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Around Circle Drive

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Winter 2012


Three MSU researchers landed federal grants totaling more than $5 million for crop research. The grants are from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The three MSU researchers and their projects include:

Matthew Grieshop, assistant professor of entomology, will use $2.5 million for the development of resource-efficient and ecologically sustainable production systems for apple and cherry producers.

Catherine Lindell, associate professor of zoology, will use a $2 million grant to study ways to limit bird damage to fruit crops.

Ryan Warner, associate professor of horticulture, will use a $1.6 million grant to study genomicsbased approaches for improving petunia production efficiency and performance.

“Our goal, as researchers, is to be responsive to new trends that not only affect growers, but also that help consumers end up with a better product,” says Doug Buhler, interim dean for MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “These projects, and the grants from the USDA, move us forward in efforts to advance agriculture and economic development in a sustainable way.”


Best Colleges recently ranked the MSU Alumni Association among the Top 30 most “social media savvy” alumni groups in the nation.

The website notes that the MSUAA “has leveraged a wide range of tools to help connect alumni.” It continues:

“Currently, (MSU) uses LinkedIn and Twitter to share job leads with alumni and offers Up advice on the job hunting process through YouTube. MSU has also been acute in understanding that older alumni might not be as social mediasavvy as their younger counterparts, and the Alumni Career Services office gives tutorials and presentations about how to use social media at a variety of alumni events.

Up advice on the job hunting process through YouTube.MSU has also been acute in understanding that older alumni might not be as social mediasavvy as their younger counterparts, and the Alumni Career Services office gives tutorials and presentations about how to use social media at a variety of alumni events.

“While the group has a fair number of followers on Facebook (just under 5,000) and Twitter (@MichiganStateAA with 2,470), where it has really shone is on LinkedIn — through which there are over 32,500 members connected.”


Eran Andrechek, an assistant professor in the Dept. of Physiology, has received a $450,000 grant from the Susan G. Kom for the Cure Foundation to study the differences within and between breast cancers.

“When you look at a breast cancer tumor under the micro scope, there are different patterns of cancer cells within tha one tumor; it isn’t necessarily uniform,” he says. “Complexi is one of the major hurdles in treating and potentially preventing cancer.”

With breast cancer research, Andrechek says, mouse models are used giving the research opportunities that are not possible with human breast cancer cell lines or with human patients. However, the models oft en lack the complexity of human breast cancer cases. Andrechek seeks to see if the human heterogeneity can be duplicated in major mouse models, to identify which genes are important in different types of tumors and use that information to make predictions for therapies.


An MSU research team has developed a laser that could detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—weapons that account for about 60 percent of soldiers’ deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The laser, which has output comparable to a presentation pointer, could canvas large areas and detect IEDs. Marcos Dantus, chemistry professor and founder of BioPhotonic Solutions, led the team and has published the results in Applied Physics Letters.

“Having molecular structure sensitivity is critical for identifying explosives and avoiding unnecessary evacuation of buildings and closing roads due to false alarms,” says Dantus.

The laser beam combines short pulses that kick the molecules and make them vibrate, as well as long pulses that are used to “listen” and identify the different “chords.” The highsensitivity laser can work in tandem with cameras and allows users to scan questionable areas from a safe distance.


This capsule of MSU history was written by Megan J. Badgley, assistant archivist at MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Forest Akers is a familiar name at MSU—it’s on two golf courses and a residence hall. But few are familiar with the man behind the clever name.

Akers attended MSU from 1905 to 1908. He dedicated his college career to baseball and pranks, rather than academics. He was the star pitcher for the Aggies, helping them place second in the 1906 M.I.A.A. championship. He was also a notorious trouble maker. During a brief stint at the Detroit Free Press, he wrote a story declaring College Hall to be unsafe and in need of demolition.

In 1907, while President Theodore Roosevelt was giving his commencement speech, a stolen powder keg was lit behind the Engineering Building. The explosion blew out windows in nearby buildings and was heard 20 miles away. Despite denials, Akers was assumed to be the perpetrator. In 1908 President Snyder arranged for Akers to withdraw from MSU due to abysmal academic performance—which, Akers conceded, resulted from his “raising too much hell.”

Having been politely kicked out, Akers took up a career in sales and actually did very well. He Enjoyed great success and in 1938 became vice president of Dodge. Th at same year Akers made a triumphant return to MSU—as a Republican member of the Board of Trustees.

During his 18 years on the board, Akers did not accept a salary and contributed his mileage allotment to a fund which helped poor students. He funded an athletic scholarship, financed both golf courses and bequeathed a substantial portion of his estate to MSU. Thus a fun loving hell-raiser ultimately became an exemplar of generosity and dedication to MSU.


