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RRVRC NewsWire

Tom Erickson Named Interim Director of UND Energy & Environmental Research Center

EERC News - Fri, 2014-07-11 09:34
Tom Erickson, Associate Director for Business, Operations, and Intellectual Property, has been named Interim Director of the University of North Dakota's Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC). Erickson has been serving as acting director of the EERC...
Categories: RRVRC NewsWire

Peaks and Valleys

EERC News - Mon, 2014-04-28 08:06
The EERC, in partnership with the International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas (IEAGHG) R&D Programme based in the United Kingdom and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), is working to identify the technical challenges associated with pipeline transport and geologic storage of variable quantities of CO2...
Categories: RRVRC NewsWire

Thinking Outside the Box

EERC News - Mon, 2014-04-14 07:21
It's no secret that oil is king, especially in western North Dakota. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Bakken Formation is the largest continuous oil resource that it has ever characterized...
Categories: RRVRC NewsWire

Message from the VP for Research and Economic Development

UND Discovery Magazine - Mon, 2013-12-09 09:34
The more things change, the more they stay the same

One of the key missions of a research university is the creation of new knowledge.  The National Academies of Science issued a report last year concluding that research universities, and their strong partnerships with government and industry, are critical to the nation’s prosperity and national goals.   Whether it’s finding better ways to treat cancer or developing methods for more accurate weather prediction, universities are important places for advancing knowledge and then finding ways to use knowledge for the benefit of society.

The University of North Dakota has been in the knowledge creation business for a long time.  In this issue, we’ve taken a look at some “then-and-now” stories to illustrate the ways in which UND has been at the cutting edge of research over time.  The kinds of research we do and the knowledge we create often change, but the focus on doing research doesn’t change.

Looking back after a long hike to the top of a hill, we can be amazed at how far we have come. So too can we be amazed by how much has been accomplished when we look back on what was novel research decades ago. Future generations will take for granted many of the things we are just now discovering in the same way that we take for granted that it’s a good thing for kids to know how to type (of course, now we call it keyboarding).   Back in the 1950s, when I participated in an experiment to teach kids typing, many folks predicted dire consequences for our school achievement.  The research showed they were wrong.

Some research done years ago continues to be important in its own right.  Professor Elwyn Robinson’s seminal History of North Dakota is still considered the definitive work on our state’s history, even though it was published in 1966.   Dr. Kim Porter has done a much-needed update of North Dakota history — after all, a few things have happened in the last 50 years — but that doesn’t change the importance of Robinson’s earlier work.

I think you will enjoy these peeks into the past and some glimpses of the future that UND research is helping to create.

Phyllis E. Johnson, Vice President for Research and Economic Development

Categories: RRVRC NewsWire

Autumn 2013 | Then & Now: The constant – and changing – face of UND research

UND Discovery Magazine - Mon, 2013-12-09 09:34

Space Studies professor Pablo de León looks on as graduate student Tiffany Swarmer, wearing the latest version of UND’s NDX spacesuit system, manipulates an instrument package.

Respect the past and change the world

When the idea was first broached for this issue of UND Discovery (conceived by a huddle of University & Public Affairs and Research & Economic Development folks months before the magazine went to print), it instantly got my creative juices flowing.

“UND Research: Then and Now” was the tagline assigned as our working theme. Our goal was to find a sample of stories about UND researchers and creative thinkers of the past and align them with campus scholars who are doing similar, semi-related or 180-degree opposite research now. What could be more fun than writing about the life and research of individuals throughout UND history juxtaposed with fascinating people of today?

I think you’ll like some of the interesting stories we’ve been able to tell.

The whole idea got me thinking about Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Yes, that guy.  The Cornell University engineer who gave up a career at Boeing to become the most famous (and wacky) TV scientist in the world.

