FRONTRUNNERS–-Fall 2007
   

 
Leana Wen speaks with fellow medical student Kao-Ping Chua. Wen’s essay was selected from among 2,000 entries as the winner of a contest to accompany a Pulitzer-Prize winner to Africa.

Rhodes Scholar Leana Wen Reports on Africa
Leana Wen, a 2007 graduate of Washington University School of Medicine, was selected to travel with The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof on a three-week reporting trip to Africa. Wen’s and Chicago high school teacher Will Okun’s essays were chosen from entries submitted by more than 2,000 American college and graduate students and middle school and high school teachers.

This is the second year that Kristof, a two-time Pulitzer-Prize winner who writes about health, justice, and social issues in Third World countries, has sponsored a contest for essayists to accompany him to Africa.

“Addressing inequities in health, in the United States and globally, is the driving force in my life,” Wen says.

Wen, a Rhodes Scholar and past president of the American Medical Student Association, says she considered becoming a foreign-affairs journalist before choosing medicine. “I chose medical school because I wanted a more direct way of changing the world,” she says. “Now, I recognize that both sets of skills—direct medical practice and communication to the public—are important for what I want to do.”

Among the things she wants to do are shape public policy in a way that addresses global injustices, as well as serve as an emergency medicine physician.

Coming from a family who immigrated to the United States from China, hoping to escape the repressive Cultural Revolution, Wen says her early experiences strongly influenced her current life pursuits.

Student Light-Rail Proposals Win AIA Education Honor Award

Design proposal for an urban park at the Dickson Street station in Fayetteville, Arkansas, by James Morrison, graduate student in architecture.

A collaborative light-rail master plan involving close to 50 architecture students from Washington University and the University of Arkansas (UA) won a national Education Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

The award, one of only three given this year, was presented in May. It honored “Visioning Rail Transit in Northwest Arkansas: Lifestyles and Ecologies,” a regional-planning studio exploring how light-rail and associated transit-oriented development might ease traffic gridlock, spur downtown revitalization, and check sprawl in the Fayetteville metropolitan area.

The Community Design Center (CDC), an outreach of UA’s School of Architecture, launched “Visioning Rail Transit” in spring 2006. The project continued last fall at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, where Stephen Luoni, director of the CDC, served as the Ruth and Norman Moore Visiting Professor in Architecture. Building on the UA work, nine students in the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design developed proposals for transit-oriented neighborhoods anchored by mixed-use train stations at key Fayetteville sites.

“This is an effective use of scenario planning with legible, impactful graphics that can be shown to the community,” noted the AIA jury. “There is an appealing levity in the work.”


76-year-old Woman Freed with Help of Civil Justice Clinic
Shirley Lute, a 76-year-old victim of domestic violence, was released on May 4 from prison due to efforts of the School of Law’s Civil Justice Clinic and Jane Harris Aiken, then William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law and clinic director.

After Aiken and third-year law student Olivia Bradbury successfully argued a petition stating that Lute was wrongfully denied parole, the Supreme Court of Missouri in April ordered the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole to set conditions of parole for Lute.

The victory was the culmination of more than eight years of work by the clinic on Lute’s behalf.

The oldest female inmate in Missouri, Lute was incarcerated for her role in the 1981 murder of her abusive husband. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years.

The clinic helped Lute obtain a 2004 commutation of her sentence to life in prison with parole from Gov. Bob Holden, but she then was denied parole. The parole board stated that Lute’s release would depreciate the seriousness of her offense.
Lute received a commutation from Holden in part because her husband’s physical, psychological, and emotional abuse of her was not brought into evidence at the time of her original trial.

MySci Wins Regional Recognition
Program specialist Darlene Norfleet leads a hands-on session on insects aboard the MySci Investigation Station April 20 at Edgar Road Elementary School in Webster Groves, Missouri. Norfleet is part of the MySci Program, which brings interactive science education to area K–2 students through its investigation station, a mobile science classroom in a custom-built, 37-foot semitrailer. Students and faculty from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art’s Visual Communications Research Studio designed the vehicle’s exterior graphics and interior displays. The program received a “What’s Right with the Region!” award from FOCUS St. Louis May 10 at The Sheldon Concert Hall. Launched in 2005 with support from the Monsanto Fund, MySci is a collaboration among the University, the Saint Louis Science Center, the Saint Louis Zoo, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The program is part of WUSTL’s Science Outreach, which strives to improve learning in math and science through hands-on, investigative teaching methods in area school districts in underserved communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Portrait of Catholic Church
Accessible to All
Roman Catholicism, with its numerous saints, long history, and deep traditions, can be difficult for the uninitiated to grasp. But a new book from an expert on the Catholic Church who teaches at Washington University should help to change that.

The Encyclopedia of Catholicism, compiled by Frank K. Flinn, adjunct professor of religious studies in Arts & Sciences, was released May 20.

The book is part of the Facts on File Library of Religion and Mythology series called The Encyclopedia of World Religions, which explores the major religions of the world, emphasizing the living faiths and their historical and social background.

Each volume was written by an expert in the field and reviewed and approved by series editor J. Gordon Melton. The references are accessible enough to be of use to the general reader, as well as the serious scholar.

“A person who is completely unaware of what Catholicism is could read this book and come away with a solid understanding of the tenets of the church and, to some degree, what it means to be Catholic,” says Flinn, who earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate in special religious studies from St. Michael’s College, Toronto School of Theology.

Flinn discusses all the main figures and topics relevant to Catholicism, including baptism, canon law, the Holy Roman Empire, Opus Dei, and many more. He also includes controversial subjects like the problem of pedophilia in the Catholic Church.

“I decided to include all the virtues and a sizable number of the vices,” Flinn says.

Athletics Are Tops
Washington University’s Department of Athletics finished in fifth place in the 2006–2007 U.S. Sports Academy Directors’ Cup Division III spring standings.
John Watts placed second nationally in Division III singles his freshman year.

Washington University, which was seventh after the fall season and third after the winter season, is still comfortably in the top five with a program-best 791.50 points. The Bears softball team had its best season in the program’s history, taking second place at the NCAA Championships. Baseball wrapped up its season by making its third-straight NCAA appearance.

WUSTL senior Natalie Badowski earned ESPN The Magazine second-team Academic All-America (college division) honors for cross country/track and field. A biology and philosophy-neuroscience-psychology major, Badowski earned Academic All-America honors for the third straight year, the first time in school history an athlete has achieved the feat.

The men’s tennis team ended the season with a loss to eventual national champion University of California, Santa Cruz, in the NCAA quarterfinals. Sophomore Charlie Cutler was named the ITA Central Region and National Player to Watch, while freshman John Watts earned the Central Region and National Rookie of the Year awards.


WUSTL representatives (back row from second to left) Kristopher Kelley, Kate Burson, Teresa Wallace, Kenneth A. Harrington, Yiping Chen, and Russell Kohn interact with children at Mahabo Commune in Madagascar.

Fighting Poverty in Madagascar
Five students and one faculty member boarded a plane for Madagascar in March and headed to the remote Third World Mahabo Commune to assess the impact of economic development.

The goal of the trip was to balance economic, social, environmental, and political factors in a 10-village area of about 9,000 Malagasy people.

The University’s School of Law and the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies got involved when the Missouri Botanical Garden asked for ideas.

The garden, through its Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development, has been involved for four years, creating more than 20 jobs, building a library, developing a plant nursery, constructing buildings, and developing relationships with local leaders that have helped restore the endangered littoral forest and its lemurs. Garden workers also realized they needed economic growth for these gains to be sustained.

Each student examined issues based on his or her area of study, including community rule of law, cultural and family issues, technology innovation potential, environmental impact, and entrepreneurial economic development.

The students were accompanied by Kenneth A. Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center; Armand Randrianasolo of the garden; and Theresa Wilson, founder of The Blessing Basket Project. The St. Louis–based basket project is a nonprofit company that pays weavers in six developing countries prosperity wages that are 10 to 15 times higher than fair-trade levels.

Work in Mahabo is being expanded as more student teams and professors focus on other communes in Madagascar.

Primate Genome Reveals DNA Similarities
Scientists have decoded the genome of the rhesus macaque monkey and compared it with the genomes of humans and their closest living relatives—the chimps—revealing that the three primate species share about
93 percent of the same DNA.

The sequencing was completed by a global consortium of researchers, including scientists at the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine, and was published in the April 13 issue of Science.

Also, University scientists recently completed the raw sequences for the orangutan and marmoset genomes. The National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, funded all three projects.

By placing the human genome alongside those of the other primates, scientists can identify molecular changes that separate the various species. On a practical level, this may help determine how and when genetic alterations associated with certain diseases, including hepatitis, malaria, and Alzheimer’s, crept into the genome and why non-human primates do not develop such illnesses.

The macaque genome is the second non-human primate, after the chimp, to have its genome sequenced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bouchet Society Creates WUSTL Chapter
The University has been selected to become a chapter member of the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. Two graduate students and a postdoctoral research associate became the first inductees into the WUSTL chapter.

The three, all in Arts & Sciences, are Bertin Louis, Jr., a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology; Marshall Thompson, a graduate student in the Department of Political Science; and Kenya Powell, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Chemistry.

The Washington University Bouchet Honor Society Selection Committee, which chose the inaugural class of Bouchet Fellows this semester, comprises Robert E. Thach, dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; Sheri Notaro, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; Garrett A. Duncan, associate professor of education, of American culture studies, and of African & African American studies, all in Arts & Sciences; and Leah Merrifield, special assistant to the chancellor for diversity initiatives (see Washington Spirit).

The society was established in 2005 by Yale and Howard universities to recognize the life and academic contributions of Edward Alexander Bouchet, the first African-American to earn a doctorate from an American university. He earned a doctorate in physics from Yale in 1876.

The society’s purpose is to recognize outstanding scholarly achievement and to promote diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate.

Bouchet Fellows will be profiled on a forthcoming Web site that will include their curriculum vitae and research interests. These profiles can be used by job-search committees to locate underrepresented scholars for postdoctoral and faculty positions.

Undergraduate Helps Mars Mission Landing
Earth and planetary scientists at Washington University paved the way for a smooth landing on Mars for the Phoenix Mission, which launched in August, by making sure the set-down is, literally, not a rocky one.

Tabatha Heet, then a junior earth and planetary sciences major and Pathfinder student, shows Ray Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, a potential landing site for the Phoenix Mission to Mars.

A team led by Raymond E. Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences, analyzed images taken from a NASA instrument to make sure that the Phoenix spacecraft lands in a spot on the Red planet’s northern plains that is relatively rock-free. Coming down in an area with rocks the same size or larger than the lander could cause the whole craft to tilt or tip over or make it difficult to deploy its solar panels. The solar panels drive seven Phoenix Mission instruments.

Key in this whole process was University earth and planetary sciences major Tabatha Heet, who began the project with Arvidson in October 2006. Her job was to painstakingly count thousands of rocks. Heet got large images from an instrument called HIRISE, a feature of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission, which permits the viewing of rocks as small as roughly a yard across. Her hand counts were used to assist other NASA scientists in automated rock counter calibrations and comparisons.

Last February, Arvidson and Heet flew out to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Heet received a warm round of applause at her introduction to JPL researchers, and scientists questioned her on her technique and her stamina.

“It’s very slow and makes your eyes go crazy,” Heet says.


Discovery May Lead to Endometrial Cancer Treatment
Discovery of alterations in a gene called FGFR2 could accelerate the development of new treatments for endometrial cancer, a type of uterine cancer.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine; the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen); the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (Cambridge University); and New York University School of Medicine reported the findings in the May 21, 2007, online version of the journal Oncogene.

The mutations in FGFR2 were found in a subset of endometrial cancers. The genetic changes result in uncontrolled cell division, a hallmark of cancer. Drugs already in clinical trials inhibit FGFR2 function and potentially could lead to new treatments for endometrial cancers, according to the researchers.

Paul Goodfellow, an endometrial cancer expert and professor of surgery, genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at WUSTL’s School of Medicine, and Pamela Pollock, head of TGen’s Melanoma Research Unit, are planning additional studies to investigate whether two drugs currently in Phase I trials for other cancers inhibit endometrial cell growth in the laboratory. Future studies include testing these drugs in mouse models of endometrial cancer before testing them in humans.

Nearly 40,000 women are diagnosed with endometrial cancer each year.

What’s Shakin’? Test Shows Sensors Limit Earthquake Damage
An earthquake engineer at Washington University successfully has performed the first test of wireless sensors in the simulated structural control of a model laboratory building.

Shirley Dyke (left) and Pengcheng Wang adjust wireless sensors onto a model laboratory building in Dyke’s laboratory.

Shirley J. Dyke, the Edward C. Dicke Professor of Civil Engineering and director of the Washington University Structural Control and Earthquake Engineering Laboratory, combined the wireless sensors with special controls called magnetorheological dampers to limit damage from a simulated earthquake load.

Her demonstration is the first step toward implementing wireless sensors for structural control in real buildings and structures, enabling less manpower requirements and far less remodeling of existing structures.

The wireless sensors, about a square inch in size, are attached to the sides of buildings to monitor the force of sway when shaking. The sensors then are transmitted to a computer program that translates the random units read by the sensors into units useful for the engineers and computer programmers.

The computer sends a message to magnetorheological dampers, or MR dampers, that are within the building’s structure to dampen the effect of the swaying on the structure. MR dampers act like shock absorbers for a building.

Dyke was the first civil engineer to demonstrate the use of MR damper technology for structural health monitoring and protection of buildings during seismic movement.


Jonathan Fanton
Danforth Lecture Series Achieves “Higher Sense of Purpose”
A talk sponsored by the George Warren Brown School of Social Work and a symposium hosted by the School of Law this spring served as the final two installments of the Danforth Lecture Series. The series, which debuted last October as part of Washington University’s celebration of the Danforth Campus dedication, underscored the important role of higher education in society.

The social work school sponsored “The Social Impact of a University,” given by Jonathan Fanton, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest private philanthropic foundations. Fanton discussed the important contributions that universities can make to social and economic progress at the local, national, and international level.

The law school hosted the Philip D. Shelton Symposium, titled “A Higher Sense of Purpose: Access to Higher Education and the Professions.” The symposium brought together distinguished panelists to discuss access to higher education and the professions, including socioeconomic and racial diversity issues.

Throughout the year, the Danforth Lecture Series also hosted speakers who addressed topics ranging from business to medicine and society.

First Student Show Held in Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts presented its annual MFA Thesis Exhibition in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum. The exhibition included approximately 60 works in a variety of media by 14 second-year master’s candidates from the Graduate School of Art.

Amy Thompson, Untitled (Paper Structures) (detail); paper, intaglio, and wax; 2007.

This year’s exhibition was the first student show to be held in the Kemper Art Museum’s College of Art Gallery. The gallery is part of the new museum facilities designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Fumihiko Maki.

The 2006–2007 academic year marked several significant developments for the Graduate School of Art. For the first time in decades, all MFA studios are located together in one facility, the University’s Lewis Center building. The class of 2007 was the first to graduate since the MFA program was reorganized in 2005. The program now offers all students an MFA degree in studio art, rather than MFA degrees in individual media such as painting or sculpture.


Nature and Nurture
Play Roles in ADHD
Past research has suggested that both genes and prenatal insults—such as exposure to alcohol and nicotine—can increase the risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But the identified increases in risk have been very modest. Now, a team of Washington University scientists has found that when those factors are studied together, risk of a severe type of ADHD greatly increases.

The investigators looked at two genes related to ADHD risk and considered whether mothers smoked during pregnancy. In past studies, maternal smoking had been linked to a 1.2- to 1.3-fold increase in risk of ADHD. Genes associated with ADHD elevated risk between 1.2- and 1.4-fold.

The risk of a severe type of ADHD greatly increases in children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy and who also have variants of one or two genes associated with ADHD.

“But when we looked at the effect of maternal smoking in children with one of our candidate genes, we saw a three-fold increase in risk, and in children with both genes whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, we saw a nine-fold increase,” says senior investigator Richard D. Todd, the Blanche F. Ittleson Professor and director of the Division of Child Psychiatry. “Our findings begin to offer an explanation for the modest effects we’ve seen when looking at genes or environmental variables one at a time. It appears it’s really the interaction of genes and environmental factors that predisposes a child to problems with ADHD.”

Further studies will focus on the interplay of genetic and environmental factors.

University Gathers for Virginia Tech Vigil
Arts & Sciences freshman Claire Glasspiegel helps Baili Min, a graduate student in mathematics in Arts & Sciences, light a candle during the University’s gathering April 19 in the Brookings Quadrangle to show support for those impacted by the Virginia Tech tragedy. More than 150 students and administrators attended the event to hear remarks from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton; Karin Johnes, a Virginia Tech alumna and former director of WUSTL’s Greek life; campus ministers; students; and others. Candles were lit, followed by a moment of silence, and those in attendance added their thoughts to a condolence message that was sent to Virginia Tech.


Mural Encourages Public
Transportation Use
Metro employees hang an Earth Day mural in the Skinker MetroLink station near the Danforth Campus April 20.
A new Earth Day mural now hangs in the Skinker MetroLink station in an effort to raise consciousness about global climate change and encourage the use of public transportation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The colorful mural, titled “St. Louis Kids Paint for Global Climate Change Awareness,” consists of 200 plywood puzzle pieces that were painted by elementary and middle school students throughout St. Louis City and County.

The mural, designed by Monica Parsons, B.F.A. ’05, was constructed by undergraduates in the honors society of the International and Area Studies program in Arts & Sciences, the Campus Y group VERDE (Volunteers for Environmental Restoration, Development, and Education), and members of the Thurtene Junior Honorary. It will hang in the station for one year.


Danforth Receives Inaugural Spirit of Hope Award
Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth was presented with the inaugural Christopher Hobler Spirit of Hope Award at the 3rd annual “Evening of Hope,” a gala dinner and concert May 14 at The Sheldon Concert Hall. Danforth was honored by the nonprofit organization Hope Happens for his “demonstrated passion for and commitment to the mission of Hope Happens and support for a new model of doing research for neurodegenerative disorders at the Hope Center,” said Jean Hobler, who presented the award named for her son, who died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) Feb. 16, 2005.

(From left) Jessie Vonk, William H. Danforth, and Jean Hobler at the May 14 ceremony at which Danforth received the inaugural Christopher Hobler Spirit of Hope Award, named for Hobler’s son. Vonk, a sculptor and widow of former music director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Hans Vonk, designed the award to resemble a neuron as a symbol of hope to find cures for nerve-killing disorders.

Hobler is one of the founders of Hope Happens and a member of the Steering Committee of the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders at the School of Medicine.

The mission of Hope Happens is to improve the lives of people with neurodegenerative disorders by promoting collaborative, translational research with the potential to fast-track cures.

In his acceptance remarks, Danforth said: “I would not be here tonight if medical research had not extended my life. I believed in medical research long before its fruits affected my life directly, but now I have a personal reason to be grateful.

“The Hope Center puts together the right world-leading scientists, with the right vision, and the right infrastructure to mount an attack on these crippling diseases,” Danforth continued. “The challenge for us all is to join the Hope Center in the pursuit of this noble cause.”

For more information and to read the full text of Danforth’s acceptance speech, visit hopehappens.org.


Honors & Recognition
Ramesh K. Agarwal, the William Palm Professor of Engineering, was presented the Gold Award by the Royal Aeronautical Society in London.

Yixin Chen, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, is one of just five new faculty nationwide to receive a New Faculty Fellowship from Microsoft Research.

Three University scientists recently were elected to the National Academy of Sciences: Aaron J. Ciechanover, visiting professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and the Research Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; Clifford M. Will, the James S. McDonnell Professor of Physics in Arts & Sciences; and Wayne M. Yokoyama, the Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Professor of Research in Arthritis.

William H. Gass, the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities in Arts & Sciences, is the 2007 winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin for his book, A Temple of Texts.

David M. Holtzman, the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of neurology, is the co-recipient of the MetLife Foundation Award for Medical Research in Alzheimer’s Disease.

Zeuler R. Lima, assistant professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, has won the 2007 Bruno Zevi Prize from the Bruno Zevi Foundation in Rome for his extended essay “Towards Simple Architecture” about the Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi.

Helen M. Piwnica-Worms, professor of cell biology and physiology and of internal medicine at the School of Medicine, and Murray Weidenbaum, the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor, were elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Steven Strasberg, the Pruett Professor of Surgery and head, Section of Hepato-biliary-pancreatic and Gastrointestinal Surgery, was made an honorary member of the European Surgical Association at a meeting of the association held at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in Dublin.

Eleven faculty members were named to endowed professorships: Robert Blankenship, professor of biology and of chemistry, as the Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor of Arts & Sciences; Sarah C.R. Elgin, professor of biology and of education, both in Arts & Sciences, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and of genetics in the School of Medicine, as the first Viktor Hamburger Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences; Victoria J. Fraser, professor of medicine and clinical chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, as the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine; W. Donald Gay, associate professor of otolaryngology and director, Division of Maxillofacial Prosthetics, as the Christy J. and Richard S. Hawes III Professor at the medical school; Sally Goldman, professor of computer science and engineering, as the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering; Aaron Hamvas, medical director, Newborn Intensive Care Unit, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, as the first James P. Keating, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics; David Levine as the John Biggs Distinguished Professor of Economics; Jeff Pike, dean of the College of Art and the Graduate School of Art, as the first Jane Reuter Hitzeman and Herbert F. Hitzeman, Jr. Professor of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts; Andrey S. Shaw, professor of pathology and immunology, as the Emil R. Unanue Professor of Immunobiology and director of the new Division of Immunobiology; Larry Taber, professor of biomedical engineering, as the Dennis and Barbara Kessler Professor of Biomedical Engineering; and Brad W. Warner, as the Apolline Blair St. Louis Children’s Hospital Professor of Surgery and pediatric surgeon-in-chief at the medical school and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.