FRONTRUNNERS – Fall 2009
   

 
Associate Professor William D. Richard (left) takes an ultrasound probe of colleague David Zar’s carotid artery with a low-power imaging device he designed. (Photo: David Kilper)
Ultrasound Imaging Possible with Smartphone
Computer engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are bringing the minimalist approach to medical care and computing. They are coupling USB-based ultrasound probe technology with a smartphone, enabling a compact, mobile computational platform and a medical imaging device that fits in the palm of a hand. This device will alter both medicine and global computer use.

These smartphone-compatible USB ultrasound probes can image the kidney, liver, bladder, and eyes; endocavity probes can be used for prostate and uterine screenings and biopsies; and vascular probes can image veins and arteries for starting IVs and central lines.

This portable ultrasound probe technology, manufactured by Interson Corporation, can be used by doctors in remote areas of the developing world. (Photo: Courtesy World Mission Possible)

“You can carry around a probe and cell phone and image on the fly now,” says William D. Richard, associate professor in computer science and engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “Imagine having these smartphones in ambulances and emergency rooms. On a larger scale, this kind of cell phone is a complete computer that runs Windows. It could become the essential computer of the developing world, where trained medical personnel are scarce, but most of the population, as much as 90 percent, has access to a cell phone tower.”

Richard and David Zar, research associate in computer science and engineering, worked on the device. Zar wrote the phone software and firmware for the probes; Richard came up with the low-power probe electronics design.

“Twenty-first century medicine is defined by medical imaging,” says Zar. “Yet 70 percent of the world’s population has no access to medical imaging. It’s hard to take an MRI or CT scanner to a rural community without power.”

Further visions for the product include training people in remote areas of the developing world on the basics of gathering data with the phones. They then could send the data to a centralized unit across the globe, where specialists could analyze the images and make diagnoses, says Zar.


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Autism Risk Factors Investigated
Autism researchers at the School of Medicine are joining other scientists to image the brains of infants and attempt to identify anatomical and behavioral changes that may be linked to the onset of autism.

The $10 million, NIH-funded Infant Brain Imaging Study allows investigators to analyze early brain development in children at risk for autism spectrum disorders by virtue of having an autistic sibling.

“We’re recruiting infants as young as possible—even during the mother’s pregnancy—for interviews and screenings, and then they come to see us for brief testing and to have MRI scans at six months,” says Kelly N. Botteron, associate professor of psychiatry, principal investigator at the Washington University study site, and a child psychiatrist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

At the University, researchers are using MRI imaging to get a very detailed look at the brain’s anatomy. The investigators also perform what’s called resting-state, functional MRI imaging, which provides information about how the various structures in the brain connect to one another while the baby is resting. A third imaging technique, called diffusion tensor imaging, allows Botteron’s team to analyze characteristics of the brain’s gray matter and white matter.

The five-year study will allow researchers to follow the infants over time to identify which infants develop autism and whether the brain scans can help predict that risk.


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Mediation Team Takes Second in Nationals
The ABA Representation in Mediation Team at the School of Law won second place at the 2009 national competition. The team is among a growing number of Washington University Law teams with success stories this year at the regional, national, and international levels.

Having won the regional round of the competition in New York City, team members Gordon Spring and Sadena Thevarajah advanced to nationals. The team took second place, after a narrow defeat (one point) by the University of Richmond. Other members are Kalila Jackson and Nate Stein (regional competitors), and McCall Carter, Marc Goldstein, and Douglas Peterson. The team is coached by Mike Geigerman, adjunct professor and managing director and mediator of the U.S. Arbitration & Mediation Midwest, and C.J. Larkin, senior lecturer and administrative director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution program at the law school.

An unprecedented number of schools participated in the ABA Representation in Mediation Competition this year with 104 teams represented by 57 law schools. The competition requires each team to participate in a mock mediation, with one student playing the role of client and the other acting as the attorney for the client.


(AP Photos/Riccardo De Luca)

Professor Emerita, Nobel Laureate Turns 100
Rita Levi-Montalcini, Washington University professor emerita of biology and Nobel Prize winner, turned 100 on April 22, 2009, making her the oldest living Nobel laureate and the first to reach her centenary.

Famous for her groundbreaking discovery of growth factors that further impacted understanding of diseases such as cancer, birth defects, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, Levi-Montalcini is an acting member of the Italian Senate, where she became a senator for life in 2001.


WUSTL Graduate Programs Rank in Top 10
Twenty WUSTL schools, departments, and academic areas at the graduate and professional levels currently hold top-10 rankings in U.S. News & World Report’s 2009 rankings of graduate and professional programs.

The School of Medicine is tied for No. 3 among research-oriented medical schools. Within the School, the Internal Medicine program ranks No. 6, and the Pediatrics program is tied for No. 8.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science is tied for No. 10.

The Olin Business School’s MBA program is tied for No. 22.

The departments of Political Science and of Psychology, both in Arts & Sciences, are tied for No. 13 in their areas. Both departments have specialties that rank among the top 10—political methodology ranks No. 7, and cognitive psychology ranks No. 9.

The School of Law ranks No. 19. The Trial and Advocacy program is tied for No. 4, and the Clinical Affairs program ranks No. 5.

Many other University programs rank in U.S. News’ top 25. The complete list of rankings is available at usnews.com.


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Spring Athletics at a Glance
2:23:57 Time it took Zac Freudenburg, a doctoral candidate at Washington University, to break the course record at the GO! St. Louis marathon on April 19, 2009. Despite muddy course conditions and intermittent rain, he eclipsed the former record set the previous year by almost a minute.

19 Number of consecutive wins by the men’s tennis team in 2009, a school record. The defending national champions made their third-straight appearance in the NCAA quarterfinal round and finished fourth in 2009.

5 Final ranking of the women’s outdoor track and field team in the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. This was the team’s highest finish ever.

2 Number of times Roger Follmer, head coach for men’s tennis, was named the Wilson/Intercollegiate Tennis Association NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year (2006 and 2009).

.373 Career batting average of Zander Lehmann of the men’s baseball team. Lehmann was selected to the 2009 ESPN the Magazine Baseball Academic All-America First-Team. He is the first student-athlete in University history to earn the honor in baseball.


(Photo: David Kilper)

Olin Donates to Military Women
On March 27, 2009, members of the Olin Business School community organized care packages for the University’s special collection for military women.

Earlier that month, the care package group, which sends donated items to U.S. troops serving overseas, asked the Washington University community to donate objects requested by female soldiers serving in Iraq, such as brightly colored towels, fuzzy socks, and lights. The group collected 549 pounds of donations for its largest mailing yet.


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Experience Corps Tutors Improve Reading Skills
Tutoring children in and after school isn’t new, but how much does it really help in critical areas like reading? Rigorous new research from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University shows significant gains from a national service program that trains experienced Americans to help low-income children one-on-one in urban public schools.

Over a single school year, students working with Experience Corps tutors made over 60 percent more progress in learning two critical reading skills—sounding out new words and reading comprehension—than similar students not served by the program.

Researchers at the University conducted a study of Experience Corps, a national program that engages Americans over 55 in helping struggling students to learn to read, to assess its effectiveness. The two-year, $2 million study, funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, is one of the largest of its kind, involving more than 800 first-, second-, and third-graders (half with Experience Corps tutors, half without) at 23 elementary schools in three cities.

“The difference in reading ability between kids who worked with Experience Corps tutors and those who did not is substantial and statistically significant,” says Nancy Morrow-Howell, the lead researcher and the Ralph and Muriel Pumphrey Professor of Social Work at the Brown School.

In addition to the educational and social benefit received by the students, studies by researchers at Washington University and Johns Hopkins University have shown that working with young students improves the health and well-being of the adults themselves.

“Experience Corps works because its members are carefully screened and trained to support local literacy instruction,” says Lester Strong, the program’s CEO. “Plus, most members come from the neighborhoods where they serve. They know these kids, they believe in these kids, and they see a future in them.”


The Amateurs are one of two WUSTL a cappella groups featured on Ben Folds’ new album. (Photo: Whitney Curtis)

Ben Folds Album Features Two A Cappella Groups
Two Washington University a cappella groups appear on a new recording by pop music singer and pianist Ben Folds titled Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella!

Folds chose the Mosaic Whispers and Amateurs after the groups submitted YouTube videos of themselves in an online contest. They were selected from more than 250 a cappella groups from around the country. While groups from 13 universities and one high school appear on the album, Washington University is the only school to feature two groups.

Unbeknownst to the other members, Ellen Miller, group coordinator for Mosaic Whispers, submitted a video of the group performing Folds’ song “Still Fighting It.” She later was thrilled to get an e-mail from Folds saying the group had been selected.

