National Science Foundation (NSF)
EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 Awards:
2020-2025 NSF EPSCoR Track-1 Cooperative Agreement, $20 million, Award Number 1946202
Principal Investigator (PI): Colleen Fitzgerald, Ph.D., NDSU
Co-PI: John Mihelich, Ph.D.; UND

New Discoveries in the Advanced Interface of Computation, Engineering, and Science (ND-ACES)

ND-ACES: New Discoveries in the Advanced Interface of Computation, Engineering, and Science (ND-ACES), ND EPSCoR’s most recent NSF RII, is a five-year cooperative agreement that carries an 80/20% federal/state match.

Research Center: Center for Cellular Biointerfaces in Science and Engineering (CCBSE). The creation of optimal interfaces (biointerfaces) between biological and engineered materials is of critical interest to many bio-based applications. ND-ACES builds research capacity to better understand design rules that govern in vitro biointerfaces and influence in vivo decisions surrounding the understanding of biochemistry and the cell biology of cancer cells and tumors. To address the clinical need for more robust in vivo-like biointerfaces, CCBSE will rely on a coordinated effort across three pillars of scientific inquiry: 1) Materials design at biointerfaces; 2) Cellular systems at materials interface; and, 3) Computation, machine learning, and predictive modeling. Computationally created design rules can enhance predictability of cellular responses to material surface characteristics and provide fundamental information to address many bioscience challenges. Thus, the integration of computational modeling as a prominent research partner allows for more extensive testing than possible with trial-and error methods. This acceleration of the design, manufacture, and validation stages not only provides quicker materials authentication for use in biologic applications to produce more in vivo-like behaviors but also offers a more streamlined laboratory method of predicting cellular responses while creating a directed workflow that expedites progress.

Broader Impacts: PROmoting Sustainable Partnerships in Education and Research (PROSPER). Expanding North Dakota's emerging biosciences capacity through a STEM-enabled, well-trained workforce and positioning ND-ACES as ND's leading scientific and educational resource will signify successful completion of this important work. PROSPER and CCBSE efforts incorporate both faculty and students at all 10 participating institutions [one institution, Sitting Bull College, has chosen to focus solely on outreach] in collaborative research, early career development, education enhancement, and outreach to increase the abilities of early career faculty, increase advanced scientific computing capabilities, and broaden the participation and number of STEM undergraduate and graduate students. ND's K-12 sectors are also crucial to a sustainable ND STEM pathway; thus, another key component will be education and outreach in rural and tribal K-12 schools. Teachers, particularly those in grades 6-12, will receive tools to expose and engage their students in biosciences inquiry. Additionally, to bring the new knowledge and companion products to industry, focused activities will build or expand on existing collaborative industry/medical partnerships. Finally, a suite of communication activities will engage, inform, and educated ND stakeholders and citizens, and national audiences about ND-ACES scientific and outreach efforts.

In addition to the funding the research activities of the CCBSE, ND-ACES researchers at the 10 participating campuses are eligible to compete for additional funding opportunities. View the ND-ACES funding opportunity awardees.

Participant Institutions

Center for Cellular Biointerfaces in Science and Engineering (CCBSE)

ND-ACES will expand capacity by leveraging investments to generate new knowledge and increase North Dakota's competitiveness in biosciences by working collaboratively within the Center for Cellular Biointerfaces in Science and Engineering (CCBSE). The CCBSE has three pillars of scientific inquiry: materials design at biointerfaces; cellular systems at materials interface; and computation, machine learning, and predictive modeling. The CCBSE is also linked to ND-ACES outreach arm, Promoting Sustainable Partnerships in Education and Research (PROSPER). The CCBSE is co-led by NDSU University Distinguished Professor Kalpana S. Katti, Ph.D., F. AIMBE and UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Associate Dean for Research Mark Hoffmann, Ph.D.

Materials Design at Biointerfaces Pillar

The Materials Design at Biointerfaces Pillar objective is to progressively increase CCBSE researcher knowledge and application in the area of biomaterial scaffolds relevant to tissue engineering, particularly in the area of design methodologies of biologically inspired materials for diverse 3D tissue architectures.

Cellular Systems at Materials Interface Pillar

The Cellular Systems at Materials Interface Pillar objective is to increase the capacity and expertise of the CCBSE researchers in basic and translational use of in vivo-like 3D cell cultures, which will ultimately (long-term outcome) allow the team to partner with regional health care providers to serve as a resource for personalized medicine approaches to cancer.

Computation, Machine Learning, and Predictive Modeling Pillar

The Computational Approaches Pillar objective is to enhance connected learning, knowledge, and application across multi-scale modeling, machine learning platforms, and experimental biomaterials and cellular data, which will result in an evolutionary in-silico platform to predict tumor growth. Increased knowledge and understanding of 3D systems can lead to future therapeutic/mitigation alternatives.

PROmoting Sustainable Partnerships in Education and Research (PROSPER)

PROSPER, the broadening participation arm of ND-ACES, will provide education and experiences designed to build a diverse workforce, enhance partnerships and collaborations with various stakeholders, and inform ND’s residents. The four elements of PROSPER are:

Education and Workforce Development

The Education and Workforce Element supports faculty professional development, student training, and supports K-12 student activies in bioscience, engineering, and computational science.

Broadening Participation

Broadening Participatiopn supports activities to engage American Indian students along the biosciences pathway from Middle School through Undergraduate education.

Partnerships and Collaboration

The Partnerships and Collaboration initiative builds research infrastructure and strengthens ND’s research competitiveness through industry partnerships and other collaborations.

