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News

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October 14, 2021
On Oct. 13, MSU’s Artemis Spyrou was selected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a distinction recognizing researchers for significant and innovative contributions to physics. Each year, less than one-half of a percent of the APS membership earns fellowship status. Fellows are elected by the APS Council based on nominations from a candidate’s peers. In the materials nominating Spyrou, her colleagues described her as an “unstoppable force” in nuclear physics research and outreach.
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October 11, 2021
MSU microbiologist Gemma Reguera, is recipient of the 2022 Alice C. Evans Award from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) for her outstanding contributions toward the full participation and advancement of women in the microbial sciences. This award was established by ASM's Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology, and is given in memory of Alice C. Evans, the first woman elected ASM President, in 1928.
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October 6, 2021
MSU's Beronda Montgomery, who has done significant work related to effective mentoring in research environments, is the recipient of the 2021 Mentoring Keynote Lecture Award from the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB). The award is given to an individual who exemplifies mentoring for their impact on the training of scientists and scholars who belong to underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities.
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October 1, 2021
Researchers at MSU have made a surprising discovery about the human gut’s enteric nervous system. This system contains several specialized nervous system cells, including glial cells. In research published online on Oct. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Brian Gulbransen and his team revealed that glia act in a very precise way to influence the signals carried by neuronal circuits in the gut. This discovery could help pave the way for new treatments for intestinal illness that affects as much as 15 percent of the U.S. population.
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October 1, 2021
Scientists in the Michigan State University-Department of Energy (DOE) Plant Research Laboratory (PRL) have published a new study that furthers our understanding of how plants make membranes in chloroplasts, the photosynthesis powerhouse. The study, which was recently published in The Plant Journal, focuses on RBL10, a rhomboid-like protein found in plant chloroplast membranes. The researchers found that RBL10 interacts with other chloroplast proteins and teases how it might perform some of its functions.
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September 29, 2021
The source of troublesome lake algae is not always clear, but an interdisciplinary research project with two MSU researchers found an answer may include colder groundwater that feeds some inland lakes. This finding could help predict the formation of harmful algal blooms (HABs) to mitigate their impact on drinking water, tourism, fishing and fish toxicity. Their research was published Sept. 1 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.
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September 28, 2021
With help from plants, Spartan biologists are unraveling forces at work today shaping life and health.MSU plant biologist Emily Josephs and her team are shedding light on a mystery of evolution with support from a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health: How is it that within the same species, individual responses to stimuli can dramatically differ? Their hope is that these findings will provide a solid foundation to develop connections to human health in the future.
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September 24, 2021
Regulation, monitoring and enforcement of sustainable seafood harvest is difficult and hinges on the ability to correctly identify species that, on the surface, look extremely similar. Some species are almost impossible to distinguish based on appearance, while at other times customs officials may only have a fin to go on. That’s about to change. Starting this September, scientists from Michigan State University, and collaborating institutions will harness the power of genomics and an AI powered smartphone app to develop low-cost, rapid field-deployable species identification tools that will give fishers, fisheries, agency biologists, customs officials and seafood vendors the power to become their own piscatorial gumshoes.
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September 22, 2021
MSU plant molecular biologist Michael Thomashow, along with colleagues Brad Day and Yongsig Kim, will use a $1.8 million National Science Foundation grant to better understand the connection between how plants navigate temperature changes and fight off pathogens. By understanding the biology behind how plants respond to a variety of stresses, scientists will be better equipped to help farmers and their crops adapt to a changing planet.
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September 21, 2021
Sam Ayebare, an MSU Ph.D. student from Uganda, has received a Russell E. Train Fellowship for Aspiring University Faculty for Conservation from the World Wildlife Fund, which will support his current research on mammals and birds in Central Africa. Ayebare is dedicated to finding ways to mitigate the effects of habitat loss, industrial activities, and climate change in the Albertine Rift, one of the most important ecoregions for biodiversity conservation on the African continent. 
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September 21, 2021
It takes one to know one—a community that is. With that in mind, a community of pioneering scientists from MSU’s College of Natural Science and the University of California, Los Angeles, came together to design a multifaceted approach to investigating one of the most complex and abundant communities on Earth—microbiomes. The first-of-its-kind ecological investigation into the complexity of gut microbiological communities is funded by the NSF and will provide new insights into microbial community interaction from mechanistic models and network theory and lead the way for numerous applications in health and human and natural systems.
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September 16, 2021
A multidisciplinary, multi-institutional program that is co-led by Michigan State University's Center for Quantum Computing, Science and Engineering, or MSU-Q, is taking the next step in its aim to revolutionize quantum science education. QuSTEAM, an NSF Convergence Accelerator 2020 cohort Phase II awardee, brings together scientists and educators from more than 20 universities, national laboratories, community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to establish a revolutionary, modular template for an undergraduate minor and associate certificate program in Quantum Information Systems with the aim of developing a diverse, effective, and contemporary quantum-ready workforce.
