NDSU professor receives Distinguished Chair Fulbright Award

Cheryl Wachenheim, professor of agribusiness and applied economics, has been awarded a Distinguished Chair Fulbright Scholar grant, the United States Department of State and J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced recently.

She will teach courses in agribusiness at Renmin University in Beijing, China, during the 2015-16 academic year. Renmin is a leading Chinese university in humanities and social sciences and has gained national recognition for excellence in theoretical economics, applied economics, legal studies, sociology, and journalism and communication.

Wachenheim is one of approximately 1,100 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program in 2015-16. Only about 40 scholars receive the Distinguished Chair Award, which are viewed as among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. The program operates in more than 155 countries worldwide.

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program has given more than 318,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientists and other professionals the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Wachenheim has been teaching for more than 20 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree, MBA and doctorate from Michigan State University. Wachenheim is a 17-year member of the Minnesota Army National Guard and has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She resides in Moorhead, Minnesota with her two children who will accompany her for the length of the award period.

More information about the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is available here.

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NDSU professor receives NIH grant for cardiovascular research



Stephen O’Rourke, NDSU professor of pharmaceutical sciences, has received a $435,000 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to conduct cardiovascular research.

O’Rourke will investigate a naturally occurring biological molecule known as a peptide. He’ll specifically study a peptide called apelin that is produced by adipose tissue and has been linked to obesity and, research suggests there might be a link to stroke.

O’Rourke is working to understand how the peptide regulates cerebral artery vasomotor tone, or how it alters the blood vessel’s diameter. While some studies indicate that apelin may have beneficial effects on parts of the cardiovascular system, O’Rourke’s previous work showed it can inhibit certain vasodilator responses in cerebral arteries, which could increase the risk of cerebral vascular dysfunction.

“Our objective is two-fold,” O’Rourke explained. “We want to try to determine why and how apelin constricts cerebral arteries and compare that with some of what have been commonly been regarded as its beneficial effects in coronary arteries. We are looking forward to trying to decipher some of these mechanisms.”

The new research study is O’Rourke’s sixth project that the National Institutes of Health has funded since he’s been at NDSU.

“It’s certainly rewarding,” he said of receiving the grant. “One of our primary responsibilities at NDSU is to discover new knowledge and find new ways of thinking and doing things.”

O’Rourke is a fellow of the American Heart Association’s Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences. In addition, he is a member of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and the American Physiological Society.

O’Rourke earned his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacology, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also was a postdoctoral fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The research is supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R15HL124338. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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NDSU researcher receives $1.35 million NIH grant to target colorectal cancer

Bin Guo_01

A North Dakota State University researcher is receiving one of the most competitive and prestigious grants available from the National Institutes of Health.

Bin Guo, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is receiving a $1.35 million Research Project Grant, also known as an RO1 grant, from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. He is using the grant to develop a treatment system for attacking metastatic colorectal cancer cells, suppressing their growth and allowing conventional chemotherapy drugs to eliminate them.

Scientists from the nation’s most renowned universities and programs apply for RO1 grants, and competition for funding related to oncology research is especially rigorous.

“This NIH award is testament to the importance of Dr. Guo’s work and the caliber of the competitive health research – that is being recognized on a national level – conducted at North Dakota State University,” said NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani. “It’s one more example of how serious our scientists are about finding solutions that make a difference in people’s lives.”

Guo’s research started with the understanding that people with low levels of vitamin D have a significantly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. He and his team studied genes that are regulated by vitamin D, and through a screening process identified a vitamin D-activated micro ribonucleic acid, or microRNA, that suppresses colorectal cancer.

MicroRNAs are very small RNAs that suppress the function of other genes, including genes that create proteins that stimulate cell growth.

“We found that this specific microRNA, miR-627, is the only one that is activated by vitamin D,” Guo said. “If we can deliver it into the cells, then we can stop the cancer.”

The challenge, he said, is that microRNAs are fragile and easily destroyed by enzymes in blood. In this phase of research, the team is designing and constructing a highly stable nanoparticle platform to deliver the microRNA. The goal is to use an antigen that is only expressed by cancer cells as a guide so therapeutics will be delivered specifically to the cancer cells without accumulating in the liver, lungs or other vital organs or causing the side effects typical to most chemotherapies.

