SD EPSCoR Names New Director

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August 26, 2022

South Dakota EPSCoR Names New Director

The South Dakota Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) has named Dr. Kinchel C. Doerner as director of the program beginning August 15, 2022. Doerner replaces Dr. Mel Ustad, who has served as director since 2019.

Ustad will remain the lead Principal Investigator (PI) on the current five-year NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 award that involves six South Dakota public universities, two private universities, three tribal colleges, and state agencies. The project’s objective is to develop South Dakota’s research infrastructure, support STEM education and technology-based economic development.

Formerly dean of the College of Natural Science and Mathematics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 2019, Doerner has served on the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance Cabinet and on the board of directors for the Council of Graduate Schools. Doerner will serve as lead Principal Investigator (PI) on the new proposal that is under development for the next cycle of NSF RII Track-1 (2024-29) funding.

Prior to his position in Alaska, Doerner was the dean of the Graduate School at South Dakota State University (SDSU). While at SDSU from 2012-19, he also served as the interim vice president of research and economic development, as well as the interim dean of the newly formed College of Natural Sciences. Doerner oversaw the approval of many master’s and doctoral programs, expanded the collaboration of graduate programs within the state, and improved the legal and policy framework for graduate education.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Doerner as our director of SD EPSCoR,” said Darren Haar, chair of the REACH Committee, which oversees South Dakota’s EPSCoR programs. “Dr. Doerner’s education, academic background, and experience will be invaluable as South Dakota seeks to advance research opportunities within our state.”

Doerner received a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spent four years as a postdoctoral research scientist at the Medical College of Virginia-Virginia Commonwealth University and 16 years at Western Kentucky University (WKU), where he achieved the rank of full professor of biology. While at WKU, he also served as interim dean of Graduate Studies and Research.


About SD EPSCoR:

EPSCoR, originally developed by the NSF, is designed to expand research opportunities in states that have traditionally received less funding in federal support for university research. SD EPSCoR helps build partnerships between K-12, higher education, state government, and the private sector to enrich research, education and economic development throughout the state. SD EPSCoR is supported by NSF/EPSCoR Award OIA-1849206 and by the South Dakota Board of Regents. Learn more at


Peggy Kapusta
Communications Director, SD EPSCoR
4701 N. Career Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57107
Phone: 605-274-9534 I Facebook I Twitter