FRONTRUNNERS — SUMMER 2010
   

 
Jessica Stigile, an Elvira Jubel Engineering Scholar, serves as president of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics. (Photo: Joe Angeles)

Jubel Scholar engineers life of leadership
Eager to become an engineer, Jessica Stigile, Class of ’10, finished high school early and came to Washington University at the age of 16. “As soon as I set foot on the Danforth Campus during a visit, I felt at home,” she says. “The university’s commitment to the educational experience clearly showed, and I knew in my heart that no other institution could match it.”

One small catch: Stigile grew up in a single parent family, so “affording college was not a possibility,” she says. However, after receiving the Elvira Jubel Engineering Scholarship from the School of Engineering & Applied Science, Stigile could pursue her dream. She recently completed a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering, and she is working toward a master’s degree in systems science & mathematics.

At the university, Stigile serves as president of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics and is a member of the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering’s Student Advisory Board. She also co-founded the Student-Alumni Ambassador Program.

“Washington University encourages students to learn outside of the classroom through community service and student organizations,” Stigile says. “Being in such an environment inspired me to see past the issues that directly affect me, become a leader among my peers, and bring about change in my community.”

These qualities are evident in Stigile’s plans for the future. “After graduation, I want to work in the defense industry developing technologies to protect our country’s future,” she says. “I also hope to inspire other women and students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter technical fields.”

Stigile is grateful for her scholarship and the opportunity to pursue higher education. “Being a part of the Washington University culture helped me grow into a responsible, open-minded individual,” she says. “I hope to provide someone with a scholarship so that he or she too can experience this.”


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30,000-year-old teeth show ongoing human evolution
According to a common perception, once modern humans appeared more than 50,000 years ago, little has changed in human biology.

As a result, in consideration of the biology of late archaic humans, such as the Neandertals, it is common to compare them to living humans and largely ignore the biology of the early modern humans.

In this context, a team of researchers, including Erik Trinkaus, the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor in Arts & Sciences and professor of anthropology, reanalyzed the complete immature dentition of a 30,000-year-old child from Portugal.

The study investigated tooth formation and proportions of enamel, dentin and pulp. The patterns found fit those of the preceding Neandertals, and they contrast with the ones known for later 12,000-year-old Pleistocene and living modern humans.

These “early modern humans” were modern without being “fully modern,” Trinkaus says. In fact, human anatomical evolution continued after they lived 30,000 to 40,000 years ago.


Gary Weil (left), professor of internal medicine and of molecular microbiology, is working to optimize treatments for parasitic diseases with co-investigator Chris King, of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. (Courtesy Photo)

Elimination of parasitic diseases studied
The School of Medicine received a five-year, $13 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve efforts to eliminate two parasitic diseases: elephantiasis and river blindness. These diseases belong to a group of infections known as neglected tropical diseases, which collectively have a health impact comparable to HIV and malaria.

“This project will work to optimize treatments that already are being used to help hundreds of millions of people,” says principal investigator Gary Weil, professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology at the School of Medicine. “We have simple and cost-effective treatments for many neglected tropical diseases, and for a cost of about 50 cents per person, we can alleviate a tremendous amount of human suffering and disability and potentially eliminate some of these diseases permanently.”

The project is believed to be the largest global health grant so far to the university.

According to the World Health Organization, lymphatic filariasis is a leading cause of disability worldwide, infecting an estimated 120 million people. This can lead to the disfiguring and disabling leg swelling known as elephantiasis.

Onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, occurs mainly in Africa and infects an estimated 20 million people and results in blindness in approximately 300,000.


(Photo: Joe Angeles)

Engineering school breaks ground for Green Hall
Steven F. Brauer (left), chair of the Board of Trustees, and Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton (right) present Nancy Green with a commemorative shovel during the groundbreaking for a new School of Engineering & Applied Science building. Preston M. Green Hall will be named for Green’s late husband, an alumnus of the School of Engineering. Green Hall will include space for the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering.


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Seeds planted for state’s first Master of Landscape Architecture program
The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts will launch a new Master of Landscape Architecture program in fall 2010.*

“The discipline of landscape architecture is central to solving many of today’s most pressing environmental concerns,” says Bruce Lindsey, dean of the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Community Collaboration. “In terms of sustainable design, the use of natural resources and large-scale ecological planning, landscape architecture leads the way. Indeed, within contemporary architectural practice, landscape architecture has been key to developing a new sense of environmental ethics, one that stresses architecture’s capacity to connect us with our environment and to one another.”

