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Earlier detection Searching for and deciphering the subtle clues to disease

Yesterday once more ...

UND’s computer operations moved into the first floor of Twamley Hall when the building opened for use in late December 1962. The data processing center pictured above was in a space now housing North Dakota EPSCoR and part of the Office of Grants and Contracts. The door at the right edge leads to the Computer Center with an IBM 1620 (see Page 2). Photo courtesy of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library.




EARLIER DETECTION UND researchers across several disciplines are looking for new ways to find health problems before they appear. But is early always better?









A Daumier print makes a “pointed” observation about the perils of revealing the secrets of the Masons.

Arthur Jones is on a mission to grow UND’s art collections and to expand access to and appreciation of this resource. A major boost came with the opportunity to acquire prints created by the famed French satirist Honoré Daumier.

The downturn in oil prices is prompting industry to work with UND experts on how to explore more efficiently and get more out of this resource. Additional components in the energy picture include other fuels and the social impact of the boom.

Generating research data is one matter, but extracting meaningful results is another. Highperformance computing has become an essential resource for all kinds of projects, from basic science and weather studies to thwarting cyberattacks.

Literary meets digital: Big Data is becoming an essential tool for scholars in the humanities as well, and citizen involvement plays an important role.



MORE inside this issue of


3 BOOK NOTES: Historian Al Berger recounts the age of atomic weapons.

4 Biologist Jefferson Vaughan takes a closer look at “microfilarial enhancement” in mosquito-borne diseases.

5 Bits to geobytes: What does it all mean?

11 Research puts North Dakota “on the map” as UND enters its modern era. 15 Galaxies within: Images of atoms and molecules inspire local high school art students. 27 Meet Travis Desell, UND’s Big Data specialist. 31 “Open North Dakota” embraces computer technology to spread library resources. 32 Focus on Faculty: Two English professors publish books, and UND announces post-doctoral funding awards. INSIDE BACK COVER: Student Spotlight, focusing on three UND students selected as Epicenter Innovation Fellows.

UND Discovery is published by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, with assistance from the Division of University and Public Affairs. Editor: David Dodds. Contributors: Juan Miguel Pedraza, David Dodds, Carrie Sandstrom, and Amanda Menzies. Photography by Jackie Lorentz, Shawna Noel Schill, and Wanda Weber. Please send inquiries and comments to the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, University of North Dakota, 264 Centennial Drive Stop 8367, Grand Forks, ND 58202-8367. UND is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution. Cover photograph by Jackie Lorentz. PAGE 2


Truth, technology and tomorrow This edition of UND Discovery includes four in-depth stories spanning the spectrum of research, scholarship and creative activities at the University of North Dakota. As you read through these stories, I think you will agree that it is a wide and fascinating spectrum indeed! Consider, for example, “The Daumier Effect,” about the University’s study, preservation and curating of one of the largest collections of work by 19th century French artist, satirist and political cartoonist/commentator Honoré Daumier. Daumier’s reputation as a speaker of truth to power, as an artist unafraid to bring attention to the ills of society that we often would rather ignore, places him squarely at the center of what makes a great university — the search for knowledge and truth. To have such an extensive and distinctive collection at UND is quite fitting. Likewise, it is equally fitting that as the home of North Dakota’s medical school, our researchers are focusing on some of the most important health issues of our time, as described in the section titled “Earlier Detection.” As we gain knowledge about how surroundings and behaviors can affect our health, we are beginning to learn the truth about the biological and cellular underpinnings of disease. This understanding is leading us to the ultimate goals of medicine: the early detection and prevention of disease.  Since my arrival here at UND a few months ago, I have been struck by the breadth of the research, scholarship and creative activities at the University, illustrated, in part, by the first two stories I reference above.  I have also been struck by the central role that UND plays in our economic lives. A great example is our leadership as the region’s — and one of the nation’s — premier energy research universities. Our work in basic energy research — conventional, alternative and renewable — and our translation of this work into industrial processes that are driving our economy, as described in “Back to School?,” demonstrate UND’s contributions to important industries in our state and, by extension, to our lives and livelihoods. UND is committed to conducting impactful research and scholarship as befits a major research university, and part of this commitment involves the creation and maintenance of advanced technological infrastructure.  An excellent example of UND’s development of cutting-edge research infrastructure

is described in “Big Data, Bigger Rewards,” which looks at our successful efforts to build high-performance computing capabilities. The Big Data revolution is driving cutting-edge research and more importantly economic development in fields as diverse as medicine, energy, unmanned aircraft systems, agriculture, manufacturing and cyber security, to name but a few. Our world is more and more data driven and those with the ability to extract useful information from that vast sea of data have the advantage. UND’s Big Data initiative is positioning North Dakota to share in the economic rewards that are coming. I hope that this issue gives you a taste of the many diverse areas of inquiry and discovery that UND’s faculty and students are engaged in and that you will continue to watch where we go from here. Grant McGimpsey Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Big Data at UND: 1964

The heart of the UND Computer Center in 1964 was this IBM Model 1620. Between 1959 and 1970, IBM developed two models and sold about 2,000 1620 computers, which were considered to be relatively inexpensive. UND’s 1620 was housed on the first floor of Twamley Hall where the office of the vice president for research and economic development is now located.


BLASTS from the PAST By Juan Miguel Pedraza In August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs: one on Hiroshima, the other on Nagasaki. So far, they’re the first and last such weapons used in war. But their legacy lingers. There are now close to 16,000 nuclear warheads deployed around the world, about 14,000 of them controlled almost equally by the United States and Russia. How did we get from the terminal act of World War II in the Pacific to today’s nuclear standoff? University of North Dakota History Professor Albert Berger, a long-time teacher and researcher about atomic weapons, just released Life and Times of the Atomic Bomb: Nuclear Weapons and the Transformation of Warfare, a book about this compelling subject. Berger, who’s been teaching a class on atomic weapons regularly since 1988, tells this story in 260 pages, covering, as he says, “the basics” which are chilling enough to remind us of this nuclear gorilla in the global room.

Three days later, the U.S. loosed its second atom bomb over Nagasaki. At noon on Aug. 15, 1945 (Tokyo time), Japan’s emperor announced his country’s unconditional surrender.   “I tried to write a narrative textbook around the courses I teach on nuclear weapons, not an encyclopedic volume full of technical and scientific detail,” Berger said. “There aren’t many such books around and some of them have political agendas, which I tried to avoid.” For example, Berger noted, he very much wanted to get around the “we were the good guys” attitude toward nuclear weapons and the Cold War.   “I was trying to make my book accessible, for either an undergraduate audience or, better still, a general audience,” he said. Did ending the war actually require those bombings? Berger said no, although it might have ended the war sooner and at less cost. But he added, “This is a classic bell that cannot be unrung.” n

Humorous side? In a public presentation on campus the day his book was released, Berger recounted several anecdotes that were unnerving reminders that even amid such potential terror, humor sometimes carried the day. For example, physicist Richard Feynman, one of many geniuses contracted by the U.S. government to build this terrible weapon at Los Alamos in the New Mexico desert, used to play the bongos at all hours of the night — in an apartment building with paper-thin walls. Ever the practical joker, Feynman broke into top-secret military safes just to leave a note attesting to his break-ins. Then he’d sneak through the facility’s fences and come in through the front gate, just because.

Non-political Berger showed the only five photographs taken in Hiroshima the day of the bombing (Aug. 6, 1945), including images of the devastation of the city’s buildings and of survivors in shredded clothing tending to others’ injuries. “If you were at the hypocenter of the Hiroshima bomb, you never knew what hit you,” Berger said. “You were vaporized in a thousandth of a second.”

ABOVE: History Professor Al Berger has taught classes on atomic weapons for nearly three decades. Photo by Jackie Lorentz. LEFT: Atmospheric conditions during nuclear tests sometimes produced phenomena described as “bells” and “skirts.”



Tiny, teeming terrors

A UND scientist and colleague hope their research spurs others to think outside the biological “box” when it comes to interconnectivity among blood pathogens in disease transmission. Jefferson Vaughan eyes his research subjects, mosquitoes, from behind a screened enclosure. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.



Compiled by David Dodds University of North Dakota entomologist Jefferson Vaughan and retired entomologist Michael Turell think they’re on to something — something very small. In the Feb. 22, issue of International Innovation — a global science, research and policy newsletter — they were interviewed about their ideas on the interconnectivity of arboviruses and blood parasites, both microbial pathogens, and their collective roles in the rapid spread of diseases through bird populations in North America. Their lab work at UND centers on a phenomenon called “microfilarial enhancement” and how that plays out in West Nile Virus in common grackles and a species of mosquito that feeds on the birds and potentially spreads the virus. Vaughan, a UND professor of biology, and Turell, a longtime researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Vaughan Md., postulate that for microfilarial enhancement to happen in a mosquito, it must feed on a host that is dually infected with a virus and a parasite, and even then a series of several conditions must be met within the mosquito. In the article ( connecting-dots-microfilariae-arboviruses/), past studies of mosquito-borne diseases are cited, showing microfilarial enhancement caused a 50-fold increase in the infectivity of mosquitoes when they fed on dually-infected hosts (both virus and parasite) compared to mosquitos that fed on singly-infected hosts (virus only). They say microfilarial enhancement also can accelerate virus development within mosquitoes. According to International Innovation, the phenomenon remains generally underappreciated by most disease specialists, partly because “parasitologists rarely look for arboviruses. Similarly, arbovirologists rarely look for parasites, thus, potential interconnectivity between blood parasites and arboviruses usually goes unnoticed.”

More from the article

Vaughan and Turell hope that their work will inspire others to examine the interconnectivity among blood pathogens and how it contributes to disease transmission. This will require a synthesis of disparate disciplines — e.g., arbovirology, parasitology and entomology. But the dots are there. Perhaps, it is time for arbovirologists, parasitologists and entomologists to join forces and figure out ways to begin connecting them. n

BIG DATA Low-Resolution Photograph: 100 Kilobytes


Have a Byte!

Single Text Character: 1 Byte

Complete Works of William Shakespeare: 5 Megabytes

1 Byte 8 Bits = te 1 Kiloby 4 Bytes = 2 0 1 b Mega yte ytes = 1 b ilo K 4 2 te 10 1Gigaby gabytes = e M 4 2 0 y 1 Terab te ytes = 1 b a ig G 4 2 te 10 1 Petaby rabytes = te y 1024 Te 1 Exab tabytes = yte 1024 Pe 1 Zettab xabytes = b 1024 E a Yott yte ytes = 1 b a tt e Z 4 2 10 Brontobyte tes = 1 y b a tt o Y 1024 1 Geobyte bytes = to n ro B 4 2 10

All the Academic Journals in the Chester Fritz Library’s Lower Level: 100 Gigabytes

Entire database of the National Climactic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina: 400 Terabytes

All the Hard Disk Capacity Developed Since 1995: 20 Petabytes

Photo by Harold Richter, NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory



Earlier detection A multidisciplinary group of UND scientists seek innovative ways to signal and track health problems before they appear. By Juan Miguel Pedraza It’s a lovely idea: find and treat disease earlier, and live a happier, healthier, longer life. Call it the holy grail of biomedical research, if you will. The key goal of future health care is to find and treat diseases such as cancer much earlier. University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) leaders say earlier detection will significantly improve health outcomes and reduce costs. “Generally, earlier detection is a good idea,” said Dr. Joshua Wynne, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the SMHS. “From the patient’s standpoint – always the perspective we should remember — the real question is, ‘What do I do with this information?’ In other words, ‘Does early detecWynne tion result in actionable steps that I can take one way or the other that will influence my future?’ “If early detection simply means that I have more to worry about, and can’t do anything about it, that’s a real dilemma for patients, physicians, and researchers as to why we should be providing that information.”

Combining skills

But of course, there’s more to the story than a simple yes, let’s do it, or no, let’s not. “From a scientific perspective, we may be able to learn an enormous amount that will have patient care implications in the future if we can identify various disease markers, but there’s a difference between what we do for science and what we do for an individual patient,” said Wynne, board-certified



in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, a former Army battalion physician and the onetime chief of cardiology at Wayne State University. The ideal early marker for a disease is one that allows steps to be taken to improve the likelihood of length and quality of life, says Dr. Marc Basson, a biomedical researcher and UND SMHS associate dean for medicine. Researchers across the UND campus — facilitated, in part, by both home-grown and federal grants — are combining their skills in a quest to find these tools of earlier disease detection, and for screening technologies and therapies to treat disease sooner. For example, SMHS epigeneticist and cancer researcher Joyce Ohm uses genetic tools to catch cancer before it gets serious. Across campus in the Department of Chemistry, nanotech expert Julia Zhao taps pencil power — good old graphite — to create fluorescent quantum dots to label and identify various types of cancer and other cells long before they become a problem. Over at the College of Engineering and Mines, electrical engineer Naima Kaabouch uses signaling techniques to develop an early detection technology to find diabetic foot ulcers long before they become visible — and much more dangerous. Kaabouch’s departmental colleague, Kouhyar Tavakolian, coordinator of the UND Biomedical Engineering Research Complex and an expert in biological signal processing, is developing a method to detect hemorrhages, including those that can cause profuse bleeding, before they become deadly. In the UND Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Neurosciences, researchers are looking for the causes and triggers and for earlier and more accurate diagnoses of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And in the Master of Public Health program’s Center for Comparative Effective Analytics, epidemiologists and data mining experts are tracking health patterns and emerging trends to get ahead of the state’s health management curve. Supporting these projects is a team of data scientists, such as SMHS biostatistician and bioinformatics expert Junguk Hur, who help UND investigators make sense of the vast stores of data that their experiments generate. These are just a handful of the many UND researchers who are advancing early detection diagnostics in biomedical sciences and technologies to find and cure cancers and other potentially life-threatening problems. We’ll briefly describe some of their work here in the following pages. n

Pushing boundaries Joyce Ohm, associate professor of biomedical sciences and co-principal investigator, Epigenetics Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Why do we bother? Epigenetics and cancer researcher Joyce Ohm shares her insights into what scientists do, including researchers looking for ways to diagnose and treat diseases earlier. “We’re the dreamers,” said Ohm. “As we tell our graduate students, we ask unanswered questions.” The grant establishing the UND Epigenetics Center of Biomedical Research Excellence at the SMHS was one of the largest in the University’s history. “We tell our early graduate students to put away the books.

