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USD Students to Present Research at State Capitol

VERMILLION, S.D. – Two undergraduate researchers from the University of South Dakota will present at the 2021 South Dakota Student Research Poster Session March 3. Morgan Eikanger and Tim Hartman will display their posters in the Rotunda of the South Dakota State Capitol and present their research to state legislators and other state officials in South Dakota.

Morgan Eikanger in a lab, wearing a white lab coat and holding a vial in her hand. She is smiling at the camera.Morgan Eikanger, a junior medical biology and English double major from New Ulm, Minnesota, will present her research on developing safer and more effective treatments for metastatic colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed malignancies. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in the United States and is responsible for more than 50,000 deaths annually. Eikanger’s project revolves around veratridine (VTD), a natural plant alkaloid that possesses anti-cancer functions that was discovered in 2015 by Khosrow Rezvani, Ph.D., associate professor in the USD Division of Basic Biomedical Sciences, and his research team.

Eikanger and Rezvani are working with USD’s Department of Chemistry to create and functionalize a nanoparticle that will carry and release VTD only in the colon at the site of the tumor. This will help to reduce the amount of toxicity in the brain and body creating better outcomes for patients.

“I am very excited to present my research at the 2021 poster session,” said Eikanger. “This is such a great opportunity to share our research that we are so proud of. We are setting the stage for future developments that will improve the patient’s quality of life and significantly improve the course of treatment. Our goal is to create safer and more effect drug therapies to be used in conjunction with other metastatic colorectal cancer treatments.”

Tim Hartman's headshot. He is looking at the camera solemnly

Tim Hartman, a junior biomedical engineering major from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is presenting his research in three-dimensional scaffold creation. Currently, much of the traditional cell and tissue engineering involves 2D models, such as a typical microscope slide. For years this was a great way to continue research into the human body. However, the human body is 3D itself, and cells respond differently on a 3D structure than they do on 2D structures. Adding data mining to the scaffold creation process will cut research time and costs while returning better scaffold designs.

Though Hartman’s research mainly involves software development, Hartman will also explore the USD Graduate Education and Applied Research (GEAR) Center's 3D bioprinting equipment to ensure that the software performs with high quality. The relationship between the software and hardware is key to a much-needed cycle of continuous improvement that can match rapid technological changes.

“It is an honor to present our lab’s research to people and their representatives,” said Hartman. “What we do is for the benefit of society, and it’s good for the people to know the positive things that are on the horizon.”

The Student Research Poster Session, sponsored by South Dakota EPSCoR and the Board of Regents, has been held in Pierre for more than 20 years. This event gives policymakers and other capitol visitors the opportunity to interact with students and faculty engaged in research activities on public university campuses to better understand not only how the research benefits the state, but also how it benefits the education of South Dakota students.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News