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CBS News - April 2012

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Funding for Itasca facilities endorsed by legislature and governor

The Minnesota Senate endorsed $4.1 million for a new campus center at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories on March 28, joining the House and Governor Mark Dayton, who included the Itasca facility in their capital budget recommendations earlier in the year. Bonding for Itasca was part of $39 million the Senate recommended for the University of Minnesota, mostly for Higher Education Asset Preservation (HEAPR) funds to maintain and restore existing buildings. President Eric Kaler expressed disappointment and concern that the Senate recommended three times as much for MnSCU as for the University of Minnesota, which had also requested funds for a new steam plant, renovation of Eddy Hall, and an American Indian Center at UM Duluth. Next, the Senate and House will each select three members to form a conference committee that will negotiate differences between their bills and propose a joint bill for statewide capital improvements.

CBS Commencement is May 12

CBS seniors will cross the stage at Mariucci Arena to receive their B.S. degrees on Saturday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. Daphne Preuss will deliver the commencement address. Preuss, who has a Ph.D. from MIT, is founder and CEO of Chromatin, Inc., a biotech company that is using proprietary technology and sorghum seed products to develop feedstocks for renewable energy markets. Prior to starting Chromatin in 2006, Preuss led a research laboratory at the University of Chicago as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor. Her team made the first discoveries that led to synthetic chromosomes in plants. Other speakers include students May Kindler, Austin Johnson and David Droullard, and Tim Tripp, president of the Biological Sciences Alumni Society. Dean Elde will recognize outstanding students and faculty.

CBS undergrad George Chao wins Goldwater Scholarship

George Chao is one of three University of Minnesota undergraduates named 2012 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars. The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship is awarded annually to outstanding sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research-oriented careers in mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year for up to two years of undergraduate study. Chao is a junior pursuing a double major in genetics, cell biology and development at CBS and computer science in the College of Science and Engineering. Following his undergraduate studies, he plans to pursue a doctorate in bioinformatics and possibly an M.D. with a specialty in internal medicine. Chao aspires to a research career at the intersection of genetics and computer science that will lead to new medical treatments. He has conducted research under the guidance of Chad Myers, Thomas Neufeld and Daniel Keefe. A competitive ballroom dancer, Chao has won dozens of awards and mentions in local, regional and national competitions for his skill on the dance floor.

Claudia Schmidt-Dannert named McKnight Professor

Claudia Schmidt-Dannert (BMBB) has been selected a Distinguished McKnight University Professor. The award provides $100,000 over five years, and she will have the title for as long as she remains at the University of Minnesota. Funds may be used for research equipment, professional travel, research assistant salaries, and an annual salary bonus. Recipients will be honored at a dinner in May. Funds come from the McKnight Foundation, matched by the Permanent University Fund.

Dean Elde visits California alumni and donors

Dean Bob Elde and Development Officer Laurie Hennen are visiting CBS alumni and donors in California from April 15-21. They plan to meet with 15 individuals, including Nobel Laureate Paul Boyer, who lives in Los Angeles, and attend alumni chapter events in San Diego and the Bay Area.


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Guidelines for genomic biobanks

Genetics in Medicine | 4.12

Brian Van Ness and Bonnie LeRoy (GCD) along with Susan Wolf (Law School) are co-authors of “Managing incidental findings and research results in genomic research involving biobanks and archived data sets.” The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health to recommend guidelines for biobanks that make incidental discoveries about health issues of individual contributors. The authors recommend that biobanks be required to identify and contact contributors to report findings that have significant implications for treatable health conditions. 

Expand national network of long-term ecology research sites, study says

Bioscience | 4.6.12

Sarah Hobbie (EEB) is co-author of a recent article in Bioscience advocating expansion of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, which includes 26 sites across the United States and 240 long-term ecological experiments on a broad range of environmental issues. Collectively, these experiments have (a) provided unique insights into ecological patterns and processes, although such insights often became apparent only after many years of study; (b) influenced management and policy decisions; and (c) evolved into research platforms supporting studies and involving investigators who were not part of the original design. This set of experiments addresses, at the site level, all of the U.S. National Research Council’s Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences. Despite these contributions, the authors argue that the scale and scope of global environmental change requires a more-coordinated multisite approach to long-term experiments. Ideally, such an approach would include a network of spatially extensive multifactor experiments (designed in collaboration with ecological modelers) that would build on and extend the unique context provided by the LTER Network.


CBS welcomes Marlene Zuk, new EEB professor, who arrived in early April from the University of California, Riverside, where she had been on the faculty for 20 years. Zuk is an international authority on insect behavior related to sexual selection. Earlier this year, she published a book for a broad audience titled Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World. Her husband, John Rotenberry, joins CBS as Assistant to Dean Elde for Special Projects. In this capacity he will investigate the potential for a Minnesota reserve system and coordinate strategic planning for the college’s field stations. At U.C., Riverside, Rotenberry was campus director of the University of California’s Natural Reserve System and a professor in the Department of Ecology.

Undergraduate Chris Tastad (BMBB) is featured in a UM homepage story about his work as founder of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition, which brings together students from all five campus to reflect the voice of students in University of Minnesota in government. The coalition has been active in this year’s legislative session. Tastad, who is majoring in biochemistry, plans to study stem cell biology at the graduate level, attend medical school and become a cardiologist.

CBS undergraduates Daniel Bloom, Suresh Pavuluri, Melissa Reilly and Lynn Wang have received the 2012 President's Student Leadership and Service Award. The awards will be presented at a banquet in Coffman Memorial Union on April 30.

Robyn Leary, a doctoral student in the Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology & Genetics Graduate Program, has received a one-year fellowship to support research with the Institute for Molecular Virology beginning fall 2012.

Larry Wackett (BMBB) gave keynote lectures at recent scientific meetings held in New Jersey and Idaho. His topics were microbial synthesis of hydrocarbons and evolution of microbial biodegradation metabolism. He also gave presentations on biofuels at the 8th Annual Midwestern Bioscience Conference and the ARPA-E Energy Summit in Washington, D.C., as well as a presentation titled “Biodegradation for Fun and Profit” at Rutgers University.

CBS undergraduate Justin Paz has been selected to participate in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s 2012 Exceptional Research Opportunities Program. Justin will conduct research under the guidance of David Chan at the California Institute of Technology this summer. He is one of 58 students selected nationwide.


April 18-19

CBS Annual Plant Sale

CBS Greenhouse staff and plant biological sciences graduate students will hold their annual plant sale on the St. Paul campus. Horticulture experts will be on hand to answer questions about caring for orchids, succulents and other plants on sale. Funds will be used to purchase plants for the permanent collection and to buy fogging systems to improve humidity levels in the greenhouses.

St. Paul Student Center | Minnesota Commons Room | 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

April 21


Jeff Gralnick (Micro) and Mark Bee (EEB) are presenting at the next TEDxUMN program. Gralnick will speak on “The Soudan Mine and Discovering Alien Magnetic Microbes” and Bee will discuss “Frog Acoustics and the Future of Hearing.” Tickets are nearly sold out, but you can watch live from this website for free.

Coffman Student Union | East Bank | 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

May 4

CBS Picnic

Join CBS students, faculty and staff for the annual year-end picnic. Free lunch, program and prizes. RSVP online by April 30.

McNamara Alumni Center | Gateway Plaza | East Bank | 11:30 to 1 p.m.

May 12

CBS Commencement

The CBS class of 2012 graduates at 7:30 p.m. on May 12. Faculty and graduates line up at 7 p.m.

Mariucci Arena | East Bank | 7:30 p.m.

June 7-8

Sustainability Across the Curriculum

This workshop is for faculty who wish to develop courses on sustainability or integrate sustainability themes into their courses. It’s open to faculty from all disciplines, within and outside of the University of Minnesota. Co-sponsored by the Institute on the Environment, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, and the Institute for Advanced Study.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve | East Bethel

June 8-9


BioBlitz is a 24-hour survey in which the public helps scientists find all the plants and animals at a specific location. Part contest, part festival, part educational event and part scientific endeavor, Minnesota BioBlitz brings together professional and amateur scientists from across the state.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve | East Bethel