Dr. Seelan Honored as Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor at May Commencement
Dr. Santhosh Seelan was honored as a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor at the Spring Commencement at UND. The Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorships were established with an endowment gift from the late benefactor Chester Fritz. The first Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor was named in 1973. Just 73 individuals have been designated as such, 30 of whom are currently on staff, including Space Studies Professor Mike Gaffey.
In nominating Santhosh Seelan for the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship, colleagues, graduates and students cited his dedication to quality teaching, his ability to guide and inspire students, his wide reputation for productive research and professional experience, and leadership within his department and the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. Bruce Smith, dean of the Odegard School, observed, “Dr. Seelan has the innate ability to gauge specific student learning needs and adjust his teaching style accordingly.”
A Space Studies alumnus wrote, “Dr. Seelan is an extraordinary teacher who had the ability to inspire, challenge and motivate me with his lectures and assignments. He is thoughtful, hardworking, creative, and an outstanding listener … he fosters a learning environment based on openness, collaboration and teaming in his classes.”
As chair of the Department of Space Studies, Seelan promotes high academic standards and strong commitment among faculty and students. Space Studies was honored with the UND Foundation/Thomas J. Clifford Award for Departmental Excellence in Teaching at the University’s Founders Day banquet last February. Seelan has been honored three times for outstanding service in advising student organizations.
Seelan came to UND in 1998 as a research associate with the Upper Midwest Aerospace Consortium (UMAC). He was the first chair of the newly formed Department of Earth System Science and Policy from 2003 until 2005, when he joined the faculty of the Department of Space Studies. He has served as chair of the Space Studies Department since 2010; he also serves as director of the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium and manages the NASA EPSCoR (Experimental Project to Stimulate Competitive Research) for North Dakota.
Colleagues in the School of Aerospace Sciences praised Seelan’s energy, managerial skills, mentorship, and collegiality. One observed, “As the current chair of the department, he exhibits incredible discernment in dealing with the many times difficult decisions that must be made in this position, and is fair in his interactions with all faculty and students.”
As a principal investigator or co-principal investigator, Seelan has been awarded more than $11 million in external funding, primarily from NASA. He has authored over 50 technical reports and made more than 70 presentations, many at the international level.
An alumnus wrote, “In his field of remote sensing and geospatial analysis, Dr. Seelan works tirelessly toward the application of cutting-edge technologies, not for personal enrichment but for the betterment of the global community. These techniques and capabilities that Dr. Seelan provides represent significant game-changing technologies for mitigating the risks of disease progression, protecting natural environments, securing the global commons, and improving the ability of developing nations to feed their citizens.”
Another nominator wrote, “Dr. Seelan actively pushes the frontier beyond the traditional academic realm. For him, publishing a scientific paper is not the end; instead, it is just the beginning of transferring scientific knowledge into societal benefit. Under his tireless effort, UMAC brought space technology into the homes of numerous farmers and ranchers, who not only saw increased profit but also became better stewards of the environment.”
Seelan received his B.Sc. in geology at Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India, in 1971; his M.Sc. in applied geology at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in 1974; a post-graduate diploma in groundwater research from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, in 1975; practical training in remote sensing for geosciences at the Free University of Berlin, Germany, in 1979; and the Ph.D. in remote sensing at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, India, in 1994.
Before coming to UND in 1998, Seelan worked with the Operations Research Group in Baroda, India; the National Remote Sensing Agency, Department of Space, Government of India, Hyderabad; and Terralink New Zealand Ltd.