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CBS News - October 2004

The UEL incubator is for faculty and students

Last week we celebrated an important milestone for University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL): the completion of our $9 million fundraising campaign and the beginning of renovation of wet labs, which will be ready for occupancy next spring and summer.

The event brings us a big step closer to hatching an idea that was conceived a few years ago when Perry Hackett came to me with his letter of resignation. He had accepted an offer from Stanford University because they could provide a place for him to develop his new technology, the Sleeping Beauty Transposon, a vehicle for gene therapy, and the University of Minnesota could not.

I made arrangements for Perry to use a laboratory in Snyder Hall and, happily, he decided to stay. Perry soon attracted some neighbors in Snyder Hall – a handful of homeless biotech start-up companies who were using services provided by Biodale, which is in the basement of Snyder Hall and Gortner Laboratory.

It became increasingly apparent that the University of Minnesota was not keeping up with other states, such as California, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Wisconsin in providing incubator space for faculty with promising new technologies. We were at risk of losing top faculty and students. So I teamed up with the University of Minnesota Foundation, the City of St. Paul, and Xcel Energy to do something about it.

At a press conference held on Monday, October 11, we had something to show for our efforts: $9 million in donations from the state’s leading companies, a building, a number of tenants moved into offices, and a list of companies ready to move into the laboratories. The media coverage was more than encouraging. Both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press published news articles and supportive editorials.

More than 50 years ago Earl Bakken – working at the suggestion of C. Walton Lillehei – created the pacemaker in his garage. But you need more than a garage, pliers, wire, and spare parts to develop new biological technologies. We hope that UEL will provide a  garage of a different kind where faculty like Perry Hackett can tinker with their inventions and launch new industries. It’s essential for retaining and recruiting the best faculty and students at CBS.

Bob Elde

Dean, College of Biological Sciences

News

CBS Associate Dean for Research finalists

Three final candidates for associate dean for research will be on campus for interviews over the next two weeks. Each will give a public presentation entitled "The Future of Biology” and answer questions. The search committee, which is headed by Claudia Neuhauser, professor and head of EEB, encourages faculty, staff, and students to attend. Evaluation forms will be available at each presentation.

Virginia Seybold, professor
Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota
October 19, 2004, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Cargill Building, seminar room 105, St. Paul campus

Huber Warner, associate director
National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
October 21,11:30 – 12:50 p.m.
2-520 Moos Tower, Minneapolis campus

Sondra Lazarowitz, professor
Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University
October 28, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Cargill Building, seminar room 105, St. Paul campus

Computational Analysis of Biological Networks – lectures and graduate seminar

All faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend a series of lectures by invited speakers on computational analysis of biological networks offered through departments this fall. The schedule is as follows:

“Genetic Network Modeling of Flowering Time Control”
Tuesday, October 26, 3:30 p.m.,105 Cargill
Steve Welch (Kansas State University)
Plant Biological Sciences Colloquium Series

“Computational Approaches to Complex Ecological Networks Elucidate ‘Devious Strategies’ for Stabilizing Diversity”
Wednesday, November 10, 4:00 p.m., 335 Borlaug
Neo Martinez (Pacific Ecoinformatics and Computational Ecology Lab)
Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Department Seminars

“Cell Signaling”
Tuesday, November 30, 1:25 p.m., B-75 Amundson
Doug Lauffenburger (MIT)
Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department Seminars

The lectures, which will be continued next semester, are coordinated by Claudia Neuhauser, Fumi Katagiri, and Neil Olszewski, with a grant from the Digital Technology Center. The grant also supports a graduate research training program in Computational Biological Networks (EEB 8990) which is held Mondays, 11:35 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., in 505 Ecology. Faculty, as well as graduate students, are welcome to attend this program, which runs parallel to the lectures by invited speakers. EEB 8990 focuses on reading and discussion of papers written by guest lecturers.

National Center for Biofuels Research envisioned for Minnesota

Governor Tim Pawlenty has stated his support to establish the University of Minnesota as a National Center of Excellence for Biofuels Research as part of a plan to reduce Minnesota's dependence on imported oil, strengthen the state's economy, and protect the environment.

