From the editor:

Questions

Sept. 27, 2017

What’s the universe made of? Will we ever cure disease? Where do we find more energy? What is an isotope exactly? How will we feed the world? Will we evolve enough to survive a changing planet? What discoveries are still out there? Where do all the single socks go?

There are endless questions that I certainly don’t know the answers to. Most of them are rooted in science and all of them boggle my mind. If I think about them too hard, they’re likely to keep me up at night. I like to think I’m a pretty intelligent person, but the fact is, there are a ton of things I don’t know and I have no background or skills to figure them out. (If anyone knows the answer to the sock thing, please let me know.)

Luckily, the world is not relying on me to solve our most challenging problems. We can, however, rely on truly incredible Spartans who refuse to give up asking the big questions and seeking the answers. All over campus and around the globe, researchers are working tirelessly to find solutions that will make all of our tomorrows better. The questions are insanely difficult but Spartans simply don’t give up when things are tough – it just motivates them to dig deep and work a little harder.

Here on campus, there are some exciting things going on that will create even more opportunities for amazing discoveries. You may have already heard about the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. (Side note – you do know that MSU has the top-ranked nuclear physics graduate program in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report, right? We’re kind of a big deal.)

I don’t pretend to understand how FRIB works but I know why it’s important. FRIB will enable scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes (short-lived nuclei not normally found Earth), nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security and industry.

I toured the new facility recently and as things were explained, I nodded my head and felt a little like I did during my high school A.P. chemistry exam – I kind of understood bits and pieces, but please don’t ask me to explain it. Luckily, we have some brilliant scientists who do understand everything about it and its capabilities.

What you might not have heard about is the new Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering. Known as IQ, the institute’s mission is to nurture partnership among the sciences on campus and beyond, with a goal of making new biomedical discoveries. Check out the short video MSUTODAY FEATURE: Leading scientific discovery, to get a first-hand look at how our scientific discovery landscape is changing on campus.

Audrianna St. Germain is already asking questions I’m not smart enough to ask. A senior majoring in neuroscience and physiology, she’s already been involved in some pretty heavy scientific research. She says that because of her opportunities at MSU, she has “learned to be patient, to have perseverance, to think critically and to discuss problems and results with students and professors.” Check out her STUDENT VIEW: A lust for learning, to learn more about this determined young scientist and her work.

Here at MSU, no one is afraid to ask questions that haven’t been asked or try things that seem out of the ordinary. As Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, says, “When you think of communication research, neuroscience or computation are not the first words that come to mind.” But that didn’t stop the college from launching new programs in those areas. Check out his FACULTY VOICE: New research areas, to read what he calls his “geek-out blog” on the topic.

One of the coolest things about Spartans is that they never stop with their queries. Spartans simply don’t have an end date for learning. Just because a class is over or a research project ends doesn’t mean they stop. Spartans are relentless in the pursuit of finding solutions. There are a lot of questions out there – where, when, what, how? But the answer to “Who will?” always remains the same – Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo of some inner workings of FRIB by Kurt Stepnitz