Research is a critical component of the mission of the University of North Dakota. As a result of research and scholarly activities conducted by faculty, undergraduate and graduate students have expanded opportunities to broaden and enrich their educational experiences. The involvement of both faculty and students in research and scholarly work enhances learning by students, keeps faculty current in their fields, and creates new knowledge that is a public good. In addition to research conducted by graduate students and postdoctoral research associates, UND has a strong record of undergraduate participation in research and scholarly work, and plans to build this participation to even greater levels.
Financial support for research and scholarly work comes from both external and internal sources. In FY2016, $118.4 million of external grants and awards was received for such activities. Internal support from various university funds amounted to $3.3 million. Internal support is provided through a number of mechanisms such as the Faculty Seed Money Program, the Senate Scholarly Activities Committee, special programs of the Division of Research & Economic Development, and by administrative units within the university. The sum of external and internal research support in FY2016 was $121.7 million. UND has received funding from the National Science Foundation through its EPSCoR program continuously since 1986. EPSCoR is a program designed to build scientific infrastructure and research capacity in low-population states. In addition to competing successfully for NSF funds, faculty at UND have received similar infrastructure-building funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and other agencies.
Research and scholarly activity at UND span all of the disciplines represented at the university from anthropology and anatomy to zoology. For science and engineering, major areas of focus are energy research, biomedical research, and research related to Unmanned Aircraft Systems (or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, as they are also known). In the arts and humanities, much of UND’s scholarly work focuses on our geographic location in the Northern Great Plains and on the indigenous languages, arts, cultures and histories of North Dakota. Projects in digital humanities are one way that scholarly work in arts and humanities are taking form in addition to more traditional forms of scholarship. Musical and dramatic performances and the creation of works of art are also forms of creative scholarly work. Some of UND’s major research activities are described below.
Energy & Environmental Research Center
The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is a unique organization dedicated to providing practical, pioneering solutions to the world’s energy and environmental challenges. It is best known for ability to bring cutting-edge science and engineering together to move technologies out of the laboratory and into the commercial marketplace. The EERC’s comprehensive research portfolio consists of a wide array of services specifically tailored to meet client needs. Since 1983, the Center has had more than 1350 clients worldwide and currently employs over 210 highly skilled scientists, engineers, and support personnel.
College of Engineering & Mines (CEM) and the Institute for Energy Studies
Research in the College of Engineering & Mines touches on a diverse portfolio of energy sources: petroleum, natural gas, coal, wind, and biofuels. The SUNRISE (SUstainable eNergy Research, Infrastructure, and Supporting Education) project, which is driven by faculty in Chemical Engineering and the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences, has goals of advancing key areas of energy sustainability and exploring new and novel energy alternatives, while increasing the research competitiveness of the university and the development of the state. Three key areas of focus for SUNRISE are the invention, development, and commercialization of transportation fuels, chemicals, and polymers from oil seed crops; research focused on developing technologies to assist in the long-term environmentally acceptable use of coal; and wind, hydrogen, and solar energy. SUNRISE involves both undergraduate and graduate students in research.
The Institute for Energy Studies is a program in the CEM that is meant to broaden the energy research portfolio, and in particular, to emphasize multidisciplinary opportunities for education and research on energy topics, including areas such as law, business, and environmental studies.
Collaborative research between the CEM and the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is also an important part of the CEM research enterprise. Research in the CEM focuses on sense-and-avoid devices for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) and new and lighter-weight sensor payloads for UASs.
Weather, Climate, and Atmospheric Sciences
Within the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, exciting research is presently being conducted in a wide array of areas that include cloud and climate, satellite remote sensing of the atmosphere, radar meteorology, data assimilation and mesoscale modeling, and transportation weather.
The Department of Atmospheric Sciences houses the Regional Weather Information Center and the Surface Transportation Weather Research Center. Other research involves tornadoes and other severe weather systems. Multidisciplinary research on weather and climate also involves faculty from the School of Geology & Geological Engineering in the College of Engineering & Mines. The Center for Regional Climate Studies, led from the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and from Chemical Engineering, is one of two research themes (or clusters) supported in the current NSF EPSCoR grant.
Other Physical Science Research
Research in the physical sciences encompasses the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, and the entire College of Engineering & Mines. Some areas of focus, such as nanoscience, also include interdisciplinary collaboration with the life sciences, particularly the Department of Basic Sciences and the Department of Biology. The general area of materials science is also growing within the university; this work spans topics such as better composite resins for uses in making blades for wind turbines, and extending the life of metal aircraft parts. In addition, the Department of Chemistry has a significant research focus on theoretical and computational chemistry. This expertise, together with complementary interests in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the Computer Science Department in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, has been heavily involved in High Performance Computing on this campus.
Research in the life sciences takes place both within the School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) and in Biology and other departments in the College of Arts & Sciences. Researchers from several disciplines within the SMHS have a special focus on neuroscience, especially Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. There is also a growing program in microbiology, immunology, and infectious disease that involves collaboration with private sector life science companies in the Red River Valley. Research in Biology on parasites and vector-borne diseases, embryonic development, and genomics complements work in the medical school. Several departments are also involved in the development of a program in forensic science.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs)
UND has grown into a national leader for UAS research, education, and training. UND is designated as an FAA UAS Test Site for the integration of UASs into the national airspace. Since 2005, UND has collaborated with the state, other institutions of higher education, and private industry to develop commercial UAS technologies for precision agriculture, wildlife management, and emergency response, such as train derailments, car accidents, etc.
UND is also a key partner for UAS companies that reside in Grand Sky, the nations only UAS business park located adjacent to the Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Centers of Excellence and Research North Dakota Awards
The state of North Dakota has funded several research Centers of Excellence and Research North Dakota (ND) awards that are funded in order to create collaborative research between university faculty and private sector companies in order to take the fruits of research to create new jobs and other economic impact. The Centers of Excellence and Research ND awards at UND include the following:
- Applied Research - Wind Turbine Blade Inspection Technology Application
- Center for UAS Research, Education and Training
- Center of Excellence for Gas Utilization
- Continued Development and Commercialization of Quality Characterization Technology for 3D Printing
- Cooperative Airspace Techniques and Visualization (CATV) Testing for Enabling UAS Operations
- Developing Intuitive Parking Software with FedEx using High Performance Computing
- Development of a Mobile Medical Application for the Analysis of Hand Arthritis
- Development of Remote Patient Monitoring System – VitaWiPS
- Development of Therapeutic IgY for Influenza A: Potential in Poultry, Canine and Human Markets
- Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Sports Vision Programs in Improving Performance and Health in ND Youth Athletes
- Graphene-based Nanomaterials for Biodetection and Bioimaging
- Limited Deployment Cooperative Airspace Project
- Radio Frequency Wireless Power for Industrial Sensors
- SmartSealz: Pilot/Operator Navigation Augmentation and Physiological Monitoring Headset
- Stingray: Integrating Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Communications Capability into UAS
- Technical and Economic Feasibility Analysis of Next Generation Valley City State University Heating Plant
- Unmanned Aerial Systems for Building Assessment
The United States Department of Agriculture has its Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center at the edge of the UND campus. This center has a research mission focused on understanding obesity. It offers many opportunities for faculty and students to interact with federal researchers, ranging from the genomics of obesity to behavioral sciences.
UND Tech Accelerator
UND owns and operates the UND Tech Accelerator, a facility on the west edge of campus for research, development or manufacturing for entities such as early stage life science and advanced engineering projects companies.
The Tech Accelerator is a facility where small tech-based companies can find office and laboratory space and assistance to grow their businesses. Some of these companies are spin-offs created as the result of UND research, and some are companies that are collaborators with UND researchers. Many also offer opportunities for students to get internships and jobs.