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Around Circle Drive

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Spring 2014
A jampacked audience at MSU’s McPhail Equine Performance Center saw President Barack Obama sign the Farm Bill into law on Feb. 7.
“The Farm Bill is not just for farmers; it’s like a Swiss army knife, and it gives more Americans a shot at opportunity,” says Obama.  “We are now in a better position in the 21st century than any other country on earth.” 
MSU was chosen as the signing site because of all its agricultural research as well as its advancement of biofuels, conservation and sustainability—all efforts supported by the bill, Obama notes.
MSU has provided support and leadership to Michigan’s growers and livestock producers for almost 160 years, and has shared and expanded its wealth of knowledge and sphere of influence nationally and internationally, notes MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.
 “We’re proud of our pioneer land-grant institution heritage; and we are honored and pleased that President Obama signed the Farm Bill on our campus,” she says. Simon recognized the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry) and the Michigan congressional delegation for their hard work in passing this legislation.
Many Michigan farmers and MSU programs will benefit from passage of the bill. The bill includes funding for specialty crops research, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, organic agriculture research and extension initiatives, biomass research and more.
Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch, says the new programs “will enhance our well-established investment in innovation.”  Thomas Coon, director of MSU Extension, was pleased that the Farm Bill continued to emphasize conservation, underscoring MSU’s work with farmers and ranchers. 
Obama, a fan of college sports, also took the opportunity to give quick shout-outs to MSU coaches Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo.  
MSU is partnering with global tech giant Wipro Ltd. to help produce more math and science leaders in America’s urban school districts.
The MSU College of Education will use a $2.8 million, multi-year grant from the India-based company to offer a fellowship program to more than 100 teachers, starting this summer in Chicago.
“There is a critical shortage of excellent math and science teachers nationwide and even more so in urban school districts,” says project co-leader Sonya Gunnings-Moton, assistant dean in the College of Education. 
The Wipro STEM Fellowship Program will include coursework leading to a Graduate Certificate in STEM Teaching and Leadership.  STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  Participants will be expected to implement innovative teaching strategies in their own classrooms and develop professional learning communities through which fellow STEM teachers in their school can share ideas and support one another.
“This program is designed to develop each of these teachers into catalysts of change in disadvantaged communities of urban areas,” says Anurag Behar, chief sustainability officer for Wipro.
A half-dozen MSU faculty members are among the most influential education scholars in the nation, according to Education Week.
Each year, the publication’s blogger Rick Hess compiles the Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings, a listing of scholars known for making significant contributions to national debates in education.
This year’s ranking of the top 200 education scholars includes six 
from MSU:
William Schmidt , co-director of the MSU Education Policy Center; Donald Heller, dean of the College of Education; Hannah Distinguished Professor Barbara Schneider; Gary Sykes, professor emeritus of teacher education; Rebecca Jacobsen, assistant professor of teacher education; and Sarah Reckhow, assistant professor of political science.
Several former MSU College of Education faculty members also are on the Public Presence list, such as Richard Elmore, Yong Zhao, David Cohen, Andrew Porter, Deborah Ball and David Labaree.
MSU’s Edythe and Eli Broad Art Museum has been named one of the midwest’s top new attractions by Midwest Living Review (February 2014).
The museum “is so astounding and unexpected that you might have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s real,” says the review of the structure designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid. 
“A local construction company installed the ribbons of glass and long pleated rows of steel,” the review continues.  “The exterior resembles a shark, or maybe an armadillo, and downward-facing strips of metal make the astoundingly light and airy interior a surprising contrast. As with other structurally striking museums (like the Milwaukee Museum of Art or the Getty Center in Los Angeles), the building itself becomes, in a sense, its own installation.”
The museum—located on Grand River near the Collingwood entrance—focuses on rotating contemporary exhibits and the university’s art collection.  Admission is free.
? For more information, visit
This capsule of MSU history was written by
Sarah Roberts, acquisitions archivist
University Archives and Historical Collections.
