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Gov. Snyder lauds Taubman scholars at institute's fourth annual symposium

By Kaitlin Williams, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 14, 2011

Before meeting with the head of state today, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder spoke about the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in his state during an address on campus.

At the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute’s fourth annual symposium this morning in the Biomedical Science Research Building, Snyder spoke about the importance of the institute’s work and said scientists at the University have the spirit of innovation that Michigan needs now more than ever. Today’s event also marked the announcement of a new $100,000 annual prize to be awarded to the best clinician scientist in the world in an effort to foster more groundbreaking ideas at the institute.

“In terms of an institution where partnership really happens — collaboration, cooperation, the ability to work beyond the normal boundaries of things,” Snyder said, “I’m proud to say my alma mater is the best in the world at that. The University of Michigan is truly an outstanding institution.”

Eva Feldman, director of the Taubman Institute and University professor of neurology, said she and members of the institute hope the $100,000 prize will attract some of the best and brightest scientists to the University.

After his address, Snyder — who received his bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees at the University before the age of 23 — took part in a question-and-answer session led by University President Mary Sue Coleman.

One audience member inquired about Snyder’s position on student immigrants. Snyder said he wants to keep young immigrants in the state because of the value and ideas they bring.

He added that to keep students in the state after graduation, Michigan needs to be a more welcoming place. He pointed to resources like the Global Michigan Initiative, which Snyder spearheaded with the goal of attracting immigrants to Michigan to aid the state’s economy.

“I believe I’m probably the most aggressive pro-immigration governor in the country,” Snyder said.

When he meets young people, Snyder said he encourages them to commit to Michigan’s development.

“Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to make a difference in Detroit?” Snyder asked. “The ones that are really fired up want to make that difference, and Detroit is becoming the place to be.”

Snyder then left the event to meet with President Barack Obama on his General Motors Tour in Lake Orion, Mich. and the new Taubman scholars took the stage.

The institute started two years ago with five scholars. But now, with a $100 million gift from philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman in April, the institute’s scholar pool consists of 16 scientists.

A new Taubman scholar, Charles Burant, the Robert C. and Veronica Atkins professor of metabolism and professor of internal medicine and molecular and integrative physiology at the University, presented his findings as director of the University’s Metabolomics and Obesity Center. Burant said because of Taubman’s generosity, he and his team are discovering new ways to treat obesity by targeting specific amino acids linked to gradual weight gain after dieting.

Another new Taubman scholar, David Ginsburg, the James V. Neel distinguished professor of internal medicine and human genetics and the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis professor of medicine at the University, presented his work on blood clotting. Ginsburg, also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said he and other researchers are making advancements in the understanding of genetic blood diseases.

Ginsburg was followed by a presentation from a third new Taubman scholar, Theodore Lawrence, the Isadore Lampe Collegiate Professor at the University and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology in the Medical School. Lawrence said that with the help of Taubman’s funding, he hopes to continue to find more efficient radiation and treatment methods for patients with pancreatic and liver cancer.

The symposium concluded with the unveiling of a sign for the Taubman building, recognizing Taubman — who has donated more than $141 million to the University — for his continued support.

— Channing Robinson contributed to this report.