K-State Olathe opens its doors


Just six months after opening, K-State Olathe is brimming with partnerships and programs aimed at improving people’s lives through education, research, and training.

“The last six months have been very busy,” said Debbie Kirchhoff, director of corporate and foundation relations at K-State Olathe. “It’s been a whirlwind of activity. We’ve had over 200 events already in our building, we have been meeting with industry to learn what their needs are, and we are working with faculty in Manhattan to enhance their excellent academic and research programs.”

Many of the cooperative efforts are housed in the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute building on the Olathe campus. The building, the first on K-State Olathe property, consists of 10 laboratory spaces for a variety of companies and researchers.

“It’s exciting to see the diverse range of projects and partnerships we have lined up as more companies are realizing the resources that Kansas State University has to offer,” said Dan Richardson, chief executive officer of K-State Olathe in a Sept. 27 press release. “Because of that, the Olathe campus is benefiting from not only K-State’s programs and the university’s faculty members, but is also being used to meet industry’s needs.”

One such industry partnership is with the Urban Water Institute, who will occupy two of the laboratory spaces. The company’s goal is to partner water-related companies in the Kansas City metro area with K-State water-related experts. According to Richardson, the collaboration will work to help identify and create technologies that address issues related to water usage in urban areas.

A second industry partnership is with Ceva Biomune, a company that develops and produces vaccines for poultry and swine. The company will use the K-State Olathe laboratory to further their research and development of swine vaccines. The initial partnership between K-State and Ceva Biomune is expected to last between 18 months and two years. In addition, Ceva officials have expressed an interest in working with K-State graduate candidates and researchers on the Olathe campus.

K-State Olathe is also home to the Advanced Manufacturing Institute as part of a collaboration between K-State’s College of Engineering and the Kansas Department of Commerce Center of Excellence.

“With AMI here, I envision faculty working with industry to solve a problem, which AMI can then take and develop into viable technology that can then be scaled up for commercial use,” Richardson said. “It’s a really valuable piece that’s being added to the campus, and something that nobody else is offering.”

The remaining laboratories include a general education lab open to tours, a lab dedicated to food science and food safety research, and a lab to help teach good laboratory practices, among other laboratories.

Each laboratory is furnished with tables, sinks, fume hoods and other mobile pieces.

“It’s very flexible so that as researchers decide to use the lab they can design it the way they want to use it,” Richardson said. “That way when an industry starts its project, all it has to do is bring researchers and their research equipment.”

Overall, the laboratories, and the programs they enable, serve a variety of purposees, in addition to industry research.

“We are providing professional development and education for industry in the animal health and food safety area,” Kirchoff said. “One of these training programs being developed is for restaurant employees to help them learn techniques to improve food safety. This past summer, a teacher workshop was offered to incorporate food safety in their science curriculums.”

According to Kirchoff, the Olathe location and topics on which to focus were selected for specific reasons.

“K-State Olathe is in the heart of the animal health corridor. The corridor runs from Manhattan, Kansas to Columbia, Missouri and a third of the global animal health industry is located in this area,” Kirchoff said. “Having Kansas State University in the heart of the animal health corridor will help meet the education and professional development needs of industry and develop research partnerships.”

The programs are funded in part by a Johnson County tax.

“Part of our programs and building are funded by a tax in Johnson County called the Johnson County Education Research Triangle tax. With that tax, our goal is to provide food and animal research,” Kirchoff said.

The university is also working with local public schools to educate students about animal health and food safety.

“We are … working with K-12 students in the Johnson County public schools,” Kirchoff said. “We have groups coming to the campus for field trips to learn about food safety and we have also helped develop programs in the area of animal health.”

Michael Strohschein, director of K-12 science education partnerships at K-State Olathe, works closely with the outreach education programs.

“There are six school districts that I work with. My job is to provide resources to their school districts and connect them to university faculty members and research projects that are happening here on campus,” Strohschein said. “I am providing that bridge between higher education and secondary education in Johnson County.”

Strohschein also helps plan projects with the Johnson County schools.

“Right now, I’m organizing, along with other people, the SWIPE Out Hunger event. We are going to use Johnson County students to help with packaging,” Strohschein said.

According to their official website, the SWIPE Out Hunger program works to package meals to send to the Horn of Africa. The project is sponsored by Numana, Inc., a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering people to help starving people. The packaging event is scheduled to take place on the K-State Olathe campus on Oct. 23.