Editor’s note: Paths traveled | MSUToday

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If you watched MSU’s football game last week against Penn State at Spartan Stadium, you know full well that winter has arrived in East Lansing. While Penn State can claim “whiteouts” in stadiums, we showed them our special mark as snow piled up on the field and in the stands. Although I’m not a fan of the cold, I admit that the campus is particularly pretty under a white blanket.

But with that wintry weather comes tough driving conditions. Michigan can be bad, but when my husband was in the military and we were stationed in South Dakota, we experienced a whole new level of winter and bad roads. Plows were rare and they used sand on the roads instead of salt. With winds at times reaching 80 mph and wind chills well below freezing, they sometimes simply blocked the freeway.

One night, while driving home in gloomy weather, I noticed two cars in front of me that had spun. I thought, “I’ll just pump the brakes and it’ll be fine.” Except it didn’t work and I kept sliding towards them without stopping. My choices were to swerve into oncoming traffic, hit stopped vehicles, or drive off into a ditch. I chose the ditch but still ended up sweeping the side of a vehicle. Fortunately, no one got hurt.

As the automotive industry explores the use of autonomous vehicles, weather conditions can be particularly difficult to overcome. The sensors used to inform what the car is doing can be rendered completely ineffective if they are hampered by snow, ice or fog.

That’s where the Spartans come in. Engineers here on campus are accelerating research that enables sensors in autonomous vehicles to adapt to whatever conditions they find themselves in. Driving Spartans: The Future of Autonomous Vehicles to learn more about this important work that will help Michigan maintain its status as the epicenter of auto production.

At MSU, we take countless different paths that all lead to better tomorrows. were finding new treatments for horrible diseases like cystic fibrosis. We are zembark on research with a new microscope it is the first of its kind in the country. We protect children from lead dust, solve nuclear mysteries and taking “Go Green!” seriously when it comes to environmental responsibilities.

And, each Spartan took a different route to get here. This is what makes our research, our teaching and our work so incredible. We bring different experiences, perspectives and backgrounds, but work together with a common goal: to make a difference.

Birgit Puschner, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, has taken a path that’s likely different from most at MSU. As a first-generation student from a small rural town in Bavaria, her road involved many twists and turns before ending up in East Lansing. Read it Faculty Voices: My First Generation Student Experience to find out why she says: “[I]It’s okay for your path to deviate from your original plans… By being true to yourself and finding a way to persevere and keep learning, you can land on a different path, a path that is still better than you ever imagined.

On this snowy South Dakota road, I could never have dreamed where the roads would take me. I thought I had a plan, but those plans changed all the time due to circumstances and sometimes by choice. I’m grateful that one of these roads brought me back to MSU twice – once to complete my education and once to further my career.

As you watch the roads stretching out in front of you, remember to be alert, follow the rules, listen to your sensors, and be prepared for anything. The next turn ahead can lead to something magical. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone

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