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


Building on strategic NSF and ND investments made since ND EPSCoR began, ND-ACES is:

  • Working collaboratively within the Center for Cellular Biointerfaces in Science and Engineering (CCBSE).
  • Fostering critical research infrastructure.
  • Integrating research, education, and human resources with workforce development initiatives to strengthen the state’s overall research competitiveness. The collective impact has been active involvement in research, outreach, education, and broadening participation activities throughout the state. PROSPER (PROmoting Sustainable Partnerships in Education and Research) is the broadening participation arm of ND-ACES and is fully integrated with the corresponding efforts of the CCBSE.

The ten participating institutions include one master's college/university (MCU), three primarily undergraduate institutions (PUI), four tribal colleges/universities (TCU), and two research universities (RU).

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

Led by Sanku Mallik (NDSU) and Julia Xiaojun Zhao (UND). Team members: Austin Allard (TMCC), Mikhail Bobylev (Minot State), Guodong Du (UND), Khwaja G. Hossain (Mayville State), Kalpana S. Katti (NDSU), Michael Kjelland (Mayville State), Mike Parker (CCCC), Mohiuddin Quadir (NDSU), Prakash Selvakumar (NDSU), Binglin Sui (UND), Brent Voels (CCCC), Wenjie Xia (NDSU), Yongki Choi (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; NDSU), Danling Wang (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; NDSU), and Ali Alshami (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; UND).

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

Led by Archana Dhasarathy (UND) and John C. Wilkinson (NDSU). Team members: Colin K. Combs (UND), Guodong Du (UND), Nicholas Galt (VCSU), Amanda Haage (UND), Kerry Hartman (NHSC), Kalpana S. Katti (NDSU), Jiha Kim (NDSU), Hilde van Gijssel (VCSU), Motoki Takaku (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; UND), Stefan Vetter (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; NDSU), and Estelle Leclerc (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; NDSU).

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

Led by Dinesh R. Katti (NDSU) and Deniz Cakir (UND). Team members: Yen Lee Loh (UND), Marcus Fries (DSU), Svetlana Kilina (NDSU), Trung Bao Le (NDSU), Lu Liu (NDSU), Wenjie Xia (NDSU), Ravi Kiran Yellavajjala (NDSU), Xusheng Wang (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; UND), Manu (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; UND), and Yen Lee Loh (Emerging Areas Seed Awardee; UND). Support for this pillar will come from the high performance computing centers at NDSU (Khang Hoang) and UND (Aaron Bergstrom).

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

Led by Rachel L. Navarro (UND) and Danielle Condry (NDSU), this initiative supports faculty professional development, student training, and K-12 student bioscience, engineering, and computational exposure.Team member: Ryan G. Summers (UND).

Broadening Participation

Led by Giancarlo López-Martínez (NDSU) and co-led by Raymond Burns (ND EPSCoR), this initiative supports American Indian students along the biosciences pathway. Team members include the TCU NATURE Coordinators: Austin Allard (TMCC), Brent Voels (CCCC), Kerry Hartman (NHSC), and Mafany Ndiva Mongoh (SBC).

Partnerships and Collaborations

Led by Colleen Fitzgerald and Jolynne Tschetter (both NDSU) and co-led by John Mihelich (UND), this initiative builds research infrastructure and strengthens ND’s research competitiveness through industry partnerships and other collaborations. Team members include the CCSBE leadership. View the Partnerships and Collaborations Year One Review and Year Two Plan document here.

Communication and Dissemination

Led by Justin Walden (NDSU), this ND-ACES wide 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

1st Revision: February 18, 2021 (NSF approves change in senior personnel)

2nd Revision: March 9, 2021 (NSF approves change in Education and Workforce Development Activities)

3rd Revision: July 28, 2021 (NSF approves change in senior personnel, addition of ND-ACES new hire at UND, and changes in Materials Design and Cellular Systems activities and assignments. This revision also records recent changes in the ND EPSCoR State Steering Committee membership)

4th Revision: August 27, 2021 (NSF approves changes in senior personnel, Education and Workforce Development Activities, and mandatory meeting structure)

5th Revision: September 8, 2021 (NSF approves changes in senior personnel)

6th Revision: October 18, 2021 (NSF approves change in senior personnel)

7th Revision: January 14, 2022 (NSF approves changes in senior personnel)

8th Revision: February 9, 2022 (NSF approves changes in PROSPER [EWD, Broadening Participation, and P&C] metrics)

9th Revision: May 10, 2022 (NSF approves changes in senior personnel, CCBSE metrics [Computational Approaches], and PROSPER metrics [EWD and P&C])

10th Revision: May 16, 2022 (NSF approves changes in senior personnel, CCBSE metrics [Overall], and PROSPER metrics [EWD])

11th Revision: June 6, 2022 (NSF approves change in senior personnel)

12th Revision: July 8, 2022 (NSF approves changes in senior personnel)

13th Revision: September 29, 2022 ((NSF approves change in PI / PD and addition of senior personnel)

Attached file here


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.

John Warford, Committee Chair, DDS.

Member, State Board of Higher Education
Committee Appointed by NDUS Chancellor
Warford Orthodontics, Bismarck

Twyla Baker, Committee Vice Chair, Ph.D.

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

Andre DeLorme, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair, Science Department
Term End: 06/30/2026
Valley City State University

Meagan Gelinske

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

Shawn Kessel

North Dakota State Interim Commerce Commissioner
Committee Appointed

Senator Jerry Klein

Term End: 06/30/2027
District 14

Representative Corey Mock

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

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

Susan Sell, Ph.D.

Dean, Graduate School
Committee Appointed
North Dakota State University

Jan Sobolik

Associate Director
Committee Appointed
NDSU Research & Technology Park

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

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.