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OSU, City of Corvallis to celebrate first Good Neighbor Day

News - 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”

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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

News - 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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Ice core study




Hauling cores



Climate forces

Categories: Research news

Use of dengue vaccine may cause short-term spikes in its prevalence

News - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 1:55pm
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A vaccine for dengue fever or some other diseases like it could actually cause temporary spikes in incidence of the disease in the first years after they are used.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As researchers continue to work toward vaccines for serious tropical diseases such as dengue fever, experts caution in a new report that such vaccines will probably cause temporary but significant spikes in the disease in the years after they are first used.

This counter-intuitive and unwanted result could lead to frustrated policy makers, a skeptical public and concerns that the vaccine is making things worse instead of better, researchers say.

In fact, it will just be the natural result of complex interactions between less-than-perfect vaccine protection and routine fluctuations in the populations of insects who carry the diseases.

“Our analysis suggests that if we develop and widely use a vaccine for dengue fever, there may later be spikes in the incidence of the disease that are two to three times higher than its normal level,” said Jan Medlock, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Oregon State University, and expert on the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease.

“We can explain why this will happen and show how, in the long run, vaccine use will clearly result in fewer cases of disease,” Medlock said. “Our concern is to warn people in advance about this issue, so that policy makers and the public don’t freak out and lose faith in the vaccination programs.”

This research, published in Epidemiology and Infection, was done by experts at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Clemson University, both of which supported the studies. Scientists used mathematical modeling to examine the quirks of infectious disease transmission that may lead to this quandary. The work was specific to dengue fever, but may also be relevant to other diseases for which vaccines are being sought, such as malaria, and in which the level of protection is less than total.

Dengue fever is a serious illness that affects about 50 million people a year, and for which researchers are hoping to develop effective vaccines in the near future. It’s not usually fatal but is extremely common in the tropics and subtropics, and has re-emerged in recent decades as the use of insecticides such as DDT has been stopped.

There are several serotypes, or strains of the dengue virus, that are spread by mosquitoes. One infection provides some protection, and two infections usually make a person resistant for the rest of their life. In Thailand, where the disease is prevalent, about 80 percent of children have two infections by the age of 11 and develop resistance. Dengue fever is found in 100 countries around the world and 2.5 billion people are at risk of infection.

“The problem, if and when we develop and use a vaccine, is that it will provide some, but not complete protection, and it will interrupt the natural, fairly steady rate of infections among children,” Medlock said.

In this scenario, the beginning of a vaccination program will slow the numbers of children getting the disease – for a while. But it’s expected that a dengue vaccine will not provide total protection against infection. Then, during a period when naturally fluctuating mosquito populations reach an unusually high level, a disproportionate number of children – who are still vulnerable to infection and have never had the disease – will become infected in a short period.

This could cause loss of faith in the vaccination program among the public or policy makers who have never seen such high levels of the disease, stretch the capabilities of health care facilities and workers to care for the sick, and in a worst-case scenario lead people to avoid the vaccine, researchers said. Some short-term spikes could even be as high as seven times the average rate, they said.

“In fact, we conclude in this analysis that over a 15-year period, a vaccination program will clearly reduce the number of overall infections,” Medlock said. “These significant spikes will mostly occur as the program is beginning. What we need to do is help people understand these forces so they anticipate them.”

A possible way to deal with this phenomenon, researchers said, is literally to vaccinate fewer people. This would cause higher numbers of people to get the disease in the long run but reduce the intensity of the spikes and the associated demands on a health care system.

The levels of disease will fluctuate based on such variables as location, climate, the efficacy of a vaccine, the numbers of people vaccinated, surges in insect populations, and other factors. This phenomenon may have occurred, or may occur in the future, with almost any vaccine that provides partial, but not total protection against infection.

College of Veterinary Medicine Media Contact:  David Stauth Source: 

Jan Medlock

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Dengue transmission

Categories: Research news

OSU launches new online programs to decrease high-risk alcohol use, sexual assaults

News - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 1:06pm
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Oregon State University has introduced a new series of required online courses aimed at combating alcohol abuse and sexual assault.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has introduced a new series of required online courses aimed at combating alcohol abuse and sexual assault.

The on-line programs will reach approximately 6,400 students, said Rob Reff, coordinator of substance abuse prevention programs within OSU’s Student Health Services Department.

Incoming first-year students to OSU’s Corvallis campus will be required to take AlcoholEdu, which is designed to help students make informed and healthy choices regarding alcohol and other drug use. It is not an anti-alcohol campaign, according to administrators, but rather an educational program giving students the tools they need in situations where drugs and alcohol are involved.

OSU is also requiring the sexual violence prevention course HAVEN for all incoming students – including those at OSU-Cascades and through Ecampus – in order to comply with the federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act that went into effect in March of 2014. This course helps educate students on sexual assault, consent, and how to be an active bystander.

 The OSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is requiring both programs for all its athletes.  

“OSU believes it is the responsibility of all students, faculty, and staff to create a community that encourages and promotes the well-being of our campus and the broader community,” Reff, said. “These two programs will provide all OSU students with an understanding of not only how to keep themselves safe but how to help fellow students.”

Students must complete these programs prior to arriving on campus for fall term 2014.  While at Oregon State, students will receive additional prevention and education on these topics from Student Health Services, University Housing and Dining Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and other departments.

Program administrators say these combined efforts will help students achieve academic success, health, and wellness while fostering a community of care for one another.

For more information: http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/welcome

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Robert Reff, 541-737-7564

Categories: Research news

OSU seeks public’s help to transcribe historic letters from start of the Cold War

News - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 10:05am
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A portion of the records from Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists are now available in an online exhibit through the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at Oregon State University Libraries and Press, and help is being sought from the public to transcribe the letters in the collection.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – After the atomic attack on Nagasaki at the end of World War II, America’s jubilation at the ending of the conflict turned to fear as the real implications of nuclear war began to sink in. In 1946, Albert Einstein founded the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists to educate the public on the dangers of atomic warfare and the mounting need for world peace.

A portion of the records from that committee are now available in an online exhibit through the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at Oregon State University Libraries and Press, and help is being sought from the public to transcribe the letters in the collection.

The exhibit includes documents and letters to and from the nine scientists making up the committee, including appeals for donations to support the group’s mission of peace.

Though only a portion of the collection has been loaded into the exhibit so far, each letter will be digitized and available for reading within the exhibit. Special Collections is crowdsourcing transcription of the letters, and encourages viewers to help create a full-text database of the letters' contents.

The collection was received at OSU as part of the personal papers of OSU alumnus and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, who was a member of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. It includes thousands of letters, and responses to them, reflecting appeals from ordinary Americans. Citizens sent anything from $1 to $10,000, along with letters expressing deep fear about the new world they lived in. In a personal and intimate tone, they wrote to Einstein expressing their distress at the idea of such a powerful and destructive weapon, and lamented the potential for atomic war.

The exhibit explores the work of the committee and illustrates its story through items from Special Collection’s extensive nuclear history collections. It highlights different types of letters received by the committee, including letters of criticism, encouragement, and advice, and closes with a brief look at the impact of the committee’s efforts. 

The exhibit also features maps, timelines, and other interactive features via Viewshare, a platform from the Library of Congress that creates visualizations of digitized cultural heritage collections.

Viewers of the exhibit can also browse a comprehensive list of tags for each letter, showing city, state, and donation amount, as well as the occupation and organizational affiliation of the sender.

The exhibit is of interest to a broad swath of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, including the history of science and technology, peace studies, public policy, sociology, political science, communication, and more.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Theresa Hogue Source: 

Anne Bahde, 541-737-3331 

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Categories: Research news

Greener neighborhoods lead to better birth outcomes, new research shows

News - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 8:44am
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Mothers who live in greener neighborhoods are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, a new study shows.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Mothers who live in neighborhoods with plenty of grass, trees or other green vegetation are more likely to deliver at full term and their babies are born at higher weights, compared to mothers who live in urban areas that aren’t as green, a new study shows.

