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CBS News - April 2005


Next steps for biology in UM strategic positioning? President Bruininks wants to hear from you

As the fastest-growing science of 21st century, biology is central in the University’s aspirations to become one of the leading public research universities in the world. That’s why President Bruininks is turning to all of you, as biologists, to share your best thinking about how to move the University to the head of the class.

As you probably know, the Academic Task Force convened by the President to make recommendations for repositioning the University has suggested that a plan be developed to reconfigure sciences and engineering. The goal is to promote synergies among four colleges – Biological Sciences (CBS); the Institute of Technology (IT); Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences (COAFES); and Natural Resources (CNR) – as a platform for further strengthening biology.

Several strategies for achieving this are listed in the report. These include strengthening biology’s connections with IT, COAFES, and the Academic Health Center, giving biological sciences the autonomy to develop their own core strengths, and creating an Institute for the Environment to integrate faculty who are currently spread out among several units.

A task force will be convened to develop this plan following the June meeting of the Board of Regents. Before convening this task force and refining its charge, the President would like to hear your ideas about how to proceed. Specifically, he is interested in your suggestions for new ways to strengthen biology and how to organize an Institute of the Environment. I encourage all of you to give this serious thought and to engage in discussions with your colleagues. This is our opportunity to shape our own future and the future of the University.

Look around your lab and around the world for inspiration. What would help you do your research better? How can we help other University units and Minnesota’s bioscience industry achieve their goals? What are leaders in your field doing? How can we produce more “hot papers” that make an impact on our fields? What models exist at other universities that we could learn from? What are our niches? How can we better address health, environmental, and quality of life issues that affect people in Minnesota and around the world?

CBS’ strategic planning process provides a good starting point for brainstorming. Over the past few months we have identified infusions of knowledge needed to advance our disciplines:

  • Computational biology
  • Molecular and microbial evolution
  • Technology and infrastructure to enable “big science”


You may want to reflect on these in light of the Task Force report. This is the time to connect our plan with the University’s plan.

New configurations of people are also integral to our progress – not just virtual configurations, but real ones. A good example is the collaboration that developed between Dave Tilman and Steve Polasky when Steve moved into an office down the hall from Dave. How can we bring more people together in new ways to spark innovation?

I encourage you to dream big. What’s your ideal vision for biology at the U? Or for your slice of it? Talk to colleagues within your departments and in units outside of CBS to learn their thoughts.

There are several ways you can share your ideas. You can send them to me by email. You can discuss them with your department head. Or you can offer them to the President at the All-College Meeting next Thursday. (See details below.) I hope to see you there.


Best regards,

Bob Elde
Dean, College of Biological Sciences


All-College Meeting
President Robert Bruininks will speak with the CBS community about the Academic Task Force report at a special All-College Meeting:

Thursday, April 14
10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
President's Room (3rd Floor)
Coffman Union
Minneapolis Campus

A good portion of the meeting will be devoted to your questions and ideas as we move to the next level of discussion. Dean Elde will also present a brief progress report on the CBS Strategic Plan.

Legislature passes capital bonding bill
A capital bonding bill, including $111.7 million in state funds for the U, was passed by the legislative conference committee on April 5. The house and senate are expected to vote on the bill this week, and prospects for passage appear good. The state's funding share for U projects includes $40 million, Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement; $10.1 million, life sciences, UMD; $8.7 million, recreational sports, UMD; $5.8 million, biomass heating and football facilities, UMM; $17.4 million, Kolthoff Hall, UMTC; $14.5 million, education, UMTC; $11.6 million, Academic Health Center; $283,000, north central research and outreach, Grand Rapids; $3.3 million, plant pathology research, UMTC. For more information, see

Wind turbine will meet half of Morris campus’ energy needs
A 230-foot wind turbine recently installed at the new Renewable Energy Research and Demonstration Center near UM Morris will be commissioned on Earth Day, April 22. The turbine is the only large-scale wind research instrument at a public university and provides the foundation for an innovative wind-to-hydrogen project. It will supply 5.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWhr) of power each year to the nearby University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) campus, meeting over half its annual electricity use. The turbine’s commissioning will cap a week of activities at UMM and the WCROC with themes centering on renewable energy and the environment.

