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Awards, appointments, and other news

Compiled by Adam Overland

July 25

To submit U of M staff or faculty for consideration in People, contact the Brief editor. For more information, see award & appointment submission guidelines.


MnDRIVE Transdisciplinary Research Awards Announced

The Office of the Vice President for Research announced award recipients of the MnDRIVE Transdisciplinary Research Program, designed to address grand challenges by bringing together researchers from across disciplines and departments to collaborate in new ways.

The awards provide nearly $6 million to 12 projects that each address at least three of the four MnDRIVE areas. The two-year projects involve 87 researchers in 16 colleges and 50 departments across three U of M campuses.

MnDRIVE (Minnesota's Discovery Research and InnoVation Economy) is an $18 million annual investment by the state of Minnesota in four research areas: Global Food Ventures; Advancing Industry, Conserving Our Environment; Discoveries and Treatments for Brain Conditions; and Robotics, Sensors and Advanced Manufacturing.

Projects Funded for MnDRIVE Global Food Ventures

More than $3 million has been awarded to 17 projects in the first round of MnDRIVE Global Food Ventures funding.

Projects were selected from more than 70 initial submissions that were reviewed by panels of scientists and industry partners. Nearly all projects are interdisciplinary and involve researchers from across the University as well as external partners. The projects are funded for one year and include a wide variety of research.

The MnDRIVE (Minnesota's Discovery Research and InnoVation Economy) initiative combines the U's distinctive research strengths with the state's key and emerging industries to develop innovative solutions that propel Minnesota's economy forward. As one of these areas, Global Food Ventures aims to partner research, agriculture, and industry to develop holistic approaches to ensuring a safe, sustainable and resilient food system. For more information, see the news release.

Tom Luo named to Royal Society of Canada

Professor Zhi‐Quan (Tom) Luo, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Science and Engineering, has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada, the highest honor for a scholar or artist in Canada.

Every year, distinguished scholars and artists are elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Canada on the basis of their exceptional contributions to Canadian intellectual life.

Zhi‐Quan Luo was elected as a Fellow by peers in the Applied Sciences and Engineering Division of the Academy of Science.

Like its counterpart national academies throughout the world, the Royal Society of Canada has evolved from a largely honorific society into a dynamic national collegium of engaged intellectuals.


U in the News: A selection of U faculty and staff in the news as appearing daily in Today's News.

How much do our genes influence our political beliefs?
Recent research with twins suggests that cultural traditionalism has very deep roots. U of M psychology professor Thomas Bourchard's research is cited. The New York Times.

Geomorphology: Emergent sculpture
Sandstone arches and other striking landforms are the showpieces of national parks around the globe. Experiments and numerical analyses show that they result from a self-organization process that involves vertical load, wind erosion and grain locking. U of M Department of Earth Sciences' Chris Paola comments. Nature.

U.S. kids may have stopped getting fatter
The waistlines of American children appear to have stopped expanding, a new study says. U of M associate professor of epidemiology Lyn Steffen comments on her research. CBS News.

U doctors think a cheap pill for gout may delay onset of diabetic kidney disease
Paul Wild is among 480 patients being recruited for a $24 million, 3½-year U of M test to see whether a medication that has been used routinely to prevent gout can delay the onset of potentially fatal kidney disease in patients with Type 1 diabetes. The U of M's Luiza Caramori is quoted and Michael Mauer is mentioned. Star Tribune.

Sizing down food waste: What's the worst thing to toss?
Americans throw out a lot of food. And a lot of meat. That means our waste has a bigger impact on the global food supply than vegetarian discards. Why? Blame it on hidden calories. U of M Institute on the Environment's Paul West comments on his study. NPR.

Crop switch could cost millions in water contamination
A University of Minnesota study says a recent switch from grassland to crops in southeastern Minnesota could increase the number of household wells contaminated with nitrates. U of M Institute on the Environment's Bonnie Keeler comments. MPR.

College cost - and value - spark sharp national debate
Star Tribune commentator John Rash writes on the underlying messages of the recently-opened documentary, "Ivory Tower." U of M President Eric Kaler comments. Star Tribune.

Ideological blind spots: The right on housing policy
One of the most obvious examples of big-government programs in American history: our highly subsidized post-World-War-II suburbs. U of M College of Design dean Thomas Fischer comments on U.S. housing policies. Star Tribune.

An interim advocate for grad students
When Sally Kohlstedt took her temporary post as acting vice provost and dean of graduate education last year, she said she wanted to bring optimism in light of the recent restructuring of the University of Minnesota's Graduate School. In that one year as interim head of the Graduate School, Kohlstedt has implemented a number of initiatives to advocate for University graduate students' needs. Kohlstedt and U of M Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education Henning Schroeder comment. The Minnesota Daily.

Study shows hostile people more likely to suffer a stroke
Feeling cynical and hostile toward others may double the risk of having a stroke in middle-aged and older adults, according to a study out yesterday. U of M professor of medicine Susan Everson-Rose comments on her research. Malaysian Digest.