Catching them early Naima Kaabouch, associate professor of electrical engineering and director of the Signal/Image Processing Laboratory, College of Engineering and Mines Among the thorniest health problems around is the upswing in Type II, or so-called adult onset diabetes. Left untreated, it’s fatal, and before that certain eventuality, diabetes results in loss of feeling in extremities such as the feet — too often leading to amputations. Signals expert Naima Kaabouch has been working for several years on technology that could provide earlier detection of foot ulcers in people like diabetics, before those ulcers break through the skin and lead to more serious health consequences, such as amputation.

Joyce Ohm tells her students to look for the unanswered questions, to put away the books, and to experiment and do things no one else has done before. Photo by Wanda Weber.

With collaborators around the world, Kaabouch is also working on the earlier detection of cancer by finding signals that tell clinicians about microcalcification, early warning signs of cancers such as breast and prostate. Microcalcifications are very small calcium deposits and are the smallest particles that a mammogram can detect. They’re normal as women age, but they also can signal the presence of cancer. “In many organs, cancer starts at a microscopic level,” said Kaabouch. “We are developing techniques that are safe and will enhance existing devices to show these microscopic hints about the potential for cancer before it becomes a tumor. It’s about seeing more accurately. “For foot ulcers, it’s the same — we spend millions annually in this country on diabetes-related amputations,” said Kaabouch. “These diabetic ulcers start invisibly. Then when you see them, it’s too late. So we’re developing technology to analyze the temperature of the foot, looking for areas where there are temperature differences, a sign that something is wrong.” “Among the ideas we’ve worked on — and are looking to develop — are temperature sensors in the shoes of diabetic patients.” n

We tell them that they’re going to be doing something that no one else has done before,” said Ohm, whose own research is opening new windows into how genetic “switches” can turn cancer genes on or off. “Doing something that someone else has done before is boring; you want to push things forward,” she continued. With her team and collaborators here and at other campuses, Ohm is developing ways to use epigenetic modifying drugs as cancer therapies and for regenerative medicine. “You’ve got to have a question and a hypothesis about what you’re doing,” she said. “Then it becomes a little bit like cooking. Often, you take pieces of your question and there are recipes involved. Then you try to do the right set of experiments to answer your question.” That’s where the laboratory work gets rolling. “Early on in grad school and as a post-doc, your days are spent in the lab, working on protocols and running experiments, wrestling with data, and then talking to people and figuring out what it all means,” Ohm said. “You ask, ‘What did we learn? What could we have done better?’” n

Naima Kaabouch’s research interests include signal/image processing, sensing, smart systems, wireless communications, and cognitive radio systems. At the University’s Founders Day banquet in February 2016, she was honored with the UND Foundation/B.C. Gamble Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research or Creative Activity, and Service. Photo by Jackie Lorentz. UND DISCOVERY / SPRING 2016 /


Earlier detection

How cells make “decisions” Archana Dhasarathy and Sergei Nechaev, assistant professors of biomedical sciences/Epigenetics Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Disease processes like cancer sometimes start because of faulty switching — just like a bad switch in your house can lead to all sorts of electrical problems. For molecular biologists and research collaborators (and marriage partners) Archana Dhasarathy and Sergei Nechaev, that entails searching for clues in the body’s gene expression system. All of that, of course, done at the molecular level, where you can’t really see directly what’s going on, they note. “We’re looking at the basic mechanism of how cells are programmed epigenetically into different fates,” said Nechaev. A long-standing question in biology has been how cells that have the same genes, or genome, can look so different, for

instance, and how cells containing the same set of genes can become muscle cells or brain cells. This implies mechanisms that go beyond the DNA or genetics — something called epigenetics. “It all starts with genes, which are pretty much the same in all cells in our body, but the information can be read completely differently in different cell types,” Nechaev said. “We’re trying to see how cells know which set of genes to activate. It’s not necessarily about genes themselves; it’s about which sets of genes and patterns of genes are active in each cell type.” The problem here — and it’s a very big problem — is how do cells know which pattern of genes to activate? “The key question in this age of genomics will be to understand how different cell types concurrently regulate these sets of genes,” Dhasarathy said. “Loss of the precise control over gene regulation can lead to improper choices, which could lead to cancer (and other diseases).” Dealing with a large amount of information at once is challenging, and therefore, Dhasarathy and Nechaev’s work — like that of many of their colleagues across campus — is largely collaborative. It involves experts in a variety of fields such as bioinformatics and systems biology. n

Looking for signals Donald Sens, professor of pathology Donald Sens completed his postdoctoral fellowship in molecular biology at Harvard Medical School. Since then, he’s been looking to identify biomarkers, or flags, that could reveal the presence of disease. In his case, he’s looking specifically for biomarkers for bladder cancer. “What I do in my research is look for biomarkers of disease progression,” said Sens, who’s the lead researcher on a $16.8 million federal IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant. It is the largest single grant received by a UND researcher, and the third INBRE grant Sens has received. “The public wants a biomarker that tells them they don’t need to be treated, he says, “but biomarkers that say you don’t need treatment are hard to come by.” Part of the INBRE money that Sens administers is dedicated to a program in medical informatics, which encourages researchers to use Sens medical or clinical information on patients or people at risk for disease in relation to a health outcome. This might include pilot studies of mediPAGE 8


Sergei Nechaev (left) and Archana Dhasarathy are among a group of scientists working to build a center for epigenomics and epigenetics research at UND. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

cal records and disease risk or use of surveillance data from disease registries to test a defined hypothesis. In the area of research with which Sens is involved, the biomarkers he’s looking for are finicky to define — but that’s why he’s chasing them down. “It takes a lot of cells for a pathologist to see them,” Sens said. “We’re actually trying to get a handle on any protein that gives a signal on any cancer, not just bladder cancer.”

Something to crow about

But, Sens says, medical science hasn’t done much to crow about its successes. “The thing that has amazed me with diagnostics is that we’ve done a terrible job of taking victory laps,” he observed. “Consider the blood pressure device. It used to be that mercury thing hanging on the wall. It was quite an operation to access the blood pressure monitors in those days. Today, you can go into any drugstore, stick your arm in, and get your blood pressure taken for free. You can buy a little $25 meter. So it’s become easy to diagnose — and treat — high blood pressure. That’s saved a lot of lives.” “So we’ve already got a lot of earlier detection examples that go unappreciated,” Sens said. “Think of heart disease, where we can now easily prevent it from getting worse, or the pap smear that has made many women’s cancers totally preventable.” n

Central intelligence

Predictive technology

Making sense of floods of data

Diane Darland, associate professor of biology

Kouhyar Tavakolian, assistant professor of electrical engineering, and co-director of the Biomedical Engineering Research Complex

Jung Hur, assistant professor and bioinformaticist for Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences

Kouhyar Tavakoulian knows how dangerous hemorrhages are, and he’s working on technology that will help physicians in the future to track major blood vessels that might fail and rupture. Hemorrhages, any profuse external or internal bleeding, are usually difficult to predict. A sudden hemorrhage of a major blood vessel, for example, during or right after childbirth, or bleeding as a result of battlefield wounds, can be fatal. “Post-partum hemorrhaging is the No. 1 killer related to childbirth,” said Tavakolian. “It’s a big problem, especially in developing countries.” As a Ph.D. student at Simon Fraser University in Canada, Tavakolian was working on another diagnostic technology called seismocardiography: the science of closely tracking the heart’s mechanical signals. While building and refining an improved heart-signal-sensing technology, he theorized that similar technology could be used to predict hemorrhages. “The idea we’re developing here,” he said, “is a medical device that you can wear that would include a sensor on your chest and sensor on your finger that would detect mild drops Tavakolian in blood pressure or other cardiac signals that predict the potential for a severe hemorrhage.” n

Research today involves a lot more than experiments in the lab. Among the biggest challenges is what to do with the resulting flood of data. Research on earlier disease detection is no exception. “That’s where we come in,” said Jung Hur, who developed his strong interest in computer science when his family got a home computer when he was about 12. “Bioinformatics is about using computer science to solve biological problems. “The research paradigm in biology has shifted from focusing on a single gene or pathway to studying whole biological systems,” said Hur, who works in the UND Epigenetics Bioinformatics Core group, which is managed by Adam Scheidegger at the SMHS. Thus, in pursuit of questions including ways for the earlier detection of, say, cancer, scientists such as Hur are studying data from a whole genome in a Hur cell instead of a single gene. “Bioinformatics is playing an essential role in analyzing the huge amount of data that comes from this kind of research,” Hur said. “We try to make sense out of the data by making connections with the experimental data and prior knowledge to answer questions and solve problems.” In addition to helping other researchers find answers in their data with his computer science expertise, Hur also is probing the disease mechanisms of diabetic neuropathy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The goal of his diabetes-related research is to target earlier intervention — in other words, to prevent or slow the progression of diabetic neuropathy, when the disease causes nerves to lose their sensitivity to temperature and injury. n

Life begins amid numerous challenges, many still unknown, observes UND biologist Diane Darland. Darland, her colleagues, and her team of students are probing the interface between the nervous system and the vascular, or blood circulation, system. She notes that there are a number of interactions that have to take place precisely and at very specific times in order for the brain to develop correctly. She’s trying to understand early developmental processes and how they can go awry. “The basic theme of my research is how changes in gene expression patterns regulate cell fate choices during central nervous system developDarland ment,” said Darland, a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the North American Vascular Biology Organization (UND campus representative), and the Society for Developmental Biology. “My work is designed to test the hypothesis that neurovascular interactions impact formation of both the neural and vascular systems in concert during development and under pathologic conditions,” Darland said. She and her UND collaborator (and husband), biologist Tristan Darland, are likewise examining the impact of environmental toxins on the development of the nervous system. The rationale behind these latter investigations is to determine the effect that early, low levels of toxin exposure can have not only on the neural stem cells of the developing system but also on the ability of the adult system to respond to stress. Darland is also collaborating with researchers in the epigenetics and epigenomics focus group at the SMHS to investigate the role of epigenetic modulation of gene expression during neural cell fate decisions in the developing cortex, a critical portion of the brain associated with higher-order processing. n



Earlier detection

‘Never too late’

‘Not so fast’

The last word

Dr. Donald Jurivich, chair of the Department of Geriatrics

Gary Schwartz, professor and chair, Department of Population Health

Dr. Gwen Halaas, SMHS senior associate dean for education

Just because you’re older doesn’t mean no one is interested in finding and treating earlier any potential diseases you might get. Dr. Donald Jurivich, an osteopathic physician and founding Gilbertson Distinguished Chair of Geriatrics at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), is a nationally known and respected clinician who has conducted extensive research on aging and age-related diseases and their treatment. He agrees there’s no reason age should deter an interest in earlier detection. “It’s never too late to look for opportunities for prevention and health promotion,” said Jurivich, who earned a biology degree from Harvard and went on to get his osteopathic medicine doctorate from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. He then completed a residency in internal medicine at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, and subsequently completed a fellowship in geriatric medicine at Duke UniverJurivich sity Medical Center. His research and scholarly interests are Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases of the elderly. “I’m especially interested in finding ways to promote healthful longevity, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and perhaps even halt some of the aging processes,” said Jurivich, whose prescription to students is laugh 100 times daily if you want to reach the age of 100. n

The SMHS recruited cancer expert Gary Schwartz to be the founding chair of its Department of Population Health. Schwartz, who holds two doctorates, including one in biological psychology, and a master’s degree in public health, is a research scientist and educator recognized internationally for his work on prostate cancer and on vitamin D. Schwartz works with key leaders in helping to shape a population-based approach to health care delivery to North Dakotans. He’s keenly interested in diagnostic technologies and health screening that might help to detect various diseases earlier. But earlier detection, he cautions, is not the panacea that some advocates have us believe. Though much of Schwartz’s research has focused on the epidemiology of cancer — particuSchwartz larly the roles played by vitamin D and calcium, and how these factors can be manipulated to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies — he knows the limits of predictive and screening technologies. “Early detection sounds like a great idea in theory, but it isn’t necessarily so in practice,” Schwartz said. “For example, let’s say we could detect a disease earlier but we couldn’t treat it effectively, which is presently true for Alzheimer’s,” Schwartz said. “What good would it do you to learn about it early? It’s a bit like palm reading — I can read your lifeline and tell you the good news and the bad news. The good news is that we can predict that you’re going to get this genetic disease; the bad news is we can’t prevent or treat it. “We’re doing some work on the early detection of ovarian cancer, which is why I’m sensitive to this issue,” Schwartz said. “What we know is that it makes sense to detect early only if you can change the outcome.” Schwartz follows a maxim in the quest for earlier detection. He calls it “STEP”: the disease has to be Serious, Treatable, Early prevention has to beat late prevention, and most importantly, the Prevalence of the disease has to be high. High prevalence is key, he says, because if the test is less than perfect, and all tests are, many “positive” tests will turn out to be erroneous. That could result in “treating” people who do not actually have a disease — a very unfortunate mistake. n

