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CBS News - March 2007

From the Dean | News | Trendwatch | Research | People | Events | FYI

FROM THE DEAN

 

CBS Compact for 07–08 includes new research initiative

It’s beginning to feel a lot like spring, the season of renewal for nature and for compacts and budgets at the University of Minnesota.

Although the University has only used compacts since 2002, they have become an important tool for evaluating progress on long-term goals and identifying new ones.

CBS’ 2007–08 compact, which we submitted on March 6, includes several goals carried over from last year.

  • Increasing support for graduate education;
  • Increasing the impact of research;
  • Developing the best undergraduate curriculum in the United States;
  • And, with several other colleges, positioning the U as a national center of excellence for research on renewable energy and the environment

We’ve made substantial progress towards achieving each of these and have added steps we need to take over the next year to continue moving forward. You will be able to read about these when the Provost approves the compact and we post the document online.

This year we are also adding a new goal, to develop the Initiative in Cellular Dynamics and Imaging.

Our new goal reflects advances in imaging technology that make it possible to visualize and understand the function of a single molecule in a living cell. Cell and developmental biologists, who are at the forefront of this rapidly developing field, are using the new technology to learn how cells function at a basic level and to gain insights into the underlying mechanisms of human disease. This research forms an important bridge between determining the function of proteins (using combinatorial probes developed by chemical biologists) and understanding the function of ensembles of cells (using non-invasive imaging as exemplified by Kamil Ugurbil in the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research).

Similar initiatives have been developed by UC Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin and the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Being competitive in this area of research will enhance the University’s ability to recruit outstanding faculty and graduate students.

Planning for the initiative is already well under way. Faculty in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development have developed a white paper and are planning a symposium to bring leading experts in this field to the U this summer or fall. The University has ordered a $2 million cryo-electron microscope (with funds from the Office of the VP for Research and the Academic Health Center) that will be located in Hasselmo Hall. CBS and the Medical School plan to recruit several new faculty members with expertise in imaging technology to support this initiative. Other plans include establishing a seminar program, a biennial symposium and a seed-grant program.

This is an exciting new development that I believe will help elevate the University’s research profile, attract outstanding faculty and students, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and advance research in many areas, including cancer biology, infectious disease, muscular dystrophy, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disease.

I will keep you posted as this new initiative develops and as our compact moves through the process towards completion.

Bob Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences

NEWS

Claudia Neuhauser named Distinguished McKnight Professor

 

Ecology, Evolution and Behavior department head Claudia Neuhauser has been selected as a Distinguished McKnight Professor by the University of Minnesota Graduate School and the Office of the Provost.

Recipients are chosen based on their research, education and community contributions. A $100,000 grant accompanies the award.

Neuhauser, who has published a calculus textbook geared toward biology undergraduates titled Calculus for Biology and Medicine, works at the interface between mathematics and biology. She brings a unique quantitative perspective to the discipline—both as an educator and a researcher—at a critical time in its evolution.

In the latter role, she is developing new mathematical tools to model, analyze and interpret this information. Neuhauser’s research addresses the effects of spatial structure on community dynamics. She also conducts research in population genetics where she has developed statistical tools based on genealogical analysis of samples of genes.

Her efforts to integrate mathematics into undergraduate biology curriculum have led to recognition both within and beyond the University. She was named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and has received the Morse University of Alumni Award for Education. The National Science Foundation has awarded Neuhauser two $3 million grants—a Biocomplexity and an IGERT grant—to support research and training initiatives.

Neuhauser has also played a vital role in the University’s strategic positing efforts as co-chair of the Science and Engineering Task Force. She recently led an effort involving nearly a hundred researchers and educators at the University of Minnesota and about ten partner institutions to create a proposal to establish a Center for Bioenergy Research with one of two $125-million DOE grants to be awarded this summer.

Cedar Creek sees the light(s)

The walls may still be unfinished, but the lights are on inside the new Cedar Creek Science and Interpretive Center. With a grand opening slated for late spring, construction on the new buildings is progressing at a rapid pace.

Itasca plans begin to take shape

Initial plans are in the works for a new campus center and renovations to existing buildings at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Dean Elde recently met to discuss the master plan for Itasca with The Environmental Education Studio of Partners & Sirny Architects. The firm also designed the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center at Itasca.

Legislation to boost renewable energy use puts CBS in spotlight

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Provost Tom Sullivan, Dean Elde, a handful of state legislators and a capacity crowd gathered at the Cargill building on the St. Paul campus last month for the signing of an historic renewable energy bill. The governor signed the law, dubbed “25-by-2025,” within view of the IREE offices, a hub for renewable energy research at the University. The law mandates that 25 percent of the state’s electricity needs must be met by renewable energy sources by 2025.

