Breaking new ground: A Missourian special report

Sunday, April 27, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 28, 2014

COLUMBIA — The Missourian takes an in-depth look at how members of the Columbia community are using their skills and resources to break new ground in a special publication, "Bright Ideas."

The publication is available online and as a downloadable e-book.

Here's what you'll find:

Community profiles

Columbia is full of people making a difference in the world. Here’s a quick overview of a few of them.

Sinclair School of Nursing professor Urmeka Jefferson's research aims to increase rates of breastfeeding in African-American women and decrease infant mortality. After discovering a strong correlation between high mortality rates and low breastfeeding rates, she hopes to isolate specific factors that contribute to the social stigma surrounding breastfeeding.

MU professor Don Spiers created a cellphone app that monitors heat stress in cows and alerts farmers when they reach dangerous levels. The app could save the cattle industry billions of dollars and revolutionize modern farming.

Bill Ma, an engineering professor at MU, developed technology that could prevent mechanical systems from overheating. His oscillating heat pipes are supposed to remove heat from computer chips and nuclear reactors more quickly than previous forms of heat transfer so that the technology can do more work.

MU professor Kevin Keegan created a device detects and measures lameness in horses. His lameness locator sensors have made a worldwide impact and are used in about half of the veterinary schools across the country and in every continent except Antarctica.

Brad Carlson hopes to bring an innovative stagecraft technique to MU Theatre that features traditional methods and modern technology. By combining traditional shadow puppets and large-scale image projection, he hopes to create scenes that appear to be floating above the stage.

Nicole Knapp-Weber leads City Garden School, an alternative school aimed at developing children’s knowledge through hands-on activity, personal investigation and artistic expression. Next year, the school will grow to include a fourth grade.

Because of a new microscope invented by MU researchers Gavin King and Krishna Sigdel, scientists can now get a 3D view of objects invisible to the human eye.

Led by MU graduate student Emily Crowe, men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 are working to improve their fitness levels. The Advanced Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program has shown to strengthen its participants.

During his work as a veterinarian, Jeffrey Bryan may have stumbled upon a new cancer treatment. The first to discover Y-chromosomes in female dogs, Bryan hopes to use the chromosomes to treat different types of cancer.

Students who want to break into the music business can now learn how to do just that. MU professor Jonathan Kuuskoski brought his knowledge from growing up in a family of musicians to the MU School of Music to create the Music Entrepreneurship Certificate, available to students of any major.

Grover Shannon is breeding soybeans with genes of high oleic acid to produce an soybean-based alternative to trans fats. The discovery could revolutionize the processed food industry due to its low cost and health advantages. 


John Viator and MU's Viator lab created a technology that they say detects metastasized cancer cells faster than current methods in use.

George Stewart, a medical bacteriologist at MU, tested a new method that reduces the time it takes to detect anthrax, which could save the government a lot of money in clean-up costs.

Columbia resident Irene Sackreiter was one of the first people in the U.S. to get a new type of knee developed using 3-D printing. Doctors used advanced imaging technology to create a 3-D "map" of her knee and produced a knee implant that is precisely the shape and size of her natural knee.

Gina Ceylan, an MU graduate student who is blind, started the Inclusive Design for Learning class, meant to teach graduate students how to teach students of all abilities using different tools and technology.


Columbia Public Schools implemented a high school-level criminalistics program, giving students the opportunity to expand their interests in STEM-related topics. The program allows students to use scientific techniques to analyze physical evidence of crimes with hands-on experience and real-life situations.

Since the 1950s, MU students and faculty members have been contributing in the plant and social sciences to fight world hunger.

As educational institutions continue to toy with the idea of online learning, MU's Learning Center is testing online tutoring through NetTutor, an online tutoring program launched in 1996 with student flexibility in mind. It offers one-on-one tutoring seven days a week out of Tampa, Fla. For math and English, tutoring is available 24 hours a day.


A Jordanian woman created acne-fighting ointment and cosmetics made from camel's milk. She had access to free legal consultation to set up her U.S. subsidiary company, Columbia Biotech.

Columbia is exploring creation of its own solar farm that would let utility customers buy electricity generated by the sun. Although the project is still in the research phase, the solar panel farm could be built sometime next year at a city utility station on West Ash Street north of Shelter Gardens.

Supervising editor is Laura Johnston.

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