Nye addressed the graduates of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania last May, urging them “to change the world.”  Not an earth-shattering message by any measure when it comes to grad speeches. But it was Nye’s underlying message on the importance of past knowledge combined with new discoveries that resonated with me — as I am sure was Nye’s intention.

Nye told his graduating audience that they knew more physics than Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, and they knew more about the universe than Galileo or Copernicus. In just his lifetime (roughly 50 years), Nye observed that humans have learned how the dinosaurs really died, the existence of plate tectonics, that the races actually originate from a common source in Africa, and that Mars was once a very wet place.

And, “I can guarantee you that significant discoveries will be made in your lifetime that will change the world,” he told the Lehigh graduates.

Nye wasn’t discounting the work of Newton, Einstein or anyone else who has contributed to the bank of human knowledge. He was reminding those graduates that they are equipped with unprecedented smarts and resources, and are poised to take on the world like no generation before.

“Respect their knowledge and learn from them,” Nye said of our predecessors. “It will bring out the best in them and you.”

That is exactly what we tried to do with this issue of Discovery.  It is a nod of respect to UND’s research past and an eye to new discoveries that will be made possible by UND researchers today.

Maybe together we can change the world!

David Dodds, Editor, UND Discovery


UND Discovery is published by the Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Development, with assistance from the Division of University & Public Affairs.  Editor:  David Dodds.  Contributors:  Juan Miguel Pedraza, David Dodds, Kate Menzies, Jan Orvik, Brian Johnson, Timothy Pasch, Alyssa Wentz, and Marti Elshaug.  Principal photography by Jackie Lorentz and Shawna Widdel.  Please send inquiries and comments to the Office of the Vice President for Research & Economic Development, University of North Dakota, 264 Centennial Drive Stop 8367, Grand Forks, ND 58202-8367.  The University of North Dakota is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.

Categories: RRVRC NewsWire

Then & Now: Instructional Technology

UND Discovery Magazine - Mon, 2013-12-09 09:25
THEN - Readin', Writin' - and typin' A novel “type” of experiment garnered national attention

The keyboard is now a basic appliance. It’s as essential to the Millennial college student as a hammer is to a carpenter.

Generation Y can’t remember when typing was not required in high school, but Phyllis Johnson, UND’s vice president for research and economic development, grew up in a different era.

UND Business Education Professor John Rowe looks on as Phyllis (Lanes) Johnson (now UND’s vice president for research and economic development) taps the keys on a new Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter in this picture that was distributed nationally to news media.

“There was a lot of fear that if kids learned to type, they wouldn’t learn efficiently because they weren’t writing by hand,” said Johnson. “People wondered if it would affect their academic achievement.”

John L. Rowe, chair of UND’s Business Education Department, challenged that idea in 1958 with an eight-week study. He believed typing should be taught at an elementary school level and could enhance a child’s reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.

Rowe thought the three standards of education ought to be “read’n, typ’n, and ‘rithmetic.”

The device that enabled Rowe to move ahead was the electric typewriter, which was coming on the market.  Prior to that, children weren’t taught to type because manual typewriters required too much finger strength. The Smith-Corona Typewriter Company provided UND with portable electric typewriters for the study, which were perfectly suited for children.

For the study, UND recruited 28 of the best third- and fourth-grade students they could find from local schools.  Johnson was one of them.

“Don’t I look studious here?” Johnson said with a laugh as she skims through her old newspaper clippings.

“Today, the whole idea that ‘teaching kids to type is a negative’ is foreign to us. UND was really a pioneer in something that became important many years later when the computer age arrived.”

Twenty-eight children were selected to go through Rowe’s typing classes during UND’s summer term. While Johnson’s group was learning to type, 28 other kids in a control group spent the summer doing what kids do on summer days.

During the study, media coverage expanded throughout the country, and eventually reached one of the longest-running American TV shows on the air. The NBC Today show, with original host Dave Garroway, shot footage of the study at UND.

Johnson never saw the episode run. At that time, the TV signal from the NBC station in Fargo didn’t reach Grand Forks. There was no way for Johnson to see herself on television.

