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Around Circle Drive

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Fall 2012


The new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University will be dedicated Friday, Nov. 9, at an outdoor public ceremony. An open house follows on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Expected to be a cultural hub for Michigan, the museum is engaging the art community via partnerships with contemporary art spaces around the world. “The new Broad Art Museum is a powerful architectural statement, symbolizing the 21st-century dynamic global position of Michigan State University,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Dame Zaha Hadid, the 46,000-square-foot Broad/MSU features a striking façade of pleated stainless steel and glass—a contrast with the traditional brick Collegiate Gothic of north campus. Seventy percent of the space will be devoted to art display, including areas for special exhibitions, modern and contemporary art, new media, photography and works on paper.

The Broad/MSU’s inaugural exhibitions, curated by Director Michael Rush, have exemplified the museum’s dual focus on presenting international contemporary art in all media and on thematic exhibitions that investigate contemporary works within a historical context. For more information, visit


Some MSU alumni wishing to visit the campus can look forward to a renovated East Lansing Amtrak Station, as a result of a $6.28 million grant to MSU, the Capital Area Transportation Authority and the city of East Lansing.

The funding is part of the Capital Area Multi-modal Gateway Project, which serves as the transportation gateway to Michigan’s capital city region.

“This station provides a vital link for thousands of students and local commuters who pass through here every day to board a bus, hop a bike or take a train,” says Robert Rivkin, general counsel of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.

The project, approved by the Federal Transit Administration, provides excellent connectivity to the interstate, the regional transportation network, and bike and pedestrian pathways and will help transition the regionally significant Trowbridge Road Commercial Corridor to one of the nation’s leading research universities.

“Student use of mass transit is at an all-time high, as evidenced by the fact that this station and this line is the fastest growing in Michigan,” says Fred Poston, MSU vice president for finance and operations. “In addition, it’s particularly important that the MSU community have good connections to both Detroit and Chicago.”


MSU will use a $7.3 million federal grant to cultivate the next generation of agricultural scientists in Africa and Asia, in hopes of improving food security and nutrition there.

The new Borlaug Higher Education Agricultural Research and Development program, named aft er Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Food Security. Part of Feed the Future, the government’s global hunger and food security initiative, the program will strengthen agricultural research institutions and support long-term training of agricultural researchers at the master’sand doctoral-degree levels.

“MSU has 50-plus years of engagement in Africa, and we’re currently managing several M.S. and Ph.D. training programs whose objectives and program design are similar to those of this initiative,” says Eric Crawford, professor of agricultural, food and resource economics. “MSU faculty are well versed in planning, designing and managing training and human capacity-building programs, especially in plant breeding, food science and food security, which are key areas of Feed the Future.”

Crawford, who also serves as codirector of MSU’s Food Security Group, and Frederik Derksen, chairperson of MSU’s Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition, will lead the effort.


MSU scientists were among those who, through genome sequencing, have created the first census for microbes living with healthy adults, according to coordinated scientific papers in Nature and the Public Library of Science journals.

The research from the Human Microbiome Project Consortium revealed that part of each person’s collection of microbes includes 100 trillion good bacteria living in or on the human body, creating their own unique microbiome. Moreover, researchers calculate that they have identified between 81 to 99 percent of all microbial species in the human body.

Bacteria inhabit nearly every part of the body, including on the skin, in the gut and up the nose. Sometimes they cause sickness, but most of the time, these microbes live in harmony with their human hosts, providing vital functions essential for human survival, says Tom Schmidt, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.

“We have evolved in a sea of microbes, and so perhaps it is not surprising that there are so many intimate and beneficial associations between microbes and humans,” he says. “Understanding the microbes associated with the human body is crucial to understanding human health and disease.”


Living in the guts of worms are seemingly innocuous bacteria that contribute to their survival. With a flip of a switch, however, these same bacteria transform from harmless microbes into deadly insecticides.

MSU researchers report in Science a study that revealed how a bacteria flips a DNA switch to go from an upstanding community member in the gut microbiome to deadly killer in insect blood.

Todd Ciche, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, has seen variants like this emerge sometimes by chance resulting in drastically different properties, such as being lethal to the host or existing in a state of mutual harmony. Even though human guts are more complex and these interactions are harder to detect, the revelation certainly offers new insight that could lead to medical breakthroughs, he says.

“Animal guts are similar to ours, in that they are both teeming with microbes,” says Ciche, who worked with researchers from Harvard Medical School. “These bacteria and other microorganisms are different inside their hosts than isolated in a lab, and we’re only beginning to learn how these alliances with microbes are established, how they function and how they evolve.”

The Agricultural Experiment Station first started on the MSU campus to carry out experiments in a variety of agricultural topics. Later Experiment Sub-stations expanded to other parts of the state. Some university personnel were both faculty and Experiment Station agents. They performed teaching duties as well as research on crops, livestock, and pest management to help farmers and improve agricultural science.

In 1892 the Agricultural Experiment Station converted a tool storage room into a seed room in one of the farm buildings on campus. The seed room contained 580 cubby holes for packages of seeds, containers for storing larger quantities of seeds, drying racks, tables and equipment. Grass, millett wheat, corn, beans, and barley seeds, among others were stored in the room. These seeds were studied and used in planting experiments. In one experiment vitality of four year old sugar beet seed was tested.

The room was also used to demonstrate the proper way to store seeds. The seed room existed until 1917, aft er which it did not appear on the Experiment Station’s inventory of assets in their annual report.

In 1893, MSU created an exhibit for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL. The exhibition included images of the campus and its facilities, and objects, such as samples of plants grown for study. Among the images on exhibit was a photograph of the Experiment Station’s “model seed room.” Aft er the exhibition, the photos and exhibits were brought back to campus and placed on display. The original photo used in the exhibition is housed in the MSU Archives.

The Agricultural Experiment Station has been an important part of MSU’s history. Though the seed room no longer exists, the research done by the Experiment Station continues to benefit many.


Broadway lovers will enjoy several choices this fall, including Cole Porter’s historic Anything Goes (Oct. 16-21), which won three 2011 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival. War Horse (Dec. 5-9) and its inventive puppetry won five 2011 Tony Awards, while Billy Elliot (Jan. 15-20) won 10 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Dance fans will want to see Parsons Dance (Nov. 11), an athletic ensemble that features the music of the Dave Matthews Band and one of the hottest tickets in contemporary dance. Live at Birdland (Oct. 25) brings to East Lansing the ambience and music of a venerable club where jazz greats such as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie played regularly. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival brings Shakespeare’s Will (Nov. 29-Dec. 1), which reveals the story of the bard’s widow Anne Hathaway.

For more information, visit or call the box office at 800-WHARTON.


MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams project has achieved yet another major milestone.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy Office of Science, or DOE-SC, issued the final report from the agency’s Office of Project Assessment review that was conducted in April. The report confirms FRIB has met all milestones and expectations to date and is ready to begin the next phase of the project.

According to the report, the project is “being properly managed,” the design is “technically sound” and the “cost estimate and project schedule are complete and reasonable.”

In addition, the report said the “level of detail presented meets or, in some cases, exceeds that of a typical accelerator project” at this stage.

The report further stated: “The committee was impressed with the project team, the level of organization, and progress made by the FRIB project since the September 2011 DOE/Office of Science review.”

“We are very pleased the committee recognized the great work being done by our FRIB team,” says MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “We are excited about moving forward on the project. We will continue working with the Department of Energy, as well as the Congress and administration, to ensure that FRIB becomes a reality.”

The project is on track toward early completion in 2019.

Meanwhile, the National Research Council issued a report June 27 reaffirming that MSU’s FRIB project remains a major priority—calling it “a major new strategic investment in nuclear science. It will have unique capabilities and offers opportunities to answer fundamental questions about the inner workings of the atomic nucleus, the formation of the elements in our universe and the evolution of the cosmos.”


The secret to the deadly 2011 E. coli outbreak in Germany has been decoded, thanks to research conducted at MSU.

The deadliest E. coli outbreak ever, which caused 54 deaths and struck more than 3,800 people, was traced to a virulent new strain. In PloS ONE, researchers led by Shannon Manning, MSU molecular biologist and epidemiologist, suggest a way to potentially tame the killer bacteria.

The strain, E. coli O104:H4, shares some characteristics as other deadly E. coli bacteria, but its combination is novel. Researchers haven’t determined the mechanism it uses to cause disease, although Manning and her team were able to find the strain’s Achilles heel—its biofilm.

By focusing on the bacteria’s biofilm, the grouping of many E. coli bacteria that stick to a cell’s surface and grow encased in a self-produced protective coat, Manning and colleagues were able to determine why it was so deadly.

“Our research demonstrates that biofilm formation is critical for toxin production and kidney damage,” she said. “If we can block the bacteria from forming a stable biofilm, then it is likely that we can prevent future E. coli O104:H4 infections.”

Manning’s research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and MSU AgBioResearch.


MSU is one of five universities nationwide participating in a pilot program to test innovative security measures at sports facilities and entertainment venues in areas such as parking, concessions, merchandising and ticketing.

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security ranks stadium attacks as one of the 12 most devastating possible acts of terrorism. The pilot program will create a risk management standard for major collegiate and professional venues to improve security measures and increase safety for the thousands of sports and entertainment fans who attend events each year.

It is a collaboration of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, or NCS4, at the University of Southern Mississippi and Verifile, which helps organizations improve safety and security and meet government compliance requirements. The pilot also includes Ohio State University, Penn State University, Texas A&M and Southern Mississippi.

“With millions of people attending sporting events around the world each year, we can’t afford to take stadium security lightly,” says Lou Marciani, NCS4 director.

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

> Larry Hembroff , director of MSU’s Office for Survey Research in the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, College of Social Science, has been named president of the Association of Academic Survey Research Organizations.

> James Pritchett, professor of anthropology and director of MSU’s African Studies Center, has been elected vice president of the African Studies Association— the largest global organization enhancing the exchange of information about Africa.

> Sandi Smth, professor of communication and director of the Health and Risk Communication Center in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, has been named a fellow by the International Communication Association. A member of the ICA Board of Directors, she has received the organization’s B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award.


An international research team has manufactured a new protein that can combat deadly flu epidemics.

The research, featured in Nature Biotechnology, shows the use of manufactured genes as antivirals that disable key functions of the fl u virus, says Tim Whitehead, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science.

“Our most potent design has proven eff ective . . . On many pandemic influenza viruses, including several H1N1 (Spanish fl u, Swine fl u) and H5N1 (Avian fl u) subtypes,” says Whitehead, the paper’s co-lead author. “We were especially pleased to see that it neutralizes H1N1 viruses with potency.”

The team used computer-aided design to engineer proteins that targeted the highly adaptable virus. Researchers then optimized their designer proteins by mapping the mutations that gave the proteins a strong advantage when attacking.

Th is research lays the groundwork for future treatments of all fl u viruses as well as diseases such as smallpox, Whitehead adds. The research was funded by Defense Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.


Detroit and MSU have developed a broad program of food system innovation to promote local economic development, land recovery and food security. The aim is to position the city as a world center for urban food systems technology and development.

A memorandum of understanding signed by Mayor Dave Bing and MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon calls for a program dubbed the Metro- FoodPlus Innovation Cluster @ Detroit, laying groundwork for more detailed conversations with community stakeholders and prospective partners.

“Detroit, with the assistance of MSU and many others, has the opportunity to redefine metropolitan food and agriculture for the 21st century,” Bing says. “We want to demonstrate that innovation based on metropolitan food production can create new businesses and jobs, return idle land to productivity and grow a more environmentally sustainable and economically vital city.”

“By 2050, food production will need to double – using less water and energy than today,” says Simon. “ We see great opportunity to do good locally and connect globally.”

The partnership builds on MSU’s historical presence in Detroit, including educational partnerships, business and government consulting and Extension support for farmers’ markets and urban gardens.


A new biofuel production process created by MSU researchers produces 20 times more energy than existing methods.

The results, published in Environmental Science and Technology, showcase a novel way to use microbes to produce biofuel and hydrogen, all while consuming agricultural wastes.

Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist, has developed bioelectrochemical systems known as microbial electrolysis cells, or MECs, using bacteria to break down and ferment agricultural waste into ethanol. In Reguera’s unique platform, a second bacterium removes the waste fermentation byproducts or nonethanol materials while generating electricity. The process averages 35 to 40 percent energy recovery just from the fermentation process.

“This is because the fermentative bacterium was carefully selected to degrade and ferment agricultural wastes into ethanol efficiently and to produce byproducts that could be metabolized by the electricity-producing bacterium,” Reguera says. “By removing the waste products of fermentation, the growth and metabolism of the fermentative bacterium also was stimulated.”


> Peter J. Lasher, a 17-year veteran of development at universities— including the University of Southern California and Georgetown University— has been named MSU’s new associate vice president for university development. He has planned and led development teams in four diff erent billiondollar plus campaigns.

> Stephen Hsu, director of the Institute for Theoretical Science and professor of physics at the University of Oregon, has been named MSU vice president for research and graduate studies. Hsu founded SafeWeb and Robot Genius, web-based security companies. He is scientific adviser to BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute). Hsu succeeds Ian Gray, who held the position since 2004.

> Peter Whorf, program director and vice president of content at WFMT in Chicago, has been named station manager of WKAR radio. Whorf also worked at WNYC in New York and KBIA in Columbia, MO. WKAR radio is part of MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences.