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The very latest Washington University research news

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10.21.19
Weixiong Zhang, professor of computer science and engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and of genetics at the School of Medicine, along with his doctoral student Xiaoxin Liu, discovered and studied a new class of circular RNAs by analyzing enormous amounts of genetic data from humans, mice and rice.

After having biologists at Jianghan University in China validate their computational results, they reported their findings in RNA Biology, published online Sept. 27. Read more at the McKelvey School of Engineering website.


10.18.19
Ofer Zimmerman, MD, a clinical fellow in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine, received a $100,000 Physician Scientist Fellowship award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. He will be working in the laboratory of Michael Diamond, MD, PhD, the Herbert S. Gasser Professor of Medicine, to study the role of variations in the gene MXRA8 in infection with chikungunya virus, which can cause chronic arthritis.


10.14.19
Savannah Martin, a graduate student of biological anthropology in Arts & Sciences, received $25,200 from the National Science Foundation for her doctoral dissertation research project, titled “Cultural identity as a moderator of stress physiology.” Martin is under the direction of EA Quinn, associate professor of physical anthropology.


10.11.19
ShiNung Ching, associate professor of electrical and systems engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Lawrence Snyder, MD, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine, will study short-term working memory in the brain — part of a broader effort to understand the link between the dynamics and function of neural circuits — with a three-year $1.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)‘s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and National Institute of Mental Health.

The grant is part of the NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, aimed at revolutionizing the understanding of the human brain. Read more on the engineering website.


10.10.19
Sara Sanders, a postdoctoral research associate working with Petra Levin, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $50,004 fellowship from the university’s W. M. Keck Postdoctoral Program in Molecular Medicine. In addition, Elizabeth Mueller, a Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences graduate fellow working with Levin, received a $20,000 fellowship from the university’s Center for Science and Engineering of Living Systems.


10.8.19
Brent Williams, the Raymond R. Tucker Distinguished InCEES Career Development Associate Professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a four-year $422,432 grant from the National Science Foundation for an investigation into air quality and pollution in the Arctic during winter.

The research will look at the intersection of outdoor and indoor pollution as people spend much more time inside during the long, dark Arctic winters. Particularly, Williams is looking to investigate outdoor and indoor air transport; indoor pollution sources (such as leaky heaters); and the chemical transformation of pollutants in the harsh conditions of Arctic winters.

The project, Sustainably Navigating Arctic Pollution-Through Engaging Communities (SNAP-TEC), will involve community members’ input when it comes to identifying local areas of concern and in designing sustainable development frameworks for the future.


10.7.19
Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine, received a $309,909 grant from National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore the application of focused ultrasound-mediated drug delivery technique for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.


10.3.19
Jim Janetka, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a one-year SBIR grant award totaling $299,972 from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “Inhibitors of pro-HGF activation overcome resistance to anti-EGFR therapy.”


10.2.19
Jeffrey Catalano, professor of earth and planetary sciences, and Kaushik Mitra, graduate student in earth and planetary sciences, both in Arts & Sciences, received $123,950 from NASA-FINESST for a project titled “Chlorate as an Fe and Mn oxidant on the Martian surface.”


10.1.19
Last year, Peng Bai, assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, published research in which he discovered that one of the main roadblocks to building smaller lithium ion batteries was actually three separate roadblocks.

Now, Bai has received a $397,214 grant from the National Science Foundation to better understand these roadblocks, which can cause short circuits and loss in energy capacity. The combined experimental and theoretical research will be used to guide the holistic design of stable alkali metal anodes.

The project also will benefit students from K-12 through graduate level. A summer program will be established, working with underrepresented high school students and high school teachers using engineering concepts of metal-based batteries.


9.30.19
While politicians continue to argue whether outsiders affected the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a computer scientist at the McKelvey School of Engineering plans to develop a computational model that would determine how a malicious party could impact election outcomes by influencing which issues are most often in the public discussion.

“Malicious parties can use various kinds of tricks to make people think about certain issues and not others,” said Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, associate professor of computer science and engineering. He recently received a three-year, $368,178 grant from the National Science Foundation for the work. Read more on the engineering website.


9.30.19
Using massive amounts of data and a novel computing approach, Jr-Shin Li and Shen Zeng at the McKelvey School of Engineering are applying new control methodologies to biological systems. They recently received a $488,811 grant from the National Science Foundation for their work. Read more about their research.


9.27.19
Ray Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, received $273,894 from Johns Hopkins University/NASA to support the fifth extended mission of the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). Separately, Arvidson received $135,00 from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA to support his role as interdisciplinary scientist for the Mars Odyssey eighth extended mission.


