|FRONTRUNNERS Winter 2001|
Students Fight Lead Poisoning
Thanks to a lead-screening bill drafted by students in the School of Law's Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC), Missouri children ages 6 months to 6 years living at high risk for lead poisoning will be tested annually. The Missouri Legislature passed the bill, and Governor Bob Holden signed it. The governor also approved $1.3 million to fund it.
The IEC, which focuses on environmental and community health problems, is the newest of eight popular clinical courses through which students provide pro bono legal and technical assistance to people who could not otherwise afford it. Each law student is guaranteed placement in a clinical course.
For this project, law students Tiffany Meddaugh, James Saunders, Andrew Seff, and Shannon Whelan, along with Heather Brouillet, A.B. '01, pooled their talents to facilitate the work of the nonprofit St. Louis Lead Prevention Coalition. The students, working under the guidance of Maxine Lipeles, professor of law and of engineering and IEC director, supported the bill in testimony at the state capitol last spring.
Jonathan VanderBrug, coalition executive director, says the clinic's efforts played a major role in paving the way for one of the most aggressive state-funded programs for the prevention of lead poisoning. "We couldn't have passed this legislation without the outstanding assistance of the clinic students and staff," VanderBrug says.
New Evidence on Causes of Deep Earthquakes
Douglas A. Wiens has discovered seismic-wave evidence that sheds light on the long-controversial issue of what causes earthquakes deep in the earth. His results were published in the August 24 issue of Science.
Wiens, professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, and then-undergraduate Nathaniel O. Snider, A.B. '00, systems programmer/analyst in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, analyzed data from an 11-seismograph array in the Tonga and Fiji islands. The National Science Foundation supported the research.
Some previous studies proposed that deep earthquakes occur when material at high pressure undergoes a phase transformation. In this theory, called "transformational faulting," such earthquakes should not recur at the same site since transformed material inhibits further faulting.
But Wiens' evidence shows that they often do recur, so he favors the "ductile shear zone" model, which says that deep earthquakes are sensitive to temperature along a slipping zone. A "slip" across a "zone" is somewhat like the movement of a book across a table covered with a thick layer of molasses. Such a slip produces intense heat, increasing the chances of earthquakes at that location.
Wiens and his colleagues recently installed a 26-seismograph array allowing them to locate earthquakes to accuracies of less than one mile, advancing the study of deep earthquakes.
WU Gains in U.S. News Rankings
Washington Universityconsistently ranked among America's 20 best national universitiesis now tied with Cornell University for 14th place in undergraduate programs, according to U.S. News & World Report magazine. The University climbed one place from last year's tie for 15th, reaching the highest undergraduate ranking of the University by U.S. News & World Report since the publication began its rankings in the 1980s.
These undergraduate rankings of 249 national universities, published in the September 17 issue, are derived from data reported by each institution. The magazine analyzes the data according to quality measures such as selectivity, class size, and graduation rates, with each weighted according to the magazine's judgment of its relative importance. The largest weight in the formula25 percentis assigned to academic reputation. To determine that, the magazine asks campus executives to rate peer institutions.
In the magazine's "Best Value" category, which relates a school's academic quality to the net cost of attendance, the University moved up one place to tie for 16th with Duke University and Case Western Reserve University.
The undergraduate program at the Olin School of Business once again tied for 16th with seven other well-known undergraduate business programs.
In March, U.S. News published its annual rankings of graduate and professional programs. Altogether, more than 30 undergraduate and graduate programs and schools at the University are ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the top 25 of their respective areas.
In Business Week's ranking of Executive MBA programs worldwide in its October 15 issue, the Olin School of Business placed 16th of 82 schools in the survey.
Post-Foster-Care Youth at Risk
Examining what happens to adolescents who are heavy mental-health service users once they leave foster care and are no longer eligible for child service systems is the focus of a study being done by Curtis McMillen, associate professor at the George Warren Brown (GWB) School of Social Work.
As youths move from adolescence to adulthood, the number of mental-health service options declines, eligibility narrows, and affordability changes.
"These service system changes occur at a time of considerable stress as young peopleparticularly those in foster careoften change residences, seek new employment, and learn to live more independently," McMillen says.
The study also will examine correlations between continued or discontinued service use and various outcomes. Included will be positive outcomes such as high-school graduation or college acceptance, and negative situations such as substance abuse, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, incarceration, and unplanned parenthood.
McMillen received a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health for the study, which will document potentially dramatic changes in mental-health services for 380 Missouri youths leaving foster care over the next several years. The Missouri Division of Family Services is a partner in the study, being conducted through GWB's Center for Mental Health Services Research.
Law School Applications at Record High
The School of Law received a record high 2,440 applications for fall enrollment this year, an increase of 32 percent.
"Law school applications to the 180 accredited law schools are up in general, but, compared to most, our increase is stratospheric," says Janet Bolin, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the law school.
What features are most attractive to students?
A recent student survey indicated high regard for the quality of teaching and accessibility of the faculty. Important recent "student-centered" developments include small sections for first-year students, guaranteed placement in the clinical program, an increase in admissions and career services staff, and a three-year commitment to student scholarship support.
In addition, National Jurist ranked the School's state-of-the-art building among the top 10 "most wired" law schools.
Gift Establishes Entrepreneurship Program
A $3 million pledge from Robert and Julie Skandalaris will establish the Skandalaris Program in Entrepreneurial Studies at the Olin School of Business. The program will offer traditional classes as well as simulated and real-world entrepreneurial learning formats, and it will allow expansion of Olin's Center for Experiential Learning. Student teams at Olin currently create business plans for new start-ups in the business school's Hatchery. The Skandalaris pledge will offer a possible funding source for those fledgling companies.
Robert Skandalaris is chairman and chief executive officer of Noble International Ltd., a holding company in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, whose subsidiaries primarily serve the automotive industry. He and his wife, active supporters of the University, made this pledge as part of the Campaign for Washington University. Their daughter, Kristin, is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Life on Mars?
A Web site located at NASA's Planetary Data System's Geosciences Node at Washington University is helping scientists assess the possibility of life on Mars. It shows readings of a $1 billion experiment placed on Mars in 1976, done at the behest of planetary researcher Gilbert Levin. Viking probes placed nutrients in Mars dirt samples and detected gas releases consistent with the metabolism of microorganisms. For many years, most scientists thought the results were false positives. But, when microbiologist Joe Miller detected a rhythm in the readings consistent with life as we know it, interest in Levin's research resurfaced. Miller plans to study the Web data further.
SparkSite for Event Information
For students and others looking for something to do, Sparka new Web site the University has introducedoffers one-stop convenience. Through its "Extension Cord" link, the site, located at www.spark.wustl.edu, is a central location for information on events and activities in the St. Louis area, both on and off campus. It includes information on concerts, the arts, restaurants, transportation, theaters, festivals, and student services; student groups are encouraged to advertise their events on Spark. The site also provides links to the Student Activities calendar and to the main University calendar.
"We wanted to show students that there are many alternatives to participating in high-risk behavior," says Ken Grcich, residential college director at Park House and Mudd House. He and Melissa Ruwitch, coordinator of health promotion and wellness, headed the committee that formulated the idea for Spark. "As a committee, we felt we could meet our goal by promoting student activities and other opportunities for involvement," Grcich adds.
Student participation has been a central part of Spark's evolution from its beginning stages. Several students serve on the committee, and the site was designed by senior art major Deborah Gorman, winner of a contest held in Lecturer Lauri Eisenbach-Bush's junior design class.
Exercise Benefits Frail Elderly
A new assessment of several clinical trials indicates exercise may raise the spirits of the frail elderly without causing more pain.
Lead author Kenneth B. Schechtman, associate professor of biostatistics at the School of Medicine, and his team assessed the effects of exercise interventions on the quality of life of 1,733 subjects at four sites across the United States. The mean age of subjects was 73 years, and 55 percent were female. All were at risk for fall-related injury.
Four types of exerciseresistance, endurance, flexibility, and balancewere included, and researchers assessed how exercise intervention affected general health, emotional health, pain, and social well being. Subjects who exercised scored slightly higher on the emotional health scale than control groups. Exercise had little effect on the other three components.
These "interventions may have increased self-efficacy and the sense of mastery, which help to provide focus and meaning to one's life," Schechtman says.
The study results appear in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
Plant Facility Opens
In October, nearly 100 scientists and staff members moved into the facility for the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the world's premier plant science center. By the end of next year, the center's world-class team of interdisciplinary researchers will include 17 principal investigators and approximately 200 scientists.
The building includes 15 laboratory suites, 14 greenhouses, and 51 growth chambers and growth rooms. Led by founding president Roger N. Beachy, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University, the center's mission is to increase understanding of basic plant biology, to apply new knowledge of the benefit of human nutrition and health, to improve the sustainability of agriculture worldwide, to facilitate the rapid development and commercialization of promising technologies and products, and to contribute to the education and training of graduate and postdoctoral students, scientists, and technicians from around the world.
The independent, not-for-profit center is housed on 40 acres in west St. Louis County in a $75 million, 150,000-square-foot facility that is terra cotta and glass-clad. The center is the product of an innovative partnership of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Monsanto Company, Purdue University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Missouri at Columbia, and Washington University.
The center is named for the former president of St. Louis-based Ralston Purina Co. His son William H. Danforth is chairman of the center's board and is vice chairman and chancellor emeritus for Washington University. He also is a director of the Danforth Foundation, which has committed $60 million to the center.
University Responds to September 11 Attacks
After the September 11 terrorist attacks in the eastern part of the United States, the University community felt many emotions. Like people worldwide, University students, faculty, and staff were shocked, afraid, angry, sad, and numb. However, it didn't take long for supportive responses to surface.
Within an hour, the Engineering Student Council (EnCouncil) established a support center. Within four hours, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, in an e-mail to the entire University community, expressed his concern for the victims, their families, and friends, as well as for University community members concerned about the well- being of family and friends in New York City and Washington, D.C. (Alumni, students, and parents of students in the New York area number about 10,000. Alumna Catherine Jaffe Chirls, A.B. '75, died in the World Trade Center attack.)
He also announced many steps taken to support the campus community. He encouraged all to show respect for others, and said regular updates would be provided on the University Web site (www.wustl.edu).
The EnCouncil began shuttling student volunteers to local emergency blood drives. As a result of their efforts, combined with those of several other student groups, University students were responsible for 25 percent of blood donated in the St. Louis area that day.
In following days, there were many related events, including fundraisers, a peace rally, and a memorial service. The Olin School of Business also offered a Web site for School alumni to retrieve and post information about the welfare of alumni from New York City and Washington, D.C.
The "Home Plate" program, initiated by Risa Zwerling Wrighton, the chancellor's wife, and originally designed to help freshmen find a family environment on campus, was, in light of the tragedy, expanded to include all undergraduate students. In the program, participating students are paired with host families, who offer a home-cooked meal and talk around the table at least three times a year.
On the academic side, several faculty presented related lectures on Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and Afghanistan. Others were quoted by media worldwide on subjects such as terrorism as a weapon and emotional aftereffects of disasters. (See faculty comments in this issue: In Light of Tragedy: Words Comfort, Educate, Explain and Washington Viewpoint.)
Chancellor Wrighton also thanked all for making Washington University a safe and caring community free from hatred and injustice. (See In Light of Tragedy: Words Comfort, Educate, Explain.)
Genes Influence Effectiveness of Medicines
Scientists at the School of Medicine and the University of Southern California are collaborating on a major new research effort to better understand how a person's genes influence the effectiveness of medicines he or she takes.
Principal investigator is Howard L. McLeod, associate professor of medicine, of molecular biology and pharmacology, and of genetics at the medical school and an investigator with the University's Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
The project is funded through a four-year, $6.6 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
Heinz-Josef Lenz, associate professor of medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine and that site's lead investigator, says USC aims to use molecular markers to tailor chemotherapy for each patient. Findings will apply to cancer and other diseases.
McLeod and his colleagues will focus mainly on "individualized medicine"how to identify the best choice of medication for each patient.
University's Food Ranks 2nd in Nation
Night-Out at the Ballpark
Luchini Designs "Isabel House"
Musical Celebration Marks Retirement
Bixby and Givens Renovations Are Completed
Lopata House Anchors New Residential Complex
Rising to the Occasion
Tributes to Illustrator Al Parker
A Dance Treasure
Hotel for Medical Center
People Around Campus