Campus scholars are experts in unusual subjects

ctruman@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Kentucky colleges and universities house a variety of scholars who are experts in an even greater variety of disciplines.

But some professors, along their path to Kentucky, have picked up some particularly unusual specialties, from bedbugs to Narnia to making ornery horses or horse owners more compliant.

Here is some of the collected expertise at Kentucky colleges and universities:

Michael F. Potter, extension entomologist at the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, is an expert on bedbugs.

Although rare in recent years thanks to better hygiene and the widespread use of DDT, bedbugs have made a comeback. The reddish-brown, oval-shaped critters, which feed on human blood, are a specialty of Potter's.

After the Herald-Leader published a recent article on bedbugs, numerous callers suggested their own systems of bedbug control, and two said they had been trying to talk to Potter. One caller suggested flooding each affected house with carbon monoxide to flush out bedbugs, while another insisted the bugs are put off by a rare and unnamed plant that grows only in Pike County.

Western Kentucky University is developing expertise on homeland security. The goal of WKU's program in homeland security sciences is to prepare science professionals and technology leaders for careers in that field. The program will prepare students "to detect, quantify, prevent, and decontaminate chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threats," according to WKU.

Devin Brown, an English professor at Asbury University, is an expert on C.S. Lewis and an authority on all things Narnia.

Brown was one of the filmmakers behind the 25-minute film C.S. Lewis: Why He Matters Today. He also has written three books on the Lewis fantasy oeuvre: Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Guide to Exploring the Journey Beyond Narnia; Inside Narnia: A Guide to Exploring The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and Inside Prince Caspian: A Guide to Exploring the Return to Narnia.

Avo Kiviranna, chair of the equine studies division at Midway College, is an expert on "least resistance horsemanship."

Kiviranna is a graduate of UK. He had previously been professor of equine science at the State University of New York at Delhi.

Kiviranna had a 14-year-long business venture as a traveling remedial practical horseman — helping owners and their problem horses, or, as Midway describes it, "sometimes horses and their problem owners."

Least resistance horsemanship, also known as natural horsemanship, focuses on using body language that horses naturally use to communicate with one another.

Zhenming Wang, head of the geological hazards section and adjunct professor of geology at the Kentucky Geological Survey at UK, is an expert on earthquake explanation.

Wang, a seismologist, earned a bachelor's degree in geology from Peking University in Beijing and came to the United States in 1991, where he earned several degrees from UK, including a doctorate in geophysics in 1998. Wang travelled to China to study the 7.9 magnitude earthquake the nation suffered in 2008.

Wang said that while an earthquake could cause major damage in the commonwealth, worry-prone Kentuckians would do better to fret about tornadoes and ice storms, which are far more common.

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

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