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March 6, 2019

Looking for a connection

March 6, 2019

Some days are just more challenging than others to make sense of. It’s spring break here on campus, but at 18 degrees, it feels absolutely nothing like spring. I have a to-do list of 24 things to finish at work, but no time to actually do them as my days fill up with meetings. My family is trying to plan a vacation, but my brain is getting muddled trying to make decisions because it’s been a long time since I’ve taken one.

Then I sat down at my desk to write this note. As you know, each week I pull together various pieces and parts and roll them up in some sort of theme that I hope makes sense and is at least mildly entertaining. Some weeks, it’s a piece of cake where the stars have aligned and all the content I’ve been given can be tied up in a neat little bow of a column. Other days, it’s a bit more of a stretch as I search for common ground. And then there’s today – my three topics are cannabis, childhood nutrition and butterflies. It doesn’t get a lot more disconnected than that.

As a coworker suggested, I suppose I could try to weave some sort of tale about the metamorphosis of agriculture research at MSU – they are all related in that sense. But, that seems like it would take more time than I currently have.

Instead, I’ll just say this – it’s 100 percent OK that there is no connection between these stories. That’s the amazing thing about Spartans – the work we do spans as many different areas as you can imagine. Though tied together through our Spartan DNA, we are as unique as we are united.  Our incredible individual strengths combined together equal extraordinary impact on the world.

Take Norbert Kaminski, director of MSU’s Institute for Integrative Toxicology. This Spartan pioneer runs the lab that was first in the world to identify cannabinoid receptors within immune cells. Now, he’s exploring the role cannabis plays in improving brain health and treating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Brain health, to learn more about this important research.

My guess is Professor Kaminski has probably spent some late nights looking into solutions for these neurological challenges in diseases. You don’t become the renowned expert he is by clocking out at 5 p.m. Working late is nothing for Spartans – we simply work until the job is done.

Andrew Myers, a doctoral student studying entomology, says, “There’s a maxim that nothing good happens after midnight. Like most things in life, it depends on your perspective.” For someone studying bugs, sometimes nighttime is the best time to find research answers. His dissertation research is examining the declining monarch butterfly populations. Check out the short video in his STUDENT VIEW: Working the night shift, to learn how he solved the mystery of monarch egg predators by staying up late.

While Andrew is watching bugs eating monarch eggs, Meagan Shedd is more concerned with what people are eating. An assistant professor for Farm to Early Care and K-12 Education in the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, she is concerned with improving children’s health through nutrition. As we celebrate National Nutrition Month, she writes in her FACULTY VOICE: Growing healthy eaters, about working specifically with children in Flint to mitigate the effects of lead exposure.

While it may seem that Norbert, Andrew and Meagan are in no way connected, one thing ties them together – they’re Spartans. As such, they share some traits that weave their way through all of us who are. They’re smart, curious, bold and determined. They approach challenges with purpose and a dash of grit. While they’re certainly brilliant in their fields, they’re as genuine and real as a good friend. Even if they’ve never met each other, their connections are as strong as the will that drives them. #SpartansWill.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Derrick L. Turner


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