Communication and Dissemination

The Communication and Dissemination initiative keeps all stakeholders informed; supports the harmonious interactions of all ND-ACES groups; assists research and programmatic participants in disseminating their work to legislative, scientific, and citizen stakeholders; and develops materials for consumption by lay audiences.

Track-1 Strategic Plan

Original NSF Approval: October 19, 2020

Updated ND-ACES Strategic Plan (approved March 19, 2024)


ND EPSCoR State Steering Committee

The ND EPSCoR State Steering Committee is composed of individuals with representation from the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education; legislative branches; North Dakota Commerce and Public Instruction Departments; tribal colleges/universities, primarily undergraduate institutions, master’s college/university, and research university campuses; as well as private businesses and research university technology parks. The committee's directives are to

  • Determine the research in focal areas for each NSF RII Track-1 proposal that are based on the strengths of the state’s research universities. 
  • Solicit input and develop North Dakota's Science and Technology Plan (S&T Plan) in accordance with NSF EPSCoR’s requirement that (prior to the submission of each NSF RII Track-1) each state develop and approve an S&T Plan that provides a broad perspective of the economic and educational goals of the state.
  • Ensure that North Dakota's NSF RII Track-1 efforts are meeting the needs of the state and reflect the priorities laid out in the S&T Plan.

Curtis Biller, Committee Chair

Member, State Board of Higher Education
Committee Appointed by NDUS Chancellor
Strengths Inc., Fargo ND

Twyla Baker, Committee Vice Chair, Ph.D.

Term End: 06/30/2026
Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

Meagan Gelinske

Independent Consultant
Investment Advisor
Term End: 06/30/2026
Self Employed, Future Bright LLC

Ying Huang, Ph.D.

Professor and Welch Faculty Fellowship Professor
Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering
Committee Appointed
North Dakota State University

Shawn Kessel

Deputy Commissioner, North Dakota Department of Commerce,
Committee Appointed

Representative Corey Mock

Term End: 06/30/2023
District 18, Grand Fork

Chris Nelson, Ph.D.

Dean, Graduate School
Committee Appointed
Associate Professor, Graduate School
University of North Dakota

Senator Merrill Piepkorn

Term End: 06/30/2023
District 44, Fargo

Steve Snow

Assistant Director
Committee Appointed
School Approval & Organization
North Dakota Department of Public Instruction

Representative Vicky Steiner

Term End: 06/30/2026
District 37, Dickinson

Amy Whitney, Ed.D.

Director, Center for Innovation
Committee Appointed
University of North Dakota

Brenda Wyland

Chief Executive Officer
Committee Appointed
NDSU Research & Technology Park

Colleen Fitzgerald, Ph.D. (ex-officio member)

Representative to the Coalition of EPSCoR States
ND EPSCoR Project PI / PD
Vice President, Research and Creative Activity
North Dakota State University

John Mihelich, Ph.D. (ex-officio member)

ND EPSCoR Associate Project Director and Co-PI
Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development/Faculty Fellow
Division of Research & Economic Development
University of North Dakota

Science & Technology Plan Sub-Committee

One of the requirements of NSF EPSCoR is that each state develop and approve an S&T Plan that provides a broad perspective of the economic and educational goals of the state. The Science & Technology Plan Sub-Committee is a sub-committee of the ND EPSCoR State Steering Committee. The Sub-Committee gave its final report to the full committee on August 10, 2022. 

Sub-Committee Membership

Andre DeLorme, Ph.D., Sub-Committee Chair
Francis Casey, Ph.D., representing research at North Dakota State University
Meagan Gelinske, representing ND industry
Chris Nelson, Ph.D., representing research at University of North Dakota
Karol Riedman, representing the North Dakota University System
Jerry Rostad, representing the North Dakota University System
Representative Vicky Steinerrepresenting the North Dakota Legislative Assembly
Joshua Teigen, representing the North Dakota Department of Commerce
John Warford, DDS., representing the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education
Kelly Rusch, Ph.D., P.E., BCEE (ex-officio, representing the ND EPSCoR State Office)


NSF RII Track-1 ND-ACES External Advisory Board

The NSF RII Track-1 ND-ACES External Advisory Board (EAB) is composed of individuals from universities and organizations across the country who provide insight and support for the current Track-1 effort.

Candan Tamerler, Ph.D., EAB Chair

Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
Charles E. & Mary Jane Spahr Professor
School of Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS

Sinan Keten, Ph.D., EAB Vice Chair

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Biomedical Engineering
June and Donald Brewer Professor
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL

Marc D. Basson, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S.

Senior Associate Dean for Medicine and Research
Professor of Surgery, Pathology, and Biomedical Sciences
UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences
Grand Forks, ND

Rajendra K. Bordia, Ph.D.

George J. Bishop, III Chair Professor of Ceramics and Materials Engineering
Materials Science and Engineering Department
Clemson University
Clemson, SC

James Brown, Ph.D.

CEO and President
Agathos Biologics
West Fargo, ND

Annalies Corbin, Ph.D.

President & CEO
The PAST Foundation
Columbus, OH

Lucy Fredericks

Office of Indian/Multicultural Education
North Dakota Department of Public Instruction

Venkata Indurthi, Ph.D.

Chief Scientific Officer
Fargo, ND

David Pearce, Ph.D.

President of Innovation and Research
Sanford Research
Sioux Falls, SD

Daniel M. Tuvin, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Surgical Oncologist
Sanford Health
Fargo, ND


The Track-1 is a federal-state partnership to manage a comprehensive research development plan. ND EPSCoR manages the Track-1 award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Current funding is provided by the State of North Dakota and NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-1 (RII Track-1) Cooperative Agreement Award OIA #1946202.