Bioinformatics Symposium
The Fourth Annual Bioinformatics: Building Bridges Symposium will be held on April 14-15 (Thurs-Fri) in the Digital Technology Center, 402 Walter Library. Thursday features a full day of tutorial sessions hosted by the Supercomputing Institute, University Libraries, and the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics. Friday features world-renowned speakers, posters, exhibits, and lunch hosted by the Bioinformatics Graduate Faculty. 

Registration for Thursday April 14 is open. Advance registration has closed for Friday April 15; same-day registration will be available as space permits. Please contact Dr. Lynda Ellis at for more details.

Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium
The 2005 Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium will be held on April 27, 2005 in the Great Hall of Coffman Union on the Minneapolis Campus. Co-sponsors are CBS, IT, COAFES, CNR, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. All students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend.

Platform and Poster Presentations: 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Reception and Poster Awards: 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.

IREE and the proposed National Center for Biofuels Research
Bob Elde and Dick Hemmingson, director of the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE), met with Congresswoman McCollum on March 31, 2005, to discuss the Initiative and the proposed National Center for Biofuels Research. Congressman Gutknecht will also be visiting IREE headquarters and touring the labs of IREE researchers on April 18, 2005. He is scheduled to meet with Roger Ruan, Lanny Schmidt, Daniel Bond, Dick Hemmingsen and Bob Elde.

CBS offers new course on computing in biology
CBS will offer a new course on computing in biology in fall 2005. The course will focus on basic programming and computer skills increasingly needed for research in biology. The only prerequisite is a general biology course; no specialized computer experience is required. Students majoring in biology, biochemistry, genetics, ecology, and plant biology will receive elective credits in their majors.

U receives 2005 Beckman Scholars Award
The award supports six student scholarships over a two-year period for significant contributions to advance education, research training, and personal development in chemistry, biochemistry, and the biological and medical sciences. The application process will be announced soon.

Three IRB/IACUC forms went online March 28
As of March 28th, PIs who need to submit an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) continuing review or IACUC 3-year renewal are completing these forms online. The new, online IRB/IACUC process is part of a University Web initiative called eResearch Central—a central electronic location for University research forms, tools, and resources.

PIs on active IRB or IACUC protocols received information about the new process last month. As with the previous process, PIs will receive a “time-to-file” email when a form is due for completion. More information about how to complete forms online through eResearch Central will be included in that email.

Beautiful U Day is April 21
A variety of events are planned for Beautiful U Day, April 21.

CBS Picnic
The annual CBS year-end picnic will be held on the lawn in front of Snyder Hall on May 6. Tickets will be available in the Dean's office as well as all department offices. The picnic is free for students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents. Grills will be staffed by the dean, associate deans, and department heads. The picnic will begin at 12:00. Grand prize drawings will be held for undergraduate students and graduating seniors will receive a free gift from the alumni society and the Biological Sciences Student Association.

Commencement The class of 2005 will graduate on May 14 at 7:30 pm in Northrop auditorium.

U Senate to include P&A representatives
The Board of Regents has approved amendments to the University Senate constitution to include senators representing the Council of Academic and Professional Administrators (CAPA) and the Civil Service Committee (CSC) in the University Senate, effective July 1, 2005.

The University of Minnesota Postdoctoral Association (UMN-PDA) published the first issue of its newsletter, PDA News, in April 2005. The inaugural issue reports on local and national issues of interest to early career investigators, and is available online.

