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Around Circle Drive

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Spring 2012


Imagine if doctors could spot Parkinson’s disease at its inception and treat the protein that triggers it before the disease can sicken the patient.

A team of researchers led by Basir Ahmad, MSU postdoctoral researcher, has demonstrated that slow-wriggling alpha-synuclein proteins are the cause of aggregation, or clumping together, which is the  first step of Parkinson’s.  the results are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lisa Lapidus, MSU associate professor of physics and astronomy co-authored the paper with MSU graduate student Yujie Chen. Lapidus dedicated her lab to the process of building proteins in cells.

“There are many, many steps that take place in aggregation, but we’ve identified the  first step,” Lapidus says. “Finding a method to  fight the disease at its  first stage, rather than somewhere further down the road, can hopefully increase the success rate in which the disease is treated.”


MSU chemists have found that a receptor on blood platelets might be useful in drug testing.

A team led by Dana Spence has revealed a way to isolate and test the receptor known as P2X1.  us the team has unlocked a potential new drug target for many diseases that impact red blood cells, such as diabetes, hypertension and cystic fibrosis.

“Scientists are always looking for new ‘druggable’ receptors in The human body,” says Spence. “this receptor, P2X1, has long been viewed as unimportant in platelets; our studies show that is not necessarily true. The receptor is very active; you just need to be careful in working with it.”

The research is published in Analytical Methods, a journal from the Royal Society of Chemistry in London.

“This research opens up new avenues of study and will allow researchers and pharmaceutical companies to re-appraise this Receptor as a druggable target,” says Spence.


An award-winning MSU researcher will travel to Siberia to gauge how Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and largest freshwater lake, is adapting to global change.

Elena Litchman, MSU associate professor of ecology, through a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation will lead a team of researchers to study how planktonic organisms adapt to a Change. Baikal is the world’s most bio-diverse lake.

“Human-induced global change is altering most ecosystems on Earth, and highly diverse ecosystems may be better buffered against change, maintaining key functions even as the environment changes,” says Litchman, who is based at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station.

Litchman’s team will focus on key organisms found only in Baikal that form the backbone of this ecosystem, map their genetic makeup and identify how they interact with the lake’s inhabitants.  the researchers will create mathematical models to predict how phytoplankton and zooplankton will react and reorganize in the future.


An MSU researcher is using a $1.92 million Dept. of Defense grant to develop a portable wastewater treatment system that could improve the military’s efficiency.

The solar-bio-nano project, spearheaded by Wei Liao, an MSU assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, also will generate energy and produce drinking water, thus providing a potential blueprint for the future of municipal/agricultural wastewater treatment systems.

During military operations, shipping from port to bases on or near the front lines can push the Cost of water up to nearly $60 per gallon. A portable, self-sustaining system would allow the bases to be more nimble and cost-effective, Liao explains.

“Bases on or near The front lines could transport this small-scale system by semi-truck and greatly reduce their demand for water and fuel,” he says. “ the integrated system can serve about 600 people, is patentable and hopefully can be scaled up to serve larger populations.”

Working with Liao on the project are Ilsoon Lee, MSU associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and Abraham Engeda, MSU professor of mechanical engineering.

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

> Charles Mackenzie, professor in the Dept. of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, has been named an officer of the Order of Australia for his work in public health in fighting diseases such as elephantiasis and river blindness.

> Youssef Kousa, a graduate student in the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, has has been awarded a $65,000 tuition grant from the National Institute of Health. Kousa is working on research about clelip and palate.


After its smash success in 2007, Wicked returns to MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts from June 27-July 8.  the prequel to the Wizard of Oz story, dubbed “the musical of the decade” by the New York Times, won three Tony Awards and one Grammy Award.

In addition, lovers of Broadway musicals will be able to savor Memphis (Mar. 27-Apr. 1), winner of four Tony Awards, including Best Musical.It tells the story of the underground dance clubs in Memphis in the 1950s. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the legendary Les Miserables (Apr. 3-8) will return for a short run.  the MSU Dept. of Theatre presents Legally Blonde the Musical (Apr. 20-29)

Art lovers will  find a spectrum of entertainment the rest of the 2012 season, ranging from Motown in Motion with the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble (May 20) and Saxophonist Branford Marsalis (May 3) playing with MSU’s premier jazz ensemble. Superstar Violinist Joshua Bell will lead the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (Apr. 21) in an all-Beethoven program.


MSU researchers have discovered a plant enzyme that works both day and night shifts.

The discovery, featured in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, shows that plants evolved a new function for this enzyme by changing merely one of its protein building blocks.

The enzyme, ATP synthase, usually works the day shift , serving as a key player in storing energy created through photosynthesis in the chloroplast. When the sun goes down most of these enzymes switch off to prevent energy from leaking out. But a newly changed protein block allows this enzyme to do another job at night, says David Kramer, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics.

