Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

Get to know Big 12 research: Iowa State University


If you’re like many members of the OVPR’s staff, you’re planning to spend the next several Saturdays watching Baylor’s football team defend their 2013 Big 12 championship. Of course, there’s more to the universities in our conference than just athletics — Big 12 schools are also leaders in research and scholarship.

Leading up to the Bears’ conference games this fall, we’ll be bringing you Q&A with staff members in our counterpart offices to help you learn more about the great research being conducted on their campuses. This week, we hear from Sandy Clarke, communications specialist in Iowa State University’s Office of the Vice President for Research.


What are some of the most exciting research projects going on at ISU?

One area creating excitement is Iowa State’s work at the intersection of several traditional ISU strengths: plant breeding, crop genetics/genomics, bioinformatics/statistics and biosystems engineering. Researchers are collaborating across disciplines to create better, stronger plant species for food and for fuel grown under more extreme weather conditions. In the area of plant genomics, new ways of “editing” genetics of plants—an innovation created by a team that included ISU researchers—have made it possible to create plants that can be more efficiently and sustainably processed for fuel production. With innovations like this, Iowa State has achieved national prominence in plant sciences, biofuels and bioenergy. ISU’s Bioeconomy Institute and Plant Sciences Institute coordinate much of this research.

Also high on our list of exciting projects and facilities, Iowa State University’s College of Engineering has a Tornado Simulator that helps engineers answer questions about how tornadoes interact with homes and buildings, among other studies, and the simulator produces some spectacular effects, as you might imagine. The most exciting part, though has to be the potential for saving lives and property from the devastating effects of violent storms.  Click here to see a photo of the simulator in action. 

What’s an area of research strength at Iowa State that people outside the ISU community might not be aware of?

Folks outside of the Iowa State community might not be aware of the university’s research in health and clinical medicine. For example, an interdisciplinary team working on a nanovaccine initiative aims to deliver vaccines and other drugs in the body using biodegradable polymer nanoparticles. The nanoparticles the researchers are producing are tiny—smaller than typical bacteria. The research brings together nanotechnology, materials science, immunology, clinical science, and social science to focus on tackling four areas that are major threats to world health: respiratory infections, tropical diseases, neural disorders, and cancer. Click here to read more about the initiative.

For Baylor fans who might be traveling to Ames, what are some favorite local attractions or restaurants you’d recommend?

Reiman Gardens is a beautiful spot to soak in the glory of a fall day. Located near Jack Trice Stadium on 14 acres, it has three rose gardens, a conservatory, a children’s garden, and the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, where you can take in the full spectrum of butterfly species from all over the world. Learn more at Art lovers might like to take in one of several museums. See

Ames also has a thriving downtown scene with several restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops, boutiques and unique businesses that might pique the interest of Baylor fans. Campustown offers food and other attractions. Check all of the restaurant and shopping options at

What’s the history behind the Iowa-Iowa State Cy-Hawk Series?

The athletics departments at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have staged an annual all-sports competition since 2004-05. The Cy-Hawk Series has been staged 10 times, and each school has won the competition five times. Iowa State won last year’s competition, 14-11. The current sports included in the series are men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s gymnastics, women’s soccer, women’s softball, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, volleyball and wrestling.

The winner of the football game each year earns three points. All of the other sport count for two points. Each school can also win one point if its student-athletes have a higher graduation rate than the school’s undergraduate students. Iowa State currently leads the competition, and Iowa State won this year’s football matchup. See the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series website for the latest standings:

Thanks to Sandy Clarke and the ISU OVPR for participating in our “Get to know Big 12 research” series.  Visit their website at

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