Colorful corner

tulip bed

Early May typically makes for a colorful, photographable corner where Wallace and Osborn meet on the east side of campus. The agronomy department and Agronomy Club members maintain this large flower bed. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Teams cite progress on presidential research initiative

When he announced his initiative for interdisciplinary research during his fall 2012 inauguration, President Steven Leath had three goals in mind:

  • Put ISU talent to work on big, complex societal problems
  • Grow the university's research enterprise
  • Raise Iowa State's national profile

Seven research teams that were the beneficiaries of presidential funding demonstrated progress on those three fronts at a campus forum last week. Collectively, the teams are tackling big problems, building diverse research groups that cross disciplines and universities, hosting symposia and seeking grants for continued research efforts.

Here are a few highlights of the teams' brief progress reports on the past year.

Crop bioengineering

This project uses a novel genome editing technique to engineer plants. Key targets for the research team are rice, maize, soybean and sorghum. The technology generates bioengineered crops that don't contain transgenes, which should minimize regulatory hurdles for bioengineered germplasm. The research team hosted an international symposium last fall.

Global food security

This worldwide initiative, centered at Iowa State, addresses the challenge of feeding a growing population. Scientists will tackle food security issues at every step in the food chain value chain. Research will focus on both plants and animals.  Eight land-grant universities, four international research institutes, many companies and the Heifer International charity are part of the consortium. A recent two-day symposium brought 185 speakers and attendees from all over the world to Ames.

Systems design of nanovaccines

This systems approach to vaccine design merges advances in nanotechnology and materials sciences with advances in immunology to create a new class of nanovaccines for humans. Led by ISU, the team includes six universities (four in the U.S., two international), several research and government labs and several companies. In one project, researchers hope to develop vaccines that can be kept at room temperature, which would be particularly beneficial in developing countries.

Vaccines against antigenically diverse viruses

Thirty investigators from five scientific disciplines are taking a multistage approach to vaccine development. The initial focus will be on HIV, influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. As of January 2014, the team had secured $8 million in grants and contracts with $12 million pending.  It will hold an international symposium in Ames in June.

Computationally engineered plants

The team's vision is to bring together engineers and plants scientists to design and breed better crops that tolerate climate change, produce bigger yields and feed more people. A workshop in Des Moines in late April drew international experts as well as representatives from agribusiness companies and government agencies.

The language of writing in STEM disciplines

The project lays the groundwork for creating a national center of scholarship for the study of language in academic and professional writing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.  The cross-disciplinary team has applied for two National Science Foundation proposals, the first-ever NSF grants submitted by ISU linguistics.

Identifying potential RNA therapeutic targets in infectious disease

The team's long-term goal is to establish Iowa State as a leader in developing novel RNA-based therapeutic approaches to treat infectious diseases. Researchers will combine new biophysical and data-driven computational approaches to overcome some of the difficulties involved in determining the structure of RNA-protein complexes.

About the initiative

Through the initiative, the first four teams (above) collectively will receive up to $4.5 million over three years to pursue competitive grants to fund large-scale, multidisciplinary research efforts.

The remaining three teams each received up to $100,000 to pursue funds in emerging areas.

Council hears about 'wellbeing' initiative

Members of the Professional and Scientific Council heard from Stephanie Downs at their May 8 meeting. Downs was hired as ISU's first wellness coordinator this spring and told the council she is on a "discovery tour" of the university during her first few months.

"What I'm hoping to do now is to get out and meet as many people, departments and services as I can. To really find out what you want, what you're looking for -- what is the culture, what's happing, what are some of your wants and some of your wishes," Downs said.

She plans to develop a three- to five-year plan in late July and August.

"I use 'wellbeing' instead of 'wellness,'" Downs said. "Most people end up with the jogging and broccoli concept. What I want to do is start to think about wellbeing -- as far as a well organization and engaged employees -- and move it to a bigger picture. You can program, program, program, but if your culture isn't supporting it, no one can go to your programs anyway and people can't embrace that."

Downs introduced five perspectives of wellbeing: Career, social/emotional, financial, physical and community.

"This is the framework I want to set, to have the conversations to learn more about what you want," Downs said.


Fifteen council members who won their seats in the general elections were introduced. They begin their terms in June. Council members also elected their 2014-15 officers:

  • Kate Goudy-Haht (program coordinator in human development and family studies), secretary
  • Clayton Johnson (academic adviser in the College of Design), vice president for university community relations
  • Lisa Rodgers (program coordinator in the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory), vice president for university budget and planning
  • Katie Davidson (program assistant in the College of Veterinary Medicine), vice president for equity and inclusion

Council president Steve Mayberry (environmental specialist in environmental health and safety) will hand over the gavel to Amy Tehan (program coordinator in the Ames Lab) at the June 4 meeting. Tera Lawson (program coordinator in the School of Education) will begin her term as president-elect.


