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CBS News - December 2005


Renewable energy opportunities from Bemidji to Bhutan 

A funny thing happened to me on the way to join the Governor’s trade mission in China…

I stopped in Bhutan, a small, isolated country in the Himalayas, for a few days of hiking and sightseeing. At the summit of one of the highest passes I met a scientist from Columbia University who, upon learning that I was from the University of Minnesota asked me if I knew Dave Tilman. As it turned out, he was also an ecologist, doing NSF-sponsored research on global climate change in Bhutan. He offered to conduct a workshop on his team’s methods (dendrochronology) at Cedar Creek next summer, and I accepted on the spot. If I had needed verification that our village is global, this was it.

I learned some other interesting things in Bhutan with connections to our work at the University and the trade mission to China. The ecosystems of Bhutan are relatively undisturbed. The people live the same simple, sustainable lifestyle as their ancestors, often without electricity. The government of Bhutan, which is a monarchy moving toward democracy, values “gross national happiness” over gross national product. A part of that lies in preserving the Tibetan Buddhist culture and intact ecosystems. Adults are content with the status quo, but young people, who are beginning to get glimpses of the outside world, have different aspirations. In one village I met an outgoing 12-year-old girl who spoke perfect English and peppered me with questions about where I came from and what I did. She said she would write to me. Who knows – some day she may apply for admission to our freshman class.

Our conversation led me to think about the global impact of our work as a college, and as a university. The Media Lab at MIT, for example, has launched an initiative to create the “$100 laptop” ( This initiative will surely have an impact on young people throughout the developing world. What are we doing, as a major research university, to improve the lives of people and ecosystems in these parts of the world? What might be the University of Minnesota equivalent to the $100 laptop project? Perhaps some aspects of our Initiative in Renewable Energy and the Environment might be shaped to address the needs of people in developing countries.

Bhutan and China face the same challenge on different scales: how to catch up with industrialized countries in a way that avoids our mistakes and retains the best of their cultures. That will mean something very different for the mountain villages of Bhutan than it does for big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. How can Bhutan help young people like the 12-year-old girl I met realize her aspirations while maintaining the “gross national happiness” for other people in the country? How will China settle into its new role in the global economy without disabling its ecosystems?

The United States and other industrialized countries have an obligation to help them do this -- if for no other reason than our own benefit. If China, with its population of 2.4 billion, follows the same path to industrialization as the United States, the impact on global ecosystems will be disastrous. As many of you know, a smog-laden haze hangs over Beijing and Shanghai. At the same time, we have the opportunity to help pre-industrial countries like Bhutan develop renewable energy systems scaled to fit their unique needs.

The Minnesota delegation gathered in Beijing on November 13, and then broke into groups that went off in different directions. My section, the Food, Agriculture, and Renewable Energy part of the delegation, headed to the World Biofuels Symposium, which was held nearby.

There were 21 countries represented at the symposium, which was cosponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the U of M’s Initiative in Renewable Energy and the Environment, Tsinghua University, and BBI International, a Colorado company that provides consulting services to biofuels companies. It was interesting to see the variety of crops different companies are using in biofuels. There was also a variety of approaches for converting these crops into biofuel. There was clearly an interest in new research to move biofuels to the next generation, and there was a buzz about the University of Minnesota as a driving force in biofuels research. And there were more people from Minnesota attending the event than from anywhere, except China!

My next stop was the Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences. This is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is the equivalent of our National Academy of Sciences. I gave a presentation to this group about CBS and the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. They were very interested in what we are doing and eager to work with us. I think there is good potential for partnerships with them, much like the collaboration we have developed with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

The purpose of the trade mission was to discover ways to capitalize on China’s emergence as an important economic force. But those of us from the University had the opportunity to think more broadly than that. To be sure, there will likely be economic benefits that arise from renewable energy partnerships with China. But we also have a chance to contribute to the “gross national happiness” of young people in developing countries such as Bhutan and China as well as our own young people, from Bemidji to Bloomington.

Bob Elde


Governor Pawlenty proposes public-private biofuels partnership

Speaking at the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) annual symposium on November 29, Governor Tim Pawlenty announced his intention to propose a partnership between the State, the University of Minnesota , and Ford Motor Company to develop renewable fuels.   The symposium highlighted some of the research IREE has funded, such as the wind turbine in Morris and the use of biomass to replace fossil fuels. Minnesota is recognizing the environmental and economic needs to move toward renewable energy sources, and Governor Pawlenty hopes that the U will be world-class in biofuels and renewable energy. For more news about IREE and biofuels research at the University of Minnesota , go to  

All-college meeting to focus on science and engineering

All CBS faculty, staff, and students are invited to meet with members of the University’s Science and Engineering Task Force at a special All-College meeting on Tuesday, December 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Cargill Building seminar room, room 105.

The Science and Engineering Task Force – one of the strategic planning task forces appointed by Provost Tom Sullivan – requested the meeting to gain input from the CBS community. This task force has been asked to identify ways to:

1. Promote strengths within core disciplines and at the interfaces between biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering, mathematics, biomedical sciences, agriculture, and environmental sciences; and

2. Configure the sciences and engineering to promote synergies and integrate teaching and research among academic units and the Academic Health Center.

Laurie Hennen is the new CBS development director

Dean Elde has named Laurie Hennen as development director for the College of Biological Sciences. Laurie comes to CBS from Ewald Consulting, an association management firm that operates MNBIO, among other Twin Cities professional associations. At Ewald, she was executive director for three trade associations and a member of the MNBIO board of directors.

