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College of Arts and Sciences Faculty

Debut book earns prestigious honor

Aaron N. OforleaAaron Oforlea’s first book, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and the Rhetorics of Black Male Subjectivity, has earned the College Language Association’s Creative Scholarship Award for 2018. The international honor, whose previous winners include renowned scholars from Harvard, Penn and Stanford, recognizes excellence in literary criticism and is awarded at the organization’s annual convention.. The nominations are blind, so Oforlea’s guard was down when the honor came his way.

“I was sitting at my table not paying too much attention to the awards banquet when I noticed everyone looking at me, so I asked the women sitting next to me, ‘Did they say my name?’” Oforlea says. “I couldn’t believe it. I was overwhelmed with joy.”

The inspiration for Oforlea’s book originated from his interest in » More …

Understanding the role of water around the planet

woman seated on rockOn the southern slope of Mount Adams in Washington, Kevan Moffett and her students are working to learn how soils recover moisture following wildfires so that trees and plants can sprout again. The field area has suffered three fires in the last 14 years—the McDonald Ridge fire of 2004, the Cold Springs fire of 2008 and the Cougar Creek burn of 2015.

“With three fires in overlapping areas, we can study field sites that have overlapping fires or just one,” said Moffett, an assistant professor of environmental hydrology at WSU Vancouver. “That’s the whole point of this project: these repeated fires are becoming » More …

Big data on big animals

Work at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center goes well beyond important things like enrichment programs and energy-monitoring collars. WSU scientists are looking at the genomic level to try and determine the myriad ways that bears adapt to their climate.

Joanna Kelley, an evolutionary geneticist and assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences, said for the last two years, her lab has collected three different samples from six of the bears three times a year. Each sample has over 200 million pieces of data, giving them 10.8 billion pieces of data to wade through each » More …

Re-Imagined Radio: Sound-based storytelling for the digital age

Image of an old radio with a reel of images showing voice actors in costumeBefore riding off in search of the Oregon Territory, the rangers stood and joined the audience in one final chorus of the famous words from the mysterious masked man known as The Lone Ranger: “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”

Applause erupted for the 11 voice actors and Foley artists dressed for the Old West. The lights of Vancouver’s timeless Kiggins Theatre slowly brightened, and the live radio broadcast of “The Lone Ranger Re-Imagined,” which had been streaming online in 32 countries across the globe, concluded.

This live performance of “The Lone Ranger” held last April was the first of five shows in the » More …

Psychology professor named Group Psychologist of the Year

David Marcus holding a book titled, "The Dark Side of Personality"David Marcus, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, was named Group Psychologist of the Year by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy (Division 49).

The award recognizes Marcus’s fundamental contributions to the understanding of how people behave within the groups to which they belong and how they are affected by those groups, which include naturally formed cliques and friendships, organizational units, and self-help, therapy, and learning groups. » More …

Mathematics prof wins NSF grant to help stabilize power grid

Bala KrishnamoorthyThe rapid adoption of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, poses new threats to the stability of modern power systems across the United States and worldwide.

To address these risks and help ensure a steady supply of energy to homes and businesses, a Washington State University mathematics professor has received a $200,000, three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to examine worst-case impacts of increasing uncertainties in power flow—such as from renewable energy sources. » More …

Students partner with local businesses, gain real-world writing experience

Students in a WSU Tri-Cities technical writing courseA technical writing course at WSU Tri-Cities partnered with local businesses and organizations to produce documents ranging from manuals, to booklets, to instruction guides. This opportunity allowed students to hone the skills they cultivated throughout the course to fulfill a real-world business need.

Vanessa Cozza, clinical assistant professor of English and instructor of the course, said the goals with the project were to provide students with a real-world opportunity that would add value back into their own community, while offering them a tangible example they could use in the future for their professional careers. » More …

Revealing how bacteria and grasses fix nitrogen

SwitchgrassReducing synthetic fertilizer use, pollution, farming costs, while freeing up nitrogen, mark possible benefits of a research project by Sarah Roley, assistant professor with the School of the Environment, Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Roley, and her two colleagues, recently landed a $483,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation, to pursue a more detailed understanding of how bacteria work with perennial grasses to fix nitrogen. » More …

Viewing the ordinary with new eyes

Drawing by Avantika BawaSporting a Portland Trail Blazers jersey, artist and Washington State University Vancouver associate professor of fine arts Avantika Bawa is talking about her new solo show at the Portland Art Museum.

The show, which opened Aug. 18, includes almost two dozen drawings of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the Blazers won their most recent championship … in 1977. The drawings are inspired by Bawa’s fascination — her “obsession,” as she says — with the coliseum. “Some people find it extremely boring, but I chose to take this building and put it on a pedestal and » More …

Biology professor serves as lead editor for Encyclopedia of Reproduction

Illustration of a sperm connecting with an eggFun fact: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek witnessed the “presence and vigor” of his own spermatozoa, which he called “animalcules,” in one of the first uses of the single-lens microscope.

This observation is among thousands in the second edition of the “Encyclopedia of Reproduction,” a magnum opus involving more than 1,000 authors, nearly 600 cross-referenced chapters, and edited by WSU biologist Michael Skinner and eight associate editors. At 3,868 pages » More …