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Around Circle Drive

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Spring 2013
The MSU College of Music will soon launch a new jazz studies artist in residence program thanks to a $1 million gift from MSU Federal Credit Union, the largest-ever investment in the 
college’s curriculum. 
“This financial gift from MSUFCU is a true game changer,” says Rodney Whitaker, director of jazz studies.  “It will elevate our discipline to a higher level educationally, creatively and musically.”
National and international jazz artists will visit campus for a week to teach students and perform for the public, Whitaker says.  They’ll also work with local high school and middle school jazz students.  Jazz Orchestra I, the college’s premier student jazz ensemble, will join the artists to tour around the state.  
Founded in 2001, the Jazz Studies Program leads the college’s outreach efforts, teaching and mentoring youth at Community Music School-Detroit, Whitaker says.  The college hopes to reach 50,000 people through performances and social media, while also recruiting high school students to MSU jazz studies.
“This generous gift from MSUFCU will further strengthen one of America’s great jazz programs,” says James Forger, dean of the MSU College of Music.
A high-tech robotic fish hatched at MSU has a new look, a new skill and a new name.
MSU scientists led by Xiaobo Tan, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, have tweaked the fish so it can glide long distances using little energy while gathering data via its array of sensors.  Grace—which stands for “Gliding Robot ACE”—can travel autonomously and measure water temperature, quality and other pertinent facts.
“Swimming requires constant flapping of the tail, which means the battery is constantly being discharged and typically wouldn’t last more than a few hours,” says Tan.  “This is why we integrated both locomotion modes—gliding and swimming.”
A newly installed pump that pushes water in and out of the fish allows Grace to glide, upwards or downwards.  Last year, Grace performed superbly during a test drive on the Kalamazoo River.  Tan’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation.
MSU AgBioResearch 
MSU AgBioResearch, in conjunction with MSU Extension, will continue operation of its Upper Peninsula Research Center in Chatham, under a new name: Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center.
The name change acknowledges the significant contributions made by MSU Extension to the facility’s operations.
The facility’s research and extension activities will emphasize collaboration and integration across livestock, plant and local food systems.  The UPRC is one of 13 research centers operated by MSU AgBioResearch. Because of budget cuts, the unit is reviewing all of its facilities. The Muck Soils Research Center in Laingsburg closed Dec. 31, 2012.
Select performances from MSU’s College of Music are now available worldwide on Livestream (  Viewers can enjoy high definition and chat with friends and colleagues about the performances.
“This gives us the opportunity to connect remotely with alumni, parents, and colleagues in a new and exciting way,” says James Forger, dean of the college. 
Every year the College of Music presents more than 100 orchestral, band, jazz, choral concerts and faculty recitals, along with two fully staged operas. 
“We’re getting great reviews,” adds Forger. “We have received comments from groups stretching from Cleveland, Ohio to Vienna, Austria and Sydney, Australia. It’s a tremendous asset for the college to share an actual performance experience, including world premiers, rather than just the news of them.” 
Viewers can also browse past concert performances at
MSU Moments
Several programs at MSU can be credited to President John Hannah, and the creation of the International Studies program is one.  Near the end of World War II, Hannah realized the importance of the university expanding its thinking and understanding in foreign studies, especially in Asia and South America.  That idea led to the birth of the Institute of Foreign Studies in 1943.
Hannah hired Professor Shao Chang Lee from the University of Hawaii to head this new program.  The classes, though limited, were a major success.  The next year, 1944-1945, Professor Lee and his wife moved into Faculty Row No. 3, which became the International Center.  There, Professor and Mrs. Lee entertained international students who would meet for events, such as the international tea parties, which had an average attendance of 180 to 200 students.  With so many new students, Michigan State College’s International Club was formed along with smaller clubs to match the diverse student groups.  
As MSU and the international student population grew, so did the international University-building projects.  In 1951, MSU assisted Okinawa in the development of a new university, and MSU professors traveled to Brazil in 1954 to help establish the first school of business administration in the country.  Also, in 1959, MSU helped in the creation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  To help coordinate and support the international programs on campus and abroad, the Office of International Programs, the first such program in the country, was established in 1956 with Glen L. Taggart as the first dean.  
