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CBS News - October 2003

Dean's Comments

Put Your Energy into IREE

I’m sure that by now you all know the University’s Initiative for Renewable Energy (IREE) was funded by the 2003 Minnesota Legislature with $20 million over five years from utility company fees.

So far, we have created an administrative structure with representatives from CBS, IT, COAFES, and the Humphrey Institute. We have identified four research clusters and have assembled faculty teams to explore key themes. And finally, we have announced the availability of research funds.
Now it’s your turn. This is a great opportunity for CBS researchers to be part of the solution to the global energy problem and to help Minnesota reap environmental and economic benefits in this area. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to think about how you might become involved.
Research must focus on development of energy and materials using renewable resources and environmentally friendly processes, such as biocatalysis, biorefining,and fermentation.
There are three different types of grants available:

Cluster support funds of up to $20,000 per cluster to jumpstart research within and across clusters, including meetings, speakers, and expenses related to proposals.Seed grants of up to $25,000 per project for new collaborative research projects.

Matching funds for special opportunities

For details about criteria and procedure, contact Dick Hemmingsen, interim director, at

I also encourage you to contact cluster leaders about research opportunities. They are:

Hydrogen – Lanny Schmidt, or Michael Flickinger,

Bioenergy and Bioproducts – Larry Wackett,

Policy, Economics, and Ecosystems – Dave Tilman,

Conservation and Energy Efficient Systems – Greg Cuomo,

This is a great opportunity for you to think about creative ways to apply your expertise to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. I hope you will decide to take advantage of it. We need your energy.


UM gets $10.8 million NSF grant to lead legume genome project
The University of Minnesota will get a $10.8 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to lead a multi-center effort to sequence the genome of Medicago truncatula, a model legume. Principal Investigator is Nevin Young, plant biology and plant pathology, who will direct sequencing and coordinate bioinformatics with Ernie Retzel, director of the UM Center for Computational Genomics and Bioinformatics. Sequencing will be carried out at the University of Oklahoma and The Institute for Genomics Research (TIGR) using robotic facilities. The new award adds to more than $5 million in Medicago, genomics research already underway at Minnesota, including functional genomics research in the Department of Plant Biology, where the focus is on root biology and symbiotic interactions. Sequencing of the Medicago genome could revolutionize plant genomics by elucidating genes responsible for nitrogen fixation, plant-microbe symbiosis, synthesis of health-promoting compounds, and other processes. The work will also speed development of new technology for legume research, including DNA chips and DNA microarrays, which enable researchers to predict protein functions. The UM-led group will sequence six of Medicago’s eight chromosomes, while a European research group will sequence the remaining two.

Young is also a co-PI on a second new NSF-funded project entitled "Comparative analysis of legume genome evolution." This study will focus on resistance gene evolution and genome rearrangements associated with changes in ploidy in soybean and its relatives, among other topics. The principal investigator is Roger Innes at Indiana University. More information on both new NSF awards is available at this NSF site: .

Faculty get NSF grant to sequence bacterium that degrades toxin
Mike Sadowsky, soil, water, and climate, and Larry Wackett, microbial biochemistry, have been awarded $699,245 from the National Science Foundation for a two-year study to sequence the genome of Arthrobacter aurescens, a soil bacterium that degrades atrazine and other herbicides. Sequencing will be done in collaboration with The Institute for Genomics Research (TIGR). Arthrobacter strains, which are widespread in soil around the globe, contribute to recycling organic matter, breaking down environmental pollutants, and transforming heavy metals. The researchers hope to gain new tools, such as genes, enzymes, and other proteins, for cleaning up the environment. The project includes collaboration with the Minnesota Science Museum to create hands-on exhibits and displays showing how microbial genomic technologies can enhance the environment.

Construction on UEL incubator to begin in February, 2004
University Enterprise Laboratories (UEL) has raised $6.5 million of $8.5 million needed to begin renovation of the building purchased by the City of St. Paul to serve as an incubator for start-up biotech companies. Contributors are Xcel, the City of St. Paul, 3M, Medtronic, and the University. The $8.5 million is needed as a down payment to secure additional loans for the $18 million project. Architects are planning the renovation, which is scheduled to start in February. Construction will be completed in late summer. UEL is a nonprofit entity separate from the University. Dean Elde serves as chairman of the board.

Students and donors recognized at annual dinner
More than 200 people attended CBS’ Recognition and Appreciation Dinner, which was held again this year at the McNamara Alumni Center. The purpose of the annual event is to recognize students who received scholarships and fellowships for this year, to thank donors who provided the funds, and to provide an opportunity for them to meet each other. Scholarships funds may be annual, which means all money collected is paid out, or endowed, which means that interest on a permanent fund is awarded. Most permanent funds honor faculty, alumni, and friends of CBS. Alumna Carol Pletcher also received the University’s Outstanding Alumni Achievement award at the dinner. Pletcher, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, is now a vice president at Cargill, Inc.

Imaging Center now has Large-Format Printer
The Imaging Center has acquired a large format printer to print posters for faculty, staff, and students at reasonable rates. To make arrangements to have a poster printed, contact the Imaging Center staff in 23-25 Snyder Hall, call 612-624-3454, or email Mark Sanders, Electronic files should be submitted two days in advance. Most posters can be printed within a few hours, but the additional lead time gives staff the opportunity to identify and correct any problems. Several types of paper are available. Prices vary depending on size of poster, ink coverage, and type of paper used.

