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CBS News - December 2006


A cause for celebration

The holidays are a time to reflect, to hold our good work and good fortune close and enjoy the glow. During this chilly season, we here at the College of Biological Sciences have plenty to keep us warm.

For a start, more than 80 percent of CBS’ incoming freshman this year graduated in the top 15 percent of their high school class. Those numbers speak volumes about the quality of education they expect to receive. It’s a perception based on the hard work happening day after day in classrooms and labs across this college. It’s a perception based on the award-winning faculty and cutting-edge research that goes on at this college year after year. And it’s a perception based on the drive to discover shared by everyone associated with CBS (and reflected in the contributions of our faculty to the University’s Driven to Discover campaign).

I am very grateful for that dedication. It really does make a difference in the lives of students, people in the community and in the larger world. And because of it we’re able to do more and more each year. Since the beginning of the fiscal year in July, CBS has had an infusion of faculty to support new and expanding areas of research, $1 million from the provost to support graduate education in biological sciences and the cross-disciplinary strides in renewable energy research on display at the IREE’s annual research symposium in November.

Individual contributions by students and faculty have helped build that momentum as well.  CBS undergraduate Katie Lee was recently named one of 32 U.S. Rhodes Scholars, making her the fourth student at the University to receive the prestigious award. Helene Muller-Landau, assistant professor in plant biology, received a grant for well over a half million dollars from the Packard Foundation for her work on the mechanisms of biodiversity in tropical forests. And high-impact research publications by David McLaughlin, Kevin Mayo, George Weiblen, David Largaespada, Daniel Bond, James Ervasti, David Tilman and others highlights the incredible quality of work going on at this college.

Ultimately, though, what makes the College of Biological Sciences great isn’t the number of awards our faculty receive or the test scores of our freshman class or the endowments from our alumni and donors. The awards and honors, the academic pedigrees, the monetary value placed on our work all underscore a much deeper dynamic; a shared commitment to biology research and education. We will continue that work into the new year and for many years to come, creating a foundation for more research and recognition. Thank you for your contribution to this important effort and I invite you to join me in celebrating our success at the CBS holiday party.

Robert Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences




Don’t miss the CBS holiday party

WHEN: Monday, December 18 / 11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
WHERE: Cargill Building / St. Paul Campus

Come celebrate the joy of the season at CBS’ holiday party. It’s a chance to eat, drink and be merry in the best possible company—the college’s excellent faculty, staff and students.
Renewable energy research event draws a full house

Participants from government, business, nonprofits and academia mixed at the recent research symposium hosted by the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). The event featured research ranging from the potential for using nanotechnology to create better (and cheaper) solar cells to new biomass production methods to the latest and greatest biofuels. WCCO anchor Don Shelby gave a keynote address that ended in a standing ovation from the capacity crowd. If you didn’t make it to the event, you can still catch up on the cutting-edge research. Check out presentations from Eray Aydil, David Kittelson, James Anderson, Bill Berguson and David Tilman at the IREE website.

Institute on the Environment seeks nominations

Deans, department heads, faculty and staff are invited to submit nominations for founding fellows to the newly formed Institute on the Environment. The institute is looking for nominees who are leading scholars in the environmental field experienced in multi-investigator and multidisciplinary research. Founding fellows will play an integral role in choosing research themes, assembling multidisciplinary research teams and selecting institute fellows. Read the complete announcement for details about the nomination and selection process. Nominations are due December 20.

New CBS Logo

Look for a new CBS logo in print and online. The updated logo features the Driven to Discover tagline from the University’s new marketing campaign.

New cutting-edge microscope available at the Imaging Center

The CBS Imaging Center’s new Nikon C1si laser scanning confocal microscope will be delivered this month. The Nikon will be available for 3D reconstruction, time-lapse, FRET and FRAP data collection. Check the Imaging Center website for complete details about the microscope’s technical specifications and capabilities. Contact Mark Sanders in the Imaging Center to discuss how this new microscope might meet your imaging needs.


NIH to allow multiple PIs, discontinue department rankings

A major shift in policy is taking place at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The biomedical-research agency will allow multiple principle investigators to apply for grants and collaborate on a single project. The agency will also scrap its current ranking system, which would quickly become unwieldy. The move comes in response to the growing number of NIH-funded studies that involve teams of scientists working across disciplines.
Childcare, fair pay key to success as scientist and mother

Being a scientist and a mother requires a balancing act between the rigors of lab work and the unpredictability of family life. The challenges of finding quality childcare and a persistent wage gap between male and female scientists in academia form the crux of a problem for women trying to maintain a career in science and raise a family. One proposed solution: fair pay, on-campus childcare and support for working mothers in the sciences.


Mixed prairie grasses a better biofuel source

Highly diverse mixtures of native prairie plant species have emerged as a leader in the quest to identify the best source of biomass for producing sustainable, bio-based fuel to replace petroleum. A new study led by David Tilman (EEB) shows that mixtures of native perennial grasses and other flowering plants provide more usable energy per acre than corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel and are far better for the environment. The researchers estimate that growing mixed prairie grasses on all of the world’s degraded land could produce enough bioenergy to replace 13 percent of global petroleum consumption and 19 percent of global electricity consumption. The findings are the cover story for the December 8 issue of the journal Science.


Bob Herman (GCD) received the 2007 George Beadle Medal from the Genetics Society of America for “distinguished service to the field of genetics and the community of geneticists.”

Rhodes Scholar winner Katie Lee is the subject of a Minnesota Moment audio feature. Lee discusses the role of her undergraduate research in attracting the prestigious award.

Paul Magee (GCD) was recently elected an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow for his work on molecular medical mycology—including the discovery of the sexual cycle of Candida albicans—and for his support for the genome project.

Tom Neufeld and Scott Selleck (both GCD) were recently awarded a grant from the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program for their study “Understanding the function of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex genes in neural development: roles in synapse assembly and axon guidance.” The grant provides $400,000 in support over three years.

Scott Selleck (GCD) was awarded a new grant from Cure Autism Now—a national competition for targeted human genetic research—for his study: “Genomic instability of an interval on chromosome 10q and its contribution to autism spectrum disorder.” The grant provides $120,000 in support over two years.


Mixed prairie grass biofuels with David Tilman

WHEN: January 11 / 7 p.m.
WHERE: CCE Conference Center / St. Paul campus
TICKETS: $10, purchase online or call 612-624-4000

Hear a talk by David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology, about his groundbreaking research into the potential of mixed prairie grass as a cost-effective, sustainable source of biofuel. This public lecture is part of the College of Continuing Education’s Headliners series, a monthly conversation with experts across disciplines.

Tour the RACE exhibit with Dean Elde

WHEN: Wednesday, January 24 / 5:30–8 p.m.
WHERE: Cargill Building / St. Paul Campus

Enjoy a private reception and an exclusive after-hours tour of the Science Museum’s upcoming new exhibit, RACE, with Dean Elde. The reception will include hors d’oeuvres and drinks followed by a tour.


Wanted: Toys for Tots

CBS is once again collecting donations on behalf of Toys for Tots. If you’d like to participate, please drop off unwrapped donations for kids of all ages by Tuesday, December 12 in the dean’s office (123 Snyder Hall).