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Biology

Winter 2016

Your skin crawls

Skin.

Our interface with the world. When something goes wrong with skin, people notice. Scars, acne, a change in pigment. Wounds that refuse to heal and chronic conditions like psoriasis. When skin doesn’t behave properly, it hurts.

For over 25 years, molecular biologist Jonathan Jones has been looking for ways to help speed the epidermal healing process. As a child in Wales, he’d suffered from itchy red patches of eczema, an annoying condition that eventually got him thinking about skin in a scientific way. Recently, that interest paid off with the surprising discovery that skin cells “walk” during wound healing. The finding could provide new … » More …

bad opioids
Fall 2016

Targeting the brain’s “bad opioids”

The stark reality of drug abuse hit home for Brendan Walker when two college classmates overdosed on heroin and Xanax. Their unsettling deaths steered Walker toward a career in the neuroscience of psychology and addictions.

Today, the associate professor of psychology and member of the Neuroscience Program at WSU is a leader in the study of alcohol and opioid drug dependence. His research is advancing the development of new pharmacotherapy treatments for addiction.

“Alcohol and abused opioids have a lot of similarity,” says Walker. “They both manipulate very powerful primitive systems in the brain that are critical for our motivation.”

One of those systems … » 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 …

Trip the light fantastic
Spring 2016

Trip the light fantastic

When physicist Mark Kuzyk throws a science soiree he doesn’t mess around. Out come the lasers, high-tech origami, ornate wire sculptures, and sticky-stretchy gel that’s fun to throw at the wall. But it’s all for a greater purpose.

The Washington State University Regents professor is developing a shape-changing, laser-guided electrode for the treatment of pain, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression.

The ultra-thin electrode is designed for use in deep brain stimulation (DBS) and relies on optics and photomechanical materials to improve the precision and delicacy of the procedure. Sometimes known as the “brain pacemaker,” DBS holds promise for a wide range of conditions and may … » 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 …