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Nicholas Deshais

Mapmaker Mystery photoillustration
Winter 2014

Mapmaker Mystery

The Palouse, in its way, is a perfect place. A land of soft, rolling hills framed by rivers, mountains, forests, and desert, this agricultural hinterland feels all four seasons fully, and in all likelihood grows enough food to feed its inhabitants and visitors with ease. It’s home to scholars and farmers, and its story begins in the ice ages and continues today with an unrelenting flow of research from two major universities.

Despite such beauty and bounty, the Palouse has not received the artistic consideration that has Yosemite or Hudson Valley. I’ve never seen anything like that, at least until a day last winter when … » More …

Fall 2014

Things that Fly in the Sky

A slight breeze comes from the north, but it’s not enough to stir the sun-faded windsock above the tarmac near Mann Lake in Lewiston, Idaho. The sudden and unexpected gusts of wind, however, do. It’s a brisk 48 degrees, but of more concern is the smeared cloud taking up the southwestern horizon, out of place among its more defined, cumulus neighbors mottling the blue canvas above.

“We have about ten minutes,” says Chris Chaney, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from WSU this year. “We’re going to have to time this right. This is probably one of the most dangerous flights we’ve done.”

» More …

Ed Hume, trash
Fall 2014

Talking trash

One of the green, rolling hills in the Palouse isn’t quite like the others.

Aside from a PVC pipe sticking out of its ridge, it looks—and smells—no different than any other mound. But instead of having a loamy center riddled with earthworms, it’s made of garbage. Tens of thousands of tons of it, though no one really knows how much.

The trash was collected throughout Whitman County over about 30 years until 1993, when the county sealed the landfill, built a transfer station next to it, and began shipping garbage elsewhere. Since then, four to six 18-wheelers leave the transfer station just north of Pullman … » More …

Tim Hills
Summer 2014

Tim Hills ’93—Hotels and history

The bodyguards standing sentry outside James Brown’s dressing room were as tall as the ceiling—an impossible 20 feet or so, remembers Tim Hills ’93 MA. But maybe it was his nerves.

After a long wait, the door opened and the historian was granted entry. Reclining on a sofa in Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, decked out in a blue leather suit, surrounded by his large entourage, the Godfather of Soul was prepared to entertain Hills’ questions for the next hour.

How did an unassuming public historian who once worked for the Congressional Information Service before earning a graduate degree in history from WSU end up interviewing one … » More …

Food sensing and Carolyn Ross
Summer 2014

A matter of taste

The human tongue is a pink, undulating, fleshy affair covered in thousands of papillae—all the better for sensory perception. If the tongue weren’t so ordinary, it would be strange to think of such an appendage taking up most of the room in your closed mouth, allowing you to discriminate the foul from the toothsome.

But there it is.

And here I am in Room 150 of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Building on the Pullman campus, one of eight panelists who will smell and drink wine after wine after wine over the course of two weeks. Kenny McMahon, a doctoral student, is our overseer, … » More …

Chinese cannabis text
Summer 2014

Sex, drugs, and differences

After decades of researching gender differences in the effects of drugs, Rebecca Craft has found that females using marijuana are likelier than men to become dependent on the drug and suffer more severe withdrawals.

At the same time, females seem to be more sensitive to the drug’s pain-relieving qualities.

Craft, a Washington State University psychology professor who studies the effects of psychoactive drugs on rats, has reported these findings most recently in journals such as Life Sciences and Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Her work, funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, focuses on the medical side of cannabinoids, the class of drugs … » More …

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 …

Yankee on Puget Sound
Spring 2014

A Yankee on Puget Sound

a yankee on puget sound

Karen L. Johnson ’78 and Dennis M. Larsen ’68
WSU Press, 2013

Pioneer Edward Jay Allen lived near Olympia when the Oregon Territory was split in two and federal politicians elected to name the new territory Washington, rejecting the local suggestion of Columbia. Allen helped survey a wagon road over Naches Pass, a backcountry route still in use by those who favor mud and adversity over miles per gallon and speed. Future Union general George B. McClellan shared a cabin with Allen one summer, leading to a fast friendship a decade before … » More …