From Concordia to NASA: Concordia’s Innovation Scholars deliver their final research to NASA officers

Concordia's 2024 Innovation Scholars. Front row from left: Sharon Mac-George Nwabia, Sierra Ramberg, Bryce Paulson. Second row: Kipton Jenson and student advisor Joseph Thayer

After months of research, this year’s Innovation Scholars had the opportunity of a lifetime:  presenting project recommendations to Technology Transfer officers of NASA. The presentation, which took place in Minneapolis, was the final part of the Innovation Scholars Program for the team. 

The nationally-recognized IS Program acts as an experiential learning program with the goal of engaging groups of liberal arts students in the intricate web of translational medicine. 

This year, Concordia’s IS team explored a project involving NASA’s biomedical portfolio, focusing on water filtration systems with the potential to turn potable water to medical grade water to produce sterile IV fluids. 

“The program is much more than an exercise — it is a real-world experience that demands creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, and perseverance. Students develop a number of valuable transferable skills regardless of the specific topic or innovation they are researching,” said Dr. Krys Strand, the group's mentor and director of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity at Concordia.  

Kipton Jenson, Concordia student and IS team member, agreed with Strand, saying, “The experience on the Innovation Scholars team equipped me with dynamic collaboration and project management skills that I will carry into any future career. It was an honor to work alongside an exceptional team of students and mentors while researching a device innovated by a renowned government agency.”

Concordia’s Innovation Scholars team consists of four multidisciplinary students: Jenson ‘24, Sharon Mac-George Nwabia ‘24, Bryce Paulson ‘24, and Sierra Ramberg ‘24. The team is currently led by Joseph Thayer, who is an MBA student for the University of St. Thomas.

Students agreed the experience taught them valuable life skills.

“Standing up in front of NASA representatives giving the presentation that we have prepared, there is no other experience like that in my 19 years of life. I will carry this into my career, and this was a milestone that I have been waiting for. For this opportunity, I am forever grateful,” Paulson said.

For many of the students, teamwork was a key takeaway. Ramburg said that “discovering the value of cohesive teamwork, utilizing the unique academic strengths and backgrounds of team members” had a large impact on her experience.

“The part of the program that made the biggest impact on me was the learning experience interacting with the diverse perspectives of students from interdisciplinary fields. Through this collaborative work, I was challenged to learn in different ways from what I was used to,” Mac-George Nwabia said. “This great learning opportunity has allowed a lot of self-growth for me personally in terms of teamwork, communication, feedback, and leadership.”

Written by Olivia Slyter '25