“Dr. Guo’s approach to finding a more effective and efficient treatment for colorectal cancer is creative and innovative,” said NDSU College of Health Professions Dean Charles Peterson. “This is another milestone in a stellar career that has already contributed new, valuable knowledge to the fight against cancer, and we’re excited to see the results of the next phase.”

Peixuan Guo, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Kentucky, is the co-investigator on the project.  He pioneered the concept of RNA nanotechnology in 1998. The team also includes Yarong Yang, NDSU assistant professor of statistics, and Dr. Piotr Rychahou, assistant professor of surgery, at the University of Kentucky.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed and is among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

NDSU is one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities in the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education’s elite category of “Research Universities/Very High Research Activity.”

This research is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 1R01CA186100-01A1. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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NDSU, Sanford Health announce research grant recipients focusing on human health, nutrition

Sanford Health and NDSU announced recipients of $250,000 in seed funding to conduct collaborative research on human nutrition, weight management and other dietary-related areas as part of an initiative developed between the two organizations. The research will address key objectives of the Profile by Sanford program.

Eighteen applications with total budgets of $1.4 million were received for $250,000 of available funding. Three NDSU projects selected for funding include:

  • Kyle Hackney, assistant professor of human nutrition and exercise science: “Protein and Muscular Health with Aging.” Hackney’s research will explore how dietary protein and key amino acids are related to optimal muscular health with aging.
  • Leah Irish, assistant professor of psychology: “Temporal Dynamics of Sleep and Energy Consumption and Expenditure.” Irish’s research will examine how sleep, physical activity and diet interplay and explore the potential role of sleep in weight management.
  • Katie Reindl, assistant professor of biological sciences: “Dietary Flaxseed to Prevent Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in American Indian Smoker.” Reindl’s research will evaluate how the use of dietary flaxseed may be used as a chemopreventative strategy. The research will examine the effects of flaxseed on proinflammatory and anti-oxidant biomarkers.

NDSU researchers will have opportunities to collaborate with investigators from Sanford Research. All research projects selected for funding must be completed by June 30, 2016. Findings relevant to Profile will be considered as the program evolves and expands. Profile is a weight-management program developed by Sanford physicians and researchers that uses customized meal plans, health coaches and real-time technology.

Sanford is providing $250,000 annually for five years for the seed-grant program.

“This collaboration with Sanford Health carries opportunities for researchers and students to investigate questions important to human health and ultimately, work to contribute to solve health challenges for our citizens,” said NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani. “The private sector collaboration with Sanford Health serves as an illustration of university partnerships that benefit the communities we serve.”

David Pearce, president of Sanford Research, said, “This collaborative partnership allows us the opportunity for continued meaningful research in the arena of human health and weight management. We look forward to working with NDSU researchers as we evaluate the research findings for potential use in the Profile by Sanford program as it continues to evolve and improve.”

Kelly A. Rusch, NDSU vice president for Research and Creative Activity, said, “The wide range of proposals received for funding illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of research related to human health. Research proposals were received from the areas of plant and animal sciences, nursing, pharmaceutical sciences, veterinary and microbiological sciences, landscape architecture, engineering, psychology, human nutrition and exercise science and biological sciences.”

Profile launched in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, opening its first storefront in November 2012. Today, it has 25 locations in 10 states, including two in Fargo-Moorhead, with more planned openings by the end of 2015.

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NDSU agronomist helps improve Uganda’s coffee production



An NDSU crop production expert has been helping Ugandan farmers find ways to increase their country’s coffee production.

“Coffee is a major agricultural commodity in Africa,” explained Hans Kandel, NDSU Extension Service agronomist and professor of plant sciences. “African countries export about 21 percent of internationally traded coffee. Of those countries, Uganda is the leading exporter from Africa. Coffee produces income for smallholders, and coffee production also constitutes 20 percent of the Ugandan national export revenues.”

Smallholders operate small farms that generally support a single extended family. A smallholder farm mostly will use the family for labor and grow various crops for food and sale to generate cash income.

Kandel was in Uganda from the end of April to the middle of May to evaluate the coffee production system from input suppliers of chemicals and seed to exporters. The goal of his trip was to identify areas for improvement and help develop a project that can increase Uganda’s coffee production, improve the producers’ knowledge of coffee production and their growing practices, and increase income for subsistence coffee producers.

