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“Molecular movie” technology may enable big gains in bioimaging, health research

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 9:23am
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OSU researchers have created a new type of imaging technology fast enough to capture life processes as they occur at the molecular level.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers today announced the creation of an imaging technology more powerful than anything that has existed before, and is fast enough to observe life processes as they actually happen at the molecular level.

Chemical and biological actions can now be measured as they are occurring or, in old-fashioned movie parlance, one frame at a time. This will allow creation of improved biosensors to study everything from nerve impulses to cancer metastasis as it occurs.

The measurements, created by the use of short pulse lasers and bioluminescent proteins, are made in femtoseconds, which is one-millionth of one-billionth of a second. A femtosecond, compared to one second, is about the same as one second compared to 32 million years.

That’s a pretty fast shutter speed, and it should change the way biological research and physical chemistry are being done, scientists say.

Findings on the new technology were published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from Oregon State University and the University of Alberta.

“With this technology we’re going to be able to slow down the observation of living processes and understand the exact sequences of biochemical reactions,” said Chong Fang, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, and lead author on the research.

“We believe this is the first time ever that you can really see chemistry in action inside a biosensor,” he said. “This is a much more powerful tool to study, understand and tune biological processes.”

The system uses advanced pulse laser technology that is fairly new and builds upon the use of “green fluorescent proteins” that are popular in bioimaging and biomedicine. These remarkable proteins glow when light is shined upon them. Their discovery in 1962, and the applications that followed, were the basis for a Nobel Prize in 2008.

Existing biosensor systems, however, are created largely by random chance or trial and error. By comparison, the speed of the new approach will allow scientists to “see” what is happening at the molecular level and create whatever kind of sensor they want by rational design. This will improve the study of everything from cell metabolism to nerve impulses, how a flu virus infects a person, or how a malignant tumor spreads.

“For decades, to create the sensors we have now, people have been largely shooting in the dark,” Fang said. “This is a fundamental breakthrough in how to create biosensors for medical research from the bottom up. It’s like daylight has finally come.”

The technology, for instance, can follow the proton transfer associated with the movement of calcium ions – one of the most basic aspects of almost all living systems, and also one of the fastest. This movement of protons is integral to everything from respiration to cell metabolism and even plant photosynthesis.  Scientists will now be able to identify what is going on, one step at a time, and then use that knowledge to create customized biosensors for improved imaging of life processes.

“If you think of this in photographic terms,” Fang said, “we now have a camera fast enough to capture the molecular dance of life. We’re making molecular movies. And with this, we’re going to be able to create sensors that answer some important, new questions in biophysics, biochemistry, materials science and biomedical problems.”

The research was supported by OSU, the University of Alberta, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Chong Fang, 541-737-6704

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Molecular movies

Categories: Research news

Research may yield new ways to treat antibiotic-resistant TB

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 8:53am
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OSU researchers are making progress toward new drugs to treat tuberculosis, which are badly needed as problems increase with antibiotic resistance.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists in the United States and India have successfully modified the precursor to one of the drugs used to treat tuberculosis, an important first step toward new drugs that can transcend antibiotic resistance issues that experts consider a serious threat to global health.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, indicate that a new compound, 24-desmethylrifampicin, has much better antibacterial activity than rifampicin against multi-drug-resistant strains of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.

Rifampicin and related drugs are important antibiotics, the key to an effective “drug cocktail” that already takes about six months of treatment to cure tuberculosis, even if everything goes well. But two forms of tuberculosis, referred to as “multi-drug-resistant,” or MDR, and “extensively drug-resistant,” or XDR, have become resistant to rifampicin.

In 1993, resurging levels of tuberculosis due to this antibiotic resistance led the World Health Organization to declare it a global health emergency. Today more than 1 million people around the world are dying each year from tuberculosis, and after AIDS it remains the second most common cause of death by infectious disease.

“We believe these findings are an important new avenue toward treatment of multi-drug-resistant TB,” said Taifo Mahmud, a professor in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, and a corresponding author on the new publication.

“Rifampicin is the most effective drug against tuberculosis, and it’s very difficult to achieve a cure without it,” Mahmud said. “The approach we’re using should be able to create one or more analogs that could help take the place of rifampicin in TB therapy.”

A combination of genetic modification and synthetic drug development was used to create the new compound, which so far has only been developed in laboratory, not commercial quantities. Further development and testing will be necessary before it is ready for human use, researchers said.

Drug resistance in rifampicin and related antibiotics has occurred when their bacterial RNA polymerase enzymes mutate, Mahmud said, leaving them largely unaffected by antibiotics that work by inhibiting RNA synthesis. The new approach works by modifying the drug so it can effectively bind to this mutated enzyme and once again achieve its effectiveness.

“We found out how the antibiotic-producing bacteria make this compound, and then genetically modified that system to remove one part of the backbone of the molecule,” Mahmud said. “Understanding this whole process should allow us to create not just this one, but a range of different analogs that can be tested for their efficacy as new antibiotics.”

In human history and before the advent of antibiotics, tuberculosis was one of the great infectious disease killers in the world. At its peak in the 1800s in Europe, it was the cause of death of one in four people. It’s still a major concern in the developing world, where drugs are often not available to treat it, and it often causes death in tandem with HIV infection.

As the bacterial strains of this disease that are multi- or extensively-drug-resistant increase in number, so too does the difficulty of treating it. Instead of a six-month regimen, these drug-resistant strains can take 18 months to several years to treat, with antibiotics that are more toxic and less effective.

Collaborators on this research were from the University of Delhi and the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in India. The research has been supported by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.

The approach used in this research “holds great potential to generate more rifamycin analogs to combat the threat of MDR strains of M. tuberculosis, and/or other life-threatening pathogens,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Taifo Mahmud, 541-737-9679

Categories: Research news

Storksdieck to head OSU STEM Learning Research Center

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 4:35pm
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Martin Storksdieck has been named head of the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Martin Storksdieck, an international leader in the study of how people of all ages learn “STEM” subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics both in and out of school, has been named head of the Center for Research on Lifelong STEM Learning at Oregon State University.

This unique research center, online at http://stem.science.oregonstate.edu, was established two years ago to study how individuals with diverse life circumstances and identities become lifelong STEM learners, practitioners and researchers.

Storksdieck does research on voluntary, or “free choice” learning, and how learning is connected to behaviors, identities and beliefs. He recently served as director of the board on science education at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

“I am delighted to join OSU and honored to be given the opportunity to shape the Center’s focus,” Storksdieck said. “In my new role I will help create a strong OSU community around STEM learning research that is of national and international significance.”

Generic OSU Source: 

Julie Risien, 541-737-8664

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Martin Storksdieck

Categories: Research news

NSF awards $200,000 to develop technology to treat sepsis, a global killer

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 1:57pm
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Technology created at OSU may one day help prevent sepsis and save thousands of lives around the world.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The National Science Foundation has just awarded $200,000 to engineers at Oregon State University who have developed a new technology that they believe could revolutionize the treatment and prevention of sepsis.

