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CBS News - February 2006

FROM THE DEAN

Interest in renewable energy is revving up

When President Bush announced his goal of reducing dependency on foreign oil 75 percent by 2025, you could almost hear interest in renewable energy revving up. And in the coming days, editorial pages across the country picked up on the theme. The statement became a catalyst that elevated the issue to a new level.  

Sadly, the President’s proposed budget did not reflect his goal. There was virtually no increase in his recommendations for energy spending. The only mention of reducing foreign oil dependency was support for drilling in Alaska. And to add further irony, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado was recently forced to lay people off because of budget cuts.

But the buzz about renewable energy lingers. People know that the Earth is running out of gas. They know that fossil fuels increase atmospheric carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming. They know how risky it is to rely on Middle Eastern oil to drive to work and heat their homes.

We need to take advantage of this opportunity to advocate for increased government spending on alternative energy. We need to work within the University and with industry partners in Minnesota to advance research and applications.

Thanks to the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), we are prepared. Since gaining support from the 2003 Minnesota Legislature, IREE has assembled a large group of constituents from the University, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. We have awarded $17 million for more than 100 research projects ranging from basic research on hydrogen fuel cells to biorefining and public outreach.

The next step is to create the National Center for Biofuels Research (NCBR). Located within the St. Paul Biotechnology Precinct (as approved by the Board of Regents in 2000) the facility will provide a nexus where people from the University, industry, and government agencies such as the DOE and USDA can advance research and technology.

The timing to move ahead with the NCBR building couldn’t be better. Minnesota is well positioned to be a national leader in renewable energy. We have the right mix of research and business expertise. Our agriculture and forestry sectors provide an abundance of biomass. And we have the incentive. This new industry is just what we need to revitalize our rural economy and to ensure the strength of Minnesota’s economy for generations to come. 

If we don’t act quickly, other states will. Michigan already is considering a substantial investment to position the state for renewable energy leadership. Other states will soon be following suit.

Bob Elde

NEWS

CBS begins planning to address demographic and workforce changes

With the aging of the “baby boom” generation, three employees will leave Minnesota’s workforce over the next decade for every two who join it. This will create a worker shortage by 2010 or 2015. Three out of four new jobs in Minnesota are expected to be in science and technology. Migration of people from other cultures into Minnesota and the high birth rates of those cultures are increasing diversity of the workforce pool.

At a meeting in late January, CBS and IT faculty learned about these demographic trends and discussed how the University of Minnesota can prepare to train the state’s next generation of workers for science and technology jobs. Guest speakers were State Economist Tom Stinson; State Demographer Tom Gillaspy; and Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota.  

The joint CBS/IT meeting in January was the first step in the CBS diversity planning process. Next steps include conducting a CBS survey on diversity; defining CBS diversity philosophy and objectives; and preparing a diversity plan to be implemented in May and June of this year.   

CBS and IT career centers merge

CBS and the Institute of Technology have merged career centers to better serve students, alumni, and employers. Sharing resources will allow staff to devote more time to developing relationships with employers that could benefit both colleges. The joint office, called the Career Center for Science and Engineering (CCSE), is located in 50 Lind Hall on the Minneapolis campus. Services include career counseling and exploration, resume-writing workshops, job postings, and on-campus interviewing. For a complete list of services, go to t.umn.edu/ Mark Sorenson-Wagner is director. Call 612-624-4090 or send an email to ccse@umn.edu for more information.

CBS alumnus triples scholarship gift through UM, employer matches

CBS alumnus Kien Nguyen and his wife, Julie Warren, have created an endowed scholarship for undergraduate students in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development. The couple’s original donation of $10,000 has been increased more than threefold by matching funds from TCF, his employer, Johnson & Johnson, and the University of Minnesota.

Nguyen’s initial pledge payment of $2,000 was matched by the TCF Match for first-time donors. Johnson & Johnson provided a 2:1 match, and the UM President’s Scholarship will match earnings on the endowment fund.

Nguyen graduated from the College of Biological Sciences in 1991 with a B.S. in genetics. Warren is also a graduate of the University of Minnesota. Nguyen and Warren now live in Pennsylvania. Contact Laurie Hennen, CBS Development Director at hennen@umn.edu if you would like information about creating or contributing to CBS scholarship funds.

U’s new budget model shifts all revenues and costs to colleges

When the new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2006 the University will move to a new budget model called  “Earned Income/Full Cost.” In essence, the new model means that academic units will get all of the revenue they generate and pay all of the costs they incur, including costs for infrastructure and central administration. Only the state appropriation and a few institutional fees will continue to be recorded as central revenue and allocated to academic units.