The findings held up even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise, and neighborhood walkability, according to researchers at Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia.

“This was a surprise,” said Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State and lead author of the study. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise. The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”

Researchers aren’t sure yet where the link between greenness and birth outcome is. More study is needed to determine if additional green space provides more social opportunities and enhances a person’s sense of belonging in the community, or if it has a psychological effect, reducing stress and depression, Hystad said.

In a study of more than 64,000 births, researchers found that very pre-term births were 20 percent lower and moderate pre-term births were 13 percent lower for infants whose mothers lived in greener neighborhoods.

They also found that fewer infants from greener neighborhoods were considered small for their gestational age. Babies from the greener neighborhoods weighed 45 grams more at birth than infants from less green neighborhoods, Hystad said.

The study establishes an important link between residential “greenness” and birth outcomes that could have significant implications for public health, said Hystad, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health.

“From a medical standpoint, those are small changes in birth weight, but across a large population, those are substantial differences that would have a significant impact on the health of infants in a community,” Hystad said.

Babies born early or underweight often have more health and developmental problems, not just at birth but also as they continue to grow up, and the cost to care for pre-term and underweight infants also can be much higher, Hystad said.

Results of the study were published recently in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives.” Co-authors were Hugh W. Davies, Lawrence Frank, Josh Van Loon, Lillian Tamburic and Michael Brauer of the University of British Columbia; and Ulrike Gehring of Utrecht University in The Netherlands. The research was supported by a grant from Health Canada.

The study is also part of a growing body of work that indicates green space has a positive influence on health, Hystad said. Researchers examined more than 64,000 births in the Vancouver, British Columbia, area between 1999 and 2002, for individual environmental factors such as exposure to green space that might affect birth outcomes.

Since half the world’s population lives in urban areas, it’s important to understand how different aspects of the built environment – the buildings, parks and other human-made space we live in – might affect health, researchers said.

“We know a lot about the negative influences such as living closer to major roads, but demonstrating that a design choice can have benefits is really uplifting,” said Brauer, the study’s senior author. “With the high cost of healthcare, modifying urban design features such as increasing green space may turn out to be extremely cost-effective strategies to prevent disease, while at the same time also providing ecological benefits.”

It’s unclear how much or what type of green space is of most benefit to developing infants, but researchers do know that adding a planter to the patio or a tree to the sidewalk median probably won’t make a significant difference in birth outcomes.

“Planting one tree likely won’t help,” Hystad said. “You don’t really see the beneficial effects of green space until you reach a certain threshold of greenness in a neighborhood.”

One of the next steps for researchers is to better understand what that threshold is and why it makes a difference.

“We know green space is good. How do we maximize that benefit to improve health outcomes?” Hystad said. “The answer could have significant implications for land use planning and development.”

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

Perry Hystad, 541-737-4829, perry.hystad@oregonstate.edu or Katherine Came, 604-822-0530, Katherine.came@ubc.ca

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This map shows levels of greenness in Vancouver, British Columbia. Babies in greener areas had higher birthweights.

Researcher Perry Hystad

Categories: Research news

NSF grant gives OSU unique materials characterization capability

News - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 10:35am
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A major new grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire a $1.4 million instrument package will enhance the materials science research at OSU.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a $648,000 “major research instrumentation” grant from the National Science Foundation, part of a $1.4 million package to allow the university to acquire a near-ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, or XPS system.

The grant will be matched by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, and Oregon BEST.

“There will be no other XPS system in the world that has all the same capabilities,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor of chemical engineering at OSU and the grant’s principal investigator. “This laboratory will enhance interdisciplinary research and education programs throughout the scientific and engineering communities.”