In 1893, MSU participated in the World’s Fair: Columbian Exhibition held in Chicago, IL.  MSU had 500 feet of space for its own exhibit and contributed to several State of Michigan exhibits as well.  The World’s Fair was held from May 1 to October 30, 1893 with buildings showcasing exhibits, countries, and innovations.  The MSU exhibit was prepared by students, faculty and staff.
The MSU exhibit highlighted the university’s campus and research with displays from the Horticulture, Botany, Zoology, Veterinary and Chemistry departments.  Photographs, seeds, soils, plants and over 500 wax models of fruits and vegetables were on display.  Student work was showcased through drawings of plants, charts and exam papers.  There were also four laboratories for chemistry, botany, bacteriology and entomology in which faculty gave demonstrations.  
MSU also contributed to a veterinary exhibit produced by 26 domestic colleges and universities.  MSU prepared plaster models of a horse’s teeth throughout its life.  A horse skeleton held together with only natural ligaments was also prepared.  But unsatisfactory storage conditions at the fairgrounds rendered it smelly and unusable before it could be installed. MSU also contributed soils, corn, fertilizer, wheat samples and mounted insects for the state of Michigan’s agricultural and forestry displays.  
MSU professors and students traveled to Chicago, where throughout the fair, they learned about the latest research and products.  Professors met visitors at the MSU exhibit and its laboratories.  MSU military cadets attended and camped at the fair next to the cadets from West Point.  Alumni also stopped by the MSU exhibit to pay their respects.
After the fair closed, the MSU exhibit was condensed and moved back to the university for display in the agriculture laboratory (Cook Hall).  Although no photographs of the MSU exhibit exist in the MSU Archives, some of the photographs of campus used in the exhibit still remain.
In June, MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts will host what Ben Brantley of the New York Times calls “the best musical of this century.”  The Book of Mormon has enjoyed blockbuster success on Broadway and other major cities and now will perform in East Lansing.  Entertainment Weekly says it’s “the funniest musical of all time.”  From South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon has won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical.  Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has described the show as being “so good it makes me angry.”
Pilobolus, the dance and multimedia group, will show off its avant-garde innovation on April 8.  Monsters will make music on Sesame Street Live (May 14).
? For further information, contact the Wharton Center box office at 517-432-2000 or toll free at 1-800-WHARTON, or visit
MSU has launched The Spartan Advocate—an informative and interactive site that educates and galvanizes Spartans on current legislative issues.  Visitors can learn about issues and how to stress the importance of supporting MSU and higher education to policymakers, media and community groups.
“As the Legislature’s own analysis shows, state support of universities is directly tied to how much is charged in tuition,” explains President Simon.  “In the past 10 years, total annual cost per student (consisting of per-student appropriation plus per-student tuition) has only increased 1.8 percent. But the state’s declining commitment to higher education funding has resulted in a major cost shift to students and families through higher tuition.
“Now that the state is much more financially stable, it is time to reinvest in items that generate long-term return on investment,” adds Simon.  “Michigan’s recovery can only be sustained through such investments. Simply put, higher education funding must be a priority.” 
? To become a Spartan Advocate and help the cause, visit 
A single gene in honey bees separates the queens from the workers, according to research by MSU scientists.
In Biology Letters, researchers from MSU and Wayne State University found that the gene for leg and wing development also plays a crucial role in the bees’ ability to carry pollen.
“This gene is critical in making the hind legs of workers distinct so they have the physical features necessary to carry pollen,” explains Zachary Huang, MSU entomologist.  
The Ultrabithorax, or Ubx gene, allows workers to develop a smooth spot on their hind legs that hosts their pollen baskets.  On another part of their legs, the gene promotes the formation of 11 neatly spaced bristles known as the “pollen comb.”
