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Mechanized human hands: System designed to improve hand function lost to nerve damage

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 2:07pm
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The OSU creation of a simple pulley mechanism for implantation in human hands may some day help restore grasping function for people with nerve damage.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Engineers at Oregon State University have developed and successfully demonstrated the value of a simple pulley mechanism to improve hand function after surgery.

The device, tested in cadaver hands, is one of the first instruments ever created that could improve the transmission of mechanical forces and movement while implanted inside the body.

After continued research, technology such as this may offer new options to people who have lost the use of their hands due to nerve trauma, and ultimately be expanded to improve function of a wide range of damaged joints in the human body.

The findings were just reported in Hand, a professional journal, by researchers from OSU and the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. The research was supported by OSU.

“This technology is definitely going to work, and it will merge artificial mechanisms with biological hand function,” said Ravi Balasubramanian, an expert in robotics, biomechanics and human control systems, and assistant professor in the OSU College of Engineering.

“We’ll still need a few years to develop biocompatible materials, coatings to prevent fibrosis, make other needed advances and then test the systems in animals and humans,” Balasubramanian said. “But working at first with hands – and then later with other damaged joints such as knees or ankles – we will help people recover the function they’ve lost due to illness or injury.”

Initially, the OSU research will offer a significant improvement on surgery now used to help restore the gripping capability of hands following nerve damage. That procedure, called tendon-transfer surgery for high median-ulnar palsy, essentially reattaches finger tendons to a muscle that still works. But the hand function remains significantly impaired, requiring a large amount of force, the stretching of tendons, and fingers that all move at the same time, instead of separately as is often needed to grasp an object.

The new mechanism developed at OSU is not really robotic since it has no sensory, electronic or motor capabilities, Balasubramanian said. Rather, it’s a passive technology using a basic pulley that will be implanted within a person’s hand to allow more natural grasping function with less use of muscle energy.

“Many people have lost the functional use of their hands due to nerve damage, sometimes from traumatic injury and at other times from stroke, paralysis or other disorders,” Balasubramanian said. “The impact can be devastating, since grasping is a fundamental aspect of our daily life. The surgery we’re focusing on, for instance, is commonly performed in the military on people who have been injured in combat.”

The new research showed, in cadavers, how the mechanism developed for this problem can produce more natural and adaptive flexion of the fingers in grasping. The needed force to close all four fingers around an object was reduced by 45 percent, and the grasp improvement on an object reduced slippage by 52 percent.

Such progress can be an important step to improve function beyond the existing surgical procedure, by providing an alternative to the suture which has been the previous mainstay. The hand, experts say, is amazingly complex, with 35-38 muscles and 22 joints all working together, innervated by three nerves between the elbow and fingertip.

The long-term potential of such mechanized assistance is profound. In some cases, Balasubramanian said, it may indeed be possible to create joints or limbs that mechanically function as well or better than they did originally.

“There’s a lot we may be able to do,” he said. “Thousands of people now have knee replacements, for instance, but the knee is weaker after surgery. With mechanical assistance we may be able to strengthen and improve that joint.”

This work is part of a rapidly expanding robotics research and education program at OSU, in fields ranging from robotic underwater vehicles to prosthetic limbs, search and rescue missions and advanced manufacturing. New graduate degrees in robotics were just recently added at the university, one of the few institutions in the nation to have such graduate programs.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Ravi Balasubramanian

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Pulley mechanism

Categories: Research news

Oregon GEAR UP Receives $18 Million for College Readiness

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 4:35pm
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Oregon will receive $2.6 million a year for seven years for college readiness initiatives as part of the statewide GEAR UP program, the U.S. Department of Education has announced.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon will receive $2.6 million a year for seven years for college readiness initiatives as part of the statewide GEAR UP program, the U.S. Department of Education has announced. Oregon GEAR UP -- which is an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs -- is a federally-funded college access and success program that increases the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

As part of Oregon State University’s Office of Precollege Programs, Oregon GEAR UP works with cohorts of middle and high school students over a period of seven years to meet their specific educational needs. Services and activities include academic tutoring, financial literacy, FAFSA completion, college tours, and parent engagement programs, among others. GEAR UP serves students starting in 7th grade, and follows them through the first year of college. The work is carried out by staff in school districts in rural communities around the state, with a variety of supports from the central GEAR UP office and the contributions of many community partners.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to continue the good work of GEAR UP in Oregon,” said Stephanie Carnahan, director of the Oregon GEAR UP program. “Our partnerships with rural communities across the state will make education beyond high school a reality for thousands of additional students.”

Activities and services will be concentrated in 21 rural communities, which are expected to serve more than 13,000 students over seven years. Selected as part of a competitive process in the spring of 2014, these communities and schools are:

Bandon: Bandon Senior High, Harbor Lights Middle
Blue River: McKenzie High, McKenzie Elementary
Boardman: Riverside Jr/Sr High
Cave Junction: Illinois Valley High, Lorna Byrne Middle
Chiloquin: Chiloquin Jr/Sr High
Cottage Grove: Cottage Grove High, Kennedy High, Lincoln Middle
Culver: Culver High, Culver Middle
Dayton: Dayton High, Dayton Jr. High
Elgin: Elgin High, Stella Mayfield Elementary
Gold Beach: Gold Beach High, Riley Creek Elementary
Klamath Falls: Klamath Union High, Ponderosa Junior High
La Pine: La Pine High, La Pine Middle
Lebanon: Lebanon High, Seven Oak Middle, Pioneer School, Hamilton Creek School, Lacomb School
Lincoln City: Taft High
Lowell: Lowell Jr/Sr High
Myrtle Creek: South Umpqua High, Coffenberry Middle
Newport: Newport High, Newport Prep Academy
Oakridge: Oakridge High, Oakridge Junior High
Rogue River: Rogue River Jr/Sr High
Stanfield: Stanfield Secondary
Umatilla: Umatilla High, Clara Brownell Middle

In addition to these communities, Oregon GEAR UP serves 14 additional middle and high schools in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties that are supported by The Ford Family Foundation. The central office also provides resources to all schools across the state and coordinates statewide college readiness efforts such as College Application Week. Since 2002, the GEAR UP program has supported more than 32,000 students in 83 schools.

“Over the years, I’ve met many students involved in the GEAR UP program and I can tell you first-hand this program makes a difference,” said Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR). “The students I met prove that given the opportunity, every child in Oregon has the potential to get a college degree and contribute to our increasingly sophisticated and knowledge-based economy. The GEAR UP program is not only good for Oregon families but also for our country’s economic future.”

Oregon GEAR UP is a federally-funded program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enroll and succeed in college. For more information go to: http://gearup.ous.edu/

Generic OSU Source: 

Stephanie Carnahan, GEAR UP Director, 541-346-5761, 

Dana Beck, GEAR UP Program Manager –541-737-2922

Categories: Research news

Auditions for OSU production of ‘Mother Courage’ to be held Oct. 1-2

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 1:33pm
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Auditions for 'Mother Courage and Her Children,' the first production of Oregon State University Theatre’s 2014-15 season, will be held Oct. 1-2

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Auditions for “Mother Courage and Her Children,” the first production of Oregon State University Theatre’s 2014-15 season, will be held Oct. 1-2.

Auditions will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. each day in the Withycombe Hall Theatre, 2901 S.W. Campus Way, Corvallis. Free parking is available on the north side of the building. Auditions are open to anyone interested in performing, including high school and college students, OSU staff and members of the community.

