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Commodity trading

Students practice commodity trading
in new lab

As labs go, this one lacks stuff like Bunsen burners or safety sinks. If you didn't know better and you glanced into the room while walking through Barry Hall, you might think it's just a nice new computer cluster. Each of the 32 work stations has two very large screens, and the walls are covered with an understated paneling, the chairs are nice. But from the hall, you might not see the stock ticker up high on the east wall, a clue to the true purpose of this unassuming room.

This is the Commodity Trading Room, opened in 2011, the only lab of its kind in the country, where students practice trading in real time, analyzing commodity markets and dealing with risk management and international trading.

The project was led by Bill Wilson of the NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics. He says risk is a dominant issue in all aspects of agribusiness involving price, yield, weather, competitors, technology, and food safety, and risk is on the rise. "Agriculture is now three to four times more risky than in the 1980s and expected to continue for eight to 10 years."

The trading was funded by several sources including university entities, agribusiness companies and commodity organizations. "It's a true partnership between the university and industry to do a better job of teaching."

Innovation competition
winner creates better way
to test drug

Innovation competition winner

The first thing you notice about Erin Nyren-Erickson is her sassy red hair. Then how animated she is as she talks about liposomes and the ups and downs of conducting research.

She is a doctoral student in pharmaceutical sciences, and she's already had one of those aha moments. Hers hit on the morning of Sept. 26, 2010, to be precise.

Erickson had been working on a better way to test the drug heparin for contaminants. She walked into the lab that Saturday morning thinking about something Professor Sanku Mallik said about the best screening tests providing a clear positive or negative result.

From literature in the field, she knew traditional tests relied on chemical structure to identify contaminants. The problem was that certain contaminants looked like heparin structurally, leading to false negatives. Another type of test was more accurate but was also expensive and time consuming.

How could she create a simple, accurate, inexpensive test? She had a theory she wanted to test. She started mixing stuff. Her idea was on target.

She saw changes occurring in the vials of clear bright pink liquid. In the vial that contained the compound found in contaminated heparin, bright pink clumps formed and sunk to the bottom. The liquid in the vial of pure heparin turned turbid, showing significantly less change.

The bright pink clumps sparked two years of research that ultimately led to a new, more quantitative, more cost-effective test that will prevent allergic reactions and save lives.

The test has a provisional patent and is now being marketed to drug companies. The test also won her top honors in NDSU's recent student innovation competition. She won her category and the best in show prize - a total of $10,000 - for the test.

LA native

LA native finds herself
at home in Fargo

On a spring semester day, Spectrum editor Linda Vasquez is sitting behind the desk in her private office in the Memorial Union, but she's nervous about being interviewed. She is used to asking the questions.

Though Vasquez has more than a semester as editor behind her, it doesn't look like she's moved into her office. The items in the uncluttered room look inherited - a vase of artificial orange roses on the desk, a file cabinet, metal shelving with green-bound volumes of Spectrums from years past. She rarely uses the office. She's more at home in the newsroom where she's spent much of her NDSU college career banging out concert reviews, health stories and fashion features.

Soon after she enrolled at NDSU, she took the advice offered to new students: Get involved. She joined the Spectrum staff, earning more and more responsibility until landing the Spectrum's top leadership job after facing stiff competition and a committee of 15 interviewers.

Just four years ago, Vasquez was living in her native Los Angeles, never imagining a life in North Dakota. Vasquez was 20 and a student at California State LA when her mom broke the news that the family was moving to Fargo for her stepfather's job. Vasquez was living on her own, studying criminology, enjoying an exciting social life. But Vasquez knew family was more important to her than anything. And she knew she needed a fresh start. She had been a good student through middle and high school, but felt lost in college, not enthused at all by the biology and criminal justice classes she needed to become a criminologist. As a child, her close-knit family had been her world.

So she came to Fargo, where she noticed a lot of people wearing Bison gear. Her interest was piqued. When she toured NDSU, she found the kind of campus she saw in movies. Stately buildings. Manicured lawns. Smiling faces. She was sold.

Vasquez started as a psychology major and criminal justice minor, trying to use credits she took at Cal State. But a communication class convinced Vasquez she needed to change her major. She had always loved and excelled at writing but resisted it as a career choice. "People sometimes confuse being good at something as taking the easy path," she says. "That's the world telling you what you should do."

Once Vasquez focused on journalism and advertising, she found her groove. She loves storytelling. "It's fascinating to hear about other people. Everyone grows up differently," she says. "I never get bored. There is always a different person to learn about and hear her story. That's what's great about communication."

Under Vasquez's leadership, the Spectrum won first place in its category at the Associated Collegiate Press' Best of the Midwest College Newspaper Convention in February. "Our reaction when our name was announced was pretty much screams, hollers and claps," Vasquez says. "My reaction was 'after all our hard work, we did it! I did it!'"

Vasquez has spent her final year at NDSU living on her own for the first time since she left California. In August 2012, her stepfather was transferred for his job - this time to Colorado - and the family moved again. But this separation has been different. Vasquez is completely focused on her goals and finds motivation from her family. "I work for my family," she says. "They make me keep going and not quit."

- A. Robinson-Paul

Commencement 2013

Commencement 2013:
50 years of doctoral degrees

NDSU granted its first doctoral degrees fifty years ago, with five students earning advanced degrees in five different areas: agronomy, chemistry, pharmacy, entomology and paint chemistry.

Frank "Ed" LeGrand is the only living graduate from that first class of doctoral students. He was honored at commencement in May, and sat on the stage while 123 doctoral degrees were granted. That brings the total of Ph.D.s granted at NDSU to more than 1,500.

LeGrand dug up photos from his graduation day, June 2, 1963.

The best fans


the best fans
Based on social media activity before, during and after the event, we can report that NDSU fans around the world enjoyed the football team's second consecutive national championship, especially the 20,000-some who made it to the game in Frisco, Texas.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.