He visited agricultural input suppliers, smallholder farmers, cooperatives, and coffee purchasers, processors and exporters. The Farmer-to-Farmer program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, supported the trip. Catholic Relief Services hosted Kandel during his visit.

The main type of coffee produced in Uganda is Robusta, which grows well at an altitude of 2,900 to 5,000 feet. It’s mainly found in a 190-mile radius around Lake Victoria. Uganda’s Robusta coffee is considered to be one of the best in the world and commands a considerable premium. The majority of Ugandan coffee is exported to European Union countries.

Uganda has approximately 500,000 smallholder coffee farms. Each has less than 2.4 acres of land. Many farmers depend on the coffee crop as their main source of income.

On many Ugandan farms, coffee is intercropped with plantain, which is a main staple food. A variety of other crops, including several bean types, also might be planted in the coffee garden or separate fields.

Uganda’s coffee yield per acre has been declining since the 1990s because of aging coffee trees and coffee wilt disease, which can kill the trees.

“Various Ugandan and international organizations, including USAID, and agencies have identified coffee as a commodity to concentrate on with development interventions,” Kandel said.

The most common focus areas for improvements are in crop productivity through higher levels of coffee management practices. Some of the practices Kandel recommended are using adapted disease- and pest-resistant Robusta coffee clones, pruning and de-suckering coffee plants, controlling soil erosion and fighting various pest diseases with pesticides.

Improving soil nutrient management and fertility also can help Ugandan growers increase their plants’ productivity. Kandel said soil nutrients can be improved by a several methods, including using household compost, ashes from cooking fires, farmyard manure, mulch and artificial fertilizers. Intercropping with legume-type crops also can increase the productivity per unit of land.

Kandel taught Ugandan growers the basics of inoculation and nitrogen fixation, and was able to connect with a project to supply farmers with bean inoculant.

“Another way to increase farm income is by adding value to the coffee production,” Kandel said. “This is done by increased attention to quality by picking only ripe berries, properly drying the crop at the farm and de-husking the coffee at the farm instead of selling the coffee berries fresh.”

“Changes in management often require a re-allocation of the family resources – land, labor, management time and cash – but if practiced intentionally, these changes could lead to a higher family income,” Kandel said.

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NDSU included in USDA water research grant

NDSU will participate in a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, announced April 7. Intended to support critical water problems in rural and agricultural watersheds, the awards were made through the institute’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Water for Agriculture challenge area and the National Integrated Water Quality Program.

NDSU will receive $361,000 for its portion of the five-year project, which is titled “Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes.” Xinhua Jia, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, is the lead researcher at NDSU. The research addresses issues of farm nutrients draining from fields downstream, and the need for irrigation water in late summer for parched crops.

Jane Frankenberger, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, the director of the project.

Other universities involved in the research are Iowa State University, Ohio State University, University of Missouri, North Carolina State University, South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota as well as the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

For more information, visit here.

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President Bresciani named chair of Missouri Valley Football Conference Presidents’ Council



NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani has been named chair of the Presidents’ Council of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Presidents’ Council provides leadership for the conference, which is made up of 10 teams, including three that are in the top 10 nationally in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision preseason rankings.

“The vast experience that President Bresciani brings to his position as chair of the Missouri Valley Football Conference Presidents’ Council greatly benefits the conference,” said Patty Viverito, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. “Presidential leadership has been the cornerstone to the league’s success and President Bresciani’s involvement ensures this will continue through his term as chair.”

Bresciani took over as chair on June 8 at the Presidents’ Council summer meeting in St. Louis. He brings extensive experience with college athletics, gained while he served in leadership positions at campuses such as Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bresciani also serves as chair of the Summit League’s Presidents’ Council and was recently selected to serve on the newly formed NCAA Division I Presidential Forum, the primary presidential advisory body for the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.

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NDSU student interns for Library of Congress

NDSU student Mohamed Abdirahman, an English major from St. Paul, Minnesota, has been selected to participate in the prestigious Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program at the Library of Congress. The summer fellowship began June 1 and is scheduled to end on Aug. 7.

Abdirahman was one of 36 college students from across the country selected for the program. They were chosen from a pool of nearly 800 applicants.

