Research Wire

The very latest Washington University research news

Submit an item  |  Research Wire archive


10.20.20
Alex Holehouse, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a one-year $30,000 grant from the Longer Life Foundation for his research titled “Predicting the functional impact of genetic variation within intrinsically disordered protein regions.”


10.12.20
Guy Genin, the Harold and Kathleen Faught Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Stavros Thomopoulous, the Robert E. Carroll and Jane Chace Carroll Professor at Columbia University, have received a five-year $2.44 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop comprehensive models and to conduct experiments to study the causes of the transition to a fibrous interface at the bone and tendon. They are building on previous work that showed that disorder is behind the toughening, while order provides the strength. Read more on the engineering website.


10.7.20
Michael Nowak, research professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, won a $51,811 grant from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for a project titled “Distinguishing between Circumbinary and Interstellar Medium Dust Signatures in GX5-1.”


10.5.20
An internationally renowned team of McKelvey School of Engineering aerosol scientists plans to work with colleagues at other institutions to establish a global network of networks that will collect real-time air quality data and develop ways to solve air pollution with a five-year $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Randall Martin, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering, will lead the effort at the engineering school, along with Pratim Biswas, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Professor and chair of energy, environmental and chemical engineering. Daniel Westervelt, associate research scientist at Columbia University, is the project’s principal investigator. Read more on the engineering website.


10.1.20
Three Washington University researchers have received Young Investigator Grants from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. The foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by supporting research that will lead to advances and breakthroughs in scientific research.

Read more about the work of Kirsten Gilbert Alberts and Emma Johnson, at the School of Medicine; and Keith Hengen, in Arts & Sciences.


9.30.20
Matthew Bersi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received a three-year $750,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of the cadherin-11 protein in the mechanical injury of blood vessels after a heart attack and how cells respond to promote disease. The grant is a continuation of NIH-funded mechanobiology research he began as a postdoctoral researcher at Vanderbilt University. Read more on the engineering website.


9.30.20
Li Yang, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, won a $421,080 grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research in support of a project titled “Nonlinear Infrared Light-Matter Interactions of Topological Quantum Materials.”


9.29.20
Ning Zhang, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, is joining a multi-institutional team of computer scientists to improve and balance the real-time predictability and security of cyberphysical systems (CPS) with a three-year $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Zhang is one of five co-investigators on the project, led by Thidapat (Tam) Chantem at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Read more on the engineering website.


9.28.20
Taylor Carlson, assistant professor of political science in Arts & Sciences, has been awarded a Social Science Research Council Social Data Research Fellowship to study the extent to which user-generated content (i.e. comments) on social media platforms distorts information reported by mainstream news outlets. The fellowship comes with a $50,000 award. Read more about her project, “Leveraging User-Generated Social Media Content to Understand Misinformation in American Politics.”


9.25.20
John-Stephen Taylor, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled “DNA Photoproducts as Intrinsic Probes of Non-B DNA Conformations.”


9.24.20
The Center of Regenerative Medicine at the School of Medicine has received a five-year $1.2 million training grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create an interdisciplinary program to train postdoctoral fellows in regenerative medicine. Farshid Guilak, the Mildred B. Simon Research Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and co-director of the center, will direct the program. A surge in the use of regenerative medicine techniques has produced a need for well-trained bioengineers and scientists to work in fields such as stem cell biology, genome editing, tissue engineering, drug delivery and gene therapy.


9.22.20
Haijun Liu, research scientist in chemistry in Arts & Sciences, received a $450,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy to support study of the molecular mechanism of action of the cyanobacterial orange carotenoid protein.


9.18.20
Sophia Hayes, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, won a $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support research titled “Optically Pumped NMR Enhancements Enable Studies of Semiconductor Interfaces.”


9.15.20
Kevin Moeller, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences, recently received a nearly $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The award will support Moeller’s work with the collaborative Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry.


9.11.20
Carl Frieden, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a one-year grant totaling $100,000 from the BrightFocus Foundation for his research titled “Understanding APOE.


9.4.20
Alian Wang, research professor in earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a $429,245 award from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology for adapting the compact integrated Raman spectrometer for lunar exploration.


9.1.20
Jeffrey M. Zacks, associate chair and professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences and professor of radiology at the School of Medicine, received a four-year $250,000 grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation to study event cognition “in the wild.”

This project will take the research into the world, where people actually experience events. Key to the research is “Unforgettable,” an infrastructure developed over the past decade by collaborator Simon Dennis, of the University of Melbourne, which helps people enrich and better understand their own memories while collecting data for a scientific exploration of event comprehension and memory.