After the study, the team started collecting the data.

Phyllis Johnson

“They tested us — I.Q. test, reading, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, everything you could think of — before and after the study,” said Johnson.

The results showed that teaching kids how to type came with a predictable drawback.

“The only thing they found was that learning to type made our handwriting worse,” said Johnson.

“Otherwise, changes in your level of academic achievement didn’t occur. I think my handwriting never recovered,” she added with a laugh.

When the eight weeks were up, the University hosted a cap-and-gown “graduation” for the kids.

“I think it’s pretty cool that UND was at the cutting edge of this stuff: the question of how you use technology in education,” said Johnson. “These days, technology in education is the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs) classroom, iPADs, clickers to respond to questions in the classroom — there’s a whole range of things.”

And just like the John L. Rowes of the University’s past, UND faculty members such as Richard Van Eck in the College of Education & Human Development have continued to research the good and the bad that comes with new technologies in the classroom.

“Everyone today takes the fact that you can type for granted. It’s fundamental,” Johnson said. “But at one time, it was a revolutionary idea. I think it’s part of how UND has always been exceptional. People were willing to ask these wild and crazy questions.”

Brian Johnson

Richard Van Eck: “New technology always offers some benefits and will end up being used whether we think it should be or not.”

Now - The One Constant: CHANGE (and how to live with it or even love it) New ideas and technologies for teaching usually meet with some skepticism and resistance

Many a Baby Boomer recollects high tech back in the day: flickering 16 mm projectors, typewriters and tests produced with hand-cranked mimeograph machines.

And just like it is today, tech was viewed askance by many back then. Old-timers from the days of the “Three Rs” — readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic — believed technology such as typewriters deprived youngsters of the opportunity to learn the “old-fashioned” way.

Today such arguments persist, only now they’re about the noiseless digital tech gadgets and games that permeate the Millennial culture — the so-called “BYOD,” or Bring Your Own Device.

How does today’s technology and the questions we’re asking about it compare and contrast to previous tech encounters in the classroom, for example, mechanical film projectors and typewriters?

“Change is always viewed with suspicion, whether considering the shift from analog to digital clocks, from shoelaces to Velcro, or from copper phone lines to wireless phones,” said Richard Van Eck, a University of North Dakota educator and global expert in digital game-based learning and other digital tech.

“I think we are biologically predisposed to dislike change, because our ancestors knew that once you had a way to survive, any change meant a potential threat to survival,” he observed. “No matter that some changes could help you; they always come at some price.”

The same is true for technology.

An instinct for the negative

“When technology comes out, we often focus on the negatives, and there are always negatives,” said Van Eck, who served as graduate director in the multidisciplinary Instructional Design & Technology (IDT) program in the Department of Teaching & Learning (part of the College of Education & Human Development) until this fall.

“The trick is to figure out both the positives and the negatives and to push for a balance between them, rather than denying the benefits for fear of the negatives,” he said. “We perennially worry that a new technology will ‘replace the teacher’ or that we will lose something valuable in the process.

“Usually, these things are valued because they are a part of our past, and nobody wants to see what they have cherished change.”

Van Eck, a master of digital wizardry in the classroom, says he loves books.

“I love the feel of paper books and own hundreds of them,” he said. “But I also appreciate the value of searching for text, bookmarking and highlighting key phrases in a nondestructive way that I can change, and carrying hundreds of books with me in my pocket.”

On the sidelines or in front?

So the question becomes, how can we ensure that the new technology is used wisely?

“New technology always offers some benefits and will end up being used whether we think it should be or not,” Van Eck said. “So we can sit on the sidelines and abdicate responsibility for its best use to younger generations, or we can lead the way in promoting its wise use.”

Although digital simulations and games are still far from the norm in today’s K-12 schools, Van Eck says that acceptance of those media as teaching tools is growing.

