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During 2012, MSU and the nation are observing the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act, which helped democratize higher education and bring science and innovation to everyday life. It’s also a fitting time to celebrate some of the life-changing and lifesaving discoveries made by Spartans through the years.

A pioneering hybrid

Image of corn growers Photo courtesy of Michigan State Unitversity Museum Thanks to a world-class MSU botanist, the nation’s corn supply expanded exponentially in the 19th century, helping to better feed the nation’s growing population. Professor William J. Beal pioneered the hybridization of corn—at the urging of Charles Darwin—crossing two varieties to create a hybrid that greatly increased yield. Today, the United States leads the world in corn production.

A more advanced weapon in the fight against cancer

Image of Scientist In the early 1970s, MSU researcher Barnett Rosenberg and colleagues discovered the cancer-fighting properties of platinum, which led to the development in 1978 of what is still one of the world’s most widely used cancer drugs—cisplatin. When combined with radiation therapy, the intravenous drug dramatically reduces deaths from cervical and testicular cancers and lowers rates of lung cancers, head and neck cancers, and bone and early-stage ovarian cancers.

A dose of malaria prevention

Image of malaria prevention In 2011, an MSU research team led by Andrea Amalfitano, Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Endowed Chair in MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine, created a new vaccine by combining the use of a disabled cold virus with an immune system-stimulating gene that appears to increase the immune response against the parasite that causes malaria. For more than two decades, MSU researchers— including Terrie Taylor, University Distinguished Professor of internal medicine and an osteopathic physician, and Gretchen Birbeck, director of MSU's International Neurologic and Psychiatric Epidemiology Program—have conducted research and worked to treat malaria in Africa, a disease that kills as many as a million people each year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Wiping out food-borne illness

Widespread national recalls of lettuce caused by E. coli outbreaks prompted Elliot Ryser, MSU professor of food science and human nutrition, to construct a small-scale processing line similar to industrial ones to pinpoint how contamination occurs. MSU is the only university with such a replica of an industrial food processing line, offering students the opportunity to gain hands-on research experience and allowing researchers to provide industry with critical data that can help make the nation’s food supply safer.

Morrill Act Badge

Celebrating 150 years of land-grant vision and values

The nation’s pioneer land-grant university, Michigan State is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Morrill Act of 1862 and the enduring power of the land-grant vision of higher education.

While the world faces new economic, social, and cultural challenges, Michigan State’s founding principles of quality, connectivity, and inclusiveness are as relevant as ever.

From researching and treating life-threatening diseases to working side by side with farmers to address hunger and malnutrition to advancing alternative energy technologies, Spartans develop sustainable solutions on a global scale that create prosperity and make life better for all.

Visit the Morrill Act sesquicentennial website for more information.

Engineering a better glass of milk

MSU scientist and dairy industry pioneer G. Malcolm Trout developed a commercially viable process in the early 1930s for the homogenization of milk that the industry still relies upon today. Before homogenization, the fat in raw milk would rise to the top, creating a layer of cream. By forcing milk under high pressure through a machine to decrease the particle size of fat globules, the fat remains evenly distributed, allowing for the availability of non-separating milk at any fat specification.

Spartan blueberries feed the world

Eat blueberries anywhere in the world and chances are the variety originated at MSU. Four varieties of blueberries developed by Jim Hancock, MSU professor of horticulture and MSU AgBioResearch scientist, are the most widely planted in the world. These Spartan varieties sport favorable traits, including the ability to be harvested by machine and stored for a long period of time. Some grow later in the season when other varieties are done, and some bloom late to avoid damage from early frosts. Spartan blueberries soon will be popping up in Korea—the latest country to acquire the licensed fruit. 

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