Augburg Faculty Awarded Over $695,000 In National Science Foundation Grants

September 23, 2013 by Heather Riddle · No Comments · President Pribbenow

As we kick off Homecoming week I want to take a moment to share some exciting news regarding faculty research and applaud the ongoing scholarly and creative activities of faculty and staff that are vital to our vision to be “small to our students, big for the world.”

Three Augsburg faculty, Mark Engebretson, David Hanson, and Ann Impullitti, have been awarded competitive research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). These grants, totaling $695,087, will support discrete research projects in physics, chemistry, and biology, and provide opportunities for undergraduate student learning and engagement in research..

Leading In The State of Minnesota

These awards demonstrate our strength in scholarship and build on the momentum of our past successes in securing grant funding. As I mentioned in last week’s State of the College address, Augsburg ranked third in Minnesota for the total dollar amount awarded by NSF in 2012. This positioned us as the leader in NSF funding among every private college in the state!

As we celebrate this great achievement, I want to also recognize the hard work and dedication of all faculty and staff. Your efforts have built and sustained the programs, supported the students, and established the relationships that make these awards possible.

To those of you who have taken the time to engage in research, scholarship or creative activities–Thank You. To those who have engaged or facilitated student participation in research, scholarship, or creative activities–Thank You. To those of you who have written proposals, received grants, mentored students, or mentored faculty–Thank You. You create the vibrant, inquiry driven environment that supports our students and the community. You make Augsburg small to our students and big for the world.

Award Details

Dr. Mark Engebretson, Professor of Physics, was granted a three year, $185,940 award from NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences for his project, “Collaborative research: Continued study of ultra low frequency (ULF) waves at cusp latitudes on Svalbard to probe earth’s space environment.” This project builds on a longstanding partnership between Augsburg and the University of New Hampshire (Dr. Marc Lessard) in an effort to better understand the dynamics of Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).

Svalbard, Norway is the only place in the northern hemisphere where polar cusp field lines can be observed for extended periods in darkness at noon, making it an ideal location to carry out observations of ionospheric phenomena (including dayside aurora) on magnetic field lines that map to the outer boundary of the Earth’s magnetosphere. Funding will support the continued operation of an array of four search coil magnetometers (induction antennas) located in Svalbard and the analysis of magnetometer data for studies of ULF waves and associated phenomena in Earth’s space environment.

The data from the magnetometers are valuable for a number of space physics studies, and will be made available to the scientific community through the NASA Virtual Observatories. Additionally, this project will provide undergraduate student researchers with education and training opportunities in space physics and data analysis.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. AGS-1202267.

Dr. David HansonAssistant Professor of Chemistry, was awarded $386,163 from NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. The three year project, “Nucleation studies with sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and Nitrogenous Bases,” will test models for nucleation rates that can be incorporated into global climate models.

Nucleation is the driving force for new particle formation in the atmosphere. Newly formed particles affect clouds that greatly influence climate.  The investigation of nucleation with the atmospherically important species sulfuric acid, water and amines is the focus of this project.  The project will: 1) provide measured nucleation rates over a wide range of experimental conditions and 2) develop computation fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations of the experiments.  The comparison of laboratory results to CFD simulations will yield the free energies of formation of small molecular clusters, which are the smallest of the small particles.

The results of this project will improve the representation of particle formation processes in climate models and increase understanding of the sources of particulate matter dangerous to human health. Additionally, eight undergraduate research students will be supported over the life of the project, providing opportunities to develop technical expertise, critical thinking skills, and confidence, in addition to supporting NSF’s goal to develop a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. AGS-1338706.

Dr. Ann Impulitti, Assistant Professor of Biology, received a $122,684 Major Research Instrumentation Grant from NSF’s Division of Biological Infrastructure, and a $52,400 from the LiCor Environmental Education Fund (LEEF).   The funds will be used to purchase a suite of instruments for plant ecophysiology research.  Dr. Impulitti and her Co-Principal Investigators, Dr. John Zobitz, Associate Professor of Mathmatics, and Dr. Dean Malvick, University of Minnesota, will use the instrumentation to investigate the physiology of economically important plants infected by fungi and study mathematical modeling of ecophysiological processes. Research activities will explore: 1) the physiology and productivity of economically important plants colonized by pathogens that do not cause symptoms of disease; 2) the functional role of endophytes in plants; 3) the impact of sublethal infections by soil-borne pathogens of roots on plant productivity; and 4) the measurement of leaf-level physiological processes to parameterize ecosystem models of carbon cycling.

The instruments will be used for faculty research and undergraduate research in plant biology, environmental science, and mathematics.  Students interested in research will have opportunities to be involved in quantitative data analysis in biology and mathematics, and research in a field and/or lab. The instrument will also improve collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects with faculty at the University of Minnesota.  Results from these collaborations will improve our understanding of plant-fungal interactions, and will be applied to improving soybean yield and productivity, an important model plant due to its economic importance and growth throughout the U.S.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DBI-1337582.

If you are interested in learning more about securing grants for your research, scholarship, or creative activities, please visit or contact Erica Swift at


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