The College of Science
The College of Science makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve in Oregon, the nation, and the world. The College helps students in all disciplines experience how important science and mathematics are to global issues affecting their lives. Learning in our classrooms leads students in our majors and in the professional schools to explore new ideas. Our faculty and students work together in the field and in the laboratory to discover new knowledge for solving the economic, social, and environmental challenges facing our communities. The faculty, students, and staff of the College of Science achieve results that change the world.
The College is committed to providing outstanding education and training to graduate students in science; pursuing basic and applied research to advance the frontiers of scientific and technical knowledge, and advancing the health, environment, and economic welfare of the citizens of Oregon and the nation.
Faculty members of the College of Science engage in basic and applied research in biological sciences, physical and mathematical sciences, earth and environmental sciences, and education. The college includes over 200 faculty, about 400 graduate students, and generates about $30 million annually in external grant and contract support. Our faculty play key roles in eleven of the university’s centers, institutes, and interdisciplinary programs. These faculty lead or contribute to all six of the university’s research and teaching initiatives, and they collaborate with colleagues in virtually every other college at Oregon State University.
The College maintains diverse and vibrant research programs and has developed particular strengths in several areas. These include ecology and evolutionary biology; applied mathematics and numerical analysis; computational physics; cellular and molecular biology (including biochemistry and microbiology); materials sciences; and earth and environmental sciences (including environmental chemistry, natural resource policy, global change, and active geologic processes).
The College has supported a strong commitment to research in the theory and pedagogy of science and mathematics education, including free choice learning, as evidenced by the nationally recognized Department of Science and Mathematics Education.
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS
Research areas are listed by faculty at
Biochemistry and Biophysics investigates life processes at the molecular level, using the methods of chemistry and physics. Major research programs in the department, conducted by the fourteen regular and two emeritus faculty members, include: crystallographic structural analysis of nucleic acids and proteins; nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic analysis of protein-nucleic acid interactions and of protein and nucleic acid structures; rapid kinetic analysis of enzyme reaction mechanisms and neurotransmitter-receptor interactions; molecular mechanisms in signal transduction; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); protein-protein interactions in metabolic regulation; DNA replication and its coordination with DNA precursor metabolism; nucleotide and coenzyme metabolism; genetic regulation of the cell cycle; protein phosphorylation and the control of energy metabolism; antioxidant compounds and their effects on human health and aging; biochemical control of cell pigmentation; biochemistry of cell aging; DNA damage, mutagenesis, DNA repair, and carcinogenesis; neuronal development in mammals; epigenetic control of gene expression; computational biology.
The department maintains strong research ties with other departments and research centers on campus. Three faculty members in the department hold their primary appointments in the Linus Pauling Institute, and one in the department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology. Most of the faculty are members of the Center for Genomic Research and Biocomputing, and about half are Center Investigators in the Environmental Health Science Center. Fifteen faculty members in other departments hold adjunct appointments in Biochemistry and Biophysics, allowing them to supervise research students in the department.
Although the principal focus of the department is basic research, members of the faculty are involved as collaborators or consultants with faculty and students in applied and health related life science units, as well as in other basic science departments. Close research relationships are maintained with faculty in Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Food Science and Technology, Animal Sciences, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as in other departments in the College of Science.
BOTANY AND PLANT PATHOLOGY
College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Science
The Department of Botany and Plant Pathology conducts research that addresses a wide range of fundamental and applied problems in plant biology, from molecular to ecosystem levels of biological organization, with special consideration give to plant-microbe interactions. Major areas of research emphasis and strength within the department include:
- Plant molecular, cellular, and genomicbiology: Research in these areas focus on the molecular mechanisms regulating plant growth and development and on the molecular basis of plant-microbe interactions. The programs dealing with plant-microbe interactions have strong links to plant pathology and environmental science and include cutting-edge research on the molecular basis of host-pathogen interactions the role of microbes in nitrogen cycling and bioremediation and systems biology.
- Plant pathology: The department has a mandate to meet statewide needs for research on plant diseases, and the strengths of the Department include strong programs that focus on plant disease epidemiology and disease management, including problems directly affecting agriculture and forestry in the State of Oregon.
- Plant systematics: Active research programs in plant and fungal systematics employ modern molecular approaches and are part of a campus-wide strength in evolutionary biology. Along with these programs, the department houses the OSU Herbarium, which is an important research resource that contains one of the largest collections of plant and fungal specimens in the Pacific Northwest.
- Plant ecology: Ecological research in the department currently focuses on the ecology of plant terrestrial communities and on the responses of plants to environmental and human stresses. These programs give special attention to ecological questions directly related to the ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest and are part of the campus-wide strength in ecology and environmental science.
DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY
Research in the Department of Chemistry is focused on areas of chemistry important to biology, materials, and the environment. In addition, the department offers research and graduate courses in the traditional areas of analytical, inorganic, nuclear, organic, and physical chemistry.
Active research areas in organic and biologically related chemistry include theoretical organic chemistry and reaction mechanisms, synthesis, natural products isolation, mechanisms of biosynthesis, and analytical separations of biologically active compounds. Projects which are under investigation at present include: the isolation and biological evaluation of anticancer compounds from marine sources; the study of novel reactions of heterocyclic compounds with application to alkaloid and antibiotic synthesis; the biosynthesis of microbial metabolites (especially antibiotics); the mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed reactions; the synthesis of complex terpenoids, plant and fungal hormones, and macrolide antibiotics; carbene reactions; the influence of structural changes on the rate of certain thermal rearrangements; mechanisms of free radical reactions; and correlation of chemical reactions with molecular orbital calculations by high speed computers. Interdisciplinary programs involve collaborative research with other departments, such as biochemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry.
Research in materials chemistry encompasses preparation and structural characterization of new oxides, oxide halides, and fluorides; intercalation chemistry and the formation of nanoscale composites with layered hosts; design and synthesis of new oxide structures and exploration of properties such as superconductivity, thermal expansion, and catalytic activity. These materials have applications as new nonlinear optical crystals and laser hosts, and as charge-storage and other electrochemical devices. Research involves collaboration with Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.
Research in environmental and analytical chemistry covers chemical sensors and field instrumentation, chemical speciation, environmental transport of metal- and organic- contaminants, ICP emission and molecular luminescence spectrometry, electrochemistry, mass spectrometry, analytical extractions, biological and clinical chemistries, and microscale & high selectivity separations. Interdisciplinary programs involve collaboration with Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry, and Toxicology.
Physical chemistry research encompasses such fields as molecular and crystal structure, linear and non-linear forms of laser spectroscopy, photoelectron spectroscopy, and surface chemistry and catalysis. Electronic structure theory is an important component in these studies, and its development is a major goal of research programs in quantum chemistry. Other theoretical work deals with reactive scattering and time-dependent properties of condensed systems and liquid crystals. Nuclear chemistry research involves the synthesis of new heavy elements and new n-rich isotopes of the heavy elements, and the characterization of intermediate energy reactions involving heavy projectiles such as Xe, Au and heavy target nuclei.
Unique facilities in the Department of Chemistry include advanced instrumentation for mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, laser spectroscopy, surface analysis, x-ray crystallography, and a TRIGA research reactor.
The Department of Entomology was closed in 2003. The faculty now base their research in the various departments of the College of Science and the College of Agricultural Sciences, in a number of distinct disciplinary areas that span the whole of modern biology. The following information about Entomology research is being updated. Contact the College of Science with questions.
- Biodiversity: A number of faculty have programs that fall broadly within this important theme of current biological and environmental research. Research themes in basic systematics include the molecular systematics and evolutionary biology of Lepidoptera (Brower), the systematics and biogeography of Diptera (Judd) and the systematics of entomopathogenic nematodes (Berry, with Courtesy Professor, Poinar). There are also a number of significant systematists with emeritus or courtesy appointments, pursuing the systematics of mites (Krantz and Radovsky), invertebrates in ancient amber deposits (Poinar), caddis flies (Trichoptera) (Anderson), and true bugs (Heteroptera) (Lattin). Other research programs address biodiversity through inventory of invertebrates (particularly Lepidoptera) in different forest habitat types (Miller), and the investigation of decomposition processes in forests. In the past, the department has had an excellent reputation for its research in aquatic entomology and places the appointment of a new aquatic entomologist high on its list of priorities.