Global census shows Adelie Penguin population is actually on the rise
The first global census of the Adelie penguin, long considered a key indicator species to monitor and understand the effects of climate change and fishing in the Southern Ocean, has revealed its population (3.79 million breeding pairs) to be 53 percent larger than previously estimated, thanks to research in part from U of M biologist Michelle LaRue. Yahoo! News.

Rates of uninsured by state before and after Obamacare
Having insurance is vital to the health of your family and your wallet. U of M Carlson School of Managment professor Stephen Parente is featured. Wallet Hub.


July 9

To submit U of M staff or faculty for consideration in People, contact the Brief editor. For more information, see award & appointment submission guidelines.


OVPR Announces Research Infrastructure Awards

The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce the recipients of the Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Program--an investment in University research infrastructure designed to ensure the viability of existing, critical facilities and research support services on all campuses.

The program, administered by the Vice President for Research, provided an initial $1.4 million investment with a required one-to-one match from the supporting colleges or centers. A total of 12 awards were granted amounting to almost $3 million invested in projects that will positively impact research in at least seven colleges and three centers across the U.

UMII Announces Transdisciplinary Research Fellows

The University of Minnesota Informatics Institute (UMII) has announced recipients of the Transdisciplinary Research Fellowship. This award positions recently promoted associate professors to provide leadership in transdisciplinary collaborative projects at the interface of informatics and an application area. Six U of M faculty from two campuses (Twin Cities and Duluth) and representing eight different departments and institutes were awarded fellowships. With the help of their college/campus, fellowship recipients will build a network of researchers and scholars across U of M academic units and connect to Minnesota industry or organizations. Fellows will leverage this network for research/funding opportunities that address societal challenges and leverage the state's competitive advantage.

Project Grants Awarded

IonE has awarded four new Project Grants to faculty around the University. IonE Project Grants help highly innovative, world-class research activities get off the ground with a one-time investment of venture capital funding. New projects focus on climate and conflict in Kenya, cleaning polluted water naturally, designing a resilient food system, and incorporating natural capital into urban design.


U in the News: A selection of U faculty and staff in the news as appearing daily in Today's News.

Who owns your womb? A Q&A with U of M law professor Michele Goodwin
University of Minnesota law professor Michele Goodwin describes how the increase of "fetal protection" laws is not only violating pregnant women's rights, but in some cases turning the women into criminals for refusing to undergo Caesarean sections or go on bed rest or, in one recent Wisconsin case, for admitting that she had been addicted to drugs in her distant past. MinnPost.

Watching wind turbines in snow sheds light on inefficiencies
Wind turbulence, or "wake," can cut a wind farm's power output by 10 to 20 percent. Now, researchers at the University of Minnesota have hit upon a novel solution: To see how a utility-scale wind turbine chops into the surrounding air, watch it in a snowstorm. Jiarong Hong, a U of M mechanical engineering assistant professor and lead researcher, comments. National Geographic.

Master regulator of key cancer gene found, offers new drug target
A key cancer-causing gene, responsible for up to 20 percent of cancers, may have a weak spot in its armor, according to new research from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota. Lead author Anindya Bagchi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the U of M Medical School and the College of Biological Sciences, comments. Medical Xpress.

The Drive: An app designed to lead the blind safely
A new smartphone application currently in development by the University of Minnesota Traffic Observatory in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation could help make it safer for pedestrians who are blind or have poor vision. U of M MTO researcher Chen-fu Liao comments. Star Tribune.

Are cities evolving into hive organisms?
Today, more than half of the human population lives in hive-like warrens called cities. Does this mean we are on the tipping point of becoming colony animals the way bees and ants did? It's not entirely impossible. U of M biologists Mike Travisano and Will Ratcliff comment on their research. io9.

Drinking behind 1 in 10 deaths of working-age adults
One in 10 deaths among working-age adults between 2006 and 2010 were attributable to excessive drinking, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. U of M epidemiologists Traci Toomey and Toben Nelson comment. WWLTV.

"We have designed cities to make people ill"
At the AIA convention in Chicago, U of M College of Design's Thomas Fisher entreated architects to take responsibility for designing healthier spaces. Fast Company: Design.

Student businesses thrive in competition
Last year alone, University of Minnesota students launched at least 25 businesses, bolstered by guidance and funds from the school's entrepreneurship courses and programs. In the same year, University faculty and students invented and filed a record number of patents. U of M's Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship director John Stavig comments. The Minnesota Daily.

Minnesota home care union law suddenly on uncertain ground
A landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday will bolster legal challenges to a 2013 Minnesota law allowing certain in-home child care providers and home health care workers to vote on whether to unionize. U of M Law School's Stephen Befort comments. Pioneer Press.

U project could use farming to turn down urban heat
This summer University of Minnesota research will explore a new way of mitigating heat islands — urban farming — which could help reduce heat in metropolitan areas while providing a source of fresh produce and groceries to cities. U of M geography, environment and society associate professor Katherine Klink comments. The Minnesota Daily.

Thunder god vine: Chinese herb extract found to kill pancreatic cancer cells
A Chinese herbal extract known as thunder god vine has been found to kill off pancreatic cancer cells. U of M surgeon Ashok Saluja comments on his research. International Business Times.