Tryouts will consist of group readings from the script. Those interested in auditioning are asked to read the play in advance. Scripts will be available for temporary checkout from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, in the theatre office, Withycombe Hall Room 141.

The cast includes 32 characters but a core of 15 actors and actresses of all ages will perform multiple roles. Some characters will sing but the performers need not be trained singers. A few members of the cast may play an instrument on stage, and those auditioning are encouraged to bring an instrument if they have one. Performers also are encouraged to prepare a short, 30-second song without accompaniment to determine vocal ability and placement, though singing is not a requirement to be cast in the show.

“Mother Courage and Her Children,” by Bertolt Brecht, was written in the late 1930s as an anti-war play; it is harsh, grim and dark, with a sardonically humorous edge. It fits in with the theme of the 2014-15 University Theatre season, “War and Remembrance.”

Rehearsals will be held in the evenings, Sunday through Thursday, in October and early November. Performances will be held Nov. 13, 14, and 16 and Nov. 21-23.

For additional information contact director George Caldwell, george.caldwell@oregonstate.edu or 503-931-4222 or Arin Dooley, arin.dooley@oregonstate.edu or 541-737-2853.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Elizabeth Helman, Elizabeth.Helman@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU President Ray calls for university-wide effort to halt sexual assaults

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 12:18pm
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Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray on Tuesday challenged all students, faculty, staff and community members to work together to end sexual violence.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray on Tuesday challenged all students, faculty, staff and community members to work together to end sexual violence.

Ray’s challenge follows the announcement last Friday by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden of the “It’s On Us” campaign to raise awareness of – and ultimately prevent - sexual assaults on university campuses.

In a letter to the Oregon State community, Ray pointed to several programs at OSU that focus on education and prevention of sexual assaults and then said “that is not enough.” He challenged all members of the Oregon State community to get involved in their own way.

“I expect each and every one of us – regardless of where you work or attend classes – to become informed about sexual violence and to take the responsibility to help prevent and report all forms of sexual violence or harassment,” Ray said. “I have no doubt that we can all do something.

“Teaching faculty can learn how best to use classroom and advising opportunities to promote awareness, safety and support,” Ray pointed out. “Likewise, advisers, fraternities and sororities, supervisors, coaches, friends, etc. can all become informed about how they can respond and help this important effort.

“We are a community and should work together to ensure each of us are safe.”

The OSU president noted that an estimated one in five women nationally is sexually assaulted during her college years. Sexual violence can impact anyone, he said, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. In the great majority of cases, individuals are assaulted by someone they know and even trust, whether as an acquaintance, classmate, friend, or current or former partner.

Of those assaults, it is estimated that only 12 percent nationally are reported, and only a fraction of the offenders are held accountable.

“Sexual assault is a severely violating experience that can cause a victim substantial immediate and long-term physical and mental health consequences,” Ray said. “These assaults must end, and to do so will require our collective focus locally and nationally.”

Oregon State will develop an “It’s On Us” website that will have  information about the university’s response, prevention and education programs as well as information on how each of us can be part of the solution. The website will link to the national campaign and additional resources.

Ray asked all students and employees to learn about OSU’s programs and services regarding sexual violence reporting, emergency response, education and community services.

“During the course of the 2014-15 academic year Oregon State will take additional steps to address sexual violence within our community,” Ray said. “We will keep everyone informed of these important developments.” The university will publicize these efforts through the sexual assault website, the OSU Today newsletter, the online LIFE@OSU magazine, social media and other communications.

“It’s on us to end sexual assaults in the Oregon State University community,” Ray said. “Each of us has a role in creating a caring community – based on civility and respect – that is free of sexual assaults and other forms of harassment and violence.”

 

                                                                     OSU Sexual Assault Prevention Services and Programs

Confidential support, counseling and advocacy services: 

Sexual assault reporting and response services:

Awareness and prevention education programs and services:

  • “Haven” -- Online prevention education program required for all incoming OSU students and student athletes.
  • “AlcoholEdu” Substance abuse prevention program required for all incoming first-year students attending OSU in Corvallis.
  • Sexual violence prevention educator on staff in OSU Student Health Services. (541-737-9355)

Academic programs, such as those offered in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Other OSU efforts:

  • On-going training for all for all residential staff in University Housing and Dining Services in conjunction with the Office of Equity and Inclusion; Sexual Assault Support Services; and Student Health Services to understand, identify and appropriately respond to disclosures of sexual violence.
  • Residence hall educational programming – including resource information and support – provided by professional staff and members of student.
  • Required educational programs for students living in OSU’s Affiliated Housing Program, made up of fraternities and sororities.
  • Sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training for OSU employees by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Oregon State employee policy on responding to disclosures of sexual violence or sexual harassment:

OSU’s Community Partners:

  • Corvallis Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence (CARDV) provides confidential, 24-hour hotline services in the Corvallis area. (541-754-0110) http://cardv.org/
  • Guide to sexual assault service responders in communities through Oregon and the U.S. https://www.notalone.gov/resources
  • Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis (541-768-5111)
  • Hospitals and medical centers in your community

 Future sexual assault education programs services

  • OSU Student Health Services is creating a center on violence prevention; and alcohol and drug abuse to work with Corvallis campus and community partners to expand and enhance education, outreach and prevention efforts.
  • Office of Equity and Inclusion is taking additional steps to expand awareness of sexual violence and enhance prevention education among OSU employees.
Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217; steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

“Brain Breaks” increase activity, educational performance in elementary schools

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 10:26am
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An exercise DVD created by the Healthy Youth Program at the Linus Pauling Institute may help promote short exercise breaks in elementary school classrooms.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A recent Oregon survey about an exercise DVD that adds short breaks of physical activity into the daily routine of elementary school students found it had a high level of popularity with both students and teachers, and offered clear advantages for overly sedentary educational programs.

Called “Brain Breaks,” the DVD was developed and produced by the Healthy Youth Program of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and is available nationally.

Brain Breaks leads children in 5-7 minute segments of physical activity, demonstrated by OSU students and elementary school children from Corvallis, Oregon. The short periods of exercise aim to improve the physical health, mental awareness and educational success of children.

“We’re increasingly recognizing the importance of physical activity for children even as the academic demands placed on them are cutting into the traditional programs of recess and physical education,” said Gerd Bobe, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, an expert in public health nutrition and behavior, and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute.

“Kids need to move, they can’t just sit all day long,” Bobe said. “Given the time constraints and multiple demands that schools are facing, we really believe the concept of short activity breaks, right in the classroom, is the way to go.”

Oregon law, for instance, mandates that by 2017 elementary schools will be required to have 30 minutes a day of physical education classes, in addition to recess periods. But a survey conducted by the Healthy Youth Program found that 92 percent of Oregon public elementary schools currently do not meet this standard. And sometimes, Bobe said, elimination of recess is used as a disciplinary tool, potentially taking activity away from those students who may need it the most.

Brain Breaks was created to bring more activity back into classrooms, especially when it may be most useful – in the afternoon after lunch, for instance, when attention spans and concentration tend to waver. Research has shown that physical activity can increase academic performance, student focus and classroom behavior, Bobe said.

