72 Hours of Virtual Reality Fun

Colorado State University

Kenny Gruchalla, Computational Science Center Lead at NREL speaks at the Virtual Reality Symposium, Oct. 21.

Last week, Colorado State University teamed with virtual reality enthusiasts as the Office of the Vice President of Research kicked off a weekend devoted to exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality. On Friday morning, thought leaders from industry, academia and government came together to discuss the scientific, technologic and sociologic opportunities for augmented and virtual reality. Speakers included William Warren, Vice President and Head of Innovation Programs & Networks at Sanofi Pasteur; Kenny Gruchalla , Computational Science Center Lead at NREL; Winifred Newman, Head of Department of Architecture at the University of Arkansan; Paul Martin, Distinguished Technologist for Hewlett-Packard and Adam Russell, Program Manager at DARPA. The diverse audience of 14 to 75 year olds and 25 Poudre School District science and technology teachers enjoyed a panel discussion on key issues and the unveiling of the new CSU Immersive Experience narrated by Tony Frank.

The events rolled on into Friday evening when the Virtual Reality Hackathon was launched with 40 participants and more than 20 volunteers, mentors, and faculty. The event was sponsored by HP, NVIDIA, Mechdyne and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Eight diverse teams of computer scientists, biologists, psychologists, artists, design, engineers and hobbyists competed for cash prizes for best immersive experiences. An art competition ran alongside the teams using a Virtual Art program TiltBrush. Participants were given the latest equipment including HTC-VIVE, Occulus, Hololens and access to a Mechdyne cave. The competition was judged by the symposium speakers with the addition of Sharif Razzaque, Chief Engineer of Imaging at Medtronic; Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research at Colorado State University and Cyane Tornatzy, Professor of Electronic Art Colorado State University.


Team Human.ly awarded 1st place at the CSU Virtual Reality Hackathon.

Forty eight hours later, after many doughnuts and a lot of coffee, the judges awarded $1000 first prize went to Team Human.ly which produced a mixed reality dynamic anatomical model superimposed over a moving person. Second place went to Team Savage that created a therapeutic immersive experience that helped people overcome crowd phobias by asking them to move through a crowd based on principles in cognitive therapy. Third place went to Team No Name (no joke) that placed you in an immersive dynamic neuronal circuit of the brain. Rachel Stern won the virtual art competition for her work entitled “The Tree”. A complete list of the winners on each team and other pictures and videos can be found on CSU Source.

The weekend highlighted the transformative power of the perceptive revolution that virtual and augmented reality could bring to our society and all aspects of the CSU land grant mission. We had visitors and participants from the VR community, industry representatives, high and middle schoolers, alumni groups, and graduate fellowship programs. Many of the participants had no experience in VR and yet were able to learn about it and in some cases they created powerful experiences with impact across a wide sector space including health, education, art, science, design, and engineering. The hackathon will help propel the next phases of the VR campus activities with the creation of portals around campus made available for further explorations in the virtual and real worlds.



Navigating the valley of death; Diversity as an Accelerator of Technology Adoption and Impact

I have spent a whole career in this valley. My long journey started, as many do, with deep disciplinary training in an area with translational value – in my case biophysics of colloids and liposomal drug delivery. Some set out in the valley to reap more immediate impact in application or development of an idea into something applied. In both cases, it is a classic journey fraught with risk and high in reward if you make it out. Making it out of the valley of death can take many forms but often the biggest prize for some is surviving the trek in translating ideas into technology development or commercialization. Continue reading



It is the season of resolutions and renewals. I am most often reminded of resolve as I turn the cranks of my bicycle on any of the many long uphill roads in the region. For me, there is a strange Zen of setting a rhythm—pulsing your body’s force against the mountain over the course of 2-or 3-thousand feet for hours. On my latest climb up and around the Sedona Hills and Carter lake areas, I tried to take my mind off the exertion and long uphill ahead to focus on the views from the moment.

These periods of introspection and the resolve needed to rise to the challenge seem appropriate given the events and activities of our office over the fall period and into the New Year. On my first retreat as VPR about a year ago, we set a course to explore interests in the research enterprise in creating new opportunities against large complex issues. We pledged to step up our efforts to advocate for the research enterprise in new ways. In turn, we established three areas of focus to create cross-campus dialogues with our key constituents, faculty around recognizing and rewarding people, examining processes to seek effectiveness and agility and new programs that promote interdisciplinary teaming. In each of these areas, we have made substantive progress against defined goals.

Recent announcements from our office that are products of that retreat include the Catalyst for Innovative Partnerships and the Interdisciplinary Scholars Awards. Both of these programs are launched as a result of a constructive and transparent process that brought in many from all over campus. The Catalyst program seeks to build new interdisciplinary teams that will pursue complex problems with consortia like proposals to establish large impact research opportunities for CSU. This is a different investment model than our typical seeded research programs, as we seek to support these teams with an OVPR Catalyst team to facilitate success. The Interdisciplinary Scholars award recognized existing success in interdisciplinary research and teaming.

