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CBS News - November 2007

From the Dean | News | Research | Trendwatch | People | Events | FYI


Highlights from the All-College Meeting

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to attend the All-College Meeting on October 29. These meetings are important opportunities for us to come together as a community to review the progress we are making toward shared goals and to get to know each other better.

With all of the day-to-day challenges, it’s easy to lose sight of progress. That’s why it’s always valuable for me to look back and see how much we’ve accomplished. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, here are some highlights:

Funding for graduate education
Over the past two years we have gained nearly $2 million from the University in new recurring funds for graduate education through the University’s compact process. This goes a long way towards helping us achieve our goals in this area.

Graduation rates
Our four-year graduation rate jumped from 48.5 percent in 2006 to 61.5 percent in 2007, which was when the first Nature of Life class graduated. The University’s four-year graduation goal is 60 percent. Most U colleges have four-year rates of 40–50 percent.

Scholarships and fellowships
There were several large new scholarship and fellowship gifts this year, and the circle of prospective donors is growing. We now have a $6-million endowment and gave out 71 scholarships and 14 fellowships to students this fall.

Renewable energy
Last spring, the Legislature approved permanent funding ($5 million annually beginning in 2009) for the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment. Renewable energy research at the U has produced 47 journal publications and 34 technology disclosures.

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
This fall, Cedar Creek Natural History Area was renamed Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. We also opened a new building, the Raymond Lindeman Research and Discovery Center, which provides new labs, classrooms and meeting space.

But challenges remain. As always, we never seem to have a large enough budget to develop and implement all of our ideas to improve CBS. With decreases in funding from the state, the best prospects for increasing budget are to generate our own revenue. One of the ways to do that is by creating new biology courses, particularly general interest courses on topical areas of biology to attract non-majors. This was one of the discussion topics at the All-College Meeting. I know that all of you are creative problem solvers. I welcome your ideas for new courses.

Robert Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences


Four CBS faculty among new AAAS fellows

Four faculty members in CBS departments were recently named fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Robert Herman (GCD), John Lipscomb (BMBB), Judith Berman (GCD) and Stephen Polasky (EEB), who has a joint appointment in CBS and CFANS. Berman received the recognition for significant advances in the field of genomics, Herman for developmental genetics, Lipscomb for contributions to metalloenzymology, and Polasky for his work on environmental economics.

New faculty and staff join CBS

Welcome to new faculty and staff who started at the college this fall, including:

  • Imke Schmitt, assistant professor (PBIO-Bell Museum joint appointment)
  • Adrian Hegeman, assistant professor (PBIO)
  • Mike Travisano, associate professor (BTI-EEB joint appointment)
  • Mike Wilson, assistant professor (Anthropology-EEB joint appointment)
  • York Marahrens, associate professor (GCD)
  • Laura Gammill, assistant professor (GCD)
  • Jonathan Slack, director of the Stem Cell Institute (GCD)
  • Pam Hyser, receptionist (BMBB)
  • Randy Moore, professor (Biology Program)
  • Brett Couch, teaching assistant professor (Biology Program)
  • Vanessa Pompei, assistant education specialist (Biology Program)

Open enrollment is underway

Choose your benefits for 2008 now through November 30. Provider directories for medical and dental plans are available from the CBS HR Office at 124 Snyder Hall. You can also check out plans online. Contact Nicole Matteson ( for more information. New plans go into effect January 1, 2008.

Winter Warm-Up is coming

Come in out of the cold! Stop by the CBS dean’s office at 123 Snyder Hall any time between 11 a.m.–1 p.m for cookies and cider Fridays beginning November 30 through December 14.

Wanted: Toys for Tots

Drop off new, unwrapped toys in the dean’s office and bring some good cheer to a child this holiday season. Donate gifts for children of all ages. Donations to Toys for Tots will be accepted November 30 through December 14.


A paper co-authored by John Lipscomb (BMBB) titled “Substrate activation for O2 reactions by oxidized metal centers in biology” appears in the November 12 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Associate Professor Sue Gibson (PBIO) co-authored a study with researchers from Rice University and Iowa State University on the potential use of “hairy roots,” a type of tumor that forms on plants infected by the soil bacterium Agrobacterium rhizogenes, as natural factories to produce medicines, food flavorings and other commercial products.

David Zarkower and Vivian Bardwell (GCD) received a four-year $1.8 million NIH grant to study the “Role of Dmrt1 in mammalian sexual development.” The study seeks to understand how the Dmrt1 gene controls the development and function of different cell types in the mammalian testis, including germ line stem cells.

Graduate student Jim Hood (EEB) has been awarded an EPA STAR Fellowship to study “Nutrient cycling in detrital-dominated headwater streams: The influence of stoichiometric imbalances on nutrient uptake and particulate nutrient export.” Hood is advised by both Jacques Finlay and Bob Sterner (EEB).


Minority professors underrepresented in top science programs

A new report financed by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has found a gap between the proportion of science and engineering degrees awarded to underrepresented minority students and the proportion of minority faculty members in those disciplines. The report, “A National Analysis of Minorities in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities,” says top universities should hire more scientists and engineers from underrepresented minority groups, in part as a way to keep minority students interested in the disciplines.

An alternate view of “millennials”

A presentation given by a college marketing expert counters characterizations of today’s college students as sheltered and studious. The presentation—“Millennial Students: What Do We Know and What Does It Mean for Admissions?”—given at the annual College Board conference highlighted data that contradicts common perceptions about today’s college students. Among the assertions: while students spend more time on homework than their predecessors, overall time spent on homework has been on the decline for the last decade. Also noted: today’s college students are cynical about college marketing efforts and are becoming more preoccupied—not less so—with finding lucrative careers as some have suggested.


Science Museum of Minnesota President Eric Jolly has joined the Biology Program as an adjunct professor.

Sara Johnson (Student Services) is serving as 2007–08 co-chair of the University of Minnesota’s Academic Advising Network, and Jess Etten (Student Services) is serving as a board member.

Scott Coenen (Student Services) recently presented a session on technology tools for improving student services at the Academic Advising Network’s Best Practices Seminar.

Nikki Letawsky Shultz (Student Services) presented a session on professional growth within the advising field at the National Association of Academic Advising annual conference.


Institute on the Environment: Environment Roundtable

WHEN: Monday, November 12 | 11:45 a.m.–1 p.m.
WHERE: 105 Cargill | St. Paul campus

David Mulla (CFANS) and Paige Novak (IT) will lead a discussion on “Biofuels and Environmental Quality” featuring Mark David (University of Illinois), Gyles Randall (Southern Research and Outreach Center) and Nick Jordan (CFANS). The program can also be accessed online via UMConnect.

E3 2007 Conference

WHEN: November 27 | 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
WHERE: Coffman Memorial Union | East Bank campus

The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment’s annual conference will focus on the intersection between innovative technologies, visionary policies, environmental benefits and emerging market opportunities as they relate to developments in the renewable energy sector.

MPGI National Academy of Sciences Lectureship Series

WHEN: Friday, November 30 | 2 p.m.
WHERE: 105 Cargill | St. Paul Campus

Michael Thomashow, Director of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University, will give a seminar and visit with faculty, staff and students.


NMR to install new spectrometer

The University’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility, located in Nils Hasselmo Hall, is in the process of installing a new 700 MHz Bruker Avance NMR Spectrometer donated by 3M. This high-field spectrometer is equipped with a state-of-the-art cryoprobe and 60-sample autosampler. The instrument will be available to researchers by January 2008.