Center for Academic & Global Engagement Undergraduate Research


April 8 & 9, 2014

IdeaFest is an annual event celebrating student research, creative scholarship and academic engagement. Undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines present their work in oral and poster presentations, live performances, readings, exhibits and displays. Not only does it offer students a unique opportunity to present their work, it's a way for the surrounding community to see how research and other academic activities enhance the education of students. As a highlight of the event, nationally recognized keynote speakers are invited to present their involvement in similar endeavors.

The IdeaFest speaker series is sponsored by the Provost & Vice-President for Academic Affairs, the Vice-President for Research & Sponsored Programs, and the Center for Academic and Global Engagement, in addition to various campus partners.



2014 Schedule and Program


Keynote Speakers for 2014


Richard Sayre

April 8 @ 5 p.m. (MUC Ballroom)

"Making Next Generation Biofuel Systems Work"

In partnership with the Sustainability Program.

Dr. Richard Sayre is currently a senior research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the New Mexico Consortium (NMC). Dr. Sayre's research interests include; characterization of primary processes in photosynthesis, algal and plant biotechnology, and nutritional biofortification of crop plants. Dr. Sayre completed his undergraduate degree in biology at Humboldt State University, his Ph. D. at the University of Iowa, and did postdoctoral work at Harvard University. From 1986-2008, Dr. Sayre was a faculty member and later Chairman of the Department of Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology at Ohio State University.

Prior to coming to LANL/NMC, Dr. Sayre was the Director (2008-2011) of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. Dr. Sayre is currently the Scientific Director (2009-2014) of the Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems, a Dept. of Energy (DOE) Energy Frontier Research Center, and past scientific director of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels (2010-2013), the largest DOE algal biomass program funded to date. He is currently the scientific director of the Realization of Algae's Potential also managed by the DOE. 

From 2005-2010, Dr. Sayre directed the BioCassava Plus Program funded by the Grand Challenges in Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The BioCassava Plus program focused on engineering cassava to provide complete nutrition for subsistence farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Sayre has received several honors including: Distinguished Professor in the College of Biological Sciences, Ohio State University (2005-2008); honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa (2006); Fulbright Scholar at the Inst. Quimica, University Sao Paulo, Brazil. (2007); Selected by Nature as one of "Five Crop Researchers Who Could Change the World". Nature 456: 563-569 (2008); invited attendee at Google/Nature/O'Reilly SciFoo Camp for Innovators (2009); and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (2011). 

Dr. Sayre is an associate editor for Frontiers in Plant Sciences, co-editor-in-chief of Algal Research and co-organizer of the International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts.

Ellen Gustafson

April 9 @ 7 p.m. (Aalfs Auditorium, Slagle Hall)

"Leading Change and Innovation"

In partnership with the Beacom School of Business Opportunity Fund.

Ellen Gustafson is a sustainable food system activist, innovator, and social entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of Food Tank: the Food Think Tank, a new organization that is highlighting innovative ideas in agriculture and food systems that help alleviate hunger, obesity, and poverty. Ellen founded the 30 Project and ChangeDinner campaigns, which connected hunger and obesity issues over the dinner table and are now part of Food Tank.  

She is also the co-founder of FEED Projects, LLC, a charitable company that creates consumer products which help FEED the world, and co-founder and former executive director of FEED's nonprofit partner, the FEED Foundation. Under Ellen's leadership, FEED provided more than 65 million school meals to children around the world—at no cost to them.  

Previously, Ellen was a U.S. spokesperson for the U.N. World Food Program, a terrorism research reporter in the ABC News Investigative Unit, and a research associate for the Military Fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has a bachelor's degree in international politics from Columbia University and is pursuing a master's degree in food studies at New York University.  

She has been featured, with FEED business partner Lauren Bush, as one of Fortune Magazine's 2009 "Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs," Inc. Magazine's 2010 "30 Under 30," and has spoken at Fortune's Most Powerful Women's Conference. Among her many public speaking accomplishments, Ellen has given multiple TED talks, keynoted to the Italian Parliament, lectured at Harvard, NYU, Columbia University, The U.S. Naval Academy, Feeding America, Davos, and many more. She also serves on the Columbia University Alumni Board of Directors and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  

Ellen was recently listed in Fast Company as a female trailblazer, based on her pioneering story of building her own structures to accomplish her goals through FEED and the 30 Project. She has been featured as one of AOL and PBS's 2011 list of MAKERS, trailblazing women who are "making" America and to Diplomatic Courier Magazine's 2011 "Top 99 Under 33" in Foreign Policy.



Iseley Marshall had a great experience in the Honors program and presenting at IdeaFest. Read her Testimonial.


  • Center for Academic and Global Engagement, Council for Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship, USD Graduate School, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the USD Office of Academic Affairs.
  • More information about IdeaFest is available by contacting or by calling 605-677-6338.