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CBS News - November 2004


Strategic planning will focus resources in tough times

In the truest sense, we are facing the best of times and the worst of times. Just as advances in biology are creating new opportunities for us to address critical problems, public support for higher education and research appears to be waning. Consequently, one of my priorities for this academic year is to develop a strategic plan to enable CBS to meet challenges and seize opportunities.

Through strategic planning we will work together to articulate a vision for the College of Biological Sciences, identify our priorities, and determine how to allocate our resources in support of those priorities. It will be critical for all faculty and staff to recognize the necessity and value of this process and to become involved with it.

This process will lead us to a short list of priorities and goals. At this point, I don’t know what they will be. But I do know that for CBS to be successful, everyone in CBS will need to know them by heart and that everything we do will need to contribute to reaching these goals. Our process will be closely aligned with the University’s strategic planning process, which is being led by Provost Tom Sullivan. You can learn more about this process on the University’s Strategic Positioning website. Provost Sullivan has asked every college to

  • Examine its mission
  • Determine which programs support that mission
  • Explain outreach programs that are related to teaching and research and
  • Determine which activities are not related to the mission

Elizabeth Wroblewski in the Dean's Office is working with department heads and faculty as time allows to gather information to respond to the provost's questions. Subsequently, the planning process will move out to include everyone at CBS. I encourage you to become involved. One way you can do so now is by attending one of three town hall meetings Provost Sullivan will hold between November 22-29. Dates, times, and places are listed on the website.

We have all seen what strategic planning can accomplish through the reorganization of the biological sciences and the Molecular and Cellular Biology Initiative. By focusing our resources, we have transformed bioscience research at the University over the past few years. With a little creativity, we can apply this approach to other areas and continue to make these kinds of gains, even during tough times.

Bob Elde

Dean, College of Biological Sciences


Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment:
First Annual Research Symposium

Leaders of the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment will report on first-year accomplishments at a research symposium Thursday, November 18 in Cowles Auditorium at the Humphrey Center. Highlights include:

• Welcome from Bob Elde, Chair of the IREE Executive Committee
• Year-end report by Dick Hemmingsen, IREE Director
• Research presentations by Michael Flickinger, BMBB/BTI, on producing biohydrogen; Greg Cuomo, COAFES, on empowering rural communities; Sue Gibson, CBS, on using plant genomics to improve crop fuels; and Steve Polasky, COAFES/CBS, on the full costs of renewable energy systems.
• Keynote speech, “Federal-State-University Partnerships,” by James Fischer, U.S. Department of Energy
• Recommendations for renewable energy research priorities from a work group representing the University, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations.
• Posters of IREE-funded research projects displayed in the atrium throughout the day.

The program, which begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4:30 p.m., is free and registration is not required. For details, see the agenda posted at

Senate Higher Education Budget Committee
Dean Elde spoke to members of the Minnesota Senate Higher Education Budget Committee when they visited the Twin Cities campus in October to hold a public hearing on the state of higher education. Elde, who spoke about University Enterprise Laboratories, was one of three featured speakers. Peter Zetterberg, director, institutional research and reporting, reported on costs of attendance. And Craig Swan, executive vice president and provost, reported on demographic trends. The committee also heard testimony from students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

UM Office of Business Development Open House at UEL
The University’s new Office of Business Development (OBD), a tenant in the University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL) building, will hold an open house on Wednesday, December 1, from 3 to 7 p.m. RSVP to Laurie M. Hennen at 651-265-7856 or if you plan to attend. OBD is a new unit within the Office of the Vice President for Research that helps faculty develop research-based business opportunities. by connecting and serving researchers, investors, and the business community. Main functions include assisting University of Minnesota start-up companies; serving as a point-of-entry for outside businesses; providing educational opportunities about entrepreneurship and the commercialization process; and managing funds to help promising discoveries take the next step on their way to the marketplace. To learn more about the Office of Business Development, go to

New VP for Research is a UW Madison biologist
Pres. Bob Bruininks has named Timothy Mulcahy, a biologist and cancer researcher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vice President for Research. Mulcahy’s appointment was approved by the Board of Regents on Friday, November 12. He will arrive at the University of Minnesota in February, 2005.

“Tim's candidacy for this position received overwhelming support across the University and external communities,” Bruininks said. “His demonstrated leadership ability, administrative experience, research background, and commitment to research excellence made Tim the top candidate for this position.”

At UW Madison, Mulcahy served as Associate Dean for the Biological Sciences in the Graduate School, Vice Chancellor for Research, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Policy, and Professor of Pharmacology. He was also the point person for stem cell research at Madison. As Vice President for Research at the University of Minnesota, his responsibilities will include

• exploring new areas for research and overseeing campus-wide planning
• helping to develop links between the University and industry
• providing leadership and coordination for multi-disciplinary research programs
• representing the University to regional constituencies and federal funding agencies.

New VP for U Relations is former Cargill VP for public affairs, Star Tribune writer
Pres. Bob Bruininkgs has named Linda Thrane as the new vice president for University Relations. Her appointment is effective January 3, 2005, pending approval by the Board of Regents in December.

