STEM Spots

Thursdays at 9:45 a.m.

STEM Spots is a weekly look into science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Hosted by Dr. David Cornelison, professor in the department of Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science at Missouri State University, STEM Spots invites local experts to discuss advances, issues and theories dealing with all matters of STEM.

Dr. Matt Pierson
Missouri State University

Dr. Matt Pierson is an assistant professor of Civil Engineering at Missouri State University.

Besides building things, he is passionate about educational opportunities for students. In that vein, he has submitted funding proposals to the National Science Foundation on several occasions and recently was awarded a substantial grant from the S-STEM initiative.

This grant will enable Pierson and his team to fund a scholarship-based retention enhancement program, designed to assist students in Computer Science, Math, Engineering and Physics.

Dr. Alicia Mathis / Missouri State University

Alicia Mathis knows her salamanders, and why shouldn’t she? She and her group in the Biology department at Missouri State University have been studying the creatures for over two decades.

In her visit with us, she talks about the place of aquatic fauna in our ecosystem and how they can be an important indicator of ecological health. In addition, she discusses specific aspects of the Hellbenders physiology and how we can work to preserve its place in our Ozark streams and waterways.

Wayne Mitchell
Missouri State University

At the start of our lives, watching the world around us is usually the beginning of a lifetime of learning.

Wayne Mitchell, an associate professor of psychology at Missouri State University, has spent the better part of his career watching infants look at things. He does this to better understand the ways they gather information and learn.

As he explains, a better understanding of visual learning can be used to design intervention strategies that might benefit infants during the critical early months of life.


Todd Stewart, Mercy Health Systems Manager of Informatics, states early on that the goal of informatics is using technology to connect the clinicians to the patients in multiple ways. As he and Keela Davis who is the director of Mercy Medical Research Institute explain, the future trend is to leverage the size and breadth of Mercy’s patient population with information processing in order to direct medical treatment.

NIH/Carolyn Larabell / University of California, San Francisco, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Imagine taking over the inner mechanism of a cell and using it as a factory. That is just what Dr. Paul Schweiger, who is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Missouri State University, does in his lab. He comes by to talk about advances made in recent years in this field.

From insulin production to the treatment for malaria, using bacteria and yeast can provide greater control and more consistent supply for a wide variety of chemicals.

John Thomas School of Discovery
Julie Greene / KSMU

The John Thomas School of Discovery was started in Nixa three years ago to serve as a STEAM-focused (STEM with the addition of the Arts) environment.

Dr. Josh Chastain was the first principal of the school and served in that role for three years. He comes to us to discuss the importance of the integration of STEAM into the elementary schools and also the initiative to focus the curriculum on inquiry-based learning.

In his remarks he makes it clear that “The ultimate goal for our kids is to be exceptional learners.”

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

“One of the fundamental and interesting questions is, ‘What’s in the water that flows around us’?” So says Bob Pavlowsky, a geographer and water specialist at Missouri State University.

When we put things into our drains, we typically forget about it. But, for Dr. Pavlowsky and his collaborator, MSU microbiologist Paul Durham, it’s what happens to the water after it gets downstream that really matters.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We all know that the face of disease has changed dramatically over the last century. But, when vigilance wanes, long dormant bugs can rear their ugly heads.

On this show, Kendra Findley, administrator of Community Health and Epidemiology for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department visits to talk about infectious diseases, and the continuing efforts to educate the general public on important health issues.

Springfield City Utilities

Nationwide, it is becoming clear that solar and wind power are becoming more than just an option for individual homeowners.

Cara Shaefer, the director of Energy Services & Renewables for Springfield City Utilities, comes by to talk about the agency’s plans to incorporate renewable energy sources into the city’s grid.

Benefits and drawbacks of the new solar farm, as well as other options we might see in the future are discussed.


“The ideas for flying to Pluto were hatched back in the 1980s.” So says Dr. Will Grundy, an astronomer with Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.

A planetary astrophysicist, his research has encompassed a number of solar system objects, but his last few years have been dominated by his role as the lead scientist for the New Horizons Surface Composition Science Theme team. In that role, Will has participated in the planning and execution of the mission and will take part in the analysis of spectroscopic data which carries information on the strange surface of Pluto.

United States Geological Survey

Earthquakes may seem like a distant problem to citizens of southwest Missouri. However, historical records do show evidence of strong seismic activity in Missouri’s past.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone encompasses Missouri’s Bootheel and was the center of strong earthquakes in the early 1800s. It is still active and must be considered when planning and building.

NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

  For the last decade or so, it has become apparent that planets are not specific to our solar system, but instead are as common as the stars. 

Dr. Peter Plavchan, an astronomer from Missouri State University, talks about his own research into the burgeoning field of exoplanets.  During the past five years, Dr. Plavchan has been working to locate and characterize these planets, and in so doing answer the bigger question of the likelihood of another earth.