The very latest Washington University research news
Lori Markson, associate professor and director of graduate studies, and Rebecca Schwarzlose, postdoctoral research associate, both in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, received $49,000 from the Russell Sage Foundation for a research project titled “Conceptual understanding of skin color inheritance among American children and adults.”
Thee National Institutes of Health (NIH)‘s National Institute on Aging has awarded a $3.3 million grant to Susan Stark, associate professor of occupational therapy, and Beau Ances, MD, PhD, the Daniel J. Brennan, MD, Professor of Neurology, both at the School of Medicine, to assess whether falls can be used to predict onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.
Jason Hassenstab, assistant professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, has received a $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)‘s National Institute on Aging to develop a smartphone app to assess cognition in people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Gautam Dantas, professor of pathology and immunology at the School of Medicine, has received a $1.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the occupational exposure of dairy farm-workers to antibiotic-resistant microorganisms and infectious diseases from cows. The project also will communicate these risks to dairy farmers with a goal of reducing cow-to-farmer transmission. Dantas also received a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to study the role of the gut microbiome in protecting people from diarrheal disease. The study also will look at the factors that put people at risk for diarrhea — and especially antibiotic-resistant infections — during travel.
Damena Agonafer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, received an $86,000 grant from Google Inc. to develop a prototype device to help cool microprocessors.
He seeks to develop a direct two-phase cooling solution by designing a bioinspired evaporative microheat exchanger. The design channels properties of a 400-million-year-old arthropod called a springtail, which lives in damp soil and has skin that repels liquid. Read more on the engineering website.
Christine Pham, MD, director of the rheumatology division, and Deborah Lenschow, MD, PhD, associate professor, both in the Department of Medicine at the School of Medicine, have been awarded a $3.1 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to establish a rheumatic diseases research center. The center will provide resources to accelerate basic and translational research into rheumatic diseases, potentially improving treatment for people suffering from arthritis, lupus, vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels, and scleroderma, an autoimmune disease characterized by hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues.
The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Corina Anastasaki, a senior scientist in neurology at the School of Medicine, $786,000 to develop human stem-cell models to study cancers of the nervous system caused by mutations in the neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) gene. The goal is to understand why mutations in the same gene manifest differently and pave the way toward personalized medicine for NF1.
Erika Waters, associate professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, received a four-year, $2.58 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “Child Asthma Exacerbation: Role of Caregiver Risk Beliefs.” Read more on the NIH website.
Ying Liu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, received a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the project titled “Residential Mobility, Treatment Quality and Survival in Low-Income Women with Breast Cancer.” Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, the Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery, is a co-investigator.
Hongxi Yin, InCEES associate professor of architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, received an $89,766 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric (TE) concrete brick for the construction of building exterior envelopes. Yin will study the thermal and energy behavior of TE concrete envelopes using building energy simulation tools, and researchers will survey people to evaluate the product’s thermal comfort aspects.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $3.5 million grant to study how live bacteria can be used for drug delivery to Gautam Dantas, professor of pathology and immunology, and Thaddeus Stappenbeck, the Conan Professor of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine, both at the School of Medicine, and Tae Seok Moon, associate professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science. The aim is to develop probiotic treatments for the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria and other diseases.
Alison Cahill, MD, associate professor, and Yong Wang, assistant professor, both of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine, received a five-year, $3.25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for a project titled “Applying diffusion basis spectrum imaging to characterize human placenta immuno-response during normal term and preterm pregnancies.”
Philip Skemer, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, won a $14,000 grant from the Missouri Space Grant Consortium in support of augmented reality tools for visualization, teaching and data exploration in the planetary sciences. The funds will allow expanded student and faculty use of the Fossett Laboratory for Virtual Planetary Exploration.
James DuBois, the Steven J. Bander Professor of Medical Ethics and Professionalism at the School of Medicine, received a five-year, $2.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute on Aging for a research project titled “Implementing Evidence-based Informed Consent Practices to Address the Risk of Alzheimer’s Dementia and Cognitive Impairment in Clinical Trials.”
Blair Madison, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at the School of Medicine, has received a four-year, $792,000 Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society to study the effects of microRNAs in the course and prognosis of colorectal cancer. The grant will fund studies to engineer and analyze mouse models, with a goal of identifying fluctuations in microRNA levels that may lead to the genesis and later development of colorectal tumors.
Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, and Peter D. Panagos, MD, professor of emergency medicine, both at the School of Medicine, received a $1.2 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to establish the Mid-America Regional Coordinating Center as part of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s StrokeNet. StrokeNet is a group of 25 leading U.S. medical centers with the goal of developing, promoting and conducting high-quality, multisite clinical trials focused on key interventions in stroke prevention, treatment and recovery. Learn more about the project on the StrokeNet website.
Douglas A. Wiens, the Robert S. Brookings Distinguished Professor in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, will undertake a collaborative research project titled “Investigating ice sheet-solid Earth feedbacks in West Antarctica: Implications for ice sheet evolution and stability,” with a $424,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Andrea Soranno, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a one year $46,296 New Investigator Award in Alzheimer’s Disease from the American Federation for Aging Research Inc. for his work titled “Identifying Neurotoxic Conformers in the Structural Ensemble of apoE.”
Mikhail Berezin, associate professor of radiology at the School of Medicine, received a $300,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Cancer Institute for research titled “Neuro-muscular junction based mechanism of chemotherapy-induced cachexia.” Cachexia-related changes reduce physical, emotional and social well-being and significantly decrease the chances of survival in millions of cancer patients.
Separately, Berezin received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the project “Interactive Software for Hyperspectral Image Analysis.” The project aims to set a new software architecture capable of analyzing complex and computationally challenging datasets recorded by hyperspectral imaging systems.
Richard D. Vierstra, the George and Charmaine Mallinckrodt Professor in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $304,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Phytochromes: Structural perspectives on photoactivation and signaling.” Vierstra was also granted $49,000 from the NIH to study autophagic clearance of inactive proteasomes and ribosomes as models for protein quality control.
Jay Ponder, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $1.17 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) toward development of a next-generation nucleic acid force field.
Alexander Barnes, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, was awarded a $389,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant toward research on high-sensitivity NMR at room temperature for molecular structure and dynamics.
Heather Grantham, associate professor in the Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences (PACS) at the School of Medicine, will be the principal investigator on a $2.2 million training grant awarded to PACS from the U.S. Department of Education. The two five-year awards will provide scholarship support and expanded training opportunities for students in the Master of Science in Deaf Education (MSDE) program, which trains teachers of the deaf specializing in listening and spoken language, and in the Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program for students interested in working with the pediatric population. In total, the training grant will support partial tuition scholarships for 56 MSDE students and 40 AuD students in the pediatric specialization. These programs will provide a unique model for interdisciplinary training for deaf educators and clinical audiologists, incorporating shared coursework, assignments and fieldwork/clinical experiences.
Douglas A. Wiens, the Robert S. Brookings Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, will undertake a collaborative research project titled “Investigating ice sheet-solid Earth feedbacks in West Antarctica: Implications for ice sheet evolution and stability,” with a $424,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Donna B. Jeffe, professor of medicine at the School of Medicine, received a four-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences for a project “promoting research careers among underrepresented minority physicians.”
The study should lead to new knowledge about factors that promote the participation of physician-scientists from historically underrepresented groups in federally funded research. Jeffe and her co-investigators, Yan Yan, of the School of Medicine, and Christine Ekenga, of the Brown School, seek to identify barriers to and facilitators of increasing and sustaining diversity in the physician-scientist workforce to best meet the nation’s health-care needs.
Biomedical engineers from Duke University and Washington University have demonstrated that, by injecting an artificial protein made from ordered and disordered segments, a solid scaffold forms in response to body heat, and in a few weeks integrates into tissue. The lab of Rohit Pappu, of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, provided the computational modeling for the project. The research appears in Nature Materials.
This technique has applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Read more on the engineering website.
Infectious disease specialist Gary Weil, MD, at the School of Medicine, has received a $2.1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to lead a clinical trial in eastern Ghana to evaluate a triple drug combination for treating onchocerchiasis, a parasitic worm disease also called river blindness. The researchers want to determine whether timing of giving the drug combination is more effective than the standard treatment in killing the worms, which infect the eyes and can lead to vision problems and blindness if left untreated. Read more about the project.
