Close-knit S&T lures, launches Lampe to success

Missouri S&T graduate Kyle Lampe, now an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, is conducting research that may one day lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

Missouri S&T graduate Kyle Lampe, now an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, is conducting research that may one day lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis and other diseases. Photo contributed by the University of Virginia

Twenty-one thousand, three-hundred ninety-five. That’s the difference between Kyle Lampe, the English literature scholar and Kyle Lampe, the chemical engineer. That number is the difference in enrollment between Iowa State University (26,110) and Missouri S&T (4,715) when Lampe started college in 1999.

Bigger was not better for Lampe, who earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering at Missouri S&T in 2004, and now is an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Virginia.

“I didn’t want to go to Iowa State because it was just too big,” says Lampe, who grew up in Clarinda, Iowa – a town of 5,806. “I felt like I would get lost there.

“When I went to Rolla, it was the right size school. I didn’t know anybody, but I got to know a lot of people, and the professors knew your name. When I got to Rolla … everybody was on equal footing. Nerdy was cool.”

These days, Lampe leads his own “nerdy” engineering students in cutting-edge research that may one day lead to cures or treatments for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and people who have suffered a stroke or a spinal cord injury. The work is done through the Lampe Biomaterials Group, which launched at U.Va. in 2014.

There, Lampe is using synthetic polymer materials to encapsulate oligodendrocytes in a 3-D hydrogel that simulates properties of the brain. Oligodendrocytes are cells with many branches that support and insulate axons in the central nervous system by wrapping the axons in a myelin sheath. In people with MS, Lampe says, the oligodendrocytes go haywire. Finding a way to target or replace the malfunctioning oligodendrocytes could lead to a treatment.

For people who have suffered a stroke — the second-leading cause of death worldwide — treatments such as transplanting neural stem cells are ineffective, Lampe says, because 95 percent of those cells die within a week. Using a new biodegradable polymer hydrogel might be more effective because as they erode, they scavenge free radicals, thus acting like an antioxidant in the brain. Being able to place the slowly released antioxidants in a specific site of injury could help limit a stroke’s damage, Lampe says.

It’s the kind of work Lampe was — well, maybe not born to do, but it’s his life’s work now.

“I knew I was interested in engineering and science, the STEM disciplines,” says Lampe, who saw one of his older brothers, Paul, graduate from S&T in 1990 with an electrical engineering degree.

Kyle credits his advisor, Oliver Sitton, associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, with igniting his spark for research. With Dave Westenberg, associate professor of biological sciences, he dove into research.

“When you meet him, you know he’s going to be successful,” says Westenberg while leafing through Lampe’s old research notebook. “He picks up what he learned, and he works hard to put his own stamp on it.”

From Rolla, Lampe went to the University of Colorado Boulder for his Ph.D. in chemical engineering. After five years at Colorado, Lampe worked as a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University for three years to prepare for a research-intensive faculty position.

He has no problem with motivation.

“The thing I’m most excited about … the thing that gets me up is working with students,” Lampe says. “The fun part is, it’s different every day. There’s always something new and exciting.”

At S&T, he kept busy, not just with coursework. He was a resident assistant for two years at Thomas Jefferson Residence Hall, and then was the head RA at the Quad. He also acted in nine plays and musicals, including My Three Angels, The Foreigner, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, and Camelot.

And he met his wife of eight years, Lisa Hartman Lampe, who earned her bachelor of science degree in applied mathematics from S&T in 2004. Lampe also works at Virginia as the director of undergraduate success in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

For Kyle, everything that has followed started at S&T.

“Obviously, I got my initial training in how to approach research not from a lecture course, but with an approach toward getting the students to ask the questions,” Lampe said. “Moreover, I found this trait in many of the leaders at (S&T); students were really imbued with the authority to do things. We got the direction and support we needed and often failed. But that was part of it. As an RA, we had a lot of training, but the learning was a process, never complete.