Interest in renewable energy research among state politicos kept Dean Elde busy last month with multiple presentations to lawmakers at the state Legislature. The dean, along with David Tilman, also met with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation in Washington D.C. to talk about current research efforts at the U.

Got answers? We’ve got questions … lots of them

Are humans still evolving? Can avian flu be transmitted to all birds—even emus? Can we transmit energy wirelessly? Unanswered biology-related questions submitted through the Driven to Discover website are now in one convenient location online. Queries are organized into several handy categories: climate, environment and renewable energy, evolution, and animal and human behavior. There’s something for everyone. College of Biological Sciences faculty members with expertise or interest in any of these areas are encouraged to submit answers to these “greatest single questions” to Peggy Rinard. Answers should be limited to 300 words. See examples.

TRENDWATCH

Women continue to make gains in sciences, engineering

A report by the National Science Foundation spotlights the continuing trend toward more women pursuing and earning degrees in the sciences and engineering. Women have earned more science and engineering bachelor’s degrees than men since 2000, the report notes.

Licensing income up, start-ups down at major research universities

A survey by the Association of University Technology Managers indicates that even as the number of licensing deals at universities went up, the number of start-ups declined precipitously. At least two dozen universities earned more than $10-million from licensing of rights to new drugs, software and other inventions in fiscal year 2005, according to the survey. The University of Minnesota was in the top ten licensing income earners, but only one start-up was formed based on University research.

Related content: Nine points to consider in licensing university technology

Some scientists back de-emphasis of Darwin

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science evolutionary biologist Ulrich Kutschera suggested de-emphasizing the role of Charles Darwin in discussion of evolution. He and other scientists favor a shift away from terms such as “Darwinian” in an effort to change perceptions of evolution as an ideology rather than a well-developed field of study.

RESEARCH

Study identifies gene disruption with possible link to autism

Scott Selleck, professor and director of the Development Biology Center, led a team of researchers who have identified a region of chromosome 10 susceptible to recurrent chromosome rearrangements. The region affects genes critical for normal neural and behavioral development. Disruptions of genes in this region affect language development and may contribute to disorders such as autism. The study, which will be published in the May print edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics and available pre-print online, is titled “Recurrent 10q22-23 deletions: A genomic disorder on 10q associated with cognitive and behavioral abnormalities.”

PEOPLE

Naoko Shima (GCD) has been awarded a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award from March of Dimes for a project titled “A DNA Repair Enzyme HEL308: Its Role in the Maintenance of Primordial Germ Cells.”

An article about the tenth annual International Symposium on Bacterial Polyesters (ISBP), (PDF) organized by Friedrich Srienc (BTI), appeared in last month’s issue of Canadian Chemical News. The event brought 130 American, Asian and European researchers to the University of Minnesota last year to share dozens of presentations.

EVENTS

The Secret of Photo 51

WHEN: Sunday, March 22 | 7 p.m.
WHERE: Bell Museum of Natural History | East Bank campus
TICKETS: $5–$7

This film examines the role of biologist/crystallographer Rosalind Franklin in the discovery of DNA, arguing that, if not for her astonishing x-ray photograph, Watson and Crick would never have been able to make their Nobel Prize-winning discovery.

Great Conversations: The Future of Education

WHEN: March 27 | 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Ted Mann Concert Hall | Minneapolis
TICKETS: $23.50–$28.50

Two innovators changing the way we provide education in America share their insights. CBS Dean Robert Elde envisions the future of K–12 education with Larry Rosenstock, founder and CEO of High Tech High in San Diego.

2007 Undergraduate Symposium

WHEN: April 18 | 1–6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Coffman Union | East Bank campus

Celebrate the research, creativity and scholarship of undergraduates at the University of Minnesota. Take in an array of poster presentations, talk with students about their projects and see the level of their understanding, innovation and passion for science at this annual event.

FYI

March 16: The University of Minnesota is closed.

April 4–5: The CBS Greenhouse and Plant Biology Phytograds are hosting a plant sale April 4–5 from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. at the St. Paul Student Center.

Registration for summer field biology courses at Itasca State Park begins next month. Students can earn up to eight credits in only 3–5 weeks taking immersion courses in ecology, mammalogy, ornithology, animal behavior, telemetry, aquatic ecotoxicology, field digital photography and ecological genetics. Visit www.cbs.umn.edu/itasca or call 612-624-6743 for more information.