Dr. Moumita Dasgupta (Physics) Receives Grant Award from American Association of University Women

Dr. Dasgupta’s lab uses a quantitative approach to look at biological systems to help gain a better understanding of patterns that occur in living organisms. Motivated to understand the underlying physics of how DNA fold and condense to fit in a much smaller cell, Dr. Dasgupta came up with a simplistic mechanical model which mimics such an environment or “active” system. External grant funding from American Association of University Women (AAUW) in the amount of $34,700 will allow her and student researchers to investigate and understand how orientation of obstacles in the path of the proteins walking on the surface of DNA impacts the folding time, or “passage time” in this model. The Dasgupta lab will also computationally simulate this system to compare obtained results from the experimental model to have a better understanding of this complex biological phenomena. The title of the study is “Impact of Spatial Arrangement of Passive Obstacles on First Passage Time of an Active System.”

Photo Credit: “Jim Gipe Photo / Pivot Media”

Three departments receive external funding for partnerships in primary care

Minnesota Department of Health logoThe Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) awarded a grant to support Augsburg’s efforts to provide excellent clinical experiences to our nursing, physician assistant, and social work students. Recently, Augsburg received $772,153 from MDH. The sum will be re-distributed to 115 primary care clinical training sites which hosted Augsburg students during fiscal year 2019. This funding has been awarded to Augsburg through the Medical Education and Research Cost (MERC) grant program.

Leaders in the social work department reflected on how meaningful the grant award is. They shared that “The MERC grant supports internships for Augsburg’s MSW students in a variety of clinical care settings. Through these internships, MSW students are able to develop the depth and breadth of skills needed for clinical social work practice, including individual and group mental health therapy, skills training, resource referral, family support, advocacy, coordination across systems, and community-based prevention.”

Students in Augsburg’s nursing and physician assistant departments experience similar benefits. We sincerely thank the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care within MDH for their administration of the MERC grant program, which has become a building block of students’ preparation for healthcare careers.

COVID-19-related Guidance for Grant-funded Research:

  1. Ask questions about project extensions necessitated by COVID-19.
    • Projects funded by the National Science Foundation enjoy an optional one-year extension, which can be approved by the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs (you do not need to contact your program officer to request this extension). Contact Lauren Causey for questions related to federal sponsors or changes to research projects. Contact Carole Kampf for questions related to grant expenditures.
  1. Secure your data.
    • Ensure that you and all study personnel are adhering to your study’s procedures for data format and security, data sharing and access, archiving of data, and other related topics. Reassess your Data Management Plan. Ensure it is still viable given your remote work, or make adjustments as needed.

  2. Identify personnel who are necessary to maintain not easily replaceable perishable research materials. Communicate with the Department of Public Safety (612-330-1717) about such personnel.
    • Example: Long-term experiments where there would be considerable cost and/or time associated with requiring the experiment to end; ongoing maintenance of cell lines. 
    • Students may not be pressured or compelled to take part in laboratory-based activities during the pandemic.
  1. Identify staff who are responsible for maintenance of equipment that, if not done, could result in damage or high cost to equipment. Communicate with the Department of Public Safety (612-330-1717) about such personnel.

  2. Distinguish critical research from research that must be suspended. Critical research may include studies that must continue to conduct experiments that have a small time window for completion.
    • Examples: Time-sensitive experiments with not easily replaceable perishable research materials. Experiments with a specific measurement that can only take place a few times a year.
    • Students may not be pressured or compelled to take part in laboratory-based activities during the pandemic.
  1. Prepare for supply chain disruptions.
    • COVID-19 will have an effect on research related supplies. Laboratories should consider stocking up on consumable supplies, particularly those with a long shelf life. Further, availability of supplies may lag behind the resolution of a health crisis. So, researchers should consider maintaining in their groups supplies of those reagents that can be safely stored in order to assure their availability for the duration of a period of disruption that could last several months.
  1. Notify the Institutional Review Board of changes to protocols for studies involving human subjects.
    • If a researcher must make significant changes to a protocol based on adaptations caused by COVID-19, the researcher must notify the IRB and obtain approval to study changes before proceeding.  
    • Researchers must comply with local requirements for social distancing, or stay-at-home orders, which are likely to disrupt data collection plans and timelines.
  1. Respect local governance and federal recommendations regarding travel.
  1. Identify opportunities to conduct critical research that would shed insight on the scientific or social parameters of COVID-19.
    • The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting proposals to conduct non-medical, non-clinical-care research that can be used immediately to explore how to model and understand the spread of COVID-19, to inform and educate about the science of virus transmission and prevention, and to encourage the development of processes and actions to address this global challenge.
    • NSF’s RAPID structure should be used for these COVID-19-related, urgent proposals which may request up to $200,000 for projects up to one year in duration.

