Dr. Kevin D. Kephart is director of scientific engagement and communications for Indigo Ag. Inc. (Indigo), based in Charlestown, MA. Indigo develops microbial endophytes to enhance crop production without additional synthetic chemicals, irrigation, or other such inputs. Kephart has been employed at Indigo since August 2017 and his responsibilities include development and implementation of communications strategies for Indigo’s research and development section. Prior to his employment with Indigo, Kephart retired after a 30-year career with South Dakota State University (SDSU), with the last eleven years serving as Vice President for Research and Economic Development. For seven years he was the director of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and provided oversight for the state-wide agricultural research portfolio. From 1986 to 1998, Kephart was a professor of plant science and conducted field-based research and instruction on crop production and physiology of forages, biomass energy feedstocks, wheat, and soybeans. He also developed applications of near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy for constituent analysis of crops. Funding sources for Kephart’s research were the state of South Dakota, crop commodity organizations, USDA, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation, and private companies. He has published numerous scientific articles and served on boards and committees for professional societies, such as the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America. Kephart also served as associate editor for Agronomy Journal from 1991 to 1995. From 2011 to 2016 he served on the Technical Advisory Committee of the USDA/Department of Energy Biomass R&D Initiative and he co-chaired the committee from 2012 to 2016. Kephart is currently president of the South Dakota Biotechnology Association. Kephart earned a BS degree in Agricultural Sciences from Montana State University (1979), an MS in Agronomy from the University of Wyoming (1982), and a Ph.D. degree in Crop Production and Physiology from Iowa State University (1987).


 Kevin Kephart, Ph.D.
Indigo Ag



Sue Lancaster
Vice President



Lewis_Steve_web.jpgSteve Lewis, Vice President of Technology and Innovation, has been with POET since August 1998. Lewis's primary focus while at POET has been on continued production advances in dry grind ethanol plants. Lewis has 33 years of experience in industrial biotechnology.

Prior to joining POET, Lewis served as an Applications Specialist at Genencor International in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lewis received a B.S. in Microbiology from Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and a Master of Business Administration from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio. He also studied Food Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Lewis currently resides in Sioux Falls, S.D., with his wife and 3 children. 

Steve Lewis

Engebretson,dan.jpgDan Engebretson earned his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry in 1997 from Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI under the direction of Drs. Daniel Nocera and George Leroi.  After graduate school he took the position of Senior Scientist at Dakota Technologies, Inc. in Fargo, ND.  He then accepted the position of Senior Research Specialist at the Avera Research Institute in Sioux Falls, SD.  After Avera he joined The University of South Dakota as the Director of the Center for Research and Development of Light-Activated Materials, a position he still holds in addition to his duties as the Chair of Biomedical Engineering and the Director of the Graduate Education and Applied Research Center.   

Dr. Engebretson’s major research interests are the development Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)-based sensors for in vitro diagnostics and targeted drug delivery.  His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and the Department of Transportation.

Daniel Engebretson, Ph.D.


Rollie Nevins



Rollie Nevins is Chief Operating Officer and Business Development Manager for RTI, LLC. of Brookings, SD. RTI is a leading contract research organization serving the animal health and nutrition industry. Specializing in biologicals for food animals, RTI’s clients include several Fortune 500 companies as well as multi-nationals, mid-size, and start-up bio-tech firms.

Nevins received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from the University of Minnesota. His agri-business career began with 10 years as a District Manager for Ralston Purina Co. Over the next 15 years his entrepreneurial efforts resulted in starting and serving as President of three livestock and agronomy supply companies. Upon selling these businesses he started and served as CEO of Supreme Pork, Inc. and RM Layers, LLC.

Nevins has served on boards of several professional and community organizations. He has dedicated a significant amount of volunteer effort to rural economic development including being one of the founders and Chairman of Deuel Area Development, Inc. There he helped lead the establishment of a state-recognized Entrepreneurial Resource Program.


Jill Weimer, Ph.D.

Weimer_Jill_WEB160x200 (1).jpgJill Weimer is the Senior Director of Therapeutic Development, and an Associate Scientist in the Pediatrics and Rare Diseases Group and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Sanford School of Medicine, USD. Before joining the Pediatrics and Rare Disease team at Sanford, Dr. Weimer completed a BS and PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Rochester and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the Neuroscience Center.



Jan Puszynski

Dr. Puszynski received his PhD in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague in 1980.  In 1982, he joined Chemical Engineering Department at the State University of New York at Buffalo, NY where he worked as a visiting assistant professor and later as a research professor for 9 years.  In 1991, he joined the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) as a faculty member. During his tenure at SDSM&T, he worked as a full professor of chemical engineering, college dean, and recently in April 2014 he was appointed as Vice President for Research.

