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CBS News - October 2006

FROM THE DEAN

What are you driven to discover?

This month the University launched a promotional campaign called Driven to Discover to help people understand how we, as the only public research institution in the state, contribute to quality of life in Minnesota, and just how relevant and interesting research can be. The campaign, which grew out of the strategic positioning process, also serves to rally Minnesotans around the University’s goal of becoming a leading research institution.

First, my congratulations to the U’s advancement team. I can’t imagine a more fitting slogan for the University of Minnesota. “Driven” captures the passionate pursuit of science and “Discover” is so much more tantalizing and evocative than its cousin, “Research.” There’s a reason why the Discovery Channel isn’t called the Research Channel …

I like the interactive nature of the campaign because it opens the door to the academy and invites people in for a friendly chat and look around the place. It makes it clear that all visitors and all questions are welcome. It captures the unique combination of our Minnesota work ethic and creativity. It would have worked 100 years ago as well as it does today. And I suspect it will make sense as long as discoveries remain to be made. In short, to borrow another brand, it’s the real thing …

The campaign began by featuring people asking their “single greatest questions,” which were fielded by University researchers. In the first round, David Tilman addressed the question “Can we end our dependence on foreign oil?” and Daniel Bond responded to “What’s the next alternative energy source?” You may have seen the print ads and TV commercials.

I am pleased that two CBS faculty were invited to help launch Driven to Discover and I see this as the beginning of a long and productive relationship. As Linda Thrane, vice president for university relations, has commented, “Driven to Discover” is “more than a slogan.” It’s a new way of talking about ourselves and interacting with our stakeholders. It will be part of the identity and life of the University for a long time to come.

The campaign couldn’t be a better vehicle for communicating CBS research and education to the public. I want to use it to showcase our discoveries and to invite our various constituents to become more engaged with our community in order to better understand how our work will improve their lives.

I’d like to ask you to think about how it applies to you and your work. What drives your passion for discovery? What’s the big question you hope to answer? Where are you along that journey? What could your discoveries mean for Minnesotans?

Our communications efforts have always focused on discovery, but in the coming weeks and months we will be asking you for stories that help align our work with this campaign. I encourage you to take a look at the Driven to Discover site, and think about your own journey of discovery. If you would like to answer any of the featured questions, please contact Peggy Rinard.

Bob Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences

 

NEWS

 

State of the College Address

Dean Elde will discuss CBS achievements and goals at the first annual State of the College Address, from 3–5 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7 at the Campus Club (conference rooms A,B and C on the fourth floor) His comments will focus on goals outlined in the 2006–07 CBS Compact.

Norwegian Chair in Bioenergy and Food Safety Announced

The University of Minnesota and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences recently announced that Judson Sheridan, director of international programs at CBS and professor of genetics, cell biology, and development, and Odd Jarle Skjelhaugen, director of research for the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and professor of environmental engineering, will share the Norwegian Centennial Interdisciplinary Chair and oversee an international research collaboration.

CBS Faculty to Help Shape New Science and Technology Institute

University of Minnesota Provost Thomas Sullivan announced earlier this week the appointment of an intercollegiate 17-person advisory committee to form a world-class interdisciplinary Institute for the Advancement of Science and Technology. The effort will be led by Professor Claudia Neuhauser (head of EEB) with participation from Professor Judith Berman and Associate Professor Stephen Ekker (both GCD).

Take a Walk Down Memory Lane

The new Scholars Walk, which stretches from Walnut Street near the McNamara Alumni Center west to Appleby Hall and Pleasant Street, and the Wall of Discovery, on the north side of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building, include some familiar names. These tributes to major research and classroom accomplishments by University faculty and students highlight a number of CBS faculty and alumni. See how many CBS notables—past and present—you can find.

“Driven to Discover” Spotlights CBS Faculty

Can we end our dependence on foreign oil? What’s the next alternative energy source? CBS professors David Tilman and Daniel Bond have the answers and they’re sharing them through the University of Minnesota’s Driven to Discover marketing campaign.

Cedar Creek Makeover Begins

Cedar Creek Natural History Area is busier than usual as construction gets underway on a new interpretive center and housing for students and visiting faculty. Construction workers broke ground at the field station September 21. The new facilities will make it possible “to show people what we’re doing and why it’s important,” says Professor David Tilman, who has conducted groundbreaking research at Cedar Creek for more than two decades.  The $7 million expansion will add 22,000 square feet of space.

