Parkinson’s Research at Michigan State University

What is the relationship between our sense of smell and Parkinson’s disease?

That is the question being investigated by Michigan State University researcher Honglei Chen.

Chen’s work was inspired by the established research suggesting that loss of sense of smell is an early marker for Parkinson’s disease. Apparently, over 90% of people with the disease have had issues with their sense of smell years before the onset of the disease.

Chen is trying to find out what exactly is the pathway by which our nerve cells stop working -is it inflammation caused possibly by air pollution?

Understanding this correlation is an important aspect of developing both treatment and prevention for this devastating neurological disorder.

For the full article in MSU Today by Sarina Gleason, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What percentage of people with Parkinson’s have issues with their sense of smell?
  3. Does the article say that a poor sense of smell is ONLY related to Parkinson’s?
  4. What is Chen’s research population?
  5. What role is it believed pollution plays in inflammation?
  6. How could Chen’s research be used to both prevent and treat this disease?

Transparent Solar Cells- Innovation at Michigan State University

When you think of solar panels, do you think of the large dark panels sitting on rooftops or in fields?

Think again, thanks to Michigan State University researcher, Richard Lunt, who developed transparent solar cells. These cells, which are see-through and could be placed on existing windows could eventually ensure all of U.S. energy demands are met through solar power.

Although not as efficient as the traditional solar panel, the ubiquity of glass windows help make them transparent solar cell a compelling option.

For more information, please check out Andy Henion’s article in MSU today.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. According to the article where can transparent solar cells be added?
  2. What type of light does the transparent solar cell convert to energy? How is this accomplished?
  3. Currently, what percentage of energy demand globally is met by solar power?
  4. Why is professor Lunt optimistic about the transparent solar cells?

Anti-Icons: The Conflict Between Science and Religion

Each day seems to bring news stories where a religious group disavows science or a scientist attacks religion.

What is one to think? Which is right?

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon as revealed in Kendall College of Art and Design professor Jay Constantine work “Anti-Icons.”

These visually striking paintings are laden with symbolism and images of unorthodox and heretical thinkers of their historical era.

I would encourage you to check out these images if you are looking for a brief pause in your day to contemplate this perennial conflict and to simply appreciate the beauty of this work and to celebrate a great artist inviting us to look, to remember, and to imagine.

Educators could use these works in their art, world history or English classes, showing one of the works and asking students to reflect or write on them, or to use as a source for a class discussion.

To view Jay Constantine’s “Anti-Icons” please click on this link to the Kendall College of Art and Design website.

Job Crafting Improves Employee Satisfaction- Central Michigan University

How happy would you be if you got to write your own job description?

According to Central Michigan University graduate student Minseo Kim and her adviser Terry Beehr, you’d be pretty darn happy.

For so long, employees have simply been parts to plug into the organizational machine, but that is beginning to shift.  Now many employers are realizing that their employees are actually human individuals with the desire for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in their work and personal lives.

Kim’s research realizes this shift and notes that not only does an employee who is able to help “job craft” their work roles become  happier, they actually become more productive, which benefits the company.

The research also notes that for this to work, there must be an organizational culture that promotes this, starting with management.

The research which studies over 300 employees over two months was published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies and was featured in Dan Digmann’s article in CMU News.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why would creating one’s own job description lead to greater job satisfaction?
  2. Is “job crafting” an accurate phrase for this process?
  3. How do you think this could impact the hiring process for employers?
  4. Was the number of employees studied sufficient for Kim and Beehr to reach their conclusions?
  5. How did they measure job satisfaction?
  6. What would you change to extend this research?

Printed Medication: Organic Vapor Jet Printing at University of Michigan

Do you hate to swallow pills? If you can remember back to when you were a kid and you had to take pills rather than your liquid medicine, or if you are an individual who has to take multiple pills each day, you probably can appreciate how beneficial it would be to have your medication combined and delivered on a dissolvable strip or patch.

Thanks to an interdisciplinary team at the University of Michigan this technology is here.

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications authored by Max Shtein and Olga Shalev in the materials science and engineering department along with colleagues in the College of Pharmacy and Department of Physics, demonstrates how this can be done.

Apparently, one of the largest challenges in developing pharmaceuticals is solubility- how to get the medication to dissolve in a patient’s body.

The technology of Organic Vapor Jet printing which has its origin in electronics manufacturing allows a crystalline structure to be printed over a large surface area which allows the material to dissolve more easily.

Eventually, they hope this technology is available at retail pharmacies and hospitals, but for now it will likely be used in university and pharmaceutical labs where it could assist in the development of new medications.

Either way, a tremendous innovation.

For more information, please read Gabe Cherry’s article from Michigan News at the University of Michigan.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why would it be beneficial to have multiple medications available in a single dose?
  2. What is solubility and why is it so important in delivering medication?
  3. How does Organic Vapor Jet printing work?
  4. Why does a larger surface area help a material dissolve?
  5. What are some of the drawbacks or limitations of using Organic Vapor Jet printing for pharmaceuticals?

Avian Research at Northern Michigan University

Many of us in Michigan are fans of a small, shy bird known as the Kirtland Warbler. This creature has a wonderful story of going from nearly extinct to growing to a respectable sized population largely through thoughtful attention and management by a host of government agencies, researchers, non-profits and enthusiasts. A wonderful, highly readable account of the bird is found in William Rapai’s The Kirtland Warbler-the story of a bird’s fight against extinction and the people who helped save it, published by the University of Michigan Press.

Part of the story is the slow, painstaking research that individuals have been undertaking to understand the bird and to help ensure it’s progress is not wiped away.

Northern Michigan University master’s student, Katie Bjornen is one such researcher.

Her research focuses on bird’s ability to use their olfactory sense to smell chemicals released by trees when the trees are being eaten by insects causing the birds to come to the trees and eat the insects. At least that is the theory currently being investigated.

Katie’s research focuses on the jack pine, a type of tree preferred by the Kirtland Warbler. Her promising research could help develop greater understanding of the exact processes used by birds and trees to help promote their mutual survival.

For more information about Katie’s research, please read NMU’s Katie Evans’ article here.

Teachers of biology and ecology may find this article of benefit for their classrooms.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How do birds choose which trees to eat insects from?
  2. What is Katie’s research hypothesis?
  3. How does Katie’s research extend what is already known about how bird’s choose the trees to forage from?
  4. What is the implication of Katie’s research for the Kirtland Warbler?
  5. What is a deciduous tree?
  6. How did Katie get her start in avian research?
  7. What is ornithology?

Paper Thin Speakers at Michigan State University

Paper Thin SpeakersMichigan State University Research

In an amazing research development, scientists at the Michigan State University, have created a transducer that is paper thin.

From the Michigan State University website posted by Andy Henlon, MSU associate professor Nelson Sepulveda states:

“This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.”

This team created the FENG, the Ferroelectret Nanogenerator, and this research extends that development so that the energy conversion can be bi-directional, thus increasing its functionality.

In a really impressive video, they show how they converted a Michigan State University green and white Spartan flag into a speaker.

Fascinating work. A great way to show your students some cutting edge research that has huge societal implications.

Questions for Discussions

  1. What is FENG?
  2. Describe the difference between mechanical energy and electrical energy.
  3. What was the process by which they created the device?
  4. How are the ions added to each layer?
  5. What uses can your class brainstorm for this technology?
  6. Are there any negative implications they can imagine?