Augustana University Awarded More Than $1.5 Million in Grants for Biomedical Research

Augustana University has secured more than $1.5 million in support of student and faculty biomedical research projects. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the state of South Dakota a five-year grant entitled, “South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (SD BRIN)” as part of the Institutional Development Award Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program.

Augustana’s SD BRIN Grant Coordinator and Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Cecelia Miles said, “It is quite impossible to overstate just how valuable the INBRE funding has been for Augustana. It changes the scope and scale of research that students and faculty can perform together, and allows all students in the sciences to receive hands-on training with instrumentation not often found at smaller institutions.”

Since 2001, more than 300 undergraduate students at Augustana have directly benefited from INBRE funds in the form of research fellowships. But, the grant’s impact extends well beyond student research, as it seeds infrastructure in the Froiland Science Center, allowing students in classroom laboratories to routinely make use of the cutting-edge instrumentation. Further, INBRE funding catalyzes other grants that allow Augustana every year to fund around 60-80 students doing scientific research. This investment in student development is a key driver for Augustana students’ post-graduate acceptances and to research publications with students as co-authors. 

“My ability to work with students in the lab, take them to national conferences to present their data and publish our findings in peer-reviewed journals is so much easier with the funding the INBRE grant provides. Not only do we get to produce impactful scientific knowledge, my time in the lab with students is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as faculty,” said Professor of Biology Dr. Mark Larson.

In addition to the $1.5 million award, the SD BRIN grant program provides up to $1 million more in individual grant funds for faculty sabbaticals, as well as supplemental funds to help prepare published works and individual faculty grant proposals. The grant provides an additional $250,000 for journal access at Augustana’s Mikkelsen Library. In all, the INBRE grant continues to make Augustana an ideal place for students looking to expand their scientific horizons.

Augustana students, such as Brady Williquett ’21, are quick to point out the grant’s impact, “My undergraduate research experience through SD BRIN was really meaningful because it helped me find a passion for biomedical research that I never knew I had. It's because of that experience that I chose to pursue a career in research and earn my Ph.D. in biology.”

“Many of my professors have commented on the preparedness of my lab techniques and skills, all of which I can attribute to my BRIN research experience and Augustana education. Not only did my undergraduate research experience prepare me for "bench" research, I also have felt proficient in reading scientific literature and presenting my research,” said current graduate student Katelyn Hurley ’18.

Dr. Jordan Anderson-Daniels ’10, who received a Ph.D. in virology from Vanderbilt University, added, “Some of my fondest memories and biggest opportunities at Augustana were made possible by BRIN funding  In three short summers of BRIN-funded research, I was exposed to and immersed in basic science related to wheat genome organization, an active human clinical trial, and a collaboration at a world-class research institution. Without these opportunities and experiences, I doubt I would have had the interest or the strong science foundation to pursue a Ph.D. and later postdoc as a coronavirus biologist during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Augustana is part of a consortium of colleges and universities in South Dakota that participate in the SD BRIN program, with the University of South Dakota and its Sanford School of Medicine as the lead institution.

Program Questions: Contact Dr. Cecelia Miles, Augustana’s SD BRIN grant coordinator and associate professor of biology.

Media Inquiries: Contact Jill Wilson, public relations and communications strategist.