News briefs

University of Missouri-St. Louis professor elected to the National Academy of Sciences     
Robert Ricklefs, curators’ professor of biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, recently became the only Missourian elected to the National Academy of Sciences for 2009.

Established in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences is an honorific society with more than 2,100 members, nearly 200 of whom have won Nobel Prizes. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors bestowed upon a scientist or engineer.

“It is a great honor and responsibility,” said Ricklefs, who has been a professor at UMSL for more than a decade. “I think it also is a testament to the high quality of faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.”

UMSL Chancellor Tom George commended Ricklefs on his accomplishment. “This is clearly a tribute to his prowess as a scientist and academician, and reflects well on the overall caliber of our young institution,” said George. “Ricklefs is indeed part of a very select group.” Ricklefs has authored or co-authored four books, including two popular textbooks, nearly 300 papers and more than 80 articles. His research interests include evolutionary biology with a focus on the diversification of birds, their growth and life histories, but he has also studied the evolution of plants and other organisms.

He has received numerous awards, including the Fellows’ Award from the St. Louis Academy of Sciences and the President’s Award for Research and Creativity from the University of Missouri System.

Ricklefs earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

University of Missouri System reorganization
Last month, University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee announced plans to streamline administration at the system level—a move that will allow the system to invest more of its resources in strategic priorities, such as distance education and economic development/intellectual property. A reduction in system staff, coupled with the continuation of the hiring freeze and current cost-reduction guidelines, will provide budget support for these strategic priorities.

Forsee approved plans to eliminate 22 positions at every level of the UM system office, including human resources, finance and administration, government relations, academic affairs, the president’s office and the board of curators office. This number includes the seven positions eliminated from the University of Missouri Press in March.

“It is always difficult to make decisions that either eliminate positions or add more work to already productive employees,” Forsee said. “As stewards of the state’s resources, we are obliged to look carefully at our organizational structure and dedicate resources to our top-level strategic priorities. It is important to enter the next fiscal year with a clear plan for our future – one that focuses on our mission and provides the necessary resources.”

Individuals whose positions were eliminated as result of the reorganization have received transition assistance and access to health care commensurate with their years of service to the university.

The systemwide hiring freeze and other cost-reduction guidelines are still in effect, though the individual campuses of the University of Missouri System retain the ability to address critical positions and vacancies as needed.

Capital projects planned
The General Assembly gave final approval to House Bill 22 last month, providing funding for various capital projects at the University of Missouri. These projects include all of the remaining Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative projects, including Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, Benton-Stadler Hall at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a number of facilities at the UM agricultural research centers across the state.

Ellis Fischel Cancer Center will be relocated from its existing location on Business Loop 70 in Columbia to University Hospital. The new Ellis Fischel will be housed on the first two floors of the Patient Care Tower, planned for the north side of the hospital, behind the main lobby. The eight-story tower will also include space for support services, operating rooms, pre- and post-operation bays, and private patient rooms. Construction on the tower will begin July 2009 and is slated for completion by Dec. 2012. The total cost of the tower is $203 million, $31 million of which will be funded by the state.

Students present research at the state Capitol
Fifty-three students from all four campuses presented their research at the annual Undergraduate Research Day at the state Capitol in April. The event showcases the unique opportunities undergraduate students from the University of Missouri have to participate in research with faculty. Students display their research projects on posters and are available to share information about their educational experiences and opportunities with legislators.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students to share their research experiences as the university,” said Kandis Smith, UM assistant vice president for academic affairs. “It is also a great opportunity for them to shine and for our legislators to see the exciting work our students and faculty are doing across the university system.”

Research topics ranged from construction of an ethanol sensor to establishing the authenticity of questionable museum artifacts to the problem of space trash. Many of the students also presented their research at campus, regional and national symposia and conferences.

In addition to demonstrating the benefits of hands-on learning, Undergraduate Research Day organizers say the event provides leadership development, improves collaborative problem solving and promotes professional development.

With more than 47,000 undergraduate students, the University of Missouri plays a major role in undergraduate education in the state.

New student representative to the board of curators appointed
Missouri University of Science and Technology student Laura Confer was appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators by Gov. Jay Nixon at the June 4 board meeting. Confer, 19, will be a junior at Missouri S&T in the fall and is studying mechanical engineering.

“I’m honored to be appointed to this position and look forward to serving the students, faculty and staff of the university,” said Confer. “I would like to thank the governor and the Intra-Student Council of the four campuses for giving me this opportunity to serve.”

Confer is a 2007 graduate of Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, Mo. She serves as a leader in Missouri S&T’s Preview, Registration and Orientation (PRO) program for incoming students, and as a campus service officer. She has also served as vice president of Phi Eta Sigma, an honorary society.

Confer has replaced Tony Luetkemeyer, who was appointed student representative to the board in 2007.

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