Michigan State University 2011 President's Report link to iBook

Section 1

Message From the President

Innovation for Good

Photo of Lou Anna K. Simon Innovation lives at the intersection of inspired intellect and day-in-day-out determined effort, and it shares that address with Michigan State University.

From its beginning as the nation’s pioneer land-grant college, Michigan State has been at the nexus of knowing and doing—playing a pivotal role in the democratization of higher education that prepared the engineers, educators, farmers, and scientists who would go on to help build the country.

We knew then, and we know now, that there is no paradox in brilliance and hard work. Instead, they combine to create something distinctive—the sweet spot where Spartan researchers, faculty, and students discover, create, collaborate, contribute, nurture, and inspire as they work together and with others to find solutions to the big problems of our time.

I am pleased to share with you some of the work that was accomplished at MSU in 2011 and that continues every day for the common good.

Lou Anna K. Simon Signature
Lou Anna K. Simon, PhD

Section 2

Revving an Automotive Revolution.

Revving an Automotive Revolution

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In the race to develop greener, more efficient, and less expensive automobiles, a new wave disk engine developed by an MSU engineer could be a game changer—one that has captured the interest of the scientific community and the U.S. secretary of energy.

Norbert Müller, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has developed a concept for a wave disk engine that combines shock wave compression with internal combustion and turbine propulsion and eliminates many of the components of a typical internal combustion engine, significantly reducing maintenance costs and frictional losses and increasing efficiency.

“Typically, people try to avoid shock waves in turbomachinery design,” says Müller. “We turn this challenge into an opportunity.”

With virtually no friction between solids and only one moving part, the wave disk engine pulls in a combustible mixture that is trapped in its channel. When the channel outlet closes, a shock wave is generated, which compresses the fuel trapped inside, raising the pressure and temperature, and ignition occurs. Ignition leads to combustion, propelling the disk, which is connected to a drive shaft. Instead of turning the wheels of the automobile, the drive shaft would power a generator, which would charge the vehicle’s battery.

With the potential to be a low-cost, lightweight, more fuel-efficient alternative to internal combustion and turbine engines, Müller’s design is gaining high-profile attention. He participated in the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and 2011 and presented a prototype of his engine at the 2011 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit Technology Showcase. The engine also has promising applications beyond automobiles, including the potential to serve as a backup power source in households, aircraft, and disaster relief situations.

Müller credits the success of the wave disk engine in large part to the contributions of the industrious and innovative team of researchers working closely with him.

“All the students are excited to work on this project because it’s truly a totally new engine concept,” he says.

Section 3

The Beets Go On.

The Beets Go On

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When Michigan State University experts partnered with Michigan Sugar Company—a grower-owned cooperative—to revive Michigan’s declining sugar beet industry, the result was sweet success. Today, Michigan is the nation’s fourth-leading producer of sugar beets.

Brought to the United States from Europe, sugar beets—grown specifically for their sugar content, sucrose, which is chemically identical to cane sugar—have been grown in Michigan for more than 100 years. But yields of Michigan beets began to decline in the early 1990s. By the mid-’90s, yields had fallen to an unprofitable level of production.

“People from the sugar industry approached us to help them study the problem and come up with solutions,” says Steve Poindexter, senior educator with MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch, who likens the appearance of the sugar beet to a white carrot on steroids. “If production and profitability weren’t increased, the alternative was losing the industry completely.”

As a result, the Sugar Beet Advancement Program was born. MSU spearheaded the partnership with Michigan Sugar Company, which owns the brands Pioneer Sugar and Big Chief Sugar. MSU scientists, industry representatives, and sugar beet farmers worked side by side to reinvigorate production and yield.

Most of the nation’s sugar is produced domestically, and Michigan produces one billion pounds of sugar annually. The state is home to four sugar factories—all owned by growers—and supports more than 1,000 farmers located mostly in the Thumb region.

Researchers from MSU Extension and AgBioResearch, Michigan Sugar Company, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined the scope of the problem—or, more accurately, problems that included diseases, parasites, poor soil conditions, and unfavorable weather patterns.

One of the first orders of business was to address planting.

“About 65 percent of seeds planted by farmers come out of the ground in a good year,” says Tom Wenzel, research assistant with MSU Extension. “Prior to seed and tillage advancements in the last 15 years, emergence of less than 30 percent was a common problem.”

The team from MSU worked on-site with farmers to change tillage practices and planting times, as well as to switch to pregerminated seeds. Within a couple of years, farmers gained a few tons of beets per acre. With additional benefits from advances in disease and pest control, by 2008, farmers yielded 29 tons per acre, nearly double the yield harvested at the lowest point in the previous decade.

Today, Michigan’s sugar beet industry has a net economic impact of $550 million annually, giving the state an indirect economic boost of $1 billion.

Poindexter points out that without the cooperation and collaboration involving MSU, Michigan Sugar Company, and farmers, the industry wouldn’t be where it is today and, perhaps, wouldn’t exist.

