The University Record, February 28, 1994

Researchers ‘creating tomorrow,’ appropriations subcommittee told

By Mary Jo Frank

Faculty at research universities such as the U-M are literally “creating tomorrow,” Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. recently testified at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education hearing.

The U-M is developing society’s leaders for the future, and the ideas and technologies that will characterize that future, Whitaker explained. Also speak-ing were Vice President for Research Homer A. Neal and U-M Hospitals Executive Director John D. Forsyth, who talked about research and one aspect of public service, patient care.

The U-M trio was joined by representatives of the Presidents Council of State Universities, who discussed the role of public universities in problem solving and regional economic development, and the deferred maintenance needs of the state’s 15 public universities. Representatives of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan also addressed the hearing panel, which was chaired by John J. H. Schwarz, R-Battle Creek. Schwarz was joined by Sens. Jon Cisky, R-Saginaw, and Jackie Vaughn, D-Detroit, and Rep. Mary Schroer, D-Ann Arbor.

Citing the new University Hospital as a unique partnership between the state, University and Medical School, Forsyth said the $285 million spent on the new facility “was the best money ever invested by the state and University in terms of the people of Michigan.”

In 1992–93 the Hospitals logged more than 37,000 admissions, with patients coming from every county in the state.

Noting that excellent facilities have enabled the Medical Center to recruit top-notch faculty and staff, Forsyth said the U-M is consistently listed among the top 10 or 20 hospitals in the country.

The partnership continues in a variety of ways, said Forsyth, who reported that the University Hospital is the largest provider of uncompensated medical care and the largest Medicare provider in the state.

He also cited a number of ways the Hospitals touches the lives of patients throughout the state, including a heart transplant program, where pre- and post-operative care is given in local hospitals, and the Trail Blazer Summer Camp for ventilator-dependent children.

Noting that the U-M Hospitals is in good shape financially, Forsyth said the hospital is cost-competitive and well positioned for health care reform.

Neal focused on the U-M’s unique value as a public research university to the state as a whole.

Focusing on the many ways that University research contributes directly to the economic well-being of the state, Neal said the U-M is working to disseminate useful technologies through promoting new business start-ups as well as licensing faculty inventions.

The opening of new satellite technology transfer offices in the College of Engineering and Medical School reflects the U-M’s more aggressive stance in reaching out to inventors and commercial partners.

“Our disclosures of new inventions, a good index of our success at engaging our faculty in these efforts, have increased from 76 to 119 per year over the past five years,” Neal reported.

Examples of the interplay between

research and emerging technologies include:

  • The Center for Display Technology and Manufacturing, which will serve as the research and development arm for the liquid crystal display industry. Optical Information Systems, a subsidiary of Guardian Industries, is building a state-of-the-art plant near Novi, making Michigan the only place in the United States with these production capabilities.

  • The Center for Ultrafast Optical Sciences, which focuses on the understanding and use of extremely short and fast laser pulses. This technology has numerous applications, including allowing surgeons to scrape away one cell at a time from the optic nerve, making once-impossible operations safe and feasible.

  • The Center for Manufacturing Research, which works collaboratively with industry in developing and testing the most advanced methods of manufacturing and quality assessment available in the world.

  • The new Center for Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems, which is paving the way for new technologies to make driving safer and more convenient.

    Economic development occurs in other ways as well, Neal said. Examples:

  • The School of Business Administration’s Business and Industrial Assistance Division helps companies solve technical and management problems to make Michigan businesses competitive in a global market.

  • The Economic Development Administration’s Center for Economic Diversification uses creative interdisciplinary programs to assist in developing strategies for assisting in replacing jobs when plants close.

  • The College of Engineering’s In-dustrial Development Division provides training and assessment tools to eco-nomic developers and local governments throughout the state.

    Neal said that in addition to economic development and technology transfer, U-M research contributes to the social welfare of the citizens of Michigan and of the nation, through such advances as gene therapy, cholesterol-reducing agents and the development of submicroscopic fiberoptic sensors that may be used to monitor chemical levels in individual cells.

    Other research addressing public con-cerns is done by the School of Education and the Institute for Social Research, Neal said.

    “I feel it important to also stress the importance of the numerous achievements of our faculty and students in the humanities and arts, who help define and nourish the very essence of our civilization and the quality of our lives,” Neal added.