“By exchanging This one building block, the enzyme gains a new function in the dark, in the roots.” he says. “It’s like a food processor. With one attachment it chops food. Swap it for another, and it kneads bread dough.”

Kramer works in the MSU-Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory. The research was funded in part by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences Division, Basic Energy Sciences.


Lauren Aitch (middle), former MSU basketball player who played professionally in Denmark, is helping to raise funds through the Aitch Foundation to support research into hidden cancers by the MSU HealthTeam. Seen here with MSU hoopster Draymond Green (left ) and former coach Gus Ganakas, Aitch will host a fashion show May 18. “the MSU HealthTeam’s wide spectrum of services was a natural connection for the foundation,” Aitch says.


Two teams of MSU researchers— one at a medieval burial site In Albania, the other at a DNA lab in East Lansing—have shown how modern science can unlock the mysteries of the past.

The scientists confirmed the existence of brucellosis, an infectious disease still prevalent today, in ancient skeletal remains.

The findings, which appear in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, suggest brucellosis has been endemic to Albania since at least the Middle Ages.

“For years, we had to Hypothesize the cause of pathological conditions like this,” says Todd Fenton, associate professor of anthropology.

David Foran, Director of MSU’s Forensic Science Program, heads the DNA lab that analyzed the ancient bone samples from Albania.He says the collaboration on the project highlights the benefits of modern science and interdisciplinary research, even when the respective research teams are some 5,000 miles apart.


Students and faculty at MSU’s Games for Entertainment and Learning Laboratory have created a video game that features Sparty, in a parody of Angry Birds, taking on undesirable snowmen from rival Big Ten schools on campus.

“We knew the concept of an ‘Angry Birds’ parody would be fun to develop and play,” says Brian Winn, co-director of the GEL Lab. “This game showcases the level of design, animation, programming and project management skills that our students are developing at MSU.”

The game is available for free through a website and also as an app on the Apple iTunes store.A holiday edition launched on the Apple iTunes App Store this winter has surpassed 8,000 downloads and 60,000 plays.


The formal dedication of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU will occur in the fall. Originally scheduled for Spring 2012, the postponement was due to material supply delays and the goal of involving students in opening activities.

The delay is not Expected to change the budget for the construction project.

“We have an uncompromising commitment to assure the integrity of this powerful architectural statement, which is an investment in the enduring impact the museum will have on the university, our students and faculty, the community, the state of Michigan and the art world.” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We’re pushing the limits for something extraordinary, and we will do what it takes to get it right.”

Museum Director Michael Rush says the delay will not impact the Quality of future exhibits. “We’re looking forward to a world-class opening and exhibitions,” he says. “In the meantime, several off-site projects and public programs will continue.”


A new company formed around MSU nanotechnology promises speedier detection of deadly pathogens and toxins than available through laboratories.

The company, nanoRETE, will commercialize an inexpensive way to use handheld biosensors to detect threats such as E.coli, Salmonella, anthrax and tuberculosis.

The new portable diagnostic technology utilizes nanoparticles with magnetic, polymeric and electrical properties developed by Evangelyn Alocilja, MSU professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering and chief scientific officer of nanoRETE.

“Our unique preparation, extraction and detection protocol enables the entire process to be conducted in the field, without significant training,” Alocilja says. “Results are generated in about an hour from receipt of sample to final readout, quickly identifying contaminants so that proper and prompt actions can be taken.”

MSU Technologies, the office that manages technology transfer at MSU, was actively involved in licensing the technologies to nanoRETE. The technologies also earned funding from the MSU Foundation.


MSU has established a budget of $20 million to prepare for development of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a world-class nuclear research facility that will attract scientists from all over the world to East Lansing.

“MSU continues to move forward with FRIB, ensuring that we are prepared when federal and state officials make appropriate decisions to allocate resources to this project, which is important to MSU, Michigan and U.S. research capabilities,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are confident that our team will successfully present the project at a review by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science in April and will be ready for excavation to start.”

FRIB is expected to bring more than $1 billion in total economic activity to Michigan during the Next 10 years, according to a report by the Anderson Economic Group. Construction is expected to begin later this year, with completion set for 2020. The facility is expected to employ about 400 persons, as well as create 5,000 construction jobs.

FRIB also will be critical to preparing the next generation of scientists. MSU’s nuclear physics doctoral program was named the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report last year, and the prospects of FRIB continuing the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory’s reputation as the world’s top rare isotope facility is helping the university continue to attract world-class students and faculty.


Leo, a two-year-old Australian Shepherd from Ann Arbor, made History last fall as the  first dog to undergo open-heart surgery at MSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Since then, Augusta Pelosi, a cardiac surgeon with the College of Veterinary Medicine, has led a team of more than 20 veterinary and human health experts in performing two more successful open-heart canine surgeries.

“The only way to fully correct many cardiac defects is to target the problem itself with open-heart surgery,” notes Pelosi, who joined MSU’s Dept. of Small Animal Clinical Sciences in 2008 after previously completing residencies in surgery and cardiology at MSU with pioneer veterinary surgeon George Eyster.

After several years of training and research, Pelosi now leads about 20 veterinary professionals— specializing in critical care from cardiology to anesthesia—as part of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s open-heart team. Pelosi also partners with human health professionals from the University of Michigan’s cardiac surgery team.


By Scott Westerman, III, ’78 MSUAA Executive Director

When we started to re-invent your MSU Alumni Association on New Year’s Day, 2010, we quickly realized that our key value proposition was “ the Network.”

What sets Spartans apart from most other alumni is our desire to help one another. It’s an ethic that is wired in our psyche from the moment we come to campus and it resonates throughout “the Spartan Life.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that if you’re a Spartan, you’ll take a phone call from another Spartan, even if you’ve never met.

Our alumni reflexively shout “Go Green” across airport concourses whenever we see someone in Spartan attire. And meeting a fellow Spartan in some far flung corner of the world is like  finding a long lost relative.

This is unique. You know what I’m talking about because you immediately Empathized with the examples I just gave. the truth is, we were networking before networking was cool. MSU invented the Internet before there were computers. We called it Cooperative Extension, a networking model that has been emulated in virtually every state in the union. MSU experts connected with families across the state to learn what challenges they faced. We leveraged our research culture to craft advice and solutions that we printed in hundreds of extension bulletins that were distributed across the state.

MSUAA’s desire to be “Your Personal Network… for Life,” and “To help you get from wherever you are now, to wherever you want to be,” is the overarching theme of everything we do. And we do it with the help of the Network.

Whatever problem you may currently be wrestling with, whatever need you may have at this very moment, these are waters that other Spartans have navigated.  the MSUAA’s job is to help you connect with them and completing your network with the resources you need to help make your dreams come true.

There are many layers to The Spartan Network.  the MSUAA is engaged at every level. We seek to interact with alumni in their language and via their preferred medium. It could be by email, through our portals on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, via our website, at club meetings, via Skype, text messaging, over the phone or face to face.  this magazine serves as a networking tool when alumni are featured in Profiles and State’s Stars. Wherever you are, whatever you may need, there is a Spartan out there who can help. And it’s a pretty good bet that we can facilitate the connection.

2012 will be “the Year of the Network.” You’ll access it at home, at work, in your car and wherever there is cell service.  the connections you build will play a pivotal role in creating the prosperity and happiness that is at the end of every Spartan rainbow.

So if you  find yourself headed to an unfamiliar town, stuck in an uncomfortable job or stumped by a perplexing problem, do what we do: Engage “Your Personal Network… for Life.” And ask a Spartan.


This capsule of MSU history was written by Whitney Miller, processing archivist with MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The Medal of Honor was the  first medal awarded to individual members of the military to honor their gallantry and valor against an enemy force.Created during the Civil War, it is now the highest U. S. military decoration. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, and thus is sometimes called the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is the one military award that is worn around the neck.

Two former MSU students have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Harold A. Furlong, a native of Detroit who enrolled at MAC in 1914, was issued the medal in 1919 for his actions during the Battle of Bois-de-Bantheville (France) in World War I. When several comrades and his commander were killed by forward German machine gun re, 1st Lt. Furlong crossed open space to move behind four separate machine gun nests, putting them out of action by killing or taking prisoner the enemy soldiers. At MAC Furlong was a member of the Varsity Debating team and the Forensic Literary Society, and served as publicity chairman for the YMCA. Furlong file MAC in his junior year to join the U.S. Army. After the war, he received a Medical degree from the University of Michigan.He was the only Michiganian to win the Medal of Honor in World War I.

Harry Linn Martin was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in action at Iwo Jima on March 26, 1945. 1st Lt. and platoon leader Harry Martin of Co. C, Fifth Pioneer Battalion, Fifth Marine Division heroically faced a surprise attack at dawn of the enemy Japanese forces. He worked his way through hostile  re to help his fellow soldiers who were trapped by the incoming barrage. Although he sustained two severe injuries in that action, he continued to battle the enemy by single-handedly charging a Japanese machine gun position, killing the hostile forces. He continued on, leading his men against the enemy until he was mortally wounded by a grenade blast.One of the great heroes of World War II, his legacy lives on in the name of the U.S. Navy Ship, the USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin, named in 2006.Harry Martin graduated MSC in the Class of ’36.