The Master of Landscape Architecture program — the first of its kind in the state of Missouri — will offer two- and three-year degree options. (*Program accreditation is pending.)


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Preventive health care for Hispanics examined
The Prevention Research Center (PRC) in St. Louis is launching a multinational research project focused on preventing the leading causes of death in Hispanics in the United States and Latin America.

The PRC in St. Louis, a collaboration between Washington University and Saint Louis University, will conduct a four-year, $2.8 million effort to apply and adapt evidence-based strategies for preventing heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity in the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

“By understanding strategies for physical activity promotion that work in Latin America, we will be better able to address the needs and preferences of Hispanic populations in the United States,” says Ross C. Brownson, project director and a professor at the School of Medicine and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. “Based on results from an earlier study, ‘public gym’ programs in Brazil are serving as models in communities with Hispanic populations in San Diego. We hope to expand our knowledge on how best to reach these groups in other U.S. locations.”

The research project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Researchers are currently disseminating results from the previous study to communities, institutions and public health professionals in Brazil and across Latin America. They will teach school administrators and public health and medical professionals the latest approaches to physical activity. The researchers also will evaluate innovative exercise programs in schools and parks in Brazil.


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Kansas City, here comes Olin
The Olin Business School is bringing executive education to Kansas City in 2010, ranging from one-day open-enrollment seminars to an Executive MBA degree.

Mahendra Gupta, dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management at Olin, welcomes the cross-state outreach as a means to better serve the school’s alumni and other business professionals in Kansas City.

Panos Kouvelis, senior associate dean and the Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management, serves as director of executive programs at Olin Business School.

“We are very excited about offering our programs to the Kansas City business community,” Kouvelis says. “Professionals from around the world attend our courses in St. Louis and Shanghai, and now we can include our friends across the state in our growing network of business leaders.”

Olin’s executive education programs in Kansas City will offer professionals a variety of opportunities to accelerate career advancement; differentiate business skills; and learn about the latest in management, strategy and leadership.

For more information, visit olin.wustl.edu/ExecEd.


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Junior wins Jeopardy! College Championship
Nick Yozamp, Arts & Sciences Class of ’11, won the 2010 Jeopardy! College Championship with a prize of $100,000.

The St. Cloud, Minn., native emerged victorious after the two-week competition by outplaying 14 undergraduates from across the country. Yozamp is the first WUSTL student to win the title.

“I’ve watched hundreds of contestants being introduced on Jeopardy! from home, but to actually be one of those contestants was simply amazing,” Yozamp says. “Seeing Alex Trebek in person walk through the set’s glass doors and greet each of us is a moment that is permanently etched in my mind.”

As for the cash prize, Yozamp plans on going to Nice, France, this summer as part of a study-abroad program. “My winnings will certainly pay for this trip,” he says. “I intend to save the rest for medical school.”


Two particles (bright spots) land on the closest microresonator and act as scattering centers that disturb the light waves in the torus. This allows the particles to be detected. (Courtesy Photo)

Tiny sensor measures nanoparticles
University researchers are devising ways to assess the impact of nanoparticles on the environment and human health.

As part of this effort, a team led by Lan Yang, assistant professor of electrical & systems engineering, developed a glass sensor that can detect and measure nanoparticles.

The sensor works on the same principle as a whispering gallery at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. If you stand under the dome facing the wall and speak softly, someone on the opposite side of the gallery is able to hear what you say.

In Yang’s miniature version of the whispering gallery, laser light rather than sound travels round a tiny glass doughnut.

The physics of the circulating lasers favor certain frequencies of light, just as a violin string likes to vibrate at certain frequencies.

A particle that touches the outside of the glass ring disturbs the light traveling in the ring just enough to change the ring’s favorite frequency.

Yang’s whispering gallery sensor is superior to similar devices because the ring is optically nearly flawless. She achieves this near-perfection by reheating the glass rings after they are etched so that they reflow into smooth toruses.

The rings’ perfection gives them a resonance as beautiful as the pure tone from the finest musical instrument, says Jiangang Zhu, a graduate student in Yang’s lab.

Because of the rings’ flawlessness, the scientists can detect subtle differences between light waves traveling clockwise and counterclockwise around the ring that were invisible to earlier devices.

Yang’s sensor compares the clockwise and counterclockwise waves traveling in the ring, so it is much more accurate and less susceptible to noise than earlier designs.


