No Longer a 'Secret': Gov. Tim Walz Praises MBiC Project at The Hormel Institute Visit

April 25, 2024 | Austin, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz visited The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, on Thursday, April 25, to meet with local leaders and learn of the Institute’s recent progress in groundbreaking biomedical and agricultural research and its expanding education and outreach initiatives. 

Austin community leaders and the leadership team for The Hormel Institute’s Minnesota Bioimaging Center (MBiC) joined a midday meeting to ask for Gov. Walz’s support for the MBiC project, which advances both of these causes. A bill has been introduced by Rep. Patty Mueller and Sen. Gene Dornink seeking $20M from this year’s state bonding bill (House Bill #HF566 and Senate Bill SF #SF452) for the project. Gov. Walz has been a strong advocate for The Hormel Institute, including by supporting its major expansions in 2008 and 2016 and securing over $2M for technology acquisitions when he was a U.S. representative.

Walz visit

The Institute’s ongoing MBiC project will expand The Hormel Institute’s advanced bioimaging capabilities, provide high-demand biomedical workforce training for researchers, and establish a STEM education laboratory serving students from K-12 up to the graduate level—and their teachers—to create a pipeline of Minnesota-raised, Minnesota-trained researchers and innovators.

Following a tour of the state-of-the-art research facilities, Gov. Walz learned about the Institute’s expanding education and outreach initiatives, some of which include a teacher externship program and a lending library that will make science equipment and teaching resources more accessible to classrooms throughout the state.

Finally, Gov. Walz gave a brief address to attendees in the RLLC Auditorium onsite.

Gov. Walz shared that he used to refer to The Hormel Institute as Minnesota’s “best-kept secret,” but no longer finds that to be the case, acknowledging the vision of MBiC aligns with many statewide priorities for the future.

Gov. Walz also shared he was moved by the educational opportunities that MBiC will offer: “Seeing that focus on children, and the focus on giving them opportunities, and putting them in lab coats in front of the world’s best equipment and talk[ing] to them ... It is not a cliche: they’re our future. And they’re watching a world that feels chaotic, they’re watching a world that feels divided, but when they’re here, you can feel the community wrapping their arms around them, telling them they matter, telling them there’s an opportunity, and ‘You, too, could be a scientist … you, too, can make a difference.’”

In 2016, The Hormel Institute was the seventh in the United States to install a Titan Krios cryo electron microscope (cryoEM). Later this year, it will be the first institution in North America to obtain the Arctis focused ion beam scanning electron microscope (FIB/SEM), which will expand the Institute’s bioimaging capabilities to include tomography (cryoET). This powerful technology allows researchers to advance the understanding of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, coronavirus and other viruses, prions like chronic wasting disease, and more. 

Also in attendance were Rep. Patricia Mueller, Austin Mayor Steve King, Austin City Administrator and Austin Port Authority Executive Director Craig Clark, Hormel Foods CEO Jim Snee, and Development Corporation of Austin President John Garry. 

Present from The Hormel Institute included Executive Director Dr. Robert Clarke, Chief of Staff Elizabeth Fedie, CryoEM Director Dr. Susan Hafenstein, Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs Dr. Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, Assistant Director of Education Dr. Edward “Ted” Hinchcliffe, and Director of Development and External Relations Gail Dennison.

Additional members of the MBiC leadership team include Sen. Gene Dornink, Austin Port Authority President Jason Baskin, Vice President for Research and Innovation (UMN) Dr. Shashank Priya, Dr. Y.S. Prakash of Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Mark Ciota of Mayo Clinic.

Walz visit


Walz visit