The 10-week program offers undergraduate and graduate students insights into the environment, culture and collections of the world’s largest and most comprehensive repository of human knowledge. The fellows explore digital initiatives and inventory, catalog, arrange, preserve and research a backlog of special, legal or copyright collections in different formats.

Abdirahman is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and co-president of NDSU’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society. He also has been an intern at the NDSU Libraries.

He was assigned to the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.

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NDSU to host ‘How We Survive’ writing workshop

The Red River Valley Writing Project at NDSU is set to host “How We Survive: Writing it Down,” a writing workshop focusing on survival stories, Saturday, June 27, from 9 a.m. to noon at Richard H. Barry Hall. Offered collaboratively with the statewide “Authentic Voices” project, the workshop is free and open to the public.

Kelly Sassi, project director and associate professor of English, will facilitate the workshop. She said participants will write poems, essays or memoirs about how they survived abuse, an act of nature, an accident or a loss of some type.

“The workshop is for anyone who went through any kind of experience that caused them to draw on survival skills,” Sassi explained. “It could range from injustices in life to surviving a flood event. It’s really open to what people in the community need in terms of exploring their survival experiences and developing that into a piece of writing.

Sassi; Denise Lajimodiere, assistant professor of practice in the School of Education; Fargo middle school teacher Kim Rensch; and Moorhead high school teacher Angela Cunningham will serve as instructors for the workshop. Both Rensch and Cunningham have completed a Red River Valley Writing Project summer institute, an intensive writing program for teachers. Lajimodiere is a published poet and scholar specializing in American Indian boarding school trauma and healing.

“This is an opportunity for participants who have survived anything to write about it,” Sassi said. “Hopefully, we can support authors in developing a publishable piece of work.”

A mental health provider also will be on site during the workshop.

The writing workshop will be held in conjunction with Authentic Voices’ “How We Survive: A Conversation,” scheduled for Friday, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. also in Barry Hall. The event features a book release and a 10-minute film screening.

Authentic Voices is a project of Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota and the North Dakota Department of Human Services. The events are funded in part by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

For more information about the Red River Valley Writing Project, visit www.ndsu.edu/english/red_river_valley_writing_project/. For more information about Authentic Voices, visit www.pcand.org.

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Student biking across U.S. for charity

Senior mechanical engineer Abe Kolstad is biking across the country to raise money for charity.

Senior mechanical engineering student Abe Kolstad is biking across the country to raise money for charity.

NDSU senior Abe Kolstad is on the adventure and challenge of a lifetime. The mechanical engineering major is biking across the country as a salute to his older brother, Isaac, and to raise funds for the charities that helped him.

Isaac suffered major injuries when he was assaulted in May 2014, and now Kolstad is attempting to thank the organizations that helped his brother and assist other families in need.

“Over the course of the last year, I met a lot of people with pretty terrible stories that were struggling financially with all the various costs of having a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. I thought that this would be a way that I could help take care of some of the financial worries for these people,” explained Kolstad, who is from Mankato, Minnesota.

His bike trip began May 21 in Newport, Oregon. Kolstad hopes to put down his kickstand shortly after Independence Day in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When he’s done, he will have pedaled more than 3,000 miles.

Kolstad’s trek is raising money for the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute of Minneapolis and similar organizations. His goal is $40,000.

Kolstad calls his effort “Coast 22 Coast,” a tribute to the number his brother wore while he played football at Mankato East High School and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Issac also played at NDSU during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

“The trip’s been very difficult for me physically – so far, I have averaged about 80 miles a day,” Kolstad said. “The most difficult part for me has been going over the mountain passes.”

But, as he labors through all kinds of weather and terrain, Kolstad keeps going. His brother remains his focus, but Kolstad finds that his thoughts wander a little.

“Just about everything goes through my mind. A lot of the time I find myself singing out loud,” he said. “Other times, I’ll think of jokes that kids used to say in elementary school. And sometimes I’m just enjoying the scenery around me.”

Kolstad said the first weeks of his cross-country effort have been the best of his life, and he has words of encouragement for fellow NDSU students.

“There’s no better time to start an adventure than now. There are always new places to go and new people to meet,” he said. “There are also a lot of people in need out there, so please try to help out whatever way you can, whether it’s through donating or volunteering for organizations. Every little bit helps someone.”

For more information about Kolstad’s fundraising trip, visit http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/coast-22-coast-improve-the-quality-of-life-for-others-/336553.

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