The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum’s Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Plaza is home to several large sculptures, including Aristide Maillol’s Homage à Debussy (c. 1930, cast bronze, 35 x 20 x 37” – Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Morton D. May, 1969). (Photo: David Kilper)

Museum’s interactive site ‘talks back’
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum expanded its “Spotlight” series to include an interactive online component called “Spotlight: Talk Back.” The site allows a wider appreciation and discussion of selected works from the museum’s collection and special exhibitions. And it fosters dialogue about art between experts and non-experts. Featuring casual conversations with art scholars, the online addition encourages visitors to join in the discussion by sharing their own thoughts, which, in turn, will inform subsequent conversations on the site.

The “Spotlight” series aims to enhance enjoyment of and accessibility to the museum’s collection through new scholarship and interactive tours. The Kemper “Spotlight” series features an essay — authored by a curator, educator, faculty member or graduate student — offered in conjunction with a public gallery talk. For more information, visit kemperspotlight.org.


The decoding of the corn genome will speed efforts to develop better crop varieties to meet the world’s growing demands for food, livestock feed and fuel. (© iStockphoto)

Corn genome decoded
A team of scientists led by the Genome Center at the School of Medicine decoded the DNA of the corn genome, an accomplishment that will speed efforts to develop better crop varieties to meet the world’s growing demands for food, livestock feed and fuel.

“Seed companies and maize geneticists will pounce on this data to find their favorite genes,” says Richard K. Wilson, director of the Genome Center, who led the multi-institutional sequencing effort. “Having the complete genome in hand will make it easier to breed new varieties of corn that produce higher yields or are more tolerant to extreme heat, drought or other conditions.”

Corn, also known as maize, is the top U.S. crop. Its genome is a hodgepodge of some 32,000 genes crammed into just 10 chromosomes. In comparison, humans possess 20,000 genes dispersed among 23 chromosomes.

The genetic code of corn consists of 2 billion bases of DNA, the chemical units that are represented by the letters T, C, G and A, making it similar in size to the human genome, which is 2.9 billion letters long.

The challenge for Wilson and his colleagues was to string together the order of the letters, an immense and daunting task both because of the corn genome’s size and its complex genetic arrangements.

The corn genome data is freely available to the public at maizesequence.org.


Alex Beyer, Arts & Sciences Class of ’10, captured his second swimming and diving national title in 2010. (Photo: Bill Stover)

Athletics at a glance
1 Final ranking of the women’s basketball team — the 2010 NCAA Division III National Champions. The title is the fifth in program history for the Bears (see back cover).

2 Number of swimming and diving national championships won by Alex Beyer (pictured), Arts & Sciences Class of ’10. After winning the 400-yard individual medley in the 2010 NCAA Division III Championships, Beyer became the first student-athlete in university history to capture two national titles.

238 Number of career wins (a school record) for John Watts, Engineering Class of ’10, of the men’s tennis team. Watts won the 2010 Division III Singles National Championship.

1071 Number of career points for graduate student Jaimie McFarlin of the women’s basketball team. She is the 10th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points.

6:05:05 Winning time of the men’s 400-freestyle relay team in the 2010 UAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Team members include Mark Minowitz, Engineering Class of ’13; Dan Arteaga, Arts & Sciences Class of ’10; Kartik Anjur, Arts & Sciences Class of ’11; and David Chao, Engineering Class of ’11.


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Law school assists federal mediation in Kirkwood incident
C.J. Larkin, senior lecturer and administrative director of the law school’s Dispute Resolution Program, and several law students helped the federal government mediate an agreement in Kirkwood, Mo., to address perceived citizen disenfranchisement.

Larkin and the law students worked with William Whitcomb of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Community Relations Service, on the project. The 14-page mediation agreement resulted from an almost two-year process following an incident at a Feb. 7, 2008, city council meeting in which a Meacham Park resident went on a shooting rampage, leading to the deaths of seven people.

After community representatives and city officials signed the agreement, the Kirkwood City Council adopted the resolution.

Former law students Ross Blankenship, Stephanie Huang and RaNae Dunham Inghram provided process design, research, drafting and documenting assistance.

The agreement covers specific areas that address concerns over “differing racial perceptions” and includes improvements to the city’s Human Rights Advisory and Awareness Commission, Kirkwood Police programs and home-improvement program.

“The entire project served as a tremendous learning experience for the students and for me,” Larkin says. “We watched the process we helped design with DOJ unfold in a series of dynamic meetings over the course of 20 months. We came away with great respect for everyone involved.”

