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Rebecca Phillips ’76, ’81 DVM

Smoking Place in Idaho
Fall 2017

Holy smokes

The straggly plant is easy to dismiss. Narrow leaves and white, trumpet-like flowers, fade easily into Northwest fields and roadsides. But Nicotiana attenuata, commonly known as coyote tobacco, contains medicinal and ceremonial properties long revered by Native American cultures.

For thousands of years, coyote and other types of wild tobacco have provided what many consider a versatile healing remedy and meditative, spiritual channel to the Creator. Much of the botanical lore was muddled, however, with the arrival of Europeans and subsequent cultural upheaval.

At Washington State University, researchers Shannon Tushingham and David Gang ’99 PhD are using a combination of archeology and high-end molecular chemistry … » More …

Fall 2017

Till gone

“Life can multiply until all the phosphorus is gone, and then there is an inexorable halt which nothing can prevent. We may be able to substitute nuclear power for coal, plastics for wood, yeast for meat, and friendliness for isolation—but for phosphorus there is neither substitute nor replacement.”

—Isaac Asimov

The Greeks called phosphorus “the bearer of light,” a chalky white mineral that ignites spontaneously and gives pizazz to matchsticks and fireworks. Theories suggest it even arrived on Earth in a fiery meteorite crash billions of years ago.

The fifteenth element could also be called the bearer of life. Wound into DNA … » More …

Fall 2017

Streaming solutions

High in the Cascade and Olympic Mountain snowfields, pristine rivulets trickle into brooks that descend through forest, farmland, and town. Streams merge into rivers and sweep through cities until finally breaking into Puget Sound and the marine waters of the Pacific.

There, in the southern arm of the Salish Sea, the waters mingle in a fertile estuary teeming with biodiversity.

“Looking out at the waters of Puget Sound, you see the sunset, the beautiful mountains, and people think, ‘Everything is good, we’ve got the orca.’ But we have invisible problems,” says Chrys Bertolotto, natural resource programs manager at the Washington State University Snohomish County … » More …

rollable electronics
Summer 2017

Organic electronics on a roll

In the near future, your local hardware store could include a “green electronics” counter where friendly clerks unspool sheets of plastic film and print devices while you wait.

Need a few more solar panels? No problem.

How about a flexible LED lighting strip? This roll over here.

Computer? Loudspeaker? Or maybe transparent, energy-producing panels for your greenhouse? On sale today!

Though the scene is hypothetical, the emerging technology for organic, thin-film polymer plastics is up and running in laboratories around the world, including those of the Collins Research Group at Washington State University.

Led by assistant professor of physics Brian Collins, the enthusiastic … » More …

Monarch butterfly
Summer 2017

Very well off the beaten path

“There he is!” I look up as tattered orange wings flutter above the sunflowers. A lone male monarch butterfly hovers near the milkweed patch, gallantly hoping, says wildlife ecologist Rod Sayler, for the arrival of a female.

The scene took place early last August at the Washington State University Arboretum and Wildlife Center, where for the first time in 25 years, Sayler documented the iconic butterflies living and breeding on campus. Weeks earlier, to his astonishment, he’d found a handful of monarch caterpillars devouring the leaves of recently restored showy milkweed plants.

“The monarchs were a big surprise for me,” he says. “It’s the first … » More …

Summer 2017

Old remedy

Veterinarians use an old remedy to eradicate the deadliest infectious disease known to humanity. Rabies.

It was the season for guavas. Their sweet musky fragrance drifted through the morning air and into the open window of seven-year-old Sharon Korir, beckoning her outside to play.

The year was 2003, the day after Christmas. As was customary, Sharon had traveled with her parents to their home village in rural Kenya for the holiday. When it came time to return to Nairobi, the doting grandparents asked Sharon to spend an extra day.

The rains had passed and that day arrived with welcome blue skies. Sharon and her friends … » More …

Spring 2017

Learning that’s virtually fun

Graceful tropical fish circle around me as a sea turtle glides overhead. Slowly and steadily, hundreds of pink jellyfish swarm from behind and a curious striped creature moves in for a better look at what I assume is my virtual reality headset. In awe, I blindly reach out and it pulls away with alarm. The scene is so realistic I’m speechless.

Don McMahon is laughing. “You look pretty engaged right now,” says the director of the Washington State University Neurodiversity Lab located in the College of Education. “Fun is engaging and engaged students learn,” he’s been intoning, seemingly miles away in the background.

McMahon … » More …

Spring 2017

Paths that grew crystal clear

Crystals reflect the best of nature’s handiwork. With their atoms aligned in repeating 3D patterns, crystals can be as momentary as a snowflake or as common as the sodium chloride in table salt. They can sparkle on a finger, scatter rainbows across the room, or be grown on your kitchen table with a few ingredients from the hobby shop.

Some also possess unusual properties, such as quartz crystal’s ability to generate a tiny electrical current when pressure is applied. Known as the piezoelectric effect, this useful phenomenon helped inspire the rise of a global, multibillion dollar crystal growth industry.

Today, manmade crystals power an astonishing … » More …

Winter 2016

Ice control of a different color

As snowstorms gather in the Cascades, highway safety crews traditionally turn to salt and chemical deicers to clear the roads. The corrosive arsenal keeps traffic moving but is damaging to both vehicles and the environment. Now, thanks to the culinary genius of a Washington State University engineer, deicers are getting a green makeover with a distinctive local flavor.

Apple, grape, and cherry skins—waste products from Washington’s fruit and wine industries—are being reborn as sustainable ice melt in an effort to reduce the amount of salt used for snow and ice control.

The transformation is taking place in a basement laboratory where associate professor of civil … » More …

Winter 2016

When Jermiha marched home

Military homecoming is usually a time of immense joy and relief, but for many veterans the weeks that follow are daunting. Each month in Washington state alone, 1,000 service members transition from active duty to civilian life—moving from a structured, often traumatic environment into the looser routines of home. Along the way come unexpected challenges, especially when returning to college or entering the job market.

Jermiha White ’16 served eight and a half years as an Army cavalry scout on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a combat veteran, White began experiencing anxiety when he enrolled as a student at Washington State University … » More …