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Top 10 Inquiry Stories of 2020

Illustration showing "2020" spelled out using surgical masks

As years go, 2020 was full of surprises—more than a few of them unpleasant.

What comes as no surprise, however, is that researchers at the University of Minnesota adapted to the year’s considerable challenges and continued to make discoveries that expanded the body of knowledge in their fields. Along the way, many researchers found new ways to collaborate, in some cases launching projects to address both the direct and indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the University’s overall research enterprise celebrated a major milestone this year, surpassing the billion-dollar mark for research expenditures.

Inquiry presented a small slice of these projects, discoveries, and successes over the last 12 months as part of its mission to explore the impact of University research and innovation. Before we move on to the year ahead and (hopefully) fewer surprises, here are Inquiry’s 10 most-read stories from 2020.

10. Drawing Renewable Resources from Organic Waste

BioTechnology Institute researchers, supported by MnDRIVE Environment, are using anaerobic digestion to turn food waste into heat, energy, and fertilizer.

9. Libraries Checklist Brings Together Resources for Researchers

The resources help researchers across a range of academic disciplines find funding, expand the reach of their work, and more.

8. Attitudes & Identity: Center Shines Light on Voter Behavior

As the 2020 election season ramped up, the Center for the Study of Political Psychology aimed to discover what was driving voter opinions about the candidates.

7. Open-Source Release Allows Coventor to Be Produced Worldwide

The design for a low-cost ventilator brought to life by a team of UMN researchers and industry collaborators is now freely available to manufacturers.

6. Speaking Science: Inspiring Interest in Academic Research

In January, UMN faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students came together to hone their science communication and storytelling skills.

5. Wasted Produce: Odd Looks Keep Fresh Food from Reaching the Market

Researchers are exploring the aesthetics that make produce acceptable to consumers—and how to stop nutritious but imperfect-looking food from going to waste.

4. Dementia Prevention Linked to Disposal of Pathogenic Debris

In researchers’ study of 14 Western European countries, infection-fighting genes were shown to protect the populations against dementia.

3. As Classes Go Digital, Slides Database Keeps Students Learning

A medical laboratory science professor made his database of pathology microscope slides free to instructors to help train students to spot diseases in laboratory samples.

2. A Handheld Device to Quickly Detect COVID-19

The MagiCoil detects the virus in blood and respiratory material and delivers results in as little as 10 minutes via smartphone.

1. Researchers Find Key—and Vulnerable—Features of Novel Coronavirus

UMN scientists have laid the groundwork for designing drugs to block the novel coronavirus from attaching itself to, and infecting, human cells.

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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