September 22, 2004
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SOLAR CAR SHOWDOWN
After claiming third place in world, University's team
prepares for cross-country race
By Naila Moreira
and Sasha Voloshina
Daily Staff Reporters
so we're pretty proud of our third
place," Hayes said.
Lying flat on your back for four hours in a
racing car's tiny compartment, where the inte-
rior sometimes reaches 130 degrees, may not
be everyone's idea of a good time. But for the
dedicated drivers of the University's Solar Car
Team, it's part of the fun.
"Usually, we have between five and 10 people
who want to drive the car, who still want to be
drivers after experiencing what it's like," said
LSA senior Maggie Hayes, the team's opera-
The drivers will race the team's car in July's
North American Solar Challenge, a race from
Texas to Canada, Hayes said. The team's wafer-
thin vehicles have raced in the NASC seven
times, winning three national titles.
The team has also competed three times in the
World Solar Challenge, a race from the north to
the south coast of Australia, against such teams
as Honda and the European Space Agency.
"We've placed as high as third in the Aus-
tralian race against some tough competition,
teams that reuse th
heir cars in
multiple races, said Engineering senior
Mirai Aki, the team's engineering director. The
team has two years to design the car before each
The team, which consists of about 200 Uni-
versity students and two faculty advisors, is cur-
rently looking to add new members.
"On this team, all the faculty advisors are in
the role of mentors. They're there when we need
help, but the people who make the decisions and
the people who run the team are the students,"
Not all team members are engineers, and
many of them come with little engineering
experience. The team is composed of students
majoring in business, design, language and the
Students can become involved
in diverse roles on the team, from researching
new technologies to meeting with sponsors to
helping engineer the car itself. New members
get an opportunity to learn how the solar car
functions through work sessions and by talking
to fellow teammates.
"You must simply have an interest ... and the
willingness to put aside other aspects of your
life for the team," said Engineering sophomore
Jonathan Brown, a race system leader.
Members can put in as few as two to th.:xe
hours and as many as 40 to 50 hours every week
*x Committed stu-
dents, she said,
team leaders with-
out a lot of experience.
Though a great
experi- ence for University
students, solar car racing is not
without its dangers. This summer, a Univer-
sity of Toronto student, Andrew Frow, was
killed while driving his team's solar car dur-
ing a practice run.
"Any sort of vehicle racing can be dangerous.
It's just something you have to design around
and keep in mind," Hayes said. "We only build
one car, but we do everything we can to make
it the best car possible
- the fastest and the
Don't expect to see solar
cars on the streets any time
soon. Not only are the car's
solar cells expensive, but they
also don't generate enough
power to move a large vehicle. The
current solar cars run on only one to two kilo-
watts of power, about the amount required by a
To finance the project, the solar car team's
business division works with more than 200
sponsors, including General Motors Co.,
the Ford Motor Co. and IBM. Their budget
runs to more than $2 million, but even small
contributions are considered helpful, Brown
"(We do) public outreach so everybody feels
like they contribute," he said.
Interested students can find information
about the team online at www.umsolar.com or
by attending the team's weekly meetings Tues-
days at 7 p.m. in room 1610 of the Industrial and
Operations Engineering Building.
Prof awarded for discovering
birth defect's link to stem cells
By Adrian Chen
Daily Staff Reporter
Located in the heart of the University
Hospital's Cancer Center, Prof. Sean Mor-
rison's laboratory is unassuming at first
glance. But among the multitude of comput-
ers resting on beige counters, graduate stu-
dents and a lone caged mouse, Morrison and
his colleagues have made some significant
advances in the burgeoning field of stem
professor of cell
tal biology, was
his work earlier
this month, when
he was flown to
receive the Presi-
for Scientists and Morrison
sented in a White House ceremony.
The award acknowledges outstanding work
by scientists and engineers starting out their
research careers. In Morrison's case, the work
that led to the award was completed under his
first five-year grant from the National Insti-
tutes of Health.
Morrison was happy to receive the award
and the recognition that comes with it.
"It's nice to get the positive feedback
in science, because oftentimes you work
for years and years trying to accomplish
something and along the way, when you're
doing the work, it's often hard to tell how
impressed people will be with the end
results," he said.
