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Research Expands at the Fair with New D2D Facility

State fair goers

For the past three years, visitors to the Great Minnesota Get-Together have devoted a bit of their day to helping University of Minnesota researchers advance knowledge to improve our health, well-being, and environment.

At this year’s Minnesota State Fair, the tradition continues—but this time, under a new roof. Builders are currently putting the finishing touches on the new and improved Driven to Discover (D2D) Research Facility, which provides room to run more studies and harbor more technologically detailed research than the previous D2D building.

The building will be a more modern, well-lit, and open space for researchers to meet with participants of all ages and demographics, said Logan Spector, Ph.D., director of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Epidemiology and Clinical Research Division in the Department of Pediatrics. Spector is co-principal investigator of the D2D facility, along with Ellen Demerath, Ph.D., professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health in the School of Public Health.

Colleges and units across the University have supported D2D research operations and the construction of the new facility. Funding has come from the Office of the Vice President for Research; the Academic Health Center, including the Medical School, its Division of Pediatric Epidemiology and Clinical Research, and the School of Public Health; the College of Education and Human Development; the College of Biological Sciences; the College of Science and Engineering; the College of Liberal Arts; the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences; and University Libraries.

Since the original building opened for research in 2014, the fair has been a way for researchers and Minnesotans to meet face-to-face while working to tackle issues in our society. Researchers benefit from reaching a more diverse group of participants, meeting a study’s recruitment goals in a matter of hours or days, and providing undergraduate and graduate students with valuable research experience. Meanwhile, for participants, the D2D facility is a direct way to connect with research opportunities at the U and be part of world-class research. Last year, more than 45,000 fairgoers visited the D2D facility.

“Studies at the Driven to Discover Research Facility cover many topics, from bullying in schools to high cholesterol in families, but all aim to improve the health and well-being of Minnesotans,” Spector said. “Having this resource at the Great Minnesota Get-Together brings research to the people, which is just what a land-grant University should be doing.”

Participate at this Year’s Fair

This year, the D2D building will include on-site studies from 31 research teams, with four to eight studies running at any given time while the building is open. Six more teams will be present to recruit anyone interested in participating in studies outside of the fair.

The studies include a wide range of subjects, from how adolescent brains develop to how families use technology to how people perceive science in their everyday lives. Volunteers will spend about 10–20 minutes in the study and will receive a small thank-you gift in return for participating.

Here are a few of the studies taking place this year:

  • “Let Us Pay for Your State Fair Food!”—Economics professors Stacie Bosley, Ph.D., of Hamline University and Marc Bellemare, Ph.D., of the U team up to study judgment and decision-making in a pyramid scheme experiment.
  • “Keep Calm & Play On”—Are you calm like a Jedi? Educational psychology professor Clayton Cook, Ph.D., will gather real-time data through wearable technology to analyze the link between kids’ response to physiological stress and their success in school.
  • “See Your Optic Nerves at D2D”—Ophthalmologist Luai Eldweik will record the pulsing of your optic nerve—the connection that transmits what your eye sees to your brain—to help physicians understand nervous system problems. You can take home a photo of your optic nerves.
  • “Fashion at the Fair”—Deborah Roedder John, Ph.D., of the Carlson School will explore how the use of luxury products, such as carrying a Prada handbag around the fair, influences self-control.
  • “Let’s Talk About Sex!”—Dr. Kari Schneider from the Department of Pediatrics talks to youth about whether their doctors and parents talk to them about sex and screen for sexually transmitted infections.
  • “The Great Minnesota Sports Concussion Study”—Francis Shen, J.D., of the Law School teams up with Jessica Brown, Ph.D., of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences to ask parents and children about their knowledge of, attitudes toward, and history of sports-related concussions.
  • Student Research Showcase—Stop by from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 31, for a poster fair highlighting student research at the U.

Tour the New Facility

Construction is nearly finished at the new Driven to Discover Research Facility. Visitors are invited to check out the new space at one of two open houses, which will be held before the Minnesota State Fair begins.

  • Tuesday, August 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 17, from noon to 2 p.m.

Contact the D2D building team at for more information.

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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