When Gwen Halaas worked for a health plan company, she got a birds-eye view of the mostly positive impacts of disease screening and earlier detection technologies. “Earlier detection is a good thing when you can do something about the disease that you detect,” said Halaas, who is also a family physician with extensive experience in clinical settings. “Especially from my perspective in health plan administration, I came to understand, from a population perspective, that early screening for disease can be a very good thing for the individual and for the cost savings that can be used,” said Halaas, who now spends most of her time helping the UND medical school advance and refine its education mission. “But there are some caveats to that,” she adds, echoing, maybe, some of the earlier reservations of Schwartz. “There are situations where you discover a disease when there is no treatment, and that may not be a benefit to some individuals from an Halaas emotional perspective,” said Halaas. “What you want to do is detect a disease before there are symptoms, an actual disease in a person where you know that you can help.” But there’s more to this question, as noted previously, than a simple dichotomy between treatable and untreatable diseases. “From a research perspective, it’s always important to learn whatever we can about disease processes,” Halaas said. So the march toward earlier and more accurate detection of diseases continues. n



50 years ago This 1966 photograph became one of the more well-known images calling attention to the research accomplishments at the University of North Dakota and its School of Medicine. The scientists are Paul Ray (seated) and Robert Nordlie of the Department of Biochemistry. In his 1958 history of UND, University of the Northern Plains, Louis Geiger wrote, “The star performer as a center of research was the reformed School of Medicine, which sponsored almost no research at all as late as 1948. Between 1950 and 1957, medical departments and individual members of the faculty received no less than $650,000 in research grants, $240,000 of which went for the purchase of permanent equipment. Between 1948 and 1957, faculty and graduate students published 170 articles and papers in professional journals. The Department of Biochemistry, headed by William E. Cornatzer, published more than 40.” In an article in the Autumn 2013 issue of UND Discovery, Nordlie recounted, “Dr. Cornatzer was a very ambitious man, and he wanted to set up a research-oriented facility. Some people made fun of him, but we put North Dakota on the map nationally and internationally.” Cornatzer, Nordlie and Ray (now all deceased) would all be named Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors. In the decades that followed, the research mission of the University grew in scope, funding, sophistication and prestige. As the University developed in the modern era, so did its scholarly reputation. Across the institution’s disciplines, UND faculty gained wide recognition for their investigations and creative efforts. They established the University of North Dakota as an institution of national and international significance. n

Photograph courtesy of the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library.





UND’s growing collection of works by famed 19thcentury French satirist Honoré Daumier comes alive, thanks to an affiliate network of cross-campus curators.

By Carrie Sandstrom

NE VOUS Y FROTTEZ PAS! (Don’t meddle with it!) This well-known 1834 Daumier lithograph features a printer, who stands firm in support of freedom of the press. To the left, King Louis Philippe charges with a raised umbrella. On the ground at right is former King Charles X, who was deposed by the Revolution of 1830. Daumier’s defiant printer appears to proclaim his power to oust the leaders of nations.



Arthur Jones, chair of the Department of Art and Design, says the University of North Dakota campus is more like a “living museum.” The exhibits spread out across academic buildings, libraries and student facilities. And Jones, who says he has one foot in the academic world and the other in the museum world, has found a happy medium in curating this blend of the academic and artistic. In 2003, when Jones first came to UND, there wasn’t a well-organized art collection. Although the school had artwork, it was scattered and not well labeled. Three years later, Jones was appointed as the founding director of UND Art Collections, which operates as the official art museum for the University. In addition to organizing the University’s existing artwork, Jones wanted to continue to grow the University’s Jones collection. He looked for famous artists whose works he could pursue while continuing to build connections with art dealers in various cities. Then, in 2013, Jones struck artistic gold in the form of 19th-century French satirist Honoré Daumier, when he acquired a collection of approximately 160 Daumier prints from a New York art dealer. “There’s a certain magic when you can actually have original

“Art actually offers a lot of cultural information,” Jones said. “It isn’t something that just has to be looked at as a separate discipline; it actually permeates all sorts of other things and all sorts of issues … so, when you’re studying art, you’re not just studying the techniques of the artist, or the hand of the artist or the style of the artist, but you’re exploring all sorts of cultural and social and political issues at any time.”

Breath of life

LES BEAUX JOURS DE LA VIE (“Life’s Beautiful Days”): A satisfied politician muses, “Ah! Finally! ... the Moniteur has printed my rating of ‘very good’ ... naming me in full. Wonderful ... at least my electorate will no longer say that I never speak up in Parliament!”

things that people can identify with,” said Jones, a native of Queens, N.Y. “So, students can actually benefit from original pieces.” Daumier is known for his commentary on social issues of his time, producing more than 4,000 lithographic sketches about politics, the legal system, the wealthy upper classes and many other topics. UND’s Daumier collection now contains a vast array of the artist’s prints — some designed for collectors and some that ran in newspapers as a 19th-century precursor to political cartoons — thanks to Jones’ connections and funding marked specifically for art resources. And while the Daumier prints are used in the Department of Art and Design for teaching and research, they’re also a dynamic and functioning part of UND’s interdisciplinary art efforts.

Nathan Rees, an assistant professor of art history, serves as the head curator for UND Art Collections, based in the UND Art Repository in Ireland Hall (adjacent to O’Kelly Hall). From there, he works to breathe life into UND’s art collection, helping with the storage, matting, framing, record keeping, research, photography and show planning. The goal, Rees says, is to transition the art from simple decorations into educational experiences in and of themselves. “So often we just walk around and don’t pay any attention to the objects that are communicating to us visually,” Rees said. “And it’s great when we have Rees a moment to just call some of these things out and draw attention to the fact that they are actually artworks, and that they do have these messages and that they do tell these stories about the past.” To make that happen, Rees and his colleagues work to place artwork around campus in locations that make sense, whether that be the sculptures in the Education Building, or paintings in the new law and medical school buildings. They also include explanatory text panels with each piece so that students can understand the context and relevance of the art they’re seeing. “I think (the art collection) is important for all the students on campus, even if they’re not studying art, to still have that possibility of engaging with original artworks and having that context that will help draw you into it and tell you a little bit about why it’s significant,” Rees said.

Mosher serves as the cross-cultural curator for UND Art Collections and the curator of the Daumier collection. Mosher was initially invited to work on the project in 2014, shortly after Jones acquired UND’s first set of Daumier works. She was one of a handful of professors from across campus enlisted by Jones to help manage and understand the collection. They joined Mosher individuals such as Rees and former UND Law Professor Gregory Gordon and other subject matter experts as “affiliate curators” for the collection. (Continued on Page 14)

Old is new again But when it comes to Daumier, the messages aren’t always clear — partly because of the language barrier, partly because of cultural differences between 19th-century France and present-day North Dakota. That’s where UND Associate Professor of French Sarah Mosher comes in.

LE FORMAT DE PLUS EN PLUS MONSTRE (“They get bigger and bigger”): Daumier poked fun at a trend then of newspapers going to ever larger formats.





(continued from Page 13)

Mosher’s initial task was to help translate Daumier’s satirical captions in each of these lithographs while explaining the specific cultural context from which the satire emerged. Since then, the project has evolved and grown, as has her curatorial role. Although Daumier’s work addresses the issues and events of 19th-century France, Mosher says many of the topics still find relevance in modern life and for people today. “With Daumier, the first thing that comes to mind is the more things change the more they stay the same,” Mosher said. “Although his works are full of humor, he addresses some pretty serious issues as he makes fun of society. As we organize each exhibition, our task is to provide a culture context about Daumier and the Parisian society that inspired his art. In doing so, we can show audiences what Daumier’s world was like while making comparisons with some of the

key sociopolitical issues in 21st-century North Dakota. “The work that we’ve been doing on Daumier … is as much about France and Daumier as it is about North Dakota and the University of North Dakota.” Mosher currently is organizing the group’s third Daumier show at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks, set to open in the fall of 2016. She also recently presented a scholarly paper at a national conference that focused on the work the UND curator group has been doing. Overall, though, Mosher says the work being done on Daumier and the rest of the UND Art Collections is about bringing art to students, scholars and members of the surrounding communities. “Art can be enjoyed by everyone,” Mosher said. “And art can be made accessible to everyone.”

Art of the press

Kim Fink, a UND art professor and master printmaker, is well acquainted with the University’s Daumier Collection as an artist and as one of the affiliate curators. His expertise gives him a special insight — he knows how Daumier’s prints were made. Fink explains that there were three main publishers of Daumier’s works, and the prints had different quality levels, depending on which publisher created the print. During Daumier’s time, lithography was revolutionary; it allowed artists to include shades and gradients through chemicals used in the replication process. “Oftentimes, the printer is the craftsperson but they’re not the artist; there are a lot of artists who do lithography, but a lot of lithographers are craftspeople who work for other artists,” Fink explained. “So, in the case of Daumier, that’s very much true — he drew them and then he sent them off to somebody, and they Kim Fink acquired and restored this French Brisset Star Wheel Lithography Press, believed to have been built processed it and printed it.” between 1825 and 1840. It may be one of only two such presses in the United States. The press gives students At UND, the art of the opportunity to experience the process of making prints in Daumier’s time. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.



lithography is alive and well, thanks to visiting artists, a student-focused print shop known as Sundog Multiples, and an antique lithography press straight out of Daumier’s time. That press is 13 feet long and weighs about a ton, thanks to its solid oak composition. The press gives students the opportunity to experience the craft that helped make Daumier famous two centuries ago. “Those old presses, they’re wonderful,” Fink said. “You have to carry these heavy stones; you have to ink them; you have to grind them. It’s not an easy process.”

Musical enhancements The Daumier Collection has even made it off the paper and into the airwaves because of the work of UND Professor of Music Gary Towne, who, in addition to helping curate the first two Daumier shows at the Empire Arts Center, arranged for musical pieces to accompany the show openings. “The arts have been a fundamental part of almost every culture known to man,” Towne says. “The arts enhance our view of a culture or they enhance our view of how people felt. And the more art you have, the clearer that view becomes.” For the first Daumier show, Towne organized a concert of music from Daumier’s time; for the second, he assembled a concert of French classical music. Towne said the “commotion and tumult” of Daumier’s time is reflected in the music that was produced, especially through the operas of the time. Art forms, Towne says, enhance one Towne another — by hearing the sounds of the time through music, people viewing Daumier’s work get a clearer view of the time, the culture and the people that lived it. “If you’re only talking about material things or only looking at things from one perspective, you don’t get the same insight,” he said. “Art illuminates the soul, and every art form does that in a different way.”

Interdisciplinary team 
By working together as an interdisciplinary team, the Daumier curators at UND learned that they could create superior art exhibitions in North Dakota that could be read and viewed (and enjoyed) by everyone in the community. In their finished form, the team agrees, these exhibitions were much greater than what any one of them could have achieved by working alone. They were also reminded that art unites

people while encouraging cultural dialogues about both current events and timeless subjects that link the past to the present. Perhaps most importantly, they learned that the humor and social commentaries in Daumier’s world of art are relevant today. n

Galaxies within UND physicist Nuri Oncel’s nano-art project reveals to local high school students microscopic worlds of awe where the beauty of science flourishes. By Carrie Sandstrom

FELIX PYAT (1849): When this lithograph appeared in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari, it had a caption that (translated to English) read, “Convinced by the speech (that was) delivered by Felix Pyat in favour of the right to work, Daumier immediately assumed the right to work at the expense of the orator Montagnard.” Pyat was a writer and active socialist politician who strongly advocated “the right to work” (which had a different meaning than it does in the United States today). After the Revolution of 1848, which overthrew Louis Philippe, Pyat was a member of the Constituent Assembly, where he was aligned with the radical Montagnard faction.

