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CBS News - October 2008

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From the dean

Be part of the conversation

The All-College Meeting this Monday is right around the corner, and I’m very excited about some of the developments you will hear about this year. Faculty and staff from across the college will provide brief overviews of new initiatives, updates on undergraduate and international education, and a look at new dimensions in research. You can access a complete agenda with a list of speakers online.

As part of one of the largest public research universities in the country, CBS faculty are often at the forefront in finding creative ways to expand and increase the impact of their research. It’s why CBS ranks first in the university for studies published in the journals Nature and Science. We do research well.

That’s why I think you’ll find this All-College Meeting especially interesting. We’ve invited Larry Wackett (BTI), Peter Tiffin (PBIO), Reuben Harris (BMBB), Dan Voytas (GCD) and Claudia Schmidt-Dannert (BMBB) to talk about what they’re up to. While their projects are very different in substance, they employ intriguing strategies for establishing new footholds in research and training. Their efforts represent possible avenues for moving forward at a time of increasing competition and a growing emphasis on collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches.

The blend of the innovative and the tried-and-true is a source of great strength for the college as is the presence of so many great minds in one place. It’s an incredible opportunity for dialogue. That convergence produces a vibrant conversation within the college that we hope to capture in microcosm during the All-College Meeting. We’ll be handing out the 2009 Itasca Centennial calendar, too. I hope to see you there.

Bob Elde, Dean
College of Biological Sciences

College news

All-College Meeting set for October 27

CBS faculty and staff are invited to attend the annual All-College Meeting. Meet new faculty and staff, get updates on the state of the college, and hear about new initiatives. A wine and cheese reception will follow the presentation. Attendees will receive a free copy of the 2009 Itasca Centennial calendar.

Here a few topics that will be covered during the meeting:

  • New approaches to research at the Enhanced Biocatalysis and Bioenergy Center (Larry Wackett/BTI) and the Center for Genomic Engineering (Dan Voytas/GCD)
  • The Medicago Genome Grant (Peter Tiffin/PBIO) and Molecular Approaches to Novel HIV Therapies (Rueben Harris/BMBB)
  • The MIT/NSF Systems Biology Summer Camp (Claudia Schmidt-Dannert/BMBB)
  • The Itasca Master Plan and the Metagenome of the Mississippi (Dave Biesboer)
  • An update on undergraduate education (Robin Wright) and international education (Bob Elde)

The All-College Meeting takes place October 27 from 3–5 p.m. The event will be held in the Active Learning Classroom (64 Biological Sciences Center) on the St. Paul campus.

David Tilman wins prestigious biology prize

David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology, has been named the 2008 recipient of the International Prize for Biology. Tilman will receive a medal, $100,000 cash prize and a gift from Emperor Akihito of Japan in a ceremony in Tokyo on December 8. Following the ceremony, he will present the keynote address at a scientific symposium.

The award is given to one individual in a different field of biology each year. The last time it was given for ecology was in 1993, when Edward O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard evolutionary biologist, was the recipient. Other past recipients include scientists from California Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford, Duke and other leading research universities around the world.

“This is one of the most prestigious scientific prizes in the world,” said Bob Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences. “And no one deserves it more that Dave Tilman. His stature as a scientist honors the university, the college, his colleagues and our students. We are very fortunate that he has chosen Cedar Creek as his laboratory.”

Community Fund Drive in full swing

Last year, 21 percent of CBS faculty and staff made contributions. This year, the college is aiming for a 40 percent participation rate. The department with the highest participation wins “Breakfast With Bob,” a morning treat from Dean Elde. Make a one-time contribution or give each pay period. Designate funds for your favorite nonprofit or choose from seven federations focusing on issues such as the environment and hunger relief. Visit the Community Fund Drive website for more information. The fund drive ends October 31.

The college is also hosting an auction, which ends October 27. Bid on items donated by college faculty and staff from three days at Star Lake in Wisconsin to handmade hats to artwork. All proceeds go to the fund drive.

Hot off the presses: 2009 Itasca centennial calendar

Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories turns 100 in 2009. Help support a legacy of ecological research and education that continues today. Each month features an image of Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories’ unique flora and fauna from orchids to water lilies to woodcocks taken by longtime Itasca photography instructor Don Rubbelke. The calendar is available online or in U bookstores.


Protein crystallization capabilities expand

Two grants totaling $3 million—one from The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic for $1.8 million and a large-equipment grant for $1.3 million from the National Institutes of Health—will go toward the purchase of a Rigaku robotic protein crystallization system. The new system will allow U researchers to automate the process of growing crystals of proteins in order to study their structures. Doug Ohlendorf (BMBB), who is leading the effort, says that it is much faster, more efficient and cost-effective than manual protocols. He notes that it requires a much smaller protein sample and automates experiments from beginning to end cutting out experimenter variations. This will allow U researchers to learn at no cost to them if their protein can be easily crystallized using less than 1 milligram of protein. This information tells the researchers whether structure-based drug design is an option for their system.

Alan Hooper (BMBB) published studies in the May 28, 2008 online edition of Biochemistry and the November 2008 issue of Environmental Microbiology.


Federal agencies graded on scientific openness

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists grades a wide range of federal agencies on the level of transparency in releasing scientific information to the public and the press. While some agencies such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission received high marks, others such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management scored low in both policy and practice.


Andrea Backes joins CBS November 3 as director of finance. Andrea has worked at the University for 20 years, most recently as chief financial officer at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.


E3 2008 renewable energy conference

This 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.

DETAILS: Saint Paul River Centre | November 18

Gender, Science, and Myths of Merit

Marlene Zuck, an expert in the evolution of animal behavior and sexual selection, discusses the role of underlying bias in evaluating the relative achievements of men and women. Zuck will present some of the current data on gender in science and suggest some measures that can be adopted for greater equity.

DETAILS: 335 Borlaug Hall | St. Paul campus | November 5 | noon

iTunes U and Beyond: Perspectives of Faculty

New academic technology is coming to the University in November. U faculty members, including Sehoya Cotner (Biology Program) and Frank Barnwell (EEB), will discuss their experiences using iTunes U to enhance their courses.

DETAILS: 101 Walter Library | East Bank campus | November 4 | noon


A complete list of CBS Constitutional Committee members is available online.