Conventional XPS technology is a surface analysis technique, which provides the composition, chemical and electronic states of surfaces and interfaces from materials or thin-film structures — information needed in many applications such as catalysis, corrosion, adhesion, semiconductor and dielectric materials, and magnetic media. XPS is used in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, healthcare, and petrochemical industries, and samples under study must be kept under ultra-high vacuum conditions during the analysis.

“A unique aspect of this XPS system is that it allows us to study reactions at pressures close to those on the Earth’s surface, while typical XPS systems operate near lunar surface pressures,” said Herman. “These pressure extremes can significantly change the chemistries that can take place.”

The near-ambient XPS system will be the foundation of the surface characterization laboratory in Johnson Hall, a state-of-the-art engineering building and the future home of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. It will be available to researchers from OSU, the Oregon University System, and national and international collaborators from academia, government laboratories, and industry.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

Thuy Tran, 541-737-0787

Source: 

Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

Categories: Research news

Study: Pacific Northwest shows warming trend over past century-plus

News - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:23am
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Annual mean temperature in the Northwest has warmed by about 1.3 degrees (F) since the early 20th century – a warming trend that has been accelerating over the past 3-4 decades.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The annual mean temperature in the Pacific Northwest has warmed by about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the early 20th century – a gradual warming trend that has been accelerating over the past 3-4 decades and is attributed to anthropogenic, or human, causes.

The study is one of the first to isolate the role of greenhouse gases associated with regional warming, the authors say. It was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society.

“The amount of warming may not sound like a lot to the casual observer, but we already are starting to see some of the impacts and what is particularly significant is that the rate of warming is increasing,” said Philip Mote, director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study.

“Just a 1.3-degree increase has lengthened the ‘freeze-free’ season by 2-3 weeks and is equivalent to moving the snowline 600 feet up the mountain,” Mote added. “At the rate the temperature is increasing, the next 1.3-degree bump will happen much more quickly.”

In their study, the researchers looked at temperatures and precipitation from 1901 to 2012 in the Northwest, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana, and the northwestern tip of Wyoming. They examined four different factors to determine the influence of human activities, including greenhouse gases and aerosols; solar cycles; volcanic eruptions; and naturally occurring phenomena including El Niño events and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

Using what is called a “multilinear regression” approach, they were able to tease out the influences of the different factors. Volcanic activity, for example, led to cooler temperatures in 1961, 1982 and 1991. Likewise, El Niño events led to warming in numerous years.

“Natural variation can explain much of the change from year to year, but it cannot account for this long-term warming trend,” noted David Rupp, a research associate with the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and co-author on the report. “Anthropogenic forcing was the most significant predictor of, and leading contributor to, the warming.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • The Northwest experienced relatively cool periods from 1910-25 and from 1945-60, and a warm period around 1940 and from the mid-1980s until the present.
  • The warmest 10-year period has been from 1998 to 2007, and very few years since 1980 have had below average annual mean temperatures.
  • The most apparent warming trend is in the coldest night of the year, which has warmed significantly in recent decades.
  • The only cooling trend the study documented was for spring temperatures the last three decades and is tied to climate variability and increasing precipitation during those spring months.

“The spring has been robustly wetter,” Mote said, “and that has brought some cooler temperatures for a couple of months. But it has been drier in the fall and winter, and the warming in fall and winter has been steepest since the 1970s.”

Lead author John Abatzoglou of the University of Idaho said that the study ties the warming trend to human activities.

“Climate is a bit like a symphony where different factors like El Niño, solar variability, volcanic eruptions and manmade greenhouse emissions all represent different instruments,” Abatzoglou said. “At regional scales like in the Northwest, years or decades can be dominated by natural climate variability, thereby muffling or compounding the tones of human-induced warming.

“Once you silence the influence of natural factors,” he said, “the signal of warming due to human causes is clear – and it is only getting louder.”