“Honestly, though, I would say the most lasting impact of my time in Rolla was that I met and wooed my wife, who is my partner in intellectual, social and personal challenges every day.”

By Joe McCune


Whipping up a custom career

Darian Johnson

Chemical engineering junior Darian Johnson with cupcakes she made for her fellow camp counselors at Missouri S&T. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Food Network aficionado Darian Johnson always wanted to be a chef. In high school she also discovered an affinity for chemistry.

“I thought, ‘I like chemistry and I like food. What can I do with this?’” she says. “So I applied to all the food science-y schools.”

Of course, Missouri S&T was not one of them.

“My plan was to go to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to study food science. My twin brother was going to UT-Martin. I thought it was perfect; we could be together!” says Johnson, a junior in chemical engineering from Kansas City, Mo. “But then I thought about my mom — she only has two kids and he’s going away to Martin. I just couldn’t leave her.”

Then her best friend from high school came to Missouri S&T and told Johnson, “I love it here, but there’s just one problem: You’re missing.”

A Missouri S&T representative who visited Johnson’s school during a college fair also encouraged her to give Rolla a try. “He said, ‘I’ve seen your test scores. You should really think about engineering,’” says Johnson. He suggested she study chemical engineering, supplemented with some online food science courses.

Johnson visited campus for a Pre-College Initiative program. “After meeting students and seeing campus I thought, ‘I might actually like this place,’” she says.

But when Johnson arrived as a freshman, she didn’t participate in anything outside of class. She also ignored numerous emails inviting her to meet potential mentors, she says.

“I just kept hitting delete, delete, delete. So my freshman year I didn’t have a mentor,” she says.

Today, she mentors others through the student diversity program, during Opening Week, and as a student success coach at the Burns & McDonnell Student Success Center. Johnson is also the new president of the Association for Black Students and is active in Phi Sigma Phi national honor fraternity.

“I love it here now,” says Johnson. “I’m meeting all types of new people and I’m very involved.”

She’s also networked with people in the food science industry and is researching online courses. “I would like to work in product development,” she says. “I want to make new food products that are more tasty, healthy and cost effective.”

By Linda Fulps

Top 10 things you missed this summer

The new Ph.D. in explosives engineering wasn’t the only new offering to explode onto the Missouri S&T campus over the summer. The campus erupted with young students in summer camps, teachers came for Project Lead The Way instruction, and a new walkway is being constructed next to the Havener Center. Here are a few of the things you missed over the summer:

Turf installation

Artificial turf at Missouri S&T
Construction crews installed the artificial turf at Allgood-Bailey Stadium the first week of August. The Miners play their first home football game on Saturday, Sept. 20. Crews also began installing turf on the intramural field this summer. The fields are striped for both soccer and football. [Read more…]

A booming second career

Steve Hall recently earned his master's degree in explosives engineering. Photos by Sam O'Keefe.

Steve Hall recently earned his master’s degree in explosives engineering. Photos by Sam O’Keefe.

It was 1974 when Steve Hall first crossed the stage in Gale Bullman to receive his chemical engineering degree. This spring, exactly 40 years later, Hall made the trek again, this time to pick up his master’s degree in explosives engineering.

[Read more…]

A lesson in dedication

Brian Peterson helped push the Miners to a record 10-1 season. Photo by B.A. Rupert

Brian Peterson’s dedication to football — and to Missouri S&T — helped push the Miners to a record 10-1 season and landed him on the Capital One Academic All-America team. He is only the 19th Miner in the history of the football program to be selected for this honor.

[Read more…]

Seizing the opportunity


Chemical engineering major Ahlam Issa moved to St. Louis from Tanzania when she was 10 years old. Photo by B.A. Rupert

Ahlam Issa isn’t the kind of person who lets opportunities slip by. Born in Tanzania, Issa left the country at the tender age of 10 years old to live in St. Louis. She didn’t speak any English when she arrived but overcame that and other obstacles to graduate as valedictorian from Hazelwood East High School.

[Read more…]