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College of Arts and Sciences Published research/scholarship/creative work

WSU scientists help detect gravitational waves for third time

LIGO Hanford from the airThree billion years ago in a distant galaxy, two massive black holes slammed together, merged into one and sent space–time vibrations, known as gravitational waves, shooting out into the universe.

The waves passed through Earth and were detected early this year by an international team of scientists, including WSU physicists Sukanta Bose, Bernard Hall and Nairwita Mazumder.

The newfound black hole, first reported in the journal Physical Review Letters in June, has a mass about 49 times that of the sun. The collision that produced it released more power in an instant than is radiated by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any moment.  » More …

Physicists write with light, turn crystal into an electrical circuit

artistic depiction of writing with lightWashington State University physicists have found a way to write an electrical circuit into a crystal, opening up the possibility of transparent, three-dimensional electronics that, like an Etch A Sketch, can be erased and reconfigured.

The work, to appear in the on-line journal Scientific Reports, serves as a proof of concept for a phenomenon that WSU researchers first discovered by accident four years ago. » More …

Photographing the elusive, endangered lynx

Deep in the forests of Washington’s Kettle Mountains, Washington State University wildlife biologist Daniel Thornton searches for signs of a rare and elusive type of wild cat — the lynx.

An assistant professor in the School of Environmental Science, Thornton and environmental science graduate students Travis King and Arthur Scully are helping to lead the largest lynx camera survey ever done in the state this June-October.

The goal of the multiyear research project is to understand the distribution and abundance of Washington’s lynx in order to develop an informed plan for their conservation and recovery. The project is sponsored by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Fish and Wildlife, Conservation Northwest, Osprey Insights, Seattle City Light and the U.S. Forest Service. » More …

‘Negative mass’ created at WSU

partial figure from published paperWashington State University physicists have created a fluid with negative mass, which is exactly what it sounds like. Push it, and unlike every physical object in the world we know, it doesn’t accelerate in the direction it was pushed. It accelerates backwards.

The phenomenon is rarely created in laboratory conditions and can be used to explore some of the more challenging concepts of the cosmos, said Michael Forbes, a WSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington. The research appears today in the journal Physical Review Letters, where it is featured as an “Editor’s Suggestion.”

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Plant inner workings point way to more nutritious crops

plant interior animation still imageAlmost every calorie that we eat at one time went through the veins of a plant. If a plant’s circulatory system could be rejiggered to make more nutrients available – through bigger seeds or sweeter tomatoes – the world’s farmers could feed more people.

Washington State University researchers have taken a major step in that direction by unveiling the way a plant’s nutrients get from the leaves, where they are produced through photosynthesis, to “sinks” that can include the fruits and seeds we eat and the branches we process for biofuels. The researchers found a unique and critical structure where the nutrients are offloaded, giving science a new focal point in efforts to improve plant efficiency and productivity. » More …

Tree growth model assists breeding for more wood

Trees at edge of a lakeA meeting in a forest between a biologist and a mathematician could lead to thicker, faster growing trees.

“Mathematicians like translating biological processes into numbers,” said Andrei Smertenko, assistant professor in Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry. “I’m a biologist, and I want to help grow stronger, better trees.”

Breeding trees is a time-consuming and imprecise field, with breeders relying on a few genetic markers and what they can see. It takes years before they see the traits they’re looking for in a young tree. To help speed things up, » More …

Sperm changes documented years after chemotherapy

CAS logo on white with borderA Washington State University researcher has documented epigenetic changes in the sperm of men who underwent chemotherapy in their teens.

The changes can influence how genes are turned on an off, potentially affecting the health of tissues in subsequent generations, said Michael Skinner, a professor in the WSU School of Biological Sciences and Center for Reproductive Biology. He is suggesting that teens about to undergo chemotherapy have some of their sperm preserved for when they would like to start a family.

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Chemists make major strides in organic semiconductors

figure from published paperWashington State University chemists have created new materials that pave the way for the development of inexpensive solar cells. Their work has been recognized as one of the most influential studies published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry in 2016.

Professors Ursula Mazur and K.W. Hipps, postdoctoral researcher Bhaskar Chilukuri and graduate students Morteza Adinehnia and Bryan Borders grew chain-like arrangements of organic nanostructures in the laboratory and then used mathematical models to determine which arrangements were the best conductors of light and electricity.

Journal editors recognized the WSU study as an important step in the advancement of organic semiconductors that perform on par with metal- and silicon-based electronics. They included the work in a collection of 2016’s most influential research publications, or “Hot Papers.”  » More …