December 15, 2021

Inside This Issue

Notice: Brief will not publish on Dec. 29 and Jan. 5

  • Board of Regents meets Dec. 16-17.
  • Features: Hoping for a breakdown; Minnesota makes changes that benefit low-income taxpayers as a result of student advocacy.
  • Awards and Recognition: Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez and Nisha Botchwey have been named to Twin Cities Business magazine’s TCB 100 list; and more.
Top News

Board of Regents meets Dec. 16-17

Leaders from the University of Minnesota’s research enterprise will present their annual report to the Board of Regents during the Board’s December meeting. Regents will hear more about and discuss the future of the University’s research enterprise, which is unique among higher education in Minnesota. The Board is also expected to discuss approaches to encouraging multidisciplinary research and teaching, act on the President’s recommended supplemental state budget request for the 2022 legislative session, review the University’s annual performance and accountability report, and more. See the news release for more details.

Hoping for a breakdown

Katie Hillmann holds a petri dish

One of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world is wildly inefficient, making the drug—metformin—the most prevalent pollutant found in surface water globally. Patients gulp down a large pill and the vast majority goes straight into the toilet. Now, metformin is the focus of a new project by U of M researchers seeking to identify proteins that break down the drug, with wide-reaching implications, from wastewater treatment plants to the pharmaceutical industry.


Minnesota makes changes that benefit low-income taxpayers as a result of student advocacy

Caleb Smith and Luyi Song

Tax time may be less stressful for some low-income Minnesotans who have difficulty paying their tax bills, thanks to recent state policy changes resulting from the efforts of law school students working through Minnesota Law’s Ronald M. Mankoff Tax Clinic. The Minnesota Department of Revenue recently instituted the changes in response to comments from Luyi Song, Nathan Webster, and Professor Caleb Smith.


Awards and Recognition

Alejandra Peña-Gutiérrez and Nisha Botchwey have been named to Twin Cities Business magazine’s TCB 100 list; Pauline Boss has been named a 2021 “Influencer in Aging” by Next Avenue; U in the News features highlights of U faculty and staff cited in the media.

Awards and Recognition

U-Wide News

Spring 2022 Grant-in-Aid competition

Applications open Jan. 3 for the spring 2022 Grant-in-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship program, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR). The program supports the University’s MPact 2025 strategic plan and academic excellence through the promotion of faculty research, scholarly, and artistic activities. It provides seed funding for projects in seven categories, including a multicultural research category. OVPR is especially interested in supporting entrepreneurial or collaborative projects that could result in near-term impact. The deadline to submit applications to approvers is Jan. 31; the deadline for approvers to submit final applications is Feb. 3.

Apply now: 2022-23 IAS Research and Creative Collaboratives

Applications for Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) Research and Creative Collaboratives are now open. Conveners may be University faculty, students, or staff, or non-University community members; at least one convener must be a member of the University community. Budgets of up to $12,000 are available. Applications are due Jan. 31.

In support of incarcerated mothers

Autumn Mason and Rebecca Shlafer

Incarcerated pregnant people in Minnesota used to give birth in a hospital and return to prison in two or three days. Their babies were taken in by relatives or the foster-care system. Now the Healthy Start Act allows these individuals to serve their sentence in a community alternative setting and spend up to a year with their newborn. Read about this historic legislation in Advances magazine and how School of Public Health affiliate faculty member and alum Rebecca Shlafer and the personal testimony of people like Autumn Mason were essential to the bill’s passage.

U of M Medical School launches new mechanistic study of psilocybin

A new clinical trial led by the University of Minnesota Medical School seeks to understand how psilocybin, an investigational compound, alters brain function with the hope of informing improvements in current treatment options for certain mental illnesses. It’s the first-ever study to measure how this compound alters the brain’s use of contextual cues during visual tasks.  

Guiding Minnesotans through the COVID storm

Kate Awsumb

When Kate Awsumb, MPH ’10, assumed the role of deputy communications director with the Minnesota Department of Health in 2016, she had no idea the challenges 2020 would bring. In this Advances magazine Q&A, the School of Public Health talked with Awsumb about what it is like to guide Minnesotans through the COVID storm, how she communicates public health in a country divided, what to do about “message fatigue,” and many other topics.


Research Brief: You can help scientists study the sun

If you ever wanted to be an astronomer, now is your chance. A new citizen science project, led by researchers at the University of Minnesota with support from NASA, allows volunteers to play an important role in learning more about the sun by using their personal computers. Participants will help identify bursts of plasma coming off the sun, called solar jets, in thousands of images captured over the last 11 years by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory. Additional recent Research Briefs include “Margarines now nutritionally better than butter after hydrogenated oil ban,” “Retention is a major factor in racial disparities in academia,” and “Over-policing linked to higher odds of preterm birth.”

