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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:

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Winter 2004

Hazy, crazy days of summer… science

In the chemistry laboratory in Fuller Hall, Cougar Summer Science campers are either making bouncy balls through cross-linking polymers or figuring out the generation properties of oxygen. Tossing her laboratory-produced ball in the air, Kyleigh Kake of Spokane says that she has always wanted to be a doctor. Her lab partner, Elizabeth Perez of Grandview, Washington, attends Cougar Summer Science Camp through an award from her local science fair.

A camper from the next group, slightly less successful with his bouncy ball, says he “did some science at his house.” His description of his experiments make it clear he is better off in the hands … » More …

Fall 2007

Student of light: Recent grad transcends boundaries

“When you come to a fork in the road,” said Yogi Berra, “take it.”

Xavier Perez-Moreno has done just that.

Last spring the effusive, pony-tailed Spaniard received a Ph.D. conferred by Washington State University and The Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. WSU officials think he is the first Cougar to earn a doctoral degree jointly with a foreign institution.

Xavi (SHAH-vee), as his friends call him, clearly isn’t big on either/or choices. Besides bridging universities on two continents, his dual degree also combines different kinds of research and departments: theoretical physics here, experimental chemistry at Leuven.

But Xavi didn’t set out to break institutional … » More …

Summer 2009

Bring on the boron

Lai-Sheng Wang has an impish smile, an infectious laugh, and a high-powered research program that studies matter a few atoms at a time.

He uses massive machines to create tiny clusters of atoms. Wang’s clusters aren’t mere lumps. As the magnetic models stuck to his file cabinets show, they are as geometrically elegant as a snowflake.

Wang came to the public’s attention three years ago when his team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland became the first to make golden buckyball, a hollow cage of 16 to 18 gold atoms. He has also worked on clusters of aluminum, another element with a long … » More …

Winter 2008

Special delivery

Cliff Berkman is taking aim at prostate cancer.

The Washington State University chemist is using part of the cancer cells themselves as a bull’s eye, targeting a protein that occurs on prostate cancer cells and nowhere else.

The protein, called PSMA (Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen), shows up as soon as prostate cells become cancerous. PSMA is different from PSA, the prostate protein that is currently used to diagnose prostate cancer. PSA is released by prostate cancer cells into the bloodstream. PSMA stays attached to the cancer cells, like a neon sign saying “CANCER HERE!”

Since PSMA is so specific to prostate cancer cells, Berkman thought that … » 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 …