August 14, 2019

Vol. XLIX No. 24

Editor: Adam Overland (


Inside This Issue

Summer publication: Brief will resume weekly publication on Aug. 28.

  • A guide to The Great (University of) Minnesota Get-Together.
  • Features: Making muscle after menopause; Smart fabrics; Raising their voices; Failure to communicate.
  • People: A University of Minnesota-based research collaboration received a $1.2 million NSF grant to accelerate efforts to develop synthetic cells; and more.

Top News

A guide to The Great (University of) Minnesota Get-Togetherstate fair farm animals

Nowhere in Minnesota can you indulge (or over-stimulate) your senses like at the Minnesota State Fair. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the University of Minnesota is deeply embedded in the fair culture. Here are 12 U of M attractions to take in while you’re there. See a complete lineup of events at the U of M State Fair website.

Making muscle after menopausewomen exercising

The repair and rebuilding of skeletal muscles depends on specific stem cells found in muscle tissue, and University of Minnesota researchers have discovered that these cells require estrogen to function optimally in females. Unfortunately, levels of estrogen decline severely during menopause. While estrogen replacement therapy can help maintain muscle health, using it may unnecessarily raise the risk of cancer. Today the search is on for a drug that can shield aging women from muscle stem cell decline without the risks associated with conventional hormone replacement therapy.

Smart fabricsJulianna Abel

Julianna Abel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is a national leader in developing and enhancing smart materials and structures. She works with metal solid-state actuators that are often woven into fabrics and can be used to create smart garments, medical devices, consumer products, and more. Read about Abel’s research and watch this research spotlight for more information. The College of Science and Engineering also recently featured Smart bridges and Smart economies.

Raising their voicesJigna Desai and student

The Minnesota Youth Story Squad is the brainchild of U of M professor Jigna Desai and researcher Kari Smalkoski. Launched in 2016, the program is aimed at closing the academic achievement gap between white and nonwhite students in public schools. During the past three years, the Minnesota Youth Story Squad has taught digital storytelling to more than 1,100 students across the Twin Cities. One of the goals of the squad is to get middle school students to think about their future.

Failure to communicateMikael Elias

Antibiotic resistance is a big problem for human health, as so-called “superbugs” are not only harder to treat, but spread more easily. Mikael Elias, assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysics, believes there may be a better way to fight back against the growing bacterial threat. In recent research, Elias found that cutting off bacteria’s ability to communicate hampers the way their population grows, potentially unlocking a way to limit harmful diseases and even control which species of bacteria thrive in a given environment.


A University of Minnesota-based research collaboration received a $1.2 million NSF grant to accelerate efforts to develop synthetic cells; the 2019 Award for Global Engagement has been awarded to Venugopal Mukku, Katharine Pelican, and Luis Ramos-Garcia; Panayiota Kendeou is part of a team of researchers awarded a $1.4 million grant to study reading comprehension; Jürgen Konczak is the principal investigator on an NSF grant to enhance physical therapy; the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities named Brian Steffenson the 2019 recipient of the Michael P. Malone International Leadership Award; Ian Tonks has received a U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Program award; the U of M has been recognized as a "Milestones in Microbiology" site by the American Society for Microbiology; U in the News features highlights of U faculty and staff cited in the media. People.

U-Wide News

Fall 2019 Grant-in-Aid competition

The Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry and Scholarship program, administered through the Office of the Vice President for Research, promotes the research, scholarly, and artistic activities of faculty and supports academic excellence throughout the University. The program provides seed funding for a wide range of projects in six funding categories, including use of the Driven to Discover building at the State Fair and support for ship time on the Blue Heron vessel. Application timeline: Aug. 19, start accepting applications; Sept. 16, applications due to approvers; Sept. 19, final applications due.

Aug. 20 - Webinar for Supervisors: Smart Hiring, Successful Onboarding

The selection and hiring process can take a lot of time, resources, and energy. A strategic approach to selection and hiring and a clearly defined onboarding plan can help retain newly hired employees and foster their long-term engagement. Learn more by registering for the webinar Smart Hiring, Successful Onboarding. Noon-1 p.m.

Teaching Enrichment Series

Begin the new academic year by attending webinars and workshops (Aug. 21, 22 and 28, 29) offering practical approaches to teaching that instructors can implement in fall classes. Topics include student well-being, information design, learning analytics, inclusive classrooms, active learning, group work in Canvas, and others.

