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Awards, appointments, & other news

Compiled by Adam Overland


June 19

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

Research Infrastructure Investment award recipients

The University of Minnesota's Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to announce the recipients of the Research Infrastructure Investment Program awards—a one-time investment in university research infrastructure designed to facilitate strong partnerships and interdisciplinary alliances at the University of Minnesota, especially between the health sciences and other disciplines.

The program, funded through the President's Office and administered by the Vice President for Research, provided an initial $3 million investment with a required one-to-one match from the supporting colleges or centers. A total of 10 awards were granted amounting to more than $6 million invested in projects that will positively impact research in at least 9 colleges and 11 centers and institutes across the U of M.

While we face an uncertain economic future with decreasing federal funding for research, society's greatest challenges in healthcare, the environment, food security and other areas continue to rise. It's more important than ever for the university to leverage its resources and link arms with partners across disciplines and administrative units to ensure that our research infrastructure remains robust, state-of-the-art and poised to support critical discoveries.

While all of the funded projects focus on infrastructure, they represent a wide variety of needs and interests across the university, ranging from the development of an advanced preclinical imaging center to a new institute devoted to children's mental health to creating a food-centric corridor that will increase food security and promote health among food animal species.

Visit Research Advancement to learn more about the selected projects.

Humphrey School names associate dean

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs has appointed Dr. Laura Bloomberg as associate dean, with responsibilities for advancing the school's mission related to high quality teaching and learning, public policy research, and community engaged scholarship. Bloomberg previously served as executive director of the Center for Integrative Leadership, a joint initiative with the Carlson School of Management, the College of Education and Human Development, and the School of Public Health, and has been a member of the graduate faculty since 2007.

$12.3 million gift from estate of South Dakota farmer

The University of Minnesota will receive more than $12 million from the estate of Millicent Atkins, a successful farmer and businesswoman who owned prime farmland near Aberdeen, S.D. Atkins, an only child, never married and had no children or close relatives. The University learned of the gift after her death in July 2012 at age 93.

The University is one of three beneficiaries of a trust created in her estate. Its one-third share is currently valued at approximately $12.3 million, and will be distributed in 2022, when the trust terminates. In the meantime, each beneficiary will receive one-third of the trust's annual income.

The University of Minnesota's gift has been designated for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) by Atkins, but is otherwise unrestricted.

Atkins, born in 1919, lived most of her life near Columbia, a small town east of Aberdeen. She grew up on a farm settled by her grandparents and, after attending the University of Minnesota for one year and obtaining a teaching degree at Northern State University in South Dakota, followed in the footsteps of her father, Fred Atkins, as a land owner and farm manager. She eventually owned more than 4,100 acres of prime farmland in Brown County, S.D., and farmed the land through a crop share arrangement with about a dozen tenant farmers.

A woman in a man's world, Atkins was known for being very smart about the value of the land she purchased. She worked closely with her tenants and kept up with farming practices through reading and talking to others in the business.

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

University of Minnesota regents approve $3.6 billion budget
University of Minnesota's regents signed off on President Eric Kaler's new $3.6 billion budget, even as some voiced lingering concerns about affordability. Star Tribune.

Breakfast cuts risk of diabetes, U study finds
Your mother was right. Breakfast is good for your health, a new study by the University of Minnesota confirms. The U's School of Public Health's Andrew Odegaard led the study. Star Tribune.

Good Question: How much does the government really know about us?
U of M law professor and privacy expert William McGeveran comments on recent privacy concerns and how much the government really knows about us. WCCO TV.

What it's like to teach a MOOC
Chris Cramer, a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota, comments on what it's like to teach a MOOCs course. MPR.

Mind-controlled helicopter performs in incredible test flight
Researchers led by Bin He at the University of Minnesota have fashioned an electrode-studded cap that records brain waves and uses them to control a "quadcopter" via wi-fi. CNN.

Burning down the house
U of M art professor Chris Larson rebuilt a house by Marcel Breuer only to destroy it. The New York Times.

U econ professor steps down as state economist
After 30 years in his position, U of M economics professor Tom Stinson will step down as state economist and focus on teaching and research. Minnesota Daily.

One-on-one with state's new economist
Laura Kalambokidis, U of M economics professor and new state economist. Star Tribune.

For U prof, hallucinogenic plants offer more than meets the eye
To the untrained eye, a certain greenhouse of plants at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus may seem like nothing special. But Dennis McKenna, an ethno-pharmacologist, sees much more than that. MPR.

