SD EPSCoR awarded $20 million grant

Posted on: August 5, 2014   |   Category: News & Updates

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year $20 million Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 grant to the South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (SD EPSCoR).

The award will bolster South Dakota’s academic research infrastructure, improve education opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and drive economic and workforce development.

SD EPSCoR Project Director Jim Rice says research in STEM-related fields is important for three reasons.

“First, the research that takes place in state universities generates new ideas,” said Rice. “Second, because these ideas are critical to our future well-being, they are competitive for federal grants that bring significant funding to our state. And third, university-based research is performed by graduate and undergraduate students who are trained in problem-solving skills that are essential in today’s workforce.”

Because of the recognition for the need of a STEM-supported economy, SD EPSCoR led the development of the “2020 Vision: The South Dakota Science and Innovation Strategy.” The 2020 Vision proposes a set of South Dakota-specific strategies for strengthening the STEM research infrastructure, creating higher paying jobs and improving STEM education in K-12 and higher education.

According to Rice, one of South Dakota’s greatest STEM research needs is more “idea generators.” This award helps SD EPSCoR address this need by providing funding to establish the “Biochemical Spatio-temporal NeTwork Resource” (BioSNTR) led by South Dakota State University assistant professor Adam Hoppe.

“BioSNTR will support growth in human, plant and animal health and biotechnology businesses using powerful tools that integrate state-of-the-art imaging, computation and cellular manipulation,” Hoppe said.

BioSNTR will apply imaging and molecular biology to predict cell functions, signaling processes and growth factors. Its 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.

“Our main goal is to create the infrastructure to catalyze innovation and discovery in bioscience and biotechnology,” said Hoppe.

BioSNTR plans to hire up to 12 new faculty members at South Dakota colleges and universities and will also provide research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty and students will receive support from SD EPSCoR through the RII Track-1 grant. This effort should allow BioSTNR to reach its goal of improving STEM education in the state.

“The key to strong and dynamic higher education programs is faculty who are actively involved in the discoveries that are advancing their disciplines,” said Rice. “These individuals are the idea generators who build research and educational programs around basic and applied STEM research questions that turn these ideas into something real.”

The grant plans to add a new doctorate program in biochemistry and expand three other doctorate programs in nanoscience, biomedical engineering, and computational science.

SD EPSCoR also focuses on building collaboration between public, private and tribal colleges and universities, state government and businesses across the state. These collaborations help support the state’s economic and workforce development.

“It also works to build partnerships between higher education, the private sector and state government to align our efforts so that the ideas coming out of university-based research contribute to state economic development priorities and the students that are graduated from these programs are ready to fill the jobs that are created as a result,” said Rice.

SD EPSCoR was established in 1985 and received its first award in 1989 for $1.8 million. In the last five years, SD EPSCoR and EPSCoR-like programs have brought more than $55 million of research funding into the state used to help hire new faculty, purchase major pieces of research equipment, train graduate and undergraduate students, and strengthen STEM programs in higher education.