SCSE Highlights for March 2019

STEM Discovery Day students in lab
April 15, 2019

Highlighting Swenson College of Science & Engineering faculty, staff and team achievements from March of 2019.

Photo above: The STEM Discovery Day session offered by Dr. Venkata Menta with the Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department was a big hit with students.


UMD Faculty Award winners for 2018-2019 were announced in March and included the following from SCSE:

  • Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching to Dr. James Allert in the Department of Computer Science
  • Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Public Service to Dr. Mary Christiansen in the Department of Civil Engineering
  • Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award to Dr. Rebecca Teasley in the Department of Civil Engineering

Swenson College of Science & Engineering awarded the following:

  • Outstanding Graduate Faculty Advisor Award to Dr. Venkatram Mereddy in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • Sabra S. & Dennis L. Anderson Scholar/Teacher Award to Dr. Julie Etterson in the Department of Biology
  • Teacher Award to Brian Gute in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
  • Young Teacher Awards to Dr. Latisha Brengman in the Department of Earth & Envirnomental Sciences  & Dr. Peter Peterson in the Department of Computer Science

Dr. Manik Barman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, was highlighted in an article from the online journal Catalyst published by the Department of Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities entitled “Adding fibers to concrete pavement may help it last longer.”

Dr. Ben Dymond, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, gave a presentation with former graduate student Matt McDermott at the PCI conference entitled "Shear Capacity of Hollow-Core Slabs with Concrete Filled Core." Matt's work was highlighted in a UMD video. Dr. Dymond also had a poster presentation at the PCI conference about the UMD resilient precast concrete certificate program. At the American Concrete Institution convention, Dr. Dymond presented two talks - one with graduate student Scott Asperheim entitled "Inelastic Shear Distribution in Prestressed Concrete Girder Bridges and another entitled "Variation in Web-shear Capacity for Hollow-core Slabs with Concrete Filled Cores."

Dr. Julie Etterson, Professor in the Department had a paper published with her former Integrated Biological Sciences student Zlonis, K. in the American Journal of Botany “Constituents of a mixed-ploidy population of Solidago altissima (Asteraceae) differ in plasticity and predicted response to selection under simulated climate change” 106:453–468. doi:10.1002/ajb2.1257

Dr. Dalibor Froncek, Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, presented a talk titled "How close can you get to being Platonic?" at 50th Southeastern International Conference on Combinatorics, Graph Theory & Computing in Boca Raton, Florida. This is a joint work with undergraduate student Jiangyi Qiu. Jiangyi also gave a talk on their joint research, titled "2-nearly Platonic graphs." In addition, Dr. Froncek recently presented a lecture "N oli turb are circulos me os! or Magic type labelings of cycle products" at Advanced Optimization Laboratory Seminar at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

Dr. Amanda Grusz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, spent spring break at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC working on plant cytogenetics. Dr. Grusz has a two-year grant from the museum exploring the evolution of reproductive mode in ferns. The project allows her to send one UMD student to Washington, DC for a summer internship over two summers (2018, 2019).

Vicki HansenA big thank you goes out to Dr. Vicki Hansen, Professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, for being the inspiration and leader of the floor maps on display in Heller Hall. During spring break at UMD, new, colorful maps were installed highlighting the geography of Mars, the moon and Venus. Dr. Hansen created the images from available datasets and coordinated the printing and installation with the Bell Museum in the Cities.

Dr. Cody Shiek, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, was nominated to become a Kavli Fellow and attended the Kavli Frontiers in Science Symposia held February 28 to March 2. The symposia is hosted jointly between the National Academy of Sciences and the Kavli Foundation and highlights research from early career scientists from broad scientific disciplines.


Micaella Penning, Research Assistant at the Geospatial Analysis Center, had two maps published in the book Lawyering an Uncertain Cause: Immigration Advocacy and Chinese Youth in the U.S. published by Vanderbilt Press 2018 and authored by Michele Statz, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus.

Stacey Stark, Director of the Geospatial Analysis Center, presented “Utilizing Geospatial Mapping and Public Health Partnerships to Identify Opportunities for Pharmacist Engagement in the Opioid Crisis” at College of Pharmacy Research Day, with Dr. Laura Palombi from the College of Pharmacy. Stark also presented “Minnesota Climate Change Projection Profiles for Hazard Mitigation” at the MN Governor’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management conference with B. Hundrieser and B. Hoppe.

Micaella Penning and Stacey Stark also presented “Minnesota GeoInquiries” at the Minnesota Council for Social Studies Annual Conference.


In March, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society at UMD hosted a sugar bush which is a gathering of maple syrup at Bagley Nature Center. Celebrating native culture and Ojibwe tradition, the free public event was a big success with about 180 people in attendance. Stories from Fox 21 and WDIO can give you a peek at what the event was like. Hopefully, this will become a new tradition here at UMD, too.

The Large Lakes Observatory is celebrating its 25th year this year and was recently highlighted online as our “Explorers of the Inland Seas” by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in an effort to boost exposure for the organization and help mark this important milestone.

The SCSE Outreach Program in cooperation with many of our departments and approximately 100 student volunteers held it’s annual STEM Discovery Day event hosting more than 150 middle and high school students on campus for a day of engaging, hands-on activities.


If you would like to share news of an award, research, publication, presentation or successful funding proposal, contact Communications Specialist Valerie Coit at to be added to the next update. These stories will be shared at the beginning of each month during the fall and spring semesters.