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Research

Fall 2008

Why do good eggs go bad?

In 2004, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York produced a line of mice with an intriguing mutation. The mice make a defective form of a protein called SMC1beta that binds to chromosomes during the crossing-over stage. Pat Hunt and Terry Hassold, on the lookout for anything that might be involved in damage to chromosomes in the eggs of older women, recognized a hot prospect.

SMC1beta is part of a complex, or cluster, of four proteins called cohesins. The complex holds the two strands of each chromosome together while they break and recombine with the strands of their partner chromosome. Hunt and … » More …

First Words
Winter 2015

First Words

Forgotten fruits

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, William Jasper Spillman, one of Washington State’s first faculty members, recognized that eastern Washington farmers were committed to lucrative wheat as their primary crop. Spillman experimented by crossing wheat varieties to find traits desirable for the Inland Northwest.

Variations didn’t appear in the first generation, but Spillman soon observed that the second generation of plants had combinations of the parents’ traits. He then applied a mathematical formula to predict inherited traits, to the benefit of the wheat farmers.

Many of us know the basics of this research from high school science: Gregor Mendel’s laws of inheritance, … » More …

Gleason statue
Spring 2014

Predictive software helps communication

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a terminal disease that attacks motor neurons, causing patients to lose muscle function. Patients gradually lose their ability to move or speak. Since patients can still move their eyes, advances in eye-tracking technology allow them to operate computer programs, including text to speech software. This eye-tracking technology is the person’s last link to communication—the key to a social or productive life.

However, existing software and hardware is expensive and not accessible to most people with the disease. Led by Professor Dave Bakken ’85, a group of computer science students is working to develop a less … » More …

Stone tools
Spring 2014

Sorting debitage from rubble

Up until fairly recently, archaeology of the western hemisphere stopped at about 13,000 years ago. Since the discovery of the beautiful and finely worked Clovis points in 1929, and subsequent discoveries of Clovis technology across the United States, archaeologists generally adopted the “Clovis First” belief, that whoever created these tools must have been the first humans to populate North America.

Over the last few decades, however, a series of dramatic discoveries have pushed the estimated arrival by humans in the Western Hemisphere further and further into the past. Dates that were once considered only on the fringes of academic archaeology are now being discussed seriously … » More …

Psychologist Craig Parks
Spring 2014

The calculus of caring and cooperation

Shortly after the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the American Red Cross had to wrestle with an odd sort of philanthropic success. So many people donated blood, there was far more than what was needed for the entire nation, let alone the attacks’ survivors. Many people donated money, more than $500 million. And, after covering its immediate costs, the charity diverted most of it to other Red Cross needs.

Feeling they were misled, donors and families of the 9/11 victims were not happy. The head of the Red Cross resigned, but not before being called to account to Congress.

And … » 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 …

Winter 2013

The Beguiling Science of Bodies in Motion

Despite its many mysteries, biomechanics serves up surprises about strained muscles and bones broken and mended.

Earlier this year, at the ripe age of 38, Bernard “Kip” Lagat ’01 became the fastest American ever to run two miles indoors. It was a feat of both speed and longevity, helped in large part by a fluid, seemingly effortless running form the New Yorker describes as “perfect.”

It was not always so. In fact, Lagat’s performance, as well as two Olympic medals and several other American records, may never have taken place without the long tutelage of James Li MS ’87 MS, ’93 PhD, who recruited … » More …