June 5

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

Allen Levine, CFANS dean, to step down

Allen Levine, dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), announced plans to step down at the end of August from his position as dean of the college and director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station to return to the faculty and assume new academic responsibilities.

Since 2006, Levine has led the merged college through a period of remarkable transformation and achievement. Under his leadership, the goals of the college's strategic plan have been accomplished, including design of administrative divisions to improve efficiency, decrease expenditures, and enhance collaborations across departments and centers. The college stands as one of the premier research and educational centers in the world dedicated to renewable resources, food systems, and environmental research.

Dean Levine will continue to serve as director of the Minnesota Obesity Center, a National Institutes of Health collaborative research group of over 70 federally funded investigators from the University, the Mayo Clinic, the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Health Partners, and Hennepin County Medical Center. His research focus for the past 30 years has been on neural regulation of food intake. He will also serve as a liaison on academic initiatives that involve collaboration between the provost's office and other units across the University, including interdisciplinary studies, educational technologies, and budget modeling.

Al Levine is a professor in the departments of food science and nutrition, psychiatry, surgery, and medicine, and is a member of the graduate faculties in nutrition, food science, and neuroscience. Prior to serving as CFANS dean, he served as head of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition; he also served as associate director of research and as senior career scientist at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. He began his career at the University of Minnesota in 1981 as an assistant professor in food science and nutrition. For more information, see CFANS.

2013 Minnesota Futures award recipients

The University of Minnesota's Office of the Vice President for Research has announced the recipients of the 2013 Minnesota Futures grants. This year's winning projects focus on new cancer treatments.

Modeled after the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, the Minnesota Futures program supports extraordinary research by nurturing interdisciplinary ideas. The goal is to develop new ideas to a point where they are competitive for external funding. The award covers expenses of up to $250,000 over two years and is supported by technology commercialization revenue.

Since 2008, the grant has supported research by faculty who go on to win substantial grants and whose innovations reach the market to potentially improve the lives of millions.

Projects and award recipients

Maximizing Magnetic Relaxation and Heating in Nanoparticle Therapeutics
Co-investigators: Christy Haynes, Chemistry; John Bischof, Mechanical Engineering; Chris Hogan, Mechanical Engineering; Michael Garwood, Radiology

Targeting Metastatic Breast Cancer with Dual Specificity
Co-investigators: Benjamin Hackel, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science; Jayanth Panyam, Pharmaceutics; Deepali Sachdev, Medicine and Pharmacology

For more detailed information about the projects, as well as past recipients, see Minnesota Futures.

Spring 2013 Grant-in-Aid award recipients

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) has announced the spring 2013 Grant-in-Aid of Research, Scholarship & Artistry awards. This OVPR funding program recognizes that the quality of faculty research and artistic endeavors is incredibly significant to the overall vitality of the institution.

Grant-in-Aid supports work in five categories: new assistant professors; shared equipment purchases; faculty in fields with little external funding available; faculty moving into new areas of research; and bridge funding to maintain ongoing research during a temporary lapse in external funding.

A total of 56 awards, averaging $25,000, were given to University faculty to support a wide variety of research activities—from digital drawing and cosmic strings to seed sovereignty. For award winners and their projects, see Grant-in-Aid.

Henning Schroeder appointed CGS/NSF Dean-in-Residence

Vice provost and dean of graduate education Henning Schroeder has been offered a one-year appointment as Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/National Science Foundation (NSF) Dean-in-Residence.

Starting Sept. 1, 2013, and continuing until Sept. 1, 2014, vice provost Schroeder will spend approximately 20 percent of his time at the CGS office in Washington D.C. and the remaining 80 percent of his time at NSF headquarters in Arlington, VA.

In this role, Schroeder will help facilitate greater collaboration between the NSF and graduate education stakeholders. The appointment is a unique opportunity for him to bring to the NSF insights, perspectives, and the practical experience he has gained as a senior administrator at the University. In turn, he will share with the U and with the graduate dean community, as well as the broader science and engineering community, national perspectives on issues related to graduate education, such as graduate student financing, tuition and budget models, graduate education in an international context, and assessing the value of a degree.

While Vice Provost Schroeder is away from his position, the University will continue to pursue its plans to assess the recent reorganization of the Graduate School, and will continue to work aggressively to enhance efforts in graduate education.

