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College of Arts and Sciences Faculty

$3M interdisciplinary grant to pursue epigenetic biomarkers

Michael Skinner in his laboratoryWashington State University researchers have received nearly $3 million from the John Templeton Foundation, the second such grant in four years, to see if they can anticipate and prevent diseases by developing epigenetic biomarkers that could provide early stage diagnostics for disease susceptibility. Their approach would be a departure from traditional “reactionary medicine,” which treats diseases after they develop, as well as from diagnoses based on an individual’s genetic profile. » More …

The physics of fall

A pumpkin exploding as it collides with the earthWith murmurs and pointing, the crowd watches as a face and then hands—holding a large object—appear in the twelfth-story window of WSU’s Webster Physical Sciences Building.

On the ground, Butch T. Cougar begins a countdown: five, four, three, two… At one, the hands release a 10-pound, half-frozen pumpkin that rockets to the courtyard, exploding in a confetti-bomb of cheers, screams, and a thousand gooey fragments. So begins that nerdy-fun Dad’s Weekend tradition—the Pumpkin Drop. » More …

Northwest Indians used tobacco long before European contact

David Gang, left, and Shannon Tushingham holding ancient tobacco pipes WSU researchers have determined that Nez Perce Indians grew and smoked tobacco at least 1,200 years ago, long before the arrival of traders and settlers from the eastern United States. Their finding upends a long-held view that indigenous people in this area of the interior Pacific Northwest smoked only kinnikinnick or bearberry before traders brought tobacco starting around 1790.

Shannon Tushingham, a WSU assistant professor and director of its Museum of Anthropology, made the discovery after teaming up with David Gang, a professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, to analyze pipes and » More …

Re-enactment of historic radio broadcast

Title on posterEighty years ago, on the evening before Halloween, radio audiences across the country were shocked, thrilled, or panicked by a radio drama depicting an invasion by beings from the planet Mars.

That radio drama was “The War of the Worlds,” directed by and starring Orson Welles. First heard on Oct. 30, 1938, “The War of the Worlds” remains the most famous radio broadcast in history.

To celebrate its 80th anniversary, the Re-Imagined Radio project will offer a live reenactment of » More …

Cacao analysis dates domesticated trees back 3,600 years

Theobroma cacao tree fruitsResearchers analyzing the genomes of cultivated cacao trees have traced their origin to a “single domestication event” some 3,600 years ago. The discovery opens a new front in a long-running argument regarding when and where humans started growing the source of chocolate.

“This evidence increases our understanding of how humans moved and established in America,” said Omar Cornejo, a Washington State University population geneticist and lead author of an article on the study in » More …

Faculty earn Research Week awards

WSU logo on green dot backgroundAs part of opening ceremonies for WSU Research Week, the Office of Research presented awards to three College of Arts and Sciences faculty members for their outstanding achievements in research.

Read more about Kim Christen, Tammy Barry, and Peter Reilly: » More …

Renewable energy offers common ground for Democrats, Republicans

Solor panel farm in the desertAs the battle lines are drawn for next month’s hotly contested midterm elections, some Americans may be comforted to know there is at least one area of common ground for Democrats and Republicans: regardless of political standing, age or gender, U.S. voters are in favor of renewable energy, according to research by Christine Horne, professor of sociology.

Horne and Emily Kennedy, a former WSU sociology professor now at the University of British Columbia, are the authors of a new study in the journal Environmental Politics that shows while conservatives and liberals tend to disagree » More …

WSU professor, students to perform at Carnegie Hall

Francis Fay, Gordon Shaw, and Ruth BodenWashington State University students Francis Fay and Gordon Shaw, and faculty member Ruth Boden will make their debut in Carnegie Hall on Nov. 3 in Manhattan, New York. The three will perform with international cellist Mischa Quint and the InterHarmony Cello Ensemble.

Fay is a junior music major studying cello performance, and Shaw is a sophomore music major studying music composition, cello and guitar. Boden is an associate professor » More …

Researcher warns of possible reprise of worst known drought, famine

Engraving showing the plight of animals as well as humans in Bellary district A Washington State University researcher has completed the most thorough analysis yet of The Great Drought — the most devastating known drought of the past 800 years — and how it led to the Global Famine, an unprecedented disaster that took 50 million lives. She warns that the Earth’s current warming climate could make a similar drought even worse.

Deepti Singh, an assistant professor in the School of the Environment, used tree‑ring data, rainfall records and climate reconstructions to characterize the conditions leading up to the Great Drought, a period of widespread » More …

‘Apple to Glass’ grant supports improving cider industry

Apples and a glass of ciderHard apple cider is growing in popularity around the country, and craft ciders from small cideries are the fastest growing segment of that market.

Equipped with a grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a new group, led by Washington State University researchers, will work with orchardists and cider makers to develop the best apples to make the tasty libation. » More …