July 27, 2021
Researchers led by MSU’s Johannes Pollanen have developed a new device to help future quantum bits, or qubits (pronounced “Q bits”), take flight. Using liquid helium and readily available modern telecommunications technology —based on so-called “surface acoustic wave” devices — the Spartan team has created a new way to precisely manipulate electrons. With this capability, scientists can envision building what are known as trapped-electron quantum computers powered by processors whose quantum bits are free to move — or fly — around. The team showcased its new tech on July 6 in the journal Nature Communications.
July 26, 2021
Bruce Uhal, MSU professor of physiology, is a leading expert on ACE-2, the main receptor, or docking molecule, for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and is responsible for over half a million deaths in the United States. When SARS-CoV-2 began surging in 2020, Uhal joined an international group of scientists from India, Europe and the United States analyzing publicly available sequences of SARS-CoV-2 and ACE-2 to help track the origin and evolution of the virus and to develop targeted COVID-19 therapeutics.
July 21, 2021
MSU Distinguished Professor Kay Holekamp and her students have been observing hyenas as part of The Maasai Mara Hyena Project for over 30 years, following, tagging, sampling blood and feces, and amassing a rich dataset helping to answer questions previously thought impossible outside the lab. In a new study led by former postdoc Zachary Laubach, they found that less maternal care during the infant’s first year of life and less social connectedness once independent of the communal den are associated later in life with higher concentrations of stress hormones and less global DNA methylation. The exciting new study is published in Nature Communications.
July 19, 2021
MSU ecologists led an international research partnership of professional and volunteer scientists to reveal new insights into what’s driving the already-dwindling population of eastern monarch butterflies even lower. Between 2004 and 2018, changing climate at the monarch’s spring and summer breeding grounds has had the most significant impact on this declining population. In fact, the effects of climate change have been nearly seven times more significant than other contributors, such as habitat loss. The team published its report July 19 in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
July 15, 2021
For the spotted hyena, a kind of inheritance that has nothing to do with genetics turns out to be extremely important for health and longevity—social networks inherited from their mothers. A new study, published in the journal Science and based on 27 years of observational data from Michigan State University Distinguished Professor Kay Holekamp, expands an established theoretical model of spotted hyena social networking to show how these networks emerge, how long they last and how they affect a hyena’s life trajectory.
July 13, 2021
Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite with a singular goal: to infect any warm-blooded animal until it is ingested by a wild or domestic cat. Using the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration, MSU scientists have conducted a first-of-its-kind study into the role of T. gondii in the wild, establishing its definitive presence and influence among free-living hyenas. Their results were recently published in Nature Communications.
July 13, 2021
We live in a time when it’s never been easier or less expensive to sequence a plant’s complete genome. But knowing all of a plant’s genes is not the same thing as knowing what all those genes do. MSU experts in plant biology and computer science plan to close that gap with the help of artificial intelligence and a new $1.4 million NSF grant. Ultimately, the goal is to help farmers grow crops with genes that give their plants the best chance to withstand threats such as drought and disease.
July 9, 2021
Geoscience organizations play a central role in shaping the discipline by influencing attitudes, setting standards and providing benefits to their members. Although many organizations within the geoscience community have released statements calling out societal racism and discrimination, geoscience remains one of the least diverse fields among science and engineering. To address this issue, geosciences researchers from all over the country, including Michigan State University’s Julie Libarkin, recently published a ground-breaking Perspectives article in the journal Nature Communications recommending specific antiracism action steps for the geoscience field.
July 7, 2021
Five years ago, researchers at Northwestern University made international headlines when they discovered that human eggs, when fertilized by sperm, release billions of zinc ions, dubbed “zinc sparks.” Now, Northwestern has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Michigan State University to reveal that these same sparks fly from highly specialized metal-loaded compartments at the egg surface when frog eggs are fertilized. The findings of the research, which could help shape future findings about how metals impact the earliest moments in human development were recently published June 21 in the journal Nature Chemistry.
July 6, 2021
Four MSU College of Natural Science faculty members – Federica Brandizzi, Joseph S. Krajcik, Robert L. Last, and Kenneth M. Merz, were among 11 MSU faculty members named University Distinguished Professors this year by the MSU Board of Trustees in honor of their achievements in research, teaching and mentoring, and community engagement. Being named a University Distinguished Professor is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a faculty member by the university.
July 1, 2021
Spartan researchers, led by MSU's Amy Ralston, introduce a new fluorescent imaging technique dubbed GOGREEN that will help researchers study developing mouse embryos faster and more efficiently. Their work was recently published online in the journal Development.