For some, art and science are opposites, but not for University of North Dakota physicist Nuri Oncel. His current research focuses on the creation of novel structures, specifically silicene, a graphene-like allotrope of silicon that does not exist in nature. The research has the potential to open up new possibilities when it comes to technology and electronics, says Oncel, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics. Although the work involves complex science and equations, Oncel says there’s also an art to it. He uses a special “scanning tunneling” microscope to study atoms and molecules. “Every day I see atoms,” Oncel said. “When you’re an astronomer, you look at a telescope and you see stars far, far away from you. You may be the first one to lay eyes on these stars. In my lab, we make nano-structures that no one has seen before. Think about it — just like stars, you are the first one to see it. That’s a pretty satisfying feeling.” Creating structures no one has ever seen before is just part of the job for Oncel, but he wants others, especially high school students, to also have the opportunity to experience the beauty of the scientific world. That’s where his NanoArt project comes in. The outreach effort pairs Oncel’s research with students at Red River High School through a collaboration with their art teacher, Betsy Thaden. Oncel shows students images of the structures he’s creating under the microscope, and students in turn transform those images into works of art. This year, Oncel’s students expect to have their NanoArt displayed May 23-27 at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks. “It is so cool to be able to see an atom,” Oncel said. “This microscope’s images are, in general, very nice because of the nature of the material we study; the images are usually quite symmetric. So what I am trying to do is to share these images with the students and say, ‘Look, physics isn’t something abstract with many equations, but it’s something beautiful and tangible.’”

Oncel hopes his efforts in the high school will engage students who may not otherwise have thought about studying sciences and to expose students to what he says is a natural pairing of hard sciences and the arts. “Throughout the history of mankind, the arts and sciences were always hand in hand,” Oncel said. “Now in the modern age, because of how we educate our kids, it is as if they are two different things, but actually they aren’t … By looking at those symmetric nice images of the nano-structures, you appreciate the science and you feel awe, and that’s what we want to give to people. If we can give it to the younger people, maybe they will go into physics, science, engineering.” And through both art and science, Oncel says people find understanding and meaning in the world. “Science and art are very similar things in that we always try to find a meaning in life,” Oncel said. “The scientists try to find the meaning of life by understanding everything about nature. Artists, on the other hand — by reflecting their emotions, feelings and thoughts — create artwork to give some meaning to life.” n

Art teacher Betsy Thaden and Nuri Oncel hold paintings created by students in her class at Red River High School in Grand Forks, using Oncel’s images of atoms and molecules for inspiration. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.



By David Dodds

Back to school? Exciting initiatives at the EERC have the state’s oil and coal industries, as well as others, lining up to be partners in some good old-fashioned university-based research and development.

John Harju, vice president for strategic partnerships at UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), doesn’t want to overstate a perceived trend out there that, in this period of relatively low oil prices, oil and gas companies are abandoning the energy fields and flocking to universities and research centers to figure out how to do what they do more efficiently. Truth is, Harju says, as far as EERC’s experience goes, those companies — especially industry biggies with typically strong balance sheets and that have greater long-term horizons for evaluating projects — never left. Through the upturns and the downswings, EERC always has held strong research partnerships with private-industry energy developers in the state — from the lignite coal beds of central North Dakota to the oil-soaked shale in the heart of the Bakken Formation farther west. Harju adds, however, there has been a noticeable shift by the industry back to research and development. That wasn’t the case the past few years in North Dakota, when prices Harju were bullish and there were at least seven times the number of oil-exploration units operating. In that market, companies were focused on just keeping up. “If I am an operator and I am running 10 rigs at the same time, the reality is that they are actually running me,” Harju said. “In essence, when you are going as quickly as you can, there’s not a whole heck of a lot of time to think about how you’re doing what you are doing.” Or put another way, “At $100 per barrel oil, you just produce as much as you can, with operating cost as a secondary concern, but at $30 oil, you need to innovate, or else you’re just losing money,” EERC Director Tom Erickson told Reuters recently in an article on oil firms going back to school, in a sense, to learn how to explore, drill and harvest more effectively and more cheaply. And EERC, as always, is one of those places standing ready to help. That same Reuters story reported that EERC has hired as many as 20 more researchers and lab assistants over the past year alone to meet demand.  

Bakken optimization

Oil rigs in western North Dakota. Photo by Chad Wocken, courtesy of the Energy and Environmental Research Center.



One way EERC is doing this is through an important new research program in close coordination with the leading oil companies in western North Dakota.

The eventual results expected of this initiative, aptly dubbed the “Bakken Production Optimization Program,” named after the state’s primary oil-producing zone, are to (1) increase oil well productivity and the economic output of North Dakota’s oil and gas resources, (2) decrease environmental impacts of well-site operations, and (3) reduce demand for infrastructure construction and maintenance. Additionally, the program should give oil companies a better idea of the future recovery potential of the Bakken and another oil-bearing formation in western North Dakota known as the Three Forks Reservoir. The goal is to get companies to a point where they are no longer hemorrhaging money every time there’s a hiccup in the oil-demand curve. “We believe, by better understanding the resource, we can better plan the operational side,” Harju said. “Poor understanding of the resource in the ground leads to ineffectual allocations of capital resources. We want to understand things from the get-go with a more optimized approach so we can figure out how to be profitable at these lower per-barrel prices.” As a partner in the Bakken optimization program, the North Dakota Industrial Commission committed $8.5 million in matching funds over three years to support a consortium of industry partners, including Continental Resources Inc., Marathon Oil Company, Hess Corporation, SM Energy, XTO Energy, ConocoPhillips, Oasis Petroleum, Nuverra Environmental Systems, Hitachi, and Whiting Corp. All told, Harju

Interim UND President Ed Schafer (yellow helmet) gets a close look at the facilities of the Energy and Environmental Research Center with its director, Tom Erickson (right). Photo courtesy of the EERC.

says, the efforts represent about $100 million in collective investments on the part of industry in North Dakota. In partnership with the EERC, Continental Resources is specifically engaged in a multimillion-dollar effort focused on developing a better understanding of particular subsurface layers of the Bakken and Three Forks Formations to see if these layers can be considered separate and unique reserves. This study is expected to determine optimal oil-well spacing for development in this zone, sniff out partially depleted locations and predict future sweet spots.

New-generation nexus

Another project has the EERC at the nexus of two of North Dakota’s most important energy resources: oil and coal. The research center at UND is working with the state’s coal industry and power utilities to decrease the carbon footprint generated by coal-fired power plants in the state and at the same time help the oil industry recover more oil. The work is important because it’s no big secret that the federal government has its eyes fixed on imposing tighter rules for carbon emissions under the national Clean Power Plan (CPP). That plan would have devastating and costly impacts on North Dakota’s continued use of lignite coal to produce power and would have a ripple effect on the coalmining industry in the state. It’s estimated that, at the current mining rate, the state holds about an 800-year supply of coal. The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a stay on the implementation of the CPP. However, the sense is that the state’s coal industry will face continued pressure to make changes in the future. To this end, the EERC has partnered with the state’s lignite industry, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, private-sector tech developer 8 Rivers Capital LLC, and the North Dakota Industrial Commission to capture and use carbon dioxide from the power plants for enhanced oil recovery elsewhere in the state. Focusing on this “next generation” platform for lignite fuels is really a natural fit for the EERC, which was started in the 1950s as a federal facility dedicated to coal research. “Coal is really the cornerstone on which this facility was built,” said Harju, a graduate of the UND geology program and a former private-sector environmental impact analyst. Couple that background with the EERC’s industry connections in the petroleum field and its renewable and green energy expertise, and it’s a match made in heaven.  Oil companies have long known that they can pipe carbon dioxide into the ground to coax oil out of stubborn or lowproducing reservoirs.  By using the ample supply of carbon

The EERC has entered into a partnership with North Dakota’s lignite industry to explore the capture of carbon dioxide at power plants for use in enhancing oil recovery elsewhere in the state. Photo by Chuck Kimmerle.

dioxide from North Dakota’s coal-fired power plants, the idea is to develop technology that allows the utilities to sell the carbon product to oil companies for their production activities. As the oil companies use the carbon to produce more oil, the carbon dioxide is, in the process, stored or sequestered deep underground. The process, in theory, cuts the carbon dioxide emissions in the state, thereby preserving the state’s lignite coal industry, establishing a new revenue source for power companies, and providing a steady supply of carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. According to Harju, the North Dakota lignite coal industry alone has about a $3 billion economic impact on the state. Although the newly proposed federal mandates on carbon emission present serious concerns, they also provide incredible opportunities for the EERC and its industry partners through the research that is being conducted. “Lignite coal and the oil and gas industry obviously are key economic engines for our state,” Harju said. “Finding synergies between these two, as well as the huge renewable energy resources here, will be critical to this state’s prosperity going forward.” And the EERC will continue to be at the forefront of that effort. n



But Benson, a clean-energy expert and former chair of the Petroleum Engineering Department at UND, is looking for neither coal nor oil. Fossil fuels are not his game right now. He’s got rare-earth fever, and it just might one day prove to be even more valuable to the state’s economy than oil, coal and natural gas. Benson, now working as a researcher in UND’s Institute for Energy Studies (IES) — part of the College of Engineering and Mines — recently received a federal grant, totaling nearly $1 million, to research “rare-earth elements,” such as scandium metal and terbium oxide, found in western North Dakota coal and the ground that surrounds it. The project was one of 10 across the nation to receive funding in coalNew UND faculty members on a tour of the state visit the North American Coal Corporation’s Falkirk energy research and development. Mine operation in west central North Dakota. Photo by Peter Johnson. The rare-earth elements he’s looking for can be worth more than $100 a teaspoon because they’re in a wide range of everyday applications and critical components such as UND’s Steve Benson is prospecting for treasure hidden new batteries, wind turbine parts in the coal fields of western North Dakota: precious and special materials in cell phones, ingredients needed for modern-day technologies. according to Benson. He and UND researchers at the IES will use the federal grant to develop methods to commercially mine rareearth elements in North Dakota. It’s estimated that harvesting this resource could add billions into the state’s energy economy. Benson Benson and his research team will work on the project with UND’s By David Dodds Energy and Environmental Research Center, Minneapolisbased Barr Engineering and Pacific Northwest Laboratory of Steve Benson has staked a claim in western North Dakota Richland, Wash. in a quest for something as good as gold. Despite the fact that these elements exist here, the And he’s doing it deep in coal country, where massive United States currently imports rare-earth elements from excavators — with scoop buckets that can hold a small house places such as China. n — strip lignite fruit from the soil, and not far from the worldfamous Bakken oil play, where sky-scraping drilling rigs tap into shale-rock reservoirs in search of its stubborn crude.

Rare earth PAGE 18


Breaking convention By David Dodds Vamegh Rasouli embraces the term “unconventional” when it comes to North Dakota and the economic promise that it holds. For most, the word suggests a deviation from the norm, a flirtation with the unknown. For Rasouli, that’s the whole idea. You see, Rasouli, the Continental Resources Distinguished Professor of Petroleum Engineering and chair of the department at the University of North Dakota, arguably has one of the most important jobs in the state. That is, he’s figuring out how oil companies can extract more oil from deep within the rocky layers of North Dakota’s subsurface — and do it more cheaply. This is especially important in a cyclical industry, such as oil and gas production, in which prices can fluctuate, greatly impacting companies’ bottom lines and their appetites for further development. This has a ripple effect — good or bad

Vamegh Rasouli Title: Continental Resources Distinguished Professor of Petroleum Engineering and chair of the UND Petroleum Engineering Department. Before UND: Head of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Curtin in western Australia. Background: Rasouli has been a consulting engineer for Houstonbased Schlumberger Service Company in the past and is now serving as an instructor for that company’s NExT (Network of Excellence in Training) program. The NExT program delivers short courses worldwide in subjects that include petroleum geomechanics, drilling, hydraulic fracturing, pore pressure estimation, and sand control.

— on the economic well-being of states like North Dakota, which contains the second-largest source of oil in the United States. The problem is that North Dakota’s oil reserves, though abundant, are of the unconventional variety. There’s that word again. You’ve heard the idiom squeezing blood from a turnip. Rasouli explains that coaxing oil from the nanoscale pores in shale rock, 10,000 feet under the surface of North Dakota’s western oil fields, is almost as difficult. “This rock is similar to a very tight sponge with many invisible holes,” Rasouli said. “It does not provide an easy path for the oil to move inside the rock and toward the well bore (passage to the surface). The oil reserves in such tight rocks are known as unconventional reservoirs for which special treatment and technology are required to produce oil. “The permeability (ability to move fluids inside rock) of unconventional oil and gas-bearing rocks is lower than concrete.” When times are good, oil companies have ridden the successes derived from hydraulic fracturing, creating a long breach into the shale rock, to expose and extract more oil. “In low oil-price markets, operators are unwilling to drill new wells due to high costs; therefore, operation of new hydraulic fractures is not possible,” Rasouli said. That’s why, with the current state of the oil economy, companies have turned to so-called smart technology to drive costs down and make production more feasible even when per-barrel prices dip. Supported by a $60,000 research grant from UND’s Postdoctoral Funding Program, Rasouli is studying the effectiveness of a concept known as re-fracturing. This is a technique used in conjunction with hydraulic fracturing. It’s a second process that enables further enhancement of an existing fracture at greatly reduced cost, Rasouli explains. “The re-fracturing technology is very new and needs extensive studies and investigation,” Rasouli said. “This is the main objective of my research project.” Rasouli is collaborating with the UND Institute for Energy Studies, which is providing some technical input for the project as well as co-advisors for graduate-level students involved in the research. Other partners include local oil industry contractors that are allowing access to field data and other information important for the research. “While the U.S. (and especially North Dakota) is leading the production of oil from unconventional oil plays,” Rasouli says, “this technology will certainly be used in other fields and other countries, such as China, Algeria and Argentina, which have just started to develop unconventional reservoirs.” n

