The Muse: November 22

Some periods in our lives offer unique windows to appreciate echoes of time.

This week is one of those times as we recognize significant events in our history including the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, and 50 years since the assassination of President Kennedy.  These events represent incredible times of creation and loss. They can also remind us of the great democracy we have and the tremendous opportunities and challenges it can bring.  These two events have even greater meaning for CSU as each of these presidents have contributed to the architecture and spirit here, creating the land grant mission and by nurturing service and extension spirit through programs such as the peace corps.

That spirit was very much a part of my week in combining tactical and strategic engagements across campus.  I was very grateful to spend a full day in the College of Natural Sciences and have similar days planned for each college.  The day was mostly filled visiting walking into the labs of passionate faculty and listening to the scientific problems and innovative solutions they are pursuing.  I also spent time listening to administrative issues they faced and how our office could help.  A big thanks to all the people who participated and for those who I missed I will be back!

I had great meetings with June Medford and Mazdak Arabi to hear about their programs and vision in synthetic biology and in water science and technology.  These have the potential to be creative trans-disciplinary initiatives across campus and we discussed general principles of strategic planning for emerging areas and how one builds key cross campus coalitions and advocacies.  I am eager to facilitate strategic thinking in taking CSU forward and applying it to existing investments and in making our next big bets.

One practice I have been inquiring about is how we are alerted to new funding opportunities.  I was introduced to tools that Office of Sponsored Programs has called ‘Spin and Smart’ that are available to faculty to help provide information regarding new funding programs.  We are currently evaluating these tools and exploring how we might enhance this service.  I am also considering proactive ways to put our research in front of sponsors both here, with Federal agencies and with industry and foundations.  We had a great meeting this week with Michelle Colby who leads Ag Security from Department of Homeland Security with research area deans from VetMed and Agriculture, Barb Powers and Rick Lyons talking about the intersection of diagnostic and IT for surveillance of animal health and food and how CSU might contribute proposals to new program areas under development.  Stay tuned.

On a personal note, I am off to France this weekend for an International Walk Again Project Meeting attended by 6 countries to observe testing of a new human assist exoskeleton prosthetic. These prosthetics will soon be delivered for testing in spinal cord injured subjects in Brazil that will walk with the device under brain control.  This is another great example of the globalization of science and technology and I am humbled by the courage and determination of those who are engaged with us on this project.

Have a great holiday.  I hope it is filled with family and friends.  Be safe, and I will see you in December!

Alan

The Muse: November 15

The land grant mission provides a focus to translate new discoveries into real world problems. Perhaps like few times in history, Colorado State University (CSU) as a premier land grant institution is uniquely positioned to be an ambassador on the world stage.

One such area is in the area of global health. We have seen the emergence of interests across campus in this arena such as One Heath Initiative and in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) . There are clear complementary interests in these areas and our opportunity is to look for synergies in their evolution and create a brand that nourishes collective vision while creating a new force and presentation to the external world.

Two events this week highlighted for me the opportunities ahead. SoGES celebrated its fifth year and the external advisory board held an open forum and discussion on planetary levers. Congratulations to all those who have made SoGES such a success and to Diana Wall for her leadership. The open forum was followed with a full day discussion with members of SoGES and CSU leadership across campus to explore how we can take the great progress SoGES has made to the next level. This is a recurring theme I have observed in my early tenure where we have the spirit and talent, and are seeking ways to facilitate emergence onto the national and global stage.

The second sign of great things to come in global health for CSU, three investigators in the Department of Computer Science and Statistics (Shrideep Pallickara, Sangmi Pallickara, and Jay Breidt) this week won a $1.2 million grant from Department of Homeland Security to extend analytical tools for epidemiological surveillance that will dramatically increase the speed and efficiency of computing needs for predictive modeling. This funding was generated by the agricultural security interests in surveillance. The head of DHS’s Agricultural Security Branch, Michelle Colby will be on campus next week to launch a major program in enhanced passive surveillance that is centered on using a new Ag IT tool that combines many sources of public and private Ag and environmental information (AgConnect) for early outbreak warning and commodity value chain management. This is a good example of how IT tools, computational predictive analytics and statistics, and health information can come together to provide solutions that could broadly applied in animal and human disease, environmental health, and crosses both public and private sector interests.

There is an increased interest in the federal agencies and in the private sector on human and animal health surveillance and my office is actively engaging funders in this area to provide future opportunities for CSU. We will also explore ways to proactively mix faculty and sponsors in this area to seek sources of capital for our ideas. One of goals in this effort will be to promote cross campus integration in problem solving.

Finally, I continue to look for new ways to engage faculty on key cross campus issues. One idea is to create some faculty forums in the new year on key topics (e.g. rewards and awards, start up and retention, sponsored program activity, technology transfer) as a way to enrich the feedback I have been getting by meeting with many of you. I would be interested in your ideas on this.

Have a great weekend!

Alan