The researchers also explored but were unable to find any link between warming in the Northwest over the past century and solar variability.

A major concern, the authors say, is that the warming seems to be increasing.

“Climate is complex and you can get significant variations from year to year,” Mote said. “You have to step back and look at the big picture of what is happening over time. Clearly the Northwest, like much of the world, is experiencing a warming pattern that isn’t likely to change and, in fact, is accelerating.

“At this rate, the chance of the temperature only going up 1.3 degrees in the next century is close to zero.”

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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

Phil Mote, 541-913-2274, philip.mote@coas.oregonstate.edu

David Rupp, 541-737-5222, David.Rupp@oregonstate.edu

John Abatzoglou, jabatzoglous@uidaho.edu, 208-885-6239

Categories: Research news

Grant will support, encourage women in academic STEM careers at OSU

News - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 9:17am
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A $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will be used to improve conditions for women in the academic science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve conditions for women in the academic science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, disciplines.

The five-year ADVANCE grant will be used to help recruit, retain and promote more women in STEM and the social and behavioral sciences at OSU; provide support for women in STEM and implement policies and programs that aid in these efforts.

“The goal of the grant is to transform the institutional climate for women in the STEM fields,” said Susan Shaw, the grant’s principal investigator. “What we want is an institution where difference is welcome and the value of different perspectives and experiences is understood.”

OSU is the first institution in the state to receive an institutional transformation grant from the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program. ADVANCE began in 2001 with the goal of increasing the representation and advancement of women in STEM and developing a more diverse science and engineering workforce. Past grant recipients include the University of Washington, Michigan State University and Cornell University.

“Through ADVANCE, the National Science Foundation invests in the future of women in STEM,” said program director Beth Mitchneck. “Supporting institutional change that furthers the advancement of women faculty is a means to making the institution more receptive to talent from all backgrounds.”

Women have historically been underrepresented in the STEM fields ­in academia. In 2012, 23 percent of Oregon State’s STEM faculty, including faculty in the social and behavioral sciences, were women. Women accounted for 20.8 percent of the full professorships in those disciplines.

OSU leaders have taken significant steps to enhance diversity on campus in recent years, and the ADVANCE grant is designed to further the university’s goals, Shaw said.

“A lot of the previous ADVANCE grants have tended to look at women as one group,” said Shaw, who is director of the School of Language, Culture and Society and a professor of women, gender and sexuality studies in the College of Liberal Arts.

“We’re looking at women across differences – race, sexual identity, social, class,” she said. “Those intersections are critically important to understanding women’s professional experiences and challenges.”

A new version of the university’s Difference, Power and Discrimination faculty development program will be crafted to focus on STEM issues. The program includes a summer seminar for STEM faculty and administrators on theories about systems of oppression and the impacts gender, race and class may have on how people participate in an institution, Shaw said.

The first steps to implementing the grant are hiring a program manager and establishing a website for the project. The first faculty seminars are expected next summer, she said.

Shaw and several co-investigators, including faculty in the sciences and social sciences, also will research how OSU’s ADVANCE program is working. They will present findings at conferences, share best practices with other institutions and develop an online journal about program activities, Shaw said.

The co-investigators are Rebecca Warner, senior vice provost for academic affairs; Michelle Bothwell, associate professor of bioengineering in the College of Engineering; Sarina Saturn, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Liberal Arts; and Tuba Ozkan-Haller, professor of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences and professor of civil and construction engineering.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Michelle Klampe Source: 

Susan Shaw, 541-737-3082, sshaw@oregonstate.edu

Categories: Research news

Grant to improve STEM success among underrepresented students

News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 3:21pm
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A new $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help OSU increase retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students in STEM fields.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve the retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields.

The program will benefit underrepresented minorities, women, and economically disadvantaged individuals, and help address a growing national need for workers trained in STEM disciplines.

Targeted at students in the colleges of science, engineering, and agricultural sciences, the OSU program will use methods proven to increase STEM success, such as small, cohort-based orientation courses; mentoring by student peers; and workshops given by upper-class STEM students.