“It’s one thing to do research,” says Poindexter. “But MSU is uniquely positioned to educate growers. The majority of our research happens with farmers right in their fields. They see what we’re doing as it happens and, therefore, they learn to trust the research. Our credibility level is extremely high with them.”

Section 4

Zapping Nuclear Waste.

Zapping Nuclear Waste

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The successful cleanup of nuclear waste sounds like a job for a superhero. Now a team of Michigan State University researchers has discovered how some microbes with a taste for uranium are able to play that powerful role.

Uranium, which is toxic even at low levels, is highly radioactive after it is enriched to produce nuclear fuels and spreads quickly in the environment because it is soluble in water.

While the uranium-immobilizing powers of superhero microbes known as Geobacter have long been known, MSU microbiologist Gemma Reguera and her research team proved for the first time that the microbes’ nanowires—tiny electrically charged hair-like filaments—are primarily responsible for the bacteria’s ability to reduce uranium.

“These nanowires actually shield the cell from the toxicity, creating a kind of armor so the cell survives and grows and is happy,” says Reguera, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. “The bacterial hairs are fully charged with electricity, just like a live electrical wire, and zap the uranium. What happens next is simple chemistry. Soluble, dangerous uranium is immobilized onto the wires as a mineral. This prevents its spread and protects us from exposure.”

Armed with this knowledge, the MSU researchers are contributing to the development of optimized bioremediation schemes in field tests in which a Geobacter army is successfully deployed or stimulated to clean up nuclear waste. For example, when acetate—Geobacter’s preferred food source—was injected into the contaminated groundwater at a uranium mill site in Rifle, Colorado, it stimulated the growth of the Geobacter community already in the soil, which, in turn, worked to remove the uranium.

While the bacteria as they occur naturally are not capable of cleaning up nuclear disasters like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the good news is that the MSU researchers were able to manipulate the natural process to engineer bacteria with more wires to zap more uranium.

“If we have these technologies, we can do containment and then rapid treatment to remove the contaminant and reduce its threat,” says Reguera.

The team’s research could lead to the development of microbial fuel cells and, ultimately, to the mass production of devices that could efficiently clean up extremely toxic environments— helping ensure a safer and healthier future for all.

Section 5

Danger in Disguise.

Danger in Disguise

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Dubbed “the crime of the 21st century” by the FBI, counterfeiting of consumer goods is far from a victimless crime, costing jobs and
even lives.

Now Michigan State University, home to the nation’s first comprehensive anticounterfeiting research and training program, has introduced a graduate certificate program that provides industry and law enforcement officials with the latest strategies and tools to stop criminals from pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes.

“Virtually any kind of consumer good can be counterfeited, from pharmaceuticals to electronics to auto parts to food—you name it,”
says Jeremy Wilson, associate professor of criminal justice and
the program director for MSU’s Anti-Counterfeiting and Product
Protection Program.

“What makes product counterfeiting so difficult is the fact that it has multidimensional effects,” says Wilson. “It affects public safety, public health, and the economy through loss of jobs, and it stunts innovation within companies. There are also ties to organized crime and terrorism. The challenge is that nobody really knows how big it is.”

Counterfeit goods account for the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in global trade every year. And with the rise in online retail commerce, the problem only gets bigger as counterfeiters find new targets and avoid prosecution.

“People engage in this because it’s easy, the profits are large, and the punishment is minimal,” says Wilson. “Globalization and the Internet create an expanded opportunity.”

Wilson points out that many companies have brand protection units and are looking for education and training opportunities for professionals within their organizations to better understand the complexity of counterfeiting, the legal environment, and technologies that can be used to address the issues.

“Our program was developed to serve as the evidence-based voice in anticounterfeit strategy,” says Wilson. “The goal is to think about the nature of the crime, understand how it’s happening on an empirical basis, and try to come up with data-driven lessons on how to address it.”

Section 6

Deadly Disease Detection.

Deadly Disease Detection


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Millions around the world suffer from potentially life-threatening diseases that go undiagnosed. Barriers to diagnosis—including lack of insurance or lack of transportation to medical facilities—can cost lives. But there is hope, thanks to a Michigan State University engineer and a team of student researchers who developed a mobile diagnostic device capable of detecting some of the world’s most deadly diseases at the touch of a button.

Syed Hashsham, professor of civil and environmental engineering, developed the Gene-Z device, which is capable of diagnosing a range of diseases—from cancers to HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis. Compatible with the iPod Touch and Android-based tablets, the handheld tool analyzes microRNA and other genetic markers found in human blood and reports the results via a custom application.

“The Gene-Z device can do the DNA-based testing at the point of care with very limited resources, whether it’s in the field or at the bedside—anywhere where people aren’t able to access a centralized lab,” says Hashsham.

The accuracy of diagnosis and cost-effectiveness of the device, which weighs less than two pounds, could change the landscape for how disease is detected and treated in under-resourced countries where diseases like cancer pose a growing threat and illnesses that previously had been eradicated are making a comeback.

