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CBS News - October 2005

FROM THE DEAN

All in a day's work at the College of Biological Sciences

It's been a busy few weeks at the College of Biological Sciences. The activity peaked on Wednesday, October 19 when the Crown Prince of Norway came by for a visit and University Enterprise Laboratories celebrated its grand opening.

In the morning, Crown Prince Haakon toured the Cargill Building and met with several CBS faculty (Jane Glazebrook, Fumi Katagiri, and Daniel Bond) to learn about their research in plant genomics, computational biology, and renewable energy. He was very charming and articulate, with lots of good questions for us. Several CBS Student Ambassadors added a touch of class by opening doors for him and his entourage along the way. Norwegian exchange student Alf Tunheim also joined the tour. Alf, who works in Roger Ruan's lab in COAFES, represents the kind of collaboration we hope to build upon.

After the tour, the Prince's motorcade whisked his group off to the Walker Art Museum for a luncheon where he announced a gift of $750,000 from Norway to fund an endowed chair in renewable energy and genomics in the College of Biological Sciences. The chair, which grew out of our relationship with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, recognizes shared and deep commitments to research and education in ecosystem sciences, renewable energy and the role of microbes in biocatalysis and pathogenesis. Its holder will provide leadership for expanding this research with teams of scientists and graduate students at both institutions.

Later that day, University Enterprise Laboratories, Inc. celebrated the grand opening of its facility at 1000 Westgate Avenue and welcomed tenants.

This was a very exciting event for me personally because it culminated the efforts so many people who wanted to help the University advance biotechnology in Minnesota. My remarks focused on delivering a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped make it happen, from President Bruininks and Jerry Fischer, CEO of the University of Minnesota Foundation, to Mayor Randy Kelly, Wayne Brunetti and Kent Larson of Xcel Energy, and all of the corporate sponsors who provided financial support and guidance. 

A special thanks goes to Perry Hackett, who came to me several years ago with resignation in hand, planning to move to California because he couldn't develop his idea for a new biotech product in Minnesota. He was the inspiration and poster child for this effort.

If you were unable to attend the opening, I encourage you to stop by and see UEL. Tom D'Angelo of Architectural Alliance did a remarkable job of transforming a very drab, dark building into an architectural showpiece, filled with natural light, plants, and bright colors. The design sets just the right tone for the creative ideas that will be developed in this building by faculty, students, and independent entrepreneurs.

As dean, I am very excited about the opportunities UEL will provide for our students to learn, work, and create the future of biotechnology in Minnesota.

Bob Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences

NEWS

University Enterprise Laboratories biotech incubator celebrates opening

University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL) celebrated the opening of its facility and arrival of tenants on October 19.  The facility, formerly a warehouse used by Target Direct, was transformed by Architectural Alliance into office and wet lab space.  The 21 wet labs overlook an atrium courtyard filled with natural light and a “bioscience garden” of bamboo and other exotic plants.  The principal architect was Thomas DeAngelo, who also designed the Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics on the St. Paul campus.

More than a dozen start-up companies moved into the facility in August and September.  For more information about the tenants, go to www.uelmn.org.

Bioenergy and genomics chair at the U of M established through gift from Norway

Crown Prince Haakon announced that Norway will give the University Of Minnesota $750,000 to create a new faculty position in renewable energy and microbial genomics, called the Norwegian Centennial Interdisciplinary Chair.  The Crown Prince visited the University Of Minnesota on October 19 to celebrate Norway’s centennial.  Dean Elde led the Crown Prince on a tour of the Cargill building and met with faculty Jane Glazebrook, Fumiaki Katagiri, and Daniel Bond to learn about their research in renewable energy and biocatalysis.

The gift grew out of several years of collaborative research between the University of Minnesota and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in bioenergy, biobased products, and genomics.The University Of Minnesota will also work with the Norwegian-American community to raise gifts for an endowed Norwegian Centennial Graduate Fellowship to support the exchange of graduate students from the University of Minnesota and cooperating Universities in Norway.  The earnings from this fund will be matched by the University of Minnesota’s 21st Century Graduate Fellowship Program.

Update on Habitat for Biologists

On September 25, President Robert Bruininks, and his wife, Susan Hagstrom, joined the ‘Habitat for ‘Biologists” volunteers to help build a new cabin for female students at the University of Minnesota’s Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories.  The cabin is nearing completion and is expected to be open for students next spring.

IREE holds second annual research symposium

The second annual research symposium of the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), to be held on November 29 at the Humphrey Center,will include a keynote address from Governor Tim Pawlenty and presentations of IREE research projects.

The “External Partners” portion of the program will include a presentation from David Zutler, BIOTA Spring Water – the world's first bottled water/beverage packaged in a commercially compostable plastic bottle. 

A poster session featuring IREE-funded projects will take place throughout the day in the atrium, and the University of Minnesota solar vehicle will be on display.

U of M appoints first associate vice president for public engagement

Victor Bloomfield (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics) is the University of Minnesota's first associate vice president for public engagement.  The position, in the Office of the Vice President for System Administration, was established as a result of the president's Council on Public Engagement (COPE) initiative. Bloomfield will provide leadership for the University and advance the University’s civic contributions and involvement. Recently interim dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for research, Bloomfield was a founding member of COPE and served on its steering and assessment committees. For more information, see http://www1.umn.edu/umnnews/index.php

New kiosk presents world of microbial genomics

An electronic kiosk built by the Science Museum of Minnesota to present information about the genome Arthrobacter aurescens is now on display in the Cargill building lobby.  The genome is a soil bacterium that can degrade a multitude of triazine herbicides, like atrazine. 

