Augustana is among a consortium of institutions in South Dakota who will benefit from a $20 million Research Infrastructure Improvement award called “The 2020 Vision: Building Research, Education and Innovation Partnerships for South Dakota” from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This grant, to be awarded over the next five years by NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), is part of a statewide effort to strengthen South Dakota’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development and fundamental research.
"These projects exemplify the national imperative to engage in cutting edge research, provide educational opportunities for future generations of scientists, stimulate the economy and create jobs," said Denise Barnes, head of NSF's EPSCoR program in a news release announcing the grant.
"Additionally, these projects are impressive in their complexity, state-wide scope and integration of individual researchers, institutions and organizations,” Barnes said in reference to the consortium of 12 colleges and universities throughout the state, including Augustana and South Dakota State University.
The emerging knowledge economy in biosciences is the impetus for South Dakota's award by establishing Biochemical Spatiotemporal NeTwork Resource (BioSNTR). BioSNTR will apply imaging and molecular biology to predict cell functions, signaling processes and growth-factors. BioSNTR's capacity to map biochemical molecular circuitry will advance the science and technology of high-yield crop production and cellular mechanisms that affect human and animal health. This statewide project will involve research universities, undergraduate institutions, tribal colleges and universities, independent research laboratories and businesses.
For Augustana, the NSF grant will help to further enhance the College’s excellent science programs including a growing undergraduate research program and innovative instruction in all of the STEM areas. This summer, 60 Augustana students conducted scientific research on- and off-campus, and 19 others completed internships in health and natural sciences. In addition, students who are pursuing majors within the Natural Sciences have been steadily on the rise. For the 2013-14 academic year, Natural Science majors represented 36 percent of all majors at Augustana – up nearly 10 percent from a decade ago.
“We are proud to be part of a project that will strengthen South Dakota’s participation in STEM education and research,” Augustana officials said. “While Augustana already has a history of excellence in science education, this grant will allow us to expand those offerings into new areas and to offer our students even more cutting-edge experiences in science research and exploration.”
Over the next two years, Augustana’s Natural Science division will undergo significant change. The new Froiland Science Complex will open in late 2015 with both new and completely remodeled spaces for all of the departments in the natural sciences. Augustana is also exploring graduate programming in STEM and the health sciences including the anticipated launch of a Master’s Degree in Genetic Counseling in 2016.
“Today, Augustana’s Natural Science division is experiencing tremendous forward momentum. We’re looking forward to offering our students even more opportunities to gain valuable experience by working alongside and learning from faculty mentors, health care professionals and research scientists in this region and beyond,” Augustana officials said. “We are very excited to be a part of this collaborative effort to increase research and support economic growth in South Dakota.”