For kids, he noted, the gadget-saturated world is their reality, an ever-evolving electronically mediated transition from virtual to real.

Today’s K-through-college students live life in the electronic lane.

“They’re digital natives,” Van Eck said.

Juan Miguel Pedraza

Categories: RRVRC NewsWire

Then & Now: Arctic Explorations and Culture

UND Discovery Magazine - Mon, 2013-12-09 09:20
Then - Blazing a New Path in Arctic Research

From a checkered start at UND, Vilhjalmur Stefansson rose to become one of the continent

Research based at the University of North Dakota ranges all across the world: from the High Arctic to Antarctica and almost everywhere in between.

This year marks the centennial of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (CAE) of 1913. It was the first Canadian Government expedition to the Western Arctic and, at the time, the largest multi-disciplinary scientific Arctic expedition ever mounted. And it was all led by UND alumnus Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

Born Nov. 3, 1879, in Arnes, Manitoba, Stefansson went on to become one of the most recognized Arctic researchers of all time. In 1881, the Stefanssons moved to a farm in Dakota Territory, near the town of Mountain, located in present-day Pembina County, N.D.

Stefansson enrolled at UND in 1897 — just 14 years after the University was founded. During his time on campus, Stefansson edited the school newspaper, was very popular, and was voted the best orator.

It was his constant pranks, however, such as parking the horse carriage of UND’s president in front of a local house of ill-repute, that got him into trouble with the administration and permanently suspended from UND in 1902. His dismissal caused such uproar that he was escorted to the train depot by well-wishers.

Undaunted, Stefansson went on to graduate from the University of Iowa with a degree in liberal arts. From there he enrolled at Harvard and obtained a master’s degree, always with a focus on the North, inspired partly by his Icelandic heritage and long experience handling the frigid temperatures of Manitoba and North Dakota.

Research by “immersion”

Even a stalwart explorer such as Stefansson knew that Arctic survival required skills. So he sought out mentors among the Inuit natives of the region, studied the language, and honed his cold-weather survival abilities. This made Stefansson one of the first researchers to conduct a “total immersion” style of research, working and living in the North.

Stefansson, as a student at UND

Eschewing heavy supply cargoes, Stefansson followed Inuit example and undertook “ice trips” on which he and a handful of companions lived off the ice and the land, relying on seals and caribou for food and fuel. Stefansson’s exploration method proved effective, and this “living off the ice” method allowed him to continue exploration despite limited supplies.

During the winter, the Arctic is dark and freezing with few, if any, hours of daylight. Without proper equipment, explorers could suffer from snow blindness, frostbite and exposure. The summer, in contrast, was more accessible, but the season was short and had its own perils. A major plague was mosquitoes. One Expedition member recalled, “It is the astounding atmosphere of mosquitoes that envelops the whole face of the country in the summertime that is the real curse.” In total, 17 men lost their lives during the CAE.

In a span of five years, the CAE covered more than 10,000 square kilometers of previously unknown territory and discovered five of the last six unknown Canadian Arctic islands.

The scientists returned with thousands of specimens of animals, plants, fossils and rocks, and artifacts from the Copper Inuit and other Inuit cultures. Researchers also brought back more than 4,000 photographs and 9,000 feet of film.

A new view

Stefansson offered a new way of thinking about the Arctic, not as a wasteland but as an area full of existing and potential value. He expressed concern about native peoples being “crushed by civilization’s juggernaut,” championing traditional Inuit ways and co-existing with the modern economic and strategic potential of the Arctic.

He saw the Arctic as the crossroads of the world, “a hub from which the other oceans and continents of the world radiate like the spokes of a wheel.”

Years later in 1930, past pranks were all forgiven when UND awarded Stefansson an honorary Doctor of Laws degree — then only the third such degree ever awarded by the school. He returned to the campus frequently to visit with students and faculty.

