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March 3, 2021

Editor's note: It's the little things

I stepped outside and for the first time in a long time, didn’t have to brace for the cold. Finally — there was sunshine on my face and warmth around me as the temperature hit 55 degrees. I removed my coat and set out for a walk on campus.


In “normal” years I’d have seen countless students in shorts and flip-flops because that’s what we do here in Michigan when it gets above 40 degrees. But simply walking outdoors without a coat and gloves, even in a mask, felt like a throwback to when things were easier. It’s the little things.


Maybe it’s the isolation. Or the holidays we spent apart from our friends and families. It could be the never-ending days spent alone in our home offices. Here in East Lansing, the snow that piled up didn’t help. Most likely, it’s some combination of all of those things that have made this winter feel colder, gloomier and longer than most. Even the tiniest glimpse of warmer days ahead with the promise of vaccinations and less disease is enough to keep me going.


Little things like the forecast on my phone filled with sun icons or seeing the grass again raise my spirits and renew my soul. Tiny birds at the feeder, small buds on trees and emerging insects are welcome signs that make me believe that spring is on its way. I realize this is Michigan and I’m sure we’ll get some final blasts of wintery cold, but we’re definitely on our way to sunnier days.


Speaking of insects and little things that make a difference, the incredible world of these tiny organisms holds keys to some pretty gigantic challenges like disease, food insecurity and environmental sustainability. MSU’s scientists in the Department of Entomology are studying insects to unlock big discoveries. Check out the MSUToday feature Small organisms, epic possibilities to watch some great short videos and learn more about their important work.


Jenna Walters is a graduate student in the department who says, “Insects are incredible!” She’s focused on studying the impacts of extreme heat on blueberry pollination, an important crop to the state of Michigan. Read her Student view: A love for insects to learn more about her work.


While Jenna is studying heat, researcher Polly Hsu is studying how crops cope with drought. Muhammad Rabnawaz isn’t working with plants, but he’s finding ways to protect the environment for all living things by creating a new coating for paper packaging that’s economical and ecofriendly.


Research takes a lot of little things that can add up to major discoveries that can change the world. Among the most important discoveries was the development of cisplatin treatment — one of the first, most widely prescribed and effective treatments for many cancer diagnoses. Approved by the FDA in 1978, it has saved countless lives in the decades since.


MSU microbiologist and researcher Loretta VanCamp played a crucial role in the breakthrough working alongside MSU biophysicist Barnett Rosenberg and then-graduate student Thomas Krigas. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, check out the MSUToday feature Loretta VanCamp: Spartan, lab supervisor, lifesaver to learn more about her important contributions to this major discovery.


We still have some pretty big challenges ahead of us. Now is not the time to stop being vigilant as we protect ourselves and each other. But it is a time to stop for a moment, take stock of what’s around you, take a deep breath and notice the little things that give you hope. Even the tiniest of things can add up to create spectacular changes. #SpartansWill.   

Lisa Mulcrone 
Editor, MSUToday



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