“Wireless and mobile health diagnostics is a growing area, and many people are working on it,” says Hashsham. “Our unique strength is the high-end genomics we can perform.”

The device would not have been possible—at least not in the same development timeframe—if it weren’t for a team of talented and tenacious MSU graduate and undergraduate student researchers who built the prototype from scratch.

Now the Gene-Z device is being manufactured on a small scale by Hashsham’s spin-off company, Simple DX World—DX stands for diagnostics—and will go through rigorous testing to prove itself a viable option for the medical community. Hashsham also is partnering with MSU’s Institute of International Health to establish connections with physicians around the globe who will help validate the device in the field.

“This is a small device with enormous potential to affect how developing countries deliver health care,” says Hashsham.

Section 7

Detecting Explosives With Laser Focus.

Detecting Explosives With Laser Focus

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A Michigan State University research team is working to make combat zones—and the world—safer with the development of a sophisticated laser that could scan large areas to detect improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Roadside bombs account for about 60 percent of deaths of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their detection is extremely challenging because the environment introduces a large number of chemical compounds that mask the select few molecules needed to identify an explosive device. And because they can be found in populated areas, the methods to detect these weapons must be nondestructive.

“Detecting explosives in bulk with a laser is very simple,” says Marcos Dantus, MSU professor of chemistry, who leads the research that is funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security. “However, when you have something packaged or hidden underground, the amount of explosive that would be accessible to a method of detection—a bomb-sniffing dog or a laser trying to detect particles—is extremely small. The good news is it’s not zero.”

With output comparable to a presentation laser pointer, the laser that Dantus and his team have developed is capable of detecting molecules found in IEDs and sensitive enough to distinguish trace amounts of explosives from vast arrays of similar compounds that can be found in urban environments.

The high-sensitivity laser is able to identify explosive devices by sending short pulses that stimulate vibrations in molecules and long pulses that “hear” and identify each molecule’s “chords”—similar to identifying guitar chords being played. The chords include different frequencies that uniquely identify every molecule, much like a fingerprint. The laser can work in tandem with cameras to allow users to scan questionable areas from a safe distance.

In 2003, Dantus launched the spin-off company BioPhotonic Solutions to commercialize technology from the research group. He credits the range of experience and ages of his research team—which includes research specialists, undergraduates, graduate student and postdoctoral students, and several high school students—for bringing additional creativity and speed of development to the project.

One of the team’s graduate students, Marshall Bremer, suggested a significant change to the optical design of the laser, which increased its sensitivity and gave the project an important push forward. Next, the team will test the laser’s capabilities under more realistic conditions and work to make the device more portable—all the while keeping in mind the ultimate goal.

“Being able to detect very small quantities of explosives will make us all more secure when we travel and will help protect armed forces whether they are engaged in combat or removing mines on a peace mission,” says Dantus.

This illustration depicts a potential application of a laser developed by an MSU research team as a means of detecting improvised explosive devices.

Section 8

Nurses Put Girls on a Path to Fitness and a Better Future

Nurses Put Girls on a Path to Fitness and a Better Future

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It’s a problem too important to ignore: less than 4 percent of the nation’s middle school-aged girls meet physical activity recommendations. And the problem disproportionately affects those in socioeconomically challenged urban settings. In an effort to reverse this situation, Michigan State University nursing researchers are using a federal grant to design a school-based physical activity program that addresses the physical and personal barriers keeping the nation’s young girls from getting the exercise they need to be healthy and to succeed.

“This is a critical age for intervention,” says Lorraine Robbins, associate professor of nursing, who’s leading the project called Girls Only Activity for Life. “The older girls get, the less moderate and vigorous activity they take part in, which leads to further weight gain and puts them at greater risk for chronic illness.”

According to federal estimates, 3.2 million middle school-aged girls are overweight or obese. Another dose of reality: children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day—more time than they spend in school—in front of a screen, whether it’s television, computers, video games, or cell phones, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

MSU’s $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health expands on a successful pilot program in Lansing public schools designed by researchers in the College of Nursing and Department of Kinesiology. The study will be conducted in 24 schools in Michigan—12 intervention schools and 12 control schools—over three years.

Robbins and her team will implement a 17-week after-school physical activity program with a companion website designed to keep participants motivated. The program seeks to remove commonly reported barriers to physical activity, including lack of transportation and safe, supervised playgrounds, as well as personal insecurities about body image.

To increase the odds of participants adopting long-term exercise habits, the researchers are recruiting school nurses to conduct face-to-face counseling sessions with participants after they complete an online survey that gauges their attitudes toward physical activity. To supplement the time spent directly with a school nurse, each participant chooses an online coach—an animated avatar—that delivers motivational messages via a companion website during the program. The tailored feedback aims to help the girls overcome self-consciousness and body image issues and to increase their motivation for physical activity.

“We want the girls to develop a rapport with the school nurse,” says Robbins. “If they have a direct connection to a health care professional, they can go to that person with other issues as well that may be getting in the way.”

In addition to seeing positive changes in key measurements that include body mass index and sustained physical activity levels in participants, the researchers’ goal is to create a model for an evidence-based program that can be adopted by schools nationwide.

Section 9

Collaboration Takes Center Stage

Collaboration Takes Center Stage

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Creativity and collaboration have the power to transform students of all ages into better thinkers, problem solvers, and workers.

At Michigan State University’s Wharton Center, the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts and Creativity focuses on creative collaboration.

“Involvement in arts is an extremely stimulating learning tool,” says Bert Goldstein, director of the Institute for Arts and Creativity. “In terms of education, students involved in the arts show improved test scores, better concentration in school, and better problem-solving skills. The No. 1 facet that employers will be looking for in the 21st century will be creative problem solving and creative thinking.”

The institute partners with MSU colleges that encourage students to incorporate creative thinking for a more well-rounded academic experience.

Recently, the Wharton Center brought Minnesota’s Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater company to campus to work with students in MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine using performing arts to reflect the human side of medicine—something that can’t be learned from a medical textbook. A workshop on nonverbal communication helped med students see how the way they entered a room or shook a patient’s hand could affect the doctor–patient relationship.

“Students reported that this program reminded them of why they went into medicine,” says Goldstein. “It really helps to humanize the study of medicine.”

The institute also has set the stage for a number of partnerships with national arts organizations to offer life-changing educational opportunities to Michigan’s young people.

Thanks to grants from the League of New York Producers, schools can integrate themes and topics featured in touring performances at the Wharton Center in their lesson plans. When the hit musical Memphis made a stop at MSU, a group of area elementary and middle school students who had studied the time period and music of the civil rights era had the chance to take in a performance at the Wharton Center.

“We’re engaging people in something that’s not electronic,” says Goldstein. “Society is drifting away from personal contact, but people still yearn for that live contact and human experience. The arts are a testament to who we are.”

Several collaborations made possible by the institute offer Michigan students opportunities for mentoring by arts professionals and for showcasing their work, including the long-running Young Playwrights Festival. For the past 16 years, Michigan high school students have entered a statewide contest for the chance to be selected to work one on one with a professional theatre mentor and have their play performed in front of an audience at the Wharton Center.

In addition, students who live and breathe musical theatre have taken to stages in East Lansing, Traverse City, and Grand Rapids in the Take It from the Top five-day musical theatre program in which they participate in a series of workshops taught by Broadway professionals.

And for two lucky students, their dreams of reaching Broadway can become a reality with the Ovation Awards—a competition for high school students in which two talented students from Michigan are selected to receive $1,000 scholarships and travel to New York City to participate in a national competition. The Wharton Center is one of 30 venues nationwide—and the only one in Michigan—partnering with the National High School Musical Theater Awards’ Ovation Awards competition.

Section 10

Eyewitness to Evolution

Eyewitness to Evolution

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Although we can’t usually see it, every day the world around us is evolving. Diseases develop resistance to antibiotics. Animal behavior changes in response to climate. Computer viruses subvert antivirus software. By studying evolution as it happens, MSU researchers are making transformative discoveries that advance understanding to enhance and protect quality of life.

As part of the Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium, or BEACON, one of five National Science Foundation Science and Technology Centers in the United States, MSU researchers are resources for both industry and academia, making possible technologies that address some of the biggest problems of our time—from developing safer, more efficient automobiles to building computer systems that can outsmart malicious attacks.

No laughing matter-hyenas adapt to survive

In the vast expanses of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Africa, MSU zoologist Kay Holekamp—one of the world’s leading experts on spotted hyenas—and her team of student researchers study the behavior of hyenas. Roaming the plains of the reserve, the crew seeks to answer fundamental questions about disease ecology, evolution, behavior, and conservation. The team’s research also contributes to maintaining ecosystem health in this hotspot of biodiversity.

In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare

Richard Lenski, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbial Ecology, has found that in the evolutionary world, it’s sometimes better to be an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare. Lenski and his colleagues studied generations of bacteria and found that over time less-fit organisms often overtook fitter counterparts that had a short-term advantage.

As Lenski and his colleagues seek to understand the basic processes important to microorganisms as they evolve, their work informs other researchers who are trying to understand how evolutionary processes, which occur in everything from microbes to software applications, can affect other fields, such as public health, engineering, and biology.

In his campus laboratory, Lenski has conducted a 24-year experiment growing 54,000 generations of E. coli bacteria. Lenski and his colleagues preserve samples of bacteria every 500 generations—every couple of months—which they keep as a fossil record that shows which mutations occur first. Those mutations are what determine the eventual winners and losers.

“It’s exciting partly because theoretical biologists have long talked about these kinds of tensions,” says Lenski. “Rarely can one step back and do the experiment to demonstrate repeatedly and statistically that this difference between short- and long-term outlooks really made all the difference. In terms of definitive experiments of this type, ours was the first.”

