FRONTRUNNERS — Summer 2008
   

 
Carson Smith (left) catches up with Michael Rodriguez, both Arts & Sciences Class of ‘09. Diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary veno occlusive disease, Smith is awaiting a double lung transplant. She works to raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension and organ donation. (Photo by David Kilper)
Agent for Change Advocates for Organ Donations

In 2003, Carson Smith, Arts & Sciences Class of ’09, was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs). In addition, she has pulmonary veno occlusive disease (PVOD), a rare condition where fibrous materials grow in the veins of the lungs. Smith is on the waiting list at Children’s Hospital for a double lung transplant—the only known cure for PVOD.

“As soon as I was diagnosed, I began educating others about pulmonary hypertension and the importance of organ donation,” she says. Smith spoke at civic groups in her hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, and served as the “poster girl” for a team that was raising money for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. With Smith’s help, the team raised more than $200,000. This accomplishment earned her a spot on Toyota’s “100 Young People Most Likely to Change the World” list.

With Smith’s help, the team raised more than $200,000 for the organization. This accomplishment earned her a spot on Toyota’s “100 Young People Most Likely to Change the World” list.

During summer 2007, Smith interned at the Pulmonary Hypertension Association in the advocacy department.

“I so much want people to be aware of this illness and the way it can disrupt your life,” she says. “Having a strong support network is key to sustaining as normal a life as possible, and that is hard to achieve when so few people know about pulmonary hypertension.”

After being contacted by Second Wind-St. Louis, a non-profit organization that assists people in the area who have undergone or are awaiting lung transplant surgery, Smith served as speaker and co-host of their Lung Walk 5K fundraiser, held in October 2007. She also promoted the walk by doing interviews for television and radio.

“I hope to be a part of the lung walk this coming year,” she says. “It is a wonderful event for a great cause.”

After graduation, Smith is considering a career in public health policy or hospital administration.

“No matter what, I hope I can continue to educate people and make the lives of patients easier,” she says.


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University Sponsors KIPP Charter School in St. Louis

Washington University will serve as institutional sponsor of the St. Louis area’s first-ever KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter school, announces Greg Wendt, organizer of St. Louisans United to Attract KIPP. The school is scheduled to open in fall 2009.

KIPP is a network of free, college-preparatory public
schools in under-resourced communities throughout the United States. The program has been recognized for its success in putting students on the path to college; nearly 80 percent of KIPP alumni have matriculated to college. Like all Missouri charter schools, the KIPP school will be a public school, open to any student who lives in the city of St. Louis.

“Along with our existing outreach programs, sponsorship of this charter school is one of many opportunities for Washington University to have a positive influence on public, K–12 education in the St. Louis region,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.


Kim Norwood, professor of law, encourages Soldan High School students to pursue law school. (Photo by Mary Butkus)

LEAPS Takes High School Students from Classroom to Law School

Law school students collaborated with the Mound City Bar Association lawyers to encourage juniors and seniors at Soldan High School in St. Louis to pursue law school. During the fall, students in Professor Kim Norwood’s course Race, Education & the Legal Profession participated in the new program, which Norwood calls Law Exposure and Professionalism Strategies (LEAPS).

Many of the law students will continue as volunteer mentors to the 18 high school students, offering workshops on college admissions, SAT and ACT exams, résumé writing, and interviewing.


(Photo by Joe Angeles)

Chancellor Wrighton Receives Citizen of the Year Award

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton was named St. Louis’ 2007 Citizen of the Year by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A ceremony, held on March 25, 2008, honored Wrighton and highlighted his accomplishments and the University’s contributions to the St. Louis region during his tenure. For more information, see news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/11336.html.


Michael Wysession, associate professor of earth & planetary sciences, bends a stack of colored cards to replicate the folding of the Earth’s layers. (Photo courtesy of The Teaching Company, LLC)

Video Series Explains Earth’s History

Michael E. Wysession, associate professor of earth & planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, has 48 lectures on planet Earth that came out in video format in February 2008. Each 30-minute lecture focuses on an aspect of the Earth, from its origins and composition to its climate, orbit, pollution, and relationship to human history. Wysession also wrote a 250-page book to accompany the lectures.

“I designed the lectures to give someone a full sense of the history of the Earth and how it works,” he says. “To me, it’s a real mission to increase people’s understanding of the fundamental issues involved with the Earth, pollution, evolution, climate change, and the environment.”

Much of the material for the videos comes from a course, Earth and the Environment, that Wysession has co-taught at the University for more than 15 years.


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Sequencing 1,000 Human Genomes

The School of Medicine will play a leading role in an international collaboration to sequence the genomes of 1,000 individuals. The ambitious 1,000 Genomes Project is designed to create the most detailed picture to date of human genetic variation and assist in the identification of many genetic factors underlying common diseases.

Drawing on the expertise of research teams in the United States, China, and England, the project will develop a new map of the human genome that will provide a close-up view of medically relevant DNA variations at a resolution unmatched by current technology. As with other major human genome reference projects, data from the 1,000 Genomes Project will be made swiftly available to the worldwide scientific community through free public databases.

“A project like this would have been unimaginable only a few years ago,” says Elaine Mardis, co-director of the University’s Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) and one of the project’s lead investigators. “We now have the ability to examine in intimate detail variations in the genetic code that differ from person to person.”

The new map would enable researchers to more quickly zero in on disease-related genetic alterations, speeding efforts to use genetic information to develop new strategies for diagnosing, treating, and preventing common diseases.

“Our best chance of knowing why some people remain healthy well into their 90s and others develop illnesses at an early age is to understand the numerous genetic variations that exist within humans,” says Richard K. Wilson, director of GSC and professor of genetics and of microbiology in the School of Medicine. “This project will accelerate efforts to pinpoint the many genetic factors that underlie human health and disease.”


© iStockphoto

Women’s Golf Debuts

John Schael, director of athletics, announced the addition of women’s golf to the University’s intercollegiate athletics program to begin play during the 2008–2009 season. Sean Curtis, director of intramurals and club sports, who coached the team the past two seasons while participating at club status, will lead the squad.

“With the support of the University’s administration and Gender Equity Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, we are pleased to provide a new opportunity for Washington University’s students in competitive intercollegiate athletics,” says Schael. “I am proud of the students who laid the foundation for intercollegiate golf, and I look forward to the program’s continued growth, development, and advancement.”


Independent 529 Plan Helps Parents with Tuition

Independent 529 Plan is a cooperative effort by a national group of private colleges and universities, including Washington University, to help families manage the rising cost of higher education. Under the program, individuals can purchase tuition certificates at less than the current tuition rate for future redemption at any of 270-plus participating private colleges and universities nationwide.

These prepayment certificates became available in 2003, and the certificates must be held at least three years before redemption. As a result, 2006–2007 was the first academic year that redemption was possible, says Nancy Farmer, the organization’s president and a St. Louis resident. When she became president, she relocated the Independent 529 Plan’s offices from New Mexico to a building on the University’s campus.

Rodney and Susan Barstein became the first parents of a Washington University student to redeem Independent 529 Plan tuition prepayment certificates. Their son, Justin, studied finance and economics, and just graduated in 2008.

Independent 529 Plan allows families to lock in tuition rates at less than present levels for their children’s future use. They end up paying slightly less than current tuition because each participating school discounts the tuition certificates by at least one-half of 1 percent per year.

For more information, see www.independent529plan.org.


PEMRAP chief research associate Colleen Moreland, Arts & Sciences Class of ’08, shows a young patient at St. Louis Children’s Hospital Emergency Department what to expect when the physician applies a splint to immobilize his forearm. The boy had suffered a fracture in a fall. (Photo by David Kilper)

Experiencing Emergency Medicine Firsthand

For eight hours each week, students in the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Research Associates’ Program (PEMRAP) work shifts in the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. On their own computerized board, they constantly scan patients for eligibility for clinical studies ranging from asthma to sickle cell disease.

If they see a patient who might be eligible, they introduce themselves to the family, explain the study, and obtain informed consent from the parent. They also administer study questionnaires, occasionally videotape interviews, and help the family complete other study requirements.

"Not only do they learn about clinical research, but they also have the opportunity to see firsthand how physicians and nurses work in a busy clinical setting.”

“PEMRAP enables these students to become an integral and valued part of the health-care team,” says Jan D. Luhmann, an assistant professor of pediatrics and a PEMRAP co-director who started the program in 2002. “Not only do they learn about clinical research, but they also have the opportunity to see firsthand how physicians and nurses work in a busy clinical setting. When not enrolling patients into one of the many clinical trials, students observe emergency procedures such as suturing or fracture reductions. The combination of clinical research and exposure to pediatric emergency medicine provides a unique opportunity.”

Since PEMRAP’s inception, students have enrolled more than 3,000 subjects in 18 clinical studies.

Students can receive credit for the program for only one semester. However, more than 80 percent of students continue in PEMRAP as volunteers, Luhmann says. The volunteer requirements are less stringent—they only work four hours a week and do not have to attend lectures.

Many PEMRAP students decide to pursue medicine, and Luhmann often gets notes from students in medical school, thanking her for the PEMRAP experience and telling her how valuable it was to get a firsthand look at life in the emergency department.


