North Dakota Researchers at the Frontiers of Science


Infrastructure Improvement Programs


North Dakota universities have attracted outstanding faculty members because of ND EPSCoR New Faculty Start-Up Awards. These awards have supported the principal investigators in successfully obtaining major federal grants. Among these are Kalpana Katti, Peter Meberg, Paul Kucera, and Roxanne Vaughan.


Dr. Kalpana Katti, North Dakota State University Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, received ND EPSCoR support for researching nacre, which led to NSF-funded research. Katti is studying how nacre, the inner layer of seashells, is constructed so that its structure at the nanoscale level can be used in the manufacturing of structures that are strong, tough, light in weight, and damage resistant, such as buildings, aircraft, battlefield tanks, and prosthetic limbs. Katti also received a coveted NSF CAREER Award to support her research on bone replacement materials.


Dr. Kalpana Katti holding a seashell so that others can see the nacre on the inside of the shell
Dr. Peter Meberg, University of North Dakota Assistant Professor of Biology, used his Start-Up Award to purchase a specialized camera on a microscope to take pictures of neurons so that he could better understand how neurons grow and connect with other neurons. He has since received a NSF Career Award and a NIH Area Grant to support his research. With the Career Award, he is incorporating his research methods into the curriculum at UND. Meberg also has obtained ND EPSCoR Advanced Undergraduate Research Awards (AURA) to support students who work in his lab. In the picture on the right, Meberg watches research associate Cheng Bai.


Dr. Peter Meberg is observing Cheng Bai conducting an experiment
Dr. Paul Kucera, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, said that his Start-Up Award was a "big incentive" for him to come to the University of North Dakota. With this award, he obtained computer equipment and software critical to his research. Since then, he has obtained two NASA grants and used the equipment to process Polarimetric radar data. This research will help meteorologists to better understand the internal characteristics of storms such as the distribution and movement of raindrops, snow, and hail within the clouds. This research could significantly improve climate prediction models of the atmosphere and improve rainfall estimation which is critical for the management of water resources. The U.S. network of Doppler weather radars are expected to be upgraded to incorporate polarimetric technology in the next 10-15 years.


Dr. Paul Kucera is sitting next to his computer in his office
Dr. Roxanne Vaughan, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, was attracted to the University of North Dakota because of the Start-Up Award, "impressive facilities" at the UND Medical School, clean North Dakota air, and "family-oriented" community. Her Start-Up Award enabled her to publish continuously and to obtain external grants. Through her study of a dopamine transporter, Vaughan hopes to discover how the body controls the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a substance that affects feelings of well-being and motor action. Results of her research could help combat drug addiction.
Dr. Roxanne Vaughan conducting an experiment in her UND Medical School lab


Science Outreach and Recruitment Programs


Dr. Tom Gonnella, Mayville State University (MSU) Assistant Professor of Chemistry/Physics, has worked with Dakota Technologies, Inc. through the ND-EPSCoR Faculty in Technology Transfer (FITT) program to develop novel fluorescence methods. Through ND EPSCoR's BRIN program, Gonella will initiate an undergraduate research program where students will apply the technology being developed at DTI. They will assess the extent to which they can resolve complex mixtures of fluorescently labeled species in order to improve the accuracy and efficiency in DNA sequencing.


Dr. Tom Gonella is in a lab at Dakota Technologies Inc.
Dr. Brian Slator, North Dakota Sate University Computer Science Professor, received a ND EPSCoR Seed Grant to help launch his interactive, educational software-development career. Slator uses a field-trip approach in his software programs that provide students with exciting role-based learning experiences. Game titles include Virtual Cell World, Dollar Bay, and Geology Explorer. With Geology Explorer, students collect virtual data and perform virtual experiments. Given his success with seed grant funds, Dr. Slator and his colleagues successfully competed for a $1.94M grant from the National Science Foundation to continue instructional software development.


Dr. Brian Slator is teaching a class about virtual learning enviroments using computer software
Dr. G. Padmanabhan, North Dakota State University Chair and Professor of Civil Engineering, Dr. Robert Pieri, NDSU Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Carol Davis, Vice President of Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC) have collaborated on an initiative to increase Native American participation in science, engineering, and mathematics (SEM). The ND EPSCoR Faculty Laboratory and Innovative Teaching Enhancement (FLITE) program supports the initiative through workshops for tribal college faculty and students on new and innovative SEM topics and purchase of equipment and supplies that remained at the tribal colleges. Curriculum development also is being enhanced by new videoconferencing capabilities supported by ND EPSCoR's Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN).


Dr. Padmanahban's portrait taken in his office with books in the background
Dr. Victoria Gelling obtained a ND EPSCoR Advanced Undergraduate Research Award (AURA) to support her work with University of North Dakota Chemistry Professor Irina Smoliakova. After earning a BS in Chemistry, Gelling completed her doctoral work in Chemistry at North Dakota State University (NDSU). After earning her PhD, she was able to stay and live in Fargo because she was hired as a Senior Research Associate by the NDSU Department of Polymers and Coatings. In this position, she conducts research with a group of faculty whose aim is to develop coatings that prevent corrosion of artwork, aircraft, vehicles, and transportation infrastructure, such as bridges.


Dr. Vicki Gelling standing by a Polymers and Coatings lab table
Aric Brackel, a senior majoring in Geology at the University of North Dakota, received a ND EPSCoR Advanced Undergraduate Research Award (AURA) that enabled him to map the surface of Mars. Using previously unanalyzed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data, he discovered promising spaceship landing sites where energy resources might be found below the surface of the planet.



Student Aric Brackel is in his UND Geology lab with his poster of Mars in the background

Nicole Very: "I made the decision to attend North Dakota State University because I was offered a research position through the ND EPSCoR Science Bound program. Without this program, I would not have stayed in North Dakota for college. Because of my undergraduate research experience, I am now pursuing a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology." Doctoral student Nicole Very conducing an experiment in Dr. Sheridan's Research Park lab


Technology Transfer and Commercialization Programs


North Dakota State University Chemistry Professor, Dr. Greg Gillispie, used ND EPSCoR funds to assemble advanced laser equipment and to support graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. This funding allowed him to conduct research in new areas, particularly the real-time measurement of chemical information via laser-induced fluorescence. Gillispie and his former graduate student, Randy St. Germain, established Dakota Technologies, Inc. (DTI) in Fargo, in 1993, to accelerate commercialization of the laser technology. DTI's workforce has since grown to 17 employees. The company has been awarded more than $8 million in research contracts and has commercialized several products and environmental services.


Dr. Greg Gillispie's portrait

Families worldwide may someday obtain more effective vaccinations for diseases because of research work done by Michael Chambers. As an ND EPSCoR Advanced Undergraduate Research Awards (AURA) program participant, Chambers worked with NDSU biotechnology faculty on DNA-immunization. He continued work on the potential uses of DNA vaccines with ND EPSCoR Commercialization Seed Funds and then established and is CEO of Aldevron, a biotechnology company located in Fargo.


Student and Faculty Technology Transfer Programs


North Dakota businesses are encouraged to increase their research and development of new products because of ND EPSCoR's Students in Technology Transfer and Research (STTAR) and Faculty in Technology Transfer (FITT) programs.


Students in Technology Transfer Program (STTAR)


Mike Chambers' portrait

Robert Smette, an Industrial Technology senior was paid to find solutions to science and technology problems identified by North Dakota manufacturing company, PS Doors, in Grand Forks. Smette prepared a working model of an electric gate that raises and lowers automatically that Smette designed and built. Among other projects, Smette designed a flood shield for the steam tunnels at North Dakota State University.

Robert Smette's portrait

Sara Johnson, a senior majoring in Food and Nutrition at North Dakota State University, received an award from the ND EPSCoR Students in Technology Transfer and Research (STTAR) program. These funds allowed her to work during the summer with the Institute of Business and Industry Development testing ingredients and final products from thirty food processors or restaurants in the state.



Faculty in Technology Transfer Program (FITT)


Sara Johnson conducting a food safety experiment with restaurant owner, Deb Jenkins, in the background

Dr. Selmer Moen, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Minot State University received ND EPSCoR Faculty In Technology Transfer (FITT) grants to assist Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing in their development of aircraft test flight circuit boards. Dr. Selmer Moen sitting in front of his office computer