Sepsis is a “hidden killer” that in the United States actually kills more people every year than AIDS, prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.

More commonly called “blood poisoning,” sepsis can quickly turn a modest infection into a whole-body inflammation, based on a dysfunctional immune response to endotoxins that are released from the cell walls of bacteria. When severe, this can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

When treatment is begun early enough, sepsis can sometimes be successfully treated with antibiotics. But they are not always effective and the mortality rate for the condition is still 28-50 percent. About one in every four people in a hospital emergency room is there because of sepsis, and millions of people die from it around the world every year, according to reports in the New England Journal of Medicine and other studies.

In pioneering research, OSU experts have used microchannel technology and special coatings to create a small device through which blood could be processed, removing the problematic endotoxins and preventing sepsis. Several recent professional publications have reported on their progress.

“More work remains to be done, and the support from the National Science Foundation will be instrumental in that,” said Adam Higgins, principal investigator on the grant and an assistant professor in the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. “When complete, we believe this technology will treat sepsis effectively at low cost, or even prevent it when used as a prophylactic treatment.”

This technology may finally offer a way to tackle sepsis other than antibiotics, the researchers said.

“This doesn’t just kill bacteria and leave floating fragments behind, it sticks to and removes the circulating bacteria and endotoxin particles that might help trigger a sepsis reaction,” said Karl Schilke, the OSU Callahan Faculty Scholar in Chemical Engineering.

“We hope to emboss the device out of low-cost polymers, so it should be inexpensive enough that it can be used once and then discarded,” Schilke said. “The low cost would also allow treatment even before sepsis is apparent. Anytime there’s a concern about sepsis developing – due to an injury, a wound, an operation, or an infection – you could get ahead of the problem.”

“A big part of the problem with sepsis is that it moves so rapidly,” said Joe McGuire, professor and head of the OSU Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. “By the time it’s apparent what the problem is, it’s often too late to treat it.

“If given early enough, antibiotics and other treatments can sometimes, but not always, stop this process,” McGuire said. “Once these bacterial fragments are in the blood stream the antibiotics won’t always work. You can have successfully eradicated the living bacteria even as you’re dying.”

The approach being developed at the OSU College of Engineering is to move blood through a very small processor, about the size of a coffee mug, and literally grab the endotoxins and remove them.

Microchannels make this possible. They can provide accelerated heat and mass transfer as fluids move through tiny tubes the width of a human hair. Applications are already being studied in everything from heat exchangers to solar energy. They can be produced in mass quantity at low cost, stamped onto a range of metals or plastics, and used to process a large volume of liquid in a comparatively short time.

In the system developed at Oregon State, blood can be pumped through thousands of microchannels that are coated with what researchers call “pendant polymer brushes,” with repeating chains of carbon and oxygen atoms anchored on the surface. This helps prevent blood proteins and cells from sticking or coagulating. On the end of each pendant chain is a peptide – or bioactive agent – that binds tightly to the endotoxin and removes it from the blood, which then goes directly back to the patient.

Sepsis is fairly common. It can develop after an injury from an automobile accident, a dirty wound, an extended operation in a hospital that carries a risk of infection, or infectious illnesses in people with weak or compromised immune systems.

In the U.S., more than $20 billion was spent on this problem in 2011. It’s the single most expensive cause of health problems that require hospitalization.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Adam Higgins, 541-737-6245

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Sepsis device

Categories: Research news

Study links Greenland ice sheet collapse, sea level rise 400,000 years ago

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 10:03am
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A new study suggests that a warming period more than 400,000 years ago pushed the Greenland ice sheet past its stability threshold, raising global sea levels some 4-6 meters.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study suggests that a warming period more than 400,000 years ago pushed the Greenland ice sheet past its stability threshold, resulting in a nearly complete deglaciation of southern Greenland and raising global sea levels some 4-6 meters.

The study is one of the first to zero in on how the vast Greenland ice sheet responded to warmer temperatures during that period, which were caused by changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun.

Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, are being published this week in the journal Nature.

“The climate 400,000 years ago was not that much different than what we see today, or at least what is predicted for the end of the century,” said Anders Carlson, an associate professor at Oregon State University and co-author on the study. “The forcing was different, but what is important is that the region crossed the threshold allowing the southern portion of the ice sheet to all but disappear.

“This may give us a better sense of what may happen in the future as temperatures continue rising,” Carlson added.

Few reliable models and little proxy data exist to document the extent of the Greenland ice sheet loss during a period known as the Marine Isotope Stage 11. This was an exceptionally long warm period between ice ages that resulted in a global sea level rise of about 6-13 meters above present. However, scientists have been unsure of how much sea level rise could be attributed to Greenland, and how much may have resulted from the melting of Antarctic ice sheets or other causes.

To find the answer, the researchers examined sediment cores collected off the coast of Greenland from what is called the Eirik Drift. During several years of research, they sampled the chemistry of the glacial stream sediment on the island and discovered that different parts of Greenland have unique chemical features. During the presence of ice sheets, the sediments are scraped off and carried into the water where they are deposited in the Eirik Drift.

“Each terrain has a distinct fingerprint,” Carlson noted. “They also have different tectonic histories and so changes between the terrains allow us to predict how old the sediments are, as well as where they came from. The sediments are only deposited when there is significant ice to erode the terrain. The absence of terrestrial deposits in the sediment suggests the absence of ice.

“Not only can we estimate how much ice there was,” he added, “but the isotopic signature can tell us where ice was present, or from where it was missing.”

This first “ice sheet tracer” utilizes strontium, lead and neodymium isotopes to track the terrestrial chemistry.

The researchers’ analysis of the scope of the ice loss suggests that deglaciation in southern Greenland 400,000 years ago would have accounted for at least four meters – and possibly up to six meters – of global sea level rise. Other studies have shown, however, that sea levels during that period were at least six meters above present, and may have been as much as 13 meters higher.

Carlson said the ice sheet loss likely went beyond the southern edges of Greenland, though not all the way to the center, which has not been ice-free for at least one million years.

In their Nature article, the researchers contrasted the events of Marine Isotope Stage 11 with another warming period that occurred about 125,000 years ago and resulted in a sea level rise of 5-10 meters. Their analysis of the sediment record suggests that not as much of the Greenland ice sheet was lost – in fact, only enough to contribute to a sea level rise of less than 2.5 meters.

“However, other studies have shown that Antarctica may have been unstable at the time and melting there may have made up the difference,” Carlson pointed out.

The researchers say the discovery of an ice sheet tracer that can be documented through sediment core analysis is a major step to understanding the history of ice sheets in Greenland – and their impact on global climate and sea level changes. They acknowledge the need for more widespread coring data and temperature reconstructions.