Sam Fox School graduate students Michael Heller (left) and Sujaul Khan work on a new gallery/architecture review room in Steinberg Hall. (Photo by David Kilper)

Sam Fox School Students Create Room of Their Own

As part of a design/build studio led by Carl Safe, professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, students have been working on a new gallery/architecture review room in Steinberg Hall.

The new room is located on the building’s podium level in a space that previously housed the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.The review room contains a large gallery that also can be used for major critiques and is surrounded by several smaller review spaces. The project, which is nearing completion, was funded by the Sam Fox School and its College of Architecture with support from the University.


K. Peebles (left), a supervisor at Chrysler Corporation, and Pratim Biswas, the Stifel & Quinette Jens Professor of Environmental Engineering Science, discuss operational conditions for mixing residual paint solids from Chrysler with coal for energy recovery at Ameren’s Meramec Electricity Generation Plant. (Photo by David Kilper)

Reducing Mercury Emissions

Washington University is partnering with Chrysler LLC and a major Midwest utility company in a project to determine if paint solid residues from automobile manufacturing can reduce emissions of mercury from electric power plants.

The project is based upon the technical expertise of Pratim Biswas, the Stifel & Quinette Jens Professor of Environmental Engineering Science, who has demonstrated the effectiveness of titanium dioxide in controlling mercury in lab and recent field studies. He heads the project that will test a mercury removal process in a full-scale power plant.

Since 2007, Chrysler has recycled dry paint solid residues from its St. Louis assembly plants for use as an alternative fuel in Ameren Corporation’s Meramec electric utility plant. Previously, Chrysler’s St. Louis plants sent 1 million pounds of dried paint solids to landfills each year.

In the initial phase, the project produces enough electricity to power 70 homes for a year.

The paint solid residues contain titanium dioxide, which has the potential to remove mercury from coal-powered plant emissions without affecting other processes in the plant. Mercury is chemically bonded with titanium oxide, a process known as chemisorption, and thus is potentially easier to trap in the plant’s emissions scrubber system, research has found.

Through its collaboration with Chrysler’s St. Louis assembly plants, Ameren’s 855-megawatt Meramec power plant is the first in the nation to generate electricity by burning paint solids recovered from an automotive manufacturing facility. In the initial phase, the project produces enough electricity to power 70 homes for a year.


Edith L. Wolff (Photo by Joe Angeles)

Wolff Gift Establishes Biomedical Institute at the School of Medicine

The Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute, which will support biomedical research at the School of Medicine, was established with a $20 million gift from St. Louis businesswoman and philanthropist Edith L. Wolff. Biomedical research at the institute could lead to the prevention, treatment, and cure of disease.

“Mrs. Wolff’s commitment to the School of Medicine will enhance research efforts within many of our departments and have a profound positive impact on our research mission,” says Larry J. Shapiro, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics. “I’m thankful for her generosity, which will enable interdisciplinary research that is so essential to progress in modern biomedical science.”


Twenty Entrepreneurial Internships Created with Gift

A new internship program will enable 20 interns per year to participate in an intensive summer experience. The students will receive both hands-on instruction and academic information about developing and sustaining new enterprises. This program, the Skandalaris Center Internship Program, is being created and supported by a $1 million gift from Robert and Julie Skandalaris.

“Through their initial support, the Skandalarises provided a solid foothold for entrepreneurship at Washington University,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Over the last eight years, their ongoing support has fueled the growth of a comprehensive program that promotes entrepreneurship across all schools within the University and has made us a leader in entrepreneurial studies.”

Ken Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, will oversee the internship program. During the course of the summer, the interns will spend time working for new and emerging businesses or social-service organizations in the St. Louis region. The interns also will attend weekly sessions where faculty and guest speakers discuss the process of starting and growing a company.

“The experience will serve as a valuable means for students to learn how to establish their entrepreneurial ventures and projects,” says Harrington.


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Helium Supplies Running Out of Gas

The element that lifts things like balloons, spirits, and voice ranges is being depleted so rapidly in the world’s largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Texas, that supplies are expected to be exhausted there within the next eight years.

“Helium’s use in science is extremely broad, but its most important use is as a coolant,” says Lee Sobotka, professor of chemistry and physics in Arts & Sciences.

Among other technological applications, helium plays a role in nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectroscopy, welding, fiber optics, and computer microchip production.

“Helium is nonrenewable and irreplaceable,” says Sobotka. “Its properties are unique, and there are no biosynthetic ways to make an alternative to helium. All should make better efforts to recycle it.”

One way to recycle helium would be to recapture helium vapor, says Sobotka. Helium vapor is produced when helium is used as a coolant. Placing liquid helium next to an object extracts energy from the object, making it colder. The energy extracted from the object vaporizes the helium. It is this helium vapor that, Sobotka says, should always be recaptured, to be recycled for future use.