But what if the eventual winners just got lucky?

“Evolution is a mixture of ability and luck,” says Lenski. “Just like in poker, if you’re an amateur playing against a professional, you might win one hand, but that doesn’t mean you’re more skillful than the world champion.

“But we were able to restart evolution 40 times, like playing 40 hands of poker, with just the eventual winners or losers and showed that the eventual winners really did have a long-term advantage,” says Lenski. “They were systematically better players over the long term even though they were weaker in terms of competing over the short term.”

“Each of us needs to evolve and become eventual winners and not eventual losers in our scholarship,” says Lenski.

Lab equipment image
Questioning the origins of life-through art

What are the origins of life on Earth? A Michigan State University faculty member has taken an artistic approach to answering that question with an experimental exhibit that is traveling the world.

Adam Brown, associate professor of electronic art and intermedia and BEACON’s first artist in residence, has recreated the famous Miller-Urey experiment of 1952 that recreates what are thought to be the conditions of Earth’s atmosphere when life began. By starting with a mixture of hydrogen, ammonia, and methane in a glass flask that is then zapped with a heart-stopping electrical charge that simulates a bolt of lightning, Brown’s work is part creation experiment and part creative expression.

Brown’s goal isn’t to teach a science lesson but rather to encourage the public to question when and how life began.

“This is a good learning opportunity,” says Brown, who studies the intersection of media forms, which is the focus of MSU’s new electronic art and intermedia concentration in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. “We live in such a science- and engineering-dominated culture. We can engineer cells. We’re almost coding life itself. But what are the ethical issues that arise from that? The arts are great at bringing ideas to the public that reflect the mirror back at them.”

As part of this open-source experiment, Brown encourages fellow artists and scientists from around the world to contribute their ideas for future experiments. The exhibit was featured at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria—an annual gathering of artists, scientists, and researchers from around the globe—that draws more than 100,000 visitors.

“Art is supposed to challenge us,” says Brown. “It’s that fun house mirror that reflects something new back at us, like a mass shrink of the world that shows us things about ourselves we haven’t seen before.”

Section 11

Student Stories Introduction

Spartan Students Imagine and Create a Better World

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At Michigan State University, the vast number of opportunities for students is matched only by the immensity of the number of chances to make a difference.

In addition to studying abroad, taking leadership roles, and participating in internships, undergraduate and graduate students volunteer locally and globally and often work side by side with faculty members on research that helps provide solutions to the big problems of our time.

One way Spartan students are changing the world for the better is through a scholarship program for members of the MSU Honors College. The program selects the most promising projects submitted by students who seek to make a difference in places around the world that are in need of the most vital life necessities, including clean water, food, shelter, and medical care.

The three MSU Honors College students featured here each received a Schoenl Family Undergraduate Grant for Dire Needs Overseas. Their work is making a lasting impact on individuals in faraway communities, while providing the students with significant leadership experience and the desire to do even more.

Four Walls-and a Healthier Future-in Cambodia

Four Walls-and a Healthier Future-in Cambodia

Construction of a new school and health center in the Cambodian village of Ba Phnom is nearly complete and the facility is already hosting humanitarian missions, thanks in large part to the efforts of Spartan Gregory Jones. The senior, who is studying nutrition science, helped raise nearly $14,000 for the project as well as $1,500 for a clean-water pump.

The new health care facility welcomed its first mission in summer 2011 when 24 dentists from the United States traveled to the village to provide services to community members. According to Jones, who traveled to Ba Phnom in spring 2011 to bring his project to life, more humanitarian organizations, traveling physicians, and dentists plan to visit. This is good news in a place where many children don’t attend school and chronic disease abounds. The new facility will offer health services and will educate residents on methods for preventing common illnesses.

Harvesting Sunshine in Peru

Harvesting Sunshine in Peru

The Peruvian village of Huamachuco likely isn’t on the radar of many college students, but Kathryn Bonnen, a master’s student studying computer science, is on a first-name basis with many of the local residents. Bonnen traveled there and to surrounding villages in the northern Andes where she was assisted by a team of MSU faculty and students and local residents who have an ongoing relationship with the community of Huamachuco to install six water heaters at schools and a busy health center as well as a solar food dryer at a school garden.

This simple, but effective, equipment installed by Bonnen and her team members is having far-reaching effects on villagers, particularly women. The food dryer now makes it possible to preserve all the food that is harvested, where previously a significant percentage of the annual crop was lost to spoilage. Installed in the school garden, the dryer is run by women in the village. This group created a business plan to sell dried fruit and to build additional food dryers—ultimately providing a path out of poverty.

Empowering a Community in India With Clean Water

Empowering a Community in India With Clean Water

In some parts of India, a social caste system still exists, sometimes segregating entire villages. One of the side effects of the system is the restriction of access to clean drinking water. In the community of Bedani, villagers often had to travel a mile or more to the nearest river for water.