The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Himadri Pakrasi, of Arts & Sciences, $1.5 million to develop Anabaena 33047 — a photosynthetic, fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria — as a versatile production platform that can be used by the bioenergy research community. Its fast growth rate and lack of nitrogen demand means it should significantly improve the cost outlook for the production of biofuel and nitrogen-containing petrochemical replacement products.
This research is supported and administered by Washington University’s International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability. Read more about Pakrasi’s work on the Source.
Thomas Stein, a researcher in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a $68,000 grant from NASA in support of database development and analysis for the Mars Phoenix Scout Thermal Evolved Gas Analyzer.
Philip Skemer, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, will use a $33,000 National Science Foundation award to support research on satellite observations and modeling of surface meltwater flow and its impact on ice shelves.
Six researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have received funding from the Longer Life Foundation — a cooperative effort between the School of Medicine and the Reinsurance Group of America (RGA) — that helps junior investigators launch research projects and assists more established researchers as they extend their investigations into new areas.
This year, the Longer Life Foundation is celebrating 20 years of supporting research aimed at improving methods for promoting healthier lives, enhancing longevity and predicting long-term mortality. Read more about the researchers and their work on the School of Medicine site.
Michael Krawczynski, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, and Kelsey Prissel, a doctoral candidate working with Krawczynski, received a $90,000 award from NASA in support of a project titled “Experimental investigation of lunar iron isotope fractionation and implications.”
Bradley Jolliff, Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences, and Michael Bouchard, a doctoral candidate working with Jolliff, received an $89,000 grant from NASA toward a project titled “Investigating Martian rock types and origins via rover observations and comparisons to Martian meteorites.”
Brecca Gaffney, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Program in Physical Therapy at the School of Medicine, received a $60,000 L’Oreal USA 2018 For Women in Science Fellowship, for research pursuing the link between chronic hip pain and the development of low back pain. Gaffney studies the biomechanics of movement to understand how motion affects the body. As part of the fellowship, Gaffney will serve as a mentor in the Mission: St. Louis Beyond School program, where she will work with female students from low-income high schools in math, science and reading proficiency.
Regina Frey, Florence E. Moog Professor of STEM Education and associate professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $437,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a collaborative project titled “Inclusive learning and teaching in undergraduate STEM instruction.”
Joan Strassmann, Charles Rebstock Professor of Biology, and David Queller, Spencer T. Olin Professor, both in biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $1.14 million grant from the National Science Foundation toward a research project titled “Kith and kin in amoeba-bacteria cooperation.”
Douglas Chalker, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, won a $495,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in support of a project titled “Establishing a genomics education alliance: Steps toward sustainability.”
Abhinav Jha, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science and of radiology at the School of Medicine, has received a two-year, $430,000 Trailblazer Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)‘s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Jha will collaborate with Richard LaForest, professor of radiology, and Thomas Schindler, associate professor of radiology in nuclear medicine, both at the School of Medicine, on a new imaging method to improve outcomes in patients with coronary artery disease.
Michael Frachetti, professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences, received a $30,000 grant from the National Geographic Society to support ongoing research on “Nomadic urbanism and connectivity along the Medieval Silk Road.” Frachetti, a National Geographic Explorer since 2013, also received “research and exploration” awards from the Society in 2013 and 2015 for field work at a long-lost ancient nomadic city in the mountains of Uzbekistan.
J.T. Shen, the Das Family Career Development Distinguished Associate Professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, has received a three-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a two-photon controlled-phase logic gate, an elementary building block of a full-fledged quantum photonic circuit for optical quantum information. To date, this type of photonic logic gate has been elusive because of the difficulty of working with photons. Learn more on the engineering site.
Xinyi Liu, assistant professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences, won a $312,000 National Science Foundation grant in support of research on the origins and spread of millet cultivation.