The program offers a variety of segments, including six based on stretching and relaxation, five on endurance, and one on strength, with imaginative concepts such as “space adventures” and “crazy kangaroos.” No equipment is needed, other than a chair for the strength segment, and all activities can be done in a classroom setting. An abstract of the work has been published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

A recent survey of the Healthy Youth Program that was sent to participating Oregon school districts found that:

  • Almost all teachers said the program was appropriate for their classes and well-understood by the class;
  • More than 90 percent of teachers said the exercise segments had the right length, and that students were more focused after using the program;
  • All of the segments were popular with more than 80 percent of students, but the stretching and relaxation activities had the highest approval, at 95 percent, and were also most frequently used by teachers;
  • About three-fourths of the teachers were using the program two to three times per week, and more than 90 percent plan to continue its use.

“Longer periods of exercise have a place, but research shows that these short programs can be very valuable as well,” Bobe said. “They can increase oxygen consumption, range of motion, endurance, and get kids in the habit of being more active. A little bit of exercise can go a long way.”

A second edition of the DVD is being developed, Bobe said. More information on the DVD is available online at http://bit.ly/1o6rcHk, including a video trailer and how to buy a copy.

“This survey shows a program that’s working and is valuable,” Bobe said. “We hope it becomes popular across the nation.”

Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Gerd Bobe, 541-737-1898

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Exercise breaks

Categories: Research news

Land policy changes would sequester more carbon and conserve habitat

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 9:26am
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CORVALLIS, Ore. – Rewarding landowners for converting farmland into forest will be key to sequestering carbon and providing wildlife habitat, according to a new study by Oregon State University and collaborators.

Current land-use trends in the United States will significantly increase urban land development by mid-century, along with a greater than 10 percent reduction in habitat of nearly 50 at-risk species, including amphibians, large predators and birds, said David Lewis, co-author of the study and an environmental economist in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"One of the great challenges of our time is providing food, timber and housing, while also preserving the environment," said Lewis. "Our simulations show our growing appetite for resources could have cascading effects on wildlife and other vital services provided by nature."

"Policymakers have tools to increase tree cover and limit urban sprawl, such as targeted taxes, incentives and zoning," he added.

Paying landowners $100 an acre per year to convert land into forest would increase forestland by an estimated 14 percent and carbon storage by 8 percent by mid-century, the researchers say. Timber production would increase by nearly 20 percent and some key wildlife species would gain at least 10 percent more habitat, they added.

Yet this subsidy program would also shrink food production by 10 percent and comes with an annual $7.5 billion price tag, said Lewis.

Another policy option – charging landowners $100 per acre of land that is deforested for urban development, cropland or pasture – would generate $1.8 billion a year in revenue. More than 30 percent of vital species would gain habitat. Yet carbon storage and food production would shrink slightly, according to the study.

"Price drives how most landowners decide what to do with their property,” Lewis said. “Some choices have market values – such as selling food and timber – and yet others, like sequestering carbon, do not earn money for landowners, who then have less incentive to provide them."

"To reverse loss of habitat and boost carbon storage, the government could provide compensation for services the free market does not currently offer," added Lewis.

However, researchers found neither the tax nor subsidy plan would limit the growth of urban sprawl. Instead, they simulated a prohibition on new urban development – such as building new housing and commercial properties – in rural and non-metropolitan areas.

By 2051, the policy would decrease urban growth by 24 percent in the researchers' simulation, but it would result in smaller gains in habitat and carbon storage than the tax and subsidy.

"There are inherent tradeoffs involved in any policy,” Lewis pointed out. “More urban land comes at the expense of wildlife habitat, and more carbon storage could reduce food production. Understanding these choices can help us prepare for the different shapes our landscapes may take in the future."

Co-authors of the study include researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Washington, University of Minnesota, University of California-Santa Barbara, Bowdoin College, Florida International University, and the World Wildlife Fund.

The study (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/20/7492.full) was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Funding was provided by grants from the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station.

College of Agricultural Sciences Media Contact:  Daniel Robison Source: 

David Lewis, 541-737-1334

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Prohibiting new development in certain areas limits urban growth more effectively than targeted taxes and incentives, say OSU researchers. (Photo by Bob Rost.)

Categories: Research news

Compound from hops aids cognitive function in young animals

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 9:05am
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A compound found in hobs and beer can improve cognitive function in young mice, and continues to be of interest to scientists studying the impacts of aging on health and memory.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Xanthohumol, a type of flavonoid found in hops and beer, has been shown in a new study to improve cognitive function in young mice, but not in older animals.

The research was just published in Behavioral Brain Research by scientists from the Linus Pauling Institute and College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University. It’s another step toward understanding, and ultimately reducing the degradation of memory that happens with age in many mammalian species, including humans.

Flavonoids are compounds found in plants that often give them their color. The study of them – whether in blueberries, dark chocolate or red wine - has increased in recent years due to their apparent nutritional benefits, on issues ranging from cancer to inflammation or cardiovascular disease. Several have also been shown to be important in cognition.

Xanthohumol has been of particular interest because of possible value in treating metabolic syndrome, a condition associated with obesity, high blood pressure and other concerns, including age-related deficits in memory. The compound has been used successfully to lower body weight and blood sugar in a rat model of obesity.

The new research studied use of xanthohumol in high dosages, far beyond what could be obtained just by diet. At least in young animals, it appeared to enhance their ability to adapt to changes in the environment. This cognitive flexibility was tested with a special type of maze designed for that purpose.

“Our goal was to determine whether xanthohumol could affect a process we call palmitoylation, which is a normal biological process but in older animals may become harmful,” said Daniel Zamzow, a former OSU doctoral student and now a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin/Rock County.

“Xanthohumol can speed the metabolism, reduce fatty acids in the liver and, at least with young mice, appeared to improve their cognitive flexibility, or higher level thinking,” Zamzow said. “Unfortunately it did not reduce palmitoylation in older mice, or improve their learning or cognitive performance, at least in the amounts of the compound we gave them.”

Kathy Magnusson, a professor in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute and corresponding author on this study, said that xanthohumol continues to be of significant interest for its biological properties, as are many other flavonoids.

“This flavonoid and others may have a function in the optimal ability to form memories,” Magnusson said. “Part of what this study seems to be suggesting is that it’s important to begin early in life to gain the full benefits of healthy nutrition.”

It’s also important to note, Magnusson said, that the levels of xanthohumol used in this study were only possible with supplements. As a fairly rare micronutrient, the only normal dietary source of it would be through the hops used in making beer, and “a human would have to drink 2000 liters of beer a day to reach the xanthohumol levels we used in this research.”

In this and other research, Magnusson’s research has primarily focused on two subunits of the NMDA receptor, called GluN1 and GluN2B. Their decline with age appears to be related to the decreased ability to form and quickly recall memories.

In humans, many adults start to experience deficits in memory around the age of 50, and some aspects of cognition begin to decline around age 40, the researchers noted in their report.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Linus Pauling Institute Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Kathy Magnusson, 541-737-6923

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Hops

Categories: Research news

OSU to move in most new students Sept. 23-24

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 2:36pm
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Oregon State University will host its two main days of new resident move-in on Tuesday, Sept. 23, and Wednesday, Sept. 24.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University will host its two main days of new resident move-in on Tuesday, Sept. 23, and Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Increased traffic and congestion are expected on those days. Visitors to campus should expect limited parking and potential traffic delays as un-loading zones are set up around the residence halls.

More than 3,000 residents are expected to arrive Tuesday and Wednesday, many with family and friends in tow. Hundreds of campus and community volunteers will help with move-in.

In addition, many residents of the International Living-Learning Center will arrive Sunday, Sept. 21, in time for international orientation. That and a steady trickle of other early arrivals will mean that about 1,500 additional residents will already be in place before the main two move-in days.

New this year, will be the opening of Tebeau Hall on the east side of campus. The new residence hall is named for alumnus William “Bill” Tebeau (1925-2013), an Oregon engineer and teacher who was a pioneering student who persevered through numerous challenges to become the first African American man to graduate from Oregon State in 1948.

Tebeau’s family will be in attendance at a dedication ceremony for the hall at 2 p.m. Oct. 9. The community is welcome to attend the celebration at Tebeau Hall.

For more information on these events, contact University Housing & Dining Services at 541-737-4771 or housing@oregonstate.edu.

Generic OSU Source: 

Jennifer Viña 541-737-8187

Categories: Research news

Concern grows over pet pills and products, as well as those of owners

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:49am
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A new survey will address the emerging problem of disposal of pharmaceutical and personal care products - for both humans and pets - that have the potential to harm watersheds.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists have long been aware of the potential environment impacts that stem from the use and disposal of the array of products people use to keep themselves healthy, clean and smelling nice.

Now a new concern is emerging – improper disposal of pet care products and pills.

Dog shampoos, heartworm medicine, flea and tick sprays, and a plethora of prescription and over-the-counter medicines increasingly are finding their way into landfills and waterways, where they can threaten the health of local watersheds. An estimated 68 percent of American households have at least one pet, illustrating the potential scope of the problem.

How bad is that problem? No one really knows, according to Sam Chan, a watershed health expert with the Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State University.

But Chan and his colleagues aim to find out. They are launching a national survey (online at: http://tinyurl.com/PetWellbeingandEnvironment)  of both pet owners and veterinary care professionals to determine how aware that educated pet owners are of the issue, what is being communicated, and how they dispose of  “pharmaceutical and personal care products” (PPCPs) for both themselves and their pets. Pet owners are encouraged to participate in the survey.

“You can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of these products,” Chan said. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.”

Increasingly, Chan said, a suite of PPCPs used by pets and people are being detected at low levels in surface water and groundwater. Examples include anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogens, the insect repellent DEET, and ultraviolet (UV) sunblock compounds.

Some of the impacts from exposure to these products are becoming apparent. Fish exposed to levels of antidepressants at concentrations lower than sewage effluence, for example, have been shown to become more active and bold – making them more susceptible to predation, noted Chan, an OSU Extension Sea Grant specialist.

“Triclosan is another concern; it is a common anti-microbial ingredient in soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, clothing, cookware, furniture and toys to prevent or reduce bacterial contamination for humans and pets,” Chan said. “It is being linked to antibiotic resistance in riparian zones, as well as to alterations in mammal hormone regulation – endocrine disruptor – and impacts on immune systems.”

Another common endocrine disruptor, the researchers say, is coal tar, a common ingredient in dandruff shampoo for humans, and pet medicines for skin treatment.

Jennifer Lam conducted a preliminary survey of veterinary practitioners as part of her master’s thesis at Oregon State University and found awareness by veterinary professionals of the environmental issues caused by improper disposal of PPCPs was high. Yet many did not share that information with their clients.

In fact, veterinarians only discussed best practices for disposal with their clients 18 percent of the time, her survey found.

“The awareness is there, but so are barriers,” Lam said. “Communicating about these issues in addition to care instructions takes time. There may be a lack of educational resources – or a lack of awareness on their availability. And some may not think of it during the consultation process.”

The National Sea Grant program recently partnered with the American Veterinary Medicine Association to promote the reduction of improper PPCP disposal. The national survey is a first step in that process.

“Most people tend to throw extra pills or personal care products into the garbage and in fewer instances, flush them down the drain,” Chan said. “It seems like the right thing to do, but is not the most environmentally friendly method for disposing unused or expired PPCPs. Waste in landfills produce leachates and these contaminates may not be fully deactivated by current wastewater treatments. They can get into groundwater and streams, where they can cause a variety of environmental problems and create a health risk as well.”

When disposing of expired or unneeded medications, the researchers say, don’t flush them. Instead, take to them to a drug take-back event or depository. New rules to be implemented by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) later this fall will make drug take-back options more available.

Chan and Lam suggest that in areas where take-back options are not available, people should mix unused or unwanted drugs with coffee grounds or kitty litter – something that will be unpalatable to pets. Then put the mixture in a sealed container and deposit it in the trash.

Results from the national survey led by Oregon Sea Grant will provide much-needed information to guide education, watershed monitoring and improvements on ways to reduce PPCP contamination and their environmental impacts.

The survey will continue until Nov. 1.

Oregon Sea Grant Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Sam Chan, 503-679-4828, sam.chan@oregonstate.edu;

Jennifer Lam, lamj@onid.oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Lack of facial expression leads to perceptions of unhappiness, new OSU research shows

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:05am
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People with facial paralysis are perceived as being less happy simply because they can’t communicate in the universal language of facial expression, new OSU research shows.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – People with facial paralysis are perceived as being less happy simply because they can’t communicate in the universal language of facial expression, a new study from an Oregon State University psychology professor shows.

The findings highlight the important role the face plays in everyday communication and indicates people may hold a prejudice against those with facial paralysis because of their disability, said Kathleen Bogart, an assistant professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University.

“People are more wary and more likely to form a negative impression of someone with a disability,” Bogart said. “Identifying that stigma is the first step to addressing it.”

Bogart specializes in research on ableism, or prejudice about disabilities. Much of her work focuses on the psychosocial implications of facial movement disorders such as facial paralysis and Parkinson’s disease, which affect more than 200,000 Americans each year.

“Facial paralysis is highly visible,” Bogart said. “Everyone notices there’s a difference, but people have no idea why. They don’t understand the nature of the condition.”

Some basic facial expressions, including the smile, are communicated universally across cultures. But people with facial paralysis or other facial movement disorders may not be able to participate in that communication because they lack emotional expression and may seem unresponsive in social situations.

To better understand how those with facial paralysis are perceived by those without facial paralysis, Bogart conducted an experiment comparing how emotions are perceived based on different forms of communication.

About 120 participants, none of whom had facial paralysis, watched or listened to videos of people with varying degrees of facial paralysis and were asked to rate the subject’s emotions as the person recounted happy or sad experiences. Participants were assigned to videos highlighting several communication channels, including video of just the person’s face; video of the person’s face and body; or voice-only audio with no video; as well as combinations of different types of communication.

Those with severe facial paralysis were rated as less happy than those with milder facial paralysis across all the different communication types and combinations. Those with severe facial paralysis were also rated as less sad than those with milder facial paralysis.

The findings confirmed that people with facial paralysis experience stigma, but it also confirmed that people often rely on a combination of communication channels to perceive emotions, Bogart said.

That’s important because people with facial paralysis can adapt other communication channels, such as tone of voice or gestures, to enhance their communication ability, she said. Also, people interacting with someone with facial paralysis can be more watchful of other communication cues that might indicate emotion, she said. 

“It’s not all about the face,” Bogart said. “Studies like this tell us more about the way people communicate, verbally and non-verbally.” 