Their plight inspired Priyanka Pandey to create a plan to install five water pumps throughout the village so every family home is within 20 feet of a source for clean, fresh water. Pandey, who studied genetics and human biology as an undergraduate and is currently a graduate student studying physiology, traveled to India to help install the pumps. She notes that empowering the residents of Bedani with water independence is the first step toward addressing more complex health and social issues while eliminating feelings of powerlessness. Pandey also launched the Bedani Foundation to ensure that the community continues to develop and thrive.

Section 12

2011 Milestones - Spartans Will

Milestones Introduction

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Spartans work every day to advance the common good. We teach. We explore and discover. We collaborate and lead. We innovate, inspire, and empower. We achieve our potential and create circumstances that help our students and individuals in communities near and far achieve theirs. The milestones presented here provide a glimpse into some of the exceptional work and achievements of 2011.



Leading an alliance of
Michigan’s top research
universities, health care systems,
and health agencies, MSU
launched the National
Children’s Study in
Wayne County
, one of 30
pilot sites nationwide for the
largest human health study
ever undertaken. The study
will focus on the effects of the
social and physical environment
on children’s health from
pregnancy to age 21.

The Michigan
Agricultural Experiment
Station started the new year
with a new name:
MSU AgBioResearch. The name
was changed to more accurately reflect
the breadth and relevance of the
organization’s efforts to lead innovation
in food, natural resources, and energy
while remaining true to its
land-grant mission in support of
Michigan agriculture.


MSU was ranked as
one of the nation’s 50
“best value” public universities

by the Princeton Review,
which noted, among other things,
the university’s undergraduate
research initiative,
Freshman Seminar Program,
and dedication to
financial aid.

The MSU women’s basketball team won its
first-ever outright Big Ten
championship title.

Later in the year, Spartan sports teams won
Big Ten championship titles in baseball,
women’s golf, and women’s cross country.

With 87 undergraduate alumni serving in the Peace
Corps in 2010, MSU ranked ninth among
the nation’s large universities for
producing Peace Corps volunteers
according to the organization’s 2011 rankings. In
addition, MSU kept its No. 6 slot for the number of
volunteers since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961.
To date, 2,233 MSU alumni have served.


MSU earned the
No. 5 spot in North America
on the Princeton Review’s list of
Top Schools for Video
Game Design Study for
,” based on a survey of
administrators at 150 institutions
offering video game design
course work and/or degrees
in the United States
and Canada.

The League of American Bicyclists
named MSU a Bicycle Friendly
University Bronze Award

winner. Half of MSU’s roads are
equipped with bike lanes.

MSU received a $2.5
million grant from
the U.S. Department
of Agriculture
develop strategies to reduce the
amount of E. coli released by
cattle and, as a result, decrease
the number of foodborne
illnesses in humans.


The Secchia Center, headquarters
for Michigan State University’s
College of Human Medicine,
was awarded LEED gold
, one of the highest
environmental designations. The
MSU Surplus Store and Recycling
Center also is LEED gold-certified,
and the Chemistry Building and
MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station
dairy facility in Kalamazoo County
are LEED silver-certified.

Three MSU students were
recognized nationally for their
excellence in academic and research
work—bringing MSU’s total to
nine Udall Scholars and
30 Goldwater Scholars
Rebecca Farnum was named a 2011
Udall Scholar and Amy Pochodylo
and Kaitlin Tyler were named
2011 Goldwater Scholars.

The concept of oxygen sensors isn’t new, but the
challenge has been manufacturing one that can
withstand fluctuations in temperature, salinity,
carbon dioxide, phosphates, and biological wastes.
MSU’s Ruby Ghosh, associate professor of physics,
who was able to overcome those obstacles as well
as build a sensor that provides real-time
data at a relatively low cost

presented her research at the Bio-Optics: Design
and Application meeting.

Four MSU graduate programs—
nuclear physics, industrial
and organizational
psychology, and elementary
and secondary education—

rank No. 1 in the country, according
to U.S. News & World Report’s 2012
edition of America’s Best Graduate
Schools. The elementary and secondary
education programs have ranked first in
the nation for 17 years in a row.


Gretchen Birbeck, director of MSU’s
International Neurologic and Psychiatric
Epidemiology Program, was selected as
a regional winner of the 2011 Outreach
Scholarship/W. K. Kellogg Foundation
Engagement Award for her work on
epilepsy in Zambia.

MSU neonatologist Ira Gewolb was one
of seven MSU faculty inventors who won
technology transfer grants from the
Michigan Initiative for Innovation
& Entrepreneurship
and a predecessor
program. Gewolb and laboratory associate
Frank Vice are refining a prototype
for a noninvasive neonatal
gastroesophageal reflux monitor

based on a common engineering instrument, the
accelerometer. Taped to an infant’s chest, it picks
up low-frequency sound as reflux backs up from
the stomach into the esophagus.


