News Release

Department Update: Math, Science and Technology

By Venugopal Mukku on
Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Mukku VenugopalMath, Science and Technology Department Update
Venugopal Mukku, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Chair of Math, Science and Technology

The current academic year posed a significant challenge to teaching and learning as is typically understood. Despite the measures that were necessary for the safety of all students, staff, and faculty, my colleagues found innovative ways to offer lectures and laboratory sessions. As the pandemic year winds down and the vaccination drive continues to pick up steam, we are looking forward to a more ‘normal’ year for the upcoming academic year, pending no unforeseen circumstances.

AWARDS

In recent months, faculty in the department received many laurels. For the first time in the history of University of Minnesota Crookston, one of our colleagues, Anthony Schroeder, Ph.D., received the prestigious McKnight Land-Grant Professorship in 2020. The Schroeder lab provides broad research opportunities for undergraduates in two main research areas: 1) exploring the biology of freshwater sponges in Minnesota and 2) examining the molecular mechanisms underlying sexual development and the impacts of contaminants on development in reptiles. This research purposely involves many areas of biology such as molecular biology, genetics, and environmental stressors to provide undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue research in their specific biological field of interest.

The next award is a first for the MST Department. Timothy Dudley, Ph.D., received the Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 2021. Dudley is an associate professor teaching general chemistry lecture and lab courses. He is highly committed to providing a quality educational experience in chemistry for his students and is a dedicated adviser to students in the health science and medical lab science programs. His research focus is in computational organometallic chemistry, but engages undergraduate students in both computational and experimental research projects.

The final award won by MST faculty is for Global Engagement. Venu Mukku, Ph.D., received this award in 2019. The all-University award is given to current faculty and staff in recognition of outstanding contributions to global education, global competency, cultural understanding and/or international programs at the University.

RESEARCH

The Association of American Colleges and Universities includes undergraduate research as one of the ten High Impact Educational Practices and many faculty in the department continue to offer research opportunities to students. Many students are taking advantage of these research opportunities and boosting their resumes. Some of them are presenting their research at regional or national conferences. An example would be Hongkai Chen who will present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April 2021. Many MST graduates are being accepted into professional programs. The success of our students directly or indirectly affects the professional growth of our faculty. A case in point is the election of two faculty members, Katy Chapman, Ph.D. and Venu Mukku to the Biology and Chemistry Divisions of the Council on Undergraduate Research.

RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE

University of Minnesota Crookston, State of Minnesota, and University of Minnesota Twin Cities have invested heavily in modernizing the research infrastructure. In 2018, we opened the Center for Collaborative Research, which is equipped with advanced instrumentation. Subsequently, another research area is getting ready and we hope to make it operational by August 2021. These facilities will provide bench space for 20 students to work on different projects simultaneously.

INTERNATIONALIZATION

Katy Chapman, Ph.D., and Brian Dingmann, Ph.D., were among the first from our campus who participated in the system-wide Internationalization of Teaching and Learning initiative. In addition to that initiative, faculty were also working to bring international scholars to campus. Last year, we had two Fulbright scholars on our campus. Kennedy Nyongbela, Ph.D., senior lecturer, University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon, visited and taught at our campus as a Fulbright Scholar-In-Residence and Kahirou Diakite, PhD., University of Bamako, Mali, visited Crookston to study the adsorption of dyes on Tilemsi rock phosphate. The Fulbright organization sponsored Diakite.

Karl AndersonInternational Collaborations: One of our faculty members, Karl Anderson was part of an international team (located in Australia, Canada, Benin, and Togo) which won the University of Newcastle’s Grand Challenge in August 2020. The team is working to reduce the health risks that certain species of mosquitoes pose to humans and lessen the nuisance factor imposed by urban and invading mosquito populations.

SUSTAINABILITY

The Office of Sustainability in collaboration with the Math, Science and Technology Department recently added a sustainability minor to the curricular options at UMN Crookston. This minor will allow students from across campus to engage in sustainability work and will promote a broader understanding of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This minor will be available both on-campus and online. The Office of Sustainability also recently began a new water bottle program in collaboration with the vice-chancellor for student affairs, orientation programs, and the Wellness Center. This program not only encourages utilizing reusable water bottles but also tracks hydration and encourages users to stay hydrated throughout the day. The Office of Sustainability hosted a MN GreenCorp member during the 2019-2020 academic year during which we launched the UMN Crookston composting program. Since the inception of that program, we have diverted 2.61 tons of organics from the landfill. The Office of Sustainability also received a grant from the Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTS) to complete design work on Dowell Hall which will install LED lights and occupancy sensors in the remaining classrooms of Dowell Hall when completed. This project is expected to save the University $5,607 annually. The Office of Sustainability is also engaging in a geothermal feasibility study for the Crookston campus in collaboration with Ottertail Energy and Geo Optimize. Crookston is hosting the Sustainability Education and Leadership Forum (SELFsustain) in the spring of 2021 with a focus on indigenous identity, community, and sustainability. The final event will be on April 15, with the keynote speaker available to the general community from 12-1 p.m. Pre-register at z.umn.edu/SELFsustain2021.

ARRIVALS

Tamara Luna (2010) welcomed baby Ophelia Cassandra Nelson in December 2020. Amber (Suchy) Koep (2015) was blessed with twins, Kelsey Marie and Aubrey Mae in March 2021.

OBITUARY

Cleon MelsaWe are extremely saddened Cleon Melsa, Ph.D., passed away recently. He provided invaluable service to the University and community for over 40 years.

Written for the Spring 2021 Torchlight e-Newsletter.