- Pest management: Pest control and economic entomology have been important themes in the department for over a century. Entomology at OSU houses some of the worldís most distinguished faculty in the area of integrated pest management (IPM) and biological pest control. They include Kogan (IPM concepts and area wide management of codling moth), Croft (biological control with mites and IPM in pome fruits), Berry (computer-based decision support systems, biological control with entomopathogenic nematodes and IPM in peppermint), Riedl (IPM in pome fruits), McEvoy (weed biological control), Reed (IPM in potato), Fisher (IPM in grass seed cropping systems and small fruits), DeAngelis (IPM in Christmas tree and nursery crops) and AliNiazee (biological control in hazelnut). The department will be appointing a new faculty member in the area of IPM within crop rotations that include grass seed, in 2000. With several faculty within our pest management theme due to retire (Kogan, Berry, AliNiazee), we are also seeking replacements, initially in the area of biological pest control.
- Ecology: Many of the departments research programs exploit ecological concepts. The kinds of problem being addressed include the population biology of invasive species (McEvoy), the community structure of arthropod assemblages in forest canopies , the theoretical exploration of community dynamics (Rossignol) and, at the interface between ecology, chemistry and toxicology, the impact of pesticides, heavy metals and endocrine disrupters on invertebrates assemblages in natural and managed habitats (Jepson).
- Physiology and molecular biology: The department has an internationally significant research program in insect physiology and molecular biology, addressing the complex question of chronobiology (biological clocks), using insects as models (Giebultowicz). We also share a faculty member (Zhang) with the Department of Zoology, investigating fundamental aspects of cellular function. A recent USDA review recommended that the department should expand its capacity in this area, and we hope to add to our expertise in molecular biology in the near future.
- Medical Entomology: Insects and ticks act as the vectors of disease, and recent research in the Department has explored the sensory physiology of mosquitoes, and the mode of action of attractant and repellent compounds (Rossignol). The department also houses expertise in Lymes disease, a potential problem for the future in the Pacific Northwest (Rossignol and DeAngelis).
- Apiculture and pollination biology: Pollinators make a huge contribution to the proper functioning of our natural ecosystems, and they are also of critical importance to a large number of crops within the state. Research within the department investigates basic pollination biology in a number of commodities with the honey bee (Burgett) and the biology and management of the bee parasites, that have decimated native bee populations in the last 20 years (Burgett). The Department also maintains an interest in the biology of non-Apis bees, vital to pollination in the Great Basin, and desert habitats, through the program of emeritus professor Stephen.
DEPARTMENT OF GEOSCIENCES
The Department of Geosciences does research relating to geology, geography, and environmental sciences. The program integrates topics ranging from geochemistry of the Earth's interior to environmental policy on the earth's surface. There is a strong interest in environmental systems, surface and subsurface earth processes, the utilization of advanced techniques for measuring/ mapping the earth, and applying the findings to answer policy relevant questions. The department has active research groups focusing on water, landscape ecology, geographic information science, surface/subsurface processes, origin of earth materials, earth structure and movement, and natural resource policy.
DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS
The department has a long tradition of interdisciplinary and applied mathematics research supported by research in several core areas of pure mathematics and in mathematics education. Interdisciplinary research and pure mathematics projects that have been carried out over the last several years include:
Applied Math/Numerical Analysis
- Computed tomography (x-ray reconstruction and image sharpening): Mathematical sharpening techniques are used to highlight areas of rapidly changing density - this helps locate tumors in patients and cracks or flaws in quality control process and enables nondestructive testing procedures
- Large scale ocean circulation and global climate change: A joint modeling project with Los Alamos and College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences
- Ocean engineering studies: Stress on submerged objects, near shore turbulence, and other ONR projects, jointly with the ocean engineering group in Civil Engineering
- Control problems: Optimal placement of sensors in feedback controllers
- Neural networks: Computers that program themselves, learning from examples and training
- Financial Mathematics: Assigning fair values to options, forest leases, other commodities in the face of uncertainty
- Hydrology: Modeling rain fall, land forms, and floods
- Security and representation of electronic data
- High speed computer factoring algorithms
- Web-based learning
- Effective us of technology in K-12 and college mathematics classes
- Investigation of the process by which college students learn abstract mathematics
- Classification of hypersurfaces
DEPARTMENT OF MICROBIOLOGY
The mission of the Department of Microbiology at Oregon State University is to provide:
(1) A learning environment that excites and informs undergraduate majors and non-majors about microbiology and the many ways that it is relevant to everyday life;
(2) A research environment that produces relevant new knowledge for society and training for graduate and postdoctoral students who will become future leaders in science, medicine, and industry;
(3) A service program for Oregon’s citizens, government agencies, and industries that require expert advice about microorganisms and the roles they play in our health, economy, and sustainability of our natural resources.
Microbiology is both a basic and applied science and, as such, it is highly relevant to the economic, environmental, agricultural and health needs of Oregon. As the only microbiology program in the state with both undergraduate and graduate majors, the department reaches out to students ranging from undergraduates in science, agriculture, business, and the liberal arts to those seeking advanced academic and technical training in the specialized sub-disciplines of microbiology. The department offers fundamental and advanced courses, cutting-edge research training, and interdisciplinary educational opportunities to help provide an educated labor force. Departmental publications (in human, plant and fish disease; molecular and cellular interactions of bacteria and viruses; environmental microbiology; and immunology) provide examples of new knowledge to be used by state policy makers, agriculture practitioners, and regulatory agencies. New antimicrobial compounds and better environmental monitoring of bacterial contamination are among the outcomes of departmental research. The department trains many students who will work in Oregon’s biotechnology community and food and dairy industries. In research, the faculty are engaged in studies that examine host-pathogen interactions to develop vaccines, antimicrobials, and diagnostic tests. The faculty also maintains a research focus on the microbial populations/interactions in pristine and polluted ecosystems. Basic scientific studies in bacterial and viral genetics, immunology, genomics, metabolic engineering, bioinformatics, and molecular biology are being used to help solve problems in food production and natural resources around the world.
The mission of the Department of Microbiology at Oregon State University is to provide:
- a center of excellence for fundamental and advanced research training for students who will become future leaders in science, medicine, and industry
- a center for scholarship and research that expands scientific knowledge
- a service program for government agencies and industry that encompasses expert advice and product development.
Microbiology is both a basic and applied science and, as such, it is highly relevant to the economic, environmental, agricultural and health needs of Oregon. As the only microbiology program in the state with both undergraduate and graduate majors, the department reaches out to students ranging from undergraduates in science, agriculture, business, and the liberal arts to those seeking advanced academic and technical training in the specialized sub-disciplines of microbiology. The department offers fundamental and advanced courses, cutting-edge research training, and interdisciplinary educational opportunities to help provide an educated labor force. Departmental publications (in human and fish disease; molecular and cellular interactions of bacteria and viruses; immunology; plant-bacterial interactions; and environmental isolation and monitoring techniques) provide examples of new knowledge to be used by state policy makers, agriculture practitioners, and regulatory agencies. New vaccines and genetically engineered dairy cultures are examples of new molecular products produced through departmental research. The department provides service to the Oregon biotechnology community and to Oregon's food and dairy industries. In research, the faculty are engaged in studies that examine host-pathogen interactions to develop vaccines, antimicrobials, and diagnostic tests. The faculty also maintains a research focus on the microbial populations/interactions in pristine and polluted ecosystems. Basic scientific studies in bacterial and viral genetics, immunology, genomics, metabolic engineering, bioinformatics, and molecular biology are being used to help solve problems in food production and natural resources around the world.