Her findings were published recently in the journal “Basic and Applied Social Psychology.” Co-authors of the study are Linda Tickle-Degnen of Tufts University and Nalini Ambady of Stanford University. The research was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Bogart is now studying ways to help people with facial paralysis use compensatory strategies to improve communication. She has developed a social skills workshop for teenagers with facial paralysis and hopes to do more work like that in the future.

 “We know these strategies work, so let’s teach people to use those skills more,” she said. “A lot of people with facial paralysis do just fine, but there are some people who would like help or support.”

Making people aware of the stigma about facial paralysis and educating them about the causes and effects is the biggest key to reducing existing misconceptions and prejudices, Bogart said.

“People need to be able to recognize facial paralysis, and understand that they may need to pay more attention to communication cues beyond facial expression,” she said.

College of Liberal Arts Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Kathleen Bogart, 541-737-1357, Kathleen.bogart@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU part of national alliance to help students

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 7:59am
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OSU and 10 other prominent research universities have formed a nationwide alliance aimed at helping retain and ultimately graduate more first-generation and low-income students.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and 10 other prominent research universities have formed a nationwide alliance aimed at helping retain and ultimately graduate more first-generation students and students from low-income families.

The new consortium, known as the University Innovation Alliance, already has received $5.7 million in funding from charitable foundations, which will be matched by the member institutions.

The alliance is designed to develop and share best practices on ways to better engage first-generation and low-income students by creating a national “playbook” of successful initiatives. Access to higher education – and success upon matriculating – has long been a priority for OSU President Edward J. Ray, himself a first-generation college student.

“This alliance is near and dear to my heart because I know first-hand how important it is to provide mentoring and resources for these students,” Ray said. “Oregon State has some innovative and successful programs and we look forward to sharing our ideas and learning from other institutions ways we can do even more.”

Students from high-income families are seven times more likely to attain a college degree than those from low-income families. The United States will face a shortage of at least 16 million college graduates by 2025, studies show, and the alliance’s founding members are focused on addressing this gap at a time when public funding for higher education has been decreasing.

Joining Oregon State in forming the alliance are: Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of California, Riverside, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, and University of Texas at Austin.

Supporting the initiative are the Ford Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, USA Funds and the Markle Foundation.

The $11.4 million in overall funding will be used in a variety of ways, focusing on encouraging leaders of innovative programs to engage with other member institutions, according to Rebecca Warner, OSU’s senior vice provost for academic affairs.

Institutions affiliated with the alliance have a track record of success in helping students from all backgrounds. Georgia State, for example, successfully used predictive analytics and advising interventions to increase its semester-to-semester student retention rates by 5 percent and reduce time-to-degree for graduating students by almost half a semester.

That led to 1,200 more students staying in school every year, and the Georgia State Class of 2014 saved $10 million in tuition and fees compared to graduates a year earlier. If these same innovations were scaled across the 11 alliance member institutions over the next five years, it is estimated that an additional 61,000 students would graduate and save almost $1.5 billion in educational costs to students and taxpayers.

Sabah Randhawa, OSU’s provost and executive vice president, said Oregon State looks forward to sharing information about some of its successful programs, including the College Assistance Migrant Program for children for migrant families; the Educational Opportunities Program, a resources for students of color, students with disabilities, low-income students, veterans and others; and TRIO Support Services, a program aimed at boosting student retention.

“Oregon State also has some targeted precollege programs like Juntos, which is helping Latino students in central Oregon better prepare for going to college in the first place,” Randhawa said. “That kind of a head start can be critical in the success of students down the road.”

“We also will be sharing our successes with Ecampus, which annually is ranked among the best programs of its kind in the country,” Randhawa added. OSU Ecampus offers 35 degrees and certificate programs, and has grown at a rate of about 20 percent annually over the past five years.

More information on the University Innovation Alliance is available at www.theuia.org

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Becky Warner, 541-737-0732; becky.warner@oregonstate.edu;

Steve Clark, 503-502-8217, steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

OSU, City of Corvallis to celebrate first Good Neighbor Day

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 12:21pm
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Oregon State University and the City of Corvallis are collaborating on the inaugural Good Neighbor Day Community Welcome on Sunday, Sept. 28.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and the City of Corvallis are collaborating on the inaugural Good Neighbor Day Community Welcome on Sunday, Sept. 28.

This local event, which takes place on National Good Neighbor Day, includes a community fair, canvassing of Corvallis neighborhoods by volunteers, and a chance for students, other citizens and businesses to interact, according to Jonathan Stoll, OSU’s director of Corvallis Community Relations.

“This is the first event in what we plan to make an annual celebration,” Stoll said. “Community Welcome is a chance to engage hundreds of community residents, students, local businesses, and the staffs of both the City of Corvallis and OSU in building community by facilitating positive interaction between neighbors.”

The community fair will be held from 1-4 p.m. on Sept. 28 in the parking lot adjacent to Rice’s Pharmacy, 910 N.W. Kings Blvd. It will include a DJ and music, local food vendors, information about community and university resources and an appearance from OSU mascot Benny Beaver. A drawing will be held for a pair of tickets to the Nov. 29 Civil War football game between Oregon State and the University of Oregon. Other drawing items include Beaver-branded merchandise and memorabilia.

Stoll said volunteers will visit many Corvallis neighborhoods to meet and greet residents – established and new alike – and share information designed to encourage livability and good neighborly behavior.

For additional information, contact Stoll at: jonathan.stoll@oregonstate.edu, or 541-829-2624.

 

Several organizations helped launch the inaugural Good Neighbor Day Community Welcome. They include the City of Corvallis Rental Housing Program, Corvallis Fire Department, Corvallis Police Department, Rental Property Management Group, Associated Students of OSU, OSU Athletics, Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Conduct and Community Standards, Student Health Center, Corvallis Community Relations and Corvallis Neighborhood Associations.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Mark Floyd Source: 

Jonathan Stoll, 541-829-2624

Categories: Research news

Vitamin E intake critical during “the first 1000 days”

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 3:26pm
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Adequate levels of vitamin E are especially critical for the very young, the elderly, and women who are or may become pregnant, a new report suggests.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Amid conflicting reports about the need for vitamin E and how much is enough, a new analysis published today suggests that adequate levels of this essential micronutrient are especially critical for the very young, the elderly, and women who are or may become pregnant.

A lifelong proper intake of vitamin E is also important, researchers said, but often complicated by the fact that this nutrient is one of the most difficult to obtain through diet alone. Only a tiny fraction of Americans consume enough dietary vitamin E to meet the estimated average requirement.

Meanwhile, some critics have raised unnecessary alarms about excessive vitamin E intake while in fact the diet of most people is insufficient, said Maret Traber, a professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute and national expert on vitamin E.

“Many people believe that vitamin E deficiency never happens,” Traber said. “That isn’t true. It happens with an alarming frequency both in the United States and around the world. But some of the results of inadequate intake are less obvious, such as its impact on the nervous system and brain development, or general resistance to infection.”

Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin E – nuts, seeds, spinach, wheat germ and sunflower oil - don’t generally make the highlight list of an average American diet. One study found that people who are highly motivated to eat a proper diet consume almost enough vitamin E, but broader surveys show that 90 percent of men and 96 percent of women don’t consume the amount currently recommended, 15 milligrams per day for adults.

In a review of multiple studies, published in Advances in Nutrition, Traber outlined some of the recent findings about vitamin E. Among the most important are the significance of vitamin E during fetal development and in the first years of life; the correlation between adequate intake and dementia later in life; and the difficulty of evaluating vitamin E adequacy through measurement of blood levels alone.

