December 18, 2019

Vol. XLIX No. 40

Editor: Adam Overland (


Inside This Issue

Notice: Brief will not publish on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Weekly publication resumes Jan. 8.

  • Board of Regents December meeting highlights.
  • Features: Weathering medical school; Green chemistry; Nope. It's hemp.
  • People: U in the News features highlights of U faculty and staff cited in the media; and more.

Top News

Board of Regents December meeting highlights

At its December meeting, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents discussed an overview of the East Gateway Project, which will advance a district on the eastern edge of the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. Additionally, Regents reviewed the annual University Plan, Performance, and Accountability Report, which shared key statistics from all five campuses in the University of Minnesota System. The Board also received the annual report on the University’s research and technology commercialization, which detailed record research funding and expenditures at the University. See the news release for more highlights.

Weathering medical schoolperson holding up cloud (animated graphic)

Medical students are more than three times more likely to die by suicide than similarly aged people in the general population. The University of Minnesota Medical School is revamping various structures to reduce physician burnout and improve wellness.

Green chemistrygraphic of common plastic items

Every year roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flow into the oceans from coastal regions. It’s estimated that about 40 percent of plastic packaging is used just once and then thrown away. Sobering statistics like these have led to a variety of initiatives, including worldwide bans on everything from plastic bags and straws to polystyrene containers. Powered by a $20 million grant renewal, U of M researchers hope to invent the next generation of sustainable plastics.

Nope. It's hempman examining hemp plant

A one-syllable word is being spoken more and more often these days in Minnesota agricultural circles—a word that, for many, carries hopeful possibilities. At a time of critically low prices for Minnesota’s iconic ag commodities, the versatile hemp plant—which can be processed into textiles, bioplastics, food, and a lot more—is a “new” old crop that offers visions of profitability, say advocates. Read more about the history and the future of hemp.


U in the News features highlights of U faculty and staff cited in the media. People >

U-Wide News

Clinical trial gives hope to glioblastoma patients

Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer in adults. While chemotherapy and radiation therapy temporarily halt glioblastoma growth, tumors eventually resume aggressive growth and recur to near uniform fatality. New data from a study led by the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neurosurgery suggest that an innovative viral immunotherapy is defying this grim survival expectation, offering hope to patients with recurrent glioblastoma.

New pre-award grant administration system demonstrations

Two finalists for a pre-award grant administration system to replace the existing platforms will conduct onsite demos in early January for the U of M’s research and grant administration community. The new MN-GEMS (Minnesota Grants Electronic Management System) will substantively expand pre-award system functionality. Demonstrations will take place Jan. 6 and 7 and Jan. 13 and 14. Demonstrations will be broadcast online with limited in-person seating available. Email Pamela Webb for more details.

Jan. 14-16 - Teaching Enrichment Series webinars

Teaching Enrichment Series webinars bring together the energies, expertise, insights, and questions of faculty, instructors, postdocs, and graduate students from across the U of M System. Register for sessions that focus on innovative uses for multiple choice questions, creating learning-centered syllabuses, enhancing student interaction in globally diverse classrooms, and examining what the best college teachers do.

Jan. 14 - Workshop: The Other Side of Poverty in Schools

Attendees of this workshop for teachers, administrators, counselors, and education professionals will learn about the five principles for change to better meet the needs of working-class and poor students, develop research-based teaching practices, and take away classroom ideas. The workshop, led by Mark Vagle and Colleen Clements, costs $40 for U of M faculty or staff, with $15 to $25 sliding-scale student pricing. 4:30-8:30 p.m., 325 Education Sciences Building.

Discovery Launchpad spring seminars

U of M Technology Commercialization will hold a series of Discovery Launchpad seminars this spring for researchers interested in forming a company based on their inventions. The first event, Getting the Most Value from Your Business Lawyer, will take place Feb. 4, 3-4:30 p.m., McNamara Alumni Center. Refreshments will be served. All seminars are also available live online via Zoom.

June 1-4 - The Engagement Academy for University Leaders

The University's Office for Public Engagement is the new lead coordinator for the nationally recognized Engagement Academy for University Leaders, an in-depth professional development seminar for executives and teams responsible for developing institutional capacity for community engagement. Since its inception in 2008, more than 700 university leaders from around the world have attended the academy.

How to make lasting New Year’s resolutions

For many, New Year’s resolutions are opportunities to make desired lifestyle changes, though 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. Here are strategies from U of M experts Theresa Nutt and Valerie Tiberius that will help you shape your New Year’s resolutions.

Research Brief: New methods promise to speed up development of new plant varieties

A University of Minnesota research team recently developed new methods that will make it significantly faster to produce gene-edited plants. They hope to alleviate a long-standing bottleneck in gene editing and, in the process, make it easier and faster to develop and test new crop varieties. Additional recent Research Briefs include “Discovering how people with breast cancer use Facebook for support” and “Keeping health care workers safe from chemotherapy drugs.”