June 30, 2021
MSU is two for two in 2021 when it comes to the National Science Foundation’s highly competitive Focused Research Group grant. MSU mathematicians Teena Gerhardt and Ilya Kachkovskiy, in collaboration with principal investigators from institutions across the country, will use the 3-year grants to advance research in some of the most exciting questions in topology, geometry and mathematical analysis.
June 29, 2021
Michigan State University statistician Frederi Viens is one of a select group of 23 scholars worldwide who have achieved what has been dubbed the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) Annals quadfecta. The IMS publishes four flagship "Annals" research journals, considered to be top periodicals in each of their respective subfields. The notion of the Annals quadfecta came about when a two-person team at the University of Toronto wondered which authors had accomplished the feat of publishing at least one paper in all four of these journals.
June 29, 2021
The physics Graduate Record Examination (GRE) costs just over $200, is administered early Saturday morning and requires the prospective student to answer 100 rapid fire questions in just three hours. According to the physics GRE website, doing well on the test will help students stand out like a diamond in the rough among the thousands of other applications being sifted through admissions committees. But newly published research by MSU scientists concluded that rather than helping, taking the physics GRE could actually harm a student’s chances of admission.
June 27, 2021
Michigan State University-led research is showing how social dynamics can help us understand behaviors in geladas (a monkey species) and other primates, including humans. MSU integrative biologist Elizabeth Tinsley Johnson and collaborators at the University of Michigan, Arizona State University and Stony Brook University in New York, have studied geladas in Ethiopia’s Simien Mountain National Park for 14 years to look for answers. Their findings were published earlier this month in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
June 24, 2021
While invasive zebra mussels consume small plant-like organisms called phytoplankton, MSU researchers Stephen Hamilton and Orlando Sarnelle discovered during a long-term study that zebra mussels can actually increase Microcystis, a type of phytoplankton known as “blue-green algae” or cyanobacteria, that forms harmful floating blooms. The study, titled Cascading effects: Insights from the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network, is one of five projects recently highlighted in a special feature in the Ecological Society of America’s journal, Ecosphere.
June 18, 2021
MSU Foundation Professor Beronda Montgomery has been named a 2021 Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). Montgomery is being recognized for her distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology and service to the society.
June 16, 2021
The original Star Trek television series took place in a future when space is the final frontier, but humanity hasn’t reached that point quite yet. As researchers like MSU entomologists Sarah Smith and Anthony Cognato are reminding us, there’s still plenty to discover right here on Earth. Working in Central and South America, the duo discovered more than three dozen species of ambrosia beetles — beetles that eat ambrosia fungus — previously unknown to science. Smith and Cognato described these new species on June 16 in the journal ZooKeys and named some after iconic sci-fi heroines.
June 15, 2021
In an exciting collaboration between MSU's Bruno Basso and Skidmore College's Kristofer Covey, farmers in the United States will have an opportunity to cultivate a sustainable future for themselves and the planet with MySOC, a platform that measures soil carbon through app-led field methods, sophisticated remote sensing technology and biophysical modelling recently awarded a $250,000 prize from the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Solutions Collaborative.
June 10, 2021
A champion team of three math instructors—Michael Brown, Math 102 supervisor; Rachael Lund, Math 101 supervisor, and Shiv Karunakaran, assistant professor of mathematics education at —assembled the summer before students virtually arrived in Fall 2020 with plans to design a new online platform for Math 101/102. COVID forced their plans into action sooner than anticipated. The quantitative literacy courses rolled out to more than 1,600 students that fall semester—just in the nick of time.
June 7, 2021
Kristin Parent, J.K. Billman, Jr., M.D. Endowed Research Professor at MSU, is lead investigator on a $1.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award (MIRA). Her pioneering research utilizes basic microbiology and cutting-edge cryo-microscopy to investigate, at the near atomic level, how viruses known as bacteriophage, or phage, use cell surface proteins to connect to, infect and reproduce inside some of the world’s deadliest gut bacteria—bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Shigella—destroying them in the process.
June 3, 2021
Bruno Basso, a Michigan State University Foundation Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the MSU College of Natural Science and a W.K. Kellogg Biological Station faculty member, shares his thoughts on agricultural systems and feeding the future sustainably. Basso’s research broadly deals with sustainable agriculture. His main focus is on water, carbon, nitrogen cycling and modeling in agro-ecosystems, and spatial analysis of crop yield.
