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Around Circle Drive

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Winter 2013
In its 30th anniversary season, the Wharton Center for Performing Arts continues to bring a diverse mix of entertainment to mid-Michigan.  This season Broadway lovers will be able to catch Sister Act (Feb. 12-17), a comedy featuring music by 8-time Oscar winner Alan Mencken; the Blue Man Group (Feb. 22-24), which combines music, comedy and technology; and Green Day’s American Idiot (Apr. 9-11), which features many musical hits by the punk rock band from California.
Classical music enthusiasts are looking forward to the BBC Concert Orchestra (Jan. 31), featuring Conductor Keith Lockhart and Cellist Sophie Shao; Renee Fleming (Feb. 27), one of the best-known opera stars today; and Sir James Galway (Mar. 28), one of the world’s foremost flute players.  For dance aficionados, there is Momix: Botanica (Mar. 17) and the Russian National Ballet Theatre performing Cinderella (Mar. 21).  
The Monterey Jazz Festival (Mar. 10) features Grammy-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater and other performers.  The Acting Company will feature Steinbeck’s Of Men and Mice (Mar. 22-23). 
The discovery of a new gene could lead to better bug-resistant plants, thanks to MSU research that made the cover of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Sept. 2012).
The research shows that long-term cultivation has led to tomato crops losing beneficial traits common to wild tomatoes.  Anthony Schilmiller, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was able to identify a gene that is involved in one of these beneficial traits.
“Acyl sugars play a critical role in allowing wild tomatoes to fend off bugs,” says Schilmiller.  “Because cultivated tomatoes were not bred for their acyl sugar amounts and quality, they have reduced levels compared to wild ones we do not eat. Understanding how they are made is the first step toward breeding cultivated tomatoes, and other plants in this family, to make them more resistant to herbivores.”
Other Solanaceous crops that could benefit from this research include potatoes, peppers, eggplants and petunias.  In addition, this work shows that the newly discovered gene is active only in one specific cell of one trichome type. 
“We’ll also be able to add other important chemicals for insect resistance and possibly other beneficial traits to the surface of the plants,” Schilmiller adds.
Faded and sometimes tattered, letters and journal entries written 150 years ago by hopeful and homesick Civil War soldiers will forever be preserved online, thanks to digitization by MSU archivists (visit 
The process began two years ago as part of the University Archives and Historical Collections’ sesquicentennial celebration of the Civil War.  Nearly 3,000 pages and images have been digitized and placed online, with more materials added every day.  The items include election material from 1864, song books, sheet music and photos.
“There are a lot of Civil War historians and enthusiasts out there who will find interesting stories and get to know the soldiers through their letters,” says Portia Vescio, assistant director of UAHC. 
MSU received the collections of Civil War materials in 1952 when The Chamberlain Warren Museum in Three Oaks closed.  MSU’s MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online, assisted with the project.
A new galaxy, formed not long after the Big Bang, was discovered by MSU astronomer Megan Donahue and international colleagues. 
The researchers report in Nature that this galaxy began emitting light “just” 490 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 3.6 percent of its present age.
Based on images taken in several colors, or wavelength bands, and using NASA’s Hubble Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, the measurement is “one of the most accurate estimates ever obtained” for a galaxy from the early universe, says Donahue.
The galaxy, dubbed MACS 1149-JD, is located in the northern hemisphere sky near the constellation Leo.   The researchers calculate that it is less than 200 million years old and its stars total mass is 1 percent that of the Milky Way.
 “It’s quite exciting to get a peek at the way the universe was within only 490 million years after the Big Bang,” Donahue says.  “Apparently it doesn’t wait around very long to start making stars and galaxies.”
New MSU Hub for Language
A new addition to MSU’s Wells Hall is open for business—88,000 square feet of space that is now serving as the university’s language education hub.
Wells Hall is now home to a number of academic departments, most from the College of Arts and Letters, including English; linguistics and Germanic, Asian and African languages; Spanish and Portuguese; French, classics and Italian; and the English Language Center.
Religious Studies and African American Studies are also located in Wells, while the history department relocated to the Old Horticulture Building.
“The new Wells Hall addition is another piece of MSU’s commitment to a cutting-edge global focus,” says President Lou Anna K. Simon.  “Understanding of world languages and cultures is a prerequisite to the ability to be successfully engaged in business, government, diplomacy, research and the arts in the 21st century.”
The new facility provides energy-efficient office, instructional and research space. It includes a three-story atrium, three new classrooms and language laboratories, as well as private and open office environments that will help promote faculty and student interactions. It also houses the Center for Language Teaching Advancement.
A $200,000 endowment to research the links between osteopathic treatment techniques and eastern medicine will be donated by the Jaseng Hospital of Korean Eastern Medicine in Seoul to the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.  Another $150,000 is earmarked to study a distinctive form of acupuncture used by Jaseng.
Jaseng chairman Joon-shik Shin (left) and Dean William Strampel of the College of Osteopathic Medicine have signed the agreement.  Jaseng is the leading integrative hospital in the Republic of Korea, and the only spine-specialty hospital of oriental medicine to be recognized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The research will involve taking repeated blood samples before, during and after manual medicine and acupuncture treatments in Korea. These samples will be sent to A. Daniel Jones, professor of biochemistry and director of MSU’s Mass Spectrometry Facility.   Researchers will then assess if there are correlations between the biochemical results and the clinical results.
“I’m delighted about our expanding relationship with Jaseng and Dr. Shin, and very happy about the research,” says Strampel.  “This is the beginning of many good things.”