Hit Broadway musicals continue to fill this year’s schedule at MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts. January will see two successes, Million Dollar Quartet (Jan. 10-15), based on a recording session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, and The Addams Family (Jan. 31-Feb. 5), the Macabre musical comedy created by Jersey Boys authors Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice. Then comes Memphis (Mar. 27-Apr. 1), a new show featuring explosive dancing, laughter and roofraising rock ‘n’ roll. Also returning are fan favorites Les Misérables (Apr.3-8) and Wicked (Jun. 27-Jul. 8).

Classical fans await pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton (Mar. 16), guitarist Sharon Isbin (Mar. 18) and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Joshua Bell (Apr. 21). Dance enthusiasts will welcome the Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre (Apr. 15) and Motown in Motion with the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble (May 20). In addition, the famed Riverdance returns for performances on March 23 and 24.


Being able to count helps spotted hyenas decide to fight or flee, according to MSU researcher Sarah Benson-Amram, a graduate student studying zoology.

When animals fight, the larger group tends to win. In a recent issue of Animal Behaviour, Benson-Amram showed that hyenas listen to the sound of intruders’ voices to determine who has the advantage.

“They’re more cautious when they’re outnumbered and take more risks when they have the numerical advantage,” says Benson-Amram, who conducted the study through MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. “Hyenas appear to be as capable as chimpanzees or lions at assessing their advantage.”

The finding supports the concept that living in complex social groups—as hyenas, lions and chimpanzees do—is a key to the evolution of big brains. MSU students Virginia Heinen and Sean Dryer also contributed to the study.


Every semester, MSU faculty, staff and students garner kudos too numerous to list exhaustively here.

Here are some examples:

Christine Geith, MSU assistant provost and executive director of MSUglobal, has won the 2011 Nofflet Williams Service Award from the National University Telecommunications Network. MSUglobal develops strategic frameworks and business models and leads all activities that impact revenue growth.

Christopher Schotten, a senior in MSU’s James Madison College and past president of ASMSU, has been named Michigan’s first Kremlin Fellow by the Russian Federal Agency on Youth Affairs. He traveled to Moscow and met with senior Russian officials from All branches of government.

Wenona Singel, assistant professor of law and associate director of MSU’s Indigenous Law and Policy Center, has been named by the White House to serve on the advisory board of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. Singel serves on the appellate court of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.


Research by MSU plant and computer scientists has shed light on how plants cope with extreme environments.

As detailed in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MSU researchers explain how certain genes in a plant turn on and off depending on the stress the plant is experiencing, be it cold or heat, drought or too much water, or bacterial infection.

The genome of the Arabidopsis thaliana contains more than 25,000 genes, of which 3,000 to 10,000 cope with extremes under just one particular stress.

“Until now, we did not know how these genes were turning on and off at a genome-wide scale,” says Shin-Han Shiu, a member of the research team. “Now we have a better idea.”

The switches that essentially turn on and off the necessary genes are called cis-regulatory elements.By using the artificial intelligence of computers, Shiu and colleagues were able to run myriad switch combinations simultaneously to speed the research along.

Other contributors to the paper were Cheng Zou, Kelian Sun, Joshua Mackaluso and Alexander Seddon from the plant biology department; Rong Jin from computer science and engineering; and Michael Thoma show of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory.


Farmers and field scientists can now instantly identify diseases attacking crops and plants, thanks to a new invention by Syed Hashsham, MSU professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Hashsham has developed the Gene-Z device, which performs genetic analysis using a low-cost handheld device that uses smartphone technology.

The traditional approach to identifying plant pathogens involves collecting field samples, sending them to a laboratory and awaiting the results. Hashsham’s device can correctly identify diseases and speed treatments.Researchers simply take a swab for pathogens and transfer the sample to a microfluidic chip, which is inserted into the device. Used with an iPod Touch or Androidbased tablet, Gene-Z can identify the pathogen, its genotype and its amount in less than 30 minutes.

“We’ve already successfully proven Gene-Z’s capacity for quantifying cancer markers,” says Hashsham, who is working with MSU Technologies to bring the product to market. “With this application, we can speed the analysis of pathogens in plants, water and food with the ultimate goal of improving the safety and security of food supplies anywhere in the world.”


MSU researchers have figured out how microbes generate electricity While cleaning up nuclear waste and other toxic metals.

The process, which is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could eventually benefit sites that suffer from nuclear contamination, says MSU microbiologist Gemma Reguera.

“Geobacter bacteria are tiny micro-organisms that can play a major role in cleaning up polluted sites around the world,” says Reguera. “Uranium contamination can be produced at any step in the production of nuclear fuel, and this process safely prevents its mobility and the hazard for exposure.”