The Science Museum also has a hands-on Science Workbench on the Genomics of Arthrobacter and how this bacterium can be used to degrade herbicides in the Science House located in the Museum’s Big Back Yard.

The kiosk is sponsored by the National Science Foundation via a grant to Michael Sadowsky, Larry Wackett, and the Science Museum of Minnesota.

PEOPLE

Trisha Anderson has joined the CBS dean's office team as Bob Elde's new executive assistant.  Anderson worked at the University of Minnesota from 1988-98 in the Academic Personnel Office and in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.  While at the University, Trisha also served on the committee that developed and established the Josie R. Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award at the University.

David Biesboer (Plant Biology) wasfeatured in the Star Tribune’s Variety section on Saturday, October 8, in a story by Chuck Haga about the plants of Itasca State Park.  Biesboer and co-author Anita Cholewa (Plant Biology) wrote “Common Plants of Itasca State Park,” published by the Bell Museum.  To view the full story, go to http://www.startribune.com/stories/389/5657342.html

CBS welcomes Jennifer Bosworth from the University of New Orleans.  Bosworth and her roommate lived in Maitairie, a small city just outside of New Orleans, which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Bosworth, who is finishing her undergraduate degree in biology, is now living with her roommate’s parents in Edina.

Eville Gorham (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) celebrated his 80th birthday this month.  Professor emeritus in EEB, Gorham is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was a regents professor before he retired. He is known for his research on acid rain and the environmental impact of nuclear fallout.

Tim Griffin (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics) is the recipient of the 2005 Eli Lilly Analytical Chemistry Award. The award identifies Griffin as an emerging leader in mass spectrometry and proteomics, which are key technologies in biology and biomedicine.  The award provides $20,000 per year, renewable for two years.

Three CBS students, Emily Johnson, Sean Polster, and Susan Rashid have been admitted to the Pre-Med Scholars Program.  The program, a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Medical School, provides special opportunities that will enhance the student’s ability to enter and succeed in medical school and in a medical career.  Only five students are admitted to the program each year.

Henrietta Miller celebrated her 90th birthday this month.  Miller was an administrator for the department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics for more than 40 years before retiring in 1983.  Biochemistry alumni, faculty, and staff developed The Henrietta Miller Award in her honor.  The Henrietta Miller garden, located in front of Snyder Hall, was planted in her honor.

Nikunj Somia (Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development) was asked by the director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) to serve as a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC).  The RAC issues recommendations to the NIH Director on recombinant DNA research.  It also provides a review process for gene therapy and other protocols involving recombinant DNA that raise important scientific, safety, or ethical considerations.  Somia’s term started in September.

Dwain Warner (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) died on September 30 of congestive heart failure.  Professor emeritus in EEB and originally a faculty member of the Zoology Department, Warner was a professor of ornithology and curator of birds for the Bell Museum of Natural History.  Warner helped develop radio telemetry – technology used to track animals in the wild – at the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Natural History Area, which has led to more sophisticated wildlife research. 

U of M inventors honored

More than 104 University of Minnesota inventors were honored at the inaugural Inventor Recognition Ceremony at the McNamara Alumni Center on September 20.  Those honored from the College of Biological Sciences for their patents are:

  • Martin Blumenfeld –Direct Mapping of DNA Chips to Detector Arrays
  • Bianca Conti-Fine –Methods to Treat Undesirable Immune
  • Gary Nelsestuen – Modified Vitamin K-dependent Polypeptides
  • Mark Sanders – Direct Mapping of DNA Chips to Detector Arrays
  • Lawrence Wackett – DNA Molecules and Protein Displaying Improved Triazine Compound Degrading Ability

The event, hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, recognized every person at the University who had a patent issued or a commercial license signed on intellectual property in fiscal year 2005. More than 75 honorees attended, including several "double award winners" who had both patents and commercial licenses. For more information, see "Inventing the future" in UMNnews:  http://www1.umn.edu/umnnews/index.php

EVENTS

"Oddities and Curiosities of Nature"
Weekends only – Saturday, Oct. 8 through Sunday Oct. 30, 2005
The Bell Museum of Natural History

In time for Halloween, the Bell Museum of Natural History will offer a sampling of curious and bizarre specimens from its scientific collections in “Oddities and Curiosities of Nature,” a special sideshow-style exhibit.  Wonders on display include the museum's 500-pound giant clam, a mummified pigeon, a manatee or “mermaid” skull and a hellbender, North America's largest salamander.

www.bellmuseum.org

“The Ethical Brain”
Nov. 2, 11:30 a.m – 1:00 p.m.
Mississippi Room, Coffman Union

Lecture Series on Law, Health & the Life Sciences.

Speaker Prof. Michael S. Gazzaniga, Ph.D., Dartmouth College
“An Ethical Framework for Analyzing Global Warming”
Nov. 10, 12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Theater, St. Paul Student Center

Lunch Series on the Societal Implications of the Life Sciences.
Speaker Donald A. Brown, Esq., Pennsylvania Consortium for Interdisciplinary Environmental Policy

Biomedical Nanotechnology Workshop
Nov. 14, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Radisson Hotel Ballroom, Rochester
The second Annual Minnesota Biomedical Nanotechnology Workshop includes topics on gene therapy, antiviral agents, nano encapsulation, implantable devices and other area of BioMEMs.  The purpose of this workshop is to foster interactions within and between Minnesota-based nanotechnology and biomedically interested institutions. http://www.nano.umn.edu/