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NBC: Distracted emergency drivers cause crashes

Officer driving while using computer

NBC’s Bay Area Investigative Unit found, on average, there is a crash every other day in California, caused by an emergency driver who is distracted.

Bryan Vila
Bryan Vila

The report features Bryan Vila, a professor of criminal justice and a researcher associated with the WSU Sleep and Performance Research Center at WSU Spokane. The study reviewed more than 2.4 million collision reports recorded by the CHP from 2006-2011. Click the following link to see the NBC video report.

Vila and his team have been examining the impact of fatigue and distractions on law enforcement officer driving performance. They also have been comparing collision risks for those who work day shifts with those who work night shifts.

The work is being done under a two-year contract with the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).

The study is part of a continuing line of research related to police officer performance, safety, and health spearheaded by Vila, who heads a simulation laboratory that is designed to mimic police officers’ work environments and is located in WSU Spokane’s Sleep and Performance Research Center.

Two faculty and two alumni win state arts grants

Two Washington State University faculty and two alumni are among 62 recipients, out of 603 applicants, of 2012 Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) of up to $1,500 from Artist Trust, a Washington state nonprofit arts organization.

The faculty awardees are Kevin Haas, professor of fine arts, and Christopher Arigo, assistant professor of English. Alumni winners are Lauren Greathouse (B.F.A. ’03; B.A. ’03, English) and Dane Youngren (B.F.A. ’11).

The goal of the funding is a repeated and consistent investment to support and encourage individual artists’ projects in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout Washington. » More …

WSU receives $1.5M for Columbia Basin water modeling

By Kathy Barnard, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Finding ways to involve primary water users in the research process to develop scientifically sound and economically feasible public policy for water usage in the Columbia River Basin is the focus of a new, $1.5 million grant at Washington State University.

Scientists from WSU’s School of the Environment and the WSU Center for Environmental Research, Education, and Outreach have received a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to build a collaborative water modeling project in the Columbia River Basin. Assistant professor Cailin Huyck Orr, an expert in inland waters, will lead an interdisciplinary, multi-campus team of social scientists, earth scientists, economists, civil and environmental engineers, agricultural scientists, and policy experts in the Watershed Integrated Systems Dynamics Modeling (WISDM) project.

“Research universities have the expertise to help solve a plethora of societal problems,” said CEREO director Howard Grimes. “Among the most complex is water management, especially in light of environmental change and diverse stakeholder interests. This interdisciplinary approach is exactly what is needed.”  Continue story →

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 …