Findings include:

  • Inadequate vitamin E is associated with increased infection, anemia, stunting of growth and poor outcomes during pregnancy for both the infant and mother.
  • Overt deficiency, especially in children, can cause neurological disorders, muscle deterioration, and even cardiomyopathy.
  • Studies with experimental animals indicate that vitamin E is critically important to the early development of the nervous system in embryos, in part because it protects the function of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, which is important for brain health. The most sensitive organs include the head, eye and brain.
  • One study showed that higher vitamin E concentrations at birth were associated with improved cognitive function in two-year-old children.
  • Findings about diseases that are increasing in the developed world, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and diabetes, suggest that obesity does not necessarily reflect adequate micronutrient intake.
  • Measures of circulating vitamin E levels in the blood often rise with age as lipid levels also increase, but do not prove an adequate delivery of vitamin E to tissues and organs.
  • Vitamin E supplements do not seem to prevent Alzheimer’s disease occurrence, but have shown benefit in slowing its progression.
  • A report in elderly humans showed that a lifelong dietary pattern that resulted in higher levels of vitamins B,C, D and E were associated with a larger brain size and higher cognitive function.
  • Vitamin E protects critical fatty acids such as DHA throughout life, and one study showed that people in the top quartile of DHA concentrations had a 47 percent reduction in the risk of developing all-cause dementia.

“It’s important all of your life, but the most compelling evidence about vitamin E is about a 1000-day window that begins at conception,” Traber said. “Vitamin E is critical to neurologic and brain development that can only happen during that period. It’s not something you can make up for later.”

Traber said she recommends a supplement for all people with at least the estimated average requirement of vitamin E, but that it’s particularly important for all children through about age two; for women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant; and for the elderly.

This research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Maret Traber, 541-737-7977

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High in vitamin E

Categories: Research news

Report urges individualized, cholesterol-targeted approach to heart disease and stroke

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 3:11pm
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OSU pharmacy experts helped author a new national report to provide more individual guidance on who could best benefit from statin drugs to lower cholesterol.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A recent guideline for using statins to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease has wavered too far from the simple cholesterol goals that have saved thousands of lives in the past decade, and doesn’t adequately treat patients as individuals, experts said today in a national report.

An expert panel coordinated by the National Lipid Association has created its own outline for how to best treat people at risk for cardiovascular disease, which they say focuses on reducing cholesterol to an appropriate level, and puts less emphasis on whether or not a patient fits into a certain type of group.

“We continue to believe in cholesterol targets that are easy for patients to understand and work toward, first using changes in lifestyle and then medication if necessary,” said Matt Ito, one of two lead authors on the report, an expert in cardiovascular drug treatments and a professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy.

“We’re also concerned about treating people just because they fall into a group that’s supposedly at risk,” Ito said. “There are ways to more accurately treat patients as individuals and understand their complete health profile. And we have a better understanding now of what conditions pose the most risk for causing a heart attack or stroke, and how to address that in a comprehensive manner.”

A report issued last year by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association identified four general groups that would primarily benefit from statins, and its recommendations if followed will dramatically increase the number of people using these drugs.

By contrast, the new report from the National Lipid Association has outlined what their experts believe to be a more individualized set of recommendations that practitioners could use to treat people at risk of cardiovascular disease; more information is available online at www.lipid.org/recommendations. They are intended to complement the guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, Ito said.

Among the conclusions in the report:

  • A root cause of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is cholesterol-containing particles attaching to the walls of arteries.
  • A healthy lifestyle that incorporates diet, weight management and exercise should be the first approach to lowering cholesterol levels that are too high.
  • Control and reduction of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol is important, but an even better overall marker of risk is “non-HDL cholesterol,” which is total cholesterol minus its HDL component.
  • Patients at very high risk, such as those who have already had a cardiac event, should try to achieve non-HDL cholesterol levels below 100, while those at lower risk levels should try to achieve levels below 130.
  • Drug therapies specifically aimed at lowering triglyceride levels may not be necessary unless they are very high, over 500; and efforts to specifically raise HDL levels have been shown to be both less important and less achievable.
  • Use of more potent statin drugs, at moderate to high doses if necessary, should be the first approach to reach cholesterol goals if lifestyle changes have not been adequate.
  • Use of other medications or therapies, such as fibrates, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, niacin or omega-3 fatty acids can be considered if cholesterol and triglyceride goals are not reached with statins alone.
  • Non-lipid risk factors should also be managed, such as high blood pressure, cigarette smoking and diabetes.

“Cholesterol is still a primary factor in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease,” Ito said. “If it’s too high, the levels should be brought down by changes in lifestyle and medication if necessary. And in general, the lower the cholesterol, the better.”

Statins have proven themselves as one of the most effective way to reduce cholesterol, Ito said, and are now comparatively inexpensive with limited side effects. Proper medication management and reducing the potential for drug interactions can address some types of side effects, and any problems should be weighed against the risk of heart attack or stroke, he said.

Factors known to raise the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease include age, family history, smoking, high blood pressure, overweight, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels, especially those caused by genetics.

College of Pharmacy Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Matthew Ito, 503-494-3657

Categories: Research news

OSU receives Gold designation for sustainability

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 10:35am
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Oregon State University has again received a “Gold” designation from STARS, the second highest rating a university can receive. 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has again received a “Gold” designation from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, or STARS, the second highest rating a university can receive.  Platinum is the highest rating, but no university received that designation this year.

STARS is administered by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, of which OSU is a member. Schools are rated in four large categories of academics; engagement; operations, planning and administration; and one additional innovation category.

“This repeated Gold designation is a great indicator of the comprehensive and consistent nature of OSU’s sustainability work,” said Brandon Trelstad, OSU’s sustainability coordinator.

“It’s a team effort that includes entities beyond the Sustainability Office, like Campus Recycling and the Student Sustainability Initiative,” Trelstad said. “We have established solid programs but are always looking for ways to expand positive impact and demonstrate leadership.”

OSU was the first Oregon university to be rated by STARS, and received a Gold designation in 2011, and again in 2013.

This year, OSU received high marks for its sustainability coordination and planning, its diversity and affordability, and a perfect score on campus engagement. It also earned high marks for academic research, including support and access.

President Edward Ray said that STARS provided a guidepost in helping the university develop programs and initiatives around sustainability.

"The assessment is a valuable tool in forging new conversations and inspiring actions around issues of global importance, like biodiversity, climate change, divestment and social justice," Ray wrote in his submittal letter to the STARS Steering Committee.

Of other participating Oregon institutions, only Portland State University received a Gold designation. Pacific University and Oregon Institute of Technology received “Bronze” designations, and University of Oregon’s designation was “Reporter.”

To see OSU’s full STARS assessment, visit http://bit.ly/1qOeGAW. For more information on OSU’s efforts in sustainability,  http://fa.oregonstate.edu/sustainability/

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Brandon Trelstad, 541-737-3307

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Solar panel array at Oregon State University

Categories: Research news

OSU to celebrate Johnson Hall construction on Sept. 15

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 1:47pm
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Oregon State University will celebrate the construction launch of its newest engineering building on Monday, Sept. 15, and the public is invited.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will celebrate the construction launch of its newest engineering building on Monday, Sept. 15, and the public is invited.