Aug. 21 - Webinar: Leading With Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence influences job and life satisfaction. Register for the webinar Leading With Emotional Intelligence to learn about research-based insights on cultivating the building blocks of emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, empathy, interpersonal communication, and relationship building to benefit individual performance and team productivity. Noon-1 p.m.

Investments in biking routes improve access to jobs in U.S. metros

First-of-its-kind research from the Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota ranks the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas in the United States for connecting workers with jobs via bicycle. The new rankings are part of a national study that began in 2013 and focuses on accessibility.

Helping farmers adapt to changing growing conditions

In each of the last three months, the U.S. broke its mark for the wettest year on record, according to federal scientists. Many farmers delayed planting their crops, while some never got in the ground at all. With climate change creating more frequent extreme weather, the University of Minnesota is working with farmers to research and implement techniques for navigating the new normal.

Talking roadway safety and the new hands-free law with U of M

On Aug. 1, Minnesota’s new hands-free driving bill became law. The new law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts, and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Nichole Morris, director of the HumanFIRST Lab at the University of Minnesota, speaks about what it means for a vehicle to be hands-free, what defines distracted driving, and how drivers can drive hands-free.

Research Brief: Perceptions of unemployment benefits and impacts on the job search

New University of Minnesota research examines how the perception of unemployment benefits—including the amount and duration of support—affects how people who are unemployed approach their job search. Additional recent Research Briefs include “Racist experiences and skin tone discrimination linked to delays in prenatal care,” “On your own or still at home? The power of financial habits,” and “Health professionals turn to outside, informal sources for health information during a crisis.”


MAPS station captures, bands breeding birdsstudent banding a bird

The Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survival Program (MAPS) is a network of stations that captures, bands, and re-captures breeding birds at over 1,200 locations in North America. Local efforts near Crookston are part of a much wider effort assisting with the conservation of birds and their habitats through demographic monitoring.

Crookston provides new laptops

Students at the University of Minnesota Crookston have been issued laptops since 1993, when the U of M Crookston became the first higher education institution to issue laptop computers to all on-campus students and faculty. Crookston recently began issuing a new model on campus.

Chinese faculty visit Crookston

Twelve faculty members from Lanzhou Jiaotong University, Lanzhou, China, visited the University of Minnesota Crookston to learn more about teaching, English instruction, processes, and pedagogy.


Seoul Meets Minnesota - A Global Perspectivestudents from south korea

Twenty undergraduate students from South Korea recently studied American environmental writing in the College of Liberal Arts. In addition to daily writing classes with faculty, the students took field trips around the region. The unique program was a collaboration between the Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies, the Department of International Partnerships and Outreach, English as a Second Language International, and Kyung Hee University in Seoul.

Anticipating growing marketspoplar trees

UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) has been breeding hybrid poplar and eastern cottonwood trees for more than 20 years. Researchers are working to produce trees that grow quickly and are disease resistant in a variety of locations throughout the Midwest. In this video, NRRI researchers discuss some of the ways these fast-growing trees could be used for future biomass-based chemicals and materials.


Bert named interim vice chancellor for enrollment managementMelissa Bert

Melissa Bert will serve as interim vice chancellor for enrollment management. The position oversees a larger reorganization of enrollment management structures, staff, and processes at the U of M Morris, including the addition of the "Building a Better Student Pathway" project, a new Transfer Student Services office, and a Strategic Enrollment Council.

Zych Herrmann named director of alumni engagementJen Zych Herrmann

Jennifer Zych Herrmann '00 will take on the role of director of alumni engagement. The position combines alumni relations leadership with development work. Herrmann previously served as director of admissions at Morris. She's a 2014 recipient of the U of M Morris Academic Staff Award.

Morris named a Kiplinger's Best

The U of M Morris has been named one of Kiplinger's Best College Values. This is the campus's 12th consecutive appearance on the list. This year Kiplinger emphasizes colleges and universities that offer students a quality education at an affordable price. Rankings reflect high marks in academic measures, four-year graduation rates, affordable sticker prices, generous financial aid, and low student debt at graduation.

Morris makes Fiske Guide to Colleges for ninth consecutive year

The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020 has named Morris one of "the best and most interesting" colleges in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland. This is the ninth straight year the campus has made the college guide's cut.