When the program started in 1944, there were 33 students from 23 countries and two American territories.  For the fall of 2012, MSU hosted 6,599 international students from more than 130 countries, and the number continues to increase today.
MSU will use a grant of up to $25 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve agricultural production and reduce poverty in areas of the world suffering from rapid urbanization, population growth and skills gaps.
MSU’s new Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) will try to find solutions. The center is part of USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network—a partnership with seven American and foreign universities. 
“If we ‘bend the trend’ toward equitable and sustainable development and build the body of knowledge on how to harness these trends, we can have the largest impact on the productivity of global food systems,” says Ajit Srivastava, chairperson of MSU’s Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and co-director of GCFSI.
Reitumetse Mabokela, professor in MSU’s Dept. of Educational Administration, is also co-director.
GCFSI will engage a team of specialists from multiple disciplines around the world.  It will be housed within MSU’s International Studies and Programs.  Students, both undergraduate and graduate, will form the Translational Scholars Corps, Srivastava says.
Two more Broadway musicals will be performed at MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts this spring.  Catch Me If You Can (April 16-21), based on the true story of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., brings quite a different chase than the one in Les Miserables.  Here an FBI agent tries to capture a serial liar, impostor and forger.  
Green Day’s American Idiot (April 9-11) features the music of Green Day and pushes the envelope of the American musical, as three friends go on a quest to find true meaning in a post 9/11 world.
Jazz lovers will enjoy John Scofield’s Hollowbody Band (April 7), featuring some of today’s great guitarists.  For those who love physical comedy, Aga-Boom (April 13) brings outrageous zaniness to the Cobb Great Hall—or, as the New York Times puts it, “flying wads and flakes of paper, laughter, whoops and screams of children and adults alike.”
The University Research Corridor (URC)—MSU, University of Michigan and Wayne State University—generated $15.5 billion in economic impact statewide, exceeded $2 billion in annual research expenditures and awarded more than 31,600 degrees in one year.  All told, URC ranks at or near the top of seven university innovation clusters in the nation, according to a new economic impact report.
The URC saw its research and development spending grow by 43 percent from 2007 to 2011.  Its research and development growth rate topped six other major university research clusters in five states, including well-known hubs such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle, California’s Innovation Hubs and Massachusetts’ Route 128 Corridor.
The report, prepared by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, showed that URC universities conferred 31,683 graduate and undergraduate degrees in 2011, more than any of the university innovation clusters the URC has benchmarked itself against since 2007.  The URC also granted the second-highest number of high-demand degrees overall.
“Michigan’s economic success is vital to our students’ ability to get good jobs when they graduate,” says MSU President Lou Ann K. Simon. “We’re deeply committed to continuing our efforts to help Michigan’s businesses innovate and grow by providing the research and talent 
they need.”
MSU researchers have found that a chemical in the brain called glutamate is linked to suicidal behavior, offering new hope for suicide prevention efforts. 
Writing in Neuropsychopharmacology, MSU’s Lena Brundin and an international team indicate that glutamate is more active in the brains of people who attempt suicide.  Glutamate, an amino acid that sends signals between nerve cells, has long been a suspect in the search for chemical causes of depression.
“The findings are important because they show a mechanism of disease in patients,” says Brundin, an associate professor of experimental psychiatry in MSU’s College of Human Medicine. “There’s been a lot of focus on another neurotransmitter called serotonin for about 40 years now.”
Brundin and colleagues examined glutamate activity by measuring quinolinic acid in the spinal fluid of 100 patients in Sweden.  They found that suicide attempters had more than twice as much quinolinic acid in their spinal fluid as the others, which indicated increased glutamate signaling between nerve cells.  Those who reported the strongest desire to kill themselves also had the highest levels of the acid.
For the second year in a row, the MSU Broad College of Business’ full-time MBA program was ranked the best in the country—and second-best in the world—for placement success, according to Financial Times.
