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January 27, 2014 - Image 3

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-01-27

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, Janurary 27, 2014 - 3A

'I

Schlissel kept lab
at Berkley even
after Brown move

Research to take main stage

Schlissel's final
Ph.D candidate
in California will
graduate in May
By AUSTEN HUFFORD
Online Editor
For many senior scientific
researchers at universities, their
days are spent writing grants
and telling younger researchers
what to do. Even though they are
in charge of a lab, their actual lab
time becomes nonexistent. But
University President-elect Mark
Schlissel continued to work in his
lab and run experiments even as
he climbed the academic ladder
at the University of California,
Berkeley.
Schlissel has authored or co-
authored more than 100 scien-
tific papers in his nearly three
decades of research. Much of his
work has focused on how immune
cells form from stem cells in bone
marrow. When this process goes
awry, cancers such as lymphoma
and leukemia can develop.
"Mark made seminal contri-
butions to the understanding of
the process," David Raulet, chair
of the Berkeley Department of
Molecular and Cellular Biology
said in an interview Friday.
His papers have appeared in
Nature, which has been dubbed
the most influential scientific
journal, and his work has been
cited almost 9,000 times, accord-
ing to Google Scholar. He has both
a M.D. and Ph.D. from Johns Hop-
kins University.
B lymphocytes, a large focus of
his research, form continuously
in the bone marrow and create

antibodies. They are also known
as B cells and are interesting for
scientists because they are cre-
ated by splitting and recombin-
ing different sections of genetic
material. This process results in
slightly different antibodies each
time, creating diversity and help-
ing the body fight off a wide array
of diseases.
Schlissel's work focused spe-
cifically on the formation of two
proteins called RAG-1 and RAG-
2. These proteins act as a sort of
molecular scissors, according to
David Schatz, a Yale University
immunobiology professor who
helped discover the proteins. The
Rag-1 and Rag-2 cut the genes and
allow them to be assembled into a
functional configuration that will
create antibodies.
Schlissel was interested in how
this cutting process was targeted
to the right location.
"Mark was recognized as one
of the leaders in the world in
the study of B cell development
and this recombination," Schatz
said.
Even as a provost at Brown
University, Schlissel continued to
publish papers, producing five in
2013. During his time at Brown,
he continued to work with his
Ph.D candidates at Berkeley to
help them finish. He would fly
back monthly and Skype with
them regularly, according to
Kwan Chow, who was one of his
students and now is a postdoc-
toral fellow at the University of
Washington.
Schlissel's head may be in
administration, but his heart is
still in research.
"This was his life," Chow said.
"He ran a lab. Two years doing
administrative work isn't going to
erase that."

Schlissel will return
to roots in science
following Coleman's
retirement
By RACHEL PREMACK
Daily News Editor
In the realm of research
funding, University President-
elect Mark Schlissel has a tough
act to follow. To be precise, a
$581 million act - how much
the research budget has bal-
looned since University Presi-
dent Mary Sue Coleman took
office in August 2002.
Research expenditures have
doubled in the past decade,
according to David Lampe,
executive director of research
communications. The Uni-
versity is regarded as a one
of the nation's premiere
research insitution, second
only to The Johns Hopkins
University in total research
expenditure.
Givenslashesinstate and fed-
eral funding, though, research
funding will be at at significant
risk in future budget cycles.
In an interview Friday, S.
Jack Hu, interim vice president
for research, said financing the
University's massive research
enterpriseisthebiggestlong-term
challenge the president-elect will
face. Hu was selected last year to
fill the role vacated by Stephen
Forrest, who returned to full-
time researching and teaching
after overseeing the University's
research portfolio for sevenyears.
During Forrest's tenure, the
University's research expenditures
increased from $800 million in
2008toover $1.3 billion lastyear.
Still, Schlissel said at a press
conference Friday that he was
optimistic about maintaining or
increasingthe financingthe Uni-
versity's massive research enter-
prise is the budget over time.
"I think there's enough sup-

port in the leadership of our
country that, as our economy
recovers, as our economy
is investing in the future, a
big part of which is funding
discovery and research will
recover as well."
From East Coast student to
public institute president
Schlissel, who holds a M.D.
and Ph.D from The Johns Hop-
kins University, has extensive
research experience in medical-
related fields.
Before becoming provost
at Brown University, he was
dean of biological sciences at
the University of California,
Berkeley during the system's
severe budget crisis of 2009 to
2010. Mark Richards, execu-
tive dean of mathematical and
physical sciences at Berkeley,
said Schlissel was involved in
a campus wide effort to protect
as many of Berkeley's academic
resources as possible during
the recession's onset.
"He was working with man-
aging a terrible budget situa-
tion," Richards said.
Currently, 11 percent of
Berkeley's funding is from the
state of California, compared
to 17 percent in Michigan.
Richards added that Schlis-
sel led new research initiatives
in the biological sciences in
collaboration with the Univer-
sity of California, San Francis-
co Medical Campus.
As Brown University Pro-
vost, Schlissel led the estab-
lishment of the School of
Public Health, the expansion
of the School of Engineering
and Brown's STEM education
initiative, Brown University
President Christina Paxson
wrote in a letter to the univer-
sity community.
"He has been integrally
involved in space and capital
planning efforts, guiding $200
million in investments to bol-
ster the University's teaching,

research and campus life infra-
structure," Paxson wrote.
Richards said his former col-
league, whose office was next
door when he was a dean at
Berkeley, was a decisive leader.
"Universities can be very
change resistant," Richards
said. "I would say he is a person
who wants to lead an organiza-
tion fairly aggressively into the
future rather than preserving
whatever is there."
Research funding: Paltry
or powerful?
Such a maverick may be nec-
essary to confront the uncertain
funding situation looming overthe
University's researchportfolio.
The fiscal year 2013 research
budget was a record $1.33 bil-
lion, according to Lampe. That
cycle, the National Science
Foundation, National Aeronau-
tics and Space Administration
and other federal departments
all increased their sponsorship
of university research, a Uni-
versity press release stated. The
National Institutes of Health,
though, decreased their support
for University research.
The situation may change
as with a $1 billion increase to
the NIH's funding compared to
before the sequester in FY2013,
according to Matt Williams,
press secretary for Sen. Debbie
Stabenow (D-Mich). However,
the amount allocated to the
NIH is not guaranteed to any
university, Williams said, so an
overall increase in NIH funds
does not guarantee an increase
for the University's.
One potential solution to off-
set a decline in public support
is to seek funding from private
foundations and companies -
an avenue that Schlissel praised
in his remarks Friday.
"I remember reading that a
very significant portion of the
research dollars spent here
were raised from non-govern-
mental sources as well, founda-

tions and donors, in addition to
relying on the federal govern-
ment," he said.
A new means to money
one conduit is industry sup-
port, Lampe said. He high-
lighted the University's growing
involvement in energy and
transportation research, like the
public-private partnership in the
Mobility Transformation Center.
Lampe described the push to
identify growth areas in which
government and industry both
seek research.
"We are being flexible in see-
ing what priorities the federal
government and industry have,"
Lampe said. "We are matching
where we see our strengths and
where they match with what
industry needs."
Lampe added that the Uni-
versity continues to empha-
size its "great strengths" in the
health system, which is also the
biggest part of federally sup-
ported research.
Schlissel also led new
research initiatives in the bio-
logical science at Berkeley,
Richards said, and was called
a "seminal" researcher in his
field.
"He listens to arguments,
he thinks about things and he
makes decisions," Richards
said. "And I think a university
president has to do that."
A university president, how-
ever, takes a bigger picture
approach to research. Lampe
described Coleman as an advo-
cate for the importance of uni-
versity research.
"Research is closely coupled
with the education process
here," Lampe said, "It's integral
with graduate education and
increasingly so with under-
graduate. It is through our
research that we are able to
make our students to be the
innovators that are economi-
cally successful and competi-
tive."

I

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