Senators tour St. Paul campus to see what state money does at U

The senators toured the Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics.

by Brady Averill

Some senators got to see state dollars put to work at the University on Tuesday.

Members of the Senate Higher Education Budget Division Committee and their staff toured the

Cargill Building for Microbial and Plant Genomics on the St. Paul campus.

The state gave $10 million for the construction of the building, said Robert Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences.

The University’s two-year budget request from the state is $126 million for the 2004-05 and 2006-07 school years, with a significant portion to be used for biosciences. University officials said the tour helped demonstrate what money from the state would do.

Charles Muscoplat, dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, helped escort the senators around the building that opened in 2003. He told them the money for bioscience would fund biotechnological studies and translational, human-brain and health-foods research.

Donna Peterson, University associate vice president for government relations, said the tour gave the senators an opportunity to see the building the state helped pay for.

“We hope to convey to them that what buildings are about is what goes on inside,” she said.

Muscoplat said a goal at the University is for different disciplines to come together and “purposely intermingle” in bioscientific research.

“The time is right” for research at the University, he said; the science and the place are right, also.

“The state is ready. The nation is ready. It’s time to talk,” he said.

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said that although it was the first time he saw the $20 million building, he already knew what University researchers were doing inside.

But seeing research done first-hand was impressive, he said.

For example, Raka Mitra, a postdoctoral researcher, showed visitors how genomes react to pathogens.

“That’s pretty heavy stuff,” Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said after the tour.

He said he didn’t understand all the research being done in the labs he toured but that what the researchers were doing added to the quality of life in Minnesota.

“Just from what I gathered, they are doing wonderful things for the world,” he said.