TRENDWATCH

Poplar Genome Sequenced

Researchers have deciphered the genetic code of a tree—and of the third plant after rice and a weed called Arabidopsis thaliana—for the first time. “The Genome of Black Cottonwood,” published in the September 15 Science, may pave the way for more rapid cultivation of the black cottonwood, a fast-growing poplar already used by the timber and paper industries. It could also lead to the development of new varieties of the tree better at producing wood, paper, and fuel.

Nobel Prize Choice Blurs Boundaries

The choice of Roger Kornberg for this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has some in the field unsettled, according to a report in the October 11 Nature. The Stanford University researcher won the prize for his work on transcription. Kornberg identified the crystal structure of RNA polymerase II using crystallography. The journal notes that while many in the field of chemistry are excited by Kornberg’s success, there’s an undercurrent of concern that his work is equally, if not more deeply, rooted in the biological sciences.

Nature Launches Nanotechnology Journal

The journal Nature recently launched a new publication devoted exclusively to research in nanotechnology, citing the rapid growth of the field as the impetus behind the move. Nature Nanotechnology is meant to reflect the breadth of current work in nanoscience and nanotechnology, according to the publishers, “from silicon nanowires to switches based on the tobacco mosaic virus, and from a nanoplasmonic ruler for measuring various properties of DNA to the electronic properties of carbon nanotubes.”

Send us the trends! If you have resources on major trends in biology education or research, we want to hear about them. Forward to sxenos@umn.edu.

RESEARCH NEWS

U of M Researchers Develop Mouse Model for Muscle Disease

Professor James Ervasti (BMBB) and his team have identified the importance of a gene critical to normal muscle function. The researchers “knocked out” the gene in mice that encodes the protein gamma actin found in normal muscle cells.  The result: a mouse model for centronuclear myopathy, a poorly understood muscle disease similar to muscular dystrophy. Read about the finding in last month’s Developmental Cell.

Possible Genetic Cause for Hyperactivity Uncovered

In a first-of-its-kind, large-scale screening for disease traits, University researchers used a genetic tool called the Sleeping Beauty Transposon system to randomly mutate genes in mice and then pinpoint a possible genetic cause of hyperactivity. “It is our hope that similar research could lead to advances in understanding human behavior and the development of medications that target the genetic causes of many diseases,” says David Largaespada (GCD) lead author of the study.

PEOPLE

Tracy Anderson, microscopist and digital imaging specialist in CBS’ Imaging Center, received Nikon’s Small World Image of Distinction award for his shot of Selaginella strobilus using fluorescence stereomicroscopy. See the image here.

Postdoctoral Associate Ahmed Balogun and Assistant Professor Joe McFadden (both EEB) presented their study, “Assessing the Carbon, Energy and Mass Exchanges of Lawn Ecosystems in an Urban Area,” at last month’s Global Carbon Project conference in Mexico City. The study is part of the land use and ecosystem-atmosphere carbon, energy and water exchange project.

Assistant Professor Mark Bee [EEB] received an NIH grant for “Sound Source Segregation and the Cocktail Party Problem in a Non-Human Vertebrate.”

EEB graduate student Leslie Brandt received an NSF Dissertation Research grant to study “Photodegradation as an abiotic mechanism in the decomposition of surface litter.” She is advised by Assistant Professor Jennifer King (Soil, Water, and Climate and EEB). Leslie also received the EPA STAR graduate fellowship, which provides support for three years to students in environmentally related fields.

Teresa De la Mora-Rey, a fifth-year graduate student in the Wilmot Laboratory (BMBB), won one of four Pauling Prizes for her research poster presentation at the 2006 American Crystallographic Association annual meeting. Her poster, entitled “X-ray structures of methylamine dehydrogenase reaction intermediates,” was selected from more than 600 presentations.

Assistant Professor Jacques Finlay (EEB) received an NSF award for “Coupling consumer-resource interactions and nutrient spiraling in a stream network,” part of a larger collaboration led by St. Olaf College.

Professor Romas Kazlauskas (BTI and BMBB) received a three-year $375,000 NSF award for “Modifying hydrolases to catalyze formation of new chemical bonds.”

Professor Emeritus Will Koukkari (PBIO) and research associate Robert Sothern (PBIO and Laboratory Medicine and Pathology) have co-authored the first comprehensive textbook of the field of chronobiology in nearly 25 years. Introducing Biological Rhythms – A Primer on the Temporal Organization of Life, With Implications for Health, Society, Reproduction and the Natural Environment, was released earlier this year by Springer.

