Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis
  • Home
  • Past-RET-Summer-Programs

KU Research Experiences for Teachers logo

News for Past RET:SHIFT Programs

The University of Kansas Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) offers a 6-week summer research program for high school science teachers. This program is called “Research Experiences for Teachers: Shaping Inquiry from Feedstock to Tailpipe,” or RET:SHIFT, and is funded by the National Science Foundation. News articles about past programs are shown below.

2013, 2012, 2011, 2010

Federal Grant Renewed for Research Experiences for Teachers

(November 11, 2013)

Scott Sharp is not a fan of lecturing to students about biology.  Instead, he thinks they would benefit much more from authentic research projects.  Sharp, a biology and natural history teacher in De Soto, Kan., is not alone. 

There is a growing trend nationwide to add scientific inquiry and engineering design concepts to the high school curriculum.  The problem is that few teachers have experience doing research or designing practic2011 RET participantsal engineering solutions. 

A KU-CEBC program is trying to change this.  For the past three years, Sharp and 16 other teachers have engaged in biofuel research projects at KU as part of a half a million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Recently, the NSF announced that it will continue to fund the program, called Research Experiences for Teachers, for the next three years.  The roughly $500,000 award exposes high school teachers to research and will help them create useful inquiry-based activities to take back to their classrooms. 

“If you give students the freedom to come up with research projects that they are interested in, they will reward you by creating really high quality work and asking some pretty creative questions,” said Sharp.

With partners at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in Greenbush, Kan, the program serves not only urban areas, but also rural populations across the state.  “Ultimately, this program will encourage more students to become scientists and engineers,” said Claudia Bode, CEBC education director. 

Teacher Participants, 2013
Alan Gleue, Lawrence High School
Drew Ising, Junction City High School

Teacher Participants, 2012
Nikki Burnett, Baldwin High School
Mary Criss, Wichita North High School
Brian Gahagan, Chanute High School
Jennifer Gartner, Labette County High School
Amy Johnston, Olathe North High School
Todd Petersen, DeSoto High School
Shannon Ralph, Dodge City High School
Scott Sharp, DeSoto High School


Kansas teachers and students benefit from biofuel research

(Dec. 12, 2011)

This year, students and teachers throughout Kansas have greater access to innovative, lesson plans and lab activities thanks to a unique program at the Un2011 RET participantiversity of Kansas.

Eight Kansas science teachers spent six weeks doing research at KU and the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis last summer as part of a program funded by the National Science Foundation.

“When you come here and they have research that’s helping me as a citizen of the state of Kansas, in my view as a taxpayer, that’s what I want my state universities to do,” said SHIFT participant Jennifer Gartner, a chemistry and physics teacher at Labette County High School in Altamont, Kan.

The SHIFT program, ‘Shaping Inquiry from Feedstock to Tailpipe,’ engages high school and community college educators in biofuel research.  For the past two years, the teacher participants have created innovative lesson activities based on their research that integrate engineering with biology, chemistry, ecology and physics.

Amy Johnston, an honors chemistry teacher at Olathe North High School in Olathe Kan., partnered with Gartner in her research on biofuels and helped examine potential applications for its glycerol by-product.  She said the connections made through the RET program are a major benefit to educators.

“Everyone in this program is from a different part of the state, so we all get to talk to each other and find out what works in each person’s classroom,” Johnston said.  “It’s just a great collaboration opportunity and it’s not just during the summer, it’s during the whole school year, since now we’ve made the connections and can all be involved in the conversation.”

This program benefits more than just the handful of teachers who take part in the KU campus activities.  The teachers’ new lesson plans are inspiring high school students as well. 

“I have two senior students that are doing the [algae research] project that I did this summer,” said Shannon Ralph, a biology teacher at Dodge City High School, Dodge City, Kan.

At the end of the summer session, the teachers shared their new lessons with several other educators at a workshop at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center – Greenbush in Girard, Kan. Each participant took home their own $100 toolkit to teach the new activities.  Greenbush staff continue to teach the lessons throughout the year to children who visit the science center. 

In addition to expanding her knowledge of engineering, Gartner said her time in this program also opened her eyes to just how much KU contributes to the state.

“I want [KU faculty] to help develop the products that Kansas has to offer the world and boost the economy.  To know that KU is doing that makes me a supporter of KU, not just of their basketball program, but their academics and engineering program, too.”

2011 Participants:

Greg Bacon, Pratt Community College
Mary Criss, Wichita North High School
Alan Gleue, Lawrence High School
Jennifer Gartner, Labette County High School
Drew Ising, Junction City High School
Amy Johnston, Olathe North High School
Shannon Ralph, Dodge City High School
Scott Sharp, DeSoto High School


Related news articles

RET participant's school wins 'Battle of the Brains' in Kansas City, Nov, 2011

Dodge City high school teacher gets fired up about research, July 26

Educators brush up on research, July 18, 2011

Pratt Community College's Bacon serves up classroom experiments, May 6, 2011

Connecting biofuels to the classroom, Oct 15, 2010


Connecting Biofuels to the Classroom

(October 15, 2010)

Giving Kansas teachers a taste of research helps engage their students in real-world scientific inquiry.

alan gleue Ask Alan Gleue, physics teacher at Lawrence High School, how he spent his summer and you’re likely to hear that he played with fire.     

“Actually, we researched how fuel burns, and found that biodiesel burns much cleaner and longer than regular diesel,” said Gleue.

Gleue was one of nine teachers who participated in a Research Experiences for Teachers program at the University of Kansas known as “Shaping Inquiry from Feedstock-to-Tailpipe,” or SHIFT. 

photo of BalaThe SHIFT program pays high school and community college teachers to work with KU faculty for six weeks in the summer.  The purpose is to engage teachers in research on different aspects of renewable fuels – from how they are made to how they burn in vehicles and impact the environment. 

The teachers also transformed their research projects into innovative lessons to take back to their classrooms.  The idea is that students will be more motivated to learn basic science concepts if they are connected to an engaging and relevant real-world issue. 

The SHIFT program is funded for the next two years by the National Science Foundation.  It is organized by KU faculty and staff from the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, the Biodiesel Initiative and the Transportation Research Institute (TRI).

The program also has strong ties with the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in Greenbush, Kansas, which has been offering K-12 services across the state for three decades.

The SHIFT program recruits science teachers from all Kansas high schools and community colleges, both urban and rural populations.  The first year of the program involved nine participants from eastern and southern parts of the state.   Plans are underway to involve more instructors from western schools. 

algae2010 Participants

Mary Criss, Wichita North High School, Wichita, KS
Michael Hotz, Wyandotte High School, Kansas City, KS
Sharon McCue, Wichita Northeast Magnet High School, Wichita, KS
Faculty Mentors - Val Smith, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Belinda Sturm, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering

Troy Criss, Wichita Northeast Magnet High School, Wichita, KS
Jo McCormick, Washington High School, Kansas City, KS
Faculty Mentor - Susan Williams, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, Director for the KU Biodiesel Initiative, and Principal Investigator for the RET program

Greg Bacon, Pratt Community College, Pratt, KS
Alan Gleue, Lawrence High School, Lawrence, KS
Faculty Mentors - Christopher Depcik, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Edward Peltier, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Steven Giambrone, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS
Lori Train, Topeka High School, Topeka, KS
Faculty Mentors - Sharon Billings, Associate Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, and Nathaniel Brunsell, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science

KU Today
48 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Pharmacy school No. 2 nationally for NIH funding