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How tadpoles provide insight into pandemics

A virus affecting wood frog tadpoles throughout the eastern United States is offering scientists a rare opportunity to investigate the role of environmental factors in the spread of infectious disease.

Erica Crespi.
Jesse Brunner

The study of interactions among agent, host, and environment is best done with a collaborative approach incorporating a range of expertise. Jesse Brunner, a disease ecologist, and Erica Crespi, a physiologist, both in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, have studied Ranavirus and its effects on individual tadpoles. Brunner specializes in the relationship between Ranavirus and its host, while Crespi is an expert on tadpole health.

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Dr. Universe: Does science get harder every year, or is that just me?

As a new and unusual school year gets underway, the WSU Insider figured it would be an ideal time to feature a question from the Ask Dr. Universe archives that is likely on the minds of both Washington State University students and faculty.

Andy Cavagnetto

Andy Cavagnetto, an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning and the School of Biological Sciences, sat down with the fictional feline Dr. Universe to discuss an eighth graders’ question about why the things we learn at school get more complicated each year.

But nevertheless, while it is not always easy to do, Cavagnetto said we all have built up knowledge we can use to address the unique problems of today. By taking advantage of what other people have learned, or what you already know, you’ll be able to learn more and understand more of the world around you.

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WSU Insider

Anthropologist Aaron Blackwell to lead new Human Biology program

Aaron Blackwell.

An expert in human evolution and immune function development, Aaron Blackwell, associate professor of anthropology, will direct the new Human Biology degree program at WSU, consisting primarily of courses in anthropology and biological sciences.

The College of Arts and Sciences launched the four-year, interdisciplinary bachelor of arts program this fall to help meet global demand for skilled professionals in health, social and environmental sciences and public policy. It melds approaches and content from social and biological sciences to provide students a vibrant understanding of the roles of culture, the dynamics of natural and social systems, and the biological attributes that shape human beings.

“The human biology degree is an opportunity to create bridges between evolutionary, medical, and cultural approaches to understanding human health,” Blackwell said. “Since the program builds on existing classes, the major is available for many continuing students, as well as new freshmen, and we expect to see the major grow quickly now that it is available.”

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WSU Insider

Nine CAS undergraduate researchers earn WSU fellowships

The Office of Undergraduate Research at Washington State University has named 32 students, including nine in the College of Arts and Sciences, as recipients of nearly $50,000 in awards in support of their mentored research, scholarship and creative activities for the 2020-21 academic year.

Students received 10 Auvil Scholars Fellowship awards, three Scott and Linda Carson Undergraduate Research awards, four WSU LSAMP Research awards, and 15 general undergraduate research awards. All are students at WSU Pullman with around 20 majors across STEM and non-STEM fields. Awardees include five sophomores, 13 juniors, and 14 seniors; 18 females and 14 males; and, nine first-generation students. Thirteen recipients are members of the WSU Honors College.

The fellowship award-winning students majoring in CAS disciplines are:

  • Annie Lu, a senior mathematics major mentored by Nikolaos Voulgarakis
  • Lucas Blevins, a sophomore music composition major mentored by Gregory Yasinitsky
  • Christopher Huong, a senior psychology and sports science major mentored by Sarah Ullrich-French
  • Tabitha McCoard, a senior fine arts major mentored by Hallie Meredith
  • Georgie Rosales, a senior English and psychology major in the Honors College mentored by Rebecca Craft
  • Olivia Willis, a junior neuroscience and psychology major in the Honors College mentored by Cheryl Reed
  • Jesús Mendoza, a senior zoology major mentored by Douglas Call
  • Marcelo Ruiz, a senior mathematics and mechanical engineering major mentored by Jacob Leachman
  • Krista Brutman, a senior mathematics major in the Honors College mentored by Bertrand Tanner

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WSU Insider

Tasmanian devil research offers new insights for tackling cancer in humans

A rare, transmissible tumor has brought the iconic Tasmanian devil to the brink of extinction, but new research by scientists at Washington State University and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle indicates hope for the animals’ survival and possibly new treatment for human cancers.

The study, published in Genetics on Aug. 1, found a single genetic mutation that leads to reduced growth of a transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils in the wild.

Andrew Storfer.
Andrew Storfer

“This gene is implicated in human prostate and colon cancers,” said Andrew Storfer, professor of biological sciences at WSU. “While the findings hold the most immediate promise to help save the world’s few remaining Tasmanian devils, these results could also someday translate to human health.”

The research team, led by Storfer and Mark Margres, now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, studied the genomes of cases of devil facial tumor disease, or DFTD, that regressed spontaneously — that is, the cancer began disappearing on its own.

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Science Daily
WSU Insider

Cancer Health