Drilling activity in North Dakota’s Bakken Formation continues to yield a huge resource of technical information that will only increase in value as industry and UND investigators partner to extract a better understanding of the underlying structures and identify the best practices for development. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Mining for more than oil By David Dodds Just as Vamegh Rasouli, her husband, is researching techniques to optimize oil extraction from North Dakota’s tightly pored shale rock formation, Minou Rabiei — only a few doors down a third-floor College of Engineering and Mines hallway — is on a similar mission. And like Rasouli’s work, the research of Rabiei follows the unconventional theme that comes with regional oil production, especially that in the Williston Basin of western North Dakota. Rabiei is trying to develop innovative — or unconventional, if you will — mathematics and sophisticated computer modeling that could greatly support the work of industry professionals in the field. Just as industry geologists and field engineers are mining for more oil out in the western part of the state, Rabiei, from her lab at UND, is doing her part with some mining of her own: data mining. “The complex nature of unconventional oil fields and the staggering volume and diversity of data … call for more

sophisticated techniques to integrate various types of data, quantify uncertainties, identify hidden patterns and extract useful information,” Rabiei said. Rabiei explains that data mining can also be used to train computer models to predict future trends, foresee behaviors and answer questions that may be impossible to answer conventionally. The whole idea, she says, is to convert data into meaningful, comprehensible information. This, she adds, “allows proactive, knowledge-driven decision making to prevent and solve many complex problems during a reservoir’s life cycle. It also facilitates identification of best practices in the industry, such as candidate selection for hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery.” Initial support for Rabiei’s research came from a $60,000 grant from the UND Postdoctoral Funding Program. The research is a collaborative effort between the UND Department of Petroleum Engineering and the Institute for Energy Studies, both part of the UND College of Engineering and Mines. Eventually, a post-doc fellow will be hired to support the research. Rabiei said data mining can provide oil and gas companies with a competitive advantage by tapping into once-hidden, predictive information from large and complex databases. And faster data analysis translates into real savings in time and money for oil and gas companies. “Development of practical tools, which assist in achieving this objective, will be very much appreciated by the industry and oil and gas-oriented agencies,” she said. n

Minou Rabiei Title: Assistant Professor of Petroleum Engineering, UND College of Engineering and Mines. Before UND: Associate lecturer and Subsea Engineering Program coordinator at the Department of Petroleum Engineering, University of Curtin in western Australia. Background: With extensive experience in intelligent-data solutions, Minou Rabiei has been involved in many oil and gas and mining engineering research projects with a major interest in the application of soft-computing and data-driven technologies.



from some bacteria. The cracking process uses high temperatures and an oxygen-free environment to decompose the large, complex TG molecules into smaller molecules that are more useful for the production of fuels and chemicals, according to Seames. Crop oils can be edible like soybean or canola oil, or inedible like camelina. The UND researchers have demonstrated that a range of product material from the cracking reactor can be processed into a renewable fuel that meets all of the American Society for Testing and Materials and military specifications for petroleum jet fuel, including a freeze-point specification of 47 degrees below zero Celsius.  

Green chemicals

“Cracking” the code UND researchers receive U.S. patent approvals for new technologies, including a new jet fuel made from renewables. By David Dodds 
It took almost eight years, but researchers from the University of North Dakota’s College of Engineering and Mines (CEM) and the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) have been granted a U.S. patent for a process that creates renewable jet fuel from crop oils, among other sources. The new U.S. patent, titled “Method for Cold Stable Biojet Fuel” (U.S. Patent 9206367), was issued on Dec. 8. The inventors are Wayne Seames, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Ted Aulich, EERC principal process chemist for fuels and chemicals.   “This was the first of five patent applications UND submitted related to the production of transportation fuels and commodity chemicals based on a technique known as cracking, and the fourth one that’s been approved,” Seames said. For these patents, the cracking technique is applied to one or more feedstocks from a class of oils known as triacylglyceride (TG) oils. TG oils include crop oils, oils from algae and oils PAGE 20


In a more recent related development, UND secured a U.S. patent to produce benzene, toluene and xylenes, the so-called “BTX” aromatic compounds out of the same kind of renewable materials used for the jet biofuel. The named inventors for this technology are Seames and Brian Tande, a fellow UND professor and chair of the University’s Chemical Engineering Department. Seames “BTX compounds are the starting materials for many polymers, resins and elastomers on the market,” Tande said. “The most common method for the production of BTX is the catalytic reforming of propylene and/or propane, which is typically produced from crude oil.” Because UND’s new technology allows these critical chemicals to be produced from renewable feedstocks, it increases the green content of the final products and reduces the overall carbon footprint for production, Seames said. The U.S. Patent Office approved the patent, No. 9,273,252, “Production of Aromatics from Noncatalytically Cracked Fatty Acid Based Oils,” on March 1. Tande Seames said production of these more environment-friendly chemicals involves the same cracking process used to produce renewable jet fuel and can be made with the same crop oils or other feedstocks.  In fact, both inventions can be combined together to increase the diversity and economic potential of TG oil cracking.  When combined with UND’s previous patents in this area, a robust biorefinery can be constructed that produces a wide variety of green fuel, chemical and material products. The initial concepts for each of these patented ideas were developed under grants from federal sources.  Once the concepts were shown to be viable, the technology was developed to a commercially usable status as part of the SUNRISE BioProducts Center of Excellence (COE), which was funded by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.   The SUNRISE BioProducts COE is the applied research and development arm of the Sustainable Energy Research Initiative and Supporting Education, or SUNRISE, supercluster program.  While administered out of UND, SUNRISE is a multi-university, multi-disciplinary research center with investigators from UND, North Dakota State University and others. The patent application development and approval process for both of these inventions fell under the direction of Michael Moore, associate vice president for intellectual property commercialization and economic development at UND. The University is actively seeking to license this suite of technologies for rapid and widespread commercialization. n

The Bakken — and the book — go boom! Bu David Dodds The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota released the first, peer-reviewed, booklength collection of studies about the Bakken oil boom in western North Dakota just a few weeks ago, and it wasn’t long before the world media took notice. The Bakken Goes Boom: Oil and the Changing Geographies was edited by UND Associate Professor of History William Caraher and former UND Assistant Professor of English and Communication Kyle Conway (now at the University of Ottawa). At last check, the volume has enjoyed more than 700 digital downloads (500 in its first month, an impressive showing for an academic publication). Not only that, the book also has been featured in global publications such as Slate magazine, Fast Co. and the Daily Mail of the U.K. “For a small press like ours, getting coverage in these kinds of publications makes a huge difference in our global and national exposure,” Caraher said. The book, he added, is one of “a new and growing breed” of open access academic publishing, one that seeks to make top-quality scholarly materials available to students, scholars, and citizens of the state at no cost. “We’re particularly proud of that,” he said.

Gathering in western North Dakota in August 2015 were (from left) John Holmgren, faculty member at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania; Bret Weber, UND Social Work; Bill Caraher, UND History; Aaron Hoffman, a student at Franklin & Marshall College; Richard Rothaus, North Dakota University System vice chancellor for academic and student affairs; and Kostis Kourelis, faculty member at Franklin & Marshall College. Photo courtesy of John Holmgren.

About the book As oil production in North Dakota surged, people came from all over to work in the western part of the state. Communities struggled to keep up with the increased population. This book addresses the challenges those communities faced at the height of the boom and will continue to face as the price of oil fluctuates. “The neat thing about this book is that it’s not just academics talking to each other,” said Conway. “It’s journalists, poets and artists, too. Art and poetry can open up a different world for us, which is why everyone whose life is affected by oil — and that means everyone, not just North Dakotans — should read this book.” The book features contributions from national and local authors who each offer distinct visions of the challenges and opportunities of the Bakken oil boom in the context of both western North Dakota and the world, capturing a fascinating moment in the history of both the state Conway and global oil production.

More projects Last year, the Digital Press at UND published a translation of Karl Jakob Skarstein’s The War with the Sioux: Norwegians against Indians 1862-1863, the story about Norwegian immigrants, American soldiers and Lakota and Dakota Indians as they sought to protect their ways of life. It was translated by UND Associate Professor of Norwegian Melissa Gjellstad and UND alumna Danielle Mead Skjelver. In 2014, the Digital Press published a pair of wellreceived books on archaeology: Punk Archaeology, edited by William Caraher, Kostis Kourelis

and Andrew Reinhard; and Visions of Substance, edited by William Caraher and UND alumnus Brandon Olson. Looking ahead, Caraher says he is working with UND Social Work’s Bret Weber on a new book titled The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape (the inaugural volume in the NDSU Press Heritage Guide Series, Fargo, N.D.), which is due out this fall. This book “derives from four years of travel and study by (Caraher and Weber) in the oil patch and examines the physical evidence of oilfield life on the landscape, documenting in particular the temporary housing arrangements that sprang up with North Dakota’s petroleum boom of the 21st century,” according to Suzzanne Kelley, editor and chief at NDSU Press. Caraher and Weber also have had an article, titled “North Dakota Man Camp Project: The Archaeology of Home in the Bakken Oil Fields,” accepted by Historical Archaeology, a top-tier journal; it should appear in the spring 2017 issue. They collaborated on the article with Richard Rothaus, a vice chancellor in the North Dakota University System, and Kostis Kourelis of Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. 

About the Press The Digital Press at UND is a creative reimagining of the traditional university press. It publishes innovative and timely works in archaeology and on topics intersecting with life in North Dakota and the Northern Plains. The books are available for free, and whenever possible, under open access licenses. n






By David Dodds and Juan Miguel Pedraza University of North Dakota high-performance computing specialist Aaron Bergstrom calls it a time machine of sorts. “It’s a machine for the future of scientific discovery and innovation,” said Bergstrom. The digital wizards who manage this family of high-speed Dell computers explain that it’s part of UND’s Computational Research Center (CRC). This CRC is an engine of economic development amid fabulous data-crunching protocols, relevant to both basic and applied research. “We’re seeing returns on this right now,” said Bergstrom, whose duties include reaching out to campus researchers who have “Big Data” to analyze. The dividends from such an investment are coming in the form of research data analytics across just about every department on campus, from biomedicine, biology and energy engineering to UND’s Digital Humanities. It’s also a big reason why UND recently was able to secure a key role as one of five founding institutions — with Illinois, Michigan, Iowa State, and Indiana — on the Midwest Big Data Hub and maintain a permanent seat on the hub’s executive committee. “This is critically important for UND because it gives the University a prominent role in shaping regional and national policies when it comes to collaborations in government, academia and private industry for Big Data and data analytics,” said UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo. “It also bolsters UND’s ability to work with our University System partners on Big Data initiatives across the state and to ensure our researchers in the sciences and humanities have the technological tools they need to investigate complex problems.”

Staying competitive The high-performance computer (HPC) system that makes everything tick now is housed in a new computer center shared with the North Dakota University System (NDUS) and located in a repurposed facility on campus. The HPC is actually a blue-blinking array, 32 nodes in all, stacked in three seven-foot air-conditioned steel cabinets with Velcro-taped wiring in trays suspended from the ceiling of a cavernous warehouse. The only sound: the whirring of air handlers and the collective choir of computer fans. This is where research theories become useful output. The folks who run and manage it, including Bergstrom,

Gathered by UND’s high-performance computer system are (from left) Aaron Bergstrom, Travis Desell and Ron Marsh. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

work in a new facility on the west end of campus that includes both University and state entities and the University’s Computational Research Center. “There are smaller computing clusters around campus — the medical school, for example — and there’s (UND Computer Science faculty member) Travis Desell, who’s marshalling the power of volunteer or distributed computers, but with the way researchers are accumulating data these days, that’s often not enough,” said UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Mark Hoffmann, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and a member of the group coordinating HPC infrastructure at UND. “A research university of our caliber needs HPC to stay competitive. “The key for us is that we have enough computer power to sustain a culture of high-performance computing for both faculty and students,” Hoffmann said. “Our HPC is a very high-end, state-of-the-art cluster, very impressive hardware — in the six-teraflop range with a peak performance of 40-plus teraflops — purchased in 2012, with the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) being a major contributor.” [A teraflop is 1 billion floatingpoint operations per second.] “Now we want to make researchers and students more aware of this resource,” added Hoffmann, who is also associate project director of EPSCoR in North Dakota.  

Pulling it together

Among the trillions of calculations buzzing through UND’s growing HPC system, this one stands out in Josh Riedy’s mind: Return on Investment, or “ROI.” He sees ROI as the key to the long-term success of this vital computational infrastructure. Riedy, UND vice provost and chief strategy officer, was a co-principal investigator on the initial National Science Foundation award that set up the Midwest Big Data Hub, and he’s currently involved in another NSF proposal to expand it. He likes to cite this quote by U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz in a feature article in Innovation magazine: “The highperformance computer has become a power design tool for industry and driver of economic growth.” It’s that last part that really encourages Riedy and other HPC leaders on campus like Hoffmann and Bergstrom. Riedy, who came to UND in June 2007 and now also serves as chief information officer, sees computing infrastructure — the machines, the software, the people to run and maintain them — as critical to the future status of UND as a major research hub. “High-performance computing is changing everything,” said Riedy.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott noted that high-performance computing is more than just a topic of interest for the system’s 11 colleges and universities. It has become one of three legs in a tech-based triad called the “Nexus ND initiative.” “High Performance Computing is essential to the future of the world’s cyber spaces and it’s only logical that we as a system would look to build our own capacity for it,” Hagerott said. “From the medical field to unmanned aerial systems to cybersecurity, agriculture and energy, the applications for Big Data are almost limitless. From what I have seen so far, our researchers and their varied programs and departments are starting to make use of high-performance computing, and I hope that’s a clear sign of things to come.”

