Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Scientists

Summer 2017

Space Cougs

Since the 1960s, engineers, biologists, and even historians who graduated from Washington State have contributed to the exploration of our solar system. You can read about a few of them below. If you know of other Cougs who have been involved in space exploration, please send their stories and we’ll include them here.

Thora Waters Halstead ’50

Space biologist

Microbiologist Thora Waters Halstead pioneered the field of space biology and her research now is a critical piece of NASA’s plans to send astronauts to Mars.

Waters, who earned her undergraduate degree at Washington State University in 1950, was a trailblazer at NASA» More …

Mel Eklund '55 thumb image
Summer 2016

Deadliest toxin microbiologist

A researcher’s lifelong investigation of the botulinum bacteria

Millions of juvenile salmon died mysteriously in hatcheries across the Northwest from 1979 to 1982. Bankruptcy loomed for seafood companies as fish wobbled around the hatchery tanks and then expired.

Eventually, they brought in Mel Eklund ’55, a microbiologist and pathogen expert with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. His wife, Helen, had seen a news report about the dying salmon and when she told him, Eklund got to work.

He analyzed the fish samples in his lab and discovered what he suspected: The salmon were poisoned with botulism, one of the most powerful toxins … » More …

On a mission to cure the disease
Spring 2016

Leen Kawas is on a mission…

…to cure the disease that took her grandmother’s life.

A scientific discovery that could lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s and cancer drives biochemist and executive Leen Kawas. For her, it’s a personal and professional quest to develop that discovery into innovative, affordable drugs for the millions of people facing those diseases—a quest that started at seven years old, when her grandmother got cancer.

At 30, Kawas ’11 PhD is one of the youngest biotech CEOs in Seattle and, as a woman from Jordan, one of the most diverse. In her first year at the helm of M3 Biotechnology, her small but rapidly growing company, … » More …

Author Tracy Cutchlow ’97 and her daughter.
Spring 2015

Bringing up babies

If only babies came with instruction manuals.

A simple set of operating guidelines might help new parents navigate the necessity of naps, manage mealtimes, and teach a toddler to share.

While there are thousands of books and guides and websites, the situation is far from simple. Well-meaning childhood experts, doctors, and parents have blanketed early childhood with good, bad, and often conflicting advice. “The problem is, no one has time to read all that’s out there,” says Tracy Cutchlow ’97, a journalist, book editor, and (fairly) new mother.

Raising a baby can be confusing, confounding, and complicated, Cutchlow admits one afternoon over coffee in Seattle. … » More …

Summer 2014

Machine in the classroom

New tech tools engage young scientists

In a familiar classroom scene, lab partners take turns squinting into a microscope. They spy a wriggling paramecium, if the organism doesn’t swim away from the field of view. These days they also peer into an iPad to watch videos and access digital textbooks. Engineer and entrepreneur Jeff Stewart sees a happy marriage between these old and new technologies in science classrooms.

Stewart and his colleagues at Exo Labs have enhanced that connection with an accessory that connects any microscope to an iPad, where students and teachers can take pictures and videos, measure objects, and quickly share … » More …

Nancy Gillett
Spring 2014

Nancy Gillett ’78—The business of science

When pathologist and researcher Nancy Gillett ’78 decided to leave Genentech, a major medical biotechnology firm, for a small contract research company, her colleagues called it professional suicide. But Gillett had made life-altering career decisions before, moving from being a practicing veterinarian to a research scientist and then to a top-level business executive overseeing 5,000 people at 13 sites around the world.

Gillett’s significant success as a researcher and executive has led to accolades, including the 2013 Regents’ Distinguished Alumna Award from Washington State University. Her path to the University’s highest honor started as the young student from Las Vegas, Nevada, came to WSU to … » More …