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CAS in the Media Arts and Sciences Media Headlines

Ask Dr. Universe: Why do insects have six legs

There are about 40 kinds of cats out there—like me. There’s only one kind of human on Earth now. But there are more than a million kinds of insects. That’s just the insect species we know about.

Every single one of those insects has six legs.

Allan Felsot.

I talked about why that is with my friend Allan Felsot. He’s an insect scientist at Washington State University.

He told me there must be some evolutionary reason insects have six legs—like better stability when walking.

“In biology, every ‘why’ question has the same answer,” Felsot said. “Things are the way they are because of adaptations that have allowed organisms to live longer.”

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Ask Dr. Universe

Student archaeologists dig around former Cannon Beach school

City checking for cultural artifacts

Archaeology students from Portland State University and Washington State University Vancouver are exploring around NeCus’ Park before construction begins on a renovation of the former Cannon Beach Elementary School.

In early July, the city brought in about a dozen students from the long-running Public Archaeology Field School typically held at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Their work will help ensure that significant cultural deposits will not be disrupted by construction, Katie Wynia, the site’s field director, said.

“This could be done by a professional company that does archaeology, but it’s been a great partnership with the park and the city to provide this educational opportunity for the students,” she said.

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The Astoria

Gerontechnology research provides undergraduate students opportunities

A multidisciplinary program at Washington State University funded by the National Institute of Aging is engaging undergraduate students in scientific research that may help older adults live independently longer.

The WSU Gerontechnology-Focused Student Undergraduate Research Experience (GSUR) connects students from complementary degree programs such as sociology, nursing, medicine, computer science, electrical engineering, and clinical psychology. It introduces them to faculty mentors and opens doors to a wide range of careers that support the world’s aging population.

Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe.

“The beauty of this opportunity is how it brings together students from varying degree programs and amplifies their future impact,” said Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe, co-PI for the multi-year grant and a Regents professor in the Department of Psychology. “For example, when students who have participated in GSUR take on projects in their chosen career field—say perhaps designing a community park—their awareness of what older adults require will likely influence their blueprint.”

Since GSUR’s inception in 2016, WSU has received $2.7 million in grant funding from the NIA to support student research fellowships and training in the growing field of gerontechnology, which blends the study of aging with the use of technology.

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WSU Insider

Transformational Change Initiative IDEA grants awarded to six projects

Washington State University faculty have been awarded six 2023 Transformation Change Initiative (TCI) grants for advancing inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA) to impact teaching and learning system-wide.

The grants range from $800 to $5,000 and represent the second round of TCI IDEA grants which are among several key WSU priorities and commitments in the provost’s office that promote IDEA. Three members of CAS faculty are project leaders.

“Infrastructural Racism: Latinx, African Americans, and East Pasco, Wash.”

  • Robert Franklin, co-lead
    College of Arts and Sciences, WSU Tri‑Cities, and Department of History
Robert Franklin.

This hands-on, design-oriented project will highlight the “racist legacy of infrastructure” in the Tri‑Cities region with a principal focus on the city of Pasco, Wash. Taught jointly between the School of Design and Construction and the Department of History, this community-engaged elective course involves faculty from WSU Tri‑Cities and WSU Pullman and will connect students with locals to learn about the historic spatial inequities and present-day opportunities in Pasco. By offering design ideas ranging from parks to museums to memorials, students may reimagine a marginalized physical landscape that has been manipulated and neglected for more than a century. Beyond reading and classroom discussion, the project is intended to apply student learning to a real-world setting through site visits, community meetings, and on-site public presentations. Planning for the course will take place in summer and fall 2023 and the class will be offered in spring 2024.

“Teaching Academy Faculty Book Club: Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education”

  • Kara Whitman, lead
    WSU Teaching Academy, system-wide, and School of the Environment
  • Ashley Boyd, co-lead
    WSU Teaching Academy, system-wide, and Department of English
Ashley Boyd.
Kara Whitman.

The WSU Teaching Academy will offer a faculty-engaged, system-wide book club in fall 2023 utilizing the text “Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education: Strategies for Teaching,” with editors Rita Kumar and Brenda Refaei. The book club will raise teaching faculty’s awareness of the needs of each student at WSU, foster reflective oriented dialogue to help improve teaching at all levels and in all disciplines, inspire teaching faculty to take steps toward equitable and inclusive teaching, engage faculty and teaching assistants in learning about and practicing equity and inclusion broadly and in their discipline-specific areas, provide access to IDEA resources, and continue to establish the WSU Teaching Academy’s support for equity-oriented practices across campuses. There will be three facilitated book club discussion meetings plus two implementation workshops in fall 2023. Awards will be given to book club participants who demonstrate excellence in the implementation of equity and inclusion in their teaching. The academy plans to invite the editors of the book to be keynote speakers at its TEACHxWSU 2023 on Oct. 20.

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WSU Insider

Probing the Mysteries of Neutron Stars With a Surprising Earthly Analog

Ever since neutron stars were discovered, researchers have been using their unusual properties to probe our universe. The superdense remnants of stellar explosions, neutron stars pack a mass greater than the Sun’s into a ball about as wide as San Francisco. A single cup of this star matter would weigh about as much as Mount Everest.

Both cold gases and neutron matter in some parts of a neutron star are superfluids – the particles flow without any friction. When a superfluid rotates, little whirlpools, or vortices, develop. How exactly these vortices move and interact with one another and other structures inside a rotating neutron star is still an open question. “It’s probably not this nice, regular lattice of vortices,” says Michael McNeil Forbes, who studies theoretical physics at Washington State University in Pullman. “It might be some tangle of vortices that’s in the entire star. We don’t know.”

Forbes and others suspect that the glitches they observe in the rotation of pulsars have something to do with how these vortices get “pinned” to structures in the star. Generally, a single vortex meanders freely around a fluid. But when the fluid contains a rigidly packed area of matter that obstructs the vortex’s motion, the vortex will stop and sometimes even wrap its swirling arms around the rigid object and position itself so that its centre is right on top of it.

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Science The Wire
Scientific American