U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin tours MSU plant science research facilities

Elissa Slotkin, who serves Michigan’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, visited the Michigan State University campus May 21 to tour plant science research facilities and the MSU Music Building.

Elissa Slotkin, who serves Michigan’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, visited the Michigan State University campus May 21. She explored some of the plant science research facilities and heard about the essential work undertaken by MSU researchers.

The tour began in the greenhouse complex, where more than 60 faculty members from across the university make advancements in plant science, from growing floricultural crops to making discoveries that bolster food security worldwide.

Greenhouse director Chrislyn Particka discussed some of the research, as well as upgrades currently being made and additional long-term improvements needed for the facilities.

“What struck me was the diversity of the research there,” Slotkin said. “We have folks who are looking at tree growth, and the factors of heat and light.”

Rep. Slotkin acknowledged the facilities needed upgrades for MSU to remain a leader in plant science.

“You walk into the greenhouse, and I think the thing that hits you first is that it feels older,” Slotkin said. “We want to be competitive. We want to get the best students and the best faculty, so we’ve got to have the best facilities we can.”


Rep. Slotkin then traveled to the Plant Biology building to meet with faculty members. Professor Frank Telewski and Associate Professor Lars Brudvig from the College of Natural Science described their research, including projects using growth chambers.

Telewski also handed Rep. Slotkin a glass bottle, which is part of a more than 140-year-old research project started by William Beal. Inside the 20 bottles buried at MSU, Beal placed seeds that would be unearthed to determine if they were still viable. Telewski has dug up two bottles total, and the next will be exhumed in 20 years.

David Lowry, an associate professor of plant biology, talked about efforts through the Plant Resilience Institute to learn more about meeting global food production needs in a warming climate. From there, Marjorie Weber, assistant professor of plant biology, and Elise Zipkin, assistant professor of integrative biology, detailed a proposed Center for Biodiversity.

To have so many experts in plant science who are accessible is something Slotkin appreciates.

“It’s just this massive resource that we have in our backyard that I get to use every single week to help inform what I do in Washington,” Slotkin said.

Elissa Slotkin (left) and Chrislyn Particka
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (left) talks to Chrislyn Particka, director of the MSU Plant Science Research Greenhouse facility, about some of the research taking place.

Research funding was a common theme throughout the tour, and Rep. Slotkin said the collaborative nature of MSU research is an asset to securing federal grants.

“I think this idea of interdisciplinary work really strengthens our proposals,” Slotkin said. “I think that’s very popular right now. I think it’s the wave of the future.”

Kristin Getter, an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture and director of the MSU Horticulture Gardens, then showcased the annual, perennial and 4-H Children’s Gardens.

Over lunch, Rep. Slotkin met with MSU leaders to discuss some of the university’s major priorities.

Recently, she has added her support to a letter from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and 350 agricultural organizations aimed at an $11.5 billion investment from Congress in agricultural research infrastructure at U.S. colleges of agriculture.

Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch, accompanied Rep. Slotkin and her team on much of the visit.

“We’re grateful that Rep. Slotkin took some time out of her busy schedule to meet with scientists and university leadership,” Buhler said. “This is a great opportunity for us to show the ways in which we leverage state and federal funding. We’re focused on tackling some of the world’s major challenges around food production and sustainability, and we appreciate Rep. Slotkin’s interest and support.”

The visit concluded after stops at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and the Music Building, which included a walkthrough of the new Billman Music Pavilion.


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