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Broader Impacts Stories


One of the most rewarding parts of working with faculty members on their Broader Impacts is seeing them connect with people in exciting ways. Through many different kinds of activities, adults and children are getting engaged with scientists and learning how science is relative to their lives. Together with faculty members, we are pushing the Broader Impacts boundaries to create valuable collaborative learning and development experiences for everyone involved. Read about some of these success stories below!

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Featured Stories

PI and CO-I Name(s): Dr. Assaf Gilad
Lab Name: Gilad Lab
MSU Department: Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Award name: Standar Grant
Date awarded: June 2020

Glow in the dark jellyfish.

Gilad Lab

As part of an ongoing collaboration between our lab and the MSU Museum, we are curating an exhibition entitled “From Seaside to Bedside: How Marine Organisms and Insects Can Be Used for Diagnostics and Therapeutics.” This exhibit focuses on glow-in-the-dark creatures, and how they’ve evolved to use light as a form of communication and defense in their environment. Some of these creatures may be very familiar to you, such as fireflies we see in the evenings of summer months, or more exotic creatures, like deep sea shrimp that use their glowing spit to fend off predators. Using DNA from these glow-in-the-dark creatures, scientists have been able to identify proteins that make these creatures glow and put them into other living things. Through careful experimental design, scientists can use these glowing proteins for medical or diagnostic purposes to potentially identify the source of disease in human beings. Many labs across the world are working to make these proteins brighter and glow in the presence of other chemicals to enhance their medical application.

The intended goal of this exhibit is to teach the public the history of glow-in-the-dark creatures, and how they can help transform our understanding of medicine.

From Seaside to Bedside: How Marine Organisms can be used for Therapeutics and Diagnostics

PI and CO-I Name(s): Dr. Wei Lai
Lab Name: Lai Lab
MSU Department: Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Award name: CAREER: Structure-property relationships in bi-functional battery materials
Date awarded: 2016

Many batteries lined up together.

Lai Lab

While lithium-ion batteries have been the dominant power sources for portable electronics, their large-scale applications in the transportation and stationary markets are likely to be hindered by the limited lithium abundance. On the other hand, sodium element is more than 1000 times more abundant than lithium and sodium resources are considered adequate nationally and internationally. Development of sodium-based battery chemistry is essential in ensuring a sustainable energy future of humankind. This CAREER project studies the structure-property relationships of a unique family of bi-functional (as either cathode or anode) sodium electrode materials, in order to shed light on the fundamental mechanisms that could lead to enhanced materials performance and rational design and discovery of new materials.

PI's team has worked together with the MSU Museum on an exhibit on the Science On a Sphere (SOS) system. The name of the exhibit is “Batteries: Powering the Past, Present, and Future.” The goals are to raise awareness and inspire interests of the public in the science and engineering principles of ubiquitous battery devices in our daily lives. A non-SOS version of the video is at https://youtu.be/hrxNxLKhq-A.

PI: Dr. Jianrong Wang
Lab Name: Wang Lab of Computational Biology
MSU Department: Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering
Award Name: CAREER: Delineate context-specific gene regulation in 3D chromatin space
Date Awarded: July 1, 2020

Screenshot of Zoom screenshare featuring a slide on the human genome.

Wang Lab of Computational Biology

This project will develop a suite of machine learning algorithms that can integrate massive amounts of biological data and derive new knowledge of genomics and gene regulation at an unprecedented systems-level, which will have wide impacts in bioengineering, disease diagnostics, drug discovery and crop improvement. With this award, the Wang Lab is enthusiastic for a bi-directional scientific journey across data science and biology, which will not only stimulate novel machine learning algorithms but also improve insight into biological processes underlying diverse cells, tissues, organisms and environments. The algorithms and software generated by this project will derive interpretable predictions and mechanistic insights into how the complex gene regulatory systems are coordinated in 3D chromatin space.

The award will also allow the Wang Lab and the MSU Museum to create a series of interactive, educational and outreach modules to inspire and to engage students, especially underrepresented minority undergraduates, in biological and computational science research. Novel visualization platforms and infrastructure will be developed to motivate the general public to understand the fascinating genomes and their complex patterns, which will be further incorporated into the Science on a Sphere program. Accomplishing these outreach activities will not only disseminate new scientific discoveries from this award but also encourage more students for STEM education.

A special virtual program was facilitated by the Wang Lab for Holt High School biology teacher Bill Hodges and his students in January 2021. The program was called “Interactive Visualization of the Human Genome: A Coordinated Control System.” The students were able to explore the content through a presentation, Q&A session, and using an online simulation.


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