8.31.20
The National Institute of Child Health and Development, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded $3.4 million to three Brown School faculty members to test the long-term impact of an intervention that has shown early success in improving adherence to medication through economic support for families with HIV-positive youth.

Led by Fred Ssewamala, the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, the study will extend the original 2012-18 research in southwest Uganda. Research assistant professors Ozge Sensoy Bahar and Proscovia Nabunya are also principal investigators in the study. Learn more on the Brown School site.


8.28.20
Gary Patti, the Michael and Tana Powell Professor of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences, has received grants totaling $1.5 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research on metabolic pathways and their connection with diseases like COVID-19. Staff scientists Dhanalakshmi Anbukumar and Miriam Sindelar, working with Patti in the Department of Chemistry, are spearheading the project, titled “Leveraging a Metabolomics Resource for Model Organisms to Understand COVID-19 Pathogenesis.” Read more on the chemistry website.


8.27.20
Katharine Flores, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a three-year $379,392 grant from the National Science Foundation to use artificial intelligence-based algorithms to identify which metal alloys are best to form metallic glasses.

Flores and her team will use AI to identify liquid compositions that could be good candidates to form metallic glasses, then create compact material libraries using an advanced 3D-printing method to study their mechanical behavior. The work is expected to speed discovery of new high-performance metallic materials that could be used as structural materials. Read more on the engineering website.


8.26.20
Researchers including Crickette Sanz, associate professor of biological anthropology in Arts & Sciences, published the first direct comparison of tool skill acquisition between two populations of chimpanzees, those at Republic of Congo’s Goualougo Triangle and those more than 1,300 miles to the east, in Gombe, Tanzania. Their findings underscore how the developmental trajectory of life skills can vary considerably depending on the task and across chimpanzee populations, which have unique local cultures. The study was published Aug. 16 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


8.24.20
Jian Wang, professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, received $412,895 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for research to help further our understanding of the impacts of aerosols on convective clouds.

Aerosols could play a large role in convection and precipitation, and a fuller understanding of their relationship to convection is needed for more accurate climate models.

Wang’s lab will deploy two advanced instruments during the intensive operation period of the Tracking Aerosol Convection interactions Experiment (TRACER), a Department of Energy project that focuses on fundamental convective cloud processes and aerosol impacts on these processes.


8.24.20
Rajan Chakrabarty, associate professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a $577,685 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for research to help improve existing measurement methodologies and algorithms for estimating aerosol light absorption and associated atmospheric warming.

Chakrabarty’s lab will take a two-pronged approach: first, they’ll conduct laboratory-based controlled experiments to develop improved correction factors and algorithms for measurement technologies utilized by the energy department’s Atmospheric Research Measurement (ARM) program.

Part two of the study will begin next year with field tests in Texas as part of the larger TRACER field campaign. The Chakrabarty lab’s updated algorithms should help improve the quality of ARM’s data, which is used worldwide.


8.19.20
High-powered semiconductor devices are found in most electronic systems, and the more powerful they become, the more heat they produce. Simply cooling them with air isn’t enough.

The Cisco Research Center University Funding committee has recently awarded Damena Agonafer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, a one-year $100,000 grant to develop cooling solutions. Agonafer’s research focuses on using evaporative technologies that rely on liquid to keep semiconductor devices cool and electronic systems running smoothly.


8.17.20
Panos Kouvelis and the Boeing Center supply chain group at Olin Business School were ranked highly for their research in the field’s top four journals from 2001-2015.

A scholarship study published in Decision Sciences in June focused on papers published in the Journal of Operations Management; Production and Operations Management; Manufacturing and Service Operations; and Management Science. The rankings, the authors wrote, showed the “top authors and institutions … serving as hubs of research, connectivity, and productivity from across the world.” The Boeing Center ranked No. 3 in total papers by department and its director, Kouvelis, Nos. 3 and 2 in two categories, overall papers and overall papers weighted by co-authorship. Fuqiang Zhang was No. 39 and No. 36 in those categories.


8.14.20
Rui Zhang, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the  School of Medicine, received a five-year grant award totaling $1,897,009 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research titled “Structural and functional studies of axonemal microtubule inner proteins (MIPs.)”


8.12.20
Ganesh M. Babulal, assistant professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, received a five-year $3,984,843 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute On Aging for research titled “The Impact of Depression and Preclinical Alzheimer Disease on Driving Among Older Adults.”

This study will investigate how depression, preclinical Alzheimer’s disease and antidepressant use affect driving behavior in cognitively normal adults aged 65 or older. Little is known about the effects of depression and the presence of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease on daily driving behavior.


8.10.20
COVID-19 has upended daily life, including scientific research. However, the pandemic has not impacted men and women equally. While women scientists seem to be submitting fewer papers for publication, men are submitting more.

In a recently published editorial for ScienceCaitlyn Collins, assistant professor of sociology in Arts & Sciences, said gender equity in science has always been an issue because in most households, women perform the bulk of child care and housework. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem.

“Nothing is likely to change until there are policies to support parents, not just in academia but in all walks of life,” she wrote. Read the full editorial.


8.10.20
The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx communities in the United States has demonstrated that racial disparities persist in health care.

In a recent editorial for Science, Adia Harvey Wingfield, professor of sociology in Arts & Sciences, said racial disparities persist despite the safeguards scientists have put into place to keep their work bias-free because racial biases are also embedded in our institutions.

“The first step toward addressing these issues is to recognize that despite the pride scientists take in being analytical thinkers, these problems persist,” Wingfield said. Read the full editorial.


8.5.20
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $3.3 million grant to Lori Setton, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and chair of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, and Simon Tang, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the School of Medicine.

They will work with a multidisciplinary research team to better understand the interactions between nerve cells and degenerating discs that might be behind the pain in intervertebral disc degeneration, a common cause of age-related back pain. Read more on the engineering website.


8.3.20
Leopoldo J. Cabassa, associate professor and co-director of the Center for Mental Health Services Research at the Brown School, has received a five-year $2.2 million training grant renewal from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This training program previously led by Enola Proctor, builds upon the center’s 25-year history of successfully training mental health services researchers. The renewal will prepare two predoctoral students and two postdoctoral scholars per year to acquire advanced mental health services research skills to address challenges faced by the nation’s most vulnerable populations.


7.28.20
For a companion piece to a recently published study, PNAS editors asked Fiona Marshall of Arts & Sciences to quickly author a commentary about the global context of cat domestication, published July 20 by the journal.

Titled “Cats as predators and early domesticates in ancient human landscapes,” the commentary related to a study published a week earlier from a team of researchers in Poland, Germany and Belgium. Marshall is the James W. and Jean L. Davis Professor in Arts & Sciences.


7.22.20
An interdisciplinary team from Washington University in St. Louis will investigate a novel protein component of the cardiac sodium channels to determine its functional effects in the physiological regulation and pathophysiological remodeling of electrical propagation of the heart.

Jeanne Nerbonne, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology in Developmental Biology and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Research at the School of Medicine, and Jonathan Silva, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, are teaming up to study intracellular fibroblast growth factor 12 (iFGF12), a novel sodium channel accessory protein, with a four-year $2.3 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Read more on the engineering website.


7.20.20
Jeffrey Zacks, professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a nearly $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in support of a multiyear project titled “Improving Everyday Memory in Healthy Aging and Early Alzheimer’s Disease.”


7.15.20
Michael Gross, professor of chemistry in Arts & Sciences and of immunology and internal medicine in the School of Medicine, received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support a biomedical mass spectrometry resource and ongoing biomedical projects.


7.13.20
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded the lab of Vijay Ramani, the Roma B. & Raymond H. Wittcoff Distinguished University Professor at the McKelvey School of Engineering, $2 million to further develop and de-risk its electrode-decoupled redox flow battery technology, and to position the team for scale-up and deployment after the course of the project.

Ramani’s lab pioneered this battery concept to be used for long-duration, grid-scale energy storage. The researchers developed membrane technologies and novel patent-pending flow battery chemistries that promise to significantly reduce the levelized cost of grid scale (think gigawatt-hours of energy stored) energy storage.

This is the second such award for Ramani’s lab; the first was awarded in 2016.


7.10.20
Fred Ssewamala, the William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor at the Brown School, and Proscovia Nabunya, research assistant professor, have received a two-year $425,000 award from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address HIV/AIDS-associated stigma among adolescents in southwest Uganda.

The study will test two evidence-based interventions, group cognitive behavioral therapy and multiple family group sessions, to see which is more effective in reducing such stigma at both the individual and family level.


7.1.20
With a three-year, $453,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research, Chien-Ju Ho, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, and his co-investigator, Yang Liu, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will study AI-augmented human decision-making. Read more on the engineering website.


6.26.20
Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering and of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine, will address the need for innovative approaches to treating pediatric brain cancer with a three-year, $500,000 grant from the Australia-based Charlie Teo Foundation.

With the funding, she and her team plan to develop the focused ultrasound mediated intranasal (FUSIN) delivery technique to deliver drugs from the nose to the brain, bypassing the blood-brain barrier and minimizing exposure of other organs to the drug. Read more on the engineering website.


6.23.20
Jeffrey P. Henderson, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology at the School of Medicine, has received a $20,000 grant from the Longer Life Foundation, a cooperative effort between the School of Medicine and the Reinsurance Group of America, to help fund his research, which has pivoted in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. His project is titled “Prognostic Biomarkers of Severe Disease in COVID-19 Patients.”


6.22.20
David Patterson Silver Wolf, associate professor at the Brown School, is part of a two-year, $1 million grant that will create a data warehouse ─ a system that collects and analyzes information ─ to improve outcomes and reduce costs for mental health and substance use treatment services in underserved rural areas of New York state. Patterson will collaborate with Catherine Dulmus and Gregory Wilding of the University of Buffalo.

The collaboration is jointly funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. The two-year project with Integrity Partners for Behavioral Health will prepare 25 organizations across 14 rural counties in New York for a value-based payment health-care environment.


6.18.20
Michael Krawczynski, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences  in Arts & Sciences, received a $234,692 grant from NASA for a project titled “Investigating Mechanisms for Producing Metallic Fe Enrichments and Magnetic Anomalies within Planetary Crustal Materials.” Krawczynski also won $136,725 from the National Science Foundation for collaborative research on the Earth’s deep interior titled “Experimental Partitioning of Highly Siderophile Elements at Ultratrace Level for Understanding the Conditions of Core Formation.”


6.15.20
Todd Braver, professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, received a $432,938 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support a project titled “Healthy Aging and the Cost of Cognitive Effort.”


6.10.20
Xiang Tang, professor of mathematics and statistics in Arts & Sciences, has received a $252,305 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

To explain the research, Tang asks: How does the sound of a bell determine its shape, or vice versa? The collection of frequencies at which a geometric structure resonates is called its spectrum. The spectrum contains a great deal of information, but it’s difficult to extract. A new approach, based on a concept called the hypoelliptic Laplacian, has shown great promise. The overall goal of this research is a clearer and more powerful understanding of the algebraic and functional analytic foundations of the hypoelliptic Laplacian; extensive development of its applications to tempered representation theory; and a deepened understanding of the geometric and topological invariants of singular spaces.

The grant is part of a focused research team also funded by the NSF. The team consists of four principal investigators: Nigel Higson, of Pennsylvania State University; Tang and Yanli Song of Washington University; and Zhizhang Xie of Texas A&M University.


6.1.20
Arpita Bose, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, received a $1,029,281 grant from the National Science Foundation to better understand the molecular underpinnings of the process in which photoautotrophic microbes convert electricity and carbon dioxide to sustainable biofuels.

The research aims to address fundamental gaps in knowledge surrounding extracellular electron uptake (EEU), or what Bose called “a paradigm shift in microbial biogeochemistry.” The project will use synthetic biology, metabolic engineering and material science to improve sustainable production of bioplastics and biofuels using phototrophic-EEU. Students from high school, undergraduate and graduate levels will participate in the research.


5.29.20
Erin Bondy, a graduate student in the BRAIN Lab in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, has received a $45,520 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) .

Bondy will investigate behavioral mechanisms that may underlie a link between inflammation and anhedonia, the loss of or inability to feel pleasure. She will carry out two studies examining whether variability in reward-related neural circuitry and behavior may plausibly contribute to inflammation-related anhedonia.


5.19.20
Timothy M. Lohman, the Marvin A. Brennecke Professor of Biophysics and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the School of Medicine, received a new five-year Maximizing Investigators’ Research Awards grant totaling nearly $3.8 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) for his research titled “Mechanisms of Helicases, Translocases and SSB Proteins involved in Genome Maintenance.”


5.12.20
During the past two decades, researchers have been able to engineer simple RNA-based genetic circuits in bacteria. They still, however, have difficulty with more complex circuits.

Toward this end, the National Science Foundation awarded a $664,519 grant to Tae Seok Moon, associate professor of energy, environmental and chemical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering.

The multidisciplinary project will utilize biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology and engineering to understand generalizable design principles by which simple RNA-based genetic circuits can be combined to generate complex ones.


5.7.20
A new technology — tablet-based ultrasound — has been used to measure bone age in relation to stunted growth and nutrition in children in Ecuador. Researchers hope to use the information to better address global public health.

“We adapted field-based ultrasound technology for use in public health research, with application possibilities in other low-resource settings where access to MRI might be limited,” said Lora Iannotti, associate professor at the Brown School and expert in nutrient deficiencies related to poverty and infectious diseases. “Importantly, the imaging allowed us to examine connections between bone development and child nutrition.”

Iannotti is senior author of the paper, “US Evaluation of Bone Age in Rural Ecuadorian Children: Association with Anthropometry and Nutrition,” published in the journal Radiology.


See more in the Research Wire Archive