May is Science Month
The Bell Museum is joining with the Bakken Library and Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota to promote science during the month of May. During May, members of each museum will receive two-for-one general admission to all three science centers. Simply present your membership card at the admissions desk of each museum to receive the discount! This partnership is an effort to thank museum members and to promote science education in the Twin Cities. For more information, call 612-624-0089.

Annual Saints Game
CBS has group tickets for the St. Paul Saints baseball game on June 24th. Tickets are $19 per person which includes your reserved seat and a picnic meal before the game at Twig's Place. Twig's Place is located along the first base line at field-level where we can watch batting practice while eating.



Biotech Takes on New Industries

With a little help from biotechnology, corn stalks, saw dust, and garbage can be converted into a fuel that could potentially reduce gasoline consumption by 25%, according to Iogen in Ottawa. The Scientist 19(4):45 (28 Febuary 2005) (subscription required)


Tim Ebner, (neuroscience) has been named a recipient of the University’s 2005 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Graduate and Professional Education. The award recognizes contributions to postbaccalaureate, graduate, and professional education through excellence in instruction; involvement in students in research, scholarship, and professional development; development of instructional programs; and advising and mentoring of students. Ebner is one of 14 University faculty who will be recognized a ceremony later this month for excellence in undergraduate and graduate education.

Alan Hooper (biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysics) has been awarded $360,000 over three years from the Department of Energy for "Mechanism of Ammonia Monooxygenase of Nitrosomonas

Romas Kazlauskas (biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysics) and colleagues have a “hot paper” in the current issue of Angewandte Chemie International Edition “Molecular basis of perhydrolase activity in serine hydrolases” It’s available online at Co-authors are Peter Bernhardt and Karl Hult. Kazlauskas also has a paper titled “Focusing mutations into the P. fluorescens esterase binding site increases enantioselectivity more effectively than distant mutations” Chem. Biol. 2005, 12, 45-54. Co-authors are Seongsoon Park, Krista L. Morley, Geoff P. Horsman, Mats Holmquist, and Karl Hult. The article is available online at

Katie Lee is one of four UMTC undergraduates named 2005 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars. Lee is a CBS Honors sophomore majoring in biochemistry and chemistry. She intends to earn a M.D/Ph.D. and pursue a career as a medical scientist and physician. The Goldwater Scholarship is awarded annually to approximately 300 outstanding sophomores and juniors nationwide who plan to pursue graduate study and research-oriented careers in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Elizabeth Vinson Lonsdorf, former graduate student of Anne Pusey, will talk about her chimpanzee studies on April 14 at the State Theatre as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series. Lonsdorf is now Director of Field Conservation for Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, where she is responsible for the zoo's participation in and support of wild animal conservation projects. For details about this event, go to

Helene Muller-Landau (ecology, evolution, and behavior) is co-author of two recently published papers. “When do localized natural enemies increase species richness?” appeared in Ecology Letters 8 (4):438-447 2005 and “Annual and spatial variation in seedfall and seedling recruitment in a Neotropical forest. Putative mast seeding, seed fate, and El Niño climate fluctuation in a Neotropical forest” was published in Ecology 86(4):848-860.2005

Jessica Murra, CBS Student Services advisor, will attend Denmark's International Study (DIS) Program's Spring International Education Workshop in Copenhagen this month. DIS provides unique programs in biology and health sciences. Several CBS students participate in DIS programs every year.

Claudia Neuhauser, head of ecology, evolution, and behavior, has been named one of four “Best DGS” recipients by the Graduate School. Four “Best DGS Asssistants” were also selected. Graduate School Dean Vic Bloomfield will present the awards in a May 5 ceremony at Walter Library.

Luke Robinson and Om Padhye, CBS undergraduate students, have been selected to receive the President’s Student Leadership award for 2005.

Jon Ross, Resident Biologist at the Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories has been appointed to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource Commissioner's Advisory Committee on Scientific and Natural Areas, Nongame, Minnesota County Biological Survey and Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Programs.