Larkin says they saw how important mediation principles are in the real world — agreeing on a fair process; empowering the participants; listening respectfully; identifying important interests; coming up with creative options; and finding practical, workable solutions.

“It took a lot of work and thoughtfulness on the part of the mediation teams,” she says.


Live3D mapped a 2D webcam image of Busch Stadium onto a 3D model of the landmark. (Courtesy Photo)

Student’s Live3D maps bring Google Earth to life
The Eiffel Tower and other world-class icons viewable online via webcams are getting a new three-dimensional look thanks to an innovative, browser-based application. The application was unveiled by Austin Abrams, a doctoral student in computer science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

“We wanted to make Google Earth a little more alive,” Abrams says.

Google Earth may put conventional maps to shame, but its satellite and aerial imagery shows the world as it used to be.

Abrams’ browser-based application, called Live3D, offers online visitors a method to replace the usually static “skin” of virtual buildings and other features with images from the Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes (AMOS), a collection of live feeds from hundreds of webcams around the world. The Live3D system maps 2D webcam images onto a 3D model of a location or landmark.

For example, at night it clothes the Eiffel Tower with the same light-studded darkened surface seen by the webcam.

Visit amos.cse.wustl.edu/live3d/viewAll to take part in the project by calibrating one of the uncalibrated webcams.


Honors
Four faculty members received awards during the 16th Annual Outstanding St. Louis Scientist Awards Dinner: Roger N. Beachy, professor of biology, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and vice chairman of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, received the Peter Raven Lifetime Achievement Award; M. Carolyn Baum, the Elias Michael executive director of the Program in Occupational Therapy and professor of occupational therapy and of neurology, received the Leadership Award; Alan L. Schwartz, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, professor of developmental biology, pediatrician-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and executive director of the Children’s Discovery Institute, received the Fellows Award; and Randall J. Bateman, assistant professor of neurology, received the Innovation Award.

Three School of Medicine professors were elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Susan K. Dutcher, professor of genetics and of cell biology and physiology; Timothy J. Ley, the Alan and Edith Wolff Professor of Medicine, professor of genetics, director of the Stem Cell Biology Section of the Division of Oncology and associate director for cancer genomics at the Genome Center; and Robert D. Schreiber, Alumni Endowed Professor of Pathology and Immunology, professor of molecular biology and leader of the Tumor Immunology Program at Siteman Cancer Center.

Four Brown School faculty members were inducted into the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare: Sarah Gehlert, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity; Shanti K. Khinduka, the George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor; Enola Proctor, the Frank J. Bruno Professor of Social Work Research and associate dean for faculty; and Michael Sherraden, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development.

Two occupational therapy professors were invited to join the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Improving Measurement of Medical Rehabilitation Outcomes: M. Carolyn Baum, the Elias Michael executive director of the Program in Occupational Therapy and professor of occupational therapy and of neurology; and David Gray, professor of occupational therapy and of neurology.

Three university biologists were honored by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB): Tuan-hua David Ho, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, was elected president of ASPB for 2009-10; Ralph S. Quatrano, immediate past dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology, received the Adolph E. Gude, Jr. Award; and Ashley Galant, a graduate student in biology in Arts & Sciences, received the Pioneer Hi-Bred graduate student fellowship.

Gerald L. Andriole, Jr., chief of the Division of Urologic Surgery at the School of Medicine, the Siteman Cancer Center and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, was named the inaugural Robert Killian Royce, M.D. Distinguished Professor in Urologic Surgery.

Jacques Baenziger, professor of pathology and immunology and of cell biology and physiology, was elected to the Association of American Physicians.

Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth received the Research Champion Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Andrea J. Grant, AB ’71, JD ’74, a partner with DLA Piper in Washington, D.C., was elected to the Washington University Board of Trustees.

Ann M. Gronowski, associate professor of pathology and immunology and of obstetrics and gynecology, received the 2010 Outstanding Contributions through Service to the Profession of Clinical Chemistry Award from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.

Stuart A. Kornfeld, the David C. and Betty Farrell Professor of Medicine, received the 2010 George M. Kober Medal from the Association of American Physicians.

Panos Kouvelis, the Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management and director of Olin Business School’s Boeing Center for Technology, Information and Management, was named senior associate dean and director of executive programs at Olin.

Stephen S. Lefrak, professor of medicine and assistant dean for the humanities program in medicine, received the Special Recognition in Medical Ethics Award from the SUNY Downstate Medical Center Alumni Association.

Hugh Macdonald, the Avis H. Blewett Professor of Music in Arts & Sciences, received a gold medal from La Renaissance Française.

Elaine Mardis, associate professor of genetics and of molecular microbiology and co-director of the Genome Center, received the Scripps Genomic Medicine Award.

David J. Murray, the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor and head of medical simulation at the School of Medicine, was named chief of the Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology and anesthesiologist-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Debra Pulley, associate professor of anesthesiology, was elected secretary/treasurer for the Society for Perioperative Assessment and Quality Improvement.

Ralph S. Quatrano, immediate past dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology, was named dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science effective July 1, 2010.

Linda J. Sandell, the Mildred B. Simon Research Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, received the 2010 Women’s Leadership Award from the Osteoarthritis Research Society.

Gregorio Sicard, the Eugene M. Bricker Professor of Surgery, 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.

Lee G. Sobotka, professor of chemistry and of physics, both in Arts & Sciences, received the Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

Gaylyn Studlar, director of the Film & Media Studies program in Arts & Sciences, was named the David May Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities.

Tzyh-Jong Tarn, professor of electrical and systems engineering and director of the Center for Robotics and Automation, received the Einstein Professorship Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Clifford M. Will, the James S. McDonnell Professor of Physics in Arts & Sciences, was elected vice chair of the Astrophysics Division of the American Physical Society.

Neill Wright, associate professor of neurological surgery and of orthopedic surgery, was named the Herbert Lourie Professor in Neurological Surgery.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton received the Right Arm of St. Louis Award from the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association. Wrighton was honored for making outstanding contributions to the St. Louis region.

Wei Zou, research instructor in pathology and immunology, received one of eight American Society for Bone and Mineral Research John Haddad Young Investigator Awards.


School of Medicine researchers are sequencing genomes to find genetic variations between healthy cells and cancer cells. (Photo: Washington University School of Medicine)

Washington University, St. Jude team to unravel genetic basis of childhood cancers
Washington University School of Medicine and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced an unprecedented effort to identify the genetic changes that give rise to some of the world’s deadliest childhood cancers. The team joined forces to decode the genomes of more than 600 childhood cancer patients.

The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital–Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is the largest investment to date — estimated to cost $65 million over three years — aimed at understanding the genetic origins of childhood cancers. Scientists involved in the project will sequence the entire genomes of both normal and cancer cells from each patient, comparing differences in the DNA to identify genetic mistakes that lead to cancer. Kay Jewelers, a long-standing supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, committed to providing $20 million as lead sponsor of this project.

“We are on the threshold of a revolution in our understanding of the origins of cancer,” says William E. Evans, St. Jude director and CEO. “For the first time in history, we possess the tools to identify all of the genetic abnormalities that turn a white blood cell into a leukemia cell or a brain cell into a brain tumor. We believe it is from this foundation that advances for cancer diagnosis and treatment will come.”

Memphis-based St. Jude houses one of the world’s largest and most complete repositories of biological information about childhood cancer. These samples are essential to understanding the origins of cancer. The tissue bank also helped St. Jude scientists develop the experimental models expected to be important for determining which mutations drive cancer’s development and spread.

The collaboration focuses on childhood leukemias, brain tumors and tumors called sarcomas.

St. Jude will provide DNA from tumor and normal tissues of patients; Washington University’s Genome Center will perform the whole-genome sequencing; and both will participate in validation sequencing. Researchers at both institutions will collaborate to analyze the data and make the information publicly available once validated. Prior research indicates that the genetic abnormalities in childhood cancers will differ from those in adult cancers.

“This extraordinary partnership will add a new dimension to our understanding of childhood cancers,” says pediatric geneticist Larry J. Shapiro, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “A genome-wide understanding of cancer offers great promise for developing powerful new approaches to diagnose and treat cancer or perhaps even to prevent it. The project will yield key genetic information that may ultimately help physicians choose the best treatment options.”

Scientists at Washington University’s Genome Center pioneered whole-genome sequencing of cancer patients’ genomes. In 2008, Richard Wilson, director of the center; Elaine Mardis, co-director of the center; Timothy Ley, the Alan and Edith Wolff Professor of Medicine; and colleagues became the first to decode the complete genome of a cancer patient and trace the disease to its genetic roots.

For more information, visit pediatriccancergenomeproject.org.