December 18, 2018

Mayville State University junior Creighton Pfau was featured in the November 2018 edition of the North Dakota EPSCoR newsletter. In addition to his work as a student and researcher, Pfau is a member of the varsity football and men’s basketball teams at Mayville State. His hometown is West Fargo, N.D.

The mission of N.D. EPSCoR is to increase the competitiveness of North Dakota for merit-based federal grants and contracts supporting research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In this mission, N.D. EPSCoR seeks to provide leadership and teamwork that supports workforce development and enhances and broadens the K-12 STEM pathway.

The article that appeared in the EPSCoR newsletter is as follows:

He broke his foot while playing freshman football, recalled Creighton Pfau, now a junior at Mayville State University. “I got to see what a podiatrist could do, and he (Timothy Uglem, DPM at Sanford Health) made the whole experience really easy,” Pfau said. That experience stimulated Pfau’s interest in medicine and the idea of some day having his own practice, prompting his double major in biology and business.

Last summer, Pfau took another career step, exploring the research side of medicine, thanks to North Dakota EPSCoR’s (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Distributed Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. He participated in a joint research project between Mayville and the University of North Dakota, exploring ways that a diabetic medicine could be absorbed into a bio-based material such as chickpeas to create a more readily absorbable form within a human body.

“It was interesting to work on an alternative way to help people who have diabetes,” Pfau said. Because medicines can be so expensive, this early-stage research may offer a more affordable alternative in the future.

“I’d only had two chemistry classes prior to the REU,” he said, “so it helped a lot with my understanding of chemistry and what’s involved in research.”

He gave kudos to some of his mentors on the journey, including Brett Nespor, a chemistry graduate student at the University of North Dakota, who introduced Pfau to high-tech lab analyses; Alena Kubatova, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor in chemistry at UND, who taught him that research needs to be repeatable, organized, and easily communicated to others, including those without a background in the field; and Khwaja Hossain, professor of biology at Mayville State, who helped Pfau explore career options and develop teamwork skills.

“I learned a lot about chemistry and biology, and was able to make connections,” Pfau said. “Having this background will help me as I continue to study medicine.

“The research was important because it could potentially make a difference to people who need more affordable alternatives. If the research expands to using soybeans, that will also have an impact on farmers in North Dakota. For Mayville State, it shows we’re doing our part in research and the advancement of science. We’re a little school, but doing big things.”