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Campbellsville University science department receives first grant for research from the National Science Foundation

Campbellsville University science department receives first grant for research from the National Science Foundation
Students in the science department work alongside Dr. Indra Sahu, assistant professor of physics, left, are from left: Conner Campbell, a 2019 December graduate; Matthew Scheyer, a junior of Knifley, Ky.; Mustakim Hussain, a junior of Bangladesh; and Afsana Begum, a junior of Bangladesh. (Campbellsville University Photo by Ariel C. Emberton)

By Ariel C. Emberton, staff writer/photographer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Campbellsville University’s Dr. Indra Sahu, assistant professor of physics, has received a $297,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund undergraduate research over the course of three years. This is the first NSF research award Campbellsville University has received.

According to Steve Alston, chair of the division of natural science and professor of physics, “The NSF is the premier national government funding agency for scientific research, and it is perhaps the best in the world.

“This is a very demanding and highly competitive process. Success rates are 5-15%. It is absolutely a mark of excellence to get a proposal funded.”

Alston said, “It is very prestigious for a researcher to receive such a grant. It leads to being able to receive tenure and promotion. This is something that is much more typically associated with state flagship or highly renowned university.”

Sahu is the lead investigator for the research. He has been employed with Campbellsville University since August 2019. Sahu said he applied for this grant proposal to receive funding for undergraduate research at the university.

“This is a highly competitive research award selected among several applications nationwide as per the National Science Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria,” Sahu said.

The project will be titled “Investigating Structure and Dynamic Properties of the Potassium Channel Accessory Protein, KCNE3.”

Dr. H. Keith Spears, interim president of Campbellsville University, said, “This is a powerful statement for Campbellsville University, demonstrating that our faculty and researchers are confirmed as quality.

“Dr. Sahu represents excellence and tenacity in his push to find answers that will benefit humankind. Can there be any greater noble cause? The NSF recognition reflects well on Dr. Sahu’s servant leadership in science and his research. We all congratulate him!”

In order to receive the grant, researchers at colleges and universities submit research proposals to the NSF for review. Between five to 10 peer researchers in the given field of study across the country review and grade the proposal. The top-rated proposals get funded within the limits of the funding Congress provides to NSF each year.

Holly Trowbridge, director of corporate and foundation relations at Campbellsville University, worked with Sahu to secure the funding.

“I worked with Dr. Sahu on the submission and reporting process, and I was very impressed by the quality of his proposed project. The three-year research project officially began March 1, 2021.

“This research project and the grant award from the NSF will highlight the talented faculty, staff and students we have here at CU,” Trowbridge said. “I know Dr. Sahu will do an excellent job implementing this research project.”

The institution has to be okayed by the NSF to allow it to host grants. This occurred in the process of acceptance of Sahu’s grant, since Campbellsville University had never had one before. The institution has to have adequate infrastructure to allow a good chance of success of the grant. Grants are usually for three years and awarded each year with a review of progress at the end of the year. More information on grant requirements can be found at

Alston said this is a huge plus for the natural science department because of the major experimental equipment it will provide. “It will also provide experimental or computational research experience for, even maybe, getting publications in national referenced journals,” Alston said.

“This grant establishes an undergraduate research facility at the science department and involves undergraduate students in groundbreaking membrane protein research. This grant will enhance research and teaching facilities including the expansion of research infrastructure.

“Undergraduate students will get research experience and enhance their research skills to prepare them for competitive graduate studies for the job market. This grant will enhance the quality of undergraduate education at CU,” Sahu said.

Sahu will have five to six students working on the grant in the academic year and during the summer. There will be summer stipends for some available. A couple of high school students will also participate. The students will have the opportunity to present their research at national/international research conferences.

“The National Science Foundation grant is a momentous opportunity for Campbellsville University, and CU students in particular, by providing unique opportunities to involve undergraduate students in focused research at many levels,” Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said.

“The intent of the grant is to involve students in the research and analysis process. Such an enriching opportunity brings CU to a higher level of rigor and relevance in our Division of Natural Sciences.”

“This research will provide understanding of structural and dynamic properties of the potassium channel accessory protein KCNE3 in different environments. KNCE3 is a very important membrane protein responsible to biological function essential to the survival of living organisms,” Sahu said.

The department has previously received over $100,000 in gifted funds in the past eight years through the Office of Development at Campbellsville University.

“A month ago, Dr. Sahu also received a research grant from the Kentucky Academy of Science for work related to the current project. Other faculty in the past have also received KAS grants, Appalachian College Association travel and research grants and Kentucky Utilities grants,” Alston said.

Sahu received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Physics from State University of New York.

More information on the grant and an abstract about the research can be found at

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