Arye Nehorai, the Eugene and Martha Lohman Professor of Electrical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and collaborators have developed a method to estimate electrical current in the uterus during contractions from magnetomyography (MMG), a noninvasive technique that maps muscle activity by recording the abdominal magnetic fields that electrical currents in muscles produce.
The results, published in PLoS One, could have clinical applications in better understanding pre- and post-term birth and dysfunctional labor.
Odis Johnson, associate professor of education and of sociology, both in Arts & Sciences, and Sheretta Butler Barnes, associate professor of social work at the Brown School, have received a National Science Foundation grant of $100,000 to examine the impact of race, gender and social control in U.S. schools on educational and occupational attainment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. The collaboration took shape at a Collaboration on Race, Inequality, and Social Mobility in America (CRISMA) event that sought to stimulate research partnerships among faculty from across the university.
Roger Chamberlain, professor of computer science and engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, received a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to improve the efficiency of streaming computer applications. His co-investigators, also at the School of Engineering, are Jeremy Buhler, professor, Ron Cytron, professor, and Angelina Lee, assistant professor. The group is working to expose new tuning knobs that will enable performance auto-tuning while executing applications on architecturally diverse computers.
Joseph Jez, professor and chair of biology in Arts & Sciences, will collaborate on a $762,000 National Science Foundation grant on the mechanisms and impacts of de-regulating aromatic amino acid biosynthesis in plants. The goal is to understand how plants regulate the biosynthesis of these molecules and how different upstream and downstream pathways, which move substantial amounts of carbon into building blocks for growth, are coordinated.
Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have used a unique set of state-of-the-art imaging techniques to discover how calcium carbonate nanoparticles nucleate, which is important for those manufacturing the carbonate nanomaterials and controlling metal carbonation during CO2 sequestration.
Young-Shin Jun, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Quingun Li, a former doctoral student in her lab, are the first to measure the activation energy and kinetic factors of calcium carbonate’s nucleation, both key to predicting and controlling the process. Nucleation is the initial step in forming a solid phase in a fluid system, such as sugar crystals forming on string to make rock candy. Results of the research were published in Communications Chemistry Sept. 19.
Read more on the School of Engineering website.
Brett Wick, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in Arts & Sciences, will use a $230,000 National Science Foundation grant to study “Applications of harmonic analysis to Riesz transforms and commutators beyond the classical settings.”
Hani Zaher, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $136,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate the role of the ribosome in determining the fate of damaged mRNA.
Bronwen Konecky, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a $317,000 National Science Foundation grant toward a collaborative research project titled “A Model/Proxy Synthesis of Walker Circulation Trends During the Last Millennium.”
William Buhro, professor and chair of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $480,000 grant from the National Science Foundation toward his research on intramolecular anodic olefin coupling reactions.
James L. Gibson, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government in the Department of Political Science in Arts & Sciences, is co-recipient of a $150,000 Russell Sage Foundation grant for research examining how judicial decisions contribute to inequalities in such areas as school funding, collective bargaining and state restrictions on citizens’ ability to vote. Michael Nelson of Pennsylvania State University is co-recipient of the grant.
Researchers led by ShiNung Ching at the School of Engineering & Applied Science and Todd Braver in Arts & Sciences are working together to better understand cognitive control thanks to a $610,560 National Science Foundation BRAIN Initiative grant.
Jeffrey G. Catalano, professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a $676,000 grant from NASA to investigate “Life on clays: Evaluating Fe(II)-smectites as electron donors on the early Earth and on other planetary bodies.”
Ram Dixit, associate professor, Erik Herzog, professor, and Ian Duncan, professor, all in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences, received $650,000 from the National Science Foundation to acquire a multiphoton microscope system as a shared instrument for the Washington University research community.
Katharine Flores, professor, and Rohan Mishra, assistant professor, both of mechanical engineering and materials science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, received a three-year, $496,077 grant from the National Science Foundation to work toward creating high-performance metallic alloys that are resistant to corrosion and fatigue. They plan to find the best combination of elements using computational methods and additive manufacturing, rather than trial and error, building on foundational work in high-entropy alloys. Read more on the engineering website.
Douglas A. Wiens, Robert S. Brookings Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, received a $173,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in support of research on “Comprehensive seismic and thermal models for Antarctica and the Southern Oceans: A synthesis of 15 years of seismic exploration.”