Rooted to rural anesthesia careCasey Wangen

As a nurse anesthetist in Crookston, Casey Wangen’s days are often high-stress and fast-paced. In one day he can see the full spectrum of life, resuscitating a premature newborn and then hours later being in surgery with a 99-year-old with a broken hip. Across rural America, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are the primary providers of anesthesia care. In Crookston, CRNAs are the only providers of anesthesia care.

Wallace illustrates children's bookLauren Wallace with her book project

Student-athlete and junior Lauren Wallace’s creativity and drive have led her to an opportunity of a lifetime to illustrate a children’s book called Redefining Strong. The story follows five collegiate female athletes and the obstacles they faced in their careers.


Preventing alcohol-exposed pregnancy in Native youthJessica Hanson

Jessica Hanson, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Service Professions’ Department of Applied Human Sciences, has collaborated with researchers and American Indian tribes to reduce alcohol-exposed pregnancies among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women. Together, Hanson and her partners created a web-based intervention tailored specifically for young AI/AN women. The project received funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Team effortAustin Steinmetz

Five students in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics’ Marketing Analytics Program finished in the top six out of more than 40 undergraduate teams in the 2019 Minnesota Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition. Senior Austin Steinmetz pointed out that each team member brought important skills to the process, adding, “None of us could do this project alone.”


Morris sets Give To The Max Day recordsUMM community gathered for photo with mascot

Last month U of M Morris enjoyed a record-setting Give to the Max Day, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends. The campus had a record number of donors (double the number from 2018), and it can now award the first Opportunity Scholarship, the signature scholarship of its “A model for living and learning” campaign.


Tassah receives SEED AwardSirry Tassah

Sirry Tassah, a senior at UMR, recently received the Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award at the University of Minnesota’s annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast. Tassah’s family immigrated to Minnesota from Cameroon. Growing up as an immigrant in America posed its own problems for Tassah and her family, among them mental, physical, and financial hardships; however, all of these things have helped shape her into the resilient person she is today.

My UMR with Anjie MeijaAnjie Mejia

Anjie Meija is a tenure-track faculty member and UMR’s Civic Engagement Scholar. In the latter role, she taps into her expertise in community-based participation and action research to help UMR foster sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships and initiatives. She also mentors students as they contribute their skills to community-partnered projects to improve health in various Rochester groups.

Twin Cities

State-of-the-art neurosurgery suite bridges gap between research and clinical careT-suite at M Health

From groundbreaking to the first patient, the new “T-Suite” at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center took a little over a year to construct, but the concept of melding clinical technology and research technology had been evolving for decades. The suite has four rooms, three of which are operating rooms that can be customized for different procedures. Through this multi-room setting, a person undergoing a complex, multi-stage surgery can move for each stage of their procedure, often only needing to undergo anesthesia once.

U of M students win 2019 Bayer Alka-Rocket® Challenge, take home $25,000

Students from the College of Science and Engineering rocketed their way to victory and a $25,000 prize in the annual Bayer Alka-Rocket Challenge at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. A panel of judges affirmed the University of Minnesota students launched an Alka-Seltzer powered rocket they designed to an altitude of 535 feet—a height that, along with a safe recovery, earned them the top score in the competition and the cash prize. Watch a video of the rocket launch and learn more.

Sun-grazing spacecraft pries solar secrets looseparker probe rendering

Launched in August 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft has swooped closer to the sun than any other human-made object. Now, mission scientists, including the University of Minnesota team from the College of Science and Engineering, released the first batch of the probe’s results, which have wowed the world of solar physics.

Cancer and the common coldMasato Yamamoto

Masato Yamamoto was frustrated. As a gastroenterologist in Japan, he saw patient after patient with advanced pancreatic cancer. The available treatments didn’t offer much hope. Yamamoto was so disheartened by his inability to help that he moved to the United States to pursue a research career. He is now the Eugene C. and Gail V. Sit Chair in Pancreatic and Gastrointestinal Cancer Research at the University of Minnesota.

Dedicated learners connect without boundaries

Many oral healthcare providers have limited experience and lack techniques to simultaneously manage the medical, dental, behavioral, and psychosocial aspects of oral health care for children with special healthcare needs. To help meet this need, U of M faculty created the Dental Home Network for Children with Special Healthcare Needs, which has evolved into an interprofessional learning community that hosts an online video conference to combat obstacles that stand in the way of children receiving oral health care.

UMTC Featured Eventsholiday lights at the arb

Dec. 18 - WEBINAR: Managing Stress During the Holidays featuring Dr. Mary Jo Kreitzer
Dec. 18 - Tour of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory
Dec. 20 - Programming & Pizza December - Research Consultations Served with a Slice
Dec. 20 - Winter Lights at the Arboretum

Events Calendar >