A ceremony and reception will begin at 1:30 p.m. to honor the donors who made this facility project possible and celebrate the impact it will make on OSU’s education and research programs, especially in the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. The events will take place at the building site at S.W. Park Terrace Place and Monroe Avenue, just north of Kelley Engineering Center.

Speakers include Julia Brim-Edwards, an OSU alumna and senior director for Global Strategy & Operations for Nike Corporation’s Government and Public Affairs team. She serves on the Oregon Education Investment Board.

The state-of-the-art, 58,000-square-foot engineering building is designed to be a place of collaboration and innovation in education and research for faculty, students and industry professionals. It will include labs for interdisciplinary research and a center focused on improving recruitment and retention of engineering students.

The building bears the name, and will continue the innovative legacy, of Peter and Rosalie Johnson. A 1955 Oregon State chemical engineering graduate, Peter Johnson revolutionized battery manufacturing equipment with his trademarked invention for making battery separator envelopes.

The Johnsons committed $7 million to begin construction on the new facility, leveraging an earlier gift of $10 million from an anonymous donor and $3 million in additional private funds, matched by $20 million in state funds.

In addition to being the lead donors for the facility initiative, the Johnsons previously created the Pete and Rosalie Johnson Internship program, which provides opportunities to at least two dozen Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering students annually. They also established the Linus Pauling Chair in chemical engineering to support a faculty member with industry experience who mentors students. The position currently is held by Philip Harding.

“We are so pleased that this new facility will honor the Johnsons and be a place dedicated to supporting the same areas they have always emphasized: collaborative research and hands-on learning for students,” said Scott Ashford, dean of the College of Engineering and Kearney Professor.

“Their investment, and that of our other generous donors, will have a powerful impact on Oregon and our world,” added Ashford, a 1983 OSU alumnus.

Johnson Hall follows two other major facility projects for the College of Engineering during The Campaign for OSU: construction of the $45 million, 153,000-square-foot Kelley Engineering Center, completed in 2005; and the $12 million complete renovation of historic Kearney Hall, completed in 2009. The university will celebrate donors to The Campaign for OSU during Homecoming Week on Friday, Oct. 31, at a public showcase and reception.

College of Engineering Source: 

Molly Brown, 541-737-3602

Categories: Research news

Even small stressors may be harmful to men’s health, new OSU research shows

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 9:17am
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Older men who lead high-stress lives are likely to die earlier than the average for their peers, new research from Oregon State University shows.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Older men who lead high-stress lives, either from chronic everyday hassles or because of a series of significant life events, are likely to die earlier than the average for their peers, new research from Oregon State University shows.

“We’re looking at long-term patterns of stress – if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality, or if you have a series of stressful life events, that could affect your mortality,” said Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Her study looked at two types of stress: the everyday hassles of such things as commuting, job stress or arguments with family and friends; and significant life events, such as job loss or the death of a spouse.

Both types appear to be harmful to men’s health, but each type of stress appears to have an independent effect on mortality. Someone experiencing several stressful life events does not necessarily have high levels of stress from everyday hassles, Aldwin said. That is determined more by how a person reacts to the stress.

“It’s not the number of hassles that does you in, it’s the perception of them being a big deal that causes problems,” Aldwin said. “Taking things in stride may protect you.”

Aldwin’s latest research on long-term patterns of stress in men was published recently in the journal “Experimental Gerontology.” Co-authors of the study were Yu-Jin Jeong of Chonbuk National University in Korea; Heidi Igarashi and Soyoung Choun of OSU; and Avron Spiro III of Boston University. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The researchers used data from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study. They studied stressful life events and everyday hassles for 1,293 men between 1989 and 2005 then followed the men until 2010. About 43 percent of the men had died by the end of the study period.

About a third of the men who reported having few stressful life events had died, while closer to half of the men reporting moderate or high numbers of stressful events had died by the end of the study.

Men who reported few everyday hassles had the lowest mortality rate, at 28.7 percent. Just under half of the men reporting a mid-range number of hassles had died by the end of the study, while 64.3 percent of the men reporting a high number of hassles had died.

Stressful life events are hard to avoid, but men may live longer if they’re able to control their attitudes about everyday hassles, such as long lines at the store or traffic jams on the drive home, Aldwin said.

“Don’t make mountains out of molehills,” she said. “Coping skills are very important.”

The study gives a snapshot of the effects of stress on men’s lives and the findings are not a long-term predictor of health, she said. Stress and other health issues can develop over a long period of time.

Aldwin said future research will look more closely at the different stressors’ effects on health to see if the two types of stress have similar or different impacts on the body’s physiology. Understanding how stress affects health.

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

Carolyn Aldwin, 541-737-2024, Carolyn.aldwin@oregonstate.edu

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Carolyn Aldwin

Categories: Research news

Program expansion to continue progress with wave energy development

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 3:13pm
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A new grant will allow the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center to expand its program to include research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – With the support of new funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) will expand its technological research and environmental monitoring efforts, and add a new partner – the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The center was previously a partnership of Oregon State University and the University of Washington, but will now collaborate with experts in Alaska, a state with some of the greatest wave and tidal energy resources in the nation. The partnership will also enable researchers to learn more about the energy potential of large, flowing rivers.

The DOE announced last week that it will contribute up to $4 million for continued NNMREC research programs, and that NNMREC faculty will also share in another $3.25 million grant to improve “water power” technologies that convert the energy of waves, tides, rivers and ocean currents into electricity.

“We’re extremely excited about the opportunity to add Alaska Fairbanks to our program,” said Belinda Batten, director of NNMREC and a professor in the OSU College of Engineering.

“Alaska has an enormous energy resource, both in its coastal waves, tidal currents and powerful rivers,” she said. “Partnering with Alaska Fairbanks will allow us to expand the scope of our energy research and tap into additional expertise, to more quickly move wave, tidal, and river energy closer to commercial use.”

The new funding will allow NNMREC to develop an improved system for real-time wave forecasting; create robotic devices to support operations and maintenance; design arrays that improve the performance of marine energy conversion devices; improve subsea power transmission systems; and standardize approaches for wildlife monitoring. Federal officials said the overall goal is to reduce the technical, economic and environmental barriers to deployment of new marine energy conversion devices.

“Oregon State University has been a world leader in developing wave energy technology and it’s great that the Department of Energy has recognized this fact in awarding this grant,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who helped obtain the new federal support for these programs.

“Along with its university partners in Washington and Alaska, this funding will help ensure that the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center remains an important national center for ocean energy development not just for the Northwest, but for the entire country.”

Other steps have been taken recently by NNMREC to advance wave energy. They include:

  • The North Energy Test Site, located just north of Newport, Ore., is operational, and a mobile instrumentation buoy, the Ocean Sentinel, can be used to monitor and test wave energy conversion devices.
  • A $750,000 grant from the Department of Energy is helping the center continue its engineering design and planning for the South Energy Test Site, located just south of Newport. This will be a grid-connected, wave energy test facility that will use the power generated by conversion devices while assisting in their testing and development.
  • The two test sites together will function as the offshore wave energy facilities for the Pacific Marine Energy Center, and will be the leading facilities of this type in the United States.
  • Significant progress has been made in how to process, permit and monitor wave energy technology as it emerges from the laboratory to ocean test sites, and ultimately to commercial use.
  • Experts are working to anticipate some of the various types of wave energy devices that may be created and determine what types of environmental monitoring may be required when they are deployed.
  • As part of the regulatory process for the South Energy Test Site, NNMREC is collaborating closely with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Marine Fisheries Services and more than a dozen other state and federal agencies.
  • Work is also continuing on environmental monitoring, characterization of the wave resource in this area, improved control systems for wave energy devices, testing of a mooring system, and other initiatives.
  • Studies are examining the sociological, biological and ecosystem effects of wave energy systems.

The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the potential total recoverable wave energy resource along the U.S. continental shelf edge is almost one third of the total electricity used in the U.S. each year.

Wave energy’s sustainable generating potential equates to about 10 percent of global energy needs.

College of Engineering Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Belinda Batten, 541-737-9492

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Energy testing

Categories: Research news

OSU part of major grant to study Southern Ocean carbon cycle

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 9:24am
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A new six-year, $21 million initiative funded by the NSF will explore the role of carbon and heat exchanges in the vast Southern Ocean – and their potential impacts on climate change.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new six-year, $21 million initiative funded by the National Science Foundation will explore the role of carbon and heat exchanges in the vast Southern Ocean – and their potential impacts on climate change.

The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling program will be headquartered at Princeton University, and include researchers at several institutions, including Oregon State University. It is funded by NSF’s Division of Polar Programs, with additional support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

The Southern Ocean acts as a carbon “sink” by absorbing as much as half of the human-derived carbon in the atmosphere and much of the planet’s excess heat. Yet little is known of this huge body of water that accounts for 30 percent of the world’s ocean area.

Under this new program known by the acronym SOCCOM, Princeton and 10 partner institutions will create a physical and biogeochemical portrait of the ocean using hundreds of robotic floats deployed around Antarctica. The floats, which will be deployed over the next five years, will collect seawater profiles using sophisticated sensors to measure pH, oxygen and nitrate levels, temperature and salinity – from the ocean surface to a depth of 1,000 meters, according to Laurie Juranek, an Oregon State University oceanographer and project scientist.

“This will be the first combined large-scale observational and modeling program of the entire Southern Ocean,” said Juranek, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “It is a very important region, but difficult to access – hence the use of robotic floats to collect data. However, not everything that we need to know can be measured by sensors, so we’ll need to get creative.”

Juranek's role in this project is to develop relationships between the measured variables and those that can't be measured directly by a sensor but are needed for understanding Southern Ocean carbon dioxide exchanges. These relationships can be applied to the float data as well as to high-resolution models. To do this work she is partnering with colleagues at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

In addition to its role in absorbing carbon and heat, the Southern Ocean delivers nutrients to lower-latitude surface waters that are critical to ocean ecosystems around the world, said program director Jorge Sarmiento, Princeton's George J. Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological Engineering and director of the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. And as levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere, models suggest that the impacts of ocean acidification are projected to be most severe in the Southern Ocean, he added.

"The scarcity of observations in the Southern Ocean and inadequacy of earlier models, combined with its importance to the Earth's carbon and climate systems, means there is tremendous potential for groundbreaking research in this region," Sarmiento said.

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

Laurie Juranek, 541-737-2368; ljuranek@coas.oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Study resolves discrepancy in Greenland temperatures during end of last ice age

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 2:35pm
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A new study of three ice cores from Greenland, dating to the end of the last ice age, helps to resolve a long-standing paradox over when that warming occurred.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study of three ice cores from Greenland documents the warming of the large ice sheet at the end of the last ice age – resolving a long-standing paradox over when that warming occurred.

Large ice sheets covered North America and northern Europe some 20,000 years ago during the coldest part of the ice age, when global average temperatures were about four degrees Celsius (or seven degrees Fahrenheit) colder than during pre-industrial times. And then changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun increased the solar energy reaching Greenland. Beginning some 18,000 years ago, release of carbon from the deep ocean led to a graduate rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

Yet past analysis of ice cores from Greenland did not show any warming response as would be expected from an increase in CO2 and solar energy flux, the researchers note.

In this new study, funded by the National Science Foundation and published this week in the journal Science, scientists reconstructed air temperatures by examining ratios of nitrogen isotopes in air trapped within the ice instead of isotopes in the ice itself, which had been used in past studies.

Not only did the new analysis detect significant warming in response to increasing atmospheric CO2, it documents a warming trend at a rate closely matching what climate change models predict should have happened as the Earth shifted out of its ice age, according to lead author Christo Buizert, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the Science article.

“The Greenland isotope records from the ice itself suggest that temperatures 12,000 years ago during the so-called Younger Dryas period near the end of the ice age were virtually the same in Greenland as they were 18,000 years ago when much of the northern hemisphere was still covered in ice,” Buizert said. “That never made much sense because between 18,000 and 12,000 years ago atmospheric CO2 levels rose quite a bit.”

“But when you reconstruct the temperature history using nitrogen isotope ratios as a proxy for temperature, you get a much different picture,” Buizert pointed out. “The nitrogen-based temperature record shows that by 12,000 years ago, Greenland temperatures had already warmed by about five degrees (Celsius), very close to what climate models predict should have happened, given the conditions.”

Reconstructing temperatures by using water isotopes provides useful information about when temperatures shift but can be difficult to calibrate because of changes in the water cycle, according to Edward Brook, an Oregon State paleoclimatologist and co-author on the Science study.

“The water isotopes are delivered in Greenland through snowfall and during an ice age, snowfall patterns change,” Brook noted. “It may be that the presence of the giant ice sheet made snow more likely to fall in the summer instead of winter, which can account for the warmer-than-expected temperatures because the snow records the temperature at the time it fell.”

In addition to the gradual warming of five degrees (C) over a 6,000-year period beginning 18,000 years ago the study investigated two periods of abrupt warming and one period of abrupt cooling documented in the new ice cores. The researchers say their leading hypothesis is that all three episodes are tied to changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which brings warm water from the tropics into the high northern latitudes.

The first episode caused a jump in Greenland’s air temperatures of 10-15 degrees (C) in just a few decades beginning about 14,700 years ago. An apparent shutdown of the AMOC about 12,800 years ago caused an abrupt cooling of some 5-9 degrees (C), also over a matter of decades.

When the AMOC was reinvigorated again about 11,600 years ago, it caused a jump in temperatures of 8-, 11 degrees (C), which heralded the end of the ice age and the beginning of the climatically warm and stable Holocene period, which allowed human civilization to develop.

“For these extremely abrupt transitions, our data show a clear fingerprint of AMOC variations, which had not yet been established in the ice core studies,” noted Buizert, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.  “Other evidence for AMOC changes exists in the marine sediment record and our work confirms those findings.”

In their study, the scientists examined three ice cores from Greenland and looked at the gases trapped inside the ice for changes in the isotopic ration of nitrogen, which is very sensitive to temperature change. They found that temperatures in northwest Greenland did not change nearly as much as those in southeastern Greenland – closest to the North Atlantic – clearly suggesting the influence of the AMOC.

“The last deglaciation is a natural example of global warming and climate change,” Buizert said. “It is very important to study this period because it can help us better understand the climate system and how sensitive the surface temperature is to atmospheric CO2.”

“The warming that we observed in Greenland at the end of the ice age had already been predicted correctly by climate models several years ago,” Buizert added. “This gives us more confidence that these models also predict future temperatures correctly.”

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

Christo Buizert, 541-737-1209

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