“We’re incredibly excited,” says Miller, Arts & Sciences Class of ’11. “Ben has been great to work with, and we had a ton of fun recording our song with him.”

“Still Fighting It” was arranged by Mark Partridge, who dropped out of Mosaic Whispers after his freshman year due to other commitments, but who remained involved unofficially. Partridge, AB ’09, attended the recording session at the University’s 560 Music Center with the group. Folds ran the session along with one of his sound engineers.

“When we were in the studio with him, he was very professional, setting up the microphones, but he’d joke around with us,” says Eliotte Henderson, Arts & Sciences Class of ’10. “He was a very cool guy.”

Emily Flanders, Amateurs alumni coordinator, submitted a 2006 video of the group singing Fold’s “The Luckiest.”

“Ben actually called me and told me he liked our version so much it was one of the reasons he decided to go through with this project,” says Flanders, AB ’07.

Amateurs alumni recorded with Folds, along with three current members.

“I think I could speak for all the groups on the CD when I say that being asked to record for Ben Folds and then open for him at one of his concerts was truly an honor and a privilege. I’ll never forget it,” says Antonio Rodriguez, AB ’09.

In order to promote his CD, Ben Folds invited the Amateurs to open for him on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, while the Mosaic Whispers performed at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.


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Nanotechnology Institute Established
Funding from the Missouri Life Sciences Research Fund established the St. Louis Institute of Nanomedicine Working Group, a collaborative regional effort to apply advances in nanotechnology to the treatment of human diseases. The University is one of the founding members of the new institute, along with the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Saint Louis University, and St. Louis Community College.

Nanotechnology refers to materials, structures, and devices that are smaller than 100 nanometers, so small that thousands can fit within the dot above the letter “i.” They can be designed to perform useful tasks.

The institute will focus on the development and evaluation of nanotechnologies for health care, facilitation of commercialization and testing in new patients, and education of a new work force and of the public at large. The institute also will promote joint research projects and permit sharing of equipment and other resources among the group members.

The grant will fund about four pilot projects each year involving research and training for students in the field. “The projects will expand the portfolio of nanomedicine ideas and attract new talent to the field, effectively increasing the regional nanomedicine infrastructure,” says Samuel A. Wickline, who heads WUSTL’s Siteman Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.


In this mixture of squares, rods, S shapes, and Z shapes, the shapes all make little clusters, rather than completely mixing together. (Courtesy Image)

Particles, Molecules Prefer Not to Mix
In the world of small things, shape, order, and orientation are surprisingly important, according to findings from a new study by chemists at Washington University.

Lev Gelb, associate professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences; graduate student Brian Barnes; and postdoctoral researcher Daniel Siderius used computer simulations to study a very simple model of molecules on surfaces, which looks a lot like the computer game Tetris®. They found that the shapes in this model (and in the game) do a number of surprising things.

“First, different shapes don’t mix very well with each other; each shape prefers to associate with others of the same kind,” says Gelb. “Second, these shapes tend to align in the same direction. Finally, how ‘different looking’ the shapes are isn’t a good predictor for how well they mix; it turns out that the hard-to-predict characteristic structures of the fluids are more important than the shapes themselves.”

Gelb and his colleagues use simulations to develop an atomic-scale understanding of the behavior of complex systems. They want to understand how molecules and nanoparticles of different shapes interact with each other to gain a better understanding of self-assembly, which is important in the development of new, strong materials for one, and designed catalysts for another.

In explaining the alignment phenomenon, Siderius offers the analogy of a roomful of people trying to circulate among each other.

“If they’re all randomly placed, they’d bump shoulders frequently,” he says. “But if they aligned a bit, everyone could move around more freely, which increases the entropy. In the past, we’d think of an ordered system as low entropy, but in this case, it is high entropy.”


Still of Carsten Hoeller (left) and Rirkrit Tiravanija in Chew the Fat (a documentary portrait by Rirkrit Tiravanija), 2008. Courtesy Talk/Talk Documentaries and neugerriemscheider, Berlin

Chew the Fat Exhibits at Kemper
In its first solo showing, Rirkrit Tiravanija: Chew the Fat exhibited at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum from May 8 to July 27. Twelve artists were featured in the multifaceted video installation.

Visitors to the exhibit wore headphones plugged into a television monitor in order to watch Tiravanija “chewing the fat” in the two-hour feature film.

“These artists create installations and artworks that complicate expectations for authorial control and direction,” says Karen K. Butler, assistant curator at Kemper. “We either can drop in and out of these films as if we were surfing the Internet, or we can sit back, relax, and enter into these private lives on public display.”


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Imagination Can Shape Reality
The power of positive thinking may be more than just a metaphor. A new study from psychologists at Washington University suggests imagination could be more effective than previously thought in helping us reach our goals.

Previous studies show that we place more importance on items close to us because of the more immediate danger or benefit, while items far away decrease in importance. This study explores the possibilities of imagining things closer to us.

“The imagination has the extraordinary capacity to shape reality,” suggests the study’s co-authors, Richard Abrams, professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences, and doctoral student Christopher Davoli. “This is the first study suggesting that merely imagining something close to our hands will cause us to pay more attention to it.”

With their hands by their sides, study participants looked through letters scattered across a display monitor to find a specific letter, then pressed a button when they found it. In this scenario, participants were asked either to visualize themselves with their hands behind their backs or with their hands around the monitor. Results showed that participants spent more time searching the display when they imagined their hands on the display monitor. This shows that people treated the monitor as though it were physically closer to their hands.

These findings indicate that this mental extension of our “peripersonal space” (the space around our body) may provide advantages such as avoiding collisions or determining if a goal is realistic, such as reaching the top shelf.


(Photo: Jeanne Gibbons)

Childhood Malnutrition Explored in Malawi, Bangladesh
Scientists who first established a link between obesity and the trillions of friendly microbes that live in the intestine now are investigating whether the organisms can contribute to the converse: severe malnutrition.

Researchers at Washington University will study whether severely malnourished infants living in Malawi and Bangladesh have a different, disease-causing mix of intestinal microbes than healthy infants in the same areas.

“This work is designed to understand the complex interplay among a child’s diet and his or her gut microbial community, immune system, and human genome in the development of the most severe forms of malnutrition, kwashiorkor and marasmus,” says microbiologist and lead researcher Jeffrey Gordon, who directs Washington University’s Center for Genome Sciences.

The research will focus on twins ages 6 months to 2 years in which one or both of the twins is severely malnourished, and, as a comparison, it also will look at healthy twins. Twins are being studied because they have identical or similar genetic backgrounds, and they share the same early environment.

As part of the project, malnourished infants will be given a nutritionally enriched food supplement (above). “We will monitor the collection of microbial species and genes in the gut before, during, and after treatment with the supplement, and determine whether the collection of gut microbes and genes undergoes a change as a result of treatment,” says Gordon, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor.

The researchers also will analyze the intestinal microbes found in the twins’ mothers. A recent study by Gordon and his colleagues found that bacterial communities in the gut appear to be transmitted in a significant way from mothers to their offspring.


Honors
Two professors received Washington University’s 2009 faculty achievement awards: Enola K. Proctor, the Frank J. Bruno Professor of Social Work Research and associate dean for research, and Jeffrey I. Gordon, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences. Proctor received the Arthur Holly Compton Faculty Achievement Award, and Gordon received the Carl and Gerty T. Cori Faculty Achievement Award.

Two professors were elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation: Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck, assistant professor of pathology and immunology and of developmental biology, and Deborah J. Novack, assistant professor of pathology and immunology and of medicine.

Martin I. Boyer, chief of the Washington University Orthopedics Hand and Wrist Service, was named the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at the School of Medicine.

C. Robert Cloninger, the Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry and of genetics at the School of Medicine and of psychology in Arts & Sciences, is the 10th recipient of the American Psychiatric Association’s Judd Marmor Award.

John N. Constantino was named the Blanche F. Ittleson Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and director of the William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He also serves as the child-psychiatrist-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Marion G. Crain was named the Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law. Crain previously was the Paul Eaton Professor of Law and director of the Center on Poverty, Work, & Opportunity at the University of North Carolina.

Louis P. “Pepper” Dehner, professor of pathology and immunology and professor of pathology in pediatrics, received the Distinguished Pathologist Award of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology.

Thomas B. Ferguson, professor emeritus of surgery, received the American Association for Thoracic Surgery’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thomas Ferkol, associate professor of pediatrics and of cell biology and physiology and director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonary Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, was elected chair of the American Thoracic Society Scientific Assembly on Pediatrics.

Victoria Fraser, the J. William Campbell Professor of Medicine and co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, received the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America Mentor Scholar Fund Award.

Alan Glass, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Habif Health and Wellness Center, was named president-elect of the American College Health Association.

Robert O. Heuckeroth, associate professor of pediatrics, won a Clinical Scientist Award in Translational Research from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Alex A. Kane was named the Dr. Joseph B. Kimbrough Chair for Pediatric Dentistry in the Washington University Department of Surgery, Division of Plastic Surgery for Use in the Cleft Palate/Craniofacial Deformities Institute for Teaching and Healing. Kane is associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery and director of the Cleft Palate and Craniofacial Institute at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Evan D. Kharasch, the Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Professor of Anesthesiology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, was named interim vice chancellor for research.

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

Igor Marjanovic, assistant professor of architecture, received a national Education Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.

Jeff M. Michalski, professor of radiation oncology, was named vice chair and director of clinical programs of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the School of Medicine.

Arie Perry, professor of pathology and immunology, was elected vice president-elect of the American Association of Neuropathologists.

Barbara A. Schaal, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences and vice president of the National Academy of Sciences, was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Bradley L. Schlaggar, the A. Ernest and Jane G. Stein Associate Professor of Neurology and associate professor of pediatrics, of radiology, and of neurobiology, received the American Academy of Neurology 2009 Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral Neurology.

Herbert W. Virgin IV, the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor, chair of the Department of Pathology and Immunology, and professor of molecular microbiology and of medicine, was appointed director and principal investigator of the Midwest Region Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease Research.


Strobe Talbott (left), president of the Brookings Institution, meets with Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton in Washington, D.C., on April 21, the day the new partnership was announced. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Brookings)

University Forms Partnership with Brookings Institution
The Brookings Institution and Washington University have announced a partnership in which they will offer joint programs including internships, lectures, and other educational activities. In addition, the Olin Business School will lead management of Brookings’ executive education activities.

The new partnership, which was announced on April 21, 2009, could be considered a reunion of old friends. Turn-of-the-last-century St. Louis businessman Robert S. Brookings both founded the D.C.-based think tank and, as leader of Washington University’s governing board for 33 years, laid the foundation for the University to become the world-renowned institution it is today.

A key element of the renewed partnership in educational programs is that Olin will lead management of the Brookings Center for Executive Education. Known for its exceptional executive education for mid- and senior-level organizational leaders in the United States and abroad, the Olin School will brings its approach to the Brookings Center for Executive Education, which offers courses covering critical global issues, U.S. policy-making, and public leadership for government and corporate leaders. Jackson A. Nickerson, the Frahm Family Professor of Organization and Strategy at Olin and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, will serve as director of the new executive education partnership.

“The Brookings Institution is a premier organization, and we at the University value the many opportunities that will come to our students and faculty through the development of this partnership,” says Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.

Wrighton says that the partnership with Brookings is a vital component of the development of Washington, D.C., programs by the University, an initiative led by Kent D. Syverud, associate vice chancellor for Washington, D.C., programs; dean of the School of Law at the University; and the Ethan A. H. Shepley University Professor. Wrighton notes there are many areas of possible collaboration between the University and Brookings, such as a long-standing Washington, D.C., program at the School of Law; intense interest among students to have internships in D.C.; the development of the University’s McDonnell International Scholars Academy and Gephardt Institute for Public Service; and the growth of the University’s programs in energy and environment, public health, and health policy.

Under the new agreement, the University and Brookings also will participate in a scholar-in-residence exchange program, and Washington University undergraduate and graduate students will have opportunities to become involved in Brookings programs of mutual interest.

“I am extremely pleased that we will be pursuing areas of common interest and opportunities for collaboration in research, policy studies, and academic activities,” says Brookings President Strobe Talbott.

Washington University and Brookings anticipate publishing the results of conferences, projects, and other programs conducted through the new partnership with the Brookings Institution Press, operated by the Brookings Institution.

“Clearly, Washington University’s faculty and students and the distinguished scholars at the Brookings Institution will have many opportunities to collaborate both in D.C. and in St. Louis,” says Wrighton. “I am strongly committed to providing resources that will encourage such collaborative efforts and will value greatly the continuing partnership with Strobe Talbott and his colleagues at the Brookings Institution.”

The Brookings Institution is a private nonprofit organization devoted to independent research and innovative policy solutions. For more than 90 years, Brookings has analyzed current and emerging issues and produced new ideas that matter—for the nation and the world.