April 1, 2020

Vol. L No. 13

Editor: Adam Overland (brief@umn.edu)


Inside This Issue

  • U of M researchers find key—and vulnerable—features of novel coronavirus.
  • Features: DIY face masks during COVID-19; Lending a hand to heroes; Shifting business to battle the coronavirus; Eye spy.
  • People: The Humphrey School has been ranked one of the top 10 graduate schools for public affairs in the nation; and more.

Top News

U of M researchers find key—and vulnerable—features of novel coronaviruscoronavirus cell

The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is closely related to the SARS virus that caused devastation in 2002-03. A University of Minnesota team, led by researcher Fang Li, studied how mutations that changed the structure of a SARS-CoV-2 protein enabled it to attach more securely to human cells than its predecessor, infect human cells better, and spread faster. The work lays the groundwork for designing drugs to block the virus.

DIY face masks during COVID-19a DIY mask

University of Minnesota alum Shannon Williamson works as a user experience designer with the cardiovascular group at Medtronic. With the COVID-19 crisis, Williamson’s background in apparel design and medical device innovation has prepared her to meet a new challenge: crowdsourcing a critical health care need by providing a DIY template for face masks.

Lending a hand to heroescovid sitter and baby

When the COVID-19 crisis broke, healthcare workers, from hospital janitors and cooks to doctors and nurses, were faced with keeping up their households during a time of school closings and an onslaught of work that could not be done from home. Recognizing the need, two second-year medical students decided to help the helpers. Sruthi Shankar and Sara Lederman founded Mn CovidSitters, a group of medical students who volunteer to help healthcare workers of all stripes with tasks like child and pet care, grocery shopping, and general errands.

Shifting business to battle the coronavirusa face shield

Alumnus Ben VandenWymelenberg’s business has quickly transformed itself from a producer of handcrafted wood products to a maker of face shields for medical professionals. In mid-March his company designated half its capacity to the task; less than a week later, VandenWymelenberg moved 100 percent of the company’s production to manufacturing the face shields and has more than 1.6 million orders.

Eye spya retina

Finding a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) continues to frustrate researchers around the world. The U of M Center for Drug Design’s Robert Vince and Swati More aren’t exempt. Vince, More, and their colleagues are developing a drug to treat early AD, but they wanted a faster way to test whether their compound was working. So they created a cost-effective, noninvasive eye scanning technology to do the job, and their breakthrough is commanding international attention.


The Humphrey School has been ranked one of the top 10 graduate schools for public affairs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report; Kathleen Thomas has been named director of the Institute of Child Development; Sylia Wilson has received the 2020 Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Award; U in the News features highlights of U faculty and staff cited in the media. People >

U-Wide News

Our Virtual Campus: Stories of students adjusting to learning in the time of COVID-19Kate Geschwind

The Office of Academic Clinical Affairs is exploring how U of M students, faculty, and staff are building community virtually during COVID-19. Students and others offer examples of how they are staying active, finding creative ways to stay connected, and uncovering sources of inspiration during challenging times.

CIDRAP finds supply chain risks for life-saving drugs during COVID-19 pandemic

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota announced preliminary findings from its Resilient Drug Supply Project to address shortages of life-saving drugs in the U.S. As part of this work, CIDRAP is developing a detailed mapping of the entire supply chain for critical U.S. drug products, from key starting materials to patients. Outcomes of this research will improve the health care supply system’s ability to maintain a steady and adequate supply of critical medicines and supplies worldwide.

Join webinars about teaching remote learners

Learn strategies for teaching learners in remote locations at upcoming webinars, including Over-Zoomed? Ideas and Tips for Asynchronous Learning, Using Media in Course Development, and Promoting Academic Integrity with Online Assessments. See the full roster in the Online Sessions with ATSS section of the Get Live Help page. Drop-in teaching-with-technology consultations are available on Zoom M-F, 10-2 p.m. Visit the Keep Teaching website for more details.

Support for teaching remotely and planning for online instruction

The Center for Educational Innovation has resources and live online drop-in sessions to help instructors with short-term solutions for teaching remotely as well as with longer-term planning for online instruction. Drop in with your questions and concerns about how to put your teaching and learning ideas into practice or request an individual consultation anytime.

New podcast: Osterholm Update: COVID-19

In the first episode of Osterholm Update: COVID-19, Michael Osterholm and co-host Chris Dall discuss how we got here and what to expect in the weeks and months to come. Osterholm also discusses potential immunity after infection with the coronavirus, testing shortages, and how we can support each other and be good neighbors in this new world.

Wellbeing in the time of COVID-19

With a primary focus on health and wellbeing, the University of Minnesota's Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing has unique resources to offer the University and community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The center has created a COVID-19 resource page with information for health professionals, leaders of businesses and organizations, students, and the community. Additionally, the center has significantly reduced the cost of its six-week Mindfulness at Work course to $50 to make it more accessible to the community.

Gold Mind: University and expert talks

The U of M Alumni Association (UMAA) maintains a digital library of talks by faculty and other experts called Gold Mind, where you can access University and expert talks on a variety of topics to expand your knowledge, improve your life, and advance your career. See future webinars topics at UMAA virtual events.

Apply now for MN Cup startup competitionmncup poster

MN Cup is the largest statewide startup competition in the country, supporting emerging entrepreneurs through events, educational programming, and an annual competition. MN Cup is accepting applications through Apr. 17, with a chance to compete for $500,000-plus in cash prizes and access to mentors and resources to develop your new business idea. No charge and open to any Minnesota company with less than $1 million in annual revenue.

