Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Notable Alumni

Summer 2017

Old remedy

Veterinarians use an old remedy to eliminate the deadliest infectious disease known to humanity. Rabies.

It was the season for guavas. Their sweet musky fragrance drifted through the morning air and into the open window of seven-year-old Sharon Korir, beckoning her outside to play.

The year was 2003, the day after Christmas. As was customary, Sharon had traveled with her parents to their home village in rural Kenya for the holiday. When it came time to return to Nairobi, the doting grandparents asked Sharon to spend an extra day.

The rains had passed and that day arrived with welcome blue skies. Sharon and her friends … » More …

Summer 2017

On the surface…

Cancer, that malignant force that maims and kills as it rampages through bodies and lives, may have met its match in the person of James Wells ’79 PhD. Wells speaks quietly but with urgency. You have to lean in to not miss anything.

Wells is explaining that cancer’s derangement of our lives actually begins at the surface of individual cells. The complex chemical ecology of the cell membrane surface deserves its own term of art, so Wells dubs it the “surfaceome.” “The cell membrane is the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth of a cell,” he says.

Cancer cells, in order to avoid detection by the … » More …

John Yeager
Summer 2017

John Yeager ’06, ’08 MS, ’11 PhD

John Yeager wants to know what happens to materials all the way down to the nanoscale, even when they detonate. His curiosity led to three WSU materials science degrees, and a recent award.

Yeager ’06, ’08 MS, ’11 PhD, now works for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s High Explosives Science and Technology group in New Mexico. He received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in January.

Established in 1996, the Presidential Early Career Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. Yeager is among … » More …

Summer 2017

Robert Smawley 1928–2017

Bob Smawley, “Mr. WSU,” embodied what it meant to be a Cougar for generations of Washington State University students, staff, and alumni, through his selfless service to the University, his caring nature, and his deep knowledge of WSU history, all delivered with a dry sense of humor and true compassion.

For over six decades, Smawley worked under six WSU presidents in several departments, volunteered and led in the Alumni Association, taught many the history of WSU through engaging slideshows, and mentored thousands of students.

“He was the heart of WSU,” says Malia Martine Karlinsky ’92. “Bob had a magical way of making you feel … » More …

Faster drop for a new crop
Spring 2017

Faster drop for a new crop

Water and time are money if you’re a farmer. Trees are especially slow, and to get a new apple variety growing at a commercial scale can take years. It not only takes a couple of years after planting for fruit production to start, but it’s a long time just getting trees to plant.

The number of trees needed to plant a commercial-scale orchard is daunting. Even a small orchard of 100 acres needs nearly a quarter million trees to get going. And while it might take only a couple years to “raise a few rootstocks, thousands can take many years,” Washington State University apple breeder … » More …

Dinner with girl geeks - Kristin McKinney
Spring 2017

Dinner with girl geeks

Working for a Portland, Oregon, staffing firm in the late 1990s, Kristin McKinney ’95 helped recruit employees to the city’s burgeoning tech industry. The job unleashed her own geek.

“I found I had a bit of an inner nerd,” says McKinney, who got her degree in business. “I never really knew that.”

Her newfound enthusiasm was tempered by a sobering reality: Women then, like now, accounted for less than 30 percent of the computing and information technology workforce, according to the National Science Foundation.

McKinney, now a recruiter in Nashville, Tennessee, is working to reverse the trend. In 2013, she joined computer application engineer Rachel … » More …

Spring 2017

Anna King ’00

Growing up in the foothills of Mount Rainier, Anna King ’00 figured she’d end up either a veterinarian or a writer. Her family ran a small cattle farm in Roy, and she loved animals.

King participated in 4-H projects, raising animals but also giving presentations that taught her to communicate with an audience. When a TV reporter from the Seattle area paid a visit to her high school class, she remembers thinking, “This person is so smart, so edgy, so inspiring.”

The Honors College alumna worked for several newspapers in the Puget Sound area, including the Puyallup Herald. She figured out early that … » More …

The most prolific scorJeanne (Eggart) Helfer. Photo Bruce Andre
Spring 2017

How you play the game

It took a while for the guys to start passing her the ball during pickup games at the gym.

Jeanne (Eggart) Helfer ’82 stuck with it, spending much of her free time back in 1977 simply running the length of the basketball court waiting for a chance to show she knew her way around the paint. It was her first semester at Washington State, a few months before she would start setting school records, and Helfer patiently waited for the guys to discover what her older brother and his friends already had learned back in Walla Walla.

That girl can shoot. And pass. And rebound.

» More …