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News

Welcome to the NatSci news page! Check back often to learn about the latest innovations, discoveries and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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June 14, 2021
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Developing improved materials for things such as energy storage and drug discovery is of interest to researchers and society alike. Quantum mechanics (QM) is the basis for molecular and materials scientists who develop these useful, futuristic products. The challenge is that the QM calculations to describe the many properties of molecules and the materials they make up require a lot of computer power. To address this issue, a small team of postdoctoral scholars led by MSU’s Kenneth Merz, and University of California, San Diego’s Andreas Goetz developed software that takes advantage of powerful graphics processing units, or GPUs, for these complex QM calculations of molecules.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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