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Drive to Twenty Five The Evidence

The Evidence

A major initiative to meet the health needs of the underserved. A Writing Program ranked among the nation’s top 20 for more than a decade. The creation of new technology that elevates the quality of ready-to-eat, packaged food. Researchers who are playing a vital role in the effort to eradicate rabies from the planet.

Those are a handful of examples of WSU-led efforts that transform lives and better society. There are dozens more similar stories—from across the University’s statewide campuses and throughout its colleges, centers, institutes, and departments. Read on to learn more.

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Advancing digital technology with a sense of touch

Two new patents filed by a WSU researcher are breaking new ground in a digital frontier: technology that conveys a sense of touch.

Hakan Gurocak’s work has the potential to revolutionize the use of haptics—conveying information through physical touch. Keyboards and touch screens are familiar haptic devices, as are game controllers that vibrate or shake to convey a sense of motion or resistance.

Dr. Gurocak’s patented magnetorheological (MR) fluid actuators take haptic interfaces further, making it possible to actually feel an object when you touch it in virtual space.

The potential applications are vast.

“That’s what universities do—not only developing technology, but in the process, developing a highly skilled technology workforce of students who have worked on these things and contributed.”

—Hakan Gurocak
Professor and Director
School of Engineering and Computer Science
WSU Vancouver

For instance, surgeons performing robotic surgery could wear a glove that provides “force feedback” via the actuators. This would enable the surgeon to instinctively gauge how much force the robot is applying, and to diagnose whether tissue is diseased or healthy by feel, which robotic surgery currently cannot do.

Manufacturers could save time, material, and money by virtually prototyping a product instead of making physical models. Online shoppers could handle items before buying. And virtual-reality entertainment could reach an unprecedented level of realism.

Graduate students who contributed to the work are named as co-inventors on the patent. Many of the students who have worked in Dr. Gurocak’s robotics and automation lab at WSU Vancouver are advancing the nascent field of haptics as they move on to positions in robotics and medical technology research and open their own businesses.

Providing a vital center for the arts

Programs in the arts don’t simply make artists—they make more creative and critically observant members of society in every field of endeavor.

Art, music and design permeate every aspect of creative inquiry. They are a vital part of the University’s intellectual and spiritual capital, exerting enormous influence on the ways in which we live, learn, and solve problems. They remind us of shared humanity, providing connections to the past and intimations of the future.
It is fitting, then, that the new Museum of Art planned for the Pullman campus will be an architectural beacon that looks outward and draws people in. A plaza shared with the student union building will welcome visitors, and the building’s glass front will display projections of the art objects within for everyone to see.

“I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today or be pursuing the career that I am if it wasn’t for the Museum of Art.”

– Alexa Turner, Museum Procedures Intern

The new museum will provide more gallery space in which to display the work of the University’s own artists—faculty and students alike—and will enhance the University’s ability to bring in art and visiting artists from around the world. It will also enable the University to display many significant pieces of its permanent collection that currently sit in storage.

The WSU Museum of Art at Pullman is one of only two such museums in the Inland Northwest. The University serves as a cultural hub for the region and helps shape the landscape of art and inquiry in the Northwest and beyond.

Finding better measures of community well-being

It seems logical that people with access to more services—a common measure of community well-being—would fare better in times of financial and employment stress. However, WSU professor Tahira Probst has discovered that actual outcomes aren’t so simple.

“Community well-being and resource levels definitely matter, but in surprising ways.”

-Tahira Probst
Professor of Psychology

Dr. Probst, a professor of psychology at WSU Vancouver, hypothesized that people’s tendency to compare themselves to the community at large—the “keeping up with the Joneses” effect—might be more important to an individual’s sense of well-being than the availability of community resources.

When she and her collaborators examined nationwide data compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and analyzed interviews conducted by Gallup polling, they found some interesting patterns.

Prosperous communities with strong resources did a better job of mitigating private sources of financial stress such as inability to pay bills on time. However, people in those communities actually had more trouble coping with stresses such as losing a job or the threat of layoffs—their stress levels increased as their circumstances publicly declined in comparison to the rest of the community.

This knowledge can help policymakers and private organizations put money and resources into the efforts that best support struggling individuals in their unique communities.

Propelling the state wine industry to world-class status

The new, one-of-a-kind Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center is the most recent example of the thriving partnership between the Pacific Northwest wine industry and WSU. It’s a collaboration that has fueled a nearly $5 billion a year state industry—an industry that ranks number two in the nation for wineries and wine production.