Honors

Ramesh K. Agarwal, the William Palm Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Structural Engineering, was selected to receive the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ 2008 Aerodynamics Award. The award is presented for meritorious achievement in the field of applied aerodynamics concepts and methods.

Haluk Ergin, associate professor of economics in Arts & Sciences, was named an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

William F. Howard, a longtime higher-education attorney, was appointed associate vice chancellor and chief counsel to the School of Medicine. In addition, Howard also will serve as deputy general counsel for the University.

H. Mark Johnston, the McDonnell Professor of Molecular Genetics and professor of genetics, was awarded the 2008 George W. Beadle Award from the Genetics Society of America. The award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to the community of genetics research.

F. Scott Kieff, professor of law, was appointed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez to serve for a three-year term on the nine-person Patent Public Advisory Committee of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Marc S. Levin, associate professor of medicine in the Divisions of Veteran Affairs Medicine and Gastroenterology, was inducted as a fellow in the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). The fellowship is an honor bestowed by the AGA for superior professional achievement in practice and/or research in the field of gastroenterology.

Peter MacKeith, associate dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and associate professor of architecture, received one of three national Creative Achievement Awards from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. The honor recognizes special achievement in teaching, design, scholarship, research, or service that advances architectural education.

Garland Marshall, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, was inducted into the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. The Hall of Fame recognizes medicinal chemists who have made overall outstanding contributions to medicinal chemistry through research, teaching,
and service.

A. Peter Mutharika, professor of law, was named Malawi’s chief advisor to the president on constitutional, legal, and international affairs.

Three faculty members received 2008–2009 Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Teaching Fellowships at the medical school: Thomas De Fer, associate professor of medicine; James Fehr III, assistant professor of anesthesiology and of pediatrics; and Mary Klingensmith, associate professor of surgery.

Three faculty members were named to endowed professorships in Arts & Sciences: Jean Allman, former director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as the J. H. Hexter Professor in the Humanities; Carl Bender, professor of physics, as the Wilfred R. and Ann Lee Konneker Distinguished Professor of Physics; and Michele Boldrin, professor of economics, as the Joseph Gibson Hoyt Distinguished Professor of Economics.

Three faculty members were named winners of the 2007 Samuel R. Goldstein Leadership Awards in Medical Student Education: Michael Avidan, associate professor of anesthesiology and cardiothoracic surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology and Critical Care; William Clutter, associate professor of medicine and associate director of the House Staff Training Program; and Stanley Misler, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology, of cell biology and physiology and of biomedical engineering.


Courtesy of Edwards Lifesciences

Experimental Heart Valve Saves Life

A 78-year-old St. Louis woman was the first patient in this region to receive an experimental device to replace her defective aortic valve without opening the chest wall or using a heart-lung machine. Washington University heart specialists performed the procedure at Barnes-Jewish Hospital on January 15, 2008.

The woman is an initial participant in a national multicenter trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the new device. If proven effective, this device holds enormous hope for patients who are unable to undergo the standard open-heart surgery for aortic valve replacement because they are too old or too sick to qualify for the surgery.

This technique, called transcatheter valve replacement, uses a catheter to thread a replacement aortic valve into the heart. The valve can be guided through the patient’s circulatory system from the leg or inserted between the ribs into the heart and expanded at the site of the diseased valve.

“Pending the study’s outcome, this has the potential to be one of the most significant advances in all of cardiac medicine,” says John M. Lasala, principal investigator of the trial and professor of medicine at the School of Medicine. Lasala also is medical director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.


Sheba Wadley (left), social work graduate student and co-chair of the Society of Black Student Social Workers, greets Bessie House-Soremekun, founder and CEO of the National Center for Entrepreneurship Inc., on February 2, 2008, in Goldfarb Hall Commons. (Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.)

Financial Freedom Focus of Social Work Seminar

The Society of Black Student Social Workers at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work held an event for members of the St. Louis community on February 2, 2008. The event, “Financial Freedom Seminar: Achieving Economic Independence through Education,” included workshops on building wealth, repairing and maintaining good credit, purchasing a home, and starting and expanding a business.

The seminar began with a keynote address by Bessie House-Soremekun, founder and CEO of the National Center for Entrepreneurship Inc.


Global Warming Teach-In Held

Washington University joined hundreds of campuses across the United States in presenting “Focus the Nation,” an unprecedented nationwide teach-in on global warming solutions, on January 30, 2008.

The event began with a presentation by Dee Gish, a volunteer with The Climate Project. Then the “2 Percent Solution” Webcast was shown. Following the Webcast, attendees were able to discuss initiatives the University could undertake to address global climate change. The global warming teach-in was sponsored by I-CARES and the Office of Sustainability.