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Checking in With Dean Forbes - October 2020

This fall semester presents personal and professional challenges for every member of this community. No one is untouched by the incredible upheaval caused by this pandemic. We feel its effects keenly as a research university where labs are typically buzzing with faculty and students. Nevertheless, we adapt and move ahead when and where we can. Even as we continue to navigate constraints and uncertainties, there are bright spots that inspire optimism and hope as we find ways to advance our mission.

Expanding our biotech footprint
The U.S. Department of Defence announced that it will locate its Bioindustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem (BioMADE) Institute here at the University of Minnesota earlier this week. This new initiative will serve as a catalyst for more industry partnerships, as well as research and education opportunities for our faculty and staff. Several years ago, I was part of the strategic planning process for the St. Paul campus. One of the goals of that plan was to expand the biotechnology footprint at the University. Given the U’s strength in this area thanks to the BioTechnology Institute and the fact that we are a College focused exclusively on the biological sciences, we are well-positioned to drive innovation and play a leading role in this area of the emerging bioeconomy. BioMADE, which will be housed in the new Microbial Cell Production Facility, is a major step in that direction. 

Working to address racism
The College’s Anti-Racism Working Group continues to meet regularly with an eye to delivering recommendations before the end of the year. We also launched the CBS Alumni Anti-Racism Council to help inform our anti-racism efforts. I’ve already learned a great deal from these conversations not least that the sense of community so integral to our identity as a college is not experienced by all members in the same way or to the same degree. I am confident we can and will do better, and look forward to sharing the recommendations later this year. 

Continuing to share our science
This pandemic and the misinformation surrounding it has reinforced the urgent need for scientists to communicate effectively. This fall, nearly a dozen students will participate in a science communication bootcamp with the goal of producing a short research summary for a new blog called BioLine spearheaded by CBS graduate students Abbey Robinson and Judee Sharon. The bootcamp and blog/newsletter are part of an engagement ecosystem that encompasses a wide range of activities from our Market Science program to hands-on science experiences for thousands of K-12 students each year at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. CBS has already taken steps to provide science communication training and continues to innovate in this space.

There are many more examples of individual contributions across the organization. Please keep up the great work! 


October, 2020