“This is the first step toward more complete knowledge of the ice history,” Carlson said, “but it is an important one.”

Lead author on the Nature study is Alberto Reyes, who worked as a postdoctoral researcher for Carlson when both were at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carlson is now on the faculty in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Anders Carlson, 541-737-3625; acarlson@coas.oregonstate.edu

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Categories: Research news

OSU gains state’s first accredited school of public health

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 8:57am
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Oregon State University's College of Public Health and Human Sciences is the first school of public health in Oregon to earn accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences was granted accreditation today, making it the first school of public health in Oregon to earn that recognition.

The accreditation, from the Council on Education for Public Health, means OSU has the only accredited school of public health between San Francisco and Seattle. The distinction elevates the College of Public Health and Human Sciences’ visibility and stature, increases its ability to attract and retain committed students and world-class faculty, and helps the college continue its mission of education, research and outreach, OSU officials say. The recognition also allows the college to support a qualified work force in Oregon and beyond.

The college is a leader in efforts to redesign and integrate the public health curriculum. Harvard and Columbia University are among the handful of other accredited schools in the United States using this approach. At Oregon State, faculty members already work across disciplines in public health and the human sciences.

“Integration is where the future of public health is headed,” said Tammy Bray, dean of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “We believe a life-span, interdisciplinary approach will make the greatest impact on society’s most complex public health issues, which don’t come in discipline-shaped blocks.”

Helping Oregonians become healthier at all stages of life, with an emphasis on prevention and outreach, is a central focus of the college.

“Our faculty in OSU Extension, including programs in 4-H and Family and Community Health, have worked with their neighbors in every county in Oregon for 100 years to create local solutions to their health challenges,” Bray said. “Of the nation’s 50-plus schools of public health, we’re the only one with that level of community outreach built in.”

Bray said receiving accreditation means that experts in the field of public health agree that the College of Public Health and Human Sciences is of high quality; has the curriculum, faculty and resources needed to continue meeting high standards; and produces graduates that have the knowledge and skills to succeed in their fields.

The council awarded the College of Public Health and Human Sciences a five-year accreditation, the maximum granted. The decision follows an extensive and rigorous review of the college’s academic programs that took more than four years to complete. The college’s accreditation will be up for review and renewal in 2019.

“This accreditation establishes our role as a credible leader in public health in Oregon and beyond,” Bray said. “It comes at a time when a spotlight is on the public’s health like never before, and we are uniquely positioned to work with our communities in creating healthy environments that enhance lifelong health and well-being.”

This year, the college extended its reach beyond state and national borders by launching the new Center for Global Health, which joins three existing research centers – the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families; the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health; and the Center for Healthy Aging Research.

The college serves more than 3,500 undergraduate and 300 graduate students, and its alumni go on to work in a variety of positions in high-demand health care settings, including federal and state health agencies, hospitals and clinics, community organizations, county health departments, non-governmental organizations and many more.

“Public health is an increasingly relevant and vital profession. At OSU, enrollment in our public health programs is up 116 percent over the last five years, a trend that’s still on the rise,” Bray said.

“That’s a good thing for the public, because more than three times the number of current public health graduates is needed to meet the health needs of the future,” she said. “Our graduates will be well prepared to work collaboratively to solve current and emerging public health challenges not only in Oregon but across the globe.”

About the Council on Education for Public Health: The council is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and public health programs that prepare students for careers in public health. The primary professional degree in these programs is the Master of Public Health.

Editor's Note: Video b-roll is available to download for use with this news release: http://health.oregonstate.edu/broll/accreditation

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Tammy Bray, 541-737-3256, tammy.bray@oregonstate.edu

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College of Public Health and Human Sciences Dean Tammy Bray



Norm Hord (left) is the Celia Strickland and G. Kenneth Austin III Endowed Professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Categories: Research news

Artisan cheese startups face six-digit costs, finds OSU study

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 9:48am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Aspiring artisan cheese makers should be prepared to shell out at least $250,000 to set up operations, according to an Oregon State University study.

OSU researchers developed a tool for predicting artisan cheese startup and operating costs based on a number of factors, including types of milk (like goat, cow and sheep), cheese types (such as cheddar, blue and mozzarella), labor expenses, creamery location, marketing; and even the fuel needed to transport products to farmers markets.

"We wanted to give cheese entrepreneurs a realistic idea about what they're getting into," said Lisbeth Goddik, a food science and technology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences and co-author of the study. “In this industry, lack of economic data has sometimes made it difficult to craft a business plan, obtain financing and plan for the future.”

OSU's study is the first to estimate costs for Oregon artisan cheese makers, Goddik pointed out. OSU researchers interviewed large- and small-scale cheese companies in Oregon and studied their expenses.

They found that a large-scale artisan cheese company producing 60,000 pounds a year faces startup costs of $623,874, assuming the company purchases its own processing and aging facilities. First-year operation costs are an additional $620,094, the researchers estimated.

A smaller operation producing 7,500 pounds a year would spend about $267,248 to set up processing and aging operations, with a first-year production cost of $65,245.

"Since profits are unlikely in the first few years, access to sufficient capital is critical to survival," said Cathy Durham, an applied economics professor at OSU who works at OSU's Food Innovation Center in Portland. She also is a co-author of the study.

"Despite the challenges,” Goddik added, “the industry is active.”

In Oregon, the number of artisan cheese manufacturers jumped from three in 1999 to 20 in 2014, according to dairy plant licenses with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).

OSU's economic model is adaptable so cheese makers around the world can tailor it to their location and account for other attributes that affect cost. OSU researchers have used the tool in consulting with Oregon cheese startups, as well as artisan cheese entrepreneurs from Canada, Europe and New Zealand.

Goddik provides training for all levels of artisan cheese makers, including improvements in product quality, shelf life and safety. She consults closely with them to solve specific challenges and serves as a technical liaison with the ODA's Food Safety Division.

Goddik, Durham and former OSU graduate student Andrea Bouma co-authored the study, which was published in the Journal of Dairy Science. The study was funded by the Eckelman Endowment at OSU.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Lisbeth Goddik, 541-737-8322; Cathy Durham, 503-872-6671

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Five-pound rounds of "Sublimity" cheese sit in an aging facility at the Oregon Gourmet cheese plant in Albany, Oregon. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)



Cheese ages at Goldin Artisan Goat Cheese in Molalla. Oregon is home to 20 artisan cheese manufacturers. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

Categories: Research news

Ron Adams named interim research VP at OSU

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 3:55pm
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Oregon State University has named Ron Adams as interim vice president for Research, effective July 1.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has named Ron Adams as interim vice president for Research, effective July 1.

Adams, former dean of the College of Engineering at OSU, has spent the past three years as executive associate vice president for research at Oregon State – a new position designed to boost the university’s partnerships with industry and spin out more companies based on Oregon State’s research discoveries.

