The University Record, September 9, 1998

Summer Roundup

Editor's Note: Here is a brief look at some of the activities that took place during the summer months. The full text of these articles is on the Web.

Campus safety committee appointed by Cantor, Kasdin

A 15-member faculty/staff/student Campus Safety and Security Advisory Committee has been appointed by and will report to Provost Nancy Cantor and Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Chaired by Lisa A. Tedesco, professor and associate dean, School of Dentistry, the committee will serve as a liaison for members of the University community who wish to raise issues regarding safety, security and the prevention of violence, and will advise Cantor and Kasdin on these issues.

The committee also will:

• Review Department of Public Safety (DPS) policies and procedures and annual crime and service data, and advise the DPS director on issues identified in the review.

• Submit an annual report covering issues addressed in the previous year and prepare other reports as appropriate. [May 6 issue]

 

U to strengthen child care programs

Continuation of the Student Child Care Subsidy Program Scholarship and the Kids Kare at Home Program, and subsidies for the University's five child care programs that will enable them to serve children of lower income faculty and staff are among the recommendations of the Child Care Task Force that will be adopted by the University.

In advising the Regents of the recommendations at their April meeting, Provost Nancy Cantor noted that these actions will enhance the University's efforts to continue to be a "family friendly," flexible employer of those with children.

The University's annual subsidy of the student child care program will be doubled to $150,000.

Kids Kare at Home Program, which has operated on a pilot basis since January, will continue and a sliding fee scale with a subsidy for lower income faculty and staff families on the Ann Arbor campus will be implemented. In addition, a one-year pilot of this program, to assess need and feasibility, will be offered to students.

A sliding scale subsidy program will be initiated at the University's five child care centers to help offset the high cost of care and to make the services available to low income faculty and staff. [May 6 issue]

 

Commission to explore future of life sciences

The current state of the life sciences at the University, as well as the potential for new directions and collaborations, will be the focus of a new commission appointed by President Lee C. Bollinger.

"There are few areas of human knowledge more alive with discovery and creative energy than that commonly referred to as the life sciences," Bollinger said in announcing the 19-member Life Sciences Commission in May. "They are in a period of remarkable intellectual growth and discovery, as well as increased public interest, benefit and support.

"The advance of human understanding of the world from the gene to the cell to the living organism has progressed rapidly and according to the simple logic of what can be understood next. At the same time, public awareness of the sometimes dazzling nature of the discoveries and of their potential to bring tangible benefits to human welfare, has begun to lift the gates that only a few years ago were being lowered on public and private funding."

"The University," Bollinger said, "must be prepared to participate fully and preeminently in the exploration of this extraordinary advance of knowledge."

Appointment of the Commission marks the beginning of ongoing "creative brainstorming" about the life sciences programs at the U-M and how the University can build on its present expertise in the neurosciences, genetics, immunology and cell biology. Discussion will include the national interest in these fields with an eye to making the U-M one of the most outstanding academic centers for the study and application of the life sciences.

The group has been asked to submit its findings and recommendations by Nov. 1. (See related article.) [May 20 issue]

 

Kellogg grant funds nurse-managed primary care consortium

Nurse practitioners in Michigan have a new opportunity to demonstrate their vital role in communities across the state.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the School of Nursing and its four partners $4.4 million for a project designed to offer quality health care to communities, inform public policy and enhance the education of students.

The four-year project, called the Michigan Academic Consortium: Nurse Managed Primary Care, is a partnership of the U-M, and the schools of nursing at Michigan State, Grand Valley State and Wayne State universities. Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI), a nonprofit health policy organization of the Michigan Department of Community Health, will administer the grant and evaluate the program.

The project enables the four universities to work together sharing resources to educate nurse practitioner students to deliver quality and cost-effective primary care. The universities operate a total of eight nurse-operated health care centers in their respective communities. Some centers are located in medically underserved neighborhoods.

The grant will fund a distance-learning educational program and provide Internet services for students, and create a common database among all the nurse-operated health care centers that will record information about the care given to patients at each of the centers, and the outcome and cost of that care. [May 20 issue]

 

Engineers win grant to build artificial eye

Researchers from the U-M and the University of Texas, Austin, will combine lenses, tiny lasers and tunable light detectors to build a microchip that could help the military conduct the most accurate remote visual sensing yet.

Working under a $1.6 million grant awarded to the College of Engineering by the U.S. Army, Pallab Bhattacharya, director of the Solid State Electronics Laboratory, will lead a team in the design of an artificial eye on a microchip--a first-of-its-kind optoelectronic device capable of sensing and processing light. The device also could have numerous civilian applications in navigation systems for vehicles, robotics and, eventually, people with visual impairment.

Bhattacharya said the artificial eye will improve on the human version in at least two key respects. Whereas nature's design converts light into electronic nerve impulses, then relays those signals to the brain, the U-M proposal relies on lasers to do the bulk of the transmitting. Because light travels far faster than this biological conduction, signals will move more quickly through the man-made device than through an optic nerve. "The scheme also will allow processing of data away from the focal plane, which has several advantages," he said, including fewer problems with overheated circuits and remote capability.

In addition, whereas humans can only see light in the visible portion of the spectrum, the optoelectronic sensor will be able to convert any wavelength of light into usable information. This means that the device could be used for night vision--in which infrared radiation predominates--and ultraviolet detection, just as well as for full daylight viewing.

In addition to Bhattacharya, College of Engineering faculty members George Haddad, Clark Nguyen and Sang Lee are involved in the project. The group is collaborating with Prof. Dennis Deppe and his colleagues at the University of Texas, Austin. [May 20 issue]

 

YoHA's Arts of Citizenship receives funding for three years

Efforts to create a community of faculty who are eager to explore the connections and links between the University and the wider surrounding community got a boost in May with the announcement that the Arts of Citizenship program has received three years of funding support from the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR).

The Arts of Citizenship Program was a major initiative within the Year of the Humanities and Arts, which was designed to explore the role of the arts and humanities in civic and community life through a variety of programs.

Program Director David Scobey is excited about the opportunities for "project partnerships" that integrate innovative intellectual work done at the University with practical collaborations in the community.

"The 'culture wars' of the past decade have shown how much Americans invest the arts and humanities with civic importance," Scobey says. "Scholars have done wonderful research into popular culture and public values, but our work often has been distant from the publics we study.

"It is important for a public educational institution like the University to explore and to participate in current debates about culture and citizenship. Doing so gives us the opportunity to build new relationships with our community and create new types of research and teaching," Scobey adds.

Scobey, who teaches history and American studies, sees the Arts of Citizenship Program "acting as a magnet to encourage new thinking about the role of the arts and humanities in the community."

Faculty interested in developing programs under the auspices of the program should call 647-4869, or send e-mail to scobey@umich.edu. [May 20 issue]

 

Reader Center will be a place to enjoy nature, literature, art

Burnham House has begun to settle in its new home in the Arboretum after an official groundbreaking ceremony May 15. An addition will house an elevator and necessary physical equipment, freeing existing rooms in the structure for the James D. Reader Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center.

Speaking at the ceremony, poet Robert Hass said the Arb was "built in the 19th century, exploited in the 20th and we need to write the scene for the 21st century. We need to have an idea of how we will live in relation to the natural world."

Hass said the Reader Center will not only be a place to learn about nature and the plants in the Arb, but also a place to weave literature and fine art into a natural environment. "There is no more important task than to do what this urban environmental center begins to do," he said. [May 20 issue]

 

Kun-Liang Guan named a MacArthur Fellow

When biochemist Kun-Liang Guan first heard that he'd be receiving money from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, he thought the funds were for his research and wanted them sent to his department.

"Then I realized it was for me, that I could use it for anything. It was a big, wonderful surprise," says the associate professor of biological chemistry and senior research associate at the Institute of Gerontology.

As one of 29 new MacArthur Fellows this year, Guan will receive $230,000 over five years, no strings attached. He has not yet decided what he will do with the money, but the thought of taking a sabbatical that would enhance his career has some appeal.

Guan studies a class of enzymes that act as molecular switches controlling the activity of other enzymes. He has shown how these enzymes control normal physiologic processes (such as proliferation and differentiation) and how viruses and bacteria interrupt normal functions, creating pathogenic effects.

His research has helped explain how cells regulate internal processes, such as division, and how they respond to external conditions, such as infection. [June 10 issue]

 

Jewish Federation funds Drachler Chair in School of Social Work

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has established the Sol Drachler Chair in Jewish Communal Service at the School of Social Work with a pledge of $1.2 million.

The holder of the Drachler Chair will provide leadership for Project STaR (Service, Training and Research), a two-year master's degree program that prepares students for careers in Jewish communal development. The program also includes training in administration, management, fund-raising and interpersonal practice.

"The support of the Jewish community for Project STaR has made it possible for our students to enjoy an educational experience available at few other schools in the country," says Dean Paula Allen-Meares. "This gift from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit ensures long-term support for the future strength of this valuable program."

Project STaR was founded in 1990 by Armand Lauffer, a member of the School's faculty for 30 years. To date it has produced 32 graduates, nearly all of whom are now working in the field of Jewish communal service. [June 10 issue]

 

U-M scientists use gene therapy to correct deafness in mice

On June 23, 1997, a mouse was born in a laboratory at the Medical School. This mouse--affectionately known as Sebastian--was different from his seven litter mates, his mother and father and all the other mice in his ancestral line. Thanks to U-M scientists and genetic engineering technology, this mouse could hear.

Sebastian is a shaker-2 mouse--a strain descended from a mouse exposed to X-rays in 1928. An X-ray-induced mutation on mouse chromosome 11, which has been passed on to later generations, causes inner ear defects that lead to deafness and balance abnormalities in shaker-2 mice.

In a paper published in the May 29 issue of Science, U-M scientists describe how they used transgenic technology to find the recessive mutated gene responsible for deafness in shaker-2 mice. The U-M study represents the first permanent correction of a deafness-related genetic mutation and the fifth time that identification of a deafness gene in mice helped scientists find a similar gene in humans, according to Sally A. Camper, associate professor of human genetics, who directed the research.

In a related paper in the same issue of Science, Thomas B. Friedman and other scientists at the National Institutes of Health, describe how the correction of the deafness gene in shaker-2 mice helped them find a nearly identical gene (DFNB3) on human chromosome 17, which encodes the same type of myosin, an enzyme involved in inner ear development.

"Interaction between scientists working with the mouse genome and the human genome made it possible to locate these genes quickly," Camper says. "It's a perfect example of how transgenic technology in mice can contribute to research with the potential to help people."

Other researchers from the Medical School collaborating in the study included Thomas L. Saunders, senior research associate and director of the Transgenic Animal Model Core, and Robert H. Lyons Jr., assistant professor of biological chemistry and director of the DNA Sequencing Core. [June 10 issue]

 

Angiogenesis research may lead to treatments for many diseases

With cover stories in major news magazines and reports on national news, the tumor-fighting molecules called angiogenesis inhibitors have become overnight celebrities. U-M researchers are among several groups nationwide trying to understand and find ways of controlling the process of angiogenesis (blood vessel growth), which plays a key role in cancer and other diseases.

Research on this process not only may lead to improved cancer treatments, but also may offer new approaches to treating a wide range of other medical problems, says Peter Polverini, a professor of dentistry and pathology who has been doing research on angiogenesis for 20 years. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, psoriasis and even obesity may someday be treated with drugs that control angiogenesis.

Most of the recent attention has focused on the potential of angiogenesis inhibitors to treat cancer by starving tumors. Tumors cannot grow to life-threatening sizes unless they are nourished by blood vessels. To ensure an adequate blood supply, tumors give off substances (angiogenic factors) that encourage nearby blood vessels to send branches to the tumors. Large tumors also give off substances (angiogenesis inhibitors) that prevent blood vessels from sending branches to smaller, more distant tumors.

But a number of other medical conditions also are influenced by angiogenesis and could be treated with drugs that control the process, says Polverini.

"In disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and many ocular diseases--glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa, for example--excessive blood vessel growth contributes greatly to the damage that the disease causes." Diabetes, too, has an angiogenesis link. Wounds heal more slowly in people with diabetes, because blood vessel growth is inadequate. Encouraging angiogenesis could speed healing in people with that disease. [June 10 issue]

 

Researchers build first table-top source of concentrated X-rays

Researchers at the Center for Ultrafast Optical Sciences (CUOS) have built the first table-top laser capable of generating a coherent beam of X-rays.

The work could give chemists a close-up view of the dynamics of atoms during reactions with other atoms, and open a real-time window for biologists onto microscopic events at the cellular level.

By shooting a rapidly pulsing laser through a hollow glass tube filled with gas and controlling the pressure of that gas, the team--including Andy Rundquist, Charles Durfee, and electrical engineering professors Henry Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane and colleagues--was able to generate a focused beam of X-rays that could be incorporated into a device for atomic-scale imaging.

This is the first time scientists have been able to dramatically increase the efficiency of X-rays to make them useful for applications such as imaging. Moreover, whereas traditional lasers emit visible and near-infrared light (with wavelengths in the 500-1000 nanometer range), those from the U-M device are about 20nm, with the possibility of being as short as 2nm. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the intensity of the beam.

