UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND’s voyage of Discovery

The University seeks to discover and share knowledge, with the goal of solving problems in our state, nation and world, three UND deans say


UND archival photo.

Editor’s note: The UND LEADS Strategic Plan is meant to be a compass for the community, a tool that points the way toward the University’s goals. With that in mind, UND Today is devoting a special issue on the last Tuesday of each month to charting for readers the institution’s advance.

So, today’s special edition of UND Today – the fourth in this series – focuses on the “Discovery” core value. As readers will see, every story in today’s issue – several of which were published over the past few months in UND Today – centers on a UND program or activity that reflects the Discovery objective, as described in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan.

Along those lines, our issue on Feb. 27 will be devoted to the “Service” core value, and after that, the Learning-Equity-Affinity-Discovery-Service cycle of UND Today Special Issues will begin again.

Comments or questions? Contact Tom Dennis, UND Today editor, at tom.dennis@und.edu. Thank you for reading!


By Robert Kraus, Brad Rundquist and Brian Tande

Of the five Core Values articulated in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, Discovery — a love of inquiry and creativity — is the one that guides the University’s efforts in research and creative activity.

As a community, we seek to advance research, creative activity and scholarship through our spirit of inquiry and our desire to better understand the world around us. In addition to supporting faculty inquiry and exploration, UND regularly involves undergraduate and graduate students in interdisciplinary research.

By gaining a more holistic understanding of real-world challenges and the diversity of perspectives required to solve them, students strengthen their knowledge and enrich their skills, ultimately becoming part of a more prepared workforce.

While valuing the entire scope of research and creative activity, Discovery at UND regularly addresses the critical needs of the people of the state and region, formally defined in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan as Grand Challenges. UND’s Grand Challenges are complex and multi-faceted societal problems, best addressed through the collaboration of people from diverse academic disciplines who contribute a range of expertise, methodologies and perspectives.

In addressing the Grand Challenges, UND LEADS calls on the university to use and sustain cross-disciplinary teams as well as to facilitate and enhance connections where new and existing partners can easily engage and partnerships can be supported and flourish.

While there have been many important interdisciplinary and cross-college collaborations at UND, one recent example is the National Security and Space Initiative (NSI). These endeavors align with the National Security and Space Grand Challenge outlined in the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, which calls for enhancing NSI research, education and workforce training.

To date, NSI has primarily engaged faculty and staff in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, the College of Engineering & Mines and the College of Arts & Sciences.

Within the Odegard School, a new Space Operations Center classroom is now being used by students to learn about orbital mechanics and satellite operations.  Additionally, antennae and a bi-static radar are being installed on a rooftop for satellite communication and control and for space domain awareness and tracking of space objects.

A satellite project is underway that will launch in the Spring of 2025 and will be the first of its kind for a university — to have two satellites rejoin and connect in space after deployment.  These projects build upon the long history of the Space Studies program and enhance the new Aerospace Engineering program.

From left, Robert Kraus is dean of UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, Brad Rundquist is dean of the UND College of Arts & Sciences and Brian Tande is dean of the UND College of Engineering & Mines.

In addition to space operations, there are also exciting new capabilities at UND for the design and assembly of satellites. In the College of Engineering & Mines, renovations to the first floor of Harrington Hall will create what is being called the National Security Corridor. The space will include labs for the development of satellite components, a clean room, a digital engineering lab and equipment to test satellites under extreme conditions.

Academic programs, competitive student teams, and industry partners will all be able to use the space.

Down the hall in Upson I, a new lab is being built to focus on research in advanced materials for UAVs, satellites and other applications related to national security. The trajectory of the national security industry creates a significant need to develop advanced materials, which in turn creates numerous opportunities for collaborations between the College of Engineering & Mines and the College of Arts & Sciences.

Speaking of the College of Arts & Sciences, it’s taking the lead in establishing a nanofoundry — a facility in which prototype nanoscale devices are designed, fabricated, characterized, and tested — which will primarily benefit faculty and students in Physics & Astrophysics, Chemistry and the College of Engineering & Mines.

Nanoscale devices, many times smaller than human cells, are designed to manipulate matter on atomic or molecular scales. Semiconducting nanodevices include nanowires and transistors that are on the forefront of improving the efficiency and performance of microchips. These devices form novel materials and nanosensors that are of great interest to U.S. Department of Defense as well as defense contractors both large and small, among other industries.

The UND Nanofoundry will allow UND researchers to build upon our materials research successes in several ways. First, it will open new research funding opportunities and encourage collaborations with government and industry partners. In addition, it will attract faculty, postdocs and graduate and undergraduate students that might otherwise not be interested in attending UND, and prepare a future workforce skilled in designing, fabricating, characterizing and testing nanodevices through hands-on experience.

College of Arts & Sciences faculty are also in the initial stages of establishing a free-space (or laser) communications laboratory. This is in response to the national-security need for advances in laser communications that will permit rapid transfers of very large data sets in more secure modes.

None of this impactful work could take place purely within the boundaries of an individual college or department. To truly embrace Discovery as a core value at UND, we must continually work to break down artificial barriers that often exist between academic disciplines.

National security is only one example of how the spirit of collaboration at UND is advancing research and creating new opportunities for our students and faculty.


>> QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS about the UND LEADS Strategic Plan? Your thoughts are welcome! Please contact Angie Carpenter, UND’s director of Special Student Populations, and/or Ryan Zerr, associate vice president for Strategy & Implementation, the co-chairs of the UND LEADS Implementation Committee.

You also may offer your thoughts by visiting the UND LEADS Strategic Plan home page and clicking on the “Provide your feedback” link that you’ll find there.

Thank you for your support of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan!

About the authors:

At UND, Robert Kraus is dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, Brad Rundquist is dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Brian Tande is dean of the College of Engineering & Mines.