Access is key

Bergstrom says access is key, and that requires support staff: researchers on campus who have problems or datasets cannot be experts on both HPC and their chosen areas of study. “Beyond the power provided by HPC systems, we must offer the expertise of people, as well,” he said. Ron Marsh, chair of UND Computer Science, says faculty across campus, including those in the humanities, are starting to see the need for HPC and data storage. “This kind of computing, the need to analyze Big Data, is not going to go away,” said Marsh, who worked for several years as a physicist at a major federal lab. “Our new program gives our students exposure to more than how computer scientists see high-performance computing and Big Data; we encourage them to actually go out and work with faculty in other departments besides ours.” This educational contact with HPC will open their eyes, broaden their horizons, he says. “Because faculty elsewhere on campus are working on real projects, real data, and sometimes with massive data, really, well beyond what we have in the department for our students to work with, there are some very strange, fascinating problems for our students to work on,” Marsh said. And that includes working with HPC. “Our Ph.D. students will leave here with an understanding of high-performance computing and Big Data, but also with lots of experience working outside of our own department with other researchers,” Marsh said. “So they’ll feel comfortable, for example, going to work for a group that does computation chemistry.” n



Big Data for big weather research By David Dodds Extreme weather research requires extremely fast supercomputing power, and that’s exactly what atmospheric scientists at the University of North Dakota are working with. Gretchen Mullendore, who’s been in the news a lot lately for her work on tropical thunderstorms and their impact on unmanned flight, says it’s an exciting time to be working in the world of “Big Computing.” “A lot of advances continue to be made that will likely change the way we do science,” Mullendore said. “This particularly impacts fields like atmospheric science.” Mullendore said it’s important to remember that the evolutions of modern numerical weather prediction and computers long have been linked. In fact, the first computers were used to run atmospheric models.

Ahead of their time?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the roots of numerical weather prediction

@Home on the grid From biomedicine to aviation and beyond, a collaborative network of citizen scientists is volunteering its collective power so individual researchers can do more than they ever dreamed of doing alone.



can be traced back to the work of Vilhelm Bjerknes, a Norwegian physicist who has been called the father of modern meteorology. In 1904, he published a paper suggesting that it would be possible to forecast the weather by solving a system of nonlinear partial differential equations.  Lewis Fry Richardson, a British mathematician, spent three years developing Bjerknes’s techniques and procedures to solve these equations. Armed with a slide rule and a handful of logarithms — working among the World War I battlefields of France where he was a member of an ambulance unit — he computed a prediction for the change in pressure at a single point over a six-hour period. The calculation took him six weeks and the prediction turned out to be completely unrealistic, but his efforts were a glimpse into the future of weather forecasting.  Richardson foresaw a “forecast factory,” where he calculated that 64,000 human “computers,” each responsible for a small part of the globe, would be needed to keep “pace with the weather” in order to predict weather conditions. Though predicated on human computational power, Richardson’s idea is akin to a new push in the realm of atmospheric science research called “The Big Weather Web.” This National Science Foundation project forms a supercomputing network of scientists all tasked with something a little bit different. “The way we do atmospheric science right now is each

researcher downloads all the data they need to local computers,” Mullendore said. “But maybe we can change that, and instead of everyone having their own copy of all that data, we could use ‘distributed data’ models, where the data only resides in certain locations.”

By David Dodds

microscopic with a new project with a slight twist on the name. He started DNA@Home as a solution to a bioinformatics problem to find protein binding sites in tuberculosis and bubonic plague genomes. When Desell came to UND in 2011, he quickly started collaborating with Archana Dhasarathy and Sergei Nechaev, a husband-and-wife research team in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The UND biomedical scientists were studying the human genome for which the assistance of Desell’s DNA@ Home was a perfect fit. The work was supported by a dedicated computer server that Desell was able to purchase with startup funding from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Desell’s work on campus quickly escalated from there, and soon he was involved in more volunteer-computing projects in the Departments of Computer Science and Biology. “Finding myself trying to manage and support three volun-

One guy on the UND campus who’s certainly doing his part with available resources is Travis Desell, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. When Desell was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York, he developed a project that allows people to “volunteer” the power and storage capacities of their individual computer systems to a specific research project. In this case, the project, dubbed MilkyWay@Home, used this collective or “distributed” computer power so astronomers could determine the origin and structure of the Milky Way Galaxy. The project he launched at RPI more than five years ago is still going strong today. “It’s very successful, and now has over 25,000 volunteers from all over the world,” Desell said. Riding the success of MilkyWay@Home, Desell’s post-doc work strayed from the telescopic and migrated toward the

Modern adaptation

Mullendore says The Big Weather Web is trying to do just that, and UND is part of a team of universities running parts of a weather forecast. “We are then sharing our different pieces by linking storage servers together over the Internet,” she said. Numerical weather prediction has advanced significantly since the idea was formed by Bjerknes and tested by Richardson. Initiatives such as The Big Weather Web and the extreme supercomputing power that supports it allow modern-day researchers to do in a blink of an eye the same tedious computations that it took Richardson six weeks to complete a century ago. “Not only do we need big computers to run our forecasting and climate models, we also need big storage,” Mullendore said. “If you think about all the measurements we are taking of the atmosphere all the time — the satellites, the radars, the surface instruments, balloons, aircrafts — all that data needs to be stored.”  

Thousands of brains Fellow UND atmospheric scientist Matthew Gilmore can relate. He taps into a national network of supercomputers, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), known as the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) to conduct numerical simulations for his research on tornado outbreaks and weather conditions favoring tornadoes. What exactly is a supercomputer? Gilmore explains that it’s a computer that has thousands of “brains” (called cores) working simultaneously on a math problem. A typical desktop computer comes with about four cores. Because there are so many cores in a supercomputer, they can all share the work so that the simulation finishes faster.   Richardson’s forecast factory has come true, except that instead of thousands of human brains there are thousands of computer cores.  Each core handles the forecast on a small part of the weather map. Gilmore said, “This incredible computing power of a supercomputer, using hundreds to thousands of cores, allows us to encompass a weather forecast covering the entire United States and/or to zoom in to resolve the inner workings of a tornado.” In order to keep utilizing XSEDE for the team’s tornado and severe weather research, Gilmore submits an XSEDE proposal

teer computing projects, I decided to merge them all under one umbrella project,” Desell said. “This way, if anyone joined one project, they’d also know about and be able to support the other projects.” This led to the genesis of Desell’s “Citizen Science Grid” (CSG). In Biology, Desell has been able to work with Susan Felege and others on a National Science Foundation-funded project involving more than 100,000 hours of avian nesting video. Desell’s volunteer-computing techniques and his expertise in “crowd sourcing” and machine learning, in which he trains computers to recognize objects or patterns within data, have become invaluable to the biology research. This was followed by another biology project with Felege and her department colleague Robert Newman involving wildlife and unmanned aircraft near Hudson Bay in northern Canada. “This last summer, (Felege and Newman’s team) gathered

every year, requesting a specific amount of core hours needed to accomplish the group’s science objectives. “Where a standard NSF grant would provide dollars, XSEDE grants computer time,” Gilmore says. “These two types of grants are typically used together, hand-in-hand, so that one pays staff/student salary while the other ‘pays’ for computer use.” Gilmore says XSEDE also offers easy-to-obtain “startup” computer time for researchers who want to try out their codes on a supercomputer, prior to writing an XSEDE grant proposal. Mark Askelson, another one of UND’s crack-shot team of atmospheric scientists, is getting one of his graduate students in on the big-data computing action. He’s working with Briana Kump, Lake Elmo, Minn., on a project that seeks ways to utilize the massive amounts of data collected by unmanned aircraft in weather prediction models. Askelson says the primary challenge is determining the best method of ingesting or assimilating such data into these models. “Given the expected growth in use of UAS, data from such systems could result in significant improvement in forecasting, especially for high-impact events such as thunderstorms and blizzards,” Askelson said. n

multiple terabytes of imagery from aerial surveys,” Desell said. “My students and I have been developing crowd-sourcing webpages ( php), where people can view imagery from these aerial surveys, along with other images gathered from trail cameras in North Dakota and the Hudson Bay, and mark where there is wildlife.” Sticking with the @Home theme, Desell created Wildlife@ Home as a nesting spot for all of the biology research. Another related big-data project to which Desell is lending the services of his CSG is one involving aviation professors Jim Higgins and Brandon Wild, and their invention, the National General Aviation Flight Information Database (NGAFID). “A number of years ago, (Higgins) created this; it basically was a perfect collaboration, a perfectly huge data set for me to develop various machine-learning techniques using high performance computing,” Desell said of the Federal Aviation

Matthew Gilmore: “This incredible computing power of a supercomputer, using hundreds to thousands of cores, allows us to encompass a weather forecast covering the entire United States and/or to zoom in to resolve the inner workings of a tornado.” Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Administration-funded effort. Desell said the NGAFID contains per-second flight data recorder readings from more than 500,000 flights — or 1 trillion rows in the database, taking up more than two terabytes — and it grows daily as UND, other institutions and private pilots add data to it to help make general aviation safer. Success in this field led to two patents that have been licensed through UND’s Office of Intellectual Property Commercialization and Economic Development, including the development of a new startup company, Predictive Aviation Analytics. And if that wasn’t enough, Desell said, the collaboration is teaming with the private sector to develop a system similar to the NGAFID that would store and analyze Unmanned Aircraft System sensor data. n



Ranganathan’s lab is on the second floor of UND’s Harrington Hall, part of the College of Engineering and Mines.

In the air

Electrical engineering major Eric Horton (left) and his professor, Prakash Ranganathan, hold a sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle. Horton has been investigating cyberattacks on Global Positioning Systems datasets, a critical component in the navigation and control of these aircraft. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

A UND lab is trying to make the world’s growing fleet of unmanned aircraft and electric utilities less susceptible to malicious attacks that could spell widespread trouble for the public.

Combating cyberattack By David Dodds You could say electrical engineer Prakash Ranganathan and his team of researchers at the University of North Dakota’s Secure Cyber Physical Systems and Data Sciences Laboratory are the elite special forces on a high-tech battlefield. It’s their job to identify vulnerabilities that make the world’s growing fleet of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and the nation’s electrical utility grid susceptible to nefarious cyberattacks. Their mission, in the end, is to protect the



public from a ubiquitous and hidden foe that’s becoming more dangerous and tech-savvy every day. Ranganathan’s efforts have been recognized by North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott, who asked the UND assistant professor to work collaboratively with University System partners on cybersecurity research as part of the chancellor’s newly unveiled Nexus ND initiative. As associate lead, Ranganathan works closely with cybersecurity initiative leader Kendall Nygard, professor of computer science at North Dakota State University.

Most recently, Ranganathan and his team have been conducting cyber-security research for private-sector partner Rockwell Collins Corp., based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The goal of the project is to build defense mechanisms, through software algorithms, that fend off cyberthreats in UAS environments. As part of this project, Eric Horton, an electrical engineering undergrad, has been investigating cyberattacks on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) datasets. GPS is the worldwide navigational and timing utility that provides accurate positioning services to publics on the move, as well as civil and defense agencies. It’s also a critical component of UAS tracking and navigation. “As an essential element of the global information infrastructure, cybersecurity of GPS faces serious challenges,” Ranganathan said. Some important public systems even rely on GPS as a security measure, but civilian GPS, itself, has no protection against malicious acts such as “spoofing” — security breaches caused when satellite signals are altered to provide erroneous location and timing data. Ranganathan says this kind of spoofing can be a major threat to homeland security, and his research team is trying to understand the nature of these attacks and make civilian GPS more secure.  “We’ve developed a means to GPS spoof (UAS) and are now looking into several methods to defend against the spoofing attacks,” he said. “Initial tests provide encouraging results.” Ranganathan and his research team are confident that this work will accelerate the development of defense technology against GPS-based attacks. And with the help of Roger French, a UND alumnus and lead Rockwell Collins engineer on the grant project, UND researchers will be a big part of that surge.

Simulated attacks Part of the research collaboration with Rockwell Collins is an opportunity for UND undergraduate students to complete a capstone course in cybersecurity. Currently, Ranganathan is advising five electrical engineering students in the capstone course: Kevin Casagrande, Joshua Friederichs, Clarissa Gonzalez, Tanya Humphries and Zachary Tindell. A fun and valuable component of the capstone course is the

development of a “UAS environment” that lets students experience simulated cyberattacks and defenses against them for fixed and rotary-wing UAS. The project is structured so the students are broken down into teams: a Red Team (Attack) and Blue Team (Defense).