UMR professor and alum promote health in Rochester's Somali communityparents at a community forum about measles

Despite the outbreaks of measles across the United States, the antivaccine movement continues to fan fears among parents, including those in Rochester’s Somali community. That’s deeply concerning to alumni Nasra Giama ’07 and Naima Yusuf ’17. In 2013, Giama, a School of Nursing professor and Mayo Clinic research coordinator, helped start the Somali Health Advisory Committee in Rochester. Yusuf is its current coordinator.

Twin Cities

Bias Response And Referral Network annual report

The Bias Response and Referral Network (BRRN) responds to reports of bias incidents on the Twin Cities campus. The BRRN third-year report (PDF) is now available. The report includes background information, an analysis of incidents reported in the last year, trends, and recommendations.

Welcome Week volunteers needed

Faculty and staff volunteers are needed to assist with Welcome Week 2019. Opportunities include helping with Residence Hall Move-In (Aug. 26-27), organizing clothing and household supply items at the student store (Aug. 27), and assisting with New Student Convocation (Aug. 29). Welcome Week is designed to welcome new students to campus and to prepare them for the start of their academic careers.

Aug. 27 - University award nominations workshop

The workshop “Demonstrating Commitment to Excellence: Building a Blueprint for Successful Award Nominations and Recognition Events” will center on nominations for the honorary degree, Outstanding Achievement Award, Award of Distinction, Alumni Service Award, and honorific namings. 10-11:30 a.m., President’s Room, Coffman Union.

Teaching with Writing TA workshops

The Writing Across the Curriculum program will offer two workshops focused on commenting on and grading student writing. The first, “Commenting on and Grading Student Writing: Workshop for New Teaching Assistants” (Aug. 27, 1-4 p.m., 312 Bruininks Hall) is offered to TAs who assist with faculty-directed courses. The second, “Assigning and Assessing Student Writing: Workshop for Graduate Student Instructors” (Aug. 28, 1-4 p.m., 331 Smith Hall) is offered to TAs who serve as graduate student instructors. Register to attend.

Aug. 29 - OLLI open house

This social event provides a quick overview of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which offers noncredit courses for older adults. Attend to learn about its special interest groups and meet with interested, new, and continuing members. 10 a.m.-noon, St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, Minneapolis. RSVP.

Workshop: Implicit Bias in Search and Selection Processes

Departments across the U of M regularly participate in searches and selection processes. This workshop (register to attend) will expose participants to the breadth of implicit bias research and will help them recognize shortcuts that are the result of unconscious or unexamined bias. Participants will learn promising practices and resources for addressing implicit bias in the context of search and selection processes. Upcoming workshop dates include Aug. 23, Sept. 23, Oct. 25, and Nov. 22. No charge.

Sept. 5 - Stamped and Posted Gallery Talk

Join the University Libraries for a curator talk celebrating mail art—a rare, fun, and enticing form of art and print culture. 5:30-7 p.m., Elmer L. Andersen Library.

Northrop Film Series

Northrop’s 2019-20 Film Series will feature several award-winning films with diverse artistic voices from around the world. From a film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to the more recent The Hate U Give, the series includes cult classics and notable works exploring history, social issues, and arts performances. See the full list of screenings.

LearningLife fall courses open for registration

From architecture, birds, and cybersecurity to maps, money, and shipwrecks, there’s plenty to learn and do with LearningLife fall courses and the popular Headliners lecture series. LearningLife offers a 10 percent discount for faculty/staff and members of UMAA, UMRA, and OLLI. See course offerings and register.

Fall 2019 Intercultural Workshop Series

Staff interested in learning how to effectively work with international students and colleagues are encouraged to register for the Intercultural Workshop Series organized by International Student and Scholar Services. The series combines intercultural competency and skills development sessions with "Culture In-Depth" workshops centering on the unique cultures of the largest international student populations on campus.

UMTC Featured EventsArboretum grounds

Aug. 16 - Programming & Pizza August - Research Consultations Served with a Slice
Aug. 17 - Art in the Garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Aug. 21 - MnTAP 2019 Intern Symposium & 35th Anniversary Celebration
Aug. 22 - Four Horsemen of the Economic Revolution
Aug. 24 - Mindfulness Meditation Retreat

Events Calendar