Transdisciplinary Research Program
The Transdisciplinary Research Program was a one-time, two-year grant program that promoted cross-disciplinary, collaborative research addressing at least three of the MnDRIVE research areas.
In 2014, nearly $6 million was awarded to 12 transdisciplinary research projects that addressed big questions in areas such as bioremediation, wearable technologies, monitoring disease outbreaks, and brain conditions. The awards benefitted approximately 90 researchers in 16 colleges and 50 departments across 3 UMN campuses. More than 30 external partners were involved, including state agencies and industry leaders such as 3M, Cargill, and Great River Energy.
Building Community-Based Bioeconomies
A new and greatly expanded agricultural bioeconomy is rapidly emerging, featuring a wide array of new foods, feeds, bioproducts, biomaterials and biofuels. This transdisciplinary research is working to achieve high levels of economic, environmental and social benefits from the emerging bioeconomy. The project will: advance game-changing bioeconomic and robotics-based technologies; create a replicable process for engaging multiple stakeholders in co-creation of the new bioeconomy through coordinated innovation, design and implementation; and provide state-of-the-art decision support to these groups, linking computer simulation and visualization to help Minnesota communities gain economic, environmental, and social benefits from the new bioeconomy.
Principal Investigator: Nicholas Jordan, Agronomy & Plant Genetics
Co-Investigators: Volkan Isler,Computer Science and Engineering; Len Kne, Geography, Environment and Society; David Mulla, Soil, Water and Climate; David Pitt, Landscape Architecture; Carissa Schively Slotterback, Urban and Regional Planning; Tim Smith, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
Read More: Growing a Sustainable Bioeconomy
Creation of a Parkinson's Disease Registry and Initial Studies to Address its Causes and Genetic Susceptibility
Researchers are working across disciplines to establish the first statewide registry of Minnesotans with Parkinson’s disease, a resource that could dramatically improve future studies on the disease.
Principal Investigator: Tim Church, Environmental Health Sciences
Co-Investigators: Paul Tuite; Jerrold Vitek; Colum MacKinnon; Soritios Parashos, Department of Neurology; Bruce Alexander; Jeff Mandel; Irinia Stephanov, Environmental Health Sciences; Larry Baker, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Nathan Pankratz, Laboratory Medicine and Pathology; Deborah Swackhamer, Water Resources Center; James Bower, Mayo Clinic
Design and Manufacture of Wearable, Printed, and Flexible Electronics for Treating Neurological Disorders
The goal of this project is to develop the underlying technologies to design and manufacture a wearable, printed, and flexible stimulator sheet device. It will include the development of novel roll-to-roll printing processes and electronic inks, low power circuits, smart clothing with built-in interconnects, and new noninvasive stimulation methods. The project is expected to have an immediate impact on the biomedical research community allowing for new forms of non-invasive neuromodulation, while in the longer term, the development of new manufacturing procedures for flexible electronics will open up new application opportunities in fields other than biomedicine, such as robotics and aviation.
Principal Investigator: Chris Kim, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Co-Investigators: Lorraine Francis; Daniel Frisbie, Chemical Engineering and Material Science; Lucy Dunne, Design, Housing and Apparel; Samuel Levine, Otolaryngology; Hubert Lim, Biomedical Engineering
This project explores the use of breakthrough DNA nanotechnology to engineer and evaluate materials that can address major challenges in our health and food system. Specifically, it will use aptamer-amphiphiles as DNA nanotubes to target and treat Alzheimer’s disease and brain tumors and as sensors to detect food allergens such as milk-protein. These DNA nanotubes have the potential to deliver compounds of interest to the brain safely, efficiently and affordably, while aptamer-amphiphiles have high specificity for milk-protein with the potential of an ultrafast analytical time. Such research involving DNA nanotechnology raises questions of ethics, law and policy that researchers will analyze to generate recommendations.
Principal Investigator: Efie Kokkoli, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Co-Investigators: Karen Ashe, Neurology; Ted Labuza, Food Science and Engineering; Walter Low, Neurosurgery; Scott McIvor, Genetics, Cell Biology and Development; Susan Wolf, Center for Bioethics
Enhancement of Microbial Biofertilizers for Sustainable Food Systems
Nutrient requirements for agricultural crops are directly linked to crop production levels and any potential improvement in the scale of biomass yields will necessitate a proportional increase in the demands for essential nutrients. For many crops, nitrogen is one of the most expensive fertilizers based on required quantities and cost. Much of our nitrogen fertilizer production is tied to burning fossil fuels to generate ammonia through the Haber-Bosch process and constitutes a significant portion of our global energy use. The goal of this research project is to expand the application of symbiotic biological nitrogen fixation, as found in crops such as soybeans and alfalfa, to a broader set of plants such as corn and wheat, through the application of biofertilizers. Efforts will include laboratory studies to construct new biofertilizer strains and greenhouse studies to test application of these strains to a range of crops important to Minnesota.
Principal Investigator: Brett Barney, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering
Co-Investigators: Neil Olszewski, Plant Biology; Gary Sands, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Craig Sheaffer, Agronomy and Plant Genetics
Green Nutrient Revolution
Humankind is faced with a grand challenge – to feed the world while sustaining the environment. Making and distributing enough fertilizer in the conventional manner will cause steep increases in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This research addresses the fundamental issues of food, energy and the environment and will: use renewable energy, water and air to produce nitrogen fertilizer near the farm; advance novel methods for producing nitrogen fertilizer from non-fossil sources; model distributed designs with advanced manufacturing; study and incorporate design response to policy implications; and evaluate the new technologies for their economic and environmental sustainability. The ultimate goal is to commercialize renewable and sustainable fertilizer technologies for Minnesota companies and farmers.
Principal Investigator: Michael Reese, UM-M West Central Research & Outreach Center
Co-Investigators: Edward Cussler; Prodromos Daoutidis; Lanny Schmidt; Alon McCormick, Chemical Engineering and Material Science; Steve Kelley, Center for Integrative Leadership; Roger Ruan, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Douglas Tiffany, Applied Economics;, Kenneth Valentas, Biotechnology Institute
Implementation of Smart Bioremediation Technology to Reduce Sulfate Concentrations in Northeast Minnesota Watersheds
Minnesota faces the challenge of maintaining its existing iron ore and developing non-ferrous mining industries in northeastern Minnesota while protecting watersheds from elevated aqueous sulfate concentrations that could prove detrimental to animals and plants, especially wild rice. This research will create a commercial-ready remotely-operated modular bioremediation system to reduce sulfate concentrations in waters from past, present and potential future mining operations. Pilot scale designs of the technology have already shown high reductions of sulfate from legacy iron ore mine pit lake waters.
Principal Investigator: David Hendrickson, UM-D Natural Resources Research Institute
Co-Investigators: Brian Brashaw; Donald Fosnacht, UM-D NRRI; Thomas Ferguson, UM-D Electrical Engineering; Randal Hicks, UM-D Biology; John Lamb, Soil, Water and Climate; Michael Sadowsky, Biotechnology Institute; James Skurla, UM-D Human Resources and Equal Opportunity
Interventional Bioremediation of Microbiota in Metabolic Syndrome
The gastrointestinal tract contains a dense population of highly specialized microbial communities (gut microbiota) that regulate many aspects of host physiology, including energy metabolism. Accumulating evidence indicates that compositional changes in gut microbiota caused by altered diet and exposure to antibiotics contribute to the ongoing epidemic of obesity and diabetes. The project will perform a pilot, randomized, double-blinded clinical trial using gut microbiota transplantation in the treatment of patients with pre-diabetes in an attempt to improve insulin sensitivity. The team will conduct mechanistic studies in the context of this trial to understand brain-gut communication and contribution of gut microbiota to host metabolism.
Principal Investigator: Alexander Khoruts, Medical School
Co-Investigators: David Bernlohr; Lisa Chow; Kelvin Lim; Elizabeth Seaquist, Medical School; Douglas Mashek, Food Science and Nutrition; Michael Sadowsky, Biotechnology Institute
Read More: Treating Diabetes with Beneficial Bacteria
Mitigating Risk and Sensing Chemicals in Food and the Environment
Over 100,000 chemicals are used commercially or formed naturally in the environment. This project will develop generalized methods to detect and mitigate risk against their presence in food and water, leveraging knowledge about how the chemicals are biodegraded by naturally-occurring bacteria that will be used in engineered formats. To cull practically useful products from the basic research component of the project, university science and business students will together assess opportunities for entrepreneurship, working with the University’s Office for Technology Commercialization and guided by an Advisory Board of Minnesota business leaders.
Principal Investigator: Larry Wackett, Biotechnology Institute
Co-Investigators: Aleptekin Aksan, Mechanical Engineering; Michael Elias, Biotechnology Institute; Toby Nord, Carlson School of Management; Carl Rosen, Soil, Water and Climate; Carrie Wilmot, Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology
Novel robotics and sensors, such as small uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAV), have the potential to revolutionize the agriculture industry. Spatially precise and temporally relevant data enable improved agricultural production with reduced environmental impacts through data driven decision making. One case study critical to the Midwest will be explored; detection of soybean aphid infestations and precision pesticide application. Algorithms that detect soybean aphid infestations will be researched as well as the efficacy, economic impact and policy related to widespread adoption of UAV enhanced precision agriculture.
Principal Investigator: Demoz Gebre-Egziabher , Aerospace Engineering
Co-Investigators: Demoz Gebre-Egziabher, Peter Seiler, Brian Taylor, John Weyrauch, Aerospace Engineering; Terrance Hurley, Applied Economics; Robert Koch; Ian McRae, Entomology; Dean Malvick, Plant Pathology
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for Minnesota Advancement
Project research and outcomes will focus on two infectious disease case-studies (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and viral hemorrhagic septicemia for fish) that will serve as prototypes. Ultimately, the project will be scaled-up to include other diseases and species to protect and promote the health and economy of the people and the environment of Minnesota.
Principal Investigator: Andres Perez, Veterinary and Population Medicine
Co-Investigators: James Collins; Meggan Craft; Nicholas Phelps; Veterinary and Population Medicine; Evan Enns, Health Policy and Management; Amy Kircher, National Center of Food Protection and Defense; Anne-Francoise Lamblin, Minnesota Super-computing Institute; Thomas Molitor, Comparative and Molecular Biosciences; Claudia Neuhauser, UM Informatics Institute; Faye Sleeper, Water Resources Center; Jian Ping Wang, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Michael Murtaugh, Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Sustainable Energy Systems
Renewables like wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) in Greater Minnesota can provide tremendous economic and social benefits to rural economies and the larger electric system. However, electricity produced from renewables is variable. Much of the wind in the Upper Midwest blows at night when electricity demand is low and solar PV only produces power when the sun is out. As such, integrating renewables into the grid presents operational, control and management challenges. This project will explore how advanced sensors and control systems can be used to integrate renewables like wind and solar power with electricity demand to improve the sustainability and reliability of the electric power system.
Principal Investigator: Elizabeth Wilson, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Co-Investigators: Sairaj Dhople, Electrical and Computer Engineering; Peter Seiler, Aerospace Engineering; Tim Smith, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering