Consortium Faculty


Anu Ramaswami

University Awarded $12 million NSF Grant to Improve Urban Futures

August 28, 2015

The University of Minnesota has received a $12 million dollar award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to bring together scientists, industry leaders, and policy partners committed to building better cities of the future. The project is led by Anu Ramaswami, director of Consortium member Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, professor at the Humphrey School and in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering. The grant has two other co-directors: Patricia Culligan at Columbia University and Armistead Russell at Georgia Institute of Technology. Since estimates indicate more than three billion more people will live in cities in 2050, the grant-funded network will focus on ways to reimagine infrastructure to create high-density cities that are highly functional, promote the health of residents and the environment, and are livable. “We have to think in new ways about a city’s physical infrastructure to develop sustainable solutions,” says Prof. Ramaswami.

Consortium Faculty

Mindy Kurzer
Mindy S. Kurzer, PhD
Director, Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute
Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition
Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology & Transplantation
Director of Graduate Studies, Nutrition Graduate Program


Volunteer helping little girl into protective bee suit

Busy Summer for U of MN Bee Squad

August 5, 2015

The University of Minnesota Bee Squad is taking advantage of the warm weather to advance their mission of fostering healthy bee populations through community outreach. An article in the Star Tribune describes how members of the Squad are partnering with Urban Ventures to involve low-income Latinas – the self-described Reinas de Miel or Honey Queens – in beekeeping. Another program, “Healthy Honey Bees and Communities,” is supported by Consortium student research funds. Its goal is to explore the practicalities of establishing community apiaries in urban areas. (Left) Children participate in an event run by grantee Ana Heck (kneeling) and others to promote better understand of the importance of bee pollination to our food system. In another important development, the University has broken ground on a new Bee and Pollinator Research Lab on the St. Paul campus, to be led by entomologist Marla Spivak. You can view Dr. Spivak's TED talk on honeybee colony collapse here; there are more photos and updates of the Bee Squad's activities on Facebook


Linda Hellmann

Institute on the Environment Appoints Jessica Hellmann New Director

July 1, 2015

Consortium member center the Institute on the Environment (IonE) has named renowned scholar Jessica Hellmann as its new director beginning August 31, 2015. Dr. Hellmann is currently on the faculty of Notre Dame, and is best known for her research on climate change. She'll be taking the reins from IonE interim director Lewis Gilbert and succeeding Jonathan Foley, who led the Institute from 2008 to 2014 before his departure to the California Academy of Sciences.


Wild rice in field

New Techology Uses Bacteria to Clean Water so Wild Rice can Thrive

June 25, 2015

Despite its cultural, environmental and economic signficance to Minnesota, wild rice has been threatened by high levels of sulfate resulting from agricultural and industrial sources. A team of researchers led by Michael Sadowsky, director of Consortium member The Biotechnology Institute, is developing a solution using bacteria drawn from the ecosystem and (eventually) powered by renewable energy. Sadowsky explains, “This system takes advantage of naturally occurring processes to effectively remove sulfates from the state’s water. . . . [It] will allow us to expand water treatment in hard-to-reach areas of the state where much of the wild rice is produced.” The project is part of the state-funded MnDRIVE Transdisciplinary Research Program, where researchers from different departments work beyond the limits of their disciplines to address complex challenges.


Bee on flower

Consortium Grant Supports Research on Urban Beehives

June 16, 2015

Bees have been in the news lately, between President Obama's announcement of a National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators and ongoing news coverage on the effects of -- and possible solutions for -- the decline of bee colonies. The Consortium is making its own contribution through our intramural grants program, which supports selected graduate and professional students in research and writing on the societal implications of problems in health, environment, and the life sciences. Last week, the University of Minnesota's Bee Lab & Squad unveiled hives in St. Paul that were partially funded by a successful 2014-15 Consortium grant application from Ana Heck, titled "Healthy Honey Bees and Communities: Implementation Recommendations for Community Apiaries in Urban Neighborhoods." The project, which is also supported by the City of St. Paul, will help develop best practices and guidelines for community groups wishing to establish sustainable hives in economically and culturally diverse neighborhoods. 


Drop of water

BioTechnology Institute Research Sparks New Water Purification Company

May 13, 2015

A startup based on research by researchers at the University of Minnesota's BioTechnology Institute, a Consortium member center, has landed its first research and development contract from a multibillion-dollar global company headquartered in Europe. Scientific discoveries by researchers Alptekin Aksan, PhD and Larry Wackett, PhD led to the development of a process that uses small, sponge-like silica beads to purify water contaminated by chemicals from industrial processes and agricultural runoff, naturally breaking these compounds down into environmentally harmless byproducts. The R&D funds will allow the company, Minnepura, to develop and launch its first product based on the U of M-patented silica bead technology.


