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Chemistry

Cultivated tobacco micrograph
Spring 2012

Micrographs from WSU’s Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center

Washington State University’s Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center deploys half a dozen different microscopes in pursuit of the small. Researchers from a wide variety of academic fields use these tools to see and visualize their work, often producing beautiful micrographs of specimens with light microscopes, scanning electron microscopes (SEM), transmission electron microscopes (TEM), fluorescence microscopes, or confocal microscopes.

artwork based on “Molecular” typeface by Mithila Shafiq
Spring 2014

Google ranking molecules

When Aurora Clark likened water molecules to webpages, and the hydrogen bonds that connect them to hyperlinks, she knew she was onto something. As she thought about it on a larger scale, billions of water molecules began resembling the World Wide Web. And where else could Clark, an associate professor of chemistry, turn to make sense of such a vast network?

Google, of course.

By adapting Google’s PageRank to determine how molecules are shaped and organized, Clark started her journey of importing concepts from computer science into her work in chemistry. First she used Google, but recently Clark has employed digital mapping principles and ideas … » More …

Spring 2013

George R. “Bob” Pettit ’52—A profile in persistence

Every few days, Bob Pettit ’52 runs six miles. Now 83, he has done this since his late 20s, when he joined the faculty of the University of Maine and felt the mounting tensions of academic life.

“It’s a great release of stress,” he said this fall while visiting Pullman to receive the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor for WSU alumni. “And I think aerobic exercise is the secret formula for longevity.”

Pettit’s running habit also speaks to his fortitude, whether he’s diving in waters around the world in a search for natural cures to cancer, finding new ways to process tons of … » More …

Fall 2010

Cultivating new energy

With just a whiff of irony, let’s sing a song of praise for gasoline.

A single gallon contains more than 30,000 calories. You wouldn’t want to drink it, but in straight-up energy terms, that’s enough to power a human for about two weeks.

Gasoline is convenient, portable, and for the most part, cheap. For the purposes of this story, I used it to log more than 1,000 miles around Washington State and make appointments, easily, and always on time. Tank low? More than 2,000 filling stations were out there for me to fill her up and pay with a piece of plastic.

“The liquid fuel … » More …

Summer 2010

You, too, can run a nuclear reactor

Particles moving faster than the speed of light. Elements transmuted from one to another. A million watts of power. Hands-on practice controlling a nuclear reactor.

These are some of the selling points of Chemistry 490, a specialized elective class offered by Donald Wall, director of WSU’s Nuclear Radiation Center, which houses the university’s research and teaching nuclear reactor. The course, which has been filled to capacity both times it’s been taught, gives students of all backgrounds a chance to learn enough about nuclear reactors to pass the formidable exam to become a federally licensed nuclear Reactor Operator (RO).

For the students, the class is … » More …

Summer 2003

How do bonds break?

The underlying question that motivates my current work is,

What are the forces on atoms and ions associated with surfaces that result in these particles leaving or reattaching to the surface when stimulated with an outside agent?

These surfaces may be surrounded by very high vacuum or by an aqueous solution. The stimulation that assists the motion of the atoms or ions may be a laser or electron beam, or it might be a very sharp, hard tip pushing on the surface. In all cases, the rate of particle removal or attachment, the speeds or energies of the particles involved, and even the direction they … » More …

Winter 2004

Abelson shaped thinking as a scientist, editor of Science

Regents’ Distinguished WSU Alumnus

During a life spanning 91 years, Tacoma native Philip Hauge Abelson left an indelible imprint on science. As a scientist and as longtime respected editor of Science magazine (1962-83), he shaped thinking in the science community. His leadership and service on important advisory committees also enabled him to influence national science and technology policy.

He was a man of many research interests, among them chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, geology, and physics. When he was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 1959, his accomplishments qualified him in all seven NAS categories. He chose geology.

His pioneering research would have global implications:

» More …