Omer Yilmaz, a Rackham student working
in Morrison's lab, shares his sentiment and
believes that Morrison is well deserving of the
"All of the projects in the lab are at the
cusp of providing critical insight into the
biology of stem cells. Sean, despite his unre-
lenting schedule, is always eager to discuss
data and go over experimental details. He
never lets any detail escape his attention,"
Some of Morrison's more prominent work
has dealt with the relationship of stem cells -
self-renewing cells which can give rise to all
other kinds of cells in the tissue in which they
are present - and Hirschsprung's disease,
a potentially fatal birth defect. The disease,
which affects one in 4,500 newborns, leads to
problems in the enteric nervous system - the
group of neurons that controls the function of
the large intestine.
Previous research had discovered that muta-
tions in two genes cause Hirschsprung's.
Researchers observed that these mutations dis-
rupted the signaling pathways corresponding
to the genes, leading to an undeveloped enteric
But the specific mechanism through which
mutation led to the disease remained a mys-
tery, until Morrison and his team uncovered
the answer by looking at the source of the
enteric nervous system: stem cells. Using
mouse and rat subjects, Morrison found
that the mutations affected the development
of the enteric nervous system at its earliest
phase. By stopping
the migration of , .
the stem cells into Its nice to ge
the lower intestine, feedb kin
the mutation halted back s
the system's devel- because ...W
This discovery doing the wo
opened up the pos-
sibility of using often hard to
stem cells to treat
Hirschsprung's dis- impressed pe
ease in humans.
"All this rais- be with the e
es the question
of whether we
could treat human
ease by transplant- d
ing normal stem cells
into the (lower intestine) of affected babies,"
where they could develop into the missing
enteric nervous system, Morrison said.
However, before any testing on human sub-
jects can be done, extensive studies must take
place using animal specimens. Morrison and
his team are working on transplanting stem
cells into the guts of mice and rats that lack the
genes responsible for stem cell migration. So
far, the results are promising.
"We were able to get the stem cells to
graft and they did make neurons," Morrison
said of the transplant. "Now the question is
whether they formed enough neurons. That's
the next step."
Currently, Morrison and his lab are continu-
ing their focus on stem cells by building upon
their previous research.
First, they are studying stem cell aging and
its affect on the human aging process.
"As you age, you lose the capacity to repair
your tissues and you increase the chance of
getting cancer. We think that may result
from age-related changes in stem cells,"
Morrison and his team are also looking at
the problem of organogenesis, or how the body
"The problem is, how do you go from a
small number of undifferentiated cells - stem
cells - to a complex three-dimensional organ
with different kinds of cells in different plac-
es? We're interested in how much of the infor-
mation required for this is pre-programmed
into the stem cells - to what extent stem cells
might have a blueprint when they start the pro-
cess of making a tissue," he said.
,t the positive
- Sean Morrison
Professor of cell and
Finally, Morrison is
looking at the pro-
cess of stem cell self-
renewal, a subject he
has studied exten-
sively. Last year,
a gene responsible for
the self-renewal of
stem cells. His previ-
ous work on this sub-
ject also contributed
greatly to his receiv-
ing the Early Career
Award. Now he is
looking at different
genes to determine
their contribution to
the cells' self-renew-
Trumpet player Ben Polcer of the band Cloud Nine Music performed at the Energy Fest on the
Energy fair highlights
Morrison is excited about the future of stem
cell research and the increase in activity it will
most likely bring.
"There's a lot of interest and excitement
about the potential stem cell research has,"
he said. "There have been a tremendous num-
ber of new investigators coming into the field
because the questions are so interesting and a
lot of people want to work on them."
FOR CHE LAILY.
CALL7- I DAILY.
Continued from page 1
Plant Operations, said she was pleased at
the number of people that were stopping to
"The first time we did this it was indoors
in the (Michigan) Union in the dead of win-
ter," she said. "We decided it would be better
out here in September."
Cther groups in attendance to promote
alternative energies included the University's
Solar Car Team, which is preparing for a
cross-country race in July, and the Michigan
Solar House Project, which will break ground
in 2005 on a house that will generate its own
electricity and treat all its sewage.
Both teams focus on showing that solar
energy can replace fossil fuels in devices we
The Energy Fest will conclude tomorrow
with another gathering on North Campus's
Portico Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Groups participatincg in the event from the
city included the Ann Arbor Transportation
Authority, the city's Energy Office and DTE