Professor Sally Gregory Kohlstedt will serve as acting vice provost and dean of graduate education in Schroeder's absence. Professor Kohlstedt is the outgoing chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee and the director of the College of Science and Engineering's Program in the History of Science and Technology. For more information, see Dean-in-Residence.

GAO Makes MedPAC Appointments

Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), announced the appointment of Jon Christianson and the reappointment of five existing members to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).

MedPAC plays an important role in ensuring the effective stewardship of Medicare, a key federal responsibility.

Christianson is a professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the U of M's School of Public Health. His term expires in April 2016.

Robina Foundation pledges $9 million to Law School

The University of Minnesota Law School has received one of the largest gifts in its history—nearly $9 million from the Robina Foundation. The gift will be divided evenly to support two Law School programs: the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, and a new University of Minnesota Law School Center for New Americans, an immigration law center. Together, these gifts will support work that has the potential to help millions of people.

The funding for the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice will build on previous gifts from the Robina Foundation, which established the Institute in 2011. The additional $4.5 million will augment the Institute's work on criminal law reform.

The gift to establish the University of Minnesota Law School Center for New Americans will create a new collaborative initiative with leading area law firms and non-profits, led by the Law School, to respond to critical legal and social needs of diverse immigrant groups. The Law School will work with law firms and nonprofit organizations to expand urgently needed legal services to immigrant communities and to pursue litigation that leads to improving the laws affecting immigrants. The center, which will be the first of its kind among law schools, will also be home to the nation's most dynamic and comprehensive immigration clinic for law students, offering students outstanding opportunities to gain experience in litigation, policy development and advocacy, and community outreach and education.

For more information, see Robina Foundation gift.

2013 Pomeranchuk Prize in physics

Mikhail Shifman, the Ida Cohen Fine Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Minnesota is the winner of the 2013 Pomeranchuk Prize for "outstanding results in nonperturbative quantum field theory".

The Pomeranchuk Prize is an international award for theoretical physics, awarded annually since 1998 by the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) of Moscow.

PTS wins 2013 Northern Lights Award

The communications team from Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) was recognized with two Northern Lights Awards by the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators, a peer organization of communications professionals who are dedicated to improving public-sector communications.

Both awards recognized the creative writing and planning for the launch of the "Where's My Bus" campaign tied to the introduction of on-campus bus tracking technology.

For more information, see PTS award.

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

University of Minnesota opens new Medical Devices Center
Determined to enhance its medical technology prowess, the University of Minnesota opened a state-of-the-art Medical Devices Center that officials hope will birth more commercially viable products and shore up the U's reputation as a critical medical innovator. The original Medical Devices Center helped the U develop 58 patents in the last five years. Arthur Erdman, director of the Medical Devices Center, hopes to move beyond that. Star Tribune.

State economist Tom Stinson steps down, after five governors and three decades
U of M economics professor Tom Stinson steps down as the state economist and will be replaced by U of M economics professor Laura Kalambokidis. Star Tribune.

Is force-feeding torture?
Steven Miles, Center for Bioethics, has done a great deal of research into the practice of force-feeding and shares his thoughts in regards to the Guantanamo Boy hunger strike. New York Times.

New vice provost balances marriage, moving with new job
Danita Brown is busy. She's planning a June wedding, moving to a new state and prepping to be the University of Minnesota's new vice provost for student affairs and dean of students. Minnesota Daily.

'Poop transplants' stall amid new rules
Johan Bakken, infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota, comments on FDA regulation on fecal microbiota transplantation. Live Science.

LifeScience Alley board of directors elects new officers
Brian Herman, vice president for research, University of Minnesota, was elected to the LifeScience Alley board of directors. Business Wire.

Meditation myths to ponder
Mary Jo Kreitzer, the founder and director of the Center for Spirituality and Healing, comments on meditation. Star Tribune.

You can help bees by adding native plants
Elaine Evans, bee scholar and doctoral candidate in entomology at the University of Minnesota, comments on the plight of the honey bee. Star Tribune.

Most important path to recovery from addiction?
Mark Willenbring, Medical School, talks about flexibility and the path to recovery from addiction. Pioneer Press.

Parking and Transportation Services executive director to retire
After 39 years at the University of Minnesota, Executive Director of Parking and Transportation Services Bob Baker announced he will retire in early June. Minnesota Daily.

Before you grill, consider how you cook your meat
Kristin Anderson, School of Public Health, shares best practice tips for grilling. KSTP-TV.