NDSU and Montana State University research leaders turn friendly bet into future research collaborations

It started with a friendly wager on a football game: Colleen Fitzgerald, vice president of research for NDSU and Jason Carter, vice president of research and economic development for Montana State laid a visit to their university’s respective research operations on the line with a bet at the January 2022 Football Championship Subdivision title game between the Bison and Bobcats.

Thanks to the Bison’s victory in Frisco, Fitzgerald and NDSU were hosts to a visit from Carter and a research delegation from MSU on May 16. The MSU group received a warm welcome from the NDSU Pep Band, led by Connor Challey, when they arrived at Hector International. From there, the group participated in a series of lab tours and meetings with a varied group of Bison faculty and researchers.

“Our goal was to connect the MSU group with people at every stage of their career, from assistant professors to university distinguished professors,” commented Fitzgerald. “This included a memorable performance at the opening reception by NDSU distinguished professor Tom Isern.”

Carter said, “Our trip to NDSU was fantastic. We met a lot of great faculty and administrators and I see lots of potential for growing research partnerships. Let’s remain competitive on the field but solve grand challenges together!”

Joining Carter on the visit was MSU dean of engineering Brett Gunnink, MSU associate vp of research and graduate school dean Craig Ogilvie, and MSU dean of the college of letters and science Yves Idzerda.

Another goal of the visit was to identify infrastructure and research expertise that would be complementary for future joint initiatives. “This bet was a fun way for the people at our institutions to get to know each other better,” said Fitzgerald. “Even though we have a history of collaborative research between NDSU and MSU, we presented a number of new areas where we could partner, including materials science and engineering, biomedical research conducted at our COBRE Center for Diagnostic and Therapeutic Strategies in Pancreatic Cancer, energy, and food security.”

In addition to the lab tours, Fitzgerald added that the MSU group appreciated seeing the facilities at NDSU. “We foster economic development and support entrepreneurs through our NDSU Research and Tech Park and our state-of-the-art research facilities, like the brand-new Sugihara Hall, are wonderful environments for our research faculty and students to work.”

Both NDSU and MSU are among 146 public institutions in the country ranked R1 by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. “R1 is the institute’s highest classification possible, and earning it shows that our researchers and their work are among the best,” said Fitzgerald. “While we have a history of working on collaborative research projects with MSU, it makes sense for us to leverage and grow that opportunity.”

Fitzgerald said that while the competitive part of the bet was fun, it’s only a start. “Our deans and researchers are excited about going to Bozeman and building on these new relationships for the advancement of NDSU and the state.”

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