William Shawlot, (genetics, cell biology and development) and Kenichiro Taniguchi (GCD student) are coauthors of a paper in Development titled "Ssdp1 regulates head morphogenesis of mouse embryos by activating the Lim1-Ldb1 complex.”

David Thomas (biochemistry, molecular biology & biophysics) was honored as Fellow of the American Biophysical Society at the 49th Annual Meeting, held Feb 12-16, 2005 in Long Beach CA. "Fellow of the Society" is the highest honor bestowed by the Biophysical Society and is awarded annually to distinguished members who have demonstrated excellence in science and contributed to the expansion of the field of biophysics. Dr. Thomas was selected as Fellow for his contributions to understanding the mechanism of muscle contraction through novel spectroscopic approaches to studying molecular dynamics.

Peter Voth and Katy Heath (plant biology) were awarded the NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for 2005-2006, which is to provide research funding to students that are completing their dissertation projects.

George Weiblen (plant biology) is featured on the front page of the Metro section in the March 28 issue of the Star Tribune. The story is about Weiblen's research in Papua, New Guinea to understand co-evolution of plants and insects. He uses local villagers to help gather information. Weiblen and his associates recently carried out the largest study of a tropical food web.

Jen White (ecology, evolution, and behavior) was selected to receive the 2005 Hamm Memorial Graduate Student Scholarship. This is a scholarship for graduate students in the plant sciences and related disciplines. Her advisor is Dave Andow.

Jennifer Ross Wolf (genetics, cell biology, and development) successfully defended her PhD thesis on February 17 and gave birth to a son, Nathan, on March 26. She is also co-author of the Developmental Cell paper mentioned below.

David Zarkower (genetics, cell biology, and development) and colleagues will have a paper published in Developmental Cell in June. The title is "The DM domain protein MAB-3 promotes sex-specific neurogenesis in C. elegans by regulating bHLH proteins." His co-authors are Jennifer Ross Wolff, Andrea Kalis, and Mark Murphy. The paper shows that MAB-3, one of a family of proteins regulating sexual development in a wide variety of animals, controls a member of a widely conserved family of proteins involved in nervous system development. This reveals one mechanism by which sex-specific nervous system development can be established.



April 11- 16
Minnesota Royal
St. Paul campus.
Events to promote agriculture.
Donations to Second Harvest..

Monday, April 11
Special Seminar
“Revisiting 'Scale-Free' Networks”
Evelyn Fox Keller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Lecture Room, Cargill Building, St. Paul Campus
Sponsor: The Computational Network Seminar

Thursday, April 21
Symposium on Energy Security in a Changing Climate – Renewable Hydrogen
An Upper Midwest/Norwegian Perspective on a Global Issue
9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Cargill Building, St. Paul campus
Deadline is April 18

Wednesday, April 27
Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium
Great Hall, Coffman Union
Platform and Poster Presentations: 1:30 - 4:30 p.m.
Reception and Poster Awards: 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Abstract deadline is April 7.

Friday, May 6
CBS Year-End Picnic
Noon – 2 p.m.
Snyder Hall Lawn
Food, fun, music, prizes

Saturday, May 14
CBS Commencement
7:30 p.m., Northrop Auditorium
Speaker: Stephen Oesterle, Medtronic Vice President for Research

May 17-19, 2005
Practical NMR Workshop
Emphasis on small molecules
Structural Biology NMR Resource
Contact: Beverly Ostrowski at for more details or see

through July 3
Upstream Flying Fishing in the American West and
Tricking Fish: How and Why Lures Work

"Upstream" offers a unique look at the centuries-old tradition of angling through a series of dramatic black-and-white photos of streams and fly fishing, as well as displays of fish and other animals from Minnesota's streams.
"Tricking Fish" unravels the mystery of what makes fish bite-or not bite. Photographs and hands-on objects provide observant anglers with insights into the fish's point of view. The exhibit also shows how fish adapt to face a world full of predators