Previously, she held a variety of executive positions with Minnesota Technology, a nonprofit organization that supports economic development of the state's technology industry, where she was employed for nine years. Some key accomplishments there were developing and writing grant applications, securing funding, and developing and implementing strategic legislative plans. Laurie has holds a bachelor's degree in business administration. She will join the CBS dean's office staff in early January.

Leadership of University Enterprise Laboratories

Peter Bianco has resigned his position as CEO of University Enterprise Laboratories effective December 31. During his tenure, Bianco oversaw renovation of the building and construction of labs, recruited tenants, and directed their move into the building as well as UEL’s grand opening celebration in October. “We are grateful to Pete for his excellent leadership during this time,” said Bob Elde, chair of the UEL board. Recruitment of a new director is under way.

Imaging Center hosts laser demonstration

During December 13 through 15, the Imaging Center and Arcturus will be hosting a demonstration of the Veritas Laser Capture Microdissection (LCM) and Laser Cutting System. The system provides flexibility to use the slide and tissue preparation techniques best for your application.   To schedule time on the instrument and for details, please contact Mark Sanders at 612-624-3454 or

CBS holiday party

The annual CBS Holiday Party will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 20 in the Cargill Building atrium. There will be food (including traditional ethnic treats prepared by dean's office staff members), fellowship, and music provided by CBS students  

UM Postdoc Association posts winter newsletter

The University of Minnesota Postdoctoral Association published its winter newsletter, which includes articles on the Postdoc Town Hall Meeting, the First Upper Midwest Postdoctoral Symposium, and the 2005 National Academy of Sciences Report "Advancing the Nation's Health Needs: NIH Research Training Programs".

CBS email server discontinuing service

After many years of service, the College of Biological Sciences has decided to stop providing email service in favor of using University provided email accounts. To help transition to the University email system, the CBS Information Technology staff will make arrangements to forward messages sent to CBS email addresses to each user’s University email account for at least the next 3 years. CBS email service will end on January 16, 2006. This decision was made to utilize the upgraded University email service, particularly the virus and spam filtering software.   


Jeffrey Broadbent (CBS graduate advisor and CLA sociology professor) has received three fellowships to study environmental and climate change policy in Korea and Japan from 2006-2008. In Korea , Broadbent will be studying at the East Asia Institute in Seoul University , and in Japan he will be studying at the National Institute of Environmental Studies in Tsukuba.

Stan Erlandsen (Genetics, Cell Biology and Development professor emeritus) died on December 5, following a major stroke.  Funeral arrangements are pending. Erlandsen, who was a faculty member for many years, is survived by his wife, Carol Wells, and his children. “We are grateful for Stan's friendship and for his many contributions to the University and the broader scientific community,” said Ross Johnson.  “He will be missed.” 

Ronda Farah and Joseph Sabir (CBS students) are the fall recipients of the Student Volunteer award. This cash award recognizes their commitment to volunteer activities within the college, University, and their own community.

Sally Jorgensen (Associate Dean 1987 – 1996) received the 2006 William A. Hinton Research Training Award from the American Society for Microbiology. Jorgensen set up the Life Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Programs (LSSURP) and Achieving College Excellence in the Sciences (ACES) in CBS during the 1990s. The award recognizes Jorgensen’s work to facilitate and support minority students entering the profession of microbiology and other fields of biological research.

Beatrice Magee and Pete Magee (both of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development) have been awarded an Indo-US Professorship from the American Society of Microbiology to give a short course on the Candida genome at Jawarhlal Nehru University in New Delhi . They will be in India from February 9 through 28.

Tony Starfield (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) is retiring from the University of Minnesota . Starfield received his Ph.D. from the University of Witwatersrand , Johannesburg , in 1965. He describes himself as “an ecological modeler,” as his primary research interests are modeling populations and ecosystems.

Peter Tiffin (Plant Biology) received a grant from the National Science Foundation of $261,000 over 4 years for his research project titled “Collaborative Research: Ecological and evolutionary-genetic limits to range expansion.”

Catherina Wong Kipper is the new coordinator of multicultural programs for CBS. Cathy will provide leadership for developing a comprehensive approach to multicultural student services within CBS, and coordinate programs which promote an appreciation for cultural diversity and support the enrollment, retention, and academic success of underrepresented students. Cathy is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and CBS.

Carrie Wilmot (Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics) has been awarded the 2006 Etter Early Career Award by the American Crystallographic Association (ACA).The award recognizes academic crystallographers at the early stages of their careers who have achieved national and international recognition for their research. Wilmot received the award for her studies on cryo X-ray crystallography and the role of amino acid based cofactors. In recognition of the award, a half-day symposium in her area of research will be featured, and she will present a plenary talk at the next ACA annual meeting in 2006.    


Visions of Nature: The World of Walter Anderson
Through February 5, 2006
The Bell Museum of Natural History
The Bell Museum 's exhibit explores the intersection of art and science and provides a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a troubled man obsessed with finding order in nature.

Anna Pavord Book Signing
December 12, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Coffman Memorial Union
Anna Pavord will discuss her book “The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants.” Her book traces the search for order in the natural world, and identifies how plants assumed identities and acquired names. For more information, or to order a signed copy of her book, go to   

Café Scientifique: Suburban Ecology
December 13,  6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Varsity Theater, Dinkytown Free. Must be 18 or older to attend.
Photographer Chris Faust and historian Frank Edgerton Martin will discuss how biodiversity is often lost or threatened by urban sprawl and landscaping trends. They'll be joined by landscape ecologist Susan Galatowitsch and cultural historian John Archer for a panel discussion about the past and future of the suburban environment.