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Ron Kind reconnects with campus community

October 11, 2012

Ron Kind visits River Falls
U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D), left, was on campus briefl y talking to students and faculty after getting an overview of the Tissue and Cellular Innovation Center (TCIC) and hearing success stories from McNair scholars and those doing undergraduate research. He has been a consistent supporter of funding for science and science education. (Kathy M. Helgeson/UW-River Falls)

Representative Ron Kind paid UW-River Falls a visit on the morning of Oct. 9. He attended a presentation from various members of the science faculty, about the importance of programs like the McNair Scholars Program, the Tissue and Cellular Innovation Center (TCIC) and other publicly funded ventures are to budding scientists.

Although his opponent in the upcoming election, Ray Boland, has said in a press release that Kind is “out of touch” with what voters in Wisconsin’s 3rd District wants, UWRF McNair Scholar, Grace Adofoli, who attended the presentation, said that she was “very impressed by [Representative Kind] and his team.”

As someone interested in pursuing a career in the applied sciences, Adofoli said, “I think it’s very important to have congressman and political people who are knowledgeable about what’s happening.” She also said, “He seemed very genuine about our work and about what we want to do in the future.”

During the presentation, multiple professors, including Timothy Lyden of UWRF’s biology department, walked Kind through the different sorts of research that take place on UWRF’s campus and through its various programs.

When asked by Kind what the difference between publicly funded and privately funded research was, Lyden said that one of the biggest advantages to publicly funded research was transparency.

“University-based research through federal funding is open research. The IP generated from it, if not public property in many cases with federal funding projects, goes into the public sector. Privately funded research does not,” said Lyden. “It takes the research and the innovation out of the public eye.”

Lyden, who heads up the TCIC which is currently conducting experiments on the development of artificial tissues, said that without having to focus on the bottom line, as many companies do, that undergraduate researchers and their advisors are able to take more time with their experiments.

“The real issue is keeping science, the results of science and the innovation of science accessible to people,” said Lyden. “Unfortunately because of the nature of business that’s not going to be the case with privately funded research.”

While those at the presentation argued the relative merits of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation when it comes to publicly vs. privately funded research, Lyden said that many forget that the research done by publicly funded undergraduate researchers often finds its way into the hands of privately funded institutions, where it can be used to generate money and support the economy.

Kind agreed with these statements. “The private sector can’t fill this void,” said Kind.

Near the end of the presentation, multiple McNair scholarship recipients gave short summaries of what their research projects pertained to and Kind requested they all write down their personal stories so that he would be able to show the personal side of those affected by publicly funded research when it comes time to debate the issue in Washington.

Kind said the he is a “Big believer that as a nation we need to be planting the seed corn and that’s the seed in order to reap a bountiful harvest.” He also said that he, “Got a taste of that with the undergraduate research program that’s happening right here at UWRF. You never know where that next breakthrough and new discovery is going to come from.”