Young man playing cello

U of M Student, Professor Explore Climate Change Through Music

May 8, 2015

Today's New York Times describes new music highlighting areas of rapid climate change. An article in the university's environmental magazine, Ensia, published by Consortium member center Institute on the Environment (IoneE), describes the project and provides a link to a video about the music. U of M student and composer Daniel Crawford collaborated with geographer Scott St. George, who says "We often think of the sciences and the arts as completely separate — almost like opposites, but using music to share these data is just as scientifically valid as plotting lines on a graph.”


Chart of Twin Cities water usage 1940-present

Sustainable Water Use in Minnesota

April 16, 2015

In a wide-ranging talk called "Land of 10,000 Lakes: Water for Our Future," Prof. Deborah L. Swackhamer, PhD, discussed Minnesota's water supply and possible shortages ahead. An article in MinnPost provides an overview of the lecture and includes charts demonstrating how Twin Cities water use has changed since the 1940s when the suburban building boom began. Prof. Swackhamer is on the faculty of the Water Resources Center, one of the Consortium's 19 member centers. A video of her presentation, part of the Minnesota Zoo's Our World Speaker Series, can be viewed here


Deepwater Horizon oil rig burning

BP Oil Spill: Looking Back, Looking Forward

April 20, 2015

Five years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven workers and causing environmental and economic destruction. In the aftermath of the disaster, the Consortium presented a lecture by Prof. Daniel Farber, JD, of the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley. His talk, "Blue Bayou: The BP Deepwater Horizon Blowout and the Social and Environmental Erosion of the Louisiana Coast," argued for environmental law to take a more holistic view, one that considers multiple environmental threats and links communities with ecosystems; the lecture is available on video here. National Public Radio broadcast two five-year retrospectives today analyzing long-term effects of the spill and changes to safety standards since its occurrence. 



Alexandra Klass

Alexandra Klass Named Distinguished McKnight University Professor

March 30, 2015

Professor Alexandra B. Klass of the Law School has been named a Distinguished McKnight University Professor—one of just five University of Minnesota faculty members to receive the distinction this year. The Distinguished McKnight University Professorship program recognizes the University's "highest-achieving mid-career faculty who have recently attained full professor status… and whose accomplishments have brought great renown and prestige to Minnesota." Prof. Klass is an affiliated faculty member with the Consortium. 


Hand holding oil palm seeds

Improving Tropical Land Use

March 18, 2015

A profile in the Union of Concerned Scientists Science Network  features Institute on the Environment (IonE) postdoctoral scholar Kimberly Carlson. While studying oil palm plantation expansion in Indonesian Borneo as part of her Ph.D. work at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesCarlson helped uncover the impacts of oil palm development on forest loss, carbon emissions and stream water quality. She now plans to continue documenting the dynamics and effects of agricultural land use change and to design studies that inform tropical land use policy.


People Canoeing

Innovative Research uses Social Media to Demonstrate the Economic Value of Clean Water

February 4, 2015

New research led by Bonnie Keeler of Consortium member center Institute on the Environment uses geotagged photos shared via social media to model a cost-efficient research method. Keeler and her team found improved water clarity is associated with increased numbers of visits to lakes and that lake users were willing to incur greater costs to visit clearer lakes. Lake users were willing to travel 56 minutes farther (paying US$22 in travel costs) for every one-meter increase in water clarity in Minnesota and Iowa lakes, when controlling for other lake attributes.


Caleb Levar, principal author of the study

Researchers Discover Surprising Versatility in Bacteria that Derive Energy from Metals

January 15, 2015

new discovery by researchers at the University of Minnesota's BioTechology Institute shows how a friendly microbe known as Geobacter is able to thrive in a wide range of environments and emerging biotech applications.The research results were published this month in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, and suggest new ways of using bacteria to remotely detect specific metals, monitor underground chemical cleanup, and power devices using electricity-producing microbes.





Journal of Nanotechnology Research

NIRT: Evaluating Oversight Models for Active Nanostructures and Nanosystems: Learning from Past Technologies in a Societal Context

This project aimed to identify oversight models for nanotechnology by assessing 6 historical oversight models: for drugs, devices, gene transfer, genetically engineered organisms in the food supply, chemicals in the workplace, and chemicals in the environment. The project brought together a multidisciplinary group of Investigators and senior personnel from the University of Minnesota, with strengths in nanotechnology research and development, public policy, law, health, environment, economics, and bioethics and involves outside collaborators representing a range of perspectives.