DSU’s Steffan surpasses $1.2 million in STEM grant funding

DSU’s Steffan surpasses $1.2 million in STEM grant funding

Written by Kayden Heckaman, DSU Student Intern

Dr. Joshua Steffan, associate professor of agriculture, microbiology, and soil biology at Dickinson State University, was recently awarded a five-year grant totaling $250,000. The grant was awarded by the North Dakota Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ND EPSCoR), an organization that strives to show the importance of STEM to not only elementary through graduate school students, but also to stakeholders in North Dakota. This grant also has a large undergraduate student component that allows Steffan to mentor students as they conduct research.

A part of the ND EPSCoR grant awarded to Steffan will allow for the purchase a cryogenic freezer. He is part of an interdisciplinary group of researchers from across North Dakota who are focused on how tumor cells grow on and respond to materials designed to mimic different human tissues and environments, and the freezer will assist in this research. The cryogenic freezer will be used to store and preserve cell lines, DNA, and RNA, at temperatures of -140 degrees Celsius, or -220 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer looks like an industrial chest freezer from the outside but is built differently to keep its contents at such cold temperatures. The only required training for this piece of equipment is in the safe handling of it, as the temperatures that can be achieved by this freezer can cause frostbite in a matter of minutes.

Steffan and his colleagues in the University’s Department of Natural Sciences work together to write and execute many research grants, most of which are awarded by the North Dakota IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (ND INBRE) and ND EPSCoR. Most of these grants focus on undergraduate research opportunities for the students of DSU. With the awarding of this most recent grant, Steffan has reached a milestone. The grants for STEM education and research opportunities that Steffan, in collaboration with his colleagues, has been awarded total $1.2 million over the past 10 years, eight of which Steffan has spent at DSU.

“These opportunities provide invaluable, unique, and hands-on experiences for our students,” said Steffan, “which is paramount as we train the next generation of scientists and provide them the tools and experiences to be successful in professional schools and/or their future careers.”