Celebrating Spartans: Taking on the world’s biggest challenges

EAST LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – Throughout the month of February 6 News will be “Celebrating Spartans” and we begin with a look at how Michigan State University heeded the call from President Obama to solve world problems.

They’re doing it through a program called the Global Impact Initiative.

It’s a huge undertaking, focusing on everything from global warming to world hunger.

And Spartan scientists understand what it means to solve the problems that affect humanity.

President Obama set the bar high when he said “they’re ambitious goals but they’re achievable. We’re encouraging companies and research Universities and other organizations to get involved and help us make progress.”

From the president’s mouth to MSU’s ears.

From understanding supernovas far out in outer space to 3-D printers able to make medical equipment, the Global Impact Initiative, or GI2 as it’s called, will try to solve the problems that affect our lives.

“Most of the long term, big impact research that’s affects the future is at Universities,” says V.P. of Research and Graduate Studies Stephen Hsu. “And the goal for MSU is to help solve some of the biggest global problems that civilization faces.”

MSU was already a leader in many areas of study that GI2 consists of, including plant biology.

Spartan scientists want to grow food in all world climates.

By understanding that, MSU could possibly solve world hunger, one of President Obama’s priorities.

“These are problems that scientists are excited to be working on, and again for which there will be a lot of support from the federal government,” adds Hsu.

MSU will set aside $17-million annually for GI2, after that federal grants will fund further research to solve world problems.

From computational mathematics, advanced physical sciences and understanding 3-D printers will help with precision medicine and advanced manufacturing, all priority areas.

MSU is a leading University when it comes to nuclear physics. This $730-million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams is a part of GI2 and it will attract scientists from all over the world.

When the F-RIB facility is completed in 2022 it will be the first of its kind.

25 to 30 percent of all nuclear scientists in the world will do research here.

“”We’re in the process of a big global search for the most talented people in these areas that we can find.” adds Hsu. “I believe this year we have almost 40 searches going related to GI2.”

And that’s where we find Michaela Teravest, a biochemist who was brought in to be a part of the initiative. Her nationally acclaimed research was a big win for MSU.

Genetically modifying bacteria to one day use it to fuel our cars, which would cut down on greenhouse gasses, which could put an end to global warming which affects the entire world.

Michaela TerAvest, Asst. Professor Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, says, “we see a lot of global health problems that do effect people in developing countries more than people here but, their problems are our problems too.”

Teravest did research at Cornell University and then University of California Berkley before making her way to MSU.

“The idea of solving world problems was my motivation to get into research in the first place,” says TerAvest. “So being able to come back into a program that was directed specifically at those problems was really great for me.”

Michigan State is spending millions of dollars on GI2 but possibly giving millions of years to the place we all call home.

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