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From ‘Health Hill’ and Beyond, GVSU Pursues Research Opportunities

“One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”

British author Gilbert K. Chesterton penned this quote many years ago, but the idea translates well when considering all of the exciting research being pursued by students and faculty at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). You can see many great things happening at Grand Valley.

Since being established in Allendale in 1960, GVSU has grown to become a vital part of education and research efforts in West Michigan, developing campuses in Grand Rapids and Holland and centers in Muskegon and Traverse City.
Grand Valley State University
In Grand Rapids, the University has been part of an initiative to make the state’s second largest metropolitan region a hub for the biotech industry.

In 2003, the university opened the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences on “Health Hill,” an area in northern Grand Rapids that also features the Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health.

The organizations on “Health Hill” have been collaborating on medical research efforts. Merit provides Internet2 access, which provides an electronic linkage between Grand Valley’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and the Van Andel Institute. Researchers at the two organizations are utilizing the Internet2 connection to exchange massive quantities of research data quickly.

In 2010, Michigan State University will become part of the collaborative research community on “Health Hill” when its new medical center opens in Grand Rapids. On January 23, Thomas J. Haas, president of Grand Valley State University, and Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University, signed an agreement to collaborate on future research and academic projects that will enhance the state of health care in West Michigan.

Grand Rapids SmartZone

In 2003, the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative (WMSTI) was created in an effort to promote and attract high technology business development to the area. The West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative was formed as a partnership between the Right Place, Inc., Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Valley State University, the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Community College. The partnership has recently expanded to include Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and the Grand Angels. The initiative is one of the two SmartZones the Michigan Economic Development Corp. granted to GVSU in West Michigan, with the other SmartZone being located in Muskegon.

WMSTI tenants occupy the “incubator facilities” on the fifth floor of Grand Valley’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and are given access to the New Venture Center, which includes laboratory facilities, machinery and equipment such as tissue culture laboratories, a cold room, a warm room, sterilization area, preparation room, radio-isotope room, microscopy suite, specialized instrumentation room, and cell and molecular biology laboratory.

Current WMSTI clients include: SoyUltima, who have developed a patented soybean processing technology which unlocks the bioavailability and functionality of the whole soybean; Avalon Laboratories, a medical device product development organization; the Center for Molecular Medicine, a joint venture between Spectrum Health and the Van Andel Institute that is developing new technologies for the diagnosis of disease; and Elkins Innovations, who are developing new prosthetic technologies.

Community collaboration has been a big part of WMSTI’s success. The Biotechnology Commercialization Collaboration program brings health services and education providers together to produce commercially viable opportunities. To date, four patents have been filed, with several other projects continuing on the commercialization pathway.

In 2006, WSMTI and the Van Andel Institute announced the construction of a new, FDA-approved Good Manufacturing Practice Lab. The facility will support the development of new drugs to treat cancer and other diseases.

With so many exciting developments happening on “Health Hill,” GVSU is at the forefront of biotech research and is helping to make Grand Rapids a premier destination for the life science industry.

Where does water go when it rains?

Grand Valley State University’s research efforts aren’t limited to the Grand Rapids area or even biotech/medical research. Xuefeng (Michael) Chu at the University’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI) in Muskegon is conducting a study on “where does water go when it rains?” and has received the support of the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In January, NSF awarded a five-year grant of $519,413 to Grand Valley State University in support of the project, which is called “CAREER: Microtopography-Controlled Puddle-filling to Puddle-merging (P2P) Overland Flow Mechanism: Discontinuity, Variability, and Hierarchy.”

This study is an effort toward improving our understanding of hydrology and to develop new overland flow concepts and modeling methodologies.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program of the National Science Foundation offers its most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization. This is the second NSF grant awarded to AWRI faculty this year.

The AWRI occupies the Lake Michigan Center on Muskegon Lake and promotes collaborative research and educational programming. The institute operates two research vessels and offers the Water Resources Outreach Education Program for K-12 schools and community groups. AWRI hosts Michigan Project WET, an international, interdisciplinary, water science and education program for formal and non-formal educators of K-12 students.

More About GVSU

Allendale is home to Grand Valley’s main campus, occupying 1,275 acres 12 miles west of Grand Rapids. Classes are also offered at the University’s Pew Campus in Grand Rapids, Meijer Campus in Holland, and through centers at Muskegon and Traverse City established in cooperation with local community colleges.

For the 2006-2007 academic year, 23,295 students attended classes at GVSU. The University offers 70 undergraduate degree programs and 26 graduate programs.

Grand Valley State University was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top universities in the Midwest for master’s degree-granting universities, according to the magazine’s “America’s Best Colleges 2007” report.

GVSU has also become known for excellence in its athletic programs. Grand Valley won its fourth NCAA Division II football national championship in the last five years on December 16, 2006.

GVSU became a Sponsored Educational Group Participant of Internet2 in 2001.