Thrane comes to the University from the Council for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C., where she has served as executive director for the past four years leading an innovative $135 million communications initiative to inform the North American public about agricultural and food biotechnology. Prior to that, she served as vice president for public affairs at Cargill, Inc., where she led the company's communications and issue management efforts. She has also been an editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, associate director of the Minnesota Petroleum Council, and a reporter for United Press International.

As Vice President for University Relations, Thrane’s role will be to strengthen support for the University among its broad base of stakeholders -- the University community; local, state, and federal policy makers; alumni, donors, and friends of the University; broadcast, print, and specialty media; and the citizens of Minnesota.

Large-scale wind energy research project launched at Morris outreach center
A new wind turbine at the U’s West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris will be the first large-scale wind research instrument at a public university in the Midwest. The groundbreaking, held on November 10, marks an important step in integrating renewable energy into Minnesota's rural economies and in developing state research and education strength around renewable energy. The turbine is expected to produce enough power for more than half the electricity used at UMM each year.

Working while you’re sick? You may be suffering from “presenteeism”
Staying home is the best medicine for you … and your co-workers.
With the shortage of flu vaccine this year, it’s more important than ever to avoid getting sick and, if you do become ill, to avoid infecting others. That means going home if you feel like you’re coming down with the flu and staying there until you’re better. Many employees come to work sick because they feel guilty about staying home – a trend dubbed “presenteeism”. But reduced productivity and the risk of infecting others does more harm than good, according to a study conducted by Cornell University researchers and reported in April, 2004. So do yourself – and others – a favor. If you’re sick, stay home and take care of yourself.

University Employee Benefits provide generous sick leave for this purpose. If you have any questions about your sick leave benefits, contact your supervisor or CBS Human Resources at 612-624-2793.

Lack of Money, Aging Populace Challenge  University  of Minnesota

An aging population and shrinking tax revenues will pose long-term challenges to the University of Minnesota: stiffer competition for students and faculty, fewer government dollars, and more reliance on private philanthropy, according to a long-range forecast delivered Thursday. In a report to the university's Board of Regents, analysts predicted shifts in the student population and financial resources that will require new strategies to maintain Minnesota's educational and economic standing in the decades ahead.

Academic Impressions Daily Update

California's citizens have changed the landscape of a key area of biology — with intriguing implications for everyone else.

The dream has come true for biologists in California who want to work with human embryonic stem cells. A large sum of money ($300 million annually for ten years), the promise of new buildings, a state research institute dedicated to the field and a constitutional guarantee of the right to do the work all sailed through in a referendum earlier this month.

The passage of Proposition 71, as the measure is called, reflects the faith of the public in science's potential to make life better. The infrastructure it creates will make California one of the most suitable places in the world for pushing the frontiers of human embryonic stem-cell research. We have signaled a need for caution (see Nature 431, 723; 2004), because Proposition 71 is an unusual experiment in science funding. Nevertheless, many leading researchers have staked their reputations on its success and deserve credit for their hard work to pass the measure.

David McLaughlin,  professor of plant biology, has been elected President of the Mycological Society of America. 

Hyung Kim, a post-doc in the laboratory of Alan Hooper, BMBB, was the first author of ”Methanobactin, a Copper-Acquisition Compound from Methane-Oxidizing Bacteria,” an article published the September 10 issue of Science.

Jim Cotner, ecology, evolution, and behavior, and Kris McNeil, chemistry, received a $90,000 award from Sea Grant to examine "Photochemical and biochemical degradation of dissolved organic matter in Lake Superior."

Anja Bielinsky, BMBB,  published findings in the  October 22 issue of Molecular Cell, showing that minichromosome maintenance protein 10 (Mcm10) escorts DNA polymerase-alpha to the place on the chromosome where replication begins. Drugs that target Mcm10 could be effective in stopping the uncontrolled cell division seen in cancerous tumors. Mcm10 also maintains the stability of DNA polymerase-alpha. Her findings were reported by Reuters News Service.

Anne Pusey, received an $576,395 NSF grant for “Spatio-temporal data analysis techniques for behavioral ecology” with co-PI’s Shashi Shekhar and Jaideep Srivastava, Department of Computer Science.  The grant includes a subcontract to Richard Wrangham, Harvard University, for an additional $127,920. Ian Gilbey, Pusey’s graduate student, will be a post-doc at Harvard on the grant. Gilbey will develop Wrangham's database on chimpanzees of the in Kibale forest of Uganda to allow comparative analysis of chimpanzee behavior in Gombe and Kibale.

Joe Foley,  plant biology undergraduate student, received the Minnesota Teckne Awards Undergraduate Scholarship from the Minnesota High Tech Association at an awards banquet November 10. Joe is an honors biology major working in Carolyn Silflow’s lab.

Birds in Art Opening Event
Bell Museum
December 4, 5-7 p.m.
$10, $7 members
Be the first to view "Birds in Art" while enjoying drinks and hors d'oeuvres at the opening event. Meet and mingle with bird experts and art enthusiasts.

"Birds in Art" invites you to explore the beauty and mystery of avian life through 60 stunning contemporary paintings, drawings, and sculptures. From the exuberant displays of the yellow-headed blackbird, to the comical forms of a bee-eater, the works are breathtaking in color and arresting in imagery. Developed by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. [December 5-February 6]

For more information, call the Bell Museum at (612) 624-7083 or visit