After spending a lifetime working to uncover the mysteries of the Arctic North and share its beauty and grandeur, Stefansson died on Aug. 26, 1962.

Stefansson’s legendary expedition lives on in an important aspect of Canada’s present-day Northern Strategy:

Kate Menzies and Timothy Pasch

Now - Reaching Youth to Preserve the Past Modern technologies may be the key to preserving a largely oral tradition and identity

University of North Dakota Communication Professor Timothy Pasch did not spend his summer like most.

Timothy Pasch (left) with Kanaaq Anoee of the Department of Education for the Government of Nunavut.

He packed his bags and headed for the Canadian Arctic Circle with several digital media tools and his expertise in communication to help preserve the language and culture of the Inuit.

With citizenship in two countries — Canada and the United States — Pasch understands the role communication plays within a culture.

“I came to realize that the ability to speak different languages is a great treasure of life and that culture is inextricably linked to language,” said Pasch, who also speaks French and Japanese fluently.

Pasch’s research was funded by a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship grant, which he received while a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington. He was the first person to receive such a grant to study a “First Nations” language.

First Nations is the Canadian equivalent term for Native Americans.

Pasch practiced “total immersion” research, living with an Inuit family in the community of Inukjuak of Arctic Quebec. There he researched the effects of social networking on the Inuktitut language.

Pasch discovered that communities across the Canadian Artic were experiencing dramatic changes: languages and cultural identities were vanishing.

“Having seen how quickly language can be lost, and how challenging it can be to teach language, I became focused on adapting technologies for endangered-language learning through recording and broadcasting cultural knowledge and awareness,” Pasch said.

For Pasch, communication is an important facet of cultural preservation. The loss of a language can result in loss of knowledge and wisdom accumulated over generations.

In June, Pasch made high-definition recordings of two Inuit elders describing for young Inuit how to prepare for an extended hunt.  Around that time, two young Inuit died on a snowmobile trek because they had not adequately prepared for the journey.

“These elders have great concern for future generations of Inuit,” Pasch said. “However, as Inuktitut has principally been an oral language until recently, it has not always been preserved in writing.”

Pasch created a model — Arctic New Media Convergence in the Digital Humanities — to train and encourage young Inuit to use tools such as still image and video, audio, social media, Web and mobile-application design to preserve and broadcast the voices of the Inuit elders, while sharing their own.

“Seeing these students become so excited and animated while using technology to create new media forms in their own language was immensely rewarding on both scholarly and spiritual levels,” Pasch said.

Pasch already has shared his research in the Kivalliq News, a major newspaper among the Inuit; the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.; and Twitter feeds across the Circumpolar Arctic.

“I am exceedingly grateful for these connections and the ability to broadcast my thought that the Northwest Passage becoming navigable makes the Inuit voice more important and valuable than ever,” said Pasch.

His work with our northern neighbors doesn’t stop there.

Pasch recently was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States as a representative for Communication and Arctic Affairs. He also co-authored a book with Kyle Conway, also a UND communication professor, titled Beyond the Border, which focuses on the growing importance of the international border between the U.S. and the Canadian Great Plains and prairie regions.

Earlier this fall, Pasch, working with the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis, held an Arctic Symposium at UND to commemorate the centennial of the launch of the important Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-1918, which led to many new discoveries of land, scientific specimens and historic First Nation artifacts. The UND symposium attracted celebrated National Geographic explorer Will Steger and Canadian Museum of Civilization Director David Gray.

A focus of the symposium was the life and work of UND alumnus Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who led the expedition.

Pasch’s research and digital Arctic outreach efforts were inspired by Stefansson and his total immersion style of research 100 years earlier.

In the classroom, Pasch hopes to use his experiences in the Canadian Arctic to inspire students to learn about different cultures by studying a foreign language, studying abroad, or taking part in international research opportunities.

An elder, an Inuit boy, and a night watchman in Arviat.

Kate Menzies

Categories: RRVRC NewsWire
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