University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Santhosh Seelan named Space Studies chair

Santhosh Seelan, professor of Space Studies and a noted expert in satellite remote sensing, has been appointed chair of Space Studies. Seelan replaces David Whalen, who is stepping down as chair to focus on a book about satellite communications.

“I’m very happy to be part of the Department of Space Studies and proud that UND can be of special service in this critical area,” Seelan said.

Seelan also will assume the duties of director of the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium and director of North Dakota-National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) EPSCoR as of Aug. 16 (EPSCoR stands for Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). Both of these positions were held by Paul Hardersen, who is stepping down to focus on his research work in astronomy and solar physics.

Seelan, a native of Cuddallore, a small coastal town in Tamil Nadu, India, joined the Space Studies faculty in fall 2005. Previously, he was the first chair of the UND Department of Earth System Science and Policy. He came to UND in 1998 to a position at the Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium (UMAC).

While at UMAC, Seelan helped establish a sophisticated geospatial lab and lead a NASA-sponsored project aimed at promoting geospatial technologies among farmers and ranchers. This ongoiong project involves near real-time delivery of satellite data products and services to end users, application development and training. Seelan helped to grow the project from 10 users to more than 600.

Prior to his Space Studies appointment, Seelan served as interim associate dean of UND Aerospace, stepping in for associate dean Paul Lindseth during his developmental leave last year.

Before joining UND, Seelan worked as a land information consultant with Terralink, a New Zealand government-owned enterprise, creating a nationwide land cover database using satellite imagery. Prior to that, he worked with India’s remote sensing program for 17 years, initially in applications development, and later as head of the country’s satellite data distribution center. Seelan also was project director of Indian Remote Sensing Satellite data distribution.

Seelan won nationwide recognition and a nomination for a National Mineral Award in India for his early work on researching the use of remote sensing for targeting groundwater and his later contributions to India’s technology mission on drinking water through practical use of the technology.

In 2006, Seelan was invited to Haiti by a group of expatriate Haitian scientists and engineers to survey that troubled nation’s environmental situation.

Seelan has authored or co-authored more than 150 articles, conference papers, technical reports, books, book chapters, and abstracts.

Seelan—a world-recognized expert in the application of satellite imaging technologies to resource development—brings a wealth of international experience to Space Studies and actively pursues international collaborations. He enjoys advising students and was recognized as the Outstanding Student Organization Advisor at the UND Memorial Union Leadership Awards Ceremony in 2009 for serving as advisor to both the Student Association of India and the International Student Organization.

“UND Space Studies offers one of the largest master's programs on campus, the first online graduate program at UND, and is hoping to start a Ph.D. program in collaboration with the Department of Aviation in fall 2011,” Seelan said.

“The interdisciplinary Space Studies Master’s is considered one of the two top programs of its kind in the world,” Seelan said. “The Department of Space Studies and the Space Grant and NASA EPSCoR projects have a very rich history of contributing to the community and the state, and I feel honored to be asked to lead these programs.”

-- Juan Miguel Pedraza, University Relations, 777-6571,

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