Professor Diane Larson and Associate Professor Sarah Hobbie (both EEB) received a three-year, $125,879 USDI Geological Survey grant to study “Control and restoration of sites infested with leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula).”

Professor Pete Magee and Senior Scientist Bebe Magee (both GCD) are Co-PIs on a five-person research team led by Dr Jan Schmid of Massey University in New Zealand that will receive $769,000 over three years from the Marsden Fund Award for “Candida albicans: Survival without sex?” The researchers will investigate a fundamental belief: the superiority of sex over reproducing by dividing in two. Read “No Sex Please, We’re Fungi” for more about the project.

Anna Mosser, EEB graduate student, has received an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research grant to study “Group territoriality of the African lion – Behavioral adaptation in a heterogeneous landscape.” Anna is advised by Craig Packer.

Professors Hans Othmer (Mathematics), Michael O’Connor (GCD), and Claudia Neuhauser (EEB) received $24,000 from the Digital Technology Center to develop a course in quantitative biology.

Professor Ruth Shaw (EEB) and alumnus Stuart Wagenius (Ph.D. EEB, 2000), a conservation scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden, received a five-year, $225,000 NSF grant on “Quantifying contributions of genetic and numerical dynamics to persistence of fragmented prairie populations of Echinacea angustifolia.”

Assistant Professor Carrie Wilmot (BMBB) received $845,625 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to fund research through 2011 on “X-ray crystallography infrastructure; a Mayo Clinic/University of Minnesota partnership to solve novel macromolecular structures important to human health and disease.”

New Staff in the Dean’s Office

Susan Martinez—most recently Web designer at Greenspring Media Group (publisher of Minnesota Monthly magazine)—is CBS’ new Web coordinator. She will be responsible for updating the content and design of the college’s website.

Nicole Matteson, CBS’ new human resources specialist. She previously worked in human resources at PeopleSoft supporting internal customers at the Target Corporation.  Nicole will coordinate staffing, Human Resource Management Systems, and payroll for the CBS dean’s office and administrative departments.

Stephanie Xenos, CBS’ new communication coordinator, comes to the college from Minnesota Public Radio where she served as writer and editor in the organization’s marketing department. She will be working on a range of communications projects including BIO, CBS News, and content for the college’s website.

EVENTS

Jim Brandenburg’s “Touch the Sky”

WHEN: October 1-December 31
WHERE: Bell Museum of Natural History

Catch National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg’s visual tribute to the breathtaking vistas and iconic creatures that live in the tall grass prairies of Minnesota, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Iowa. Bell Museum exhibits.

Moving Toward Sustainable Energy Systems:Exploring Global Pathways to a Common Destination

WHEN: October 24
WHERE: Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Institute

This is the second workshop in a three-part series at the Humphrey Institute’s Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy. The workshop will focus on comparing constraints and opportunities around the globe—especially in the Upper Midwest and India—for creating economically viable and environmentally sound energy futures. Keynote speaker: R. K. Pachauri.

Imaging Center Workshop

WHEN: October 25-27
WHERE: Imaging Center, Snyder Hall

Attend a three-day workshop on Techniques in Microwave Specimen Processing for Light and Electron Microscopy for hands-on experience with the newest instrumentation and accessories for microwave processing including the Pella BioWave Pro. Contact Mark Sanders by email or at 612.624.3454 for more details.

Science Education Saturday

WHEN: November 11, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
WHERE: Bell Museum of Natural History

Minnesota Citizens for Science Education presents Teaching Evolutionary Biology in K-12 Schools. Come hear Mark Borrello (EEB), Randy Moore (UM Education), PZ Myers (Biology, UM Morris), Greg Laden (UM Anthropology), and a panel of K-12 teachers and administrators talk about the cultural, historical, and educational aspects of evolutionary biology.

Annual IREE Research Symposium

WHEN: November 28, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
WHERE: McNamara Alumni Center

University of Minnesota faculty and researchers will showcase groundbreaking new work in the areas of renewable energy and the environment at this annual event. Keynote speakers will include Doug Cameron, chief scientific officer with Khosla Ventures, and Don Shelby, news anchor with WCCO TV and radio. The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Register at the IREE website.

REMINDERS

Upcoming CBS Deadlines

  • October 15: Deadline for scheduling summer/May courses
  • November 1: Deadline for submission of new course proposals for next fall
  • November 1: Call for freshman seminar proposal