CSU students observing the LSC Research Wall

CSU students observing the LSC Research Wall

Our resolve to advocate on behalf of research excellence is best manifested in the opening of the new research wall at the Lory Student Center. The wall project was initiated a year ago when Mike Ellis approached us about supporting a media wall that would allow us to present outstanding achievements from our research and scholarly arts. We commissioned John Gravdahl in our Arts Department to design four panels that capture the imagination and magic of discovery and impact of our research efforts. The work he completed now hangs on the wall and is titled “The Research Method” and is an outstanding artistic legacy John has left for CSU. We held a great unveiling event on January 22. Kudos to Lauren Klamm, Kathy Partin and Ellen Fisher in the OVPR who worked tirelessly to bring the wall to fruition.  For me, the event held a personal connection as I learned that John also was commissioned for graphic arts for my uncle who at the time led the Fort Collins Symphony.

The last month we participated in the strategic planning and budget hearings held at this time of resolve. Our presentations represented hours of dialogue with the Council of Research Associate Deans, Council of Deans and Research Strategic Planning Committee on key goals for the research enterprise, metrics as to what we would measure and be held accountable for, and resources needed to meet defined strategic goals and programs. We requested resources to grow the Catalyst program, solidify the implementation of electronic reporting and administrative systems (Digital Measures, Kuali-Coeus) and to add resources to communicate the world class discoveries and impacts accomplished by our outstanding faculty.

Finally, the Provost Office and OVPR launched a new effort to fund faculty in key strategic areas of interest. We received many great cluster hire proposals from across campus in this first round of this new program in exciting areas of potential growth. We are currently evaluating the proposals to explore how to strategically align these investments. I am sure we will apply the same resolve that is a hallmark of CSU to identifying areas for cluster hires, recruitment and selection of great new faculty that can contribute to future land grant missions in exciting new ways.

As I finish reflecting over the last year, my mind returns to my cycling trek. I recognize then that the exertion I was avoiding held a metaphor to the OVPR’s journey. Processing this comparison, I pedal along the uphill path. A marker of my laborious effort remains the rhythmic beat of my own breathing, my own heart thumping and my bicycle’s gears changing, providing cadence to the journey. In this rigorous moment, I remember one of the great motivators is the promise of an easier downhill journey. When it arrives, I rest my legs and, from here, a scenic view serves as a reward for great effort. After only one short year, a year full of uphill strategic planning, determination and implementation, the OVPR’s abundant accomplishments are the scenic views rewarding our hard work. While we allow ourselves to relish in this moment, as any trekker knows, one must prepare for the next journey with great resolve. Heart pumping and cranks turning, we welcome the uphill journey propelling us into the next year.

A Tale of Two Crises

We are in the midst of two public health crises with very similar underlying foundational issues. What I clearly see is we have lost the ability to scale our public health system to meet large scale public health crises.

As the Ebola crisis in Africa spilled over into cases presenting in the U.S. it became clear that our public health system was not adequately prepared to respond. This was manifest in many aspects of the fundamental elements required to mount an effective response, including containment facilities; hard policies on quarantine; adequate training and practices for health care responders; effective diagnostic and medical countermeasures including vaccines and therapeutics; and effective communication procedures. Improvement across all of these elements would alleviate the concerns of the worried well and provide a platform for accurate, large scale media coverage. For a contagion with a high mortality rate such as Ebola, this is an acute public health crisis for which we have no effective response. Continue reading

The Muse: Indian Summer

The Muse: Indian Summer

As we head into the new academic year there is much to Muse from this summer’s activities. One piece of personal good news is that I am slowly shedding the 10 pounds gained in my freshman year at CSU and found a commuting cycling route that includes a shower.

CSU signed an MOU with Amity University in India.

CSU signed an MOU with Amity University in India.

One focus of this summer has been to diversify our partnerships in the international arena. A small group traveled to India in early August, just at the end of their monsoon season to sign a memorandum of understanding with Amity University and to rekindle a relationship with national research professor C.N.R. Rao at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research. Amity is one of the largest private universities in India and is a remarkable story. It was founded as one of the first private business schools in India. They have six campuses in India and six around the world (UK, Singapore, China, Africa and two in the US) with 120,000 students all constructed in just eight years! The campus we visited in Delhi is quite new with approximately 24,000 students. The academic programs and degrees align remarkably well with CSU given Amity’s strengths in natural resources, water, agriculture and engineering. They are currently building a 400 bed hospital and medical school. The agreement we signed was broad and intended to open academic and research partnerships with CSU. Continue reading

Science and Spectacle: A Reflection of the Walk Again Project on the World Cup Stage

Dr. Alan Rudolph at the World Cup in Brazil.