Another benefit of this new device is that the X-ray pulse duration is extremely short, enabling high temporal resolution imaging as well. In other words, the X-rays can be used as the world's fastest strobe light, making anything moving slower appear to be frozen in time. [June 10]

 

Michigania offers more than summer camps

Roy Christiansen said he didn't sleep very well the last night of his stay at Michigania, the Alumni Association's retreat and conference facility in northern Michigan. "I was thinking of this problem we have and how it can be solved," he said.

Christiansen, a 1957 graduate of the Law School, was one of 21 alumni and retired faculty and friends who spent the last four days of May at Michigania on the Spring Ecology Tour. The tour included presentations by Biological Station Director James Teeri and Paul Webb, professor of natural resources and of biology, at both the Biological Station in Pellston and at Michigania.

The problem was the effect humans have had on the Earth and its inhabitants, and how people can adapt to living with nature instead of trying to conquer it.

Using Michigania as both a think tank and a presentation venue, Teeri and Webb talked about global warming and the atmospheric increase in CO2, and how those two incidents affect both the state and the world.

Michigania's conference and retreat facilities offer a peaceful and provocative setting for programs that range from group retreats to conferences on national public policy. In addition, Michigania staff offer special weekend programs like the Spring Ecology Tour throughout the fall, winter and early spring.

Groups interested in holding retreats or conferences can call Greg Fleming at (616) 582-9191 or send e-mail to michigania@umich.edu. Michigania has been owned and operated by the Alumni Association since 1962. [June 10 issue]

 

Regents visit west side of state

For the first time anyone could remember, the Regents met in Grand Rapids in July to conduct the regular business of the University and view the western portion of the state.

Sandra Danziger, associate professor of social work, and Paula Allen Meares, dean of the School of Social Work, told the Regents about two projects that focus on families who live in Michigan's western counties.

The first, which began in fall 1997, keeps tabs on families that receive public assistance, monitors the well-being of those families, and identifies the impact on the community of federal and state welfare programs. The research results will be used to plan and improve human service delivery by local agencies.

The second examines how teen mothers are doing under the welfare reform measures enacted in 1996 that require minor-aged mothers to attend school and live in adult-supervised settings in order to receive financial assistance.

Both studies are based in Muskegon and are conducted with that city's Family Coordinating Council. Both also receive some funding from the National Institute for Mental Health.

Marvin Parnes, associate vice president for research, described a project that is based in southwest Michigan. Four partners--Grand Valley State University, the city of Grand Haven, the U-M and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory--work on research and education about the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan. Parnes said the group will address such issues as habitat destruction, non-indigenous species invasion, pollution, contaminated sediments, fisheries, erosion and shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.

Parnes also noted the Grand Haven Aquatic Research and Education Center in particular as being a facility that can coordinate research done on the Laurentian and the D.J. Angus, both docked in Grand Haven. The Laurentian is the U-M's research vessel and the Angus belongs to Grand Valley State University. [June 24 issue]

 

Group reviewing health insurance options

Any preference initiative program related to health insurance that might be brought before the Flexible Benefits Committee would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2000.

"Realistically, to get the appropriate input from the faculty and staff before we make any decisions, there is not sufficient time [to see it through properly]," Jackie McClain, executive director of human resources and affirmative action (HR/AA), told the members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) on June 29. "Any ideas that are generated need to be thoroughly discussed with faculty and staff, to hear what the pros and cons are, and to listen to their suggestions and concerns."

The Health Options 2000 workgroup, which McClain convened earlier this year, was formed as a result of concerns aired when an M-CARE preference initiative was first announced last summer. According to McClain, the workgroup is "looking at what kinds of options might go forward to the flex benefits committee."

There are, she added, three industry-standard models for generating benefits preference. The first model involves limiting available options; the second is based on unequal employer contributions to different plans; and the third structures benefits such that a greater number of services are available under certain plans.

Of those models, McClain noted that restructuring services is least likely to occur. "We're more likely to be looking at premiums or offerings than the actual design of the benefits themselves."

Regardless, she confirmed that M-CARE remains the focus of the workgroup. McClain pointed out that "It is not uncommon to have the employer offer only one health care option, or to provide financial incentives for the use of their product."

Changes may be in two areas. While nothing is in place for 1999 concerning long-term disability and prescription drugs, both are under scrutiny by HR/AA staff. The premiums for long-term disability do not support the 50 percent increase in membership seen over the last two years.

And, during 1998, HRAA has seen a 25 percent increase in payments for prescription drugs. [July 8 issue]

 

Academic units will reap benefits of budget increases

Recruiting and retaining the best possible faculty, bolstering of academic units such as libraries and museums that contribute to the University's public culture, and enhancing the classroom environment in its broadest sense are the key elements that will be supported by an increased general fund budget this year.