Protecting the grid Supported, in part, by a recent National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Ranganathan’s lab also is working with electric utilities to address security challenges for tomorrow’s more technologically advanced power grid. Others involved in the project are co-principal investigator Naima Kaabouch, associate professor of electrical engineering, and Arun Sukumaran Nair, an electrical engineering Ph.D. student advised by Ranganathan. Ranganathan explains this so-called “smart grid” is a massive and complex electrical utilities network of millions of interconnected devices utilizing advanced information and communication technologies. Here, Ranganathan’s research team is focusing on synchrophasors and phasor measurement units (PMUs), which make real-time monitoring, control and data analysis of the electric power grid possible. At the same time, however, PMUs can make smart-grid systems vulnerable to cyberattacks. This past summer, an undergrad exchange student working in Ranganathan’s lab, Erwan Olivio from France, developed encryption and decryption algorithms with the GPS data embedded in synchrophasors, which showed signs of improved network security. Other students doing important work on the smart grid project in Ranganathan’s lab are electrical engineering grad students Nick Gellerman, Ranganath Vallakati, Anupam Mukherjee, Mitch Campion, Vedaste Mutambuka and Radha Krishnan. In addition to Rockwell Collins and the NSF, Ranganathan’s research sponsors include the Wells Fargo Foundation, North Dakota Community Foundation, UND Research Development and Compliance Office, and NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research funding agencies. According to the NSF, work such as that being undertaken in Ranganathan’s lab is expected to transform the way people interact with engineered systems just as the Internet has transformed the way people interact with information. All that, and they’re protecting the world from cyberattacks that could spell doom for global defense capabilities and public utilities. All in a day’s work for the UND team. n

UND, meet your computer guy By David Dodds A while back, the popular sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live had a recurring skit about “Nick Burns, your company’s computer guy.” The titular character was played by Jimmy Fallon, now host of the Tonight Show on NBC. In the skit, Nick Burns is the prototypical socially clueless Gen X nerd — born and raised on heavy doses of marathon all-night video gaming, computer coding and software re-engineering. He’s fluent in nine computer languages and rebuilt his first desktop model before middle school. Oh yeah, and he’s arrogant enough to tell you about it. In a typical scene, Burns condescendingly enters an office setting at the behest of some poor clerical worker mired in a computer emergency. After quickly diagnosing the problem — making it clear through Mensa-level humor and computercentric insults (that fall flat with everyone else in the room) how digitally ignorant the desperate worker is — Burns unceremoniously bellows “Moooove,” before shoving the worker aside and fixing the issue with a few key strokes. The skit is a humorous take on relationships so many of us have with our co-workers over in the “IT Department,” who, over the years, have become increasingly critical to nearly every company’s ability to function. It’s also an examination of the interesting interface between these company computer heroes and the workaday stiffs (us) whose expertise on the keyboard is limited to email, spreadsheets and Google searches.

Go-to person

If there was a so-called computer guy at the University of North Dakota, it might have to be Travis Desell in the Computer Science Department. But, unlike SNL’s Nick Burns, Desell is anything but a pretentious jerk with a microchip on his shoulder. On the contrary, Desell comes across very unassuming with a terabyte of patience and a deep desire to help. In fact, when you ask Desell what he sees as his role on the UND campus, his initial response is simple and modest. “Assistant professor,” he’ll likely say. But after a short pause, even Desell knows that doesn’t

even begin to describe the myriad projects and initiatives he’s got a hand in across the broad University spectrum. “I’m pretty much the go-to person for high-performance computing and big data, as those, along with machine learning, are my research specialties,” Desell explained, without a hint of pompous bravado. He’s right. And a quick review of his project list proves it.

Perfect fit

Desell’s arrival here in 2011 — fresh out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — roughly coincided with UND’s need and desire to drastically ramp up its high-performance computing (HPC) capability in multiple areas across the University. It wasn’t long before Desell was involved in multidisciplinary research projects where his HPC background as well as crowd sourcing and volunteer computing tools — techniques that make vast lodes of data more digestible — fit perfectly. “I’m already collaborating with the medical school, wildlife biology, aviation, engineering and English among others,” he said. “Sadly, it’s gotten to the point where I actually have to turn down new research projects, as there’s not enough time in the day to do what I’m already working on.” A native of Niskayuna, N.Y., Desell isn’t complaining. He’s relishing his role at UND and the opportunities it presents when it comes to managing Big Data, HPC and machine learning (training computers to recognize objects or events, or to discover patterns and anomalies within data based on prior examples). “I like to think of myself as having solutions that need problems, as opposed to most researchers who have it the other way around,” Desell said. “This is a pretty unique aspect of computer science, as it can really drive research in other fields and take it to the next level.” n



UND’s Big Data pros and creative scholars are tapping into each other’s expertise for a synergistic surge in the digital humanities.

Binary mode

By David Dodds If Big Data support for engineering, biomedicine and the other hard bench sciences wasn’t enough, University of North Dakota’s digital artists are cornering the market when it comes to the softer side of the binary code, too. And they’re doing it with the help of science, not in spite of it. One need only look to the Music Department where Michael Wittgraf, a onetime mathematician, is the personification of art and science. Accomplished on the bassoon, piano, organ and electric bass, Wittgraf also is an expert in music composition and technology. Equipped with no traditional instruments — just a Wii remote and laptop computer — he is known for melding the hard-and-fast realm of numbers and the creative field of music into compositions of electronic or digitized music that have left audiences around the world speechless.  

because it hadn’t been done at a Writers Conference in more than a decade. More importantly, there seemed to be an opportunity to highlight the relevance of arts and humanities to science, using the growing emphasis of STEM fields across the educational spectrum. After learning that UND had recently been named a Midwest Big Data Hub, it made even more sense to co-locate the two events. Moreover, given North Dakota’s oil and gas industry, its leading role in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), as well as UND’s own programs in petroleum engineering and UAS, not to mention having the only medical school in the state, there was a unique opportunity to bring together a broad audience, not only students and educators, but also industry professionals and community members to generate engaging conversations about art and science. When Bergstrom asked Alberts about the possibility a second time last fall, she was ready with an answer.

Powerful collaboration

Then there’s the recent perfect marriage of the 47th Annual UND Writers Conference and the Early Career Big Data Summit, held together this spring at the Memorial Union. The idea to co-locate the two events at UND — one steeped in literary creation and culture, sprinkled with techie stuff here and there, and the other a demonstration of pure cutting-edge technology — stemmed from discussions out of UND’s Working Group in Digital and New Media between two of the group’s longtime members: Writers Conference director Crystal Alberts and high-performance computing specialist Aaron Bergstrom. Alberts, associate professor in the Department of English, had already been planning to hold a Writers Conference that was focused on the “The Art of Science,” a working theme that she had been playing with since the summer of 2014, before Bergstrom broached the idea of merging the two conferences. Bergstrom was especially excited to learn that popular writer Brian Greene, founder of the World Science Festival and author of a multi-media piece, “Icarus at the Edge of Time,” a collaboration with playwright David Henry Hwang and composer Philip Glass, would be a featured speaker at the Writers Conference. For her part, Alberts liked the science-related theme



Writers Conference director Crystal Alberts had been exploring the theme of “The Art of Science” since 2014. Photo by Shawna Noel Schill.

Well-known author Brian Greene (left) visited with North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott during UND’s 2016 Writers Conference. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

“I said, sure, we could probably make that work, and after a while, this is what happened,” Alberts said. “Because I already had the facility, a marketing campaign and a website, I just merged the UND Early Career Big Data Summit into the UND Writers Conference plan, while always acknowledging that the Big Data Summit is a completely separate organization/ event.” The two conferences proved to be a hit and holding them together was the right move. Greene’s presentation, in particular, was well attended and highlighted the week’s events.

Big transition

But the collaborations between art and science at UND haven’t stopped there. Alberts, who also has been involved in a massive project to digitize audio and video of UND’s Writers Conferences back to the first event in 1970, recently learned that the server holding her digital collection — all 117 hours of it — is scheduled to be taken offline. Additionally, Google Chrome, a major Internet browsing service, no longer supports the collection’s streaming video and QuickTime clips. “Consequently, it is not being updated and no more data

can be uploaded to it,” she said. “As a result, I will need to migrate and reprocess the collection.” This summer, Alberts will be migrating the UND Writers Conference Digital Collection to servers at the Computational Research Center on campus, where about five terabytes of her collection’s archival digital files already are being kept. In preparation for the migration, Alberts has been working with two senior UND computer science majors, who, as part of a capstone project and under the supervision of Travis Desell, assistant professor of computer science, have built a tool that allows all of the transcripts she currently has available (about 27 hours) to be fully searchable. Also, the same students are developing a prototype of what Alberts is calling “Citizen Archivist,” which will be connected to Desell’s Citizen Science Grid (see Page 24). “This crowd-sourcing project will ask for volunteers from around the world to help complete the transcriptions of past UND Writers Conference videos,” Alberts said. Each video will be divided into five-minute clips, and people will then be able to login and complete the transcription.  Another volunteer will then review the transcription before Alberts’ final review.  The idea is modeled after the University of Iowa’s “DIY | History” ( or “Smithsonian Digital Volunteers” (https://transcription. “Once the site is migrated, it will be bigger and better than ever,” Alberts said. “I’m very excited about this project, which has been made possible through cross-campus collaborations involving English, Computer Science, the Chester Fritz Library, as well as students — undergraduate and graduate in English and computer science courses — working together to build this collection since around 2008.”  

DIY discourse

Still another intersection of the humanities and Big Data is taking place right now in the English Department with

Technology, with the assistance of “citizen archivists,” will make the Writers Conference — one of UND’s premier cultural events — a popular resource and a treasure for generations to come.

the work of faculty members Christopher Basgier and Dave Haeselin. The duo has developed a capstone project in concert with the Department of Computer Science in which students are helping them mine and analyze about 1.7 billion comments from the social media community website reddit. The data lode equates to about 30 gigabytes. They’re using these comments, derived from what are called “subreddits,” or topics of specific interest within the social medium, to gauge how the amateur public uses these sites to converse in ways more akin to the scholarly rhetoric of professionals in Basgier the given field — a sort of Do-It-Yourself discourse. “Popular subreddits, such as those about ‘depression,’ inspire an intense feeling of community support and participation in their users,” Haeselin said. “By analyzing the range, frequency and complexity of these conversations, we hope to understand how amateur communities attempt to achieve comparable results to psychotherapy Haeselin and/or professional counseling.” To that end, as an application of English literature, they are using this examination to better understand how contemporary novelists adopt blended strategies of experts and amateurs to respond to psychological issues in non-expert ways. In a similar way, Basgier is using the social media data to investigate how the amateur writers on reddit, who offer opinions on books, literature and writing, use the same rhetorical “moves” as academic experts who write about the same topics. “This research should have significant implications for understanding the porous boundaries between professional academic and popular culture rhetorics,” Basgier says. They also hope to use the research to help understand the pedagogical potential of helping students see shifts required in writing for different contexts — even about the same content. n



Digital doors to the library of a legend By Carrie Sandstrom University of North Dakota Assistant Professor of English Sheila Liming has always admired the “DIY ethic” — as in Do It Yourself — of women in the early 20th century. This was especially true when it came to education, with these women rolling up their sleeves and teaching themselves through books and whatever resources they could get. Now in her second year of teaching at UND, Liming also is rolling up her sleeves as she pursues her research on literary legend Edith Wharton, an American writer and the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize. Luckily for Liming, she’s had some help in the form of an Early Career Award from UND. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development gives out these awards each year to pre-tenure professors, providing funding for original research, scholarship and creative works. The funds, which can be up to $20,000, provide support for student and post-doctoral research, equipment, materials and supplies, along with conference and collaborative travel. This year, five UND professors received the awards. “I hope to get national-level funding for the next year,” Liming said. “This (Early Career Award) can help put those processes in place … (because) internal grants give you something to show people.” Liming, a digital humanist at UND, is working on digitally cataloging the entirety of Wharton’s personal library. Although Wharton came from a wealthy family, she never received a formal education, and so she took it upon herself to learn through reading, and reading a lot. After



she died in 1937, her personal library was sold and scattered. Decades later, Wharton’s library has been restored and installed at her estate, The Mount, located in Lenox, Mass. Liming hopes to create a “splendid working website” that will allow scholars to search through Wharton’s books and her notations on them, providing scholars insight into Wharton’s personal thoughts and the period in which she lived. “I like her work because she developed a particular approach to the novel as an artifact of social critique,” Liming said. “Her novels are vicious in the way they critique society and people.” Liming will use the funding provided through her Early Career Award to travel to Massachusetts this summer to scan Wharton’s library. In addition to making Liming’s travel possible, the award also provides her with the money she needs to build a website to make her work accessible, in addition to the software needed to scan the books and create searchable files. “I think (this work) is really important because it teaches us a lot about what people were reading during this time, it teaches us about literacy, it teaches us about education,” Liming said. “It’s an investment in the history of education for women in the United States.” In the future, Liming hopes to apply for federal grant money that will allow her to expand her work on Wharton’s library and enhance the website to include even more information and features. However, Liming says such competitive federal funds require that the applicant already have done research and produced results — in other words, in order to get money, the researcher first has to have it. n

Digitizing the human touch The “scholarship of literature” might conjure up images of a solitary figure searching out obscure volumes in remote libraries or patiently scrutinizing every line in an author’s notes, letters, diaries, and first drafts. Those are still important methods, but technology is revolutionizing both the avenues and appreciation of this field. Sheila Liming, assistant professor of English, is a leader in utilizing technology to enhance scholarship and access in the humanities. She explains the approach: “My teaching and research alike draw on a core methodology that many are referring to today as the Digital Humanities. The Digital Humanities comprise a sector of humanities scholarship wherein traditional forms of humanistic inquiry meet with digital computing methods. This means that when I approach a work of literature, I ask what is more or less a traditional question about it: What is this work able to tell me about __________? And then I imagine ways to pursue answers to that question using computers and digital tools. On a much more basic level, though, this also means that I end up being ‘the tech person’ in my department — the person folks go to when they have questions about how to tweak their Blackboard site, up the resolution on a Photoshop file, or integrate persuasive design elements for a supersnazzy PowerPoint. “The Digital Humanities, though, are all about collaboration; big questions yield big projects, with big reserves of data, big labor requirements, and, yes, big budgets. So it’s important to stress that I am not the only one at UND doing this kind of research. I’m a member of UND’s Working Group in Digital and New Media and, through my affiliation with that group, I have been able to network and collaborate with colleagues from a variety of disciplines and departments. Together, we share equipment and tools, collaborate on grant applications, and get together to kvetch and troubleshoot. “The etymological roots of the word ‘University’ combine the French root univers (all of creation) with the suffix –ité (a unified state or condition of being). But the effect of all this collaboration and digital experimentation has been to make the University feel like a smaller place for me: a place where my colleagues and I are able to work alongside each other in the pursuit of similar ends, despite the differences in our disciplinary training.”

