MCubed Symposium Changes the Research Landscape

MCubed Symposium Changes the Research Landscape

Put simply, the University of Michigan is innovating innovation with MCubed

The concept isn’t found anywhere else: Teams of cross-disciplinary faculty and students team-up with an idea that has potential for major societal impact. Then, they receive funding and pursue changing the world.

“MCubed was created to provide state funding without review so faculty can work together across disciplines,” Interim Vice President for Research Jack Hu said.

The key being “without review.” By empowering teams (or “cubes” as they are called) to move forward quickly, the University minimizes the time between idea conception and successful research results.

“When I first heard about this idea I didn’t understand it. Then when I learned about the idea of giving away seeds funds without review I thought ‘My goodness, why on Earth would we do that?’” President Schlissel said in his keynote address. “Then I thought about it and thought it was the most clever idea and novel approach to stimulating cross-disciplinary research.”


Find your alumni club to connect with Wolverines across majors. Who knows, maybe you will come up with a great idea?

Since his inauguration, President Schlissel has stressed the importance of research at the University. 

“I want Michigan to be a place where faculty can do their best work, where they can fulfill their ambitions as scholars, researchers and teachers, where students can learn from the very best professors and be involved in their quest for new knowledge and understanding.”

Building an Active Classroom

Faculty in architecture and kinesiology cubed together to solve childhood obesity.

“We are working together to find out how we can engineer physical activity back into children’s lives, using the classroom as our primary space, where children spend most of their waking hours,” Rebecca Hasson, assistant professor of movement science said.

The team explained that physical activity during the school day, like recess and physical education, is being cut due to funding shortages and increased emphasis on standardized test scores. 

But, recent research points to a correlation between lower levels of physical activity and lower test scores. 

 

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The architects in the cube are focusing on redesigning classrooms to be more conducive to physical activity, while the kinesiologists are focusing on what a feasible dose of physical activity is for teachers to implement and students to benefit.

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MCubed is making it easy to give back and help change the world with their Diamond Program. Donors can set forth their interests and find faculty who are positioned to make an impact. The money goes straight into the project, once again lowering barriers to innovation.

Take a Nature Pill for Better Wellbeing

Being in nature for even short periods of time gives positive health effects. But how should people experience nature, and for how long?  MaryCarol Hunter, an associate professor in SNRE, explains the goal of this cube.


Nichols Arboretum was a common choice for study participants. 

“Currently, healthcare professionals in North America and Europe are writing prescriptions for ‘nature pills’ without really knowing what to prescribe. MCubed offered us a catalyst to look for answers to these questions in a highly collaborative way.”

The team would go on to explain that pre-pilot studies failed because participants simply could not find the time to go on three 10-minute nature walks a week. This study allowed participants to customize their “nature pill” and report their experiences in a smartphone app.


Poster presentation sessions allowed symposium attendees to learn about more projects in their field of interest. 

Ali Askarinejad, a master’s student in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, noted that comparing pictures of the nature scenes that participants took to their reported mood can help future design.

“What is nature, where do we go to experience it? Knowing what forms a restorative scene take is important not only for those looking to experience it, but also for those who will build them.”

The results are encouraging. Participants reported a better sense of well-being after their nature experiences. The average time spent in nature increased from an average of 21 minutes at the beginning of the study to 25 at the end. And users found positive benefits from a variety of settings, from an urban green space to private backyards.

Were you involved with research at school? Let us know what you studied!

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Michigan Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit umalumni.com/support.