Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Faculty Researcher Nominees Recognized at South Dakota Mines

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology faculty researchers nominated for the 2016 SD Mines Research Award are, from left to right, Lisa Kunza, Venkata Gadhamshetty, Kyle Caudle, Ali Heydari, Purushotham Tukkaraja and Phil Ahrenkiel.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (April 12, 2016) – Six faculty researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have been nominated for the 2016 SD Mines Research Award, which will recognize a demonstrated, sustained research record and significant accomplishments.

The recently-established award will honor a faculty member or research scientist for their research contributions during the past two years. 

Nominations were submitted by academic departments and research centers, with finalists announced at the Annual Student Research Symposium. The selected recipient of the SD Mines Research Award will be recognized at the Employee Award and Recognition Ceremony on May 4. Nominees are:

  • Lisa Kunza, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry & Applied Biological Sciences. She is an ecologist in her third year as a faculty researcher at SD Mines. Kunza has led or participated in nine funded grants totaling nearly $1 million, and has supported five graduate and 10 undergraduate students in research activities. She built and directs the Shimadzu Environmental Research Laboratory, which houses more than $1 million of state-of-the-art instrumentation enhancing research at SD Mines. 
  • Venkata Gadhamshetty, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. He joined SD Mines in 2014 and has demonstrated a sustained record and excellent research accomplishment during the past two years. In 2015, he received the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award. During a short time span, Gadhamshetty established his research laboratory and relevant infrastructure to conduct a vibrant research program.  
  • Kyle Caudle, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics & Computer Science. He joined SD Mines in 2011. In the past two years, Caudle’s research has focused on two separate areas involving statistics and “big data.” Those areas are forecasting and time series analysis, and non-parametric density estimation of data streams. In addition to his major statistical research, he has been working in two STEM-related projects that have generated revenue streams.
  • Ali Heydari, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Heydari joined SD Mines in 2013 and has built a sustainable research program within the department. In 2015 he received the NSF grant “Contributing to the Mathematical Rigor of Approximate Dynamic Programming.” He has also received another collaborative grant funded by NASA EPSCoR.
  • Purushotham Tukkaraja, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mining Engineering & Management. Tukkaraja joined SD Mines in 2009 and has received funding for a major research grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for modeling gas emissions and ventilation in block caving mines. Tukkaraja also has received grant funding from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. At the state level, he has been successful in obtaining funding as co-principal investigator with the Shale Research Initiative and Research & Development Innovation Grant, as well as competitive research funded by the Board of Regents.
  • Phil Ahrenkiel, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Nanoscience & Nanoengineering Program. Ahrenkiel joined SD Mines in 2006 and is an expert in the field of the structural characterization of solar materials and the development of novel high-efficiency solar cells. Ahrenkiel’s research at SD Mines is well-funded by the Department of Energy. Several years ago, he served as the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation-MRI grant, which provided SD Mines with a state-of-the-art transition electron microscope valued at $700,000.


About SD Mines  

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact: Fran LeFort, (605) 394-6082, Fran.LeFort@sdsmt.edu

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