DEPARTMENT OF MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR BIOLOGY
The interdepartmental Molecular and Cellular Biology Program coordinates the Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. More than 60 faculty in 14 departments and 5 colleges participate in the program. The goal of the program is to provide high-quality instructional opportunities for graduate students interested in molecular and cellular biology. This goal is achieved through a core curriculum (including an intensive molecular biology techniques workshop), three research rotations, teaching experience, public seminar presentations, and individualized research efforts leading to preparation of a thesis. Graduate students in the program are engaged in the research efforts of their research advisors. Student research focuses:
The basic elements of molecular biology (replication, transcription and translation) and cellular biology (cell cycle, structure and development)
The specific problems or processes using a molecular biological or cellular approach
The use of the tools of molecular and cellular biology to probe complex systems and analyze organismal differences and similarities
The application of molecular biology for the development of products and solutions to problems
Systems under investigation include most levels of biological diversity (viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects, plants, and animals).
DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS
The department's website provides summaries of the experimental, computational and theoretical physics research currently being undertaken.
DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS EDUCATION
The Department of Science and Mathematics Education (SMED) has a national and international reputation for scholarship on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) learning research. By taking a lifelong learning focus, faculty have cultivated a nexus of research activity that is making vital contributions to an understanding of STEM learning across the lifespan: in college teaching, free-choice learning, and the professional education of K-12 learning leaders. Faculty’s research activities have procured significant levels of external research funding building a program focused on an innovative vision for STEM learning. Furthermore, faculty frequently publish in national and international journals and present at professional meetings and invited addresses. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked the department 9 out of 375 nationally for faculty scholarly productivity in the 2007.
Research is concentrated mainly in three areas:
- Free Choice Learning Research
In partnership with science centers, zoos, aquariums, public broadcasting organizations, after-school programs, scouting and museums, Free-Choice Learning researchers conduct research to understand and explore the nature and impacts of free-choice learning.
- Collegiate Teaching Research
Scholarship in collegiate teaching encompasses studies of graduate teaching assistants, instruction in large lecture courses, and comparative innovations in science and mathematics courses. Collegiate teaching researchers collaborate with content faculty at OSU and institutions around the state and nation to investigate new approaches for large and small university classes, community college instruction, and distance learning.
- School-Based Research
Research on school-based teaching and learning spans the professional continuum encompassing studies of preservice teacher learning and instruction, professional development of licensed professionals, and studies of professional educators learning to lead mathematics professional development (PD) with teachers. Research efforts examine teachers’ cognition, PD efforts supporting integration of science and mathematics into technology and career education, technology and mathematics, PD efforts supporting new curriculum implementation, international comparative education, sociocultural and situative perspectives on professional education, and learning mathematics-for-teaching. Researchers collaborate with local and regional schools and districts, the Oregon Department of Education, non-profit educational research and development groups, and other universities to investigate teacher and student learning and innovations in instructional methods and materials.
DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS
The Department of Statistics combines a program of research in statistical theory and methods with a broad range of multidisciplinary, more applied research. Areas of research interest in theory and methods include linear and generalized linear models, asymptotics, sampling, and operations research. The primary areas of multidisciplinary research are environmental and ecological statistics, including survey methods, statistical ecology, and environmental health. Collaborators in this research include faculty from the Colleges of Science, Agricultural Science, Forestry, and Health and Human Performance, as well as investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency, U. S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The questions addressed by this research concern population dynamics of numerous species and assessment and mitigation of environmental health hazards for human and other species
DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY
The research programs in the Department of Zoology are nationally recognized and internationally acclaimed. Faculty serve as editors of the most prestigious journals in their fields and as officers of major academic societies (e.g., AAAS, American Society of Naturalists, Ecological Society of America, International Society of Developmental and Comparative Immunology, Society for the Study of Evolution). In a recent ranking of research programs in ecology, evolution and behavior, Oregon State University placed in the top 18% of programs in the United States and was the highest ranked scientific program in the State of Oregon. Research in the Department focuses on three areas: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Physiology & Behavior, and Development & Cell Biology. A great strength of the Department is that many of our faculty work in two or even three of these areas.