The reason for the change is to have a simple and responsive budget model that supports the University’s values, allows for long-term financial investments, and addresses the overhead needs while providing reliable, stable and predictable incentives for sound financial planning and strong fiscal management, according to President Bruininks.  

Finance Director Jeff Thomas is making plans to implement the new model for the College of Biological Sciences.

U will ask Legislature for $206.1 million for new buildings and maintenance when the 2006 session begins March 1

When the 2006 Minnesota Legislature convenes in March the University of Minnesota will submit a request for $206.1 million to maintain and update existing facilities and to construct several new buildings. The request is divided among the following areas: 

  • $80 million for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement
  • $39.9 million for the Carlson School of Management expansion
  • $23 million for the Labovitz School of Business and Economics
  • $62 million for a science teaching and student services center
  • $60 million for a medical bioscience building
  • $4.2 million for research centers and field stations

$750,000 for visiting faculty housing at Cedar Creek Natural History Area is included in the $4.2 million for research centers and field stations. The housing is part of the plan to add 22,000 square feet of space for research, education, and outreach to Cedar Cedar Creek Natural History Area.

Governor Pawlenty’s budget supports $127.6 million of the U’s capital request, including several new buildings and half of the HEAPR amount but does not include the $4.2 million for outreach centers and field stations.

Please contact your legislators and ask them to support the U’s entire request, including funds for Cedar Creek Natural History Area. For contact information, go to http://www1.umn.edu/groots/index.php.

Complete a wellness assessment and receive $65

The assessment, part of the UPlan’s new Health Connections program, must be completed between January 12 and April 30, 2006. All University of Minnesota employees are eligible. Health Connections provides resources for employees to evaluate and improve their health and well being.

PEOPLE

Meggan Craft (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) spoke about efforts to conserve lions and to protect African villagers from lion attacks at the Distinguished Scholars Lecture Series on January 18, in New York at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The same day she also gave an interview about lions that was simultaneously broadcast on cable TV (WXXI-TV) and public radio (WXXI).  Craft, a graduate student for Craig Packer (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) also studies Serengeti carnivores and their disease dynamics.

Jeffrey Gralnick (Biotechnology Institute) has been at McMurdo Station in Antarctica studying Shewanella oneidensis a type of bacteria found in aquatic environments worldwide, for its potential as a source of energy. He posted Web log entries and photos about his activities, which can be found at www.bti.umn.edu/antarctica. The program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Gralnick is an assistant professor.

Graduate students Yang Kang (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics) and Laura Diaz-Martinez (Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development) will have a paper published in the March issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology titled “UBL/UBA Ubiquitin Receptor Proteins Bind a Common Tetraubiquitin Chain.”  This paper contributes to the ubiquitin-proteasome field by defining how ubiquitin receptor proteins interact with each other and collaborative to bind polyubiquitin chains. 

Helene Muller-Landau (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) is co-author of a paper in the January 27 issue of Science titled “Nonrandom Processes Maintain Diversity in Tropical Forests.”  The study, conducted on undisturbed forest plots in seven countries across the world, demonstrates that nature encourages diversity by selective for rare trees as trees within a forest mature. Rare trees may have an advantage because they are less vulnerable to animals, fungi, and microorganisms that prey on common trees and because they don’t have the same resource needs as common trees. To read the complete article, go to http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/311/5760/527 Landau is an assistant professor.

Graduate students Ted Stets, Jim Hood, Becky Stark (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) created alimnology demonstration project as part of a public arts project called the Medicine Lake Art Shanty Project (ASP). Their “Science Shanty” is unique among the art shanties because it is science-based and provides education about lake ecology.  The shanty provides microscopic views of lake water samples and water quality data. The EEB students are using solar energy to provide power for the shanty.  For more information, go to http://www.artshantyprojects.org Other graduate students who worked at the shanty are Leah Laurich, Jacob Egge, Ed Hall, Brett Nagle, Kate Phillips, Jon Kenning, and Chris Lenhart, Graduate student

Naixia Zhang (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics) won a Scholar-In-Training award of $1,000 to attend the American Association of Cancer Research Special Conference entitled "Ubiquitin and Cancer: From Molecular Targets and Mechanisms to the Clinic."

EVENTS

Fire and Ice: Extreme Adventures from the Arctic to the Equator
Seals at the Coldest Continent
February 26, 2:00 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium
http://www.bellmuseum.org/
Donald Siniff, professor emeritus, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, will chronicle his travels to the Antarctic, the Earth’s coldest, least hospitable continent. Siniff studies seals that live in the region’s waters and pack ice, and spent much of his time at McMurdo station and on the ship Hero, a 125-foot wooden-hulled research vessel.