The ability of Geobacter to immobilize uranium has been well documented. However, identifying the Geobacters’ conductive pili or nanowires as doing the yeoman’s share of the work is a new revelation.Reguera has filed patents to build on her research.

The research team included Dena Cologgi and Allison Speers, MSU graduate students; and Sanela Lampa-Pastirk and Shelly Kelly, post-doctoral researchers.The National Institute of Environmental Health Science and the U.S. Department of Energy funded the study.


With a $3.6 million federal grant, an MSU nursing researcher is expanding a pilot program statewide to help middle school girls—particularly minority girls in urban, low socioeconomic settings—increase their physical activity.

The five-year Girls on the Move project, led by Lorraine Robbins of the College of Nursing and funded by the National Institutes of Health, focuses on individual and web-based counseling sessions with school nurses and an afterschool physical activity club.

Less than 4 percent of middle school girls meet physical activity recommendations, Robbins says, and as they progress from sixthto eighth-grade, moderate to vigorous physical activity declines, contributing to weight gain. The decline is particularly evident among urban, minority girls of low socioeconomic status.

School nurses are well positioned to drive school-based health programs such as those targeting physical activity, she says: “Nurses can adequately counsel students on increasing physical activity by exploring their personal, and sometimes unique, perceptions and providing support for positive change.”


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 (Nov. 14, 2011).

MSU is the only Big Ten school to hold the distinction.

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. In 2010-11, MSU hosted 5,748 international students on its campus—or 12 percent of MSU’s student body—for an increase of 7.3 percent from the previous year, mostly from an increase in Chinese undergraduates.

“The rankings reflect our strategic effort to align our research and international education efforts to create world citizens,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

“From the beginning, we stress to students the importance of developing a global knowledge base in an increasingly interconnected world.”


MSU student enrollment for 2011-12 will be about 47,800 students, according to preliminary estimates—more than last year’s 47,131.

Preliminary enrollment statistics:

MSU received a record 28,547 applications this year. The number of first-year students is about 7,775.

Total undergraduate enrollment is estimated to be about 36,580, an increase of about 500 students.

The entering class comes with strong academic credentials. The high school grade point average of the entering class ranges from 3.4 to 3.9 with the ACT average ranging from 23 to 27.

First-time Honors College enrollment is estimated at 485 students.The Academic Scholars Program is enrolling about 160 new students this year. The ASP is designed for high-achieving incoming freshmen who are interested in enhancing their academic program during their first two years of college. Together the two programs comprise about 8. 3 percent of the entering class.

It’s expected that the entering class will be composed of about 76 percent Michigan residents.

It’s anticipated that the College of Social Science, the Eli Broad College of Business and the College of Natural Science will have the largest enrollments.


By Scott Westerman III, ’78, MSUAA Executive Director

Go where the customers are. That’s the first rUle of providing great service. And it’s one of the reasons that the MSU Alumni Association was recently recognized by As one of the top “Social Media Savvy Alumni Groups” in the nation.

As the website notes, Internet outposts like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube can be, “a great way for former students to stay in touch.” The MSUAA was singled out as one of the top 30 alumni organizations that have “gone above and beyond in their efforts to connect with alumni.”

At its best, engagement is a conversation. Our social media conversations help us better understand how to serve Spartans, via whatever communications channels they prefer.

Our former Alumni Career Services director, John Hill, who recently became the worldwide educational evangelist for LinkedIn, says, “It’s important to connect with alumni in their own language. We customized our approach for each social medium to maximize our ability to dialogue, to learn and to help.”

That customization includes encouraging alumni association team members to speak in their own voices. Follow @DaveSpartyBrown, @MSUSueP or @TimBograkos on Twitter and you get the flavor of each of their unique personalities.

And input from alumni who work in the social media world plays a critical role. Paul Prewitt, our newly minted director of Online Engagement for University Advancement, agrees.

“Tapping the expertise of our National Advisory Board Communications Committee has transformed our Facebook presence,” he says. “Thanks to great thinkers like Ryan Schram, Leigh Graves Wolf and Henry Balanon, we’ve built an interface that is dynamic, relevant and usable.”

The MSUAA’s website at is also in a constant state of reinvention. Randy Brown is the director of our University Advancement web team. When I asked him about his secret sauce, he told me, “What we call ‘alumni 2.0’ is the direct result of the feedback from survey data we get from our members. The state-of-the-art is constantly changing. And we’re changing with it.”

Read more about the “30 Most Social Media Savvy Alumni Groups” and the MSU Alumni Association’s award winning strategies online at