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National Science Foundation Awards $20 Million to North Dakota EPSCoR Program

August 4, 2014, Fargo, N.D. –– A new multi-million-dollar grant in North Dakota over the next five years is slated to:

  • Build research infrastructure and strengthen North Dakota’s research competitiveness
  • Provide research and STEM education opportunities for students across the state, including Tribal Colleges
  • Enhance additional research collaboration between universities
  • Use agricultural raw materials to develop sustainable materials
  • Engage regional climate studies to help predict hydrology and impact on agriculture, and
  • Enhance scientific computing and other infrastructure

Picture of lab suppliesThe National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a new competitive research infrastructure improvement grant award totaling $20 million to the North Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ND EPSCoR). The grant covers a variety of integrated research and education infrastructure programs across the state over the next five years.

The NSF grant will help develop two new research platforms. The award will:

  • Fund a new Center for Regional Climate Studies
  • Fund a new Center for Sustainable Materials Science
  • Expand programs with the Tribal Colleges located in North Dakota, including the Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) program. The program strengthens pathways for American Indian students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math
  • Enhance the state’s competitiveness through workforce development initiatives by integrating research, education and human resources. Included are seed awards, NATURE programs, and research opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students and mentoring programs
  • Build scientific computing and other research infrastructure in regional climate studies and sustainable materials science
  • Provide mechanisms to broaden participation from Tribal Colleges, and from primarily undergraduate institutions across the state in the research programs
  • Build further collaboration with faculty from North Dakota institutions participating in the new research centers

About the Research Centers 

Center for Sustainable Materials Science (CSMS) – This program’s objective is to provide a transformative approach to develop sustainable materials derived from agricultural raw materials. The Center will be led by NDSU. It includes the NDSU departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Coatings and Polymeric Materials, Mechanical Engineering, and the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering, as well as the UND Department of Chemistry.

Center for Regional Climate Studies (CRCS)– This program’s objective is to develop and apply integrated methods to assess and predict climate change impacts on regional hydrology and agricultural production. The Center will be led by UND. It includes the UND departments of Atmospheric Science, Chemical Engineering, Counseling Psychology and Community Services, and Earth System Science and Policy. NDSU departments participating in the Center include: Agribusiness and Applied Economics, Civil Engineering, and Computer Science.

“We are very pleased to hear about this $20 million investment by the federal government in higher education in the state, said NDUS Chancellor Larry Skogen. “We believe it demonstrates sound support for the collaborative work that we are doing in research and STEM education and also indicates confidence in the strength of our system.”

“Collaborative research assists in solving challenges and making discoveries that can ultimately impact individual citizens and the state,” said Kelly A. Rusch, ND EPSCoR co-chair and NDSU vice president for research and creative activity. “Researchers from many disciplines working together are key to problem-solving. This funding also provides many opportunities for undergraduates, graduate students, and students from Tribal Colleges located in the state to participate in science and research.”

“This is excellent news for research and affiliated institutions in the state, as well as our colleagues in North Dakota’s Tribal Colleges. The EPSCoR funding represents a great step forward in our collective efforts to provide research opportunities to students, particularly in science and math fields,” said Peter Johnson, UND executive associate vice president for university relations.

North Dakota EPSCoR was established in 1986 as a North Dakota University System program to strengthen the state’s science and technology infrastructure and enhance its participation in the nation’s competitive research and development enterprise. North Dakota EPSCoR programs are open to all NDUS faculty and students. ND EPSCoR has over the life of the program:  contributed to the recruitment of more than 200 new faculty researchers to the state; supported more than 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students; produced 2,350 publications; invested in more than 460 new pieces of research equipment; generated more than 30 patents and licenses; enhanced  science and technology opportunities for 98 companies and more than 100 students through the STTAR (Students in Technology Transfer and Research) program; and contributed to establishment of new high-technology businesses. Over the life of ND EPSCoR from 1986 to 2013, the state’s investment of $46.61M in ND EPSCoR has resulted in more than $351M in merit-based extramural grants, providing a 7.54:1 return on investment.


  • The programs funded by the award are included under the entire program called INSPIRE-ND, which stands for Innovation and Strategic Program Initiatives for Research and Education.

  • INSPIRE-ND is designed to contribute to North Dakota’s traditional economic driver of agriculture, while developing science infrastructure for new high technology and market sectors, and build and diversity the state’s science and technology workforce for advanced manufacturing, energy and technology-based business in the state.

  • The grant assists ND EPSCoR to initiate a workforce development and education program called EMPOWERED-ND, with a goal to produce highly-qualified graduates needed for technological innovation.

  • Activities of the program later in the five-year period are to include a partnership with 4-H to develop a 4H National Youth Science day that offers STEM enrichment at selected schools, as well as multi-day summer STEM camps, presentations about STEM research and technology, funding of graduate research assistantships, doctoral dissertation assistantships and other activities.

  • The grant will enable NATURE Sunday Academies and Summer Camps to build pathways into science, technology, engineering and math for Native American students.

  • A new program called NATURE+ will partner with Tribal Colleges in North Dakota to enroll students at the state’s largest research universities in programs leading to graduate degrees.

  • Funding will provide annual Research Experience for Undergraduates and research mentorships.

  • Two competitive assistantship programs will be created for graduate assistantships each year and doctoral dissertation assistantships each year.

  • The award will fund competitions for seed grants for early- or mid-career faculty. Priority will be given to seed grant proposals to bring new technologies and materials on line in the next five years.

  • Funding will be provided to create NASSE, Native American Success in Science and Engineering, which will provide enhanced academic support to Native American students in the physical sciences and engineering. The goal is to increase retention and graduation rates of Native American STEM students.

  • The grant award includes programs for expanded efforts to increase participation in STEM disciplines through the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program in the form of research challenge grants to female faculty post third-year review, supplemental competitive funding for upgraded labs and equipment, a mentoring program, and graduate and post-doctoral researchers.

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Last Updated: Thursday, January 29, 2015 11:11:18 AM
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