Nursing, behavioral sciences research building will be first of its kind in the nation
By Peter Johnson
The most exciting research happens in the cracks between disciplines, says University of North Dakota President Charles Kupchella. UND faculty and facilities planners must agree.
This fall, UND broke ground for the $4 million Northern Plains Center for Behavioral Research. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, it will house an integrated program of behavioral and mental health research and research training in nursing and psychology designed to benefit vulnerable and underserved groups in the Upper Midwest.
“This building will be one of the first in the nation built with NIH funding to serve nursing scientists and interdisciplinary colleagues in the behavioral sciences,” said Dr. Chandice Covington, dean of the UND College of Nursing.
Slated for completion in the fall of 2007, the three-story, 30,000-square-foot building will be home to a variety of research projects, said Dr. Glenda Lindseth, associate dean for research at the College of Nursing and the principal investigator on the building project.
“This research building will allow us to further promote multidisciplinary collaborative research at UND and across the state and region,” said Lindseth. “We’ll be at the hub of studying preventive interventions that will benefit people right here in the Upper Great Plains.”
Some of the research areas include: gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, sleep disorders, metabolic studies, breast cancer prevention, pediatric research, domestic violence, Alzheimer’s disease, neurological risks of pesticide use, Parkinson’s disease, gambling addiction, gerontology, neuropsychology, cognitive aging, cognitive function, and the chronically mentally ill.
“The plan includes state-of-the-art behavioral research space, offices for funded researchers, our Nursing Doctoral program and the College of Arts and Sciences’ INPSYDE (Indians into Psychology Doctoral Education) program,” said Covington.
The new center will also free up space for the RAIN Program at the College of Nursing, which recently received a $30,000 grant from the Gertrude E. Skelly Foundation. “RAIN (Recruitment and Retention of American Indians into Nursing) will move into vacated space in the nursing building, allowing faculty and staff to offer additional service to students. We are anticipating exciting new research initiatives built on our strong history of research on vulnerable populations in the State and region, including the rural, the elderly, American Indians, and migrant Hispanic farm workers and their families,” said Covington.
Some of that research will be done by doctoral and masters degree students, as well as some undergraduates.
“All of our collaborators work very well with students,” said Lindseth. “When we think of research, we often just think of investigators in a lab, but this is a little broader. We believe that you have to train your future investigators, or you can’t keep the field going.”
One of the collaborators is Dr. Thomas Petros, UND Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Psychology. A prolific researcher, Petros focuses on areas such as reading processes; memory and aging; pharmacology and memory; and aviation and psychology. He is also studying the impact of exposure to pesticides and cognitive performance in children, young adults and older adults, which has significant implications for rural farming communities.
It is a volume of work that demands significant funding. While he and his colleagues in psychology have had good success with research proposals, Petros said the “state-of-the art facilities will support behavioral research endeavors and will enhance our competitiveness in winning future research funding.”
Kupchella said the College of Nursing and the Department of Psychology are two of UND’s largest programs in terms of numbers of students, and both represent enormous potential for growth. “Both units have had very solid research programs, some of which — the nutritional needs of pilots and the effects of pesticides on the cognitive development of rural children, for example — have garnered national and even international media attention,” said Kupchella.
Dr. Peter Alfonso, UND vice president for research, said the new building is “important to UND because it helps to build our research infrastructure.” Alfonso praised Lindseth and the faculty in the Colleges of Nursing and Arts and Sciences for cooperating on the proposal, which he said was “the top-ranked proposal in a very competitive” round of funding.