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The very latest Washington University research news

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10.19.18
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.


10.15.18
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.”


10.15.18
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.”


10.15.18
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.


10.10.18
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.”


10.10.18
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.”


10.10.18
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.”


10.4.18
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.


10.1.18
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.


10.1.18
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.


9.27.18
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.


9.26.18
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.


9.25.18
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.


9.24.18
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.


9.24.18
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.


9.20.18
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.


9.20.18
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.”


9.20.18
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.


9.18.18
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.”


9.18.18
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.


9.17.18
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.


9.12.18
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.


9.10.18
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.”


9.10.18
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.


9.10.18
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.


9.10.18
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.”


9.5.18
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.


9.5.18
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.


9.4.18
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.”


9.4.18
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.”


8.31.18
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. 


8.21.18
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.


8.17.18
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.


8.6.18
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.


8.3.18
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.


8.3.18
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.


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