The National Science Foundation recently awarded Christopher Gill and Sanjoy Baruah, of the School of Engineering & Applied Science, a three-year, $501,797 grant to develop a unified framework for the design, verification and deployment of dynamically customizable safety-critical systems.
The engineers will combine computing theories, including real-time scheduling and formal methods, to develop methods to enable dynamically customizable software. Any software produced during the research project will be open-sourced and shareable. Read more on the School of Engineering website.
Erik Henriksen, assistant professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, was awarded a $406,431 National Science Foundation grant for his project, “Pursuit of Quantum Spin Liquids in Exfoliated Anti-Ferromagnetic Insulators.” Henriksen will apply techniques adapted from his graphene research to investigate the physical properties of ruthenium trichloride — a layered, crystalline material that exhibits the special magnetic characteristics of quantum spin liquids. Using samples that are only a single atom thick, Henriksen’s new work will take advantage of the surprising ability of graphene to “feel” the behavior of materials it touches. Quantum spin liquids may hold the key to developing such groundbreaking technologies as room temperature superconductivity or topological quantum computation.
Joel Myerson, research professor of psychological and brain sciences, and Leonard Green, professor of psychological and brain sciences and of economics, all in Arts & Sciences, received a $1.61 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a project titled “Decision-making in younger and older adults: A discounting framework.”
Bruce Carlson, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, received $700,000 from the National Science Foundation for research on “Adaptive rewiring of a sensory network through spike-timing-dependent plasticity.”
Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science and assistant professor of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine, has received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Brain Initiative to develop a non-invasive neuromodulation tool that works on the cellular level and uses focused ultrasound, operating with high spatiotemporal precision. Chen is working across disciplines, with Jianmin Cui, professor of biomedical engineering; Joseph Culver, professor of radiology, physics, and biomedical engineering at the School of Medicine; and former Washington University faculty member Michael Bruchas.
Functional Optical Imaging Feedback-Controlled Cellular-Level Ultrasound Stimulation (FOCUS) will help researchers better understand the general underpinnings of neuroscience, but the group also has envisioned a pathway for clinical use. The project is part of the NIH’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, federally funded research aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.
Meredith Jackrel, assistant professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a five-year, $1.9 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for her project “Safeguards of the Proteome: Elucidating the Roles of Protein Disaggregases.” Given that protein misfolding can lead to neurodegenerative disease and cardiovascular disorders, Jackrel plans to focus her research on understanding how protein misfolding occurs and on how protein disaggregases can prevent and reverse protein misfolding. She also aims to use protein engineering and directed evolution to tune the properties of disaggregases so that they ultimately might be applied to prevent or reverse the process.
Alvitta Ottley, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, received a $174,254 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the strategies and biases people have that influence decision-making — and to design graphics that accommodate them. Ottley is designing better ways to visually communicate complex health data to patients. Learn more on the engineering website.
Carlos Botero, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, was awarded a one-year $149,729 National Science Foundation EAGER grant for the project “Removing barriers to macro-ecoevolutionary studies of the avian brain.” The new award will allow Botero to build out a dataset that integrates studies on brain size variation with a variety of high-quality time series data on the ecology, demography and phenology of birds. The project also will examine how different historical and natural history constraints can lead to fundamentally different pathways for brain size evolution.
William Yeoh, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science, is designing algorithms to run the smart homes of the future. Yeoh received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to work on developing smart-home AI algorithms that can determine what a user wants by both asking questions and making smart guesses, and then plan and schedule accordingly. Learn more on the engineering website.
Jonathan Myers, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, is a co-investigator on a two-year $199,995 National Science Foundation EAGER grant for the project “Disentangling the effects of ecological clade sorting and adaptive diversification to the assembly of regional biotas.” This project will explore why environmental changes associated with the uplift of the Andes Mountains influenced the distribution, diversification and diversity of tree species in the tropical Andes, one of earth’s most species-rich biodiversity hotspots. Myers’ team includes researchers from the Missouri Botanical Garden and collaborators from The Madidi Project.
See more in the Research Wire Archive