The Juice is Better than the Squeeze?: The Muse. January 24

The Juice is Better than the Squeeze?

I resonated with this adage until recently acquiring an industrial strength juicer.  The satisfaction of watching that machine pulverize any vegetable it sees has made me more mindful about the power of the squeeze.  Outside of my third and fourth digits, I have challenged my juicer with a number of things one should never juice.  The stark reality of the taste of some of the juices that have emanated from this stainless steel monster (wheat grass, kale, ginger and garlic) made me think that maybe sometimes it’s the squeeze that was the more enjoyable and  important part and not to be so focused on the juice even if it’s good for me.  I’ll admit this does not come naturally to me and is definitely a work in progress with much more to be revealed.

This adage was on my mind at this week’s SPARCfest open forum which some of you may know is the presentation of the University strategic plan from various parts of the organization.  I had the privilege of presenting for the Research and Discovery SParc committee consisting of representatives across campus. I presented four basic tenants of our research enterprise that in my early travels around campus seem to represent intangibles for our strategic planning efforts.

  • Nurture the Positive Culture of Research Curiosity, Collaboration and Entrepreneurship
  • Preserve and Grow the Land Grant Mission in New and Established Mission Spaces
  • Search for Ways to Break Out in an ‘Era of Big Bets’ – Establish and Nurture Enabling and Sustainable Priorities
  • Excel in People, Products (Knowledge, Training, Translation, Service, Policy), and Processes in Discovery and Innovation

These tenants provide the backdrop to create a dialogue on specific initiatives or actions we might take to implement against defined goals.  A good deal of my listening to faculty on campus has focused on striving for excellence in people, processes and products.  One clear consensus was the interest to create more opportunities to facilitate horizontal interdisciplinary teaming for diverse, complex and sometimes large fundraising opportunities.

In my SPARCfest presentation this week I used the Harp as a touchstone for stimulating constructive dialogue.  The Harp or Lyre may be the oldest musical instrument in human history with first artistic renderings that appear on cave dwellings in France circa 15000 BC.  The Harp was likely derived from hunting with bow and arrow and the sound of the arrow release and twang of the string and bow.  The beautiful symphonic sound that emanates from the breadth of musical scales covered in the harp tied to a hunting origin make it a useful touchstone for the hunting of big research opportunities we would like to stimulate.  This could implicate useful evaluation of how we seed new horizontal opportunities (or notes and scales) as well as provide infrastructural support for the increasingly challenging hunt.  We already have some wonderful horizontal enterprises on campus.  The SPARCfest presentations are on the provost website and I encourage you to look at them and please let me know if you have comments.

My experiences with strategic planning, probably like many of you, are varied.  We strive to set a future course based on defined goals and objectives and often wrestle with how to best implement plans in a dynamic world where predicting futures is very hard.  Yet the process of coming together to create a dialogue around common goals and strategic priorities is a fertile ground for setting course for new directions.  So join me on the squeeze ahead and let’s make some juice!

Finally, I was very moved by the inaugural Presidents Community Lecture Series with Steve Withrow this week.  I am just getting to know Steve and to hear him talk about his rich journey at CSU and all of the vision, passion, and service he and his team have is very humbling.  It’s another great example of the outstanding scholars and statesmen and women we have here at CSU.  And, of course, being in the University Center for the Arts building is always a special treat to visit the musician’s bust on the landing of the staircase of Griffin Concert Hall.

Best,

Alan

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Brain Gain. The Muse: January 20

As many of you know we have launched a new neuroscience program at CSU. It could not have come at a more opportune time. In a world defined by very austere funding pictures, neuroscience and related technology and engineering are thriving. The recent BRAIN initiative announced by the administration with funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) [the NIH RFA is on the street] presents unique opportunities to engage in this field. Industry is engaging in new ways. For example, Qualcomm is a new player in this field, recently spinning out a new company (Brain Corp.) that will drive neuromorphic algorithms into smart phone and augmented reality applications. There are many other examples. The impact of the increased activity and investments in the brain space is broad in health and wellness, IT, computer science, and engineering. Our ability to define our goals in our new neuroscience and technology programs will be a good paradigm for seeking cross campus horizontal synergy. I have some personal experiences in this area that lead me to be excited about the potential for neuroscience, neurotechnology, and neuroengineering at CSU. These fields will lead to big problem solving, a key element of our land grant ethos. I have been privileged to lead a multidisciplinary international Walk Again project funded by the Brazilian president that will utilize brain and body signals to drive a new lower limb exoskeleton for a paralyzed person. The exoskeleton is being built in France and soon to be delivered to Brazil in preparation for a demonstration at the opening game of the world cup in June. I have been back and forth to Paris for the last 8 months and my Lipitor dose had to be increased from the brie and butter intake.

This project also gives me a great perspective on the challenges in obtaining, managing and sustaining large multidisciplinary projects. The infrastructure needed to succeed in this requires careful attention to positioning assets to compete for opportunities and to place key personnel at positions of both creativity in science and management. This is a topic we have been dialoguing on since I arrived at CSU and am eager to engage and consider new ways to support similar interests here. I believe this effort could lead to creating new diverse opportunities in thinking, practice, and sponsorship. I welcome your inputs.

I had the opportunity to visit a full day with CVMBS (including MCIN) last week and had a great time talking to faculty in the various departments about their ideas, passion, and constructive inputs on how OVPR can better serve. I want to thank Dr. Sue VandeWoude for hosting me during the day and to all the faculty who took time out of their day to put up with another administrator. These meetings are really helping me understand the fabric by which we will continue to weave our great future.

Best,
Alan

Measurable Me. The Muse: January 10

I hope you all are returning from the holidays refreshed and ready for a great new year. Over the holidays I took the opportunity to do some deep dives into areas of interest on and off campus.

There may be a revolution going on in the technology and information sectors driven by both consumer interest and economics that will favor the deployment of new low cost detection and diagnostic systems.  There is an adage that I have heard more over the last years that says “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”.  I think this has been one of the motivations for our healthcare issues, where measuring health through wellness and disease is proposed to help manage the costs of healthcare delivery.

This adage covers many sectors.  The recent passage of the Food Safety Compliance Act introduced by the FDA sets new guidelines on testing for food safety and security and will also take advantage of this apparent revolution.  The opportunity for sustainable systems driven by this new act may also be enhanced as regulation and industrial shareholder value coincide.

For public health and agriculture, this convergence is recognized in the increased interest in outbreak detection for mitigating disease and protecting commodity value.  The outstanding diagnostic assets at CSU seem to me to be poised to participate in this exciting trend. Over the holidays I had the pleasure of meeting Barb Powers at the Diagnostics Lab that houses the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and supports the diagnostic needs of the veterinary school as one great example of the potential here.

In the next few months, I will be inviting senior thought leaders from different sectors to interact with campus on this topic.  We will do this through a new series called Leaders in Innovation.  Invitees for the next semester include science and technology leaders from Starbucks, Mars Corporation, the Biological Advanced Research and Development Agency at NIH, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.  Each of these organizations has an interest in this area and will be interacting with faculty and administrators to learn how CSU can help solve problems in their fields.  I welcome your interest and participation.

Best,
Alan