He succeeds Rick Spinrad, who accepted a position as chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C.

“This is an important leadership position for Oregon State at a time of exceptional research growth for the university,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “I look forward to working with Ron as we advance OSU’s research activities and begin a national search for a new vice president.”

Adams leads the OSU Advantage program, which helps commercialize innovations, launch new companies, connect existing business with faculty expertise and student talent, and provide Oregon with the work-ready graduates needed for economic progress.

“This Advantage effort remains important to OSU's mission and strategy and we will expand its impact in the coming year,” Adams said. “In a broader sense, the collaborative culture of OSU will continue to create opportunities to increase the university's impact through discoveries from major research programs like the National Science Foundation Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry.”

“We will increase our efforts to help foster these opportunities by working with faculty across disciplines in order to address major challenges such as of health and wellness, food/water safety and security, impacts of climate change on forests and other natural resources, and the availability of clean energy.”

Prior to his appointment as executive associate vice president, Adams was the engineering dean for 13 years, leading the college through a period of remarkable growth. The College of Engineering doubled the size of its Ph.D. program, tripled its research funding and helped spin off more than a dozen companies.

Before returning to OSU as dean after a previous stint on the faculty, Adams worked at Tektronix for more than 14 years, including serving as vice president of technology and as a senior Tektronix fellow.

Adams earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from OSU and his M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in the U.S. Air Force and worked at MIT Lincoln Labs before joining the OSU faculty as an assistant, and then associate professor of mechanical engineering. He took a leave from OSU to lead a team at Tektronix working on developing color printing technologies.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Ed Ray, 541-737-4133; ed.ray@oregonstate.edu

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Ron Adams

Categories: Research news

New ‘Philosophy of Phish’ course at OSU aims to engage students in curriculum

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 10:41am
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Stephanie Jenkins plans to explore the relationship between philosophy, music and social change with her students in a new course on the band Phish. 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – In an effort to make a challenging curriculum more accessible and engaging for students, a professor at Oregon State University will teach a philosophy course on the band Phish this summer.

Stephanie Jenkins, an assistant professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts at OSU, plans to explore the relationship between philosophy, music and social change with her students in a course she has dubbed “Philosophy School of Phish.”

“I have to find what students are passionate about in order to speak to them about philosophy,” Jenkins said. “Phish, or any pop culture topic, elicits interest and engages them. It’s really about teaching effectively in ways that students will remember and use for the rest of their lives.”

The course begins June 23 and runs for eight weeks. It is a distance education course offered online through Oregon State University Ecampus and enrollment is not limited to Oregon State students. Phish fans from all over the country could participate in the course. For information, visit http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/.

The course, a special section of PHL 360: Philosophy and the Arts, was designed as a philosophy of music class. Other musicians could easily be substituted as case studies, but Jenkins chose Phish because she’s a fan and is familiar with the group’s large and loyal following.

“One of the benefits of doing a rigorous philosophical study of a band is that it gives students tools to articulate why they like the concerts and how the band’s music has philosophical and spiritual components,” Jenkins said.

The practice of philosophy involves exploring questions about ethics, politics, beauty and more. Students learn to clarify and articulate their own beliefs, analyze ideas and acquire critical thinking skills.

Along with required readings from philosophers such as Kant, Tolstoy and Nietzsche, students in Jenkins’ class will be required to attend Phish concerts during the band’s summer tour or watch them via webcasts online. The experiential component is critical to engaging students with the curriculum, Jenkins said.

“I can lecture forever, but they’ll never remember it,” she said. “When you give students an experience, you give them a basis for relating to the content. It’s like field work.”

Phish is known for improvising and blending elements of a variety of musical genres. Fans follow the group from concert to concert and each show can vary widely as the musicians improvise. The band, which was founded in the 1980s, is releasing a new album later this month and will launch a new tour July 1 in Massachusetts. Other stops include New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., and more. 

Jenkins will follow the tour. She’ll attend concerts, teach, conduct research on the practice of public philosophy and hold philosophy events at concert venues along the way. Students from outside Oregon who are taking the course online would have a chance to meet their professor in person during the tour.

The public events also are an opportunity for Jenkins to discuss Phish and the philosophy of music with fans or anyone else who might to join in the discussion.

“It’s a way for people to engage in academic conversations and maybe inspire people to actually read philosophy,” she said. “Today, we think of philosophy as something really abstract that scholars do. But Socrates and others did philosophy in the city, in the public square.”

To find out more about the public events, visit Jenkins’ website, http://philosophyschoolofphish.com/ or follow her on Twitter: @scjenkins.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Stephanie Jenkins, 541-737-6517, Stephanie.jenkins@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU seeks participants for new health promotion program

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 9:53am
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The program is aimed at people ages 18 and older who have limited mobility and is part of a research project on how physical activity of people with a mobility disability.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers who are organizing Physical Activity Centered Education, a new health promotion program aimed at people with physical mobility issues, are seeking participants from the Corvallis area.

Megan MacDonald, assistant professor in exercise and sport science at Oregon State University, is creating the program based on a successful model developed at a medical facility in Texas.

The program is aimed at people ages 18 and older who have limited mobility – defined as having difficulty walking one block, or using an assistive device such as a walker, cane or wheelchair.

Participants must be able to communicate in English, attend the program once a week for 90 minutes during an eight-week period, and will receive up to $75 for taking part. It will take place in the Movement Studies in Disabilities Lab in the Women’s Building on the OSU campus.

This is part of a research project on how a health promotion program can influence the physical activity of people with a mobility disability. It helps people learn social and behavioral skills to become healthier, such as setting goals, rewarding themselves for making their goals, and how to overcome barriers to being healthy and active.

To learn more information on qualifications for the program and to sign up to participate, email health.disability@oregonstate.edu or call 541-737-6928.

College of Public Health and Human Sciences Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Megan MacDonald, 541-737-6928; megan.macdonald@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU to offer first free, massive course online

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 2:16pm
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OSU is planning its first MOOC, or massive, open online course, which may attract thousands of K-12 educators when it begins this fall.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University this fall will launch its first massive, open online course, or MOOC, partnering with Stanford University and the Oregon Department of Education to deliver a free, professional learning opportunity to potentially thousands of K-12 educators in the state and around the world.

The eight-week course, Supporting English Language Learners under New Standards, is funded by the Oregon Department of Education and begins Oct. 1. It will further position OSU and the state of Oregon as national leaders in how English language learners are served.

As many institutions have rushed to join this educational phenomenon in recent years, OSU administrators said they judged this to be the right time and opportunity for OSU to offer its inaugural MOOC, which are courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. OSU is already a national leader in more traditional online education.

“This will help us learn first-hand about this type of teaching platform, and identify how and where MOOCs fit in our learning ecosystem,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Sabah Randhawa. “It’s important to be open to new possibilities, and flexible and adaptable to new learning paradigms, including the MOOC learning format.”

Randhawa said OSU enters the MOOC arena with the university’s educational mission in clear focus - a commitment to help Oregon create a more educated citizenry and to provide students with broader, more affordable access to course options.

The developers and instructors of OSU’s first massive course expect widespread participation. It is open to teachers outside of Oregon and is especially relevant to educators in the 11-state ELPA21 consortium that is developing an assessment system based on new English Language Proficiency Standards.

“This is a perfect opportunity for OSU to enter the MOOC sphere because we’re doing it in collaboration with people who have successfully done it before,” said Karen Thompson, one of the course’s three instructors and an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Education.

“People have started to consider OSU a statewide leader in ELL education, and this MOOC represents an exciting opportunity for OSU to impact teaching and learning for ELLs everywhere.”

Course participants will work in teams to gather and analyze language samples from their students, exploring how ELLs construct claims supported by evidence. Thompson says the information educators gather one day in the MOOC can be directly applied in their K-12 classrooms the following day.

Joining Thompson as course instructors are Kenji Hakuta and Sara Rutherford-Quach of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, and the university’s Understanding Language initiative.

Oregon State Ecampus is also a partner in the MOOC and has provided multimedia and support services for the course, which opens for registration later this summer. More information is available at ecampus.oregonstate.edu/ell.

“Delivering a course in this open format goes hand-in-hand with Oregon State’s mission to provide access to high-quality education to learners around the state, country and world,” said Ecampus executive director Lisa L. Templeton. “Ecampus is excited to partner with the College of Education, Stanford and ODE to deliver this with no cost involved for learners.”

In recent years OSU Ecampus has gained national recognition as one of the best online extended education programs in the nation, from U.S. News and World Report, SuperScholar and other ranking agencies. The ranking criteria are based on such factors as faculty credentials, student engagement, degree diversity, academic quality and other issues.

Ecampus: Media Contact: 

Tyler Hansen, 520-312-1276

Source: 

Karen Thompson, 541-737-2988

Categories: Research news

OSU names Jonathan Stoll director of Corvallis community outreach

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 11:06am
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Jonathan Stoll has been named the director of Corvallis Community Outreach at Oregon State University.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Jonathan Stoll, who has spent much of his career facilitating collaborative partnerships and communication among organizations and individuals, has been named the director of Corvallis Community Outreach at Oregon State University.

In this new position, Stoll will be responsible for helping to for develop and implement programs and activities that foster positive relationships between the university, OSU students and the Corvallis community.

Stoll most recently has been the manager of Associated Students’ Diversity Center at California State University, East Bay, where he directed campus diversity efforts, launched several programs to support multiculturalism and student retention, and led a number of outreach and engagement initiatives. He has been with CSU-East Bay, which is located in Hayward, since 2007.

He will begin his new duties at Oregon State immediately.

“Oregon State and the Corvallis community intersect on many different levels and having a point person to facilitate discussions on key issues was one of the key recommendations from the Collaboration Corvallis process,” said Steve Clark, vice president for University Relations and Marketing at OSU. “Creation of this position was first recommended through the Collaboration Corvallis process.”

“Jonathan Stoll has a background that is ideally suited for this new position,” Clark added, “and we look forward to his leadership in continuing the university’s efforts in creating an environment where students engage in productive and civil behaviors both on and off campus.”

Stoll said he was pleased to join the Oregon State community and anxious to begin meeting people throughout Corvallis.

“I am ready and eager to begin working closely with students, campus partners, the City of Corvallis, community residents, organizations and businesses to foster stronger community relations,” Stoll said. “It is an opportunity not only to address problems, but to create and achieve new opportunities.”

“Collaboration Corvallis has provided a wonderful roadmap to build upon,” he added.

Stoll will report both to OSU’s dean of Student Life and the vice president for University Relations and Marketing. Among his duties:

  • Develop and implement programming to create positive relationships between the university, OSU students and the community;
  • Collaborate with established work teams already created to address commonly identified goals between OSU and the community;
  • Serve as the liaison with off-campus living groups, neighborhood associations, city governments, student living groups and others;
  • Participate in aspects of university/city activities to improve relations, and attend appropriate meetings for the City of Corvallis, the university, neighborhood groups, and associations.

Stoll is a graduate of San Jose State University, where he received bachelor of arts degrees in humanities and economics. He earned a master’s degree in public administration at California State University East Bay.

He began his career working as controller and chief financial officer for the Associated Students of San Jose State University in 2003, and then founded the Cesar Chavez Community Action Center there two years later. Serving as development coordinator, he oversaw eight service programs and activities within the center that engaged more than 350 university students to partner with 23 community organizations for community service.

“That is the kind of partnership we can envision between Oregon State University students and the community,” Clark said.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217

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Jonathan Stoll

Categories: Research news

OSU faculty art exhibit on display at Fairbanks Gallery

Wed, 06/18/2014 - 9:42am
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twork by members of the art faculty at Oregon State University will be on display in the Fairbanks Gallery on campus, June 19 through Oct. 8.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Artwork by members of the art faculty at Oregon State University will be on display in the Fairbanks Gallery on campus, June 19 through Oct. 8.

The exhibit demonstrates a broad diversity of styles and approaches to the making of art, with faculty members working in the areas of photography, painting, drawing, mixed media, printmaking, installation and video. 

Works from Michael Boonstra, Julia Bradshaw, Sandra Brooke, Kathleen Caprario, Julie Green, Stephen Hayes, Yuji Hiratsuka, Shelley Jordon, Nathan Langner, Andy Myers, Felix Oliveros, Kerry Skarbakka and Lorenzo Triburgo are included in the exhibit.

The Fairbanks Gallery, 220 S.W. 26th St., Corvallis, is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

A closing reception will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 at the gallery. The public is welcome to attend.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Douglas Russell, 541-737-5009, or drussell@oregonstate.edu

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“Guardian,” mixed-media on paper by Andy Myers

Untitled, ink jet on aluminum, by Michael Boonstra

Categories: Research news

OSU's Food Innovation Center to showcase local food entrepreneurs

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 10:51am
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Local food entrepreneurs will show off their unique creations to the public at a free farmers market-like event at the Food Innovation Center in Portland on June 24.

The inaugural Time To Market Trade Show, which will take place from 4-7 p.m., offers a delicious array of free samples, including crème brûlée, gelato, pickles, peppers, cocktails and health foods. Gluten-free, diabetic-friendly and vegan options will be available. Consumers can buy the products, too.

"This is the public's first chance to get a taste of what we've cooked up with our students," said Sarah Masoni, the center's product development manager. "This event is a perfect way for us to reach out to businesses we've helped over the years and treat the taste buds of Oregon."

The Food Innovation Center is a collaborative effort between Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Agriculture. It is located at 1207 N.W. Naito Parkway in Portland. For more information, call 503-872-6680.

The vendors are graduates of the Getting Your Recipe to Market class, which OSU faculty help teach. Students learn how to turn their recipes into commercial-ready products by developing business and marketing plans, crafting elevator pitches, solving packaging and food safety issues, and meeting one-on-one with retail buyers.

In the hours preceding the trade show, each exhibitor will meet privately with interested investors, distributors and local retail buyers – a valuable networking opportunity, Masoni said. These food industry partners are able to place products in stores, restaurants, hospitals, college campuses and large companies, such as Intel and Nike.

The center plans to host similar showcases each month this summer, recruiting from among its 200-plus alumni. The June 24 event will also feature a sign-up sheet for potential participants.

"We'd love to see our whole parking lot filled with booths of graduated students," said Masoni, who is also a food products specialist with the OSU Extension Service.

Getting Your Recipe to Market is a collaborative effort between OSU, Portland Community College's Small Business Development Center and New Seasons Market, a regional grocer. Now in its sixth year, the class runs 14 weeks at PCC and is also offered online as a series of four courses offered through OSU's Professional and Continuing Education unit.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

Sarah Masoni, 503-872-6655

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Open in downtown Portland since 1999, the Food Innovation Center helps create food products using Northwest ingredients. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)



Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center helped Connie Rawlings-Dritsas develop formulas for her line of flavored vinegars. (Photo by Stephen Ward.)

Categories: Research news

Discovery of a bud-break gene could lead to trees adapted for a changing climate

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 2:51pm
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Researchers have identified the function of a gene that controls when trees awaken from winter dormancy, a critical factor in their ability to adapt to climate change.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Scientists have confirmed the function of a gene that controls the awakening of trees from winter dormancy, a critical factor in their ability to adjust to environmental changes associated with climate change.

While other researchers have identified genes involved in producing the first green leaves of spring, the discovery of a master regulator in poplar trees (Populus species) could eventually lead to breeding plants that are better adapted for warmer climates.

The results of the study that began more than a decade ago at Oregon State University were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by scientists from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State.

“No one has ever isolated a controlling gene for this timing in a wild plant, outside of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to mustard and cabbage,” said Steve Strauss, co-author and distinguished professor of forest biotechnology at OSU. “This is the first time a gene that controls the timing of bud break in trees has been identified.”

The timings of annual cycles — when trees open their leaves, when they produce flowers, when they go dormant — help trees adapt to changes in environmental signals like those associated with climate, but the genetics have to keep up, Strauss said.

While trees possess the genetic diversity to adjust to current conditions, climate models suggest that temperature and precipitation patterns in many parts of the world may expose trees to more stressful conditions in the future. Experts have suggested that some tree species may not be able to cope with these changes fast enough, whether by adaptation or migration. As a result, forest health may decline, trees may disappear from places they are currently found, and some species may even go extinct. 

“For example, are there going to be healthy and widespread populations of Douglas fir in Oregon in a hundred years?” said Strauss. “That depends on the natural diversity that we have and how much the environment changes. Will there be sufficient genetic diversity around to evolve populations that can cope with a much warmer and likely drier climate? We just don’t know.”

Strauss called the confirmation of the bud-break gene — which scientists named EBB1 for short — a “first step” in developing the ability to engineer adaptability into trees in the future.

“Having this knowledge enables you to engineer changes when they might become urgent,” he said.

Yordan Yordanov and Victor Busov at Michigan Tech worked with Cathleen Ma and Strauss at Oregon State to trace the function of EBB1 in buds and other plant tissues responsible for setting forth the first green shoots of spring. They developed modified trees that overproduced EBB1 genes and emerged from dormancy earlier in the year. They also showed that trees with less EBB1 activity emerged from dormancy later.

“The absence of EBB1 during dormancy allows the tree to progress through the physiological, developmental and adaptive changes leading to dormancy,” said Busov, “while the expression of EBB1 in specific cell layers prior to bud-break enables reactivation of growth in the cells that develop into shoots and leaves, and re-entry into the active growth phase of the tree.”

The study began when Strauss noticed poplar trees emerging earlier than others in an experimental field trial at Oregon State. One April morning, he found that four seedling trees in a 2.5-acre test plot were putting forth leaves at least a week before all the other trees. Strauss and Busov, a former post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State, led efforts to identify the genes responsible.

They found that EBB1 codes for a protein that helps to restart cell division in a part of the tree known as meristem, which is analogous to stem cells in animals. EBB1 also plays a role in suppressing genes that prepare trees for dormancy in the fall and in other processes such as nutrient cycling and root growth that are critical for survival. Altogether, they found nearly 1,000 other poplar genes whose activity is affected by EBB1.

It’s unlikely that plant breeders will use the finding any time soon, Strauss said. Breeders tend to rely on large clusters of genes that are associated with specific traits such as hardiness, tree shape or flowering. However, as more genes of this kind are identified, the opportunity to breed or engineer trees adapted to extreme conditions will grow.

Funding for the research was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative at Oregon State.

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Steve Strauss, 541-737-6578

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Tree research




Early leaf flush

Categories: Research news

OSU Open Campus growth, innovations recognized with national award

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:57am
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It's only five years old but OSU Open Campus is already serving a broad cross section of educational needs in Oregon.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – OSU Open Campus, a pioneering program begun just five years ago by Oregon State University to better serve the diverse educational needs of the state, has expanded rapidly, kept students in school, put people to work and is addressing the needs of many Oregon communities.

For its innovations and success, the program was just recognized as one of four national winners of the Outreach Scholarship W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award. It will also compete for the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award, the top honor nationally for this type of initiative.

OSU Open Campus, at its inception, recognized that education costs were increasing, many smaller or remote communities required programs tailored to their needs, and that only a broad coalition of K-12 schools, community colleges, local governments and businesses could hope to address that challenge.

A collaborative effort of the OSU Extension Service and OSU Extended Campus helped to create that coalition, and the results have been extraordinary for Tillamook, Hood River, Madras, Prineville, Klamath Falls and Coos Bay.

“OSU Open Campus expands the university’s commitment to the people of Oregon,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “In six communities throughout the state, progress is being made in college attainment, economic development, and successful partnerships to encourage a seamless transition into and through the educational pipeline.”

Along with other aspects of recent OSU expansion and leadership, OSU Open Campus is helping entire communities to support the statewide goal of “40-40-20,” which requires that by 2025 40 percent of adults have an undergraduate degree, 40 percent an associate’s degree or certificate, and 20 percent a high school diploma.

The program is fast and flexible. It cuts bureaucratic red tape, taps into local community needs and tries to provide the type of education needed at costs that local residents can afford. Sometimes that will result in students who progress all the way to a bachelor’s degree. Other times, the goals are more immediate.

In Jefferson County, a small business owner faced closure due to a lack of qualified welders in the area. OSU Open Campus coordinated a plan, beginning with a local high school offering use of an unused welding lab for an eight-week course. Central Oregon Community College provided an instructor, and a local charity provided funds for equipment and gear. The course ultimately had 17 participants, including eight high school students and nine unemployed or under-employed adults.

As a result, all the adults now have good-paying jobs as welders, two small businesses were saved, and one participant finished his GED and is enrolled at Central Oregon Community College.

If a person’s ultimate goal is a full college education, OSU Open Campus can help with that, too.

“Some students are place-bound for a number of reasons,” said program director Jeff Sherman. “They can’t afford the costs of living on a campus, or have family responsibilities and employment that make moving impossible.”

One analysis in Klamath County concluded that, through an Open Campus collaboration of local high schools, Klamath Community College and OSU Ecampus, degrees in high local demand such as agricultural sciences or natural resources could be obtained for less than half the cost of attending OSU’s main campus, without ever having to leave the county.

Among the growth trends and accomplishments of the program:

  • OSU Open Campus is now serving six communities in nine rural counties, and the number of learners has more than doubled since its inception.
  • Initiatives include precollege programs at local K-12 schools, small business development workshops, parent education and academic support for Latino students, community literacy projects and youth entrepreneurship courses.
  • The “Juntos” program for Latino students has dramatically increased their graduation rates at Madras High School and within the next year the first cohort from that program will be starting college.
  • In the Columbia Gorge, collaboration with a local OSU 4-H program is involving 1,640 students a year in science, technology, engineering and math programs, and regularly win robotic competitions at all grade levels.
  • OSU Ecampus sees OSU Open Campus as its key partner for student retention and degree completion in Oregon.

In the future, Oregon State hopes to further expand the number of its faculty who work at OSU Open Campus sites, bring community teams to the university campus for recognition, and take other steps to grow the program.

“OSU Open Campus is a concept, not a place,” said Scott Reed, Oregon State Vice Provost for University Outreach and Engagement. “It’s helping all of our internal and external partners to change and adapt. We’re empowering communities, crossing traditional boundaries, and in the process, the university gets better.”

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jeff Sherman, 541-737-1384

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Science project

Categories: Research news

Record number of OSU students graduate via degree programs online

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:43am
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Oregon Ecampus will have a record number of graduates this year as its programs continue to grow in popularity.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A record number of distance students will receive degrees from Oregon State University on Saturday after completing their course work online.

Oregon State will graduate 501 students through its Ecampus on Saturday, nearly 100 more than the previous high set in 2012. This year’s distance graduates hail from 42 states and six countries, including Japan, Puerto Rico and the United Arab Emirates – further evidence that OSU’s academic impact continues to grow globally.

“The tireless dedication of our learners is a constant source of inspiration, and this record-setting class is a prime example,” said Ecampus executive director Lisa L. Templeton. “We are committed to giving learners around the world access to a high-quality education, and our growth is a testament to the outstanding OSU faculty who develop our programs online.”

Ecampus delivers 36 degree and certificate programs online, and more than 15,000 students took at least one OSU class online in 2013-14 – more than double the total from five years ago. Since last summer, the university has launched online programs in sustainability, wildlife management and an executive leadership MBA track that combines online learning with in-person sessions in Portland.

The most popular of the Ecampus offerings is a post-baccalaureate program in computer science that can be completed in as little as one year. Launched in the summer of 2012, it now has 886 admitted students with 62 set to receive their diplomas Saturday – and some will transition immediately to the workforce.

Bryan Robinson studied online from Irvine, California, while working full time and raising two young children with his wife. He turned his OSU degree into a new job as a reporting analyst for a computing company in Portland.

“Much of my background is in web development, but I found it difficult to get a job without a degree in computer science,” Robinson said. “The OSU program was the perfect marriage because it was online and allowed me to work and raise my family, and it was from a reputable university that I knew a lot about.”

Ecampus will host a reception Saturday morning in The Valley Library for 70 graduates who are traveling to Corvallis, some from as far away as Connecticut and Minnesota. It’s the first – and only – time many of them will set foot on the OSU campus.

Linda Sanderford had no connection to Oregon State prior to enrolling with Ecampus in 2011. The Monroe, Louisiana, resident was a college “stop-out” – a student who started a degree program but was unable to finish amid the responsibilities of raising five children – until she found OSU’s agricultural sciences program online in her late 30s.

On Saturday, a journey that lasted more than two decades will reach its end.

“There were times when I didn’t think that I was going to make it, but I did,” Sanderford said. “I chose OSU because it’s the best agricultural school in the United States. The courses required a lot of outside fieldwork, and I was challenged every step of the way. Graduating from OSU means the world to me.”

The number of Ecampus graduates who will be awarded diplomas Saturday includes students who are expected to complete degree requirements this summer and fall.

Ecampus: Media Contact: 

Tyler Hansen, 520-312-1276

Source: 

Lisa L. Templeton, 541-737-1279

Categories: Research news

OSU's food preservation and safety hotline opens July 14

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 9:39am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Extension Service's food preservation and safety hotline will help Oregonians safely can and preserve their garden's abundance again this summer.

The toll-free hotline at 1-800-354-7319 is available July 14 to Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The hotline remains a useful resource for food safety information even in the Internet age, said Nellie Oehler, a faculty member with the OSU Extension Service's Family and Community Health program and Master Food Preserver coordinator in Lane County.

"There's a lot of misinformation online and you have to know the right websites to get accurate information or you could literally kill yourself if you use techniques that are not safe," Oehler said. "People call us to get reliable information from a real person. The Lane and Douglas County Master Food Preservers who answer the calls have good training and years of experience canning and preserving food."

Like all Extension-certified Master Food Preservers, those who staff the hotline have completed 40 hours of training and agreed to spend a similar amount of time sharing their new knowledge with the public. Last year, 460 new and veteran Master Food Preservers throughout the state volunteered more than 20,000 hours of their time on the statewide hotline and at workshops and exhibits.

Master Food Preservers answered 2,262 calls during the 2013 summer season. About 80 percent of those dealt with food safety questions. Typical questions include where to get pressure gauges tested, how long in advance you can cook chicken before the big family picnic and whether grandma's canning recipe is still safe.  

For more information, go to the OSU Extension website on food preservation at http://bit.ly/YqgsFE. OSU Extension's Ask an Expert service also takes online questions about food preservation. Master Food Preservers also run a holiday food safety hotline every November. Find more information about the Master Food Preserver program at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/volunteer-programs.

Extension Service Media Contact:  Denise Ruttan Source: 

Nellie Oehler, 541-757-3937

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Michele Pryse, a Master Food Preserver trained by the Oregon State University Extension Service, teaches food preservation techniques and safety guidelines to clients in the Medford area. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Categories: Research news

Findings point toward one of first therapies for Lou Gehrig’s disease

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:56am
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Researchers are getting close to one of the first significant therapies ever known for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers have determined that a copper compound known for decades may form the basis for a therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In a new study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists from Australia, the United States (Oregon), and the United Kingdom showed in laboratory animal tests that oral intake of this compound significantly extended the lifespan and improved the locomotor function of transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to develop this debilitating and terminal disease.

In humans, no therapy for ALS has ever been discovered that could extend lifespan more than a few additional months. Researchers in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say this approach has the potential to change that, and may have value against Parkinson’s disease as well.

“We believe that with further improvements, and following necessary human clinical trials for safety and efficacy, this could provide a valuable new therapy for ALS and perhaps Parkinson’s disease,” said Joseph Beckman, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science.

“I’m very optimistic,” said Beckman, who received the 2012 Discovery Award from the OHSU Medical Research Foundation as the leading medical researcher in Oregon.

ALS was first identified as a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease in the late 1800s and gained international recognition in 1939 when it was diagnosed in American baseball legend Lou Gehrig. It’s known to be caused by motor neurons in the spinal cord deteriorating and dying, and has been traced to mutations in copper, zinc superoxide dismutase, or SOD1. Ordinarily, superoxide dismutase is an antioxidant whose proper function is essential to life.

When SOD1 is lacking its metal co-factors, it “unfolds” and becomes toxic, leading to the death of motor neurons. The metals copper and zinc are important in stabilizing this protein, and can help it remain folded more than 200 years.

“The damage from ALS is happening primarily in the spinal cord and that’s also one of the most difficult places in the body to absorb copper,” Beckman said. “Copper itself is necessary but can be toxic, so its levels are tightly controlled in the body. The therapy we’re working toward delivers copper selectively into the cells in the spinal cord that actually need it. Otherwise, the compound keeps copper inert.”

“This is a safe way to deliver a micronutrient like copper exactly where it is needed,” Beckman said.

By restoring a proper balance of copper into the brain and spinal cord, scientists believe they are stabilizing the superoxide dismutase in its mature form, while improving the function of mitochondria. This has already extended the lifespan of affected mice by 26 percent, and with continued research the scientists hope to achieve even more extension.

The compound that does this is called copper (ATSM), has been studied for use in some cancer treatments, and is relatively inexpensive to produce.

“In this case, the result was just the opposite of what one might have expected,” said Blaine Roberts, lead author on the study and a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, who received his doctorate at OSU working with Beckman.

“The treatment increased the amount of mutant SOD, and by accepted dogma this means the animals should get worse,” he said. “But in this case, they got a lot better. This is because we’re making a targeted delivery of copper just to the cells that need it.

“This study opens up a previously neglected avenue for new disease therapies, for ALS and other neurodegenerative disease,” Roberts said.

Other collaborators on this research include OSU, the University of Melbourne, University of Technology/Sydney, Deakin University, the Australian National University, and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Funding has been provided by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Linus Pauling Institute and other groups in Australia and Finland.

College of Science Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Joseph Beckman, 541-737-8867

Categories: Research news

Animal trapping records reveal strong wolf effect across North America

Thu, 06/12/2014 - 9:15am
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Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have used coyote and red fox fur trapping records across North America to document how the presence of wolves influences the balance of smaller predators further down the food chain.

From Alaska and Yukon to Nova Scotia and Maine, the researchers have demonstrated that a “wolf effect” exists, favoring red foxes where wolves are present and coyotes where wolves are absent.

This effect requires that enough wolves be present to suppress coyotes over a wide area. Fur trapping records from Saskatchewan and Manitoba reveal that where wolves are absent in the southern agricultural regions of each province, coyotes outnumber foxes on average by 3-to-1. However, where wolves are abundant in the North, the balance swings dramatically in favor of foxes on average by 4-to-1 and at an extreme of 500-to-1 at one site.

In between is a 200-kilometer (124-mile) transition zone where too few wolves are present to tip the balance between coyotes and foxes.

The results of the study by Thomas Newsome and William Ripple in the Oregon State University Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society were published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology by the British Ecological Society.

“As wolves were extirpated across the southern half of North America, coyotes dramatically expanded their range,” said Newsome, a post-doctoral researcher. “They were historically located in the middle and western United States, but they dispersed all the way to Alaska in the early 1900s and to New Brunswick and Maine by the 1970s.”

“So essentially coyotes have been dispersing into wolf and red-fox range in the North but also into areas where wolves are absent but red fox are present in the East,” Newsome added.

Newsome came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship from Australia where he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney and specialized in the study of dingoes, that continent’s top predator. There’s a debate among Australians, he said, about the potential role of dingoes in suppressing introduced pests that have already decimated wildlife there.

“Over the last 200 years, Australia has had the highest extinction rate in the world,” Newsome said. “The debate is about whether the dingo can provide positive ecological benefits. Where dingoes have been removed, the impacts of introduced red foxes and feral cats have been quite severe on native fauna.”

Dingoes are managed as a pest in New South Wales, the country’s most populous state. To reduce dingo predation in the livestock industry, Australia also maintains the world’s longest fence, which runs for 5,500 kilometers (3,400 miles) in an attempt to exclude dingoes from almost a quarter of the continent.

In North America, the effect of wolves on coyotes and red foxes provides a natural case study that can be instructive for Australians. “Australians can learn a lot from how wolves are managed in North America, and Americans can learn from the ecological role of the dingo,” Newsome said.

As coyotes have expanded in North America, they have become a major cause of concern for the livestock industry. In the United States in 2004, researchers estimated annual losses due to coyote predation on sheep and cattle at $40 million. To reduce those damages, the Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program to reduce coyote numbers, an effort that has drawn criticism from conservation groups.

In reviewing the fur trapping data from two U.S. and six Canadian jurisdictions, Newsome and Ripple eliminated potential sources of bias such as records from fur farms that raise foxes. The fur prices of coyotes and red foxes are also strongly correlated, and the two species occupy much of the same types of habitat, so they are equally likely to be targeted and caught in hunters’ traps.

“This study gives us a whole other avenue to understand the ecological effects of wolves on landscapes and animal communities,” said Ripple. He has studied the influence of carnivores on their prey — such as deer and elk — and on vegetation from aspen trees to willows. He and his colleagues have shown that the removal of top predators can cause dramatic shifts within ecosystems.

Wolves are naturally recolonizing many areas of the United States following their reintroduction into Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in 1995. Scientists are studying wolf interactions with other species, and in particular, there is interest in determining whether recolonizing wolves will suppress coyote populations and have cascading effects on red foxes and other species.

Newsome received funding from the Australian-American Fulbright Commission and from the government and universities of New South Wales in Australia.

 

College of Forestry Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Thomas Newsome, 541-737-3197

Wiliam Ripple, 541-737-3056

Multimedia Downloads Multimedia: 

Coyote (Photo: Shawn McCready)

Red fox (Photo: Kelly Colgan Azar)

Gray wolf (Photo: Doug McLaughlin)

Categories: Research news

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