Faculty-directed undergraduate research in the freshman and early sophomore years, and the immediate post-transfer year for community college students, will also help provide students with enriching experiences that increase learning and provide economic support to help disadvantaged students remain in school.

The program is designed to benefit 276 student participants over its five-year span, and will be evaluated and communicated to other universities, for them to benefit by replicating its successes.

“This should also help build a structure, design and institutional culture of support for STEM students that will be retained long after the funding has ended,” said Kevin Ahern, principal investigator on the grant and a leader in university efforts to get more undergraduate students involved in experiential learning.

Generic OSU Source: 

Kevin Ahern, 541-737-2305

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Student research

Categories: Research news

Intricate algae produce low-cost biosensors

News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 2:59pm
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OSU engineers are using diatoms, a type of single-celled algae, as a building block to create new types of biosensors.

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University researchers are combining diatoms, a type of single-celled photosynthetic algae, with nanoparticles to create a sensor capable of detecting miniscule amounts of protein or other biomarkers.

This is a new and innovative approach to optical biosensors, which are important in health care for such applications as detecting levels of blood glucose or the presence of antibodies. They are also used for chemical detection in environmental protection.

Existing biosensors often require high-cost fabrication using artificial photonic crystals to make a precisely structured device. But diatoms appear to have just the right kind of intricate structure to integrate with gold or silver nanoparticles and produce a low-cost optical biosensor.

 “I've been working on this kind of sensor for a long time, and using diatoms instead of fabricating photonic crystals makes life much easier,” said Alan Wang, an assistant professor of electrical engineering in the OSU College of Engineering. “And from a commercial point of view it's much lower cost, about 50 cents compared to $50.”

Jeremy Campbell, a graduate student in chemical engineering working with OSU professor Greg Rorrer, brought the diatom to Wang’s attention. This launched a collaboration sponsored by the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute and Marine Polymer Technologies.

Although diatoms are being studied by other groups for applications such as batteries, no one else is researching their use for optical biosensors. Producing a low-cost sensor is important for a consumable product that is thrown away after one use.

Research has shown that using diatoms boosts the performance of the nanoparticles by increasing the absolute value of the signal by 10 times, and the sensitivity by 100 times. The current sensitivity of the OSU biosensor is 1 picogram per milliliter, which is much better than optical sensors used in clinics for detecting glucose, proteins and DNA, which have a sensitivity of 1 nanogram per milliliter.

“Combining naturally created structures with chemically synthesized nanoparticles has the potential to revolutionize the fabrication of photonic devices,” Wang said.

College of Engineering Media Contact: 

By Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

Source: 

Alan Wang

Categories: Research news

Fungi that changed the world featured at Corvallis Science Pub

News - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:51pm
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If you eat bread, drink beer or take antibiotics, thank the fungi that make these things possible. At the Sept. 8 Corvallis Science Pub, Joey Spatafora, a leading fungal biologist, will share the often-bizarre tales of this kingdom of life and reveal how human civilization would be so much poorer without it.

If you eat bread, drink beer or take antibiotics, thank the fungi that make these things possible. At the Sept. 8 Corvallis Science Pub, Joey Spatafora, a leading fungal biologist, will share the often-bizarre tales of this kingdom of life and reveal how human civilization would be so much poorer without it.

The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 SW 2nd St. in Corvallis.

“Without fungi, human life would be very different — no beer or cheese; no penicillin or cyclosporin antibiotics,” said Spatafora, professor of botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University. “Our forests would be far less resilient and productive. And we’d be swimming in every manner of waste product.”

Spatafora specializes in fungal evolution and leads an international effort funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to sequence the genomes for 1,000 fungal species. He also led a 10-year study called Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life. Out of the estimated 1.5 million species of fungi, scientists have described only about 100,000.