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September 13, 2021
Scientists from MSU and the University of California, Berkeley are developing a first-of-its-kind risk model for sustainable farm practices. The sophisticated statistical model will show that complex crop rotations are the best strategy for building ecological and economic resiliency, literally from the ground up. MSU statistician Frederi Viens is a member of the risk model working group, brought together by the non-profit Land Core, that will use remote-sensed data, soil samples, farmer surveys and statistical analyses to convince lenders to prioritize financing farmers that adopt practices such as cover crops, no-till, low-till and diverse crop rotations including hay and pasture for livestock.
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September 8, 2021
MSU plant biologist Frances Trail is the recipient of two prestigious honors in her field of study—mycology. Trail was recently named a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and was awarded the 2021 Mycological Society of America Weston Award for Excellence in Teaching.
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August 30, 2021
As we live and breathe, ancient-looking fish known as bowfin are guarding genetic secrets that that can help unravel humanity’s evolutionary history and better understand its health. Michigan State researchers Ingo Braasch and Andrew Thompson are now decoding some of those secrets. Leading a project that included more than two dozen researchers spanning three continents, the Spartans have assembled the most complete picture of the bowfin genome to date. Their research findings were published Aug. 30 in the journal Nature Genetics.
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August 26, 2021
Laura McCabe, Ph.D., has been named the new assistant vice president for the Office of Regulatory Affairs at Michigan State University. Her appointment began on August 16, 2021. In the new role, she will be responsible for all current units under ORA and, additionally, Export Control and Trade Sanctions.
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August 24, 2021
Lake trout is an iconic native species to the Great Lakes. MSU integrative biology doctoral student Seth Smith is leading an effort along with his professor and an international team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada to create a reference genome for lake trout to support state and federal agencies with reintroduction and conservation efforts. The research from the team was published on Aug. 5 in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources.
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August 18, 2021
With the help of a $500,000 grant from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Midwest Climate Adaptation Science Center and 30 years of data, MSU quantitative ecologist Elise Zipkin and her multi-institution team will shed new light on the “Insect Apocalypse.” In a recent study, Zipkin developed a modeling strategy to analyze climate effects on monarch butterflies and found a strong correlation between temperature and precipitation in spring and summer breeding ranges and the subsequent size of the overall population. Motivated by these findings, her team is extending the models to other species.
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August 16, 2021
MSU seismologist Songqiao “Shawn” Wei is the recipient of a $501,597 National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award to conduct a series of seismic attenuation studies on regional and global scales. These systematic investigations will potentially advance our understanding of seismic interpretation, upper-mantle dynamics, and material recycling in the Earth’s interior.
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August 16, 2021
Missing metadata — data that provides information about other data — might not sound like a big deal, but it’s a costly problem that’s hindering humanity’s plans to protect the planet’s biodiversity. A Spartan-led research team reveals surprising gaps in ecological genetic data that could otherwise help global conservation efforts. MSU's Rachel Toczydlowski is the lead author of a new study  in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which features researchers from 14 institutions in three countries.The team audited the largest global repository for storing genetic sequence data to see if the entries included basic metadata needed to make them useful for monitoring genetic diversity.
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August 11, 2021
For decades, scientists suspected that bacteria known as Geobacter could clean up radioactive uranium waste, but it wasn’t clear how the microbes did it. Now, MSU microbiologist Gemma Reguera and her team has the answer. Molecules called lipopolysaccharides coat the cell surface and soak up the uranium like a sponge. Their findings were recently published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
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August 9, 2021
Currently, there is no cure for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, a condition that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. But new research led by MSU scientists is bringing fresh insight to the IBD table—an unexpected connection between specialized cells in the gut called glia and the genes involved in IBD. Their findings, published in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, could lead to more effective treatments for one of the most elusive gut problems in the world.
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August 5, 2021
A few years ago, Michigan State University quantitative ecologists Sarah Saunders and Elise Zipkin created a new statistical model to understand the threats endangered species face. Now, as federal agencies continue to use those findings, the research has earned this year’s Ecological Forecasting Outstanding Publication Award from the Ecological Society of America (ESA). 
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August 4, 2021
It was the beginning of the COVID pandemic and MSU plant biologist Emily Josephs could not go into her lab to work because of safety restrictions. So, she called up friend and colleague, Regina Baucom, from the University of Michigan, to see if she would be interested in collaborating virtually on an experimental evolution project using Baucom's existing system to study morning glory and Josephs' plant genomics data analysis expertise. The pair wanted to understand if a plant’s environmental response to stress is adaptive, or helpful to the plant. The results of this study were recently published in the journal Evolution Letters.
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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.
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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.
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July 26, 2021
While conducting outstanding research for capstone project honors, four MSU physiology undergraduate students found a blog to share their work sponsored by the American Physiological Society (APS) that focuses on the presence of physiology in everyday life for both scientists and non-scientists. Questions such as, what is physiology? where is physiology? and why does it matter to you? provide a focus for the APS I Spy Physiology Blog: Spotting Physiology in Everyday Life.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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July 6, 2021
Dr. Esther M. Brown, a great champion and catalyst for the Biomedical Laboratory Program, Michigan State University and the entire laboratory profession, died on June 23. She was 98 years old. Dr. Brown  was director of the program at MSU from 1960-1970 and a pioneer and trailblazer for women in STEM fields at the time. Dr. Brown shaped many lives and was a true giant in the medical laboratory profession.
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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.

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