Two MSI PIs were among the U of M faculty who received Spring 2016 Mini Grants from the Institute on the Environment. The grants are awarded to interdisciplinary projects that focus on environmental themes. Besides funding, the award includes space for workshops, meetings, and conferences and some administrative support for a year. The MSI PIs who received Mini Grants are:
MSI PI Wendy Gordon, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics, has been named a 2016 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. This grant, presented by the Pew Charitable Trust, “provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.
MSI PI David Largaespada (Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development; Masonic Cancer Center) is one of the co-founders of a startup that will develop better gene-editing tools that will enable more complex genome engineering techniques. The company, B-MoGen, was launched in February.
MSI PI Raymond Hozalski, a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, has been working with the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to help improve the taste and smell of their drinking water. While the water was safe, conditions in the water sources were creating “off” tastes and odors.
MSI PI Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering and St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, studies river deltas as part of the National Science Foundation-funded Sustainable Deltas Project. This project seeks to understand how river deltas are changing and what can be done to protect them.
MSI Principal Investigators are among the researchers chosen to receive grants from the Institute on the Environment’s Renewable Electricity for Minnesota’s Future program. The projects are cross-disciplinary and include partners from the private sector. The following projects include MSI PIs. PI names are in bold. A complete list of the grant awardees can be found on the IonE website.
A recent post in the OVPR’s Inquiry blog describes the U’s participation in citizen-science projects, including its own citizen-science initiative, Zooniverse@UMN. MSI Principal Investigator Lucy Fortson (Physics and Astronomy) heads the initiative.
In a paper published last month in the journal PLoS One, MSI Principal Investigator Tracy Twine (Soil, Water, and Climate) used computer models to show that rising temperatures and more extreme rain/drought cycles adversely affect corn yields. The study is the first to include the process by which plants interact with soil moisture. A story about the research appears on the SWC department website.
On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, from 8:00am – 12:00pm CDT, MSI staff will perform scheduled maintenance and upgrades to the network and various systems. Maintenance during this period will impact the following systems: Systems will be generally unavailable from 8:00am - 12:00pm CDT while MSI staff make network updates. The NX server will be upgraded and unavailable for use from 8:00 - 9:00am CDT. Systems status is always available on our Status page.
Mice used in research labs live in controlled environments with sheltered immune systems. In a recent study, MSI PIs and their research groups and colleagues show that mice that are exposed to a more unhygienic environment, by being housed with “dirty” pet-store mice, have immune systems that are more like those of humans. This has implications for research, by making mouse models more applicable to humans.
The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) has awarded two projects with funding under the Minnesota Futures Grant Program. Both projects are headed by MSI Principal Investigators. MSI PIs are indicated in bold below. Complete descriptions of the projects can be found on the Inquiry blog.
The U was recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for its contributions to the study of microbiomes. The OSTP announced the National Microbiome Initiative, in which the U is a participant, on May 13. An article appears on the U’s Discover blog. A number MSI Principal Investigators are involved in microbiome research. MSI has featured this research:
The Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota has launched a new online database of plants and animals in their collection. The Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas contains information about over 16,000 species from Minnesota and around the world. The web portal is open to the public as well as to researchers and educators. MSI staff members Tom Prather and Michael Milligan provided database development and programming expertise for this project.
Professor Shashi Shekhar, an MSI PI from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has been recognized by the Springer Publishing Company for his paper, “From GPS and virtual globes to spatial computing – 2020.” It was selected as one of the top articles published in 2015 that “address the world’s most pressing challenges.” The article was published in the journal GeoInformatica in Octobe
MSI PI Dan Knights (assistant professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Biotechnology Institute) is a co-author on a recent study by researchers at the U of M and Nantes University Hospital in France that found that gut bacteria may be predictors of the risk of infection following chemotherapy.
Associate Professor Sharon Jansa, an MSI PI from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, has received the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) Stanley Dagley-Samuel Kirkwood Undergraduate Education Award. This annual award recognizes a CBS faculty member for exceptional contributions to undergraduate education.
Professor David Blank, an MSI Principal Investigator from the Department of Chemistry, is one of the 2016 recipients of the University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Service. This award is presented to University faculty members who go beyond their regular duties to provide exceptional service to the U.
MSI PI Theresa Reineke, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). She is being recognized for her work in the design and discovery of synthetic polymers for drug and gene delivery. She uses MSI resources for this research. She was inducted into the College of Fellows during the AIMBE Annual Meeting on April 4, 2016. An article about Professor Reineke appears on the chemistry department website. 
Professor Tim LaPara, an MSI PI in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, is featured in a recent profile of the University of Minnesota’s Driven to Discover campaign. Professor LaPara is developing a way to destroy antibiotic-resistant genetic material by treating wastewater with higher temperatures. An article appears on the Driven to Discover website.
On April 26, 2016, MSI held the seventh annual Research Exhibition. This event is a judged poster session with posters from MSI users. Posters compete in one of two categories: Biological and Medical Sciences or Physical Sciences and Engineering. Winners receive travel awards, with a Grand Prize winner and two finalists in each category. This year, the two Grand Prize winners each received a $1,500 travel award and the four Finalists received $1,000 travel awards.