The international business publication’s rankings are determined by graduates’ measure of the career services they received as MBA students.
“We are thrilled our alumni continue to rate the full-time MBA program at Broad so highly,” says Sanjay Gupta, associate dean for MBA and professional master’s programs at the college. “This ranking is a testament to our dedicated faculty and staff who provide exceptional programs and personally assist students in finding quality internships and job opportunities.”
The Broad College of Business’ full-time MBA program is ranked 32 in the nation, up eight spots from last year.  
 Emilio F. Moran, Distinguished Professor and the James H. Rudy Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, joins MSU’s Dept. of Geography as Visiting Hannah Professor.  He is the 11th MSU faculty member—the first from social science—who is a  member of the National Academy of Sciences.
 Corbin Wagner, longtime member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, has been named associate professor of horn in the MSU College of Music.  He has taught at Oakland University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, and is an experienced clinician and owner of Cornopub, a horn music publishing company.
 Satish Udpa, dean of MSU’s College of Engineering for the last seven years, has been named executive vice president for administrative services.  Leo Kempel, associate dean for research and professor in the College of Engineering, has been named acting dean of the college.
MSU RACING CARS—This was one of three innovative race cars designed by MSU students that was exhibited at the North American International Auto Show Jan. 19-27. The MSU Formula Racing Team is comprised of 25 students who design, build and race cars.  
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 Roman Krivochenitser, a student in MSU’s College of Human Medicine, took top honors for research at a meeting of the American Medical Association.  His research on teens and young adults who go untreated for sexually transmitted diseases won in the public health and epidemiology category, beating out more than 600 abstracts that were submitted.
 Steven Wildman, director of MSU’s James H. and Mary B. Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law and acting chairperson of the Dept. of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, has been named chief economist for the Federal Communications Commission.  He will return to MSU after serving a term of six months (or possibly longer).
 The MSU Opera Theatre recently was awarded first prize for Division III of the National Opera Association’s opera production competition.  In addition, two MSU opera theatre students won prestigious awards—graduate student Johnathan Riesen won first prize in the Michigan District Metropolitan Opera Auditions and senior Harry Greenleaf  was named a studio artist at the Wolf Trap Opera Center. 
 In February, an MSU team of four supply chain management seniors won first place in the Operation Stimulus 2013 national case competition in Denver, CO.  There were 18 teams from 15 North American universities entered. 
While many crops withered under last year’s drought, MSU researchers increased corn and vegetable production on test farms using new water-saving membranes.
The subsurface water retention technology (SWRT) process was developed by MSU Professor Alvin Smucker, an AgBioResearch scientist, who uses engineered films placed at various depths below a plant’s root zone to retain soil water.  Proper spacing also permits internal drainage during rainfall and provides room for root growth.
“This technology has the potential to change lives and regional landscapes where highly permeable, sandy soils have prohibited the sustainable production of food,” Smucker says.  “Water retention membranes reduce quantities of supplemental irrigation, protect potable groundwater supplies, and enable more efficient use and control of fertilizers and pesticides.”
The prototype can be used on a broad range of crops, as well as for growing cellulosic biomass feedstock on marginal lands.  SWRT-improved sands produced 145 percent more cucumbers than did control fields without water-saving membranes.  Researchers also improved irrigated corn production, upping yields 174 percent.
Internationally, MSU researchers are exploring opportunities to overcome hunger with SWRT water-saving membranes in several global locations.
Jetze Tepe, MSU associate professor of chemistry, has received the 2013 Brian D. Novis Senior Award from the International Myeloma Foundation.
Tepe’s research involves investigating the mechanism of a new type of proteasome regulation TCH compounds which are highly effective against multiple myeloma in cell culture and in vivo tumor models. The award includes $80,000 in research funding per year, renewable for the following year, and is one of only two Novis senior grants given out worldwide in 2013.
Multiple myeloma is a terminal malignant disorder of differentiated B-cells and remains incurable. The leading treatment involves proteasome inhibition by bortezomib, but nearly all patients become resistant and/or intolerant within a few years following treatment, after which the average survival rate is less than one year.