Minnesota Counts on U, Community Campaign 2003
This year’s Community Campaign Drive offers CBS faculty and staff the opportunity to contribute to a variety of worthy causes through regular payroll deduction or with a one-time gift. There are several funds to choose from. Each addresses a different cause, including health, the environment, social justice, homeless and hungry, the arts, and minority education. To learn more about the funds and make a contribution to the Community Campaign online, go to Submitting a pledge makes you eligible for weekly and grand prize drawings.

Watch the Golden Gophers take on the Indiana Hoosiers
The Golden Gophers will take on the Indiana Hoosiers on November 1 at the Metrodome. You can buy reserved tickets from CBS and save the processing fee. The college will host a tailgating party before the game. It's a great opportunity to connect with alumni, faculty, staff, students, and retirees from CBS. For $15 you get one upper end zone game ticket, a dome dog, and a soda at the game as well as food and beverages before the game. If you already have your game tickets, join us for tailgating for only $5. Tickets are already reserved for you, your family, and your friends. Just visit to register or call Emily at 612-624-4770.
Go Gophers!

Fall Career Day 2003
CBS Career Services partnered with the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences (COAFES) to co-host Career Day 2003, a fall career and internship fair. Students met with employers about career options and internships in areas including genetics, animal health, and food production. CBS and COAFES will partner with the College of Natural Resources to host the Environmental Career and Internship Fair on February 4, 2004, and will host CBS' annual Career and Internship Fair on February 27, 2004. The Career Center and Alumni Relations are also hosting “Exploring Careers in the Life Sciences” throughout the year. The evening program features alumni panelists who discuss their careers for an audience of students. For more information, contact Maggie Kubak, Coordinator, CBS Career Services, 612-624-9270.CBS

Faculty textbook adoptions
Get your Spring semester textbook adoptions into the Bookstore soon! See for deadlines and electronic adoptions.

Promotional materials available
The Dean’s Office has a variety of CBS promotional materials available for events, faculty and student recruitment, etc. Materials include the CBS Facts brochure, bookmark, and preprinted shells to use for flyers. Contact Peggy Rinard,

CBS Fall Forum
The Department of Plant Biology will host the CBS Fall Forum on November 21 at 3 p.m. in the Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics. Lecturer is Bill Gray, associate professor, who will speak on "Molecular genetics of auxin signaling: A degrading story of plant development."


David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology, is mentioned in an article in the September 26 issue of Science related to his role in reviewing the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), which was proposed by the National Science Foundation. Tilman chaired a National Research Council committee charged with reviewing the plan.

Duncan Clarke, GCD, published a paper in Nature Cell Biology titled “S-phase Checkpoint Controls Mitosis via an APC-independent Cdc20p function,” [5(10): 928-935 2003]. Catherine Andrews, an assistant scientist in his lab, and Karen Smith, a graduate student in the M.D./Ph.D. program, were co-authors. “Can Fizzy Fly Solo?” a commentary on the study by Peter K. Jackson, was published in the News and Views section of the same issue of Nature Cell Biology.

Claudia Neuhauser, professor and head of EEB, received a supplementary $80,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for support of "Research Experiences for Undergraduates."
Bonnie LeRoy, director of the genetic counseling graduate program in the Medical School's Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development, recently received the Natalie Weisberger Paul award, given annually to a genetic counselor who demonstrates exceptional lifetime leadership qualities in the profession of genetic counseling.

Bob McKinnell, professor emeritus of genetics, cell biology, and development, co-authored "The Golden Anniversary of Cloning: A Celebratory Essay” in the September issue of Differentiation (volume 71, Number 7, Sept. 2003). McKinnell is widely known for his cloning of a frog in 1962. Taryn O. Hall, CBS undergraduate student and staff member in the Imaging Center, designed the cover image for the story, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of cloning.

David Largaespada, Perry Hackett, and Scott McIvor are co-authors of a paper titled “Integration and long-term expression in lung mediated by the Sleeping
Beauty transposon system” published in Molecular Therapy [8: 501-507 Sept, 2003].
Eli Bridge , EEB graduate student, received the Best Student Paper award for a presentation on the biomechanics of underwater diving by murres and puffins at the 27th annual meeting of the Waterbird Society in Cuiabá, Brazil, that was held 24-27 September, 2003 . Eli is advised by Professor Bill Schmid.

Elizabeth Wroblewski has accepted the position of associate to Dean Elde.
During the past three years, Elizabeth served as Deputy Chief of Staff in the President's Office and as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. Prior to that, she served as Director of Institutional Planning and Research at the College of St. Catherine for many years. Elizabeth is a generalist with a variety of experiences, including new program development, enrollment management, program review, learning assessment, market research, fund-raising, strategic planning, and more.She will serve as the Dean’s “right hand” and work with the CBS community to develop and implement the Dean's vision for the College of Biological Sciences.

Nicole Letawsky Shultz has been hired as assistant to Robin Wright, Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs. Nikki most recently served as Assistant Dean of Students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where she worked with advising student organizations and leadership development initiatives. She has also served as a research analyst for the Government of Alberta's higher education division. Nikki, who is originally from Edmonton, Alberta, received her Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Alberta and her Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Bowling Green State University.

Clarence Gillet, a graduate student in the MCDB&G program, won an award for work he will present at the American College of Rheumatology meeting this year.

Best wishes to Jenny Jeske and Aron Geurts, both CBS alumni, who are getting married October 18. Aron is a MCBDG grad student, and Jenny is a technician in David Largaespada's lab.Send items for the next issue of CBS News to Peggy Rinard,

Events & Seminars

CBS Fall Forum
"Molecular genetics of auxin signaling:
A degrading story of plant development."
Hosted by the Department of Plant Biology
Lecturer: Bill Gray, associate professor
November 21, 3 p.m.
Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics