FRONTRUNNERS — SPRING 2010
   

 
LiaFaith Reed, Arts & Sciences Class of 2011, hopes to pursue a master’s degree in social work and work to improve conditions for children in Chicago. (Photo: Joe Angeles)

Enterprise Scholar Dreams Big Despite Odds
Growing up in Chicago, LiaFaith Reed, Arts & Sciences Class of 2011, fought an uphill battle her entire life. Her father abandoned the family, and her mother could not provide a stable home for her children due to her drug addiction.

At age 15, Reed decided to move out and live on her own. Working full time to support herself, she got home from work at 2 a.m. then headed to school four hours later. Despite the obstacles, Reed graduated first in her high school class.

After touring Washington University during Multicultural Weekend, Reed chose to attend the University for several reasons.

“The University placed an emphasis on direct student-professor interaction,” Reed says. “It also offered me a generous scholarship package [an Enterprise Rent-A-Car Scholarship and a Lawrence Thomas Scholarship] that would allow me to work less and focus more on my course work.”

Reed acknowledges that she would not have been able to attend Washington University without the aid of these scholarships.

“I truly appreciate my scholarship providers for giving me the means to get a quality education and reach my full potential,” she says.

In addition to studying psychology and political science, Reed serves as a residential advisor, a student ambassador, and a student assistant at the Danforth University Center. She is the executive producer of a WUTV mock news/variety show and a member of international business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. Reed also volunteers at Barbara Jordan Elementary School through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.

She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in social work and work on programs for the Chicago Park District to improve conditions for the children of the city. After a few years, Reed would like to go back to school for a law degree.

“If given the opportunity in the future, I would like to financially help as many students as I possibly could,” Reed says. “I feel as if I owe it to the people that helped me to do the same for someone else.”

“If given the opportunity in the future, I would like to financially help as many students as I possibly could.”


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Asthma Symptoms Alleviated with Catheter
In an international study of patients with severe, uncontrolled asthma, researchers at the School of Medicine found that a new drug-free treatment is effective. The results showed statistically significant improvements in quality of life and reductions in asthma attacks and emergency room visits for patients who underwent the treatment.

Although drugs can lessen the constriction of the breathing passages in many patients, some patients cannot control their asthma even with high doses of medications.

The new treatment uses the Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System to heat the walls of the lung’s air passages to reduce muscle tissue and potentially inhibit narrowing of the airways. Researchers inserted the catheter of the Alair device into the lungs. The catheter contains an expandable wire array at its tip. When deployed, the wires touch the airway walls and deliver heat.

“Many patients with severe asthma are already taking the best drug therapy we have and are still experiencing debilitating symptoms,” says the study’s lead U.S. investigator, Mario Castro, professor of medicine and of pediatrics. “This device provides a meaningful new treatment for such patients.”


(Photo: Courtesy Danforth Plant Science Center)

Obama Taps Beachy to Lead New Federal Agriculture Agency
President Barack Obama appointed Roger Beachy, founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, to lead a new federal agency that will transform the way plant science research is funded in the United States.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, a newly named agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will manage the external grants of the Department of Agriculture, including the competitive grant program now called the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.


(Photo: Joe Angeles)

South 40 Gets ‘Urban Feel’
The South 40 boasts two impressive new buildings, South 40 House (pictured) and Umrath House, as part of a two-phase construction project designed to give the area a new urban feel.

In addition to the new residence halls, the first phase of construction includes a fitness center, several stations of food service, a convenience store, and a temporary dining area.

The second phase of construction, including the completion of the dining area and College Hall, an assembly space for the residential colleges, will be completed in August 2010.

The South 40 House and Umrath House are the first LEED-designed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) residence houses on the South 40. All equipment in South 40 House dining facilities has the Energy Star label and is energy-efficient. Food waste is sent to a pulper. The loading dock near the kitchen is covered by a “green roof,” which includes a lawn, landscaping, sidewalks, and a recreation area.

Umrath House and South 40 House form a new residential college, along with Rubelmann House.


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Law School Expands Executive Education
In summer 2010, the law school is launching a new Executive Master of Laws (LLM) Program co-taught by Washington University and Korea University law faculty.

Kent Syverud (see "Washington Spirit" feature), dean of the law school, announced this new degree program as part of the School’s international outreach efforts that focus on the McDonnell International Scholars Academy partner universities.

“The Executive LLM is exclusively for foreign practitioners who would like to learn more about U.S. law and to think like a U.S. lawyer,” says Michele Shoresman, associate dean of graduate programs at the law school. “The course work will prepare practitioners for today’s global legal and business environment. This intense program minimizes the opportunity costs and maximizes learning for high achievers eager to continue in their careers.”

The program’s curriculum offers students a thorough grounding in U.S. business law and business-oriented topics. Students can take two courses at Korea University prior to attending the 12-week, 20-credit session at Washington University.


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Art, Architecture Blended at Conference
“Economies: Art + Architecture,” the first joint conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the National Council of Art Administrators (NCAA), took place at Washington University in fall 2009.

“Bringing top academic leaders to St. Louis for ‘Economies: Art + Architecture’ was indeed a terrific honor,” says Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

“This promoted camaraderie and collaboration between architects, designers, educators, and visual artists from across North America while also facilitating a unique exchange of ideas about creative entrepreneurship and leadership,” he says. “Hopefully, it will serve as an important catalyst for interdisciplinary discussions within and between the professions.”

Colangelo co-chaired the conference, hosted by the Sam Fox School, with Peter MacKeith, associate dean of the School and associate professor of architecture.

“The conference aligns precisely with the mission of the Sam Fox School in its emphasis on collaboration, social and environmental responsibility, and the interdisciplinary relationship between architecture, design, and art,” MacKeith says. “In effect, a creative ‘economy of means’ may well be the most productive and necessary emphasis across our disciplines in meeting the challenges of the near future.”


Lizzie Sextro (left), of Rosati-Kain High School, and David Ayeke, of Saint Louis University High School, work in the lab during the 2009 Ferring Scholars Program. Students worked with DNA and E. coli bacteria. (Photo: Robert Boston)

Young Scholars Gain Exposure to the Medical Field
The Ferring Scholars Program at the School of Medicine offers St. Louis–area high school students a unique opportunity to work alongside medical professionals at the University.

In 2009, 25 students took part in the three-year summer program.

Over a two-week period, they participated in a lab course, took tours of the Medical Center, and attended information sessions about medical careers.

These students will spend summers 2010 and 2011 working in a lab and presenting their research.


Freshman Emily Gosché outmaneuvers a Messiah player in the 2009 NCAA Division III National Championship game. (Photo: Joe Angeles)

Athletics at a Glance
2 Final ranking of the women’s soccer team in the 2009 NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer National Championships. This was the team’s highest finish ever.

3 Number of soccer student-athletes to earn ESPN honors. Seniors Libby Held and Becca Heymann of the women’s soccer team and junior Alex Neumann of the men’s soccer team earned ESPN the Magazine second-team Academic All-District VII honors.

5 Ranking of the women’s golf team in the Golf World/National Golf Coaches Association Division III Coaches’ Poll. This marks the highest ranking in school history for the Bears.

10 Number of NCAA Division III National Championships the volleyball team has won. In 2009, the team defeated No. 1 Juniata College.

163 Career-high yards for junior running back Jim O’Brien. He helped the Bears regain possession of the Founders Cup in 2009, which commemorates the first football game played between Washington University and the University of Chicago. Since the inception of the Founders Cup in 1987, WUSTL has won 17 of the past 23 games.


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Agalychnis calidrya, otherwise known as the red-eyed tree frog, seems to be resistant to the fungus that is killing other Central American frogs.

Biodiversity Decreasing in Frog Communities
Under pressure from a fungal disease, Central American frogs are undergoing “a vast homogenization” that is leaving behind impoverished communities that are increasingly similar.

“We’re witnessing the McDonaldization of the frog communities,” says Kevin G. Smith, associate director of the Tyson Research Center at Washington University.

Earlier research by Jonathan M. Chase, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and director of the Tyson Research Center, revealed that when predatory fish were introduced into artificial ponds at the research center, not only did the fish reduce diversity within each pond, but they also made the species composition of the ponds more similar.

In this study, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, played the role of the predatory fish. A microscopic fungus that lives in water and moist soil, Bd sickens or kills frogs.

The fungus is devastating to frogs because it infects the skin, a much more important organ in amphibians than in other vertebrates. Many frogs breathe and drink through their skin. As frogs sicken, their skin peels or sloughs off.

“Before the fungus, we observed an average 45 species at each study site; after the fungus, the average was only 23,” Smith says.

The loss of rare species drove regional extinctions higher than expected. “This strongly suggests that these species are gone not just from the region but from the planet,” he says.

Homogenization also knocked out ecological diversity. The primarily aquatic fungus killed most of the water-loving frog species in the region.


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Prevention Initiative Aims to Reduce Chronic Disease
A new Saint Louis University and Washington University initiative studies innovative ways to prevent chronic disease. The Prevention Research Center in St. Louis recently received a five-year, $8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of 35 programs at academic institutions in 25 states, the Prevention Research Center examines how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.

The collaboration between Saint Louis University School of Public Health and Washington University’s School of Medicine and George Warren Brown School of Social Work is Missouri’s only CDC-funded Prevention Research Center.

The center partners with community-based coalitions, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and a variety of academic collaborators to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases in low-income, rural parts of the state.

Elizabeth Baker, professor of community health at Saint Louis University, and Ross Brownson, professor of epidemiology at Washington University, are the co-directors.

“Our center brings together the unique talents of faculty and staff at both universities along with a wide variety of community partners,” Brownson says. “We believe that the Prevention Research Center will create a model of academic-community-practice partnership that will lead to improvements in population health.”


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The toxin in bee venom is being harnessed to kill tumor cells.
This computer simulation of a nanoparticle shows its core of perfluorocarbon (green) and its lipid coating (red, orange, and blue). (Courtesy Image)

Tumors Feel Deadly Sting of Nanobees
When bees sting, they pump poison into their victims. The toxin in bee venom now is being harnessed to kill tumor cells by researchers at the School of Medicine. The researchers attached the major component of bee venom to nano-sized spheres that they call “nanobees.”

In mice, nanobees delivered the bee toxin melittin to tumors while protecting other tissues from the toxin’s destructive power. The mice’s tumors stopped growing or shrank.

“The nanobees fly in, land on the surface of cells, and deposit their cargo of melittin, which rapidly merges with the target cells,” says Samuel Wickline, who heads the Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence at Washington University. “We’ve shown that the bee toxin gets taken into the cells where it pokes holes in their internal structures.”

A small protein, or peptide, melittin is strongly attracted to cell membranes, where it can form pores that break up cells and kill them.

“Melittin can destroy any cell it comes into contact with, making it an effective antibacterial and antifungal agent and potentially an anticancer agent,” says Paul Schlesinger, associate professor of cell biology and physiology. “Cancer cells can adapt and develop resistance to many anticancer agents that alter gene function or target a cell’s DNA, but it is hard for cells to find a way around the mechanism that melittin uses to kill.”

Overall, the results suggest that nanobees could not only lessen the growth and size of established cancerous tumors but also act at early stages to prevent cancer from developing.

“Nanobees effectively package melittin, sequestering it so that it neither harms normal cells nor gets degraded before it reaches its target,” Schlesinger says.


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Hub for BioMed 21 Opens
In January 2010, the BJC Institute of Health opened. Researchers from the Center for Women’s Infectious Disease Research and Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center were among the first to move in. Others from the Department of Pathology and Immunology, Center for the Investigation of Membrane Excitability Diseases, Hope Center Program on Protein Aggregation and Neurodegeneration, and Women’s Reproductive Sciences were to follow.

“The BJC Institute of Health is a new model of how we do research,” says Jennifer Lodge, associate dean for research. “The layout provides unique opportunities for people from different departments to work side by side, and enhance collaboration.”


Sharing with a Purpose (SWAP) is a nonprofit that provides used dormitory essentials to students during fall move-in week. (Photo: David Kilper)

Students StEP Out as Entrepreneurs
The Student Entrepreneurial Program (StEP) positions students to get hands-on experience as entrepreneurs while they are still in school. Through the program, students create, purchase, and sell on-campus businesses.

To open a new business, students must present a business plan. Those interested in purchasing an existing StEP business are required to attend a “Buying a Business” workshop, taught by Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Olin Business School and a member of the StEP advisory board.

Currently, nine student-run businesses operate on the Danforth Campus; seven of them have storefronts in the main level of Gregg House on the South 40. Businesses include a bicycle rental shop, a store for Greek goods and custom apparel, water cooler rental and monthly water delivery, and a laundry service.

Senior Olin student Ross Kelley founded Sharing with a Purpose (SWAP) last year with five of his friends.

SWAP is WUSTL’s first and only nonprofit student-run business. It aims to provide affordable and convenient dormitory essentials to students during fall move-in week. All items are slightly used and recycled from the previous year’s move-out. SWAP donates all profits to Lydia’s House, a local nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic abuse.

“Making your own decisions and bearing all the responsibility for a real business is a powerful experience,” Kelley says. For more information on the program, visit step.wustl.edu.


Photo courtesy ESO/L. Calcada

New Planet Rains Pebbles
The atmosphere of newly discovered planet COROT-7b contains rock ingredients, according to scientists at Washington University. The exoplanet is close enough to its star that its “day-face” is hot enough to melt rock. When “a front moves in,” pebbles condense out of the air and rain into lakes of molten lava.

Laura Schaefer, research assistant in the Planetary Chemistry Laboratory, and Bruce Fegley, Jr., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, studied COROT-7b using models.

“The only atmosphere this planet has is produced from vapor arising from hot molten silicates in a lava lake or lava ocean—in other words, boiling rocks,” Fegley says.

The peculiar atmosphere produces its own singular weather. “As you go higher, the atmosphere gets cooler and you get saturated with different types of ‘rock’ the way you get saturated with water in the Earth’s atmosphere,” he says. “But instead of a water cloud forming and raining water droplets, you get a ‘rock cloud’ that rains little pebbles of different types of rock.”


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America’s Energy Future Focus of Symposium
Solving America’s energy crisis over the next decade is possible but will require immediate investment in clean energy technologies, says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, who serves as vice chair of a National Resource Council (NRC) report on America’s energy challenges.

Titled “America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation,” the capstone report summarizes findings from the America’s Energy Future project, a research effort sponsored by the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, represented by vice president Maxine L. Savitz.

The project’s committee of advisers, led by Harold T. Shapiro, president emeritus and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, included more than two dozen leading academic and government science experts.

According to the report, what happens in the next decade will determine our energy future. “Actions taken—or not taken—between now and 2020 to develop and demonstrate several key technologies will largely determine the nation’s energy options for many decades to come,” the report says.

The report also served as the topic of a symposium held November 2, 2009, at Washington University. Wrighton delivered the opening speech summarizing the report’s findings. “The United States needs abundant, affordable energy to assure sustained economic growth and development,” he says.

“Global growth in use of energy raises serious concerns regarding supply of energy. Scientists have come to the consensus that the Earth’s future is threatened by the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) leading to global warming from use of fossil fuels including coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas. Adverse consequences of this are difficult to assess quantitatively, but the risk is so great that we must succeed in meeting this challenge.”

According to the report, existing energy-efficiency technologies offer the quickest and cheapest solutions to the energy crisis. The potential energy savings from accelerated deployment of existing technologies in the building, industry, and transportation sectors could more than offset projected increases in energy consumption through 2030.

For generating electricity, the NRC recommends a mix of coal and natural-gas plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power plants.

The committee foresees little chance of replacing petroleum as a transportation fuel before 2020, although there are more promising longer-term options.

Achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from electrical power plants will require “a portfolio approach” that includes all of the improvements mentioned previously, as well as biomass with CCS and other types of renewable energy.

Research and development opportunities for public and private sectors during the next decade include advanced batteries and fuel cells, advanced large-scale storage of electrical load management, and enhanced geothermal power and solar photo-voltaic technologies.

A strong advocate for research on clean energy technologies, Washington University invested more than $80 million to create the new International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES). Now in its third year, I-CARES encourages and coordinates University-wide and external collaborative research in the areas of renewable energy and sustainability.


Honors
Four faculty members were named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Garland E. Allen, professor of biology; Scott Hultgren, the Helen L. Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology; Andrey S. Shaw, the Emil R. Unanue Professor of Immunobiology in Pathology and Immunology; and Wayne M. Yokoyama, the Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Chair for Research on Arthritis and professor of medicine.

Three professors were promoted to key academic offices. Priscilla Stone, director of overseas and undergraduate programs in the International & Area Studies program and adjunct associate professor of anthropology, was named assistant provost for international education. James V. Wertsch, the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences, director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, and director of the International & Area Studies program in Arts & Sciences, was named associate vice chancellor for international affairs. Gerhild S. Williams, the Barbara Schaps Thomas and David M. Thomas Professor in the Humanities; associate vice chancellor; special assistant to the chancellor for academic affairs; and professor of German, or comparative literature, and of women, gender, and sexuality studies was named vice provost.

Robert Criss, professor of earth & planetary sciences, received the inaugural Barry Commoner Science in Environmental Service Award from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.
Philip Cryer, the Irene E. and Michael M. Karl Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism in Medicine, received the American Diabetes Association’s Albert Renold Award.
Michael R. DeBaun, the Ferring Family Professor in Pediatric Cancer and Related Disorders, was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He also is professor of pediatrics, biostatistics, and neurology and is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Todd Druley, instructor in pediatrics, received the “A” Award for young researchers from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.
William Michael Dunne, Jr., professor of pathology and immunology, of medicine, and of molecular microbiology, received the 2010 TREK Diagnostic ABMM/ABMLI (American Board of Medical Microbiology/American Board of Medical Laboratory Immunology) Professional Recognition Award.
Makiba Foster, librarian for American history; American culture studies; and women, gender, and sexuality studies, was one of 100 library staff nationwide to be included in the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders 2010 program.
Sarah Gehlert, professor of social work, was named the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity.
Ann M. Gronowski, associate professor of pathology and immunology and of obstetrics and gynecology, was elected president by the American Association for Clinical Chemistry for the year 2011.
Tim Holy, associate professor of neurobiology, received the National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award.
Jacqueline Ulin Levey, AB ’97, JD ’01, was hired as the executive director of St. Louis Hillel at Washington University.
Jr-Shin Li, assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering, received the 2010 Young Investigator Award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Bryan F. Meyers, professor of surgery, chief of the General Thoracic Surgery section of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and a lung cancer specialist with the Siteman Cancer Center, was named the Patrick and Joy Williamson Endowed Professor in Cardiothoracic Surgery.
Jeffrey D. Milbrandt, professor of pathology and of medicine, was named head of the Department of Genetics and the James S. McDonnell Professor.
Michael Mueller, professor of physical therapy and director of the Applied Biomechanics Laboratory at the School of Medicine, was named to the board of trustees of the Foundation for Physical Therapy.
A. Peter Mutharika, professor of law, was named the Charles Nagel Professor of International and Comparative Law.
Arye Nehorai, the Eugene and Martha Lohman Professor and chair of the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Signal Processing Society Meritorious Service Award.
Peter H. Raven, the George Engelmann Professor of Botany and president of the Missouri Botanical Garden, received the 2009 Award for International Scientific Cooperation from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Susan Rotroff, the Jarvis Thurston and Mona Van Duyn Professor in the Humanities, received the 2011 gold medal for achievement from the Archaeological Institute of America.
Yoram Rudy, the Fred Saigh Distinguished Professor and director of the Cardiac Bioelectricity and Arrhythmia Center, received the 2010 Heart Rhythm Society Distinguished Scientist Award. Rudy also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Case Western Reserve University.
Gregorio Sicard, the Eugene M. Bricker Professor of Surgery and professor of radiology, executive vice chairman of the Department of Surgery, and chief of the vascular surgery section, received the 2010 Hero with a Heart Award from the National Marfan Foundation.
Barry P. Sleckman, chief of the Division of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine, was named the Conan Professor of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine.
Brian Vetruba, catalog and subject librarian for Germanic languages and literatures, European studies, and comparative literature, was elected vice-chair/chair-elect of the Western European Studies Section of the Association of College & Research Libraries.
Gary S. Wihl, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, was named the Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and his wife, Risa Zwerling Wrighton, received the 2009 Morris and Ann Lazaroff Lamplighter Award from Chabad’s greater St. Louis region in recognition of their efforts at making Washington University more inclusive.
Younan Xia, the James M. McKelvey Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is ranked worldwide as the No. 5 chemist of the decade by Times Higher Education. Xia was featured in the winter 2009 magazine: magazine.wustl.edu/Winter09/Xia.html