From the Vice President of Research
Through its mission to address the needs and aspirations of people in a changing world by building on its land-grant foundation, NDSU has a long history of providing positive impacts to the state’s economy.
NDSU agriculture and agricultural engineering remain important aspects of the value that the organization brings to the state. Today, this tradition is enhanced by the complementary disciplines of biology, computer science, microbiology, coatings and polymers, and materials development, providing new perspectives on the old problem of how to feed our ever-growing world safely, efficiently, and sustainably.
With a holistic approach, NDSU is creating coatings and new materials, developing products from the biowaste of other processes, adding selectable biodegradability, and exploring new uses for North Dakota commodities like soy. This research approach results in a smaller carbon footprint and is beneficial to both human and animal populations in the state. Many of these discoveries have already been commercialized and are in productive use by industry.
Over the last ten years, NDSU has ranked among the top public research universities for R&D expenditures. With nearly 80 corporate partners, NDSU has engaged with local, state, regional, and national collaborators to address complex problems and uncover new solutions.
By leveraging interdisciplinary expertise and facility resources, NDSU is poised to employ robust interdisciplinary teams that tackle problems, create new opportunities, and provide a high-tech workforce for North Dakota in areas that align with the state’s industry strengths. Areas of particular promise include agricultural technology, materials research, and biomedical science.
Agricultural technology and precision agriculture are emerging opportunities to increase production revenue through optimized interventions. For example, new areas of research in agribiome technology harness the microbes in the soil to naturally and effectively increase crop density and yield, supporting pest and disease resistance, while sensors in the soil and UAS aerial data inform decisions about timely field treatments.
NDSU is well placed to capitalize on the region’s cluster of substantial expertise in high-tech agriculture and commitment to telecommunication infrastructure. John Deere and Appareo Systems, neighbors in the NDSU Research and Technology Park, lead the world in electronics development for agriculture. Community member Microsoft is partnering with NDSU on a new initiative—the Smart Farm of the Future—that will spin sensor and visual UAS data through NDSU’s supercomputing center to provide actionable, timely data for farmers. Innovation developer, Emerging Prairie, has announced plans to develop a fully autonomous farm that will spur new approaches to deal with the “dull, dirty, or dangerous” jobs that accompany agriculture. Finally, both government and industry leaders have expressed their commitment to gigabit speed telecommunication across the state that will allow the connectivity required for information to become decisions.
In support of the emerging field of precision agriculture, NDSU is proud to announce a new undergraduate major. This major will help future students become the professionals needed by the state to continue development of the agricultural revenues and providing excellent jobs for North Dakota students to remain in agriculture. In addition, the Extension Service and the Research Extension Centers across the state will be invaluable resources to deliver continuing education in new technologies for agriculture.
NDSU’s integrated materials laboratories facilitate the rapid discovery of biologically-active coatings and materials that can withstand a variety of conditions such as marine conditions, biofilm infection, barnacles, desert heat, and extreme cold to limit the environmental damage to which they are applied.
NDSU is one of only six universities in the U.S. that offers programs in coatings and polymeric materials and it provides the only academic research program in North America solely focused on organic polymer coatings. The program actively pursues collaborations with other academic institutions, national laboratories, and corporations. By leveraging this leadership position, NDSU is primed to attract additional students and researchers to the state while creating opportunities with industries as diverse as automobile and maritime manufacturers, government agencies, and industrial material developers.
Using research expertise across disciplines and working with local research and healthcare partners, NDSU has demonstrated a growing presence in biomedical research.
As a timely response to the opioid crisis in the state, NDSU is using its statewide network of pharmaceutical care providers to provide education to fight opioid addiction. ONE Rx trains pharmacy professionals to recognize warning signs to reduce or prevent opioid abuse and addiction. In a separate but complementary discovery, NDSU researchers are engineering synthetic spider silk fibers that can be infused with proteins to deliver antibiotics or other medicines, such as opioids. The nature of the silk bubbles allows the metered micro-release of medicine, with unnecessary excess harmlessly passing out of the body, significantly reducing over-dosing that can lead to addiction.
Drawing upon their expertise in engineering, NDSU researchers have created cancer testbeds made of nanocomposite clay scaffolds that reproduce the 3D environment of a tumor, proving drug effectiveness before it’s given to a patient. NDSU researchers are the first in the world to develop and test metastasized pancreatic and breast cancer tumors in this method and have partnered with six prestigious national universities as well as Sanford Health-Fargo to further develop this innovation.
Aldevron, a company that was founded as a NDSU student startup 20 years ago, has just opened a new $300-million 70,000-sq. ft. production facility for the biological drugs needed for this important clinical research. Aldevron currently employs nearly 200 scientists and staff in its Fargo facility with the intention to increase this number substantially. In addition, new research in telemedicine and wellness programs will be needed to provide ND’s aging population with appropriate healthcare options that build and maintain communities. With the recently-announced plans to offer a new undergraduate major in Health Sciences, students and researchers will have additional opportunities to serve citizens across the state.
The Land Grant MissionResearch activity impacts ND’s economy by developing the technologies that will drive new businesses, recruiting and employing people. Equipment, supplies, and services are needed for the new endeavors as well as for the individuals who make up the new businesses. Over the last four years, NDSU has generated fuel for this activity by receiving 164 invention disclosures, filing 79 new U.S. intellectual property applications (six new U.S. trademarks on horticultural varieties, 18 new plant variety protection applications, and 55 new U.S. provisional patents), and producing 275 licenses. However, additional resources will be required in order to continue this culture of discovery.
As North Dakota’s land grant university, NDSU maintains a robust network of extension service research and healthcare experts across the state who deliver solutions across many disciplines. In the years ahead, we will continue to enhance and strengthen this network by adding to the expertise and the subsequent value they deliver to the state’s citizens.
An investment in research, supported by the land grant model, will support discovery, industry, and commerce across the state and will lead to an explosion of entrepreneurial capital and investment.
Jane M. Schuh, Ph.D.
Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity