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New materials science director touts interdisciplinary research

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Aurora Clark

Aurora Clark

Aurora Clark, associate professor of chemistry, has been named interim director of the Materials Science and Engineering Program (MSEP) at Washington State University.

A highly accomplished researcher, Clark designs novel materials and predicts the results of chemical reactions using powerful computer algorithms and data mining techniques. She has collaborated with MSEP faculty and supervised graduate students in the program throughout her career at WSU.

“I am excited to have this wonderful opportunity to showcase the breadth of research in our program,” Clark said. “We have world class professors tackling fundamental materials science from the atomic and molecular level all the way to device development, manufacturing and commercialization.”

MSEP is a joint initiative between the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Architecture. Its faculty’s research interests range from designing advanced nuclear energy technologies to making new materials for implants. The program is the largest interdisciplinary doctoral program in materials science and engineering in the Northwest. Graduates go on to work in academia, Fortune 500 companies and the national laboratories.

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Blending worlds, exploring space

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ceramic artist’s vessels layer materials, experiences

Ann Christenson

Ann Christenson

Curator Ryan Hardesty imagines ceramics artist Ann Christenson’s studio walls as porous, the boundary between art and life cleared with ease.

Ideas move in, become entangled with other ideas, “and there’s kind of this resulting beautiful array.”

Some of the results – more than 100 pieces, many containing references to Christenson’s cross-cultural experiences, her domestic environment and the natural world – are on display at the Museum of Art/WSU in Pullman.

Christenson, who began teaching at WSU in 1990, retired from the university in 2012. She’s been using clay to make art for more than 50 years.

While the exhibition includes a sampling of Christenson’s early work, the bulk of it is more recent, Hardesty said. The show includes “intimate” semi-functional pieces – bowls, mugs, teapots – along with sculptural vessels and larger-scale sculptural works combining steel and clay.

Learn more about the exhibit and artist

Cops’ body cameras prove popular

Friday, September 5, 2014

Safety and accountability were the primary reasons why Pullman police began wearing body cameras last year, but a new study suggests improved communication may be an even bigger benefit.

David Makin, associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and a research fellow at the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice, has been studying the department’s use of the new technology since the idea of equipping patrol officers with cameras was first discussed about two years ago.

By interviewing officers before and after the implementation, he found their opinions shifted from some initial anxiety and opposition to a strongly favorable impression, even given a few technical difficulties in using the equipment.

Moreover, in addition to documenting evidence and interactions with the public, officers can now use the video footage to critique themselves and look for ways to improve their own performance.

Read more in the Lewiston Tribune (subscription required)

5 Percent of White People Don’t Have Any Nonwhite Friends

Friday, September 5, 2014
David Leonard

David Leonard

A collective gasp of surprise went up this week after the Public Religion Research Institute released new survey data that found that 75 percent of white Americans have “entirely white social networks.” Yet our popular culture, the 800-percent rise in hate groups, the woefully homogenous workplaces at companies such as Google, an ever-widening wealth gap, and neighborhoods still segregated along racial lines should make it obvious that the postracial promised land heralded when President Obama was first elected does not exist.

“The data does not surprise me at all,” says David J. Leonard, an associate professor of critical culture, gender, and race at WSU. “Implicit biases and stereotypes shape friendships, and if we look at media, if we look at popular culture, if we look at education, we see a persistence in the circulation of stereotypes that recycle prejudices. Those assumptions about difference shape friendships and invariably impact how white people interact with African Americans,” he says.

Socializing in homogenous networks and communities affects white people’s ability to be empathetic to the struggles their contemporaries of another color face. It also increases the likelihood that white Americans will view their minority counterparts through a stereotypical lens.

To begin bridging the gap that may lead to more cross-cultural friendships down the line, Leonard argues the route is simple: People have to talk to each other, and white folks have to own their privilege.

“Whites rarely have the opportunity to talk about race, to be held accountable for privilege, and to have important conversations,” he says. “Lacking the language to talk about race and to engage cross-racially will impact white people’s ability and willingness to develop these friendships.”

Read more about the research in TakePart

WSU ‘deadly force’ lab finds racial disparities in shootings

Thursday, September 4, 2014
Lois James, left, and Bryan Vila

Lois James, left, and Bryan Vila

Participants in an innovative WSU study of deadly force were more likely to feel threatened in scenarios involving black people. But when it came time to shoot, participants were biased in favor of black suspects, taking longer to pull the trigger against them than against armed white or Hispanic suspects.

The findings, published in the recent Journal of Experimental Criminology, grow out of dozens of simulations aimed at explaining the disproportionate number of ethnic and racial minorities shot by police. The studies use the most advanced technology available, as participants with laser-equipped guns react to potentially threatening scenarios displayed in full-size, high-definition video.

Lois James and Bryan Vila, research professors in criminology and criminal justice at WSU Spokane, used a sophisticated “deadly force” simulator to analyze how police, military and the general public react in threatening situations.

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