Dr. Puszynski was educating both undergraduate and graduate students at SDSMT for almost twenty-three years.  During his tenure at SDSMT, he received multi-million awards and he established both national and international reputation in self-propagating high-temperature synthesis of advanced ceramic and intermetallic materials. 

Since 1996, Professor Puszynski has been working as the PI on several R&D projects funded by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Division (NSWC IHEODTD) and other DoD organizations. In 1999/2000, he spent one year-long sabbatical leave working at NSWC IHEODTD.  During his stay at Indian Head he assisted this Navy’s Center in designing, building, and testing of a new installation for continuous production of aluminum nanopowders using a low pressure evaporation/condensation process.  At that time, this was the first installation in USA capable of producing of hundreds of grams of Al nanopowders.  The aluminum nanopowders produced by the R&D team from NSWC IHEODT, Dr. Puszynski was a member, were favorable tested by the Navy, Army, Air Force, DoE, and other government agencies. Later on, Professor Puszynski got involved in a full characterization of aluminum nanopowders and development of metastable nanoenergetic composites (MNC).  In 2001, Dr. Puszynski together with research collaborators from three other U.S. universities received the first Defense University Research Initiative on Nanotechnology grant from the Army Research Office and his research group joined the DoD Center on Nanoenergetic Research. 

As a result of a close interaction with Aartridge Actuated Devices and propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PAD) Division of NSWC IHEODT, Dr. Puszynski in 1999 established Innovative Materials and Processes, LLC company (IMP).  Since its inception, IMP has significantly grown and got involved in numerous direct contracts and SBIR projects funded by U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.  Dr. Puszynski, jointly with his R&D team at IMP Company developed an automated process of water based mixing and precise metering of nanothermite slurry into application hardware.  Recently, this integrated process is considered by the U.S. Army as an alternative technology for future large-scale production of small and medium caliber primers.

In 2011/2012, Dr. Puszynski spent his second sabbatical leave at CAD/PAD Division at NSWC IHEODT.  During his last stay at this organization he was involved in development of a new propellant replacing ammonium perchlorate as a key oxidizer.  His other duties included troubleshooting of key technological aspects of production of propellants for CAD/PAD devices.

Professor Puszynski’s expertise is in reaction engineering, energetic materials, materials science and mathematical modeling of reactive systems. He has published over one-hundred seventy five scientific papers and presented more than two-hundred papers and invited seminars at national and international conferences.  During his professional career, he supervised numerous graduate M.S. and Ph.D. students, who presently work in industry and academia. Professor Puszynski is also a co-author of several patents submitted by CAD/PAD Division at NSWC IHEODT and other DoD organizations. He is also a recipient of several national and international awards. In the past, he served as a president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Energetic Materials Group, which promotes research and education in the area of energetics.  In 2010, he was elected as a fellow of AIChE and recently received Life Achievement Award from Joint Navy/Air Force Program in recognition of his enduring contributions to the CAD/PAD Joint Program.

 Stephen R. Statz, R.Ph., MBA


Stephen R. Statz, R.Ph., MBA, is Sr. Vice President of Business Development at Avera Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He has responsibility and oversight of Business Development, Avera Pharmacy, Avera Supply Chain, Avera PACE, Avera Couriers and the Northern Plains Premier Collaborative (NPPC) a partnership with the Regional Health System in Rapid City.   Prior to joining Avera Health, Steve was the Sr. Vice President of Hospital Operations at Avera McKennan where his responsibilities included all facets of Avera McKennan hospital operations.

Previously, Statz was President of Statz Companies, Inc. a family business with five retail pharmacies and six home medical equipment stores as well as president of Tel-Drug, Inc., a mail-order pharmacy business, which he sold to Cigna Companies in October of 1993. Statz holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from Creighton University and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Sioux Falls and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Steve is active in a number of professional organizations and currently serves on the following boards and committees:  Sioux Falls Development Foundation Board, South Dakota Technology Business Center Board (Chair), First Bank and Trust Board, South Dakota Biotech Association Board (Chair), South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organization Council on Long Term Care, Catholic Foundation of Eastern South Dakota, First Tee of South Dakota Board Liaison and is also active with the Avera / SDSU Research Collaborative. 

Past board appointments include serving as president and a board member of the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy, Past-President of the SDSU College of Pharmacy Advisory Board, Southeast Technical Institute Foundation Board Member, Founding member and former President of the South Dakota Family Business Council, Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation Development Committee, Board Member of Downtown Rotary Club, and a Board Member of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Steve and his wife Julie reside in Sioux Falls with their two children, Michael and Mary Kate.  


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Joni Johnson, executive director

South Dakota Biotech 
2329 N. Career Avenue, Ste. 115
Sioux Falls, SD 57107