U of M featured virtual events

a lone dancer strikes a pose in a parking lot

Through Dec. 17 - Northrop: Jacob Jonas The Company’s Films.Dance 

Dec. 15 - The Changing Landscape of Election Audits

Dec. 20 - Online Mindful Mondays: A Mindful Approach to Stress Reduction 

Dec. 21 - Canvas Coffee Time 

See the full Events Calendar >


Faculty feature: Anas Al Fattal

Anas Al Fattal

Anas Al Fattal is a new, friendly face on the University of Minnesota Crookston campus this year. As an assistant professor of marketing, teaching both on-campus and online courses, Al Fattal provides a unique perspective about the marketing field with his international roots. Al Fattal was born in Morocco and raised in Syria. Learn more about Anas Al Fattal.


Student feature: Silas Xia

Silas Xia

Coming from China, and later a junior college in California, Silas Xia was welcomed to the U of M Crookston campus and has continued to grow during his time here. Xia was recruited to play basketball at Crookston in 2019. He was attracted to the University of Minnesota degree and the availability of his major, software engineering, as well as his desired minor, sport and recreation management.


Through Dec. 17 - ‘The Audacity to be Asian in Rural America: we owe you no apologies’

Rice paper reading the audacity to be Asian

Paintings by artist and former UMD student Nancy XiáoRong Valentine are on display at UMD’s Kathryn A. Martin Library (second floor) and the Harold P. Erickson Library at Lake Superior College. The exhibit is a series of 12 watercolor and Chinese ink scroll paintings on rice paper that visually tells the story of the Hao family’s Chinese American immigrant experience in rural western Minnesota. 


Legislature grants appropriation for tribal child welfare training

Two people by sign reading Tribal Training and Certification Partnership

The Minnesota legislature appropriated more than $4 million in funding over the next four years for a UMD-based initiative to train public and tribal child welfare workers statewide. The Tribal Training and Certification Partnership’s goal is to achieve better outcomes for Native children and families by providing a historical and cultural lens for child welfare workers.


Strong first-year class wraps first semester

Morris students gathered outside on sunny campus

The first semester of classes is coming to a close for about 350 students new to U of M Morris this fall. While the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reports enrollment among first-year students declined 3.1 percent overall this fall, the U of M Morris Class of 2025 is up 9 percent from last year.


Resilience, Well-being and Mental Health

Sifa Mosiori

UMR's innovative degree programs and integrated curriculum provide students with a foundational undergraduate education. Discover how Sifa Mosiori navigated her time at UMR to prepare herself for graduate school at the U of M Twin Cities, where she is studying child and adolescent development, specializing in infant and early childhood mental health. Learn more about the Resilience, Well-being and Mental Health Pathway


Honoring American Indian Women award

Nez Neveah

UMR student Nevaeh Nez was awarded the Honoring American Indian Women award from the American Indian Student Cultural Center, a U of M student organization. This award was presented to Nez and two other women at the University of Minnesota who have demonstrated strong leadership in their work or daily life and who have positively engaged in their Native community.

Twin Cities

Campus bus service changes for winter break

The University community should be aware of winter break bus service changes from Dec. 27 through Jan. 17. Finals week, Dec. 16-22, will also affect campus bus service operations

Minnesota Law students help bee nonprofit to get airborne

Students examine honeycomb held by Susan Brown

When third-year law students Molly McKinsey and Edmund Pine signed up to spend last summer as practice scholars through Minnesota Law’s Corporate Institute, they knew they’d be busy helping local small business owners. What they didn’t know was that one of the things keeping them busy would be bees—or that they'd cap off the experience touring rooftop beehives and sampling fresh chocolate and honey at the shop of the chocolatier whom they had helped. Learn more about their experiences.


Growing with Amanda Weise

amanda Weise

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum plant conservation associate Amanda Weise studies rare plants in Minnesota. Weise’s job involves learning about rare plants that are native to Minnesota and finding the best way to support them. Plant rescues are one component, as well as seed collection and banking, propagation, and research. 


Hernandez receives 2021 National Hispanic Health Foundation’s professional student scholarship award

Edith Hernandez with her award

Edith Hernandez grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. It was from there that she commuted across the bridge to school in El Paso, TX. Ciudad Juárez is infamously known as a high-risk region heavily affected by cartel activity and a prevalent drug and substance abuse culture. It wasn’t until she moved and attended college that she realized that addiction isn’t always common and can be treated. This is what led her to pursue the study of translational addiction with the goal of developing better treatments than what currently exists. Learn more about her scholarship award.

Trophy tales

black and white photo of Floyd the pig trophy

Tales of Minnesota’s pigskin rivalries do involve one pig. But where did that axe come from? Why a jug? And who decided on a pig made of bronze? With help from UMedia, University Archives, and Wikipedia, U of M Libraries tells the tales of three trophies.