Research Briefs

A new web presence for NAU's research division

NAU Research site

The research division's redesigned website.

Northern Arizona University's (NAU's) research division spent the past few months working with IDEA Lab staff and NAU Marketing to convert its website to NAU's Content Management System (CMS). In the process, the division added a few new features.

"Redesigning the website was a challenge because we have a variety of audiences," notes Marcelle Coder, IDEA Lab Project Director. "We want all of you NAU researchers to be able to find the tools you need to get your research funded and make sure everything is done safely and in an accountable way. At the same time, we want to give visitors a glimpse of the exciting things that are happening at the university. We hope you like the result."

For those visiting the site to get to the research division's services, there are the "Quicklinks" and "Resources for Researchers" boxes in the right-hand section of the home page and the "Resources" tab in the left navigation bar. Visitors, who are not sure what they are looking for, can use the search box that is specific to the research website.

If there are stories or announcements that you'd like to see featured on the website, please contact IDEA Lab Associate Editor Sylvia Somerville (

Tech Connect Magazine Features Nishikawa/Tester Collaboration

Kiisa Nishikawa

NAU Regents' Professor Kiisa Nishikawa with graduate student Kit Wilkinson in front of bench model test equipment.

The current issue of TechConnect magazine highlights the work of NAU Regents' Professor Kiisa Nishikawa of the Department of Biological Sciences and her new collaboration with Associate Professor John Tester of NAU's Department of Mechanical Engineering to produce a prototype muscle-like actuator.

This actuator is based on Nishikawa's decades-long research into the rapid movement of animals, such as chameleons, frogs, and toads, which project their tongues to catch prey, and her breakthrough discovery that a spring-like protein plays an important role in muscle contraction. The actuator will allow a fundamental shift from the directory-type control system to one that is simpler and more like what the human brain expects. Applications include the fields of prosthetics, robotics, bionics and even orthoses, such as creating exoskeletal robotic suits that can boost physical performance.

New NAU Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions

The new Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions (ISES) at Northern Arizona University (NAU) is positioned to make a real difference in the burgeoning field of energy research and decision-making. Its mission is to not only develop new energy technologies but to also help shape energy decision-making in both the private and public sectors, while increasing the public's energy literacy, and providing broadly educated energy experts.

ISES Solar, wind

The Institute is a regional and national leader in wind research, and is on the forefront of research in solar, synthetic fuels, and geothermal technologies.

ISES staff have performed work in resource assessment and modeling; utility grid integration research; behavioral, economic and policy research; and public education—from K-12 levels to policymakers. ISES also houses the Arizona Wind for Schools project and several outreach initiatives for public-energy literacy.

ISES' broad field of partners includes national laboratories, other universities, Native American tribes, renewable energy companies, energy utilities, foundations, and nonprofit organizations.

Changes in Student Travel Awards

Whitney Brown

Whitney Brown (undergraduate Forensic Chemistry major) presenting her poster at the annual Protein Society Symposium in Boston, MA, in July 2011.

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) provides some funding for NAU undergraduate or graduate students (or groups of students) to present, compete, or accept awards at regional, national, or international conferences. 

There are several important changes to the application process this year.

  • Deadline: 15th of each month for travel that begins on or after the first of the following month
  • Requirement: PDF of written confirmation from the sponsoring organization of the applicant's acceptance to make a presentation, receive an award, or participate in an academic competition
  • Requirement: PDF of applicant's unofficial transcript
  • Faculty sponsor involvement: The faculty sponsor takes an active part in submitting the application by reviewing the documents, completing the Faculty Approval section, and emailing the completed application packet to for consideration.

These changes allow students to apply whenever their travel plans are confirmed without worrying about missing the deadline.  And, with email submissions, no paper is used in the process.

Please review all the up-to-date information on the Student Travel Award website.

Questions? Contact MaryLynn Quartaroli,, (928) 523-1026.

Institutional Review Board Says Goodbye to Vollmer

Michael Volmer

Michael Vollmer (right) proudly displays his IRB service-appreciation plaque. Next to him is IRB Chair Dr. Robert Hagstrom.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) sadly bade farewell to one of its longest-serving members. Michael Vollmer served as a nonscientist community member of the IRB since 2000 when he was the Director of the Newman Center. Over the years, Michael provided thoughtful advice to researchers on how to involve human participants in sensitive research, and he guided fellow board members toward making sensible and practical decisions. His empathy and wisdom will be sorely missed.

Nonscientist community members are extremely important to the function of the IRB. Not only do they provide insight into human feelings and perceptions that are not biased toward the goals of NAU and scientific research, but also federal guidelines require at least one vote from a nonscientist for any vote to be valid during IRB meetings. Currently, the IRB has two nonscientist community members who diligently serve on the board.

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