Beyond the classroom Sheila Liming is also a singer, composer, and musician, playing the bagpipes, accordion and guitar. She has played with a variety of bands and musical groups. In addition to the Edith Wharton Society, she is a member of the Modern Language Association, the Modernist Studies Association, and the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. A native of Seattle, Wash., she has been a member of the UND faculty since 2014. She received a B.A. from The College of Wooster (Ohio) and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in literary and cultural studies from Carnegie Mellon University. n

Stephanie Walker looks to technology to bring the resources of UND’s library system to wider audiences on and off the campus. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Open North Dakota UND’s Chester Fritz Library is preserving state history and making it more accessible through digitization and technological collaborations. By David Dodds

The Digital Humanities, Sheila Liming explains, emphasize collaboration with large approaches to projects. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

The history of North Dakota, in its many forms, abounds in pages and volumes within the University of North Dakota’s Chester Fritz Library. The library bears its historical preservation mission like a first name. In fact, its Department of Special Collections — a treasure trove of tomes, writings and source documents that reveal firsthand accounts of the people who shaped North Dakota — is named for the most storied historian to ever care about this state: Elwyn B. Robinson. Now Stephanie Walker, UND dean of libraries and information resources, is working collaboratively across campus to get much of these valuable state resources out of the library walls and into the hands of the public through technology.

So just as Ali Baba had his magical access-gaining phrase “Open Sesame” in the famous Arabian Nights folk tale, Walker has one of her own: “Open North Dakota,” the name of the new initiative. However, no hocus-pocus is needed in Walker’s plan — just strong partnerships, on and off campus, that bridge the library’s traditional scholarly research and information management mission with a desire to digitize and optimize these historical collections with multimedia enhancements. “Anything we do that is a digital resource that has to do with North Dakota will go in ‘Open North Dakota,’” Walker says. A quick review of collections on hand that are destined for Open North Dakota include Robinson’s decades-old but still much-in-demand History of North Dakota (current UND History Professor Kim Porter recently picked up where Robinson’s masterpiece left off with a work of her own: North Dakota: 1960 to the Millennium); memoirs of Robinson compiled by students of UND English Professor Sheryl O’Donnell; a collection of pottery images of nationally known clay artist and longtime UND arts scholar Margaret Kelly Cable; and a collection of digital recordings of Grand Forks area 911 calls from April 18-19, the day the dikes gave way and widespread fire ravaged the city’s downtown during the catastrophic 1997 Red River flood. The idea for Open North Dakota stemmed from a conversation Walker had with UND Associate Professor of History Bill Caraher about Robinson’s book and Caraher’s plan to write a new foreword for that book — and the rest is, as they say, well, history. In the process of digitizing Robinson’s classic, new whizbang features will be added, such as interactive mapping software that will help the history come alive. UND libraries cataloguing staff also will add metadata to the new digital work to make it searchable. “Our department is named after him (Robinson),” Walker said. “It just seems to make sense that if anyone should be doing this, it should be us.” The Chester Fritz Library is in the process of purchasing the rights to History of North Dakota and will investigate the copyright status of all published items that go into “Open North Dakota.” And finally, as with all of the library’s digital products, staff will continually monitor the technology and ensure the works are preserved and updated as certain technologies die off and new innovations come online. n



Focus on Faculty English professors release new books Michelle Sauer University of North Dakota Professor of English Michelle M. Sauer recently released her new book, Gender in Medieval Culture. The book provides a detailed examination of medieval society’s views on both gender and sexuality and shows how they are inextricably linked. In the book, Sauer, a winner of UND’s 2016 Faculty Achievement Award for Excellence in Research, shows that sex roles were well defined in the medieval world, although there were some exceptions to the rules: the book examines both the commonplace worldview and the exceptions to it. Not only does the book look at social and economic considerations of gender, but also the religious and legal implications. Sauer argues that both church and secular laws governed behavior. She suggests that medieval society was one of “performative essentialism,” meaning that while sex was a biological characteristic, gender was largely perceived through actions. Gender in Medieval Culture lays out other key topics such as femininity and masculinity and how medieval society constructed the terms; sexuality and sex; non-heteronormative sexualities such as homosexuality, adultery and chastity; and the gendered body of Christ. The book covers the social, political and scientific views, as well as religious implications, with a focus on early Christianity.

Kim Donehower-Weinstein

UND Associate Professor of English Kim Donehower-



Weinstein has released her new book, Rereading Appalachia: Literacy, Place and Cultural Resistance. The book examines Appalachia —a 205,000-square-mile region that runs along the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi — and the people who live there. Appalachia is an area known for poverty and other challenges common to rural areas, such as underfunded schools, stagnant economic development, corrupt political systems and drug abuse, according to Donehower-Weinstein, an authority on rural literacies. Rereading Appalachia discusses the pressing topics for the region — including the challenges faced by first-generation college students, prejudice toward the LGBT community, the pressure to leave the area to find better quality jobs, and the rise of Appalachian and “Affrillachian” art in urban communities — while also examining past research for researcher bias and attempting to counteract class-based arguments about the region’s people. n

the University increase research activity and to attract more external funding and at the same time enhance the impact of the research. Some of the faculty members who received post-doc funding awards are highlighted throughout this edition of UND Discovery. Here is full list of the principal investigators. • Colin Combs, biomedical sciences: intestinal pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease. • Archana Dhasarathy, biomedical sciences: defining transcription factor networks during cell-state transitions. • Jung Hur, biomedical sciences: research on epilepsy. • Jyotika Sharma, biomedical sciences: research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. • Nuri Oncel, physics and astrophysics: silicone growth on iridium-modified silicon surfaces. • Minou Rabiei, petroleum engineering: data-driven modeling in unconventional reservoirs. • Vamegh Rasouli, petroleum engineering: re-fracturing — extending the life of unconventional oil shale reservoirs under low oil prices. • Turk Rhen, biology: integrative systems biology — developing a multi-scale modeling framework for linking internal and external systems. • Feng (Frank) Xiao, civil engineering: development of novel carbon-zero valent metal compost for effective in-situ groundwater remediation. • Julia Zhao, chemistry: development of new nanomaterial-near infrared fluorescent quantum dots for high resolution bio-imaging. n

Kim Donehower-Weinstein. Photo by Chuck Kimmerle.

New funding program boosts promising research projects

Rising stars A new University funding program to enhance research efforts across campus is helping 10 faculty members get their projects off the wish list and headed toward reality. The program, which is awarded on a competitive basis to post-doctoral associates for two years, is designed to help

Julia Zhao in her laboratory. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Student Spotlight

clear answers,” said Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, co-leader of the University Innovation Fellows program. “All of these skills help Fellows make a difference in higher education as well as in the increasingly complex world that awaits them after graduation,” she said. “There are many other people who are interested in the same things as you; the key is to connect with them,” said Daffinrud. “In this case, our common ground was in the sectors of entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Three UND students are Epicenter Innovation Fellows By Amanda Menzies Three UND students have gotten boosts in their career trajectories from an invitation-only national group that fires up the entrepreneurial spirit. Emily O’Brien and Daniel Daffinrud were selected recently to join the Epicenter University Innovation Fellows, a National Science Foundation-funded group that helps people turn ideas into real projects. They join Benjamin Olson, who was named UND’s first Innovation Fellow late last year. “Emily and I are a leadership team,” Daffinrud said. “We both have experience and a vision for how to make our entrepreneur ecosystem expand across the community, which is probably what set us apart from the other candidates.” Epicenter — also known by its longer name, the National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation — empowers student leaders to innovate and create. This effort is directed by Stanford University and VentureWell, another national program that encourages invention, innovation and entrepreneurship on university and college campuses. O’Brien, a graduate student from Lakeville, Minn., earned her undergrad degree in entrepreneurship and business management; she works at the UND Center for Innovation. Olson first interested her in the program along with Tim O’Keefe, executive director and chair of the School of Entrepreneurship at the UND College of Business and Public Administration (CoBPA). “The program fit with what I was trying to do,” said O’Brien, who is president of Dakota Venture Group and serves on the college’s Advisory Council (BPAC). “Dakota Venture and BPAC helped give me the skills needed to prepare me for this program,” said O’Brien. “It made me realize how to communicate efficiently, and I am now able to gauge the interest of people and react accordingly.”

Critical thinking Daffinrud, from Bismarck, N.D., a senior studying accounting and entrepreneurship, is interning at the Center for Innovation; he also works at SkySkopes, a local unmanned aircraft systems company.

Fostering relationships

Selected in 2016 to join the Epicenter University Innovation Fellows were Daniel Daffinrud (above) and Emily O’Brien (below). Photos by Shawna Noel Schill.

“I am a big believer that no matter what field you want to pursue, you must have critical thinking skills,” said Daffinrud. “The point of the organization is to spread entrepreneurship and innovation across campus.” The Innovation Fellows involves a six-week training program. “You learn, and then you do,” said Daffinrud. “The first step is to create an action plan for your campus; we chose to work with the Grand Challenge Program at the Jodsaas Center at UND.” The second step is to create a series of events for everyone to share ideas across campus. Fellows conduct extensive online research. “Through this program, Fellows learn how to analyze their campus ecosystems for new opportunities, understand the needs of stakeholders at their schools, collaborate with peers from different disciplines, and solve problems that have no

Benjamin Olson, a native of Fargo, is supported by his UND faculty sponsors: CoBPA’s Timothy O’Keefe and Brian Tande, chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. Olson hopes to pursue an MBA/JD at UND and is interested in politics, carpentry and engine mechanics. But his greatest passion is working with people, developing connections and fostering positive relationships. “I maintain four strategic priorities for my Fellowship,” Olson said. “I strive and love to help students engage in outreach, develop talent, increase collaboration and pursue ventures.” Olson also is involved with a Grand Forks-based 3D printing and design company called 3C Innovators. Olson and his business partner work directly with clients to turn their ideas into developed prototypes. The main emphasis is working with students at the high school and college level by integrating entrepreneur and design education to provide experiential learning. Owning a business wasn’t something that he expected to be doing so early on, Olson said. “But I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the business community.” n

In late 2015 Benjamin Olson became UND’s first Epicenter University Innovation Fellow. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage


Vice President for Research and Economic Development Twamley Hall, Room 103 264 Centennial Drive Stop 8367 Grand Forks, ND 58202-8367

Permit No. 10 Grand Forks, ND


A “Fritz-ful of scholars” Eleven UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors gathered recently for the opening of a new art exhibition honoring the man for whom their prestigious designations were named — and also the man whose support made those professorships possible. The exhibition showcased items from UND’s art and photography collections in Chester Fritz in Shanghai, 1921 – 1947. Fritz, who made his fortune in precious metals, made headlines in 1958 when he announced a million-dollar gift (the first in UND’s history) for the construction of a library building. Other gifts made possible the construction of the Chester Fritz Auditorium and established the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorships, the University’s highest faculty honor. Present for the opening of the exhibit were (from left) Will Gosnold (Geology and Geological Engineering), Cindy Juntunen (Counseling), Joseph Hartman (Geology and Geological Engineering), Sharon Wilsnack (Psychiatry and Behavioral Science), Jim Mochoruk (History), Mike Poellot (Atmospheric Sciences), Leon Osborne (Atmospheric Sciences), Bill Sheridan (Biology), Ike Schlosser (Biology), Gordon Iseminger (History), and Holly Brown-Borg (Basic Sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences). Photo by Shawna Noel Schill.

UND Discovery Spring 2016  

UND Discovery is the research magazine for the University of North Dakota. Spring 2016 feature articles include Earlier Detection, The Daumi...

UND Discovery Spring 2016  

UND Discovery is the research magazine for the University of North Dakota. Spring 2016 feature articles include Earlier Detection, The Daumi...