Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Archives

Winter 2017

Going the distance. Really.

It is about the miles when you are an ultramarathoner.

 

TWO DAYS BEFORE THE START OF WSU’S FALL SEMESTER, Di Wu staggers down a rugged trail in the towering Sawatch Mountain Range in Colorado. He wheezes with every breath after loping, hiking, and toiling for nearly 50 miles—his training ground in Pullman had done little to prepare him for the suffocating, thin air.

Wu crosses 12,000-foot Hope Pass, a rigorous day’s hike by itself for most. Faced with the prospect of continuing back over the pass, and on to the finish of the Leadville Trail 100-miler, Wu realizes his weary legs are not … » More …

Winter 2017

Getting a new perspective on stress

Humans generally think of themselves as highly evolved creatures, but when it comes to stress, our fear response is as primitive as the tiny beasts that fled predators 500 million years ago. Though lifesaving, this fight-or-flight system is also triggered by modern concerns such as political Facebook posts or being stuck in traffic. Over time, psychological stress can build into an internal time bomb.

While some suggest humans have outgrown their stress system, studies show there are ways to teach that old brain new tricks, helping to calm the angst that comes with contemporary living.

Ryan McLaughlin, assistant professor in the Department of Integrative … » More …

Winter 2017

Going postal

While digital communication has made a lot of things easier—like video calling someone on the other side of the world—it has made collecting public opinion and behavior data more challenging.

Government agencies rely on that data from censuses, public opinion, and behavior surveys to make extensive policy and financial decisions that impact quality of life, such as healthcare measures that curb smoking.

Don Dillman, a Washington State University Regents Professor in sociology and internationally renowned survey methodologist, has dedicated his career to improving the design of surveys to collect that information.

When he started his career in the 1970s, he had to worry about … » More …

Winter 2017

Fighting infection a new, old way

Before antibiotics were invented, people often used silver, a known antimicrobial that can also be toxic, to tackle infections.

Researchers in the early 1900s also noticed a mysterious and inconsistent effect from using a mild electric current to kill nasty microbes.

Both methods were problematic, though, and were quickly abandoned with the advent of antibiotics, which killed bacteria so effectively throughout the twentieth century.

Now, as the efficacy of conventional antibiotics wanes, Washington State University researchers are reinventing old ideas to fight bacterial infection.

At their lab in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose have developed a nontoxic … » More …

Fall 2017

Shifting waters

On the south end of Puget Sound, where I lived for a number of years, water surrounds Olympia: Black Lake, Budd Bay, Capitol Lake, inlets, rivers, and creeks. It’s part of the picturesque scenery that I enjoyed daily, until I saw a half-submerged SUV at an intersection. The storms of 2007 flooded some streets, not to mention covering I-5 just south in Centralia. Water had become an unexpected hazard.

We can expect even more heavy storms and major floods, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, as the climate changes. Floods that were once seen every 20 years are projected to happen as much as … » More …

Thumb: King tide at the Embarcadero, San Francisco. Photo Mike Filippoff
Fall 2017

Waves of the future

When the tides are high in parts of San Francisco, Charleston, and Miami, city streets experience an odd new kind of flooding that happens even on bright, sunny days.

In San Francisco’s Embarcadero district, king tides caused flooding between Mission and Howard Street last winter. Seattle’s Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods have experienced sewer back-ups into streets and basements after large storms.

These are quite literally waves of the future, confronted by Hope Hui Rising and her students at Washington State University. They are working on the front lines of sea level rise, developing urban design strategies to help communities adapt.

As the oceans … » More …

Hat made from leaves
Fall 2017

The people’s plants

The Dominican boy had a leaf draped over his head, secured with a length of vine. Anthropologist Marsha Quinlan was intrigued.

“I asked him, ‘Is that a hat?’” she recalls. “And he explained that, no, he woke up with a headache and the leaf makes your head feel better. And I thought that was so cool!”

Quinlan was a graduate student at the time, on her first trip to the Caribbean island of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic). And that was the moment she realized she had to delve further into ethnobotany.

How people around the world use plants for food, … » More …

Palouse Ridge Golf Club in morning
Fall 2017

Game changer

A small, brownish dry spot is visible on the ninth fairway at Palouse Ridge Golf Club.

Superintendent Mike Bednar is unbothered, which might seem a bit surprising given the course’s enviable reputation among national golfing groups.

“This is designed to play hard and fast,” says Bednar ’92, ’04, explaining Palouse Ridge needs to be a bit on the dry side to deliver the kind of gameplay challenge that’s kept it atop national rankings ever since its 2008 opening. “We’ve got an irrigation system that lets us water only when and where it’s necessary.”

 

The design isn’t just about gameplay, though.

As water becomes … » More …

Fall 2017

Plant for the future

Somewhere in the dryland wilds of eastern Washington, Michael Neff and his wife stop the car.

“I’ve always wanted to hike these dunes,” he says to her. “I could not believe the grasses that were stabilizing those dunes!” Neff says later. He refuses to identify where, exactly, the dunes in question are located. “It’s those little pockets of diversity that we need to identify and preserve,” he explains, almost—but not quite—apologetic.

Trained as a botanist and now a professor of molecular biology at Washington State University, Neff expands on why this is important: “If we’re going to be resilient in the face of climate … » 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 …