UM Professors To Receive NIH Director’s New Innovator Award: One research project will use brain activity to forecast the success of large-scale health campaigns. Another involves making artificial platelets from the ground up, and turning synthetic biology upside down in the process. These projects earned two University of Michigan scientists — Emily Falk and Allen Liu — the 2012 National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award. Falk, an assistant professor of communication studies who also hold joint appointments at the Institute for Social Research and in the Department of Psychology, and Liu, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, were among 51 researchers to receive the honor. Established in 2007, the award provides up to $1.5 million over five years to a small number of early-stage investigators of exceptional creativity who propose bold and highly innovative new research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral research. Falk said her goal is to design communications that improve population health. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco and alcohol consumption are leading causes of morbidity and mortality, both in the United States and throughout the developed world. Falk’s lab has found that the brain can predict behaviors better than people’s own intentions. She will now use neuroscience methods to improve the design and selection of large-scale health campaigns targeting these kinds of behaviors. The lab’s research will identify the neural patterns triggered by health campaigns that are successful at changing people’s behavior and will use these maps to forecast the success of new campaigns before they are launched. People are notoriously bad at knowing what will persuade them, but the brain may be able to pick out winning messages much more accurately than has been possible in the past, Falk said. This could ultimately lead to less cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Liu intends to make artificial platelets made out of biological components that come together in a new way. Platelets are blood components that trigger clots and stop bleeding. They’re chronically in short supply at blood banks because they don’t stay fresh for more than a few days at room temperature and can’t be refrigerated. The chill induces clotting. Platelet transfusions are common treatments for patients with low levels, such as those with cancer, heavy bleeding or certain autoimmune diseases. Injured soldiers might especially benefit from a long-lasting artificial version, Liu said. To make the platelets, Liu intends first to develop a layered film that incorporates components from bacteria, human cells and synthetic molecules. He’ll pinch it into tiny spheres with an instrument that, like blowing bubbles, pulses fluid at the film through a pipette until closed vesicles form. It’s the rare synthetic biologist who takes this bottom-up approach, building biological machines one block at a time, Liu said. Researchers more often harness a full system such as a bacterium and re-engineer it to make a new byproduct such as a biofuel or pharmaceutical product. Liu is quick to point out that this won’t be easy. “It’s a crazy idea,” he said. “There’s a 95 percent chance we’ll fail. But if we succeed, the possibilities are infinite. That’s the beauty of this grant.”
GVSU Named Military Friendly School: Grand Valley State University has been named a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs for the fourth consecutive year. The 2013 Military Friendly Schools list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools doing the most to embrace military service members, veterans and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus. The 1,739 colleges, universities and trade schools on the list exhibit leading practices in the recruitment and retention of students with military experience. The 2013 list was compiled through extensive research and a data-driven survey of more than 12,000 VA-approved schools nationwide. Each year schools taking the survey are held to a higher standard than the previous year via improved methodology, criteria and weightings developed with the assistance of an Academic Advisory Board consisting of educators from schools across the country. The list will be highlighted in the annual G.I. Jobs Guide to Military Friendly Schools, distributed to hundreds of thousands of active and former military personnel in early October. For more information contact Steven Lipnicki at (616) 331-7188 or visit www.militaryfriendlyschools.com or www.gvsu.edu/veterans.
ProQuest Named to 2012 InformationWeek 500: Ann Arbor-based ProQuest has been named in the 2012 InformationWeek 500, an annual listing of the nation’s most innovative users of business technology. ProQuest is best known for its creation of information and technology tools that support research. InformationWeek is a premier source of news and analysis of leading-edge products and vendors in the business IT industry. Its InformationWeek 500 list is considered unique among industry rankings for its spotlight on the power of innovation in information technology. This is ProQuest’s fourth consecutive appearance in the InfoWeek 500. The company is being recognized for its ability to navigate in a highly competitive industry, where new market entrants come from non-traditional sources and where customers are overwhelmed, at times, by the exponential growth in information. Particularly noted is the company’s creation of an efficient, unified resource management system for libraries. Being developed through ProQuest business unit Serials Solutions, this Web-scale venture — called Intota — provides the library market with a single, centrally provisioned system to manage the entire resource lifecycle, regardless of format. Intota captures and manages each element of the library’s collection, enabling librarians to focus on the important business of evolving their library during a time of rapidly changing user expectations and information growth. InformationWeek identifies and honors the nation’s most innovative users of information technology with its annual 500 listing, and also tracks the technology, strategies, investments, and administrative practices of America’s best-known companies. The InformationWeek 500 rankings are unique among corporate rankings as it spotlights the power of innovation in information technology, rather than simply identifying the biggest IT spenders. To learn more about ProQuest, visit www.proquest.com. Additional details on the InformationWeek 500 can be found online at www.informationweek.com/iw500.