2010 a banner year at Florida State

Eric J. Barron

As the new year begins, here’s a look at some of Florida State University’s top news stories of 2010. Scientific discoveries, multimillion-dollar grants, student and faculty recognitions, premieres in the arts and even a new president were among the highlights. Visit www.fsu.com for a year of news and features.

1. Alumnus Eric J. Barron takes office as Florida State’s 14th president. Barron, who earned his bachelor’s degree from FSU, succeeded President T.K. Wetherell on Feb. 1. Already, President Barron has made several key appointments and has set the stage for a major capital campaign.

2. FSU plays major role in monitoring, assessing Gulf oil spill. Within days of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion on April 20, a multiuniversity task force was set up in Florida as a clearinghouse for information from some of the state’s top academic minds on issues related to the spill. Ross Ellington, FSU’s associate vice president for research, was asked to chair the task force, briefing members of Congress and the Florida Board of Governors about how university researchers were helping the state and nation understand and contend with the spill. FSU researchers, including oceanography Professor Ian MacDonald, were interviewed by countless international media outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, National Public Radio, the BBC, Reuters and the Guardian.

3. Florida State awarded $26 million to help children better understand what they read. More than a dozen Florida State University reading experts were awarded a total of $26 million to help solve one of education’s most pressing, impenetrable problems: why some students may be able to decipher words on a page, yet still struggle to comprehend them. The money, awarded to the Florida Center for Reading Research, is part of a nationwide, five-year initiative by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

4. Florida State helps military wage war on suicide. American soldiers are taking their own lives in the largest numbers since the military began keeping records, and the Department of Defense enlisted the help of The Florida State University in waging the war against suicide. A $17 million federal grant was awarded to FSU and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center to establish the Military Suicide Research Consortium. Florida State’s Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Psychology Thomas Joiner, one of the university’s most distinguished professors and an internationally known suicide researcher, is co-leading the consortium.

5. Magnet grant advances state of the art in chemical analysis. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at FSU took a major scientific leap forward in 2010 when the National Science Foundation awarded Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Alan Marshall a grant valued at $17.5 million. The funding will enable the magnet lab to build a state-of-the-art magnet system that will transform the study of complex environmental and biological samples. A better understanding of fossil and biological fuels, for example, could lead to applications for reducing carbon emissions and the development of new, sustainable fuels.

6. Ruby Diamond reopens its doors. It was closed for nearly two years, but Ruby Diamond Auditorium, officially renamed the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall, welcomed music and performing arts lovers once again in late 2010 as it reopened following an extensive, $35 million renovation and expansion. The remodeled facility was transformed from a general-purpose venue to a world-class performance hall and learning environment for students featuring vastly improved acoustics, a newly added orchestra pit, new seats for the audience and a much larger lobby and ticket area.

7. Biologists identify "Mahjong" gene in landmark cancer study. Florida State University biologists, in collaboration with scientists in Britain, were the first to identify a life-or-death "cell competition" process in mammalian tissue that suppresses cancer by causing cancerous cells to kill themselves. The discovery was described in a July news release that generated international news coverage as well as a No. 18 ranking in Discover magazine’s list of 2010’s top science stories.

8. Scholar elected member of prestigious Institute of Medicine. Sociology Professor Jill Quadagno, one of Florida State University’s most eminent scholars, was elected a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies. Quadagno, who holds the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar Chair in Social Gerontology, is one of 65 new members and five foreign associates and the only member from Florida State. Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

9. Festival spotlights the arts. The Seven Days of Opening Nights festival of the arts had one of its most successful runs ever in 2010. Performers ranged from the world-famous Vienna Boys Choir to the Rennie Harris Puremovement modern dance troupe, as well as a concert by blues legend Taj Mahal and a talk by acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood.

10. FSU recognized for civic engagement and value. Florida State’s students are highly involved in making their community and their world a better place. Thanks to their efforts, FSU was recognized by the Florida Campus Compact, an organization of more than 50 colleges and universities formed to promote community service, service learning and civic engagement, as the state’s "Most Engaged Campus of the Year." In addition, the "Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College" included Florida State on its "Budget Ivy List," a list of 10 public universities that "combine superb academic programs with low cost." The recognition followed the release of the Princeton Review and USA Today’s list of "Best Value Colleges" in which FSU ranked fourth among public universities.