Dr. Alan Rudolph at the World Cup in Brazil before the Walk Again demonstration at the Opening Ceremony.

I had to decompress for a few days before reflecting and writing about my most recent experiences in South America at the Copa De Moda – or World Cup. For the last 18 months I have been managing an international consortium of 125 people in 25 countries who were designing, building and testing a new prosthetics – or exoskeleton – that people with severe spinal cord injuries could control with their brains.

Continue reading

Catching up with the Muse

It has been a few weeks since I have had a chance to catch up with the Muse.  As we wind down the semester, this has been a particularly busy time on and off campus for me, and I have been balancing immersive activities on campus with representing campus in DC and overseas.  In the last few weeks I have continued my visits to campus departments, and colleges to meet new faces, hear about new passions, and learn more about how our office can serve faculty and the research enterprise.  In early April I enjoyed a visit to the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) where I met with the equine reproduction program and discussed the current status of the science and business of cryopreservation and radiological health particularly with opportunities in Japan at Fukushima University.  In mid April I also visited with the Warner College of Natural Resources’ department of Geosciences and had a general discussion about microbiome work, working with industry partners, and hearing about infrastructural needs in the college.

I have stepped up bringing thought leaders to campus to identify new research opportunities for faculty.  In the third week of April, we hosted Richard Hatchett, Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Director of the Biological Advanced Research Authority (BARDA), a $1.5B agency dedicated to research and development in medical countermeasures for emergency preparedness for pandemic disease outbreaks.  He spoke to two groups on campus from both industry (including CSU spin outs and CSU ventures) and a broad presentation to campus that was very well attended.  Richard spoke about future needs in diagnostics, radiological health and antimicrobial resistance. This latter area was especially pertinent as the World Health Organization (WHO) just released a sobering report on our antimicrobial resistance vulnerability.  Richard was particularly interested in CSU’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) facility capable of producing countermeasures in containment facilities needed for many of the pathogen threats.

On April 25 we hosted a second visit of senior thought leaders in consort with the One Health Initiative bringing senior members of the Gates Foundation to campus to be keynote speakers in the One Health Dinner series.  Steve Buchsbaum, Deputy Director of Discovery and Translational Science and Sindura Ganapathi, a new Program Officer presented the Foundation philosophy in investment and future areas of need.   More specifically, Sindura addressed prospects in their new One Health Initiative.  His main message was a recommendation to us to focus our initiative and define it by specific problems we are interested in addressing under the One Health banner.  It was a great opportunity to see how a major sponsor in this area is thinking about One Health and compare notes to our own growing initiative.  As we know, One Health is a broad landscape of potential opportunity and landscape and we are in the formative stages of defining this opportunity for ourselves.  We hosted Stephen the next day to a series of topics and discussions ranging from Elizabeth Ryan’s work on rice bran, Mary Jackson’s departments work on mycobacteria, Dick Bowen presented on his emerging infectious disease work and United State Agency for International Development (USAID) program efforts, Raj Khosla presented on precision agriculture and Andy Jones presented on predictive atmospheric sciences and weather interests.  This was a great interactive discussion to show how our faculty interests in One Health areas cross many disciplines. The discussion also showed a systems view of the intersections between animal and human health and the environment.

This spring we launched evaluations of key aspects of research infrastructure to seek more agility and innovation in providing key infrastructural needs to campus.  We have called this initiative INSTAR, to reflect the insect larval stage of growth where significant adaptive reorganization takes place (think caterpillar to butterfly).  INSTAR is an acronym that stands for Infrastructure for Innovative and Agile Science and Technology Applications.  Lets see if we can live up to it.  We completed a review of our animal care and use program and initiated a review in sponsored research activity.  The evaluations are being conducted by external independent subject matter experts and will be invaluable as we work together to seek implemental change.  This is timely as the National Science Foundation (NSF) just released a report entitled “Reducing Investigators’ Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research” that documents how faculty are being bureaucratized by increased regulation.  I look forward to working with the new faculty advisory committee, the research associated deans, and the research strategic planning groups on campus to see how we can improve our infrastructure as a competitive advantage for us on campus.

Finally, I was able to attend the Undergraduate Research Colloquium in Johnson Hall and what a fantastic event.  The hall was crammed with energy, enthusiasm, and ambitions of a new generation of future researchers.  Many faculty mentors, parents, and friends were also in attendance.  I was honored to attend the award ceremony and was humbled by the great turnout and excellence of the program.  A big shout out to Mark Brown for his leadership in the Undergraduate Research Colloquium.

As we head into the end of the semester and into the summer, I will try to find a rhythm to the Muse that suits us and seek to distribute this communication to the appropriate audience.  Enjoy the warmer weather.