dedicated to improving Iowa’s energy efficiency and use of renewable energy. The Energy Center meets its goals by developing in-house energy-related research and education programs and by sponsoring projects developed by other groups.  The Energy Center awards competitive grants for energy-related projects, which vary in size and complexity and are conducted throughout the state in Iowa’s universities, colleges, community colleges, and private nonprofit organizations.

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Iowa Center for Advanced Neurotoxicology

The Iowa Center for Advanced Neurotoxicology at Iowa State University was established in 2007.  From offices located in the College of Veterinary Medicince, ICAN supports an interdisciplinary membership with primary research efforts in neurotoxicology.

As an emerging research specialty, neurotoxicology bridges not only the fields of toxicology and neuroscience, but also touches on a variety of other scientific areas, making it a truly interdisciplinary research specialty.  Because of the collaborative nature of research supported by ICAN, its members benefit from new and unique synergistic relationships for discovery not otherwise available in a single discipline environment.

ICAN has three major goals:

  1. Conduct fundamental research on both animal and human-related neurotoxicological probelms that are of special significance to Iowa and the United States.
  2. Train graduacte students and postdoctoral researchers in the field of neurotoxicology
  3. Develop technologies and treatment strategies (economic development/translational approach) for diagnosis and treatment of disease associated with the nervous system.

Research conducted by ICAN focuses on:

  1. Environmental neurotoxicology including nanotechnologies and nanotoxicology, environmental influences on cell signaling proteins, and related aberrant activities within cells including degenerative processes.  Proactive research places special emphasis on protective strategies.
  2. Parasite neurobiology that explores often unanticipated relationships between the genes and proteins of parasitic organisms.  Such research reveals new insights into fundamental biological mechanisms of neurotoxins in controlling parasitic organisms and critical related issues such as environmental impact and pesticide resistance.
  3. Neurodegeneration and nerve cell damage impacting Prion proteins in both humans and animals via diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob and “Mad Cow.”

The importance of neurotoxicology continues to expand as new issues emerge relating to human, animal, and environmental health, and to their impact on both local and global economies.


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Institute for Transportation (InTrans)

This Institute is a focal point at ISU for efforts to promote transportation education, research and extension activities.  It includes 8 centers and 4 programs that address various aspects of transportation infrastructure .  Programs and activities at In Trans address policy, planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance aspects of transportation systems with a focus on surface transportation elements.  Topic areas include earthworks, materials, pavements, bridges, traffic engineering, safety, applications of information systems, asset management, weather implications for transportation, remote sensing, knowledge transfer, and outreach.  Efforts by researchers at In Trans and their partners relate to developing innovative methods, materials, strategies and technologies as well as codes, specifications, and standards, for improving transportation system durability, efficiency, reliability, safety and sustainability.  In addition, a key focus is to enhance the educational experience and training of students in transportation-related fields.  As a dedicated, independent, and multidisciplinary home for about 200 students, professional staff, and faculty, all interested in the study of transportation, In Trans serves a transportation learning community.  In Trans is also home to the interdisciplinary Master’s degree in Transportation, an interdisciplinary degree with supporting academic programs in the Colleges of Engineering, Design, and Business.

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Industrial Assessment Center

This center provides energy audits to small and medium-sized manufacturing companies and recommends ways to reduce their energy consumption and become more profitable.  ISU teams that include faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students visit the site, collect data, conduct analyses, and write reports for each company.

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Geographic Information Systems

The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Support and Research Facility supports GIS services in research and education at Iowa State University and outreach to the citizens of Iowa. The facility provides hardware, software, and technical services for research use in GIS-related projects.  The facility also provides support and periodic training for GIS software products as well as teaching support of GIS courses through the Geographic Technologies Teaching Lab and the ISU GIS graduate certificate.  Software supported by the facility includes the ArcGIS suite of software for GIS applications and ERDAS for image processing.  Any of these tools can be licensed through the GIS Facility for use at the university.

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Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies

Through its research, education and outreach programs, the Center for Sustainable Environment Technologies (CSET) seeks to promote, develop, and demonstrated sustainable energy and environmental technologies, particularly those that address environmentally driven problems in energy utilization.  The center especially concentrates on thermochemical technologies that convert carbonaceous solid fuels into heat, power, and liquid fuels.  CSET organizes multidisciplinary teams of ISU faculty, staff, and students, as well as researchers from industry, national laboaratories, and other universities to address problems in sustainable energy development.  CSET is a center of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a network of research and technology transfer centers and industrial outreach programs at Iowa State University.

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Center for Plant Transformation

The Center for Plant Transformation (CPT) was designed to promote research advancements and foster research and training collaborations among its members. The CPT strives to develop, adapt, and/or evaluate novel technologies for plant transformation and gene expression and to teach and train students, postdoctoral scientists, and technical staff in transformation and gene expression technologies.

Goals of the Center for Plant Transformation are:  (1) to develop more efficient methods for producing transgenic plants that will be safe for human health and the environment; (2) to develop gene expression technologies to ensure that transgenes are stably expressed in the desired parts of plants and under the correct conditions and (3) to provide technical expertise for scientists in areas of plant genetics, genomics, and transgenic researches.

The Plant Transformation Facility (PTF) of the CPT provides maize, rice, and soybean transformation services in support of hypothesis-driven plant biology research projects.

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