Located in Richland on the WSU Tri-Cities campus—in the heart of the state’s wine country—the facility was dedicated in June 2015. Considered one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world, the facility is expected to become a magnet for attracting world-class researchers and students in addition to fostering economic prosperity.

“Every world-renowned wine region has a research university partnering in its success. In Washington, that’s Washington State University.”

—Ted Baseler, President and CEO
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Vice Chair, Board of Regents
Washington State University

The Wine Science Center features research laboratories and classrooms, a research and teaching winery, and a two-acre vineyard. It includes meeting space and an open atrium reminiscent of a wine barrel, which contains a library featuring bottles of wine.

Groundbreaking academic programs

WSU offers undergraduate and graduate studies in viticulture and enology. The curriculum, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, is science-based and hands-on. The University also offers a bachelor’s degree in wine business management and online certificate programs in viticulture and enology and wine business management.

Thomas Henick-Kling directs the viticulture and enology program, which has more than 30 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser, and Pullman. Dr. Henick-Kling worked for 20 years as a wine researcher and educator at Cornell University, where he was instrumental in establishing the undergraduate program in enology and viticulture.

A national leader in developing students’ literacy and communication skills

Washington State University’s Writing Program has ranked among the nation’s Top 20 for more than a decade.

WSU joined institutions such as Yale, Harvard, and Stanford on the 2016 list of “best writing in the disciplines” programs compiled by U.S. News and World Report for its annual “America’s Best Colleges” rankings. The University remains the only institution from the Northwest on the list.

“We have established a tradition of excellence across a variety of services that we offer. We recognize and are always responsive to the changing needs of writers as well as those of the professors who evaluate the work. That’s why other universities follow our lead and adapt our pedagogies for their own programs.”

—Victor Villanueva
Director, Writing Program
Regents Professor and
Edward R. Meyer Distinguished
Professor of Liberal Arts

The U.S. News ranking is just the latest affirmation of the program’s quality—it began appearing on the magazine’s list in 2001.

A national role model

The Writing Program is in its 29th year and remains WSU’s central unit dedicated to promoting critical literacy and helping students and faculty be better communicators. The program’s staff and the All-University Writing Committee work with faculty to develop and review more than 400 WSU writing-intensive courses, known as M-courses. The program also manages the writing portfolio requirement for all juniors, is the center for writing assessments, and provides thousands of hours of writing counseling to undergraduate and graduate students yearly.

Raising the bar for veterinary medicine teaching programs

Washington State University is home to the only college of veterinary medicine in North America to foster and support an active teaching academy. It promotes scholarly teachers and teaching scholarship.

“We seek to make our teaching look more like our research, where we are always looking for the next big idea—a place where great ideas and data rule, and where healthy debate and dialogue are the norm.”

—Steven A. Hines
Director, College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy
Professor of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology

The Teaching Academy anchors the College of Veterinary Medicine’s efforts to improve teaching and student success, including collaborations with the College of Education, re-engineering undergraduate courses to promote inquiry-based, active learning, and building a core of life science and health profession education scholars.

Some of the innovative educational doctor of veterinary medicine programs include:

  • Diagnostic Challenges. Case-based exercises are conducted collaboratively with faculty in pathology, clinical pathology, bacteriology, virology, immunology, and radiology. Visiting veterinarians and WSU alumni of the college return to campus as volunteer case facilitators.
  • Clinical and Professional Skills Lab. Teaches students clinical skills that veterinarians need to practice the best medicine possible. The veterinary clinical communications class simulates real cases using trained actors or volunteers.
  • Animal Health Policy Program. Gives graduate students the opportunity to investigate the impact of science, politics, and beliefs on animal health and food security policy. Students learn about policymaking and implementation at local, national, and international levels.

Fostering industry to develop environmentally friendly jet fuels

Alaska Airlines will fly a demonstration flight in the coming months using 1,000 gallons of alternative biojet fuel being produced by the WSU-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA).

“The opportunities for us to build a biofuels industry focused on aviation and, ultimately, marine needs will help us reduce dramatically our reliance on foreign oil.”

—Tom Vilsack, Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
2011, during announcement of a
five-year, $40 million grant to WSU

NARA is a five-year project supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that responds to the airline industry’s growing interest in development of a nonfossil-based fuel. The NARA alliance of public universities, government laboratories, and private industry aims to create a sustainable industry for producing carbon-neutral aviation biofuels. The biojet fuel is made from forest residuals, the tree limbs and branches that remain after a forest harvest and sourced in the Pacific Northwest.

The NARA effort addresses the urgent national need for a domestic biojet fuel alternative for U.S. commercial and military air fleets. The project focuses on increasing the profitability of wood-based fuels through development of high-value, bio-based coproducts to replace petrochemicals that are used in products such as plastics.

