October 28, 2020

Vol. L No. 39

Editor: Adam Overland (brief@umn.edu)


Inside This Issue

  • Features: Lucky No. 8 (and 972); Into the wild.
  • People: Andrea Westby has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the newly created Josie Robinson Johnson Endowed Chair in Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and more.

Top News

Lucky No. 8 (and 972)Cheri Lemmer in yard

After Cheri Latzke Lemmer’s heart transplant in 1981, at age 24, she figured she’d be lucky to make it to 30. Lemmer was heart transplant patient No. 8 at what was then called University of Minnesota Hospitals. Today, she is the longest-surviving heart transplant recipient in the world. Lemmer, 64, had her second heart transplant—No. 972 for the U team—last fall.

Into the wildJim Howitz assists student tech Sara Stewart

Minnesota’s Master Naturalist program was launched in 2005 with the goal of creating “a corps of well-informed citizens dedicated to conservation education and service” in Minnesota. Twenty-two students enrolled in the first session. Last year, more than 400 people participated in Master Naturalist classes in a dozen locations across the state—making the program among the most popular U of M Extension offerings. “We get a lot of people who say, ‘This is what I wanted to do my whole life,’” says Amy Rager, the program’s director.


The Department of Family Medicine and Community Health has appointed Andrea Westby as the inaugural holder of the newly created Josie Robinson Johnson Endowed Chair in Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Paulo Kofuji and Alfonso Araque recently received a five-year, $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study how the manipulation of astrocytes in the brain’s amygdala regulate fear; Loukas Karabarbounis was recently awarded the Bernácer Prize for his research on the interaction between labor and capital market imperfections and macroeconomic outcomes; the Community-University Health Care Center has received an “Excellence in Health Care” award from UCare; U in the News features highlights of U faculty and staff cited in the media.

People >

U-Wide News

Winter wellness during the pandemicWoman running across Washington Ave bridge in snow

For most of the United States, spring and summer involved an incredibly different health and wellness routine. Gyms closed, indoor workouts required social distancing and masks, and outdoor activities reigned supreme. So what can we do to keep moving and stay well with the changing of the season? Beth Lewis, a School of Kinesiology professor whose research focuses on the behavioral aspects of physical activity, offers advice on how to keep moving, get outside in the cooler weather, and make the most of the space you have.

CIDRAP addresses shortages of critical medications during COVID-19 in new report

For the past two years, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) has been investigating the vulnerability of the U.S. drug supply chain to shortages of drugs and their active pharmaceutical ingredients, and especially those made in other countries, principally China and India. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has exposed many of these vulnerabilities. A new report identifies the pressing issues facing the U.S. drug supply chain and proposes several recommendations.

Trial shows hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID-19 in high-risk health care workers

University of Minnesota Medical School physician researchers studied hydroxychloroquine as a treatment to prevent COVID-19 for health care workers who have a high risk of exposure to the virus.

Researchers help write the encyclopedia of the human genome

Juan Carlos Rivera-Mulia, Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, has helped to expand the catalogue of functional elements in the human genome to nearly one million as part of an NIH-funded ENCODE Project.

New Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center story mapMan measuring height of plants in field

The Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center recently released an immersive new story map that teaches users about the center and its invasive species work. As you scroll, you'll see each of the species the center researches as well as details about individual research projects. The story map was created by undergraduate student Maggie Nesbit.

Introducing Minnie, a new chatbot for instructors

Technology Help is piloting a new chatbot for U of M faculty and instructors. “Minnie” is designed to answer how-to questions for tools like Canvas that are commonly used to teach classes remotely. You’ll find Minnie on the Canvas support page as well as several other places on the Technology Help website. Provide feedback to help improve the chatbot.

Take the Minnesota Broadband Speed Test

Support U of M outreach by participating in the Minnesota Broadband Speed Test and share the test link (z.umn.edu/speed-test) with colleagues, friends, and family. The data will be shared with legislators who can use it to apply for grants and garner other support to improve broadband access across the state, connecting people to education, research, and discoveries.

Nov. 8-13 - First-generation college student weekadvert reading first-gen proud

Join the campus community in celebration of first-generation college students, faculty, and staff. Consider hosting an event or promoting the celebration to first-gen students. If you are/were a first-gen college student, share your own #UMNFirst story at z.umn.edu/umnfirst to be shared during the week. Learn more on the First Gen Proud website.

Virtual programming and pizza

Join experienced staff from U of M Libraries, Liberal Arts Technology and Innovation Services, Research Computing, and CSE-IT at the monthly Programming and Pizza, now held virtually, so it’s BYOP (bring your own pizza). The event connects participants with an expert for 30 minutes of help via Zoom. Upcoming dates include Nov. 9-13 and Dec. 7-11. Register to attend.

Nov. 13 - The ABCs of Industry Agreements

Join U of M Technology Commercialization for the webinar, “The ABCs of Industry Agreements.” Participants will learn how to navigate the types of agreements needed to partner with industry on sponsored research projects and find out who at the U of M can help. 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Nov. 13 - Ending student homelessness conference and podcast series

Registration is now open for the Ending Student Homelessness: Uniting Education and Housing Solutions 2020 Conference. The virtual event will feature critical research findings from local and national studies. A companion podcast series, Ending Student Homelessness, brings together a variety of leaders committed to understanding and addressing the issue of homelessness and student homelessness. Visit Homework Starts with Home Research Partnership to learn more.

Research Brief: COVID-19 negatively impacting well-being, say U.S. adults

Symptoms of depression are up and life satisfaction is down for U.S. adults during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by University of Minnesota researchers. The examination of nationwide data also found that an individual’s socioeconomic status—their income and education—plays an important factor in their own sense of well-being. Additional recent Research Briefs include “Research provides a new understanding of how a model insect species sees color.”

U of M featured virtual eventsWoolly mammoth from Bell

Oct. 29 - Xenophobia in America: How We Got Here and What’s at Stake

Oct. 29 - Poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib

Oct. 30 - University of Minnesota Jazz Ensembles

Nov. 4, 11, 18 - Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurship Clinic legal advice clinics (no charge)

Nov. 5 - 2020 CTS Transportation Research Conference: transportation equity

Nov. 6 - First Fridays: Vera B. Williams, Activist, Writer, and Artist (1927-2015)

Nov. 6 - Behind the Scenes: Bell Museum

Nov. 9 - The Forgotten Mass Destruction of Jewish Homes during 'Kristallnacht'

Nov. 9-14 - Statewide Star Party 2020

Nov. 10 - Food for Health: Breaking Bread & Breaking Barriers with Celebrity Chef Carla Hall


Crookston receives $1.35 million in HEAPR fundinga crookston building

The University of Minnesota Crookston received $1.35 million of Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding in a capital investment bonding bill signed by Governor Tim Walz. The bonding bill includes $38.5 million of HEAPR improvements to the University of Minnesota System.


Spencer moderates artist talkSteffan Spencer

Assistant Professor Steffan Spencer, Department of History, recently moderated the Walker Art Center’s “Artist Talk: Black Livin’: Jazz, Gentrification & Get’n By.” The program, which can be viewed on YouTube, features Minnesota-based filmmakers E.G. Bailey of Freestyle Films, Bianca Rhodes with the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, and musician Truth Maze. Spencer earned his MA and PhD in African History from Howard University.

UBVQ celebrates 30 years at UMDUpward Bound students

The Upward Bound Vision Quest (UBVQ) program works with disadvantaged high school students from both Duluth and Minneapolis to prepare them to become successful college students. This year, due to COVID, everything was online, but students still received a campus tour, took classes, and connected with other students through group activities. UMD’s Department of Social Work has overseen UBVQ since 2012.


National Transfer Student Week reflectionJosh Johnson

In honor of National Transfer Student Week, assistant professor of English and class of 2010 graduate Joshua Johnson reflected on Facebook about his own experience as a transfer student. “I found success in my experience as a transfer student by being intentional with building friendships, seeking out campus opportunities, and actively participating in campus life,” he says.


Protect the neststudent in computer lab wearing mask

Health sciences students serving as campus ambassadors remind the UMR community in this video that we share responsibility to #ProtectTheNest. As we navigate this pandemic, the importance of UMR students and their contribution to designing solutions for global health challenges after graduation becomes even more apparent as they pursue careers in patient care, cutting-edge research, the science of resilience, public health policy, and more.

Innovative curriculum design

UMR faculty and staff are designing a virtual pilot program, leveraging lessons from the current disruptions to inform an innovative delivery of the health sciences degree. Having achieved equity in educational attainment with a diverse student body, the creative campus is exploring new ideas with the Future Design School as well as potential high-tech and industry partners, aligning the work with the MPact Systemwide Strategic Plan.

Twin Cities

Donate to the 2020 Community Fund Drivehands resting on hands

October is the time of year when the University comes together to make a difference in our community by donating to the Community Fund Drive. The campaign runs through Oct. 31. If you have contributed in past years to the Community Fund Drive, you know how gratifying it feels when you have helped someone in need or contributed to a worthy cause. So far, more than 10 percent of all Twin Cities faculty and staff have participated.

Artist-led programs tackle questions of truth, culture, and power this election season

The artists and curators of the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration are leading a special series of programs that respond to the general election as a cultural moment: a full roster of timely, thought-provoking virtual events that dig deep into some of the pressing themes, concerns, and questions at the center of this year’s important electoral cycle.

Study to evaluate genetic underpinnings of smoking and nicotine dependence in American Indians and Alaska Natives

School of Public Health assistant professor Dana Carroll is studying how quickly American Indians and Alaska Natives metabolize nicotine, how it relates to their genetic makeup, and barriers that exist to using that information to improve health. American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have the highest prevalence of using cigarettes and other smoking products in the U.S. In Minnesota, 59 percent of AI/AN people smoke, compared with 16 percent of the overall population.

Musicology professor creates anthology of pre-Civil War hymns

Peter Mercer-Taylor has launched a new book and NEH-Mellon Fellowship-funded digital repository. Mercer-Taylor’s book, Gems of Exquisite Beauty: How Hymnody Carried Classical Music to America, has been published alongside the new website, americanclassicalhymns.com. Mercer-Taylor is on the hunt for choirs nationwide to add more recordings to the website.