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CBS News - March 2005

Spring and strategic planning are in the air

I would like to thank those of you who attended the CBS Strategic Planning Retreat last month. There was good representation from all departments and we had a very engaging discussion about our priorities and concerns.

One focus of our conversation was on how we continuously revitalize our disciplines with “infusions” of new knowledge and technologies. The challenge is to identify just the right ones to maintain our momentum on the cutting edge of science. Some of the infusions we talked about were computational biology, biological engineering, evolution and biocomplexity, and systems biology, including proteomics and metabolomics.

At the end of the meeting, we broke into groups to identify specific goals for education, research, outreach and community. We are continuing to refine those goals and hope to share them with you soon.

As you know, the University’s strategic positioning effort continues on a parallel course with ours.The timing is coincidental, but in a way it is serendipitous because we can ask ourselves how we can accomplish the same goal – to be one of the top three research universities in the nation. In my mind, that has everything to do with impact. There are many excellent scientists in CBS who do good work that is well funded by the NSF and NIH. But there are fewer among us who conduct research that truly advances our fields. This is the kind of work that leads to membership in the National Academy of Science and elevates the entire University.

A recent example is a study by Antony Dean (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and the Biotechnology Institute) published in the February 25 issue of Science. Titled “A Selective Cause of an Ancient Adaptation,” the paper shows how Dean and colleagues revealed the selective basis of an evolutionary event that occurred billions of years ago by genetically engineering an ancestral version of an enzyme and using subsequent selection experiments to show how the enzyme changed. I believe this is a landmark paper that will have great impact. I encourage you to read it at This is the kind of transformative research that we should all aspire to, and which will elevate our national position.

At the end of March President Bruininks and Provost Tom Sullivan will release recommendations of the strategic planning task forces. I look forward to learning about the recommendations and their implications for CBS.

Best regards,

Bob Elde

Dean, College of Biological Sciences


Dean Elde speaks to legislators about U bioscience request

Robert Elde, CBS Dean, spoke to the higher education budget committees in the House and Senate several times during March to promote the University’s legislative request. On March 2, which was St. Paul Day at the Capitol, he spoke to the House committee about CBS’ role in preparing the workforce for Minnesota’s growing bioscience Industry. On March 9, he spoke to the House committee about “Better Products through Biotechnology,” and on March 15, he joined former governors Arne Carlson and Wendell Anderson at a meeting of the Senate committee to advocate for supporting the U. Elde served as spokesperson for the U, providing an overview of the entire request and details about the request for funding research infrastructure and technology.

Morris Renewable Energy Research Center is fueled by IREE

A wind turbine that will meet half of the electricity needs for the University’s Morris campus will be commissioned at an Earth Day celebration on April 22, culminating a week of events to promote renewable energy. The first large-scale wind research instrument at a public university in the Midwest, the turbine is part of a larger demonstration project at the University’s Renewable Energy Research and Demonstration Center at Morris, which was funded by a $4 million grant from the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). The Center is a community-scale, research and demonstration center focusing on wind, biomass, biofuels, anaerobic digestion, and renewable hydrogen. Its purpose is to integrate renewable energy into Minnesota’s rural economy and develop Minnesota’s research and education strengths in this area. Greg Cuomo is director.

National Center for Biofuels Research planned for St. Paul campus

Dean Bob Elde and Richard Hemmingsen, director of the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, are working to secure $30 million in federal funds to build a National Laboratory for Biofuels Research.The Minnesota lab, potentially located adjacent to the Cargill Building on the St. Paul campus, would be modeled after the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. The purpose of the lab would be to develop and commercialize technologies that use the state’s agricultural and forest products to produce biofuels and bioproducts.

U creates Consortium for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

The U has created a Consortium for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology that will be funded in part with $5 million received by the State of Minnesota from settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. The consortium comprises nine UMTC colleges and UMD and will be headquartered in the Digital Technology Center. For more information, see

Report on Financing Graduate Education released

The Financing Graduate Education Task Force, commissioned by Provost Tom Sullivan and chaired by Charles Muscoplat, has released recommendations. To read their report, go to and look under News and Events.

Funds sought to restore two Itasca cabins

CBS has launched a fundraising campaign to rebuild two cabins at Lake Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories. Cabin 4, one of Itasca’s most popular cabins, was built in 1911 from Tamarack logs on a stone foundation. Because of structural problems, it must be dismantled and completely rebuilt. Retired professor John Tester, who worked at Itasca for more than 40 years, is leading the effort to raise $150,000 for Cabin 4. Cabin 30, which was condemned and demolished in fall 2004, will be replaced with a women’s cabin at a cost of $50,000. Volunteers are being recruited to assist with construction of Cabin 30. To make a contribution or volunteer to help with Cabin 30, contact Development Director Ames Sheldon at 612-624-9460 or

Bell Museum architect selected

The Minneapolis-based team of Thorbeck Architects and ESG Architects has been selected to design and build the University of Minnesota's new Bell Museum of Natural History. Thorbeck will design the building and ESG will manage the project. Thorbeck is known for the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center in St. Paul, and the International Wolf Center in Ely. The team will work with Kestrel Design Group, which will design the museum’s 12-acre setting. Estimated cost of the building is $32 million, of which 50 percent will come from private donations, grants and federal appropriations. The building, to be built on the southwest corner of Larpenteur and Cleveland avenues on the university's St. Paul campus, is scheduled to open in fall 2009.

MIT creates major in biological engineering

Once the cutting-edge materials of engineering were steel girders, then transistors. And next, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is gambling, it will be DNA and cells -- the stuff of life. The university recently approved an undergraduate major in biological engineering, the first time it has created an entirely new field of study in 29 years. See Detail

MIT Provost Robert Brown, an alumnus of the U’s chemical engineering program, recently lectured on biological engineering at the Institute of Technology.


Eric Hendrickson (biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysics) and colleagues in his laboratory have been awarded $2.8 million from the National Institutes of Health for research on a common genetic mechanism that underlies a rare disease and for a project on a gene involved in repairing damaged DNA. The first is $1.8 million over five years for “A human somatic cell model for Dyskeratosis congenita.” The research focuses on KARP-1, a gene believed to cause Dyskeratosis congenita (DC), a rare inherited disorder that affects continuously renewed tissues such as the skin, mucous, and bone marrow, and causes death from bone marrow failure or cancer. DC appears to be related to dysfunction of telomeres – repetitive sequences of noncoding DNA that cap chromosomes. For the second study, Erickson and colleagues will receive $1 million over four years to study a gene that regulates telomere length and genomic stability and is also involved in repairing damaged DNA. The gene is also believed to play a role in several forms of cancer.Bob Sterner, professor of ecology, was featured on the home page of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) the week of March 14. Dave Biesboer, professor of plant biology, was featured in February. The OVPR recently began featuring a U researcher on its website each week. To see current and past columns, go to

Jerry Truhn, who worked in the CBS Electronic Instrument Services Department for 35 years, passed away on Sunday, February 20, from cancer. A memorial service was held on March 18.

Jeff Gralnick will join the faculty of the Biotechnology Institute in July. Gralnick, who earned his Ph.D at the University of Wisconsin is currently a post doc at CalTech. His research focuses on physiology and gene regulation in Shewanella oneidensis, an aquatic bacterium that can respire a wide variety of substances. A longterm goal is to engineer strains for use in bioremediation, bioenergy production, and biocatalysis. Gralnick will have a joint appointment in the Department of Microbiology and be located in Gortner Laboratories. Other faculty with joint BTI appointments are Daniel Bond, Rob Brooker, Antony Dean, Mark Distefano, Michael Flickinger, Wei-Shou Hu, Romas Kazlauskas, Arkady Khodursky, Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Friedrich Srienc, Mike Sadowsky, and Larry Wackett. Ken Valentas is director.

Graduate students Nicholas Deacon, Jenny Dechaine, (Plant Biological Sciences) Leslie Brandt, and Daniel Hernandez (EEB) have been awarded Carolyn Crosby Fellowships by the Graduate School. This is a University-wide fellowship for students engaged in field-based plant biology research.

Maj Padamsee and Kelly Zinn, plant biology graduate students, have been awarded the Alexander P. and Lydia Anderson Fellowship by the Graduate School. This fellowship supports students in the plant or animal sciences, with preference given to students involved in basic research.

Wendy Clement, plant biology graduate student, has been awarded the Carol H. and Wayne A. Pletcher Graduate Fellowship. The fellowship was created by the Pletchers to support women pursuing a Ph.D. at CBS.

Anne Pusey, professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior, received a $106,000 NSF grant to study "Discrimination of Paternal Kin in Wild Chimpanzees."The grant will partially support research of EEB graduate student Emily Wroblewski.



April 2-3
Drawn to Nature: Art Exhibit & Sale
McNamara Alumni Center
Saturday, April 2, 10 a.m.-7p.m.
Sunday, April 3, 12-5 p.m.
Featuring more than 50 wildlife artists, including Al Agnew, Craig Blacklock, Jim Brandenburg, Robert Deurloo, David Maass, Andrea Rich, John Seerey-Lester, Pati Stajcar, and Art Wolfe.
Benefit for the Bell Museum of Natural History
$5, $3 members

April 6-7
Plant Sale
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
St. Paul Student Center
Sponsored by Plant Biology Phytograds and the CBS Greenhouse

Friday, April 8
BSAS Alumni Wine Tasting Event
Campus Club in Coffman Memorial Union
$15 for wine, cheese, fruit, bread

April 14-15
Annual Bioinformatics Symposium
DIgital Technology Center, Walter Library.
Free, but pre-registration required.

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