OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Childhood asthma linked to lack of ventilation for gas stoves, OSU study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Parents with children at home should use ventilation when cooking with a gas stove, researchers from Oregon State University are recommending, after a new study showed an association between gas kitchen stove ventilation and asthma, asthma symptoms and chronic bronchitis.

“In homes where a gas stove was used without venting, the prevalence of asthma and wheezing is higher than in homes where a gas stove was used with ventilation,” said Ellen Smit, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and one of the study’s authors. “Parents of all children should use ventilation while using a gas stove.”

Researchers can’t say that gas stove use without ventilation causes respiratory issues, but the new study clearly shows an association between having asthma and use of ventilation, Smit said. More study is needed to understand that relationship, including whether emissions from gas stoves could cause or exacerbate asthma in children, the researchers said.

Asthma is a common chronic childhood disease and an estimated 48 percent of American homes have a gas stove that is used. Gas stoves are known to affect indoor air pollution levels and researchers wanted to better understand the links between air pollution from gas stoves, parents’ behavior when operating gas stoves and respiratory issues, said Eric Coker, a doctoral student in public health and a co-author of the study.

The study showed that children who lived in homes where ventilation such as an exhaust fan was used when cooking with gas stoves were 32 percent less likely to have asthma than children who lived in homes where ventilation was not used. Children in homes where ventilation was used while cooking with a gas stove were 38 percent less