Megan Landolt

Megan Landolt has been serving as assistant for communications to President Steven Leath since April 21. Her responsibilities include speech writing, preparing press statements and letters, and developing other correspondence and communications for the president.

Landolt comes to Iowa State from KCCI-TV, Des Moines, where she worked for 10 years as a producer. She is an Iowa State alumna; her degree is in journalism and mass communication.

Landolt's office is in 1750 Beardshear. Contact her by phone at 294-1508, and by email at Photo by Bob Elbert.

Moment of satisfaction

Spring graduate

Undergraduates from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences return to their seats after crossing the stage to receive congratulations from President Steven Leath or Provost Jonathan Wickert during the Saturday afternoon commencement ceremony at Hilton Coliseum. One new alumnus couldn't help but take a peek at what was inside. Photo by Amy Vinchattle.

Alumni, by the numbers

They're the largest college or university alumni group in Iowa. They live in all 99 Iowa counties, all 50 states and 115 countries. Here's a quick numerical glance at the people who call Iowa State their alma mater.

Longtime alums are back

Alumni celebrating their 50-year reunion and "upperclassmen" who've passed that milestone are on campus today and tomorrow for Alumni Days. Some 70 alumni from the class of 1964 and another 200 visitors, including alums from earlier classes and spouses, are back.

They have a full class load over the next few days. Events include college receptions; tours of the Campanile, State Gym and campus art; and the traditional banquet at which 50-year alums receive medallions.

Big picture

Living alumni 233,000
Iowans 94,434


Top 5 state populations

  Iowa 94,434
  Minnesota 14,987
  Illinois 14,820
  California 10,593
  Texas 8,220


Top 5 global populations

Malaysia 722
Canada 579
Republic of Korea 477
Taiwan 531
Indonesia 385



Parking lots will close for Special Olympics

You're invited

Special Olympics Iowa is hosting a community picnic on Friday, May 23, to celebrate the summer games' 30th year at Iowa State.

The Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games return to the Iowa State campus May 22-24, marking the event's 30th year in Ames. More than 2,700 athletes will participate in bocce, cycling, developmental sports, soccer, tennis, swimming and track and field events. An estimated 3,000 volunteers -- including coaches and chaperones -- also will take part in the event.

The Lied Center, Beyer Hall, Forker Building and Iowa State Center parking lots will serve as competition venues. Hilton Coliseum will host Thursday's opening ceremonies (7 p.m., open to the public) and Friday's celebration dance for athletes, coaches and their families.

Access to some roads and parking lots will be limited or closed, including:

Road closures

  • Beach Road: Closed to through traffic from Lincoln Way to Wallace Road from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday 

  • South Fourth Street: Closed from Beach Avenue to just west of entrance to stadium parking lots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday 

Parking lot closures

  • Beyer Hall: Lot 3, Friday (all day); open to Lot 3 24-hour Reserve or handicap permit holders
  • Forker Building: Lot 50A, Thursday and Friday (all day); open to handicap permit holders
  • Iowa State Center: all lots, Thursday (12:01 a.m.-5 p.m.); commuter parking will move to the football stadium parking lots for Thursday and Friday, and CyRide will be routed through lots S3-S8
  • Lied Center: Lots 57 and 100, Thursday and Friday (all day); open to Lot 57 Reserve or Special Olympics permit holders
  • Maple-Willow-Larch residence halls: Lots 56, 63, 89, 90 and 91, Thursday and Friday (all day); open to Lot 66 and 67 24-hour Reserve permit holders
  • Richardson Court residence area: Lots 66, 67, 82, 83 and all stalls, Thursday and Friday (all day); open to Special Olympics or handicap permit holders

Summer visitors to campus

While Iowa State student numbers drop noticeably in the summer, our campus visitors data spikes. Here's a quick rundown of some of the larger groups heading our way -- and when.

Group Date Participants Staying on campus
Iowa Funeral Directors Association convention May 12-15 400 no
Alumni Days May 15-16 275, senior alumni no
Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games May 22-24 2,700, all ages yes
Odyssey of the Mind World Finals May 28-31 800+ teams, youth K-college yes
Orientation: Fall 2014 June 2-July 3 5,500+ freshman and transfer students yes
Future Problem Solving Program International Conference June 12-15 2,500, youth grades 4-12 yes
USA Track & Field Iowa Association Junior Olympic Championships June 21-22 1,000 no
Iowa Reading Association Conference June 24-25 850 IRA members no
Iowa 4-H Youth Conference June 24-26 1,000, high school yes
National Junior Disability Championships July 5-12 200-250, ages 7-22, physical disabilities no
BravO National Dance & Talent Competition July 7-13 1,000, all ages no
Iowa Summer Games July 11-13, July 17-20 (main weekend), July 25-27 14,000 over 3 weekends, all ages, youth and adults yes
Farm Progress Show Aug. 26-28   no


If you have a large group (100+) coming to campus this summer, send a note to and we'll add it to the list.