MSU spin-off XG Sciences entered into
a series of agreements with POSCO,
a Korean corporation and one of the
world’s largest steel producers, to
create a strategic partnership for the
advancement of graphene manufacturing
and product development based on XG
Sciences’ proprietary technologies. XG
Sciences manufactures xGnP graphene
nanoplatelets, an inexpensive material
that can be used to improve the strength
and performance properties of materials
ranging from plastics to electronic
components and batteries. Advancing
the technology will fuel breakthrough
applications, worldwide demand, and
economic development in Michigan.

MSU is among several
institutions that will share a
five-year, $25 million grant
designed to prepare students
to work on the country’s
nuclear security needs
, including the
threat posed by the potential proliferation of
nuclear weapons. The grant from the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security
Administration will fund the Nuclear
Science and Security Consortium,
which will focus on education and
hands-on training.

Legendary Irish rock band U2
brought its 360° Tour to more
than 65,000 fans in MSU’s
Spartan Stadium. Lead singer
and global activist Bono
gave a shout out to
President Lou Anna
K. Simon
and the university’s
work in Africa and beyond to make
the world a better place for all.


With the support of another $2
million in funding from
the Bill and Melinda Gates
, MSU researchers are
moving closer to setting up human
clinical trials for a reformulation of the
drug flubendazole that could be the
linchpin of treatment efforts against
two debilitating tropical diseases: river
blindness and elephantiasis. The project
received an initial $2 million from the
Gates Foundation in February 2010.

In an effort to strengthen United
States–China ties, MSU is the
only institution in
the Midwest—and one
of six in the nation—
to receive a grant
from the Coca-Cola
in support of the
U.S. State Department’s “100,000
Strong Initiative.” MSU received
$200,000 to send 30 students to China
to participate in programs focused
on Chinese language, business, and


After last year’s successful start on
the east side of campus, the MSU
Neighborhoods initiative—a new
concept in on-campus
that brings a variety of student
services to one location—expanded to
the west and south. Engagement centers
offering intercultural development,
academic and residential support, and
health and wellness are now open in
Hubbard, Holden, and Brody halls.

Using the scent of death as a repellant for sea lampreys could be the
key to better controlling one of the most destructive
invasive species in the Great Lakes
, according to MSU’s
Michael Wagner. The assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife
published his research results in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and
Aquatic Sciences.


MSU issued a license for cutting-edge software
that detects altered fingerprints to Morpho,
part of the Safran group, one of the world’s
leading suppliers of identification and detection
solutions. The technology, developed by Anil
Jain, University Distinguished Professor of
computer science and engineering, can help law
enforcement and border control officials detect
even fingerprints that have been disfigured or
surgically changed to mask identification.

MSU launched an integrated media arts focus
designed to fill the growing demand for
graduates with creative and multimedia skills
and experience. Part of a new collaborative
called the Media Sandbox in the College of
Communication Arts and Sciences, it includes
an integrated media arts curriculum, visiting
artists, special events, and creative projects by
faculty and students.

MSU’s undergraduate
supply chain management
program ranks No. 1 in the nation
and the Broad College of Business
is one of the country’s top 25 business
schools, according to U.S. News &
World Report
’s 2012 Best Colleges
edition. On the list of 268 best national
universities, MSU ranked 71st overall
and 20th among public universities,
both improvements from the
year before.


An economic impact report cites the
University Research Corridor (URC)—an
alliance of MSU, the University of Michigan,
and Wayne State University—as being
at the forefront of Michigan’s
economic resurgence
. According
to the Anderson Economic Group’s 2011
Empowering Michigan Economic Impact
Report, the URC invests more than $1.8
billion in research, educates 137,583
students, and has an economic impact of
more than $15.2 billion on the state.

A $915,000 grant from the
U.S. Economic Development
will enable MSU to create a
pioneering economic development center that
focuses on new ways of generating businesses
and jobs. The University Center for Regional
Economic Innovation will be the first university-
based center in Michigan to support research
in economic development innovation in a
collaborative manner by partnering with other
colleges, local and regional governments, private
businesses, and other groups.


With the support of a $2 million
grant from the National Science
Foundation’s new Dimensions of
Biodiversity program
, MSU researcher
Elena Litchman, associate professor of ecology,
is leading a team of researchers who will travel
to Siberia to gauge how Lake Baikal, the world’s
oldest and largest freshwater lake, is adapting to
global change.

A $7 million gift from
an anonymous graduate
will help expand MSU’s
Department of Geological
Sciences, fostering better
understanding of the Earth’s
systems and resources. The
gift will be used primarily to
support new professorships
and graduate research.

The MSU men’s basketball team faced off against North Carolina in the
first-ever college basketball game played on
an aircraft carrier
. More than 8,100 fans, including President
Barack Obama, attended the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic aboard the USS
Carl Vinson in San Diego on Veterans’ Day.