The NARA alliance includes private industry partners such as Alaska Airlines, Catchlight Energy, Gevo, Inc., Weyerhaeuser, and Cosmos Specialty Fibers, and government and higher education partners such as the National Center for Genome Resources, the University of Washington, the University of Minnesota, Oregon State University, and the U.S. Forest Service.

At the forefront of research to unravel the mystery of sleep

At the internationally recognized Sleep and Performance Research Center (SPRC) on the Health Sciences Spokane campus of Washington State University, basic and applied scientists study sleep and wakefulness to answer critical questions about the effects of reduced and displaced sleep on performance and health.

The research seeks to understand the neurobiology of sleep and sleep loss and the effect of sleep loss on metabolism, immune function, cognitive performance, and behavior. It aims to find the best ways to ensure adequate, recuperative sleep or mitigate the effects of inadequate sleep.

Major studies for government and industry

Interest in sleep research is growing steadily. SPRC investigators have conducted many studies for government agencies and industry, including the National Institutes of Health, branches of the military, NASA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, and the trucking and airline industries.

“We all value our wakefulness because it’s so important to be able to do a lot of different things, and there is great virtue in that. But there is also great virtue in getting sleep because getting enough sleep makes our wakefulness so much better and more productive.”

— Hans Van Dongen, Director
Sleep and Performance Research Center
Washington State University

Recent work by the SPRC for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration led the Department of Transportation to adopt new federal regulations that extend the rest period for truck drivers working night shifts.

The SPRC connects research programs on sleep and cognitive performance across seven WSU colleges, including more than a dozen core faculty, nearly as many affiliated faculty, and numerous staff and students.

Ensuring a reliable power supply for the nation

WSU, home to one of the top power engineering programs in the country, leads the nation’s efforts to increase the reliability and efficiency of the “smart grid,” the computer-automated network that distributes electricity nationwide.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), WSU scientists, including National Academy member Anjan Bose, explore new technologies to advance power grid operation and control, dependability, and security. They seek ways to automate power distribution, integrate renewably generated power, and prevent blackouts. Dr. Bose has consulted for the electric power industry throughout the world and has been an advisor to several governments on grid-related issues.

“To meet the energy challenge and create a 21st century energy economy, we need a 21st century electric grid.”

—Steven Chu, Secretary
U.S. Department of Energy, 2009-2013

Under the leadership of Chen-Ching Liu, an international expert in the recovery and cyber security of the power grid, the Energy Systems Innovations Center brings together research faculty, business leaders, and governmental organizations to address the demand for clean, reliable energy. The center consists of some 30 WSU faculty members, more than a third of whom have specialized knowledge in the core areas of power, energy, and computer science.

The center also collaborates with a wide range of government and industry partners, and its multidisciplinary studies support development of public policy at the state and federal levels.

Educating tomorrow’s power engineers is a top University priority. Backed by a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Energy, WSU has launched a new online electrical power engineering professional science master’s degree. A National Science Foundation funded Smart Grid Scholarship program provides about 19 scholarships annually. Its goal: to prepare the clean energy and smart grid engineers of tomorrow.

Tackling the Grand Challenges

A recent investment of $29 million in institutional funds by Washington State University in several multi-disciplinary research projects will serve as a springboard to advancing the University’s Grand Challenges research initiative.

“These research efforts help us set exciting new directions for the University’s quest to create and share new knowledge”

— Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University

The research, to be funded over five years, capitalizes on the institution’s fundamental and research strengths, while focusing research, innovation, and creativity in specific areas to achieve broad societal impact.

The research projects are expected to enhance federal funding of research, increase impactful publications, facilitate commercialization activities, and incent faculty recruitment.

Four major initiatives

  • Functional Genomics Initiative: Will marshal the emerging science of genome editing to control diseases in large animals to feed a growing world population while supporting life sciences across the University, including the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.
  • Community Health Analytics Initiative: Will boost WSU’s ability to analyze “big data” to promote information-based health care research, specifically in the area of microbial resistant bacteria.
  • Research Collaborative for Addressing Health Disparities Initiative: Will tackle the persistent and damaging health disparities that grow out of poverty and discrimination.
  • Green Stormwater Initiative: Will address the deleterious effects of stormwater and develop effective measures to address one of the most pervasive and challenging sources of water pollution affecting the globe.

Two smaller initiatives

  • Nutritional Genomics and Smart Foods Initiative
  • Holistic Approach to Developing Smarter Cities Initiative