While workers have these distinct features, queens do not, the researchers found.  In bumble bees, similar to honey bees, queens have pollen baskets similar to workers. In this species, Ubx played a similar role in modifying hind legs because the gene is more highly expressed in hind legs compared to front and mid legs.
“We conclude that the evolution of pollen baskets is a major innovation among social insects and is tied directly to more-complex social behaviors,” says Huang, whose research is supported in part by MSU AgBioResearch.
Imagine your undershirt or socks not only keeping you warm but also warning you about an oncoming infection.
Peter Lillehoj, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to research wearable biosensors.
 “This technology will lead to lightweight and unobtrusive sensing systems that can be directly integrated onto fabrics and garments,” Lillehoj says.  “Little has been done to create wearable sensors for biomolecular detection.  This research is aimed at developing wearable sensing systems that can detect biomarkers in secreted body fluids, such as sweat or urine.”
Lillehoj also will focus on developing textile batteries that are activated by body fluids for on-demand electricity generation.  The same fluids that are being detected could also power the device, minimizing its overall size and weight. Lillehoj joined the MSU faculty in the fall of 2012 and became the 14th member of the MSU College of Engineering faculty to receive an NSF CAREER Award in the past five years.
The Faculty Early Career Development Award is among the NSF’s most prestigious honors, recognizing young faculty members who are effectively integrating research and teaching.
Could the recent Arctic blast that gripped much of the nation lead to a healthy rise in Great Lakes water levels in 2014? 
A simple hypothesis is that an increased ice cover on the Great Lakes will reduce evaporation.  But scientists say a more complex interplay among evaporation, ice cover and water temperature occurs at different times of the year.
In a report by the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center—a  federally funded collaboration between the University of Michigan and MSU—scientists note that ice cover affects evaporation but in addition, evaporation rates in the autumn help determine the extent of winter ice cover.  A high evaporation rate in the fall can nearly offset water-level gains that result from extensive winter ice cover.  
“Understanding how lake levels are changing is very important to our region,” says Thomas Dietz, MSU professor of environmental science and policy and co-director of GLISA.  “This affects shipping, recreation and infrastructure on the lake shore.”
A new understanding of evaporation’s varied roles underscores the need for sustained funding for the project’s Great Lakes evaporation monitoring network.  
In January the MSU Debate Team, a part of MSU’s Honors College, took top honors at a tournament hosted by Indiana University and runner-up honors in the Weber Round Robin held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The two-person team of juniors Jack Caporal and Quinn Zemel took the top spot at Indiana, going 7-0 in the preliminary rounds and defeating the University of Iowa in the final round.  Caporal and Zemel earned the top spots as individual speakers.  Senior Kaavya Ramesh and sophomore Tyler Thur finished as semifinalists.  In nine head-to-head debates with the University of Michigan, MSU went 7-2.
In Utah, junior Aniela Butler and sophomore Margaret Strong went 6-1 in the preliminary rounds and finished in second place.  Strong received the top individual speaker award in her division.  
“Our students skillfully outperformed teams from across the country, putting MSU in a strong position heading into the National Debate Tournament later this semester,” says Debate Head Coach Will Repko.  “We’re proud to show MSU can beat the best on any playing field.”
Every semester, MSU faculty, staff and students garner kudos too numerous to list exhaustively here.  Some examples:
Marcos Dantus, MSU professor of chemistry, has been named a fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA).  Dantus developed the multiphoton intrapulse interference phase scan, with applications ranging from materials processing to bioimaging. He is one of  71 OSA members with the rank of fellow.
Stephen Hsu, MSU vice president for research and graduate studies, and Satish Udpa, MSU executive vice president for administrative services, were named National Academy of Inventors Fellows.  Hsu, who ran two start-ups in Silicon Valley, holds multiple patents for software technologies that protect encrypted communications to a secure server.  Udpa’s patents spanning the fields of manufacturing and medicine include an alternative to CAT scans using microwaves. 
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon has been named chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit Branch.
The Federal Reserve Bank of 
Chicago is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks.