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Sax student, composer showcased in Jazziz magazine

Matt Lanka
Matt Lanka

Washington State University saxophonist and composer Matt Lanka is showcased in a recent issue of Jazziz magazine, one of the top jazz publications in the world. A recording of Lanka’s composition “Howl,” performed by the WSU Jazz Big Band, is included on the CD “Fall Into Jazz,” distributed internationally in the fall 2012 issue of the magazine.

The CD also features recordings from new releases by top jazz figures David Sanborn, Al Jarreau, Béla Fleck, Marcus Miller, the Bad Plus, and Bob Mintzer.

“Lanka is an excellent saxophonist and gifted composer with a bright future,” said Greg Yasinitsky, director of the WSU School of Music. “This is the 10th year in a row that WSU students have been featured in Jazziz, and it is gratifying to see our School of Music honored in this way.”

Lanka is an M.A. candidate and teaching assistant in the School of Music. He studies saxophone with Dave Hagelganz and composition with Yasinitsky and performs in the WSU Jazz Big Band under Yasinitsky’s direction. The recording was made last spring in the WSU Recording Studio with Dave Bjur, engineer.

Prospective Alzheimer’s drug builds new brain cell connections

Jay Wright
Jay Wright

By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer

Washington State University researchers have developed a new drug candidate that dramatically improves the cognitive function of rats with Alzheimer’s-like mental impairment.

Their compound, which is intended to repair brain damage that has already occurred, is a significant departure from current Alzheimer’s treatments, which either slow the process of cell death or inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme believed to break down a key neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory development.

Such drugs, says Joe Harding, a professor in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, are not designed to restore lost brain function, which can be done by rebuilding connections between nerve cells.

“This is about recovering function,” he says. “That’s what makes these things totally unique. They’re not designed necessarily to stop anything. They’re designed to fix what’s broken. As far as we can see, they work.”

Harding, Jay Wright (regents professor, psychology), and other WSU colleagues report their findings in the online “Fast Forward” section of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Continue story →

WSU researcher to model drought resistance

By Joanna Steward, College of Arts and Sciences

From the tomatoes in your garden to the grain yield of an acre of wheat, the availability of water significantly influences a plant’s productivity. Even within the same plot, individual plants can sometimes handle drought conditions better than others—and Washington State University plant biologist Asaph Cousins wants to know why.

Cousins is part of a nationwide team hoping to discover the mechanisms that underlie drought responses and identify candidate genes and pathways for improving plant productivity, particularly in bioenergy grasses. » More …

Pulitzer grant funds coup coverage

By Phyllis Shier, College of Arts and Sciences

After navigating a coup and rebellion in West Africa with funding from a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grant, a Washington State University English professor will share his first-person account in an e-book for a Washington Post publication.

Creative writing professor Peter Chilson’s investigative journalism will be the basis for the e-book, to be released early in December by Foreign Policy magazine. Tentatively titled We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from a Borderland in Africa, the book addresses the turmoil in Mali over the last year and how those problems relate to the legacy of Africa’s colonial borders.

Peter Chilson with Tuareg nationalists
Peter Chilson with Tuareg nationalists at the Mentao Red Cross refugee camp in northern Burkina Faso.

Chilson received a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting to cover the crises from Mali and neighboring Burkina Faso for six weeks from mid-May to early June. The Pulitzer Center partners with worldwide media agencies to provide coverage on issues of global importance underreported in mainstream American media. Chilson was one of four writers to receive grants to cover borderland disputes around the world. » More …