Prof. Amanda Case Awarded Grant from American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund

Dr. Amanda Case, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded $55,000 by the American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund for a project titled Kinetics of Aromatic Peroxy Radicals in Combustion Chemistry. Funding will provide two years of support for Amanda’s research with undergraduate students. This project intends to measure the rates of peroxy radical reactions in the gas phase. Understanding the fate of peroxy radicals plays an important role in low-temperature hydrocarbon oxidation, autoignition processes, and tropospheric chemistry. The chemistry of these radicals is rather complex, making their chemical kinetics fundamentally interesting and, also, important for comprehensive combustion modeling.

Fiscal Year 2019 – A Year in Review

In May 2018, Provost Kaivola merged the offices of Sponsored Programs and Corporate and Foundation Relations in an effort to align and integrate all grant-funded activities at Augsburg. Below are abstracts from grants awarded this fiscal year.

New Particle Formation Experiments: Nucleation and Growth
Dr. David Hanson

The National Science Foundation provided $384,080 for the project, which focuses on the formation and growth of new particles in the atmosphere. Laboratory experiments will be conducted to measure changes in the rate of new particle formation and growth with changes in composition, temperature, and relative humidity. The results are expected to lead to improved accuracy in predicting the impacts of new particle formation on climate, health and visibility. The project is three years.

Heliophysics Guest Investigator Open Project: Determining the Fundamentals of Physics EMIC Waves: Observations and Theory
Dr. Mark Engebretson

As a subaward of Johns Hopkins University, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration provided $59,773 to Augsburg for conducting data survey and analysis tasks related to the study of EMIC waves observed by the MMS and Van Allen Probes spacecraft. The project is three years.

Medical Education and Research Costs (MERC) – Physician Assistant, Nursing, and Social Work
Dr. Alica Quella, Dr. Joyce Miller, Dr. Bibiana Koh

The MERC Fund was established in 1996 and is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health. The purpose of this grant is to compensate Minnesota clinical training facilities for a portion of the clinical training costs for specific medical professions. The Minnesota Department of Health’s Health Policy Division awarded $1,091,498 to the Physician Assistant, Nursing, and Social Work programs for student clinical hours logged at qualifying sites.

Minnesota Urban Debate League
Dr. Robert Groven (Faculty Advisor)

A program of Augsburg University, the Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL) makes it possible for Twin Cities high schools and middle schools to offer academic competitive debate programming by providing everything a school needs to have a debate team, including training, curriculum, transportation, tournament operations, and volunteer management.  MNUDL began with five schools and 40 students and has grown dramatically. Under the leadership of faculty director Bob Goven (Communications Studies) and Executive Director, Amy Cram Helwich, the program now serves over 930 students in more than 40 Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) and Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS).

MNUDL secured grants totaling nearly $200,000 during fiscal year 2019, including contributions and pledges from the Greater Twin Cities United Way, Bank of America, Sunrise Banks, Saint Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations, and more.

Five-Year M.Div Pathway Program
Dr. Jeremy Myers

The Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Family Foundation, Inc. provided $499,454 to help reduce the overall cost of professional pastoral leadership education by creating an articulated 5-year pathway from Augsburg University to Luther Seminary’s accelerated Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program and by building capacity within the Center for Vocation and the Theology and Public Leadership degree program to incorporate opportunities for high-impact field work, reflection, and discernment into the undergraduate experience.

Urban Resilience and Climate Change Workshop
Dr. Joe Underhill

Mississippi Watershed Management Organization provided $4,396 and additional in-kind supports and services for Underhill and staff from the Nobel Peace Prize Forum to help form a community of practice and accountability among several large property owners in Cedar-Riverside (Fairview, U of M, Augsburg, Riverside Plaza). Project goals included the development and sharing of best practices/prototypes for sustainable stormwater management techniques that could be used as a model for other partnerships and collaborations within the Mississippi River watershed.

River Semester 2018
Dr. Joe Underhill

Pentair Foundation provided $20,000 for Augsburg’s River Semester, a high-impact educational experience by combining rigorous coursework and a unique, immersive field experience, with strong partnerships all along the Mississippi River. River Semester is a learning model for education in the 21st Century–highly experiential, connected and wired, with project-based and applied learning opportunities for students in the context of an ambitious expedition down one of the world’s iconic waterways. Students end up paddling close to 1,000 river miles, averaging 70 miles per week. Along the way, they earn a full 16 credits.

Global Governance Consortium
Dr. Joe Underhill

The Workable World Trust provided $22,000 for the Human Rights Forum to foster coordination among faculty and staff from the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities around the themes of global governance and the role of students in promoting global governance and/or United Nations reform. Funds will be used to host an annual retreat for students and faculty, organize a series of on-campus events, and involve other community organizations as programming demands.

Vocation E-portfolio Pilot Project
Dr. Marty Stortz

The Council of Independent Colleges’ Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) provided $29,700 to help develop and pilot a student-curated electronic portfolio in which curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular experiences are reflected on and documented around the question of vocation. The vocation portfolio (vPortfolio) will be a modern, flexible tool that provides focus and coherence to vocational discernment processes for our students, and will refocus Augsburg’s institutional emphasis on vocation. This effort will place vocation at the dynamic interface between three stories: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.