Research funding unaffected by federal cuts

Despite cuts at state institutions, Augustana continues to get new grants


While most South Dakota public universities are suffering from federal cuts in research funding, Augustana has remained well off and virtually unaffected.

“Augustana has been particularly fortunate in that we have maintained a strong level of research funding from federal, state and foundation sources,” dean Susan Hasseler said.

The college receives most of its federal grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for Humanities.

According to physics professor Eric Wells, research is a necessary part of the science curriculum.

“It’s not science if there isn’t research,” he said.

For larger grants, Augustana often partners with South Dakota institutions such as South Dakota State University, the University of South Dakota and Sanford Research.

In addition to these grants, Augustana faculty and students have recently been awarded two new major grants from the National Science Foundation.

The Biochemical Spatio-temporal Network Resource (BioSNTR) project will be a collaboration with South Dakota State University under the South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

The other new grant is the Robert Noyce Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Capacity Building Program.

These grants will allow several students and faculty members to conduct more research in the natural sciences and will also provide funding for equipment, according to Hasseler.

Research opportunities play an important role in education for many science majors.

Junior Anna Tims used research funds to work under chemistry professor Barry Eichler.

“The possibility of contributing to the knowledge that will empower future generations to know even more about the natural world is so exciting,” she said.

Tims was just one of many students who participated in summer research grants.

“It gives you the ability to put the science that you’ve learned about in class to practical use to solve a problem or find out something you didn’t know about before or no one knew about before,” senior Betsy McCue said.

McCue received the Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) in 2013, which she used to conduct summer research on Omega 3 fatty acids’ effect on blood platelets.

While BRIN funding has been cut from some public institutions, Augustana is still receiving temporary funds for the next year while waiting for full renewal.

McCue said losing BRIN funds would be “detrimental” to the college.

“[It is] not good for the state of South Dakota to not be giving their science students the ability to enrich their education with these practical and collaborative measures,” McCue said.

In addition to funds from outside sources, the college has made internal funds available for students through the Augustana Research and Artists Fund (ARAF) and the Augustana Undergraduate Research and Artist Fellowship Award (AURAFA).

“The amount of grant-funded research that Augustana faculty engage in is unusual for an institution our size,” Hasseler said.

According to Hasseler, the college is successful in grant applications because of the quality and collaboration of faculty research. She said that the new science facilities will also serve to “contribute to the quality and amount of research conducted.”