UND grad Nolby to coordinate North Dakota Space Grant Consortium, N.D. NASA EPSCoR

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John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


University of North Dakota Space Studies alumna Caitlin Nolby has been appointed coordinator for the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium following the retirement earlier this year of Suezette Bieri, who ran the program for more than 20 years. Nolby also will be coordinator for the North Dakota NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program.

Both organizations do statewide service and are based in the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences'Department of Space Studies.

The N.D. NASA Space Grant Consortium involves North Dakota faculty, students and K‐12 teachers and students in multi‐institution, collaborative, NASA‐relevant research and higher‐education projects, while also educating the North Dakota citizenry about NASA, its purpose and its missions.

The overall goal of the NASA EPSCoR Program is to increase the competitiveness of North Dakota for merit-based grants and contracts in support of science and technology research from federal funding agencies.

Nolby, an astrophysics major with a UND Space Studies graduate degree, says she was inspired by great teachers to get into science.

"One told us about meteor showers, so my dad and I watched one night in our backyard, and that did for me," said Nolby, who grew up in Andover, Minn., near the Twin Cities.

Her UND degree focuses on teaching space studies and observational astronomy to students of all ages.

Nolby now is working in a science-related field, helping other peoplesharpen their curiosity about science, space in particular. She brings several years of experience with science outreach and education programs to the public, including a stint as the outreach coordinator for the Dakota Space Society.

As she pursued her graduate degree at UND, she was research assistant for Dr. Paul Hardersen, a Space Studies faculty member and director of the UND Observatory.

Over the years, Bieri, Nolby's predecessor, made several key contributions to the Space Grant Consortium's progress, including pre-service teacher training workshops, annual reporting, and support to numerous STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives across the state. She maintained excellent rapport with consortium members and state legislators, and was instrumental in securing the state match funding for the N.D. Space Grant Consortium.

As the new coordinator of Space Grant and of the N.D. NASA EPSCoR program, Nolby will also conduct pre-service workshops for teachers around the state and a lot of classroom outreach. The state director for both programs is Santhosh Seelan, UND professor and chair of Space Studies.

The Consortium recently received $860,000 from NASA's Department of Education to promote STEM education at North Dakota colleges through "hands on" student projects, scholarships and fellowships for students, summer internships at NASA centers and seed research. N.D. Space Grant is a statewide program and all colleges and universities in North Dakota University System are members of the consortium.