For the seventh
year in a row, MSU sent
more students abroad than any
other public university,
with 2,589 students studying
overseas in 2009–10. MSU is one
of only four higher education institutions
in the nation to rank in the top 10 for study abroad
participation and international student enrollment,
according to the Institute of International
Education’s annual Open Doors Report. With
5,748 international students in 2010–11, MSU
ranked ninth among U.S. public and
private institutions in international
student enrollment.


Rebecca Farnum
who also was named
a Udall Scholar in April,
earned one of 36 coveted
Marshall Scholarships,
becoming MSU's 15th
Marshall Scholar

President Lou Anna K. Simon was among
a host of dignitaries who met December 2
in Washington, D.C., with President Barack
Obama and former President Bill Clinton to
help launch an initiative designed to promote
the construction and retrocommissioning of
more energy-efficient buildings in the United
States. MSU is a partner in the
Better Buildings Challenge
an initiative that calls for university,
commercial, and industrial buildings in
the United States to achieve a 20 percent
reduction in energy use by 2020.

Three researchers in the MSU
Food Safety Group landed
grants totaling nearly
$3 million from the
U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA)
to improve food
. USDA Deputy
Secretary Kathleen Merrigan
announced 17 grants totaling
$10.4 million from the USDA’s
National Institute of Food and
Agriculture to universities
around the country while
visiting MSU December 7.

Section 13

Credits Left Column

Research Credits

Revving an Automotive Revolution Credits

Revving an Automotive Revolution Story icon

Primary Researcher

Norbert Müller, associate professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering


Patrick Kwon, professor of mechanical engineering

Tonghun Lee, associate professor of mechanical engineering

Fang Peng, professor of electrical and computer engineering

Janusz Piechna, visiting associate professor of mechanical engineering

Elias Strangas, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering

Indrek Wichman, professor of mechanical engineering


U.S. Department of Energy

Deadly Disease Detection Credits

Deadly Disease Detection Story icon

Primary Researcher

Syed Hashsham, professor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering


Erdogan Gulari, University of Michigan

Reza Nassiri, director of MSU Institute for International Health and associate dean of College of Osteopathic Medicine

Jim Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor of crop and soil sciences

Student Researchers

Farhan Ahmad

Maggie Kronlein

Greg Seyrig

Robert Stedtfeld

Dieter Tourlousse


Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Eyewitness to Evolution Credits

Eyewitness to Evolution Story icon

No laughing matter—hyenas adapt to survive

Primary researcher

Kay Holekamp, University Distinguished Professor
Department of Zoology
College of Natural Science
Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium


National Science Foundation

In the race of life, better an adaptable tortoise than a fit hare

Primary researcher

Richard Lenski, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbial Ecology
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
College of Natural Science
Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium


Jeffrey Barrick, University of Texas

Tim Cooper, University of Houston

Robert Woods, University of Michigan

Student researchers

Mark Kauth

Utpala Shrestha, University of Houston

Questioning the origins of life—through art

Primary researcher

Adam Brown, associate professor
Department of Art, Art History, and Design
College of Arts and Letters


Maxine Davis, specialist in Lyman Briggs College

Robert Root-Bernstein, professor of physiology


National Science Foundation

Collaboration Takes Center Stage Credits

Collaboration Takes Center Stage Story icon

Bert Goldstein, director
MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts and Creativity, Wharton Center

Credits Right Column

The Beets Go On Credits

The Beets Go On Story icon

Primary Researcher

Steve Poindexter, senior educator
MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch


Tom Wenzel, research assistant, MSU Extension
Michigan Sugar Company


Michigan Sugar Company

MSU Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs)

Nurses Put Girls on a Path to Fitness and a Better Future Credits

Nurses Put Girls on a Path to Fitness and a Better Future Story icon

Primary researcher

Lorraine Robbins, associate professor
College of Nursing


Lawrence An, University of Michigan

Kim Maier, assistant professor of counseling, educational psychology, and special education

Karin Pfeiffer, associate professor of kinesiology

Ken Resnicow, University of Michigan


National Institutes of Health

Danger in Disguise Credits

Danger in Disguise Story icon

Primary researcher

Jeremy Wilson, associate professor and director of Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program
School of Criminal Justice
College of Social Science


John Spink, associate director of Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program and assistant professor of criminal justice

Zapping Nuclear Waste Credits

Zapping Nuclear Waste Story icon

Primary researcher

Gemma Reguera, assistant professor
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
College of Natural Science
MSU AgBioResearch

Postdoctoral researchers

Shelly Kelly

Sanela Lampa-Pastirk

Student researchers

Dena Cologgi

Allison Speers


National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

U.S. Department of Energy Funding

National Science Foundation

Defense Advanced Researcher Projects Agency

MSU AgBioResearch

Detecting Explosives With Laser Focus Credits

Detecting Explosives With Laser Focus Story icon

Primary researcher

Marcos Dantus, professor
Department of Chemistry
College of Natural Science


Vadim Lozovoy, research specialist in chemistry

Student researchers

Marshall Bremer

Nate Butcher


U.S. Department of Homeland Security