Sponsors of Science Pub include Terra magazine at OSU, the Downtown Corvallis Association and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

 

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Joey Spatafora, 541-737-5304

Categories: Research news

Businesses and government agencies increase Oregon State research funding in 2014

News - Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:44pm
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Oregon State University’s growing research enterprise achieved its second highest level of funding support ever, in the fiscal year that ended June 30 – $285 million in total grants and contracts to support work in public health, the environment, advanced engineering and projects to help develop Oregon’s and the nation’s economy.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University’s growing research enterprise achieved its second highest level of funding support ever, in the fiscal year that ended June 30 – $285 million in total grants and contracts to support work in public health, the environment, advanced engineering and projects to help develop Oregon’s and the nation’s economy.

In 2010 OSU received $288 million, a total boosted by a $36 million shot-in-the-arm from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). “If you take that one-time funding out of the picture, this past year was our best,” said Ron Adams, interim vice president for research at Oregon State.

“The success of our researchers in competing for grants shows we have a portfolio that is broad and deep,” Adams added. “We have support from more than two dozen state and federal agencies. And on the strength of that work, we continue to attract investment by business, industry and private foundations.”

In the past year, private-sector funding reached a record $37 million, a 50 percent increase over 2010.

Business payments to Oregon State to license patented technologies for product development reached nearly $6 million, more than double what the university received in 2010. OSU patents for transparent transistors, wheat varieties and formaldehyde-free adhesives generated most of that income, said Brian Wall, director of OSU Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development.

Through the Oregon State University Advantage, OSU continues to spin off new companies and to partner with existing ones. During the past year, 19 university and community clients have advanced toward launching new companies. They include:

  • Beet, developer of a thin-film solar cell that aims to increase energy efficiency and accelerate the adoption of solar electricity;
  • MuTherm, which is advancing a microscale combustion and heat exchanger system for heating air, water and other fluids;
  • Waste2Watergy, a company focused on microbial fuel cells to generate electricity and treat wastewater;
  • OnBoard Dynamics, whose goal is to commercialize an at-home natural-gas vehicle fueling system being developed at OSU-Cascades in Bend.

The OSU Advantage Accelerator is a component of the Oregon Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or Oregon RAIN. With support from the Oregon Legislature, collaborators include OSU, the University of Oregon, the cities of Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis and Albany and economic development organizations.

At any one time, OSU researchers are conducting more than 1,400 active research projects on topics such as aging, robotics, materials, pharmaceuticals, computer software, salmon recovery, climate, education and health risks from pollutants. They are developing new crop varieties, investigating the use of unmanned aerial systems in agriculture and forest management, improving the understanding of ocean productivity and studying new materials for energy storage.

In 2014, work continued on the design of a new ocean-going research vessel with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). OSU leads this project, estimated to reach $360 million if NSF opts to build three new ships over the next 10 years.

Research funding totaling about $171 million was obtained from more than a dozen federal agencies, with the NSF and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture being the most significant contributors. That was an 11 percent increase over federal funds received in 2013.

Private foundations also provided significant support. The Keck Foundation approved a $1 million grant to OSU to study materials that can change shape when exposed to light and may lead to novel ways to store hydrogen and capture carbon-dioxide. The David and Lucille Packard Foundation provided $1 million for PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, for work on climate change and West Coast marine ecosystems.

Technologies developed at OSU continue to make an impact on global markets and the local economy. Transparent transistors developed in the past decade are a critical component in virtually all flat-panel display screens. NuScale Power, an Oregon-based energy development company, is expanding its workforce in response to a $217 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Generic OSU Media Contact:  Nick Houtman Source: 

Ron Adams, Vice President for Research, 541-737-7722

Multimedia Downloads Multimedia: 

Malwina Gradecka, Ph.D. student from the Warsaw University of Technology

Siva Kolluri, associate professor and cancer researcher, Environmental and Molecular Toxicology

Jonathan Hurst, assistant professor of robotics

Categories: Research news

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