9.26.19
Chao Zhou, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, plans to use optical coherence tomography, a type of imaging technology that has been used for two decades to take images of the retina. With a three-year, $855,305 grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he is working to develop an improved version of the method to penetrate 3D tumor models and determine drugs’ effect on tumors’ growth.

Read more on the engineering website.


9.25.19
Meredith Jackrel, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $300,000 grant from the ALS Association to support a project titled “Countering the aggregation of TDP-43, FUS, DPRS, and Matrin 3 with engineered protein disaggregases.”


9.24.19
Michael Slade, MD, a resident in internal medicine at the School of Medicine, received a 2019 Hematology Opportunities for the Next Generation of Research Scientists (HONORS) Award from the American Society of Hematology. The award supports talented medical students and residents who are interested in hematology but have not yet entered a hematology-related training program. His research has investigated genetic methods to identify leukemia patients who are likely to relapse after initial treatment. Slade will receive $5,000 to support a hematology research project plus a stipend to attend the society’s annual meeting.


9.23.19
Ryan Bogdan, associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a two-year, $264,938 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the effects of alcohol on the maturing brain.

The study will look at genome-wide association studies to longitudinal neuroimaging studies of adolescents and young adults in order to disentangle the contributions of predisposing factors to certain patterns of brain maturation from the consequences of alcohol. Read more about the project on the NIH website.


9.20.19
Shantanu Chakrabartty, the Clifford Murphy Professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, recently received a $380,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to address a persistent problem when it comes to recreating the brain’s neuronal networks in silicon: energy efficiency. This is known as the “neuron-to-network energy gap.” His research also will address the fact that biological brains are general purpose while computers are specialty machines, doing one thing at a time.


9.18.19
Deanna Barch, chair of the psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, received a $554,195 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for computational psychiatry research.

Computational psychiatry allows researchers to isolate specific mechanisms that determine behavior, bridging the gap between pathophysiology and psychopathology. However, there are several hurdles in transitioning the tools from the lab to the clinic.

Barch’s research will test the idea that computational metrics have enhanced validity and sensitivity relative to standard performance metrics in key psychiatric and nonpsychiatric populations. It also will establish and optimize the psychometrics of the computational metrics so they can be used to develop treatments and in longitudinal and genetic studies.


9.17.19
Patricia Weisensee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a $330,221 grant from the National Science Foundation to study dropwise condensation and its effects on heat transfer.

Lubricant-infused surfaces (LIS), which consist of a microporous surface infused with a thin oil layer, promote dropwise condensation, which leads to smaller and more efficient energy and water harvesting than film condensation. However, the widespread implementation of LIS in commercial applications is limited due to an incomplete understanding of droplet-lubricant interactions, droplet nucleation and growth, and lubricant drainage.

Weisensee’s project aims to elucidate these dynamics and study their influence on condensation heat transfer rates. Furthermore, the project will foster interest in science and help overcome barriers for women and underrepresented minorities interested in engineering via outreach programs at a local all-girls middle school and summer research internships for talented high school students.


9.16.19
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Jian Wang, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, more than $685,000 to study aerosols (also known as particulates) in the marine boundary layer over the eastern North Atlantic Ocean.

Results from the research will be used to evaluate and improve the capability of the Department of Energy’s Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM), an Earth modeling, simulation and prediction project.

The grant from the Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research program also will help develop a predictive understanding of key aerosol processes and the influences of those processes on the cloud condensation nuclei (also called cloud seeds) in the marine boundary layer, the part of the atmosphere that is in direct contact with the ocean.


9.12.19
Researchers from the McKelvey School of Engineering want to know if they can use nanotechnology to control neurons and parse the relationship between neural activity and behavior and disease. Srikanth Singamaneni and Barani Raman will combine their expertise in the research, for which they have received a four-year, $678,000 grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Read more from the engineering site.


9.10.19
Thorold Theunissen, assistant professor of developmental biology, Kristen Kroll, associate professor of developmental biology, and Lilianna Solnica-Krezel, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor and head of developmental biology, all at the School of Medicine, have received a three-year, $1.04 million grant from the Children’s Discovery Institute for their project titled “Establishing novel stem cell platforms to model developmental disorders in children.”


9.5.19
Simon Yue-Cheong Tang, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the School of Medicine and of biomedical and mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “The role of physiologic and pathologic AGEs on RAGE signaling in IVD degeneration.” The findings could help advance the mechanistic link between diabetes and low back pain. Read more on the NIH website.


9.3.19
Brendan Juba, a researcher at the McKelvey School of Engineering, is working to improve the way autonomous vehicles make decisions and the way they relay that information. The work is funded by a three-year, $419,877 National Science Foundation grant. Juba is collaborating with Roni Stern at Ben-Gurion University. Read more here.


