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CBS News - November 2009

From the Dean | College news | Research | People | Events | FYI

From the dean

Tightening our belts once again …

The University has initiated a new planning process to adjust to the reality of continued decline in financial support from the state while continuing to improve the quality of education and research.

That’s obviously a tall order, but one that I believe can be achieved by focusing on strengths. Provost Tom Sullivan has asked each college to form a leadership committee to review college goals and programs and make recommendations for priorities.

Toward that end, I have convened the CBS Dean’s Advisory Council on Priorities comprising department heads, the CBS Consultative Committee, the Educational Policy Committee, students and alumni. The process includes a kick-off of the entire council and several meetings of smaller working groups concluding with a half-day retreat. The council will submit their recommendations to me by early February so they can be used in our compact and budget meeting with the Provost in March.

Three working groups will address the following issues:

  • Tuition Revenue (Dave Bernlohr, Chair). Explore strategies for increasing tuition revenue.
  • Academic and Administrative Effectiveness and Efficiency (Scott Lanyon, Chair). Consider organizational strategies to improve the way we work and share resources.
  • Scope of CBS Mission (Kate VandenBosch, Chair). Re-examine CBS’ mission and identify distinctive contributions of CBS programs.

Declining state support and increasing reliance on tuition revenue is a national trend. The University of California Board of Regents just approved a 32% tuition increase to compensate for loss of state funding. There is an historic shift underway in support for public universities that will require innovative strategies for generating revenue and administrative efficiency to ensure academic quality and affordability for students.

I will report back to you about our progress in February. In the meantime, I wish to express my appreciation to all the members of the advisory council for their work and creativity in the months ahead.

Bob Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences

College news

Itasca legislative efforts gain momentum

Governor Tim Pawlenty’s office received well over 200 letters November 23 from College of Biological Sciences students, faculty, staff and alumni in support of Itasca Biological Station. The letter-writing campaign is the first step in an effort to win funding in the 2010 state budget. The letters were timed to arrive as the governor begins to shape his own budget, which will be delivered to the legislature in mid-January. The legislature is likely to fund only about a third of the nearly $3 billion in requests it receives.

The college has also launched a website (itasca.umn.edu) detailing the $5.5 million capital request — $3.7 million of which will come from the legislature and the rest from donors — for phase one of the $8 million Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories construction plan approved by the U. The site explains why the field station needs the funding and what supporters can do to influence the legislative process during the upcoming session.

CBS students recognized for academics, community service

Three of this year’s 12 undergraduate Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards went to College of Biological Sciences students. Thuy Nguyen-Tran, Yee Xiong and Ifeanyi Anwah received the awards, which honor outstanding diverse undergraduates across the University for academic excellence, work in research labs and community service, November 19 at a ceremony in the McNamara Alumni Center. Read more.

Research

Clues to yield-boosting quirks of corn genome

[Science and PLoS Genetics | 11.20.09]

With help from the newly released DNA sequence of the common corn strain B73, Associate Professor Nathan Springer (PBIO) and colleagues from outside the U compared the genetic sequence of B73 with that of a second inbred strain, Mo17. They discovered an astonishing abundance of two kinds of structural variations between the pair: differences in the copy number of multiple copies of certain stretches of genetic material, and the presence of large chunks of DNA in one but not the other. The findings could lead to the production of true-breeding lines of corn with specific traits for specific uses, which translates to better use of land, fertilizer, fuel and other inputs needed to grow crops, and, ultimately, less environmental impact.

Putting fungi in their proper place

[Trends in Microbiology | 9.25.09]

Professor David McLaughlin (PBIO) contributed a review describing progress in developing a phylogenetic classification of fungi for the National Science Foundation’s Fungal Tree of Life Project. “The Search for the Fungal Tree of Life” was published in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

 

New research grants

Associate Professor Jacques Finlay and Professor Robert Sterner (EEB) recently received a four-year $824,761 National Science Foundation grant for a study titled “Sources and Sinks of Stoichiometrically Imbalanced Nitrate in the Laurentian Great Lakes.” Bowling Green State University received an additional $343,290 for its part in the project.

CBS Dean Robert Elde, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience, received $203,848 in federal stimulus funding to analyze the interaction between sensory nerves and the epidermis of the skin. The study — “What causes painful nerve conditions?” — is designed to yield insights into the causes of pain in the nerves directly underneath the skin, or peripheral neuropathies.

People

Dean Robert Elde received the 2009 Legacy Award from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment for his role in creating, launching and nurturing the initiative at the University of Minnesota.

Kate VandenBosch (PBIO), professor and head of the Department of Plant Biology, was named a fellow by the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Get to know Erin Fider in the latest CBS People feature. She has served as program associate for Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories for almost four years and spends three months a year at the field station.

CBS undergraduate Nick Beermann (EEB) presented research on the use of video podcasting in biology education at the National Association for Biology Teachers annual meeting in Denver earlier this month.

Professor Robert Zink (EEB) traveled to Alexandria, Egypt November 14 to give a lecture, titled “Darwin Now,” at the invitation of the British Council.

The Imaging Center’s Tracy Anderson placed second in the popular vote in Nikon’s Small World competition for a micro image.

Plant Biological Sciences graduate faculty members Carroll Vance (Agronomy/Plant Genetics) and Kate VandenBosch (department head, PBIO) along with Mark O’Brian (SUNY-Buffalo) edited the November issue of Plant Physiology, which focuses on the biology of legumes.

Events

NSF Research Panel Discussion

Attend a panel presentation by U faculty who have recently served in various capacities at the National Science Foundation. They will share recent themes and strategies that should be useful for submitting proposals to the NSF. The panel will feature: Bob Sterner (EEB), Martha Flanders (Neuroscience), Jerry Cohen (Horticultural Science) and Anne-Francoise Lamblin (U of M Interdisciplinary Informatics, OVPR).

DETAILS: 6-135 Jackson Hall | December 16 | noon–1 p.m.

FYI

Follow the College of Biological Sciences and the University of Minnesota Legislative Network Twitter feeds for updates about opportunities to support Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories during the upcoming legislative session.