Research Updates Spring 2021
As the approach of spring renews our spirits and presents new research opportunities, I want to recognize the many contributions of MSU faculty, post-docs, graduate, and undergraduate students in our continuing research efforts. COVID-19 has presented novel challenges over the past year, but as the information below illustrates, Spartan researchers have risen to the occasion in extraordinary ways.
These outcomes are a testament to the work that was conducted even while many on-campus labs and studios were temporarily closed during the first months of the pandemic and investigators worked remotely. Since the resumption of on-campus research under enhanced safety protocols, about 650 labs and studios have been in operation without any reported COVID-19 transmissions. In-person human subjects research has continued to reengage, in compliance with MDHHS directives.
It was also during this past year that many scholars pivoted to COVID-19-related projects. More than 200 project proposals were submitted, resulting in over $18 million in new funding. You can learn more about those efforts in this story rollup.
My staff and I are committed to supporting continued innovation and research success. Please contact our office if we can assist you in any way.
Douglas A. Gage
Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation
Over the past several months, MSU senior faculty have been recognized through national and international awards, published new scholarship, and bolstered their work with new financial support from federal and state agencies as well as prestigious foundations. A few examples include:
- Angela K. Wilson was named President-Elect of the American Chemical Society.
- Karin Pfeiffer was inducted into the National Academy of Kinesiology.
- Rita Strakovsky was awarded a $2.1M NIH grant to study chemical effects on women’s health post-pregnancy.
- Greg Severin is the lead investigator of a new $13 million DOE-SC grant to build up FRIB’s isotope harvesting capabilities.
- A multi-disciplinary team led by John Dorgan will use a new $2M NSF grant to investigate the economic upcycling of commonly disposed plastics.
- Natalie Phillips, Nancy DeJoy, and Julian Chambliss have received a $3M grant from the Andrews W. Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative for the project, Creativity in the Time of COVID-19: Art as a Tool for Combating Inequity and Injustice.
- MSU artists earned two Latin Grammy nominations for “King Mangoberry.” The piece was written by Professor of Composition Ricardo Lorenz, conducted by Professor of Music Kevin Sedatole, and produced by Assistant Professor of Music David Thornton.
- Robert Richardson was selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow.
- Richard Lenski earned a lifetime achievement award from the Society for the Study of Evolution.
- Four researchers were named AAAS fellows, including:
- Alexandra Gade, Professor at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
- Joseph (J. R.) Haywood, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Assistant Vice President for Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Research & Innovation.
- Doug Landis, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Entomology and Director of MSU business operations with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
- Beronda Montgomery, MSU Foundation Professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, faculty member in the MSU-U.S. Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory, and Interim Assistant Vice President in the Office of Research & Innovation.
- Nine MSU faculty were named highly cited researchers:
- Christoph Benning, MSU Foundation Professor and University Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, MSU AgBioResearch faculty, and Director of the MSU-U.S. Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory.
- Gregg A. Howe, MSU Foundation Professor and University Distinguished Professor of Plant Science, MSU AgBioResearch faculty, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory faculty, and elected National Academy of Sciences member.
- Rufus Isaacs, Professor of Entomology.
- Russell E. Johnson, MSU Foundation Professor in the Department of Management.
- Morteza Mahmoudi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology and the Precision Health Program.
- Aaron M. McCright, Chairperson and Professor in the Department of Sociology.
- G. Philip Robertson, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences and a W.K. Kellogg Biological Station faculty member.
- James M. Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and Director of the MSU Center for Microbial Ecology.
- David P. Roy, Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Science.
We are also delighted to recognize early announcements of CAREER awards made by the National Science Foundation to young faculty members. Although not all directorates have made announcements yet, we look forward to naming new recipients in our next newsletter. Congratulations to:
- Annick Anctil, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
- Alexandra Zevalkink, Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.
- Dong Zhao, Assistant Professor in the School of Planning, Design & Construction.
- Shanelle Foster, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The 2019 National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development (NSF HERD) data was recently released and indicates continued growth for the MSU research enterprise. The confirmed total expenditures for 2019 were $725.7 million, a $10 million increase over 2018. Expenditures were up in most categories with moderate gains in NSF and USDA, and a strong increase in HHS. Please note: HERD data runs a full year behind.
Michigan State’s overall HERD ranking stands at 35 among over 900 reporting universities. MSU is #1 in the Big Ten and #2 nationally for Department of Energy expenditures—behind only Rochester University with the Laboratory for Laser Energetics. As an aside, FRIB was officially designated as a DOE Office of Science User Facility in fall 2020, and recently issued the first call for proposals for beam time.
Our NSF expenditures have made strong gains and now rank #9 nationally and #2 in the Big Ten moving us ahead of U of M, and only behind the University of Illinois. MSU remains a leader in USDA expenditures ranking #1 in the Big Ten.
While the measurement of expenditures is an important tool for peer comparison, it is the new knowledge created by our faculty that allows us to educate the next generation of scholars and to improve quality of life for all that drives our work.
Women in Research Month
Professor Ruth Nicole Brown recently presented her research on “Black Girl Genius” to the MSU Board of Trustees. Brown is the inaugural chairperson of the Department of African American and African Studies and she was recently named an MSU Foundation Professor. A video recording of the presentation is available for viewing.
Professor Brown’s presentation was one of several events planned as part of Women in Research month at Michigan State. Using International Day of Women and Girls in Science for the launch, Research & Innovation hosted the first viewing of the film “Picture a Scientist” on February 11. The independent documentary follows a groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Last Friday, R&I welcomed chemist and renowned science communicator Professor Raychelle Burks, one of the researchers featured in the film, to a virtual interview.
If you missed the first viewing of “Picture a Scientist,” it is not too late to register for the second viewing on March 7– 9. Please visit the event page for details and registration information and please share this information broadly, as all faculty, staff, and students are welcome to attend. Lastly, a post-event panel discussion with several women in research and leadership at MSU will be held on Friday, March 19.
Collectively, MSU faculty have made essential efforts in maintaining a safe research environment since the onset of the pandemic. Research spaces are operating well under modified conditions, and many students are back on campus in labs and select courses.
The COVID-19 Early Detection Program resumed for the spring semester and is now required for all undergraduate students living, learning, conducting research, or working on campus. Professional students from the medical colleges and VetMed are also included in the mandatory group so that they may participate in clinical learning opportunities. We encourage faculty, staff, and students working in research settings—and critical employees such as those caring for animals, RTSF Core staff, and other research support personnel—to participate. Please register using this form.
Environmental Health & Safety has developed a new Health and Safety Info Sheet listing important steps and contact information if your research team should have a member with a positive case of COVID-19. The Info Sheet is available on the Research Reactivation website as are updated safety announcements.
MSU Funding Announcements
- Discretionary Funding Initiative (DFI) Session II is now accepting applications. The deadline is March 11. Read the announcement to learn more.
- MTRAC AgBio Starter Award Proposals are due March 12. Visit the MTRAC program page for details.
- “Leading a Research Center” expert panel discussion on February 25. Please register in advance to receive the login information.
- “Broader Impacts of Research: Strategies, Resources, and Partners” two-day conference March 17–18. Please visit the event page to learn more and register.
- The Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research (ICER) has several workshops coming up including an introduction to Linux, Gaussian on HPCC, a NVidia webinar, and more. Visit the ICER website to see the robust list of offerings.