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E. Kirsten Peters

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 …

Spring 2010

Laboratories for the new century

First, six months of planning. Then, over the summer, came the actual moving of laboratory equipment, chemicals, papers, and all the rest. Finally, faculty, students, and staff from four separate science buildings are now under one roof in a gorgeous new facility beside Stadium Way.

“Our unit is large, with over 150 students, faculty and staff,” says John Nilson, director of the School of Molecular Biosciences. Previously, the school was fragmented, with bits of space in Fulmer Hall, Abelson (old Science), Eastlick, and Heald. “Moving from four buildings to one has already allowed unprecedented social and intellectual interactions that form the root of … » More …

Summer 2003

Index of Suspicion

Don’t read Index of Suspicion by Robert E. Armstrong until all your pets have had fresh rabies vaccinations. Using his knowledge as a veterinarian—he graduated from WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1962—Armstrong has constructed a complex and frightening plot that hinges on the deliberate infection of people with the rabies virus as an instrument of murder.

Set in Texas, where Armstrong now lives, this fast-paced whodunnit stars an aging veterinarian who becomes caught up in the rabies plot. Armed with his technical knowledge and plenty of courage, the vet investigates the death of a presidential candidate and a grand old dame of the Texas … » More …

Fall 2008

Electricity from a beet

Chemists around the world are looking to the plant kingdom for ideas about harvesting the energy of sunlight. Plants, after all, have been making a living exploiting sunbeams for almost four billion years. And part of what plants accomplish each day creates a tiny flow of electrons—a form of electricity.

The familiar solar-electric panels on the roofs of RVs depend on pure silicon crystals, which are produced in an energy-intensive manufacturing process. The crystals are semiconductors “doped” with special impurities to make them work—impurities that are often toxic metals requiring special mining to unearth. These first-generation panels certainly work, but the electrical power we can … » More …