8.30.19
Tess Thompson, research assistant professor at the Brown School, has received a five-year, $728,000 grant from the American Cancer Society for a research project titled “Analyzing Outcomes for African American Breast Cancer Patients and Caregivers.”


8.28.19
Mary McKay, the Neidorff Family and Centene Corporation Dean of the Brown School, has received a five-year, $785,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Mental Health for a project titled “Navigating Resource-Constrained Systems and Communities to Promote the Behavioral Health of Black Youth.” Sean Joe, the Benjamin E. Youngdahl Professor of Social Development and associate dean for faculty and research at the Brown School, is co-principal investigator.


8.26.19
Kristen Kroll, associate professor of developmental biology at the School of Medicine, has received a one-year, $150,000 grant from the Undiagnosed Diseases Network for her project titled “Using human pluripotent stem cell models to evaluate pathogenicity and define disease mechanisms for ZNF292 variant found in UDN373964.”


8.20.19
Researchers in the laboratory of Meredith Jackrel, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, discovered that proteins implicated in Ewing’s sarcoma and liposarcoma can be dissolved by protein disaggregases, a finding that could be used to combat disease. The new research is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Read more about the findings.


8.19.19
Eric Galburt, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a four-year, nearly $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences for his research titled “Kinetic regulation of mycobacterial transcription.”


8.16.19
Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has been awarded $449,194 from the National Science Foundation for her project “Nucleation of Manganese Oxides in the Presence of Reactive Halogen Species.”

In her research, she examines the formation of manganese oxide particles in saline water. Environmentally abundant, manganese oxides are important in removing contaminants from the environment. Their formation can be affected by human activities that have high salt concentrations, such as desalination and oil and gas recovery. However, the chemistry involved is poorly understood, including the role of halide ions (e.g., chloride and bromide) and their highly reactive halogen species.

This research quantitatively and qualitatively examines how saline water chemistry affects the formation of manganese oxides in environmental processes. The project also develops environmental chemistry outreach programs for underrepresented or economically disadvantaged K-12 students. This outreach both encourages the early involvement of high school and undergraduate students in research and improves university courses by incorporating research outcomes.


8.15.19
Krista Milich, assistant professor of biological anthropology in Arts & Sciences, received a $12,500 award from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund to support a project on red colobus monkeys in Uganda.


8.15.19
Sarah Baitzel, assistant professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences, received a $6,050 award from the Rust Family Foundation for a project titled “Andean vertical exchange after Tiwanaku (10-12th century AD): Investigation of subsistence, mobility, and social diversity in the Cabuza city of Los Batanes (southern Peru).”


8.14.19
Matt Kerr, professor of mathematics and statistics in Arts & Sciences, received a $42,000 grant from the Simons Foundation for a project titled “Asymptotic Hodge theory in geometry, physics, and arithmetic.”


8.7.19
Rajan Chakrabarty, assistant professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received a $410,856 grant from the National Science Foundation for, as he describes it, “three weeks of intense wildfire-smoke science.”

Chakrabarty and his research group are participating in Fire Influence on Regional to Global Environments and Air Quality (FIREX-AQ), a large-scale investigation into the properties and consequences of emissions from large fires. NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and various research groups, including more than 40 universities from the U.S. and abroad, are involved.

Chakrabarty’s research group has built specialty equipment from scratch. The equipment is traveling by van this month to Idaho, where researchers will use it to study in real time the smoke characteristics from ongoing wildfires. The data will help Chakrabarty’s lab understand the differences and similarities between experiments in the lab and conditions in the real world.


8.7.19
Michael Nowak, research professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, received a $44,887 grant from the Smithsonian Institution to support a project titled “Radial density profile and onset of clumping in the stellar wind of a O61a star.”


8.6.19
Richard A. Loomis, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $140,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in support of a project titled “Measuring the dynamics of excitons in 1D semiconductor quantum wires with quantum state resolution.”


8.5.19
Everything we do on the internet creates data, from sending email to looking up directions. With numerous high-profile data breaches over the past few years and new government regulations, both individuals and governments are becoming more concerned about who has access to their data and how they can protect it.

Ning Zhang, assistant professor of computer science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, is developing a novel user privacy protection framework that will give users full privacy control over their data. The framework, known as PrivacyGuard, will allow users to enforce that their data can only be used by programs they approve.

The work is funded by a four-year, collaborative, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.  Read more on the engineering website.


 

7.31.19
Philip Skemer, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a $167,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a collaborative research project titled “Theoretical and experimental investigation of grain damage and the formation of plate boundaries.”


7.31.19
Kimberly Parker, assistant professor of energy, environmental  and chemical engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering, received $110,000 from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund for her proposal “Behavior of Enzymes at the Interfaces of Minerals and Non-Aqueous Liquids.” A primary scientific goal of Parker’s research group is to understand the behavior of biomacromolecules like nucleic acids and proteins in environmental and energy systems.


7.29.19
Jessica Wagenseil, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, will study how change in the structure of the aorta’s wall may contribute to progression of an aneurysm with a three-year, $300,000 Transformational Project Award from the American Heart Association.

Genetics and other factors may cause the aorta, the body’s largest artery, to widen or expand, leading to weakness in its walls. This weakness may lead to a thoracic aortic aneurysm, or a rupture causing extensive damage and bleeding. Read more on the engineering website.


7.29.19
Ari Stern, associate professor of mathematics and statistics in Arts & Sciences, received a $212,640 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled “Hybrid finite element methods for geometric partial differential equations.”


7.26.19
Several faculty members in Arts & Sciences have received new or renewal grants recently from NASA for their research. Among them are:

  • Bradley Jolliff, the Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, $539,932 from NASA/University of New Mexico to support his work with the University of New Mexico’s Consortium for the Advanced Analysis of Apollo Samples.
  • David Fike, professor of earth and planetary sciences, $70,338 from NASA’s Ames Research Center for a project titled “Abiotic and biological sulfate reduction in serpentinizing systems.”

7.24.19
Mayssa Mokalled, assistant professor of developmental biology at the School of Medicine, received a one-year, $40,000 grant from the McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology for her project titled “Mechanisms of adult neurogenesis during spinal cord regeneration in zebrafish.”


7.23.19
Willem Dickhoff, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, received a $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support his work on Green’s functions and the nuclear many-body problem.


7.22.19
Jeffrey Miner, professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the School of Medicine, and Jonathan Barnes, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciencees, received a total of $375,000 over three years in funding from the Children’s Discovery Institute Interdisciplinary Research Initiative for their project titled “Innovative Drug Delivery Strategies to Treat Pediatric Kidney Disease.” This research will help improve personalized treatment of pediatric kidney disease.


7.11.19
Andrew Malone, MBBCh, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the School of Medicine, received a five-year, $822,279 NIH Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development grant for research titled “Single Cell Analysis of Kidney Transplant Antibody Mediated Rejection.” Read more on the Division of Nephrology’s website.


7.10.19
James Buckley, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, received a $667,954 award from NASA for the development of a novel imaging calorimeter for gamma-ray and cosmic-ray studies.


7.5.19
Elizabeth S. Haswell, professor of biology, and Anders E. Carlsson, professor of physics, both in Arts & Sciences, received a $954,779 grant from the National Science Foundation for their project titled “Pollen: A model system for computational and experimental study of plant biomechanics at the cellular scale.”


6.28.19
In a systematic review of 21 peer-reviewed journal articles, Anne Claire Grammer, a Washington University in St. Louis PhD candidate in psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and co-authors aimed to determine if sexual and gender minority adolescents are at greater risk for overweight or obesity compared to cisgender, heterosexual youth.

The review, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, noted that overall, sexual and gender minority adolescents were at greater risk for overweight and obesity, though there were important subgroup differences. Read more about the findings.


6.26.19
Zoe Hawks, a university fellow in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, received $25,000 from the Autism Science Foundation toward research on testing candidate cerebellar presymptomatic biomarkers for autism.


6.24.19
mySci elementary curriculum unit, “From Sun to Food,” has earned the highest award from Achieve, a national science curriculum rating organization, becoming the first K-5 unit in the nation to do so. MySci is led by Victoria May, executive director of the Institute for School Partnership and assistant dean in Arts & Sciences, and Jeanne Norris, who serves as curriculum coordinator.


6.14.19
Robert Motley Jr., a doctoral candidate at the Brown School and manager of the Center for Social Development’s Race and Opportunity Lab, has received a two-year $60,936 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and a $5,000 grant from the Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation.

The funding is for his dissertation study, titled “Racism-Based Trauma, Emerging Adults, and Substance Abuse.” Read more on the center’s website.


6.11.19
Greg Knese, associate professor of mathematics and statistics in Arts & Sciences, received a $191,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project studying operator theory and stable polynomials. Operator theory is a broad and mature area of pure mathematics with close ties to the mathematics of quantum mechanics and control systems engineering.


6.7.19
An interdisciplinary research team at Washington University in St. Louis has been developing a low-cost, alternative method of preserving biological samples using nanotechnology — and it does not require refrigeration.

Srikanth Singamaneni, professor in the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Jeremiah Morrissey, research professor of anesthesiology at the School of Medicine, will validate their novel preservation method using biomarkers for kidney and prostate cancers with a three-year, $550,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Read more on the engineering website.


6.4.19
Shin-ichiro Imai, MD, PhD, professor of developmental biology at the School of Medicine, received a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his project titled “eNAMPT-mediated adipo-hypothalamic communication for NAD+ production and aging.”


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