May 27, 2021
MSU microbiologist Chris Waters is using a five-year, $2.62 million National Institutes of Health MIRA grant to explore questions on the diversity of a class of signaling molecules known as cyclic di-nucleotides, or cdN. Since cdNs are critical for bacteria to cause disease as well as immune regulation in humans, understanding how they function can lead to new strategies to manipulate these systems for therapeutic treatments.
May 26, 2021
MSU researchers, including geomicrobiologist Matthew Schrenk, joined an interdisciplinary and international team of scientists who have revealed how ‘forests’ of microbes living in geological hotspots play an underestimated role in Earth’s carbon cycle.
May 13, 2021
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring created a significant barrier to when shared facilities, such as microscope labs, became off-limits to all but essential employees, and instructors had to pivot to online courses. This online-only instruction prompted MSU geologist Tyrone Rooney and Ph.D. student Alex Steiner to begin talking about how to provide an accessible solution for creating and delivering microscopic educational materials to students. Their collective efforts resulted in the creation of an open‐source device known as the PiAutoStage system, providing an equivalent in-lab experience for students.
May 13, 2021
An international research team, including MSU's Tyler Cocker, to create a new type of ‘nanoscopy’ to characterize interesting materials like never before. A new microscopy technique lets researchers characterize materials with incredible precision while keeping its distance — at least from a nanoscopic perspective.
May 12, 2021
As climate change threatens global food security, researchers at MSU led by plant biologist Robin Buell are building better beans crucial to human nutrition by tapping into the genetics of the more heat-resistant tepary bean. Her research on bean genetics was published May 11 in Nature Communications.
May 10, 2021
Two Michigan State University scientists, Kristin Parent and Shannon Manning, have been selected for the 2021-2022 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Distinguished Lecturer Program. The ASM, one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences, chooses lecturers through a competitive nomination process each year, selecting only the most celebrated researchers as participants in the unique program.
May 7, 2021
Dean DellaPenna, Michigan State University Foundation Professor and University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). DellaPenna, one of 120 members elected to NAS in 2021, joins 10 other Spartans who are active members. He’s also one of 16 active Spartan members of NAS and its two associated organizations, collectively referred to as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
May 3, 2021
Scientists have known about two of the most enormous and mysterious regions of the earth’s lower mantle, Large Low Shear Velocity Provinces (LLSVPs), for decades, but no one knows what they are made of or where they came from. MSU experimental geologist Susannah Dorfman and a talented team of international researchers pieced together a way to make an iron-rich form of the mineral bridgmanite—a rusting rock—that may finally explain the existence of LLSVPs. Their results are published in Nature Communications.
April 29, 2021
MSU computational biologist Arjun Krishnan is the recipient of a 5-year, $704,889 NSF Early CAREER Award to develop machine learning approaches that will automatically annotate publicly available samples from human and major animal models on a massive scale. His efforts will allow researchers to seamlessly search and re-analyze immense reserves of untapped omics data for advances in biology and human health. The award will also support Krishnan’s efforts to help students interested in programming and data science gain access to the “hidden curriculum” of bioinformatics.
April 21, 2021
An international research team led by Michigan State University has helped created cosmic conditions at RIKEN's heavy-ion accelerator in Japan to better understand this extreme science. The team, which included MSU's d William Lynch and Betty Tsang recently shared its results in the journal Physical Review Letters.
April 19, 2021
An expansive project led by MSU plant biologist Lars Brudvig is examining the benefits, and limits, of environmental restoration on developed land after humans are done with it. Although humans can heal some of that damage by working to restore the land to its natural state, questions remain about how far restoration can go in overcoming a land’s past.. Brudvig and his collaborators now have some answers that they’ve published April 19 online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
April 13, 2021
The MSU College of Natural Science (NatSci) has named Amber Benton as its assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Benton, who was most previously director of diversity programming and student engagement in MSU’s James Madison College, stepped into her new role on April 12.
April 12, 2021
MSU theoretical nuclear physicist Witold Nazarewicz has a simple way to describe the complex work he does at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB. In a new paper for Physical Review Letters, Simin Wang, a former research associate at FRIB, and Nazarewicz show how FRIB can spot signatures of unusual nuclear events and use those as windows into the nucleus.
April 9, 2021
MSU researchers have helped catch particles called muons behaving in a way that’s not predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics — the best theory that scientists have for explaining the universe’s fundamental particles and forces.The results from this experiment, called the Muon g-2 experiment, confirm a discrepancy that has been gnawing at researchers for decades. The team published its landmark result in the journal Physical Review Letters on April 7.
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