Energies will be directed to these three "essential elements to build and maintain the high level of educational quality that our students and the larger society expect and deserve," Provost Nancy Cantor told the Regents at their July meeting.

"Our faculty must be no less than superb. We must have strong libraries, museums and other institutions that solidify and enhance the shared public culture of the University. We must provide the richest possible learning environments in the classroom, where 'classroom' is defined to include all of the places where student learning takes place."

All increases in expenditures are devoted to academic units and activities, Cantor noted, with major funding priorities including faculty salaries, undergraduate education, instructional technology and the University Library. Overall, the central administration will reduce its expenditures by $2.5 million compared with last year.

Implementation of a process to evaluate central administrative units that is expected to take three or four years overall will begin this year. The campuswide Advisory Committee on University Budgets has developed a set of guidelines to assist in the evaluations, which are designed to define the units' missions and make certain they are being funded and staffed in a manner that supports the missions. "The purpose of the reviews," Cantor noted, "is 'right-sizing,' not 'down-sizing.'"

The year's state appropriation was increased by $8.9 million. However, the state lengthened the payment time from nine months to 11, resulting in a loss of $1.5 million in interest income for the University.

Under the new budget, tuition rose by 3.9 percent for all undergraduates, upper and lower division, resident and non-resident, as well as most graduate students. LS&A students also are being assessed a $30-per-term fee to support integration of technology across the curriculum. [July 22 issue]

 

97-98 medical budget shows gain; 98-99 budget will be tight

In spite of shrinking revenue sources and intense competition among Michigan health care providers, the U-M Hospitals & Health Centers will close the books on FY '98 with a $26 million operating gain, Gilbert S. Omenn, executive vice president for medical affairs, told the Regents at their July meeting.

Increasing patient volume, especially for outpatient services, should push FY '99 revenues up to more than $975 million--a 2.9 percent increase over last year, Omenn said. But the extra physicians, nurses, support staff and supplies required to care for additional patients--along with $15 million in new funding allocated to fix the Year 2000 computer problem--will push expenses up more than 5 percent to nearly $974 million.

Health System administrators project a $l.5 million operating gain for the new fiscal year--a "grocery store-type margin," according to Omenn, which will force the Health System to intensify its cost reduction program while continuing ongoing efforts to improve the quality of patient care.

"The fact that our revenue continues to grow is remarkable given the level of competitive pressure we face from payers, employers and competing institutions," Omenn said. Revenue pressure will intensify over the next five years as the Hospitals & Health Centers absorb $216 million--or about $40 million annually--in projected reimbursement reductions from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan and Medicare. [July 22 issue]

 

Hospitals on U.S. News honor roll

The U-M Hospitals have once again made the honor roll of best hospitals in America, according to an annual survey released July 17 by U.S. News and World Report magazine. The U-M Hospitals ranked 12th this year. Only 14 hospitals in the U.S. made the prestigious U.S. News Honor Roll.

The Hospitals also received recognition in 13 out of 16 possible specialties. Leading the list of specialties is otolaryngology, which moved to number three in the country, and geriatrics, which jumped to the number seven spot nationally. Three specialties were ranked in the top 10 and 11 were ranked in the top 20 in their respective categories. [July 22 issue]

 

Vaccine triggers immune system to attack cancerous tumors

Using a vaccine made from specialized white blood cells called dendritic cells spiked with cancer proteins, U-M scientists have found a way to activate the immune system to attack malignant tumors and prevent the development of new tumors in mice.

"Immunization with the dendritic cell vaccine was effective against two types of solid tumors--sarcomas and breast carcinomas--in two unrelated strains of mice," says James J. Mulé, professor of surgery and director of the Tumor Immunotherapy Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Results of the study were published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ryan C. Fields, who received his undergraduate degree in May, and Koichi Shimizu, research fellow, are joint first authors on the study.

Dendritic cells are specialized white blood cells that alert the immune system to the presence of invading cancers, bacteria or viruses, so the invaders can be surrounded and destroyed. When they find cancer cells, dendritic cells display pieces of tumor proteins called antigens on long projections extending from the center of the dendritic cell.

Like Cinderella's prince searching for a woman who matches the glass slipper, the dendritic cell presents these antigens to other white blood cells called T-lymphocytes until it finds those with receptors that fit the tumor antigen. Once a match is made, T-lymphocytes produce messenger chemicals that stimulate production of a flood of T-lymphocyte "clones," all equipped with the exact receptor needed to attack and destroy one specific type of tumor cell. [Aug. 19 issue]


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