University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Up Front

Up Front

Stories From Around the U

These water lily light sculptures are part of a set of six, handmade in Greece for the stunning Winter Lights Display at the U of M Landscape Arboretum. This year’s show runs until January 3, but COVID-related capacity requirements mean tickets are limited.
Photo Credit: Chris McNamara

Faculty Receive Prestigious MacArthur Fellowships

Twin Cities faculty members Damien Fair (left, above) and Paul Dauenhauer (Ph.D. ’08) (left, below) were recently named fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Fair is the Redleaf Endowed Director of the University’s Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain and a professor in the Institute of Child Development in the College of Education and Human Development and in the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical School. Dauenhauer is the Lanny Schmidt Honorary Professor in the College of Science and Engineering’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

Fair and Dauenhauer each received what are commonly termed a “genius grant,” which comes with a $625,000 stipend. The fellowships are given to faculty who illustrate originality and creative pursuits in their field of study. Recipients may use the money as they see fit to further their pursuits.

Alumna Takes Newly Created Native American Post at Met Museum

Patricia Marroquin Norby (Ph.D., ’13) was recently named the first full-time Native American art curator by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the first such role in the museum’s 150-year history. She will work in the American Wing of the Metropolitan. Norby previously served as the senior executive and assistant director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York. She assumed her new role in September.

New U of M Algorithm Analyzes Chest X-rays for COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to surge across the country, a team of researchers at the U of M recently developed an artificial intelligence algorithm that can evaluate chest X-rays to diagnose possible cases of the disease.

Working with M Health Fairview and Epic, the medical records software used by many health care organizations across the country, the algorithm will be available at no cost to other health systems.

When a patient arrives in the emergency department with suspected COVID-19, clinicians order a chest X-ray. The algorithm automatically evaluates the X-ray as soon as the image is taken. If it recognizes patterns associated with COVID-19, the care team can see within seconds that the patient likely has the virus.

“This may help patients get treated sooner and prevent unintentional exposure to COVID-19 for staff and other patients in the emergency department,” says Christopher Tignanelli, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the Medical School and colead on the project. “This can supplement nasopharyngeal swabs and diagnostic testing, which currently face supply chain issues and slow turnaround times across the country.”

Today, all 12 M Health Fairview hospitals are using the new algorithm.

Alumnus Starts Podcast on Black Fathering

Bryan Jackson, his wife, Faiza, and their son, Nas. Their second child is due in December.
Photo Courtesy of Bryan Jackson

Alumnus Bryan Jackson (B.S. ’02) recently helped co-create a podcast called Dad Genes: Exploring the DNA of Healthy Fathering, focusing on the importance of Black fathers, and addressing issues unique to parenting during this challenging time.

Jackson, an educator in the D.C. area, received the William E. Gardner Pre-K Outstanding Educator from the U of M College of Education and Human Development in 2011.

As the father of a 2-year-old son, and with a daughter due this month, Jackson believes the importance of Black fathers has never been more important, especially in light of the recent struggles for racial justice.

“The goal of the podcast will be to discuss aspects of fatherhood, current events, and health from our unique perspectives as fathers and Black men,” Jackson says. “Fathers need a healthy community to grow and this is it! As we share more Black stories, we also have to recognize how Black men are in need of championing, especially fathers. As an alumnus, educator, and father, we have the best of both worlds.”

Jackson cohosts the podcast with co-founders Harris Tay and Dedan Bruner, discussing topics from the trio’s unique perspective as fathers and Black men.

You can find the first 15-plus episodes of the podcast, with topics such as Toxic Fatherhood, Pandemic Pro Tips, and Adultification of Black Children, at

U of M Receives $87.5 Million for New Institute

The University recently received $87.5 million from the Department of Defense to create a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

The new institute, called the Bioindustrial Manufacturing And Design Ecosystem, or BioMADE, will focus on nonmedical bioindustrial manufacturing and is intended to boost the local bioeconomy in the state. BioMADE will be located on the St. Paul campus, with satellite offices in Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The institute will be dedicated to boosting nonmedical bioindustrial manufacturing in the U.S. and will be supported by a seven-year award that includes at least $87.5 million in federal funds, matched by more than $180 million in cost sharing from non-federal sources.  “The University of Minnesota is excited to host this major institute, and to support BioMADE in building a new and significant bioindustrial manufacturing innovation ecosystem that will benefit our state, our region, and beyond,” said University President Joan T.A. Gabel. “BioMADE will leverage our already thriving life science and medtech industries and our workforce talent to create many new local opportunities for discovery and innovation, as well as for entrepreneurship, investment and employment.”

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