Planning for the National Center for Biofuels Research is being led by CBS Dean Robert Elde, chair of the University’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE); Richard Hemmingsen, director of IREE; and Gene Hugoson, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Their goal is to use Minnesota's natural resources and research expertise to develop and commercialize new biofuels and bio-based products and diversify and strengthen the state’s rural economies while increasing energy security and reliability. The center would form strong partnerships among academic, private, and government entities such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Pawlenty's plan also called for doubling the amount of ethanol (from 10 to 20 percent) required in gasoline, reducing state gas government consumption by 50 percent, and allowing hybrid vehicles to use lanes for higher occupancy vehicles. He outlined his plan at a meeting held on September 27.

IREE Research Symposium is November 18

The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) will hold its first annual research symposium on Thursday, November 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Cowles Auditorium and the adjacent atrium at the Humphrey Center. The event will include presentations of IREE research projects and recommendations from Energy Alley and the Minnesota Environmental Initiative for Minnesota’s renewable energy research priorities. Watch your email for details.

Nature of Life ads in print and on the air

Ads about the CBS Nature of Life program will appear in print and on the radio through October and November as part of a University advertising campaign. Look for print ads in Minnesota magazine, Minnesota Law and Politics, Minnesota Monthly, and Minneapolis-St. Paul and displays in bus shelters. An NOL radio spot by President Bruininks will run on WCCO during the morning drive and on KSTP during afternoon drive time.  WCCO is 830 AM and KSTP is 1500 AM.

CBS faculty named Education Fellows by National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences has named Robin Wright, Mark Decker, and Sue Wick Education Fellows in the Life Sciences for completing a summer institute on fostering innovative approaches to teaching undergraduate biology. The three CBS faculty were among 39 fellows from 20 research-intensive universities selected to attend the summer institute. The institute grew out of a recommendation in “BIO 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists”published by the NAS Research Council last year that called for changes in the way college biology is taught. The 2004 summer institute focused on how to improve large introductory biology courses. Participants developed teachable units and discussed how to encourage colleagues to adopt new teaching practices, among other topics. The program was held in August at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Information about applying for next summer's institute is available at AcademiesSummerInstitute.org.

October is National Work and Family Month

October is National Work and Family Month.  Are you balancing job demands with your personal and family life to maintain quality in your work productivity as well as harmony in your personal relationships?  This is a challenge with our busy lives today, but one worth managing effectively.  Here are some tips to help:

    FOCUS ON PRIORITIES.  Plan your week.  Make a commitment to accomplish your priority tasks by the end of each week.  Eliminate unnecessary tasks.

    QUALITY TIME.  Set aside a specific time period each day, or even once a week that is regularly devoted to your family members.  Quality of time, not quantity, is more effective for maintaining good relationships.

    Try FLEXIBLE WORK HOURS – Check out the CBS Policy on Work Hours and Flexible schedules listed on the CBS website at http://cbs.umn.edu under Resources for Alumni & Staff/Policies & Governance/CBS Human Resources Policies.

    Remember, WORK TO LIVE, don’t LIVE TO WORK!

--Barb Theno, Director of Human Resources

Open enrollment begins October 16

It’s OPEN ENROLLMENT time for your University of Minnesota employee benefits.  This is the time of year when you can change, add, or waive employee benefit plan options.  A big change this year is ONLINE enrollment.  Here’s what you need to know:

    Open Enrollment is October 16 to November 15.  If you plan to make a change, you must do so online and within that time frame.

    On October 4, you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to access the benefits self-service site to review your current benefits information online.

    By mid-October, you will receive the Open Enrollment Guide via campus mail. It will include a worksheet for you to gather the information to make benefit elections online.

    Additional information is available on the Employee Benefits website at www.umn.edu/ohr/eb.  Questions should be directed to the Employee Benefits Service Center at 612-624-9090 or 800-756-2363.

Also, you may want to check out the annual Employee Health and Benefits Fair, sponsored by Employee Benefits and Boynton Health Service.  This will be held October 26 in the St. Paul Student Center and October 27 in Coffman Memorial Union.  This is a great opportunity to talk to health and retirement plan representatives about your plan options, visit with representatives of University departments and the community about other benefits, and check out wellness activities.

Civil Service staff development funds.

Staff development funds are available for distribution to non-bargaining Civil Service staff members who are employed at least 75 percent time. The fund reimburses personal out-of-pocket expenses for registration fees for a seminar, workshop, conference or course. Applicants may apply for one grant of up to $100 per year.

People

Welcome, new CBS faculty

Dick Hemmingsen has been named director of the University's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. For the past year, Hemmingsen had been dividing his time between interim IREE director and Associate Director of Government Relations, where he has held several positions since 1988. Prior to that he was director of the University's county extension program in Wilkin City for four years. His earlier experience includes farming and teaching vocational agriculture to high school students. Hemmingsen holds a B.A. degree in agricultural education and an M.A. degree in adult education, both from the University of Minnesota.

As director of IREE, Hemmingsen is responsible for managing IREE operations and funding processes. He will also represent IREE with internal and external audiences. One of his primary goals is to secure sustained funding for the initiative, which has received an initial allocation of $20 million over five years from the Legislature and Xcel Energy.

"Developing energy and products from renewable resources is one of the most critical issues of our time,"  Hemmingsen says. "I'm honored to lead IREE because of the many potential benefits for economic development, energy security, and our planet."

David Tilman, ecology, evolution, and behavior; Anne Kapuscinski, CNR fisheries and wildlife; and Peter Reich, CNR forest resourcesreceived an initial two-year, $300,000 from the Bush Foundation for their Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative.The goal of the project is to develop an integrated teaching, research, and outreach program that brings together faculty and students from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities around the challenge of finding realistic options for sustaining ecosystems and society.

Larry Wackett, BMBB/microbial biochemistry, is co-author of an article published in the journal Science entitled “Accumulation of Mn(II) in Deinococcus radiodurans facilitates gamma-radiation resistance.” The article attributes this bacterium’s ability to withstand high levels of radiation to accumulation of manganese. Deinococcus radiodurans could be used to clean up sites contaminated by radiation. The paper was published on the Science website, http://www.sciencexpress.org, on September 30. It will be out in print within the next few weeks.

Nathan Springer, plant biology, is a co-principal investigator on a new $6.6 million, four-year award from the NSF Plant Genome Project for a research effort entitled  "Functional genomics of maize chromatin."  His collaborators are Karen Cone (University of Missouri), Vicki Chandler and Karen McGinnis (University of Arizona), Craig Pikaard (Washington Univeristy), Shawn Kaeppler and Heidi Kaeppler (University of Wisconsin) and Kelly Dawe (University of Georgia). The research at the University of Minnesota ($600,000) will focus on identifying the maize chromatin genes that are required for imprinted gene expression.  In addition, Springer's lab will identify and characterize recessive alleles of maize chromatin genes through TILLING.

Steve Ekker, genetics,cell biology, and development, received a grant of $2,129,543 over four years from the National Institutes of Health for “Systematic Vertebrate Functional Genomics.”

Maya Babu, a CBS senior majoring in neuroscience, has been selected by Glamour Magazine as one the Top Ten College Women of 2004. Maya and her fellow honorees are featured in the October 2004 issue of the magazine. Maya also received a prestigious Truman Scholarship last spring. Maya is very active in America’s Promise, a volunteer organization that supports youth. She plans a career in mental health policy.

Carrie Wilmot, assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics, will deliver the Paul Saltman lecture on January 26, 2005, at the "Metals in Biology" Gordon Research Conference in Ventura, California. The honor is awarded to Faculty in the early stages of their career who demonstrate outstanding research promise in the area of metallobiochemistry. The Saltman Fund and Lectureship were set up in 1999 following the death of Professor Saltman, who made important contributions to our understanding of the basic chemistry of metal ions in biological systems, as well as the nutritional role of  trace metals in a healthy diet. Dr. Wilmot's lecture will be entitled "Structural insights into dioxygen activation in copper-containing amine oxidase."

Rita Garni, BMBB, and Mary Muhawid, GCD, received Hats Off awards from the Alumni Association on September 10.  The awards recognize their contributions as volunteers for CBS events.

Events

October 20
Peter Agre, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Aquaporin cellular water channels
Sponsored by the Lillehei Heart Institute
4:15 p.m., Coffman Union Theater

November 18
IREE Research Symposium
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium and Atrium
Humphrey Center
 

Through November 28
The Lion's Mane: Science in the Serengeti
Bell Museum of Natural History
This family-friendly exhibit features the work of CBS researchers Craig Packer and Peyton West. The exhibit includes videos of lions, sounds of the Serengeti, and a lion dummy Packer and West used in their behavioral experiments.
http://www.bellmuseum.org/index2.html