U of M 2020 systemwide census resource directory

Visit the University's online census directory for instructions on completing the census as well as access to various resources, activities, and initiatives available across the University system to help ensure that everyone is counted in the 2020 census. For information about these resources or how to become involved with the University of Minnesota Systemwide Census Collaborative, email Andy Furco, associate vice president for public engagement, at avp-ope@umn.edu.

Apr. 1 - The Five Essential Elements of Quarantine Well Being

In this webinar, Gallup-certified strengths coach Chad Ellsworth will discuss strategies for implementing Gallup's Five Elements of Well Being in the midst of "quarantine life." The Five Elements of Well Being are a comprehensive model of personal wellness, based on decades of Gallup's research on the subject. Noon.

Apr. 3 - How the Mass Media Cover Health, Science, and the Environment—and What You Can Do to Help

In an age of weaponized false information and viral conspiracy theories, major media publications are in an arms race to get attention for legitimate, evidence-based reporting about science, health, and the environment. The lecture (register) by Laura Helmuth, health and science editor for The Washington Post and incoming editor-in-chief of Scientific American, will include practical advice about how scholars, scientists, and physicians can suggest stories, become expert sources, and write for the mass media themselves. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.


New English Education majorEnglish instructor Rachel McCoppin

The University of Minnesota Crookston has officially received the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board approval to offer English Education. Crookston will admit students who would like to pursue English Education in fall 2020. The program is unique in that it incorporates multiculturalism across communication, literature, and composition courses.


Johnson honoredLucinda Johnson

Lucinda Johnson, associate director and head of water research at UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute, has been named a 2020 Fellow by the Society for Freshwater Science. Her research focuses on what effects humans have on aquatic ecosystems, especially in the areas of land use and climate change. Johnson serves the EPA’s Office of Research and Development as the vice chair of the executive committee of the Board of Scientific Counselors.

Serving rural populationsclinical scholar students

By May 2021, the Department of Social Work’s Clinical Scholars Program will have trained 40 clinical social workers. Scholars receive a $10,000 stipend during their final internship placement. In return, graduates of the program agree to work in a rural or underserved community for at least one year. The program’s creation was supported by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Road salt alternativeworkers testing road salt

Chanlan Chun, lead Natural Resources Research Institute researcher, is testing alternatives to sodium chloride, an environmentally harsh road deicer. This winter, MnDOT applied potassium acetate on three stretches of Duluth roadways. UMD Water Resource Science graduate student Katie Cassidy is collecting water samples from stormwater catchment basins near the application sites. The team wants to understand the environmental impact and comparative cost of using potassium acetate as a road salt alternative.


Finzel named Founders ScholarBart Finzel

Bart Finzel, professor of economics, has been named the 8th U of M Morris Founders Scholar. The Founders Fund was established with gifts from a private donor in honor of the founding faculty of the University of Minnesota Morris on the occasion of the campus's 40th birthday. Finzel will complete a Founders Scholar project titled “Practical Wisdom and Liberal Education.”

Schultz receives Faculty Distinguished Research AwardRay Schultz

Ray Schultz, professor of theatre arts, has earned the 2019-20 U of M Morris Faculty Distinguished Research Award. Established in 2000, the award recognizes sustained research and/or artistic productivity of a Morris faculty member over the course of a career.


My UMR with Abraham AyeboAbraham Ayebo

When UMR mathematics faculty member Abraham Ayebo was younger, he didn't like mathematics at all. Now, he enjoys working in a department that focuses on undergraduate education in health sciences while engaging students as participants in the scholarship of learning.

UMR students advance to present at IMPACTBetra Alnaimat, Chidiogo Orakwue, Ciera Machado, Zamzam Shalle, Samantha Graber

UMR students Betra Alnaimat, Chidiogo Orakwue, Ciera Machado, Zamzam Shalle, Samantha Graber, and Zachary Engel were invited to present a poster at the 2020 IMPACT (Innovative Minds Partnering to Advance Curative Therapies) Symposium held on March 14 in Eau Claire, WI.

Twin Cities

Navigating community-based activities during COVID-19

The University’s Office for Public Engagement, in consultation with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Center for Community-Engaged Learning, has created a COVID-19 and Community-Based Activities webpage. The site includes recommendations and resources to help community-engaged students, faculty, and staff navigate community-based research and field-based educational activities during the pandemic.

Prevalence data and autism awareness

World Autism Awareness Day is Apr. 2, kicking off a month of increased focus on the prevalence of and responses to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The U of M’s Institute on Community Integration is one of 11 nationwide sites that make up the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–funded alliance tracking more than 300,000 8-year-olds in the United States.

U Card Office now appointment only

Effective Apr. 1, the U Card Office will be open by appointment only. Visit the U Card website to request an appointment for new or replacement U Cards. Email ucard@umn.edu with questions.

Apr. 4 - Northern Exposure: the Virtual Edition

Join in an anything-but-the-same-old conference to talk photography, video, and storytelling with the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, featuring journalists from the New York Times, USA Today, and more. See the full agenda.

UMTC Featured Eventsopen laptop

Apr. 1 - Virtual Event: Coronavirus and Dysfunction in Washington, D.C.

Apr. 6 - Wellbeing Leadership: Strategies for Leading in Challenging Times

Apr. 8 - Webinar: Women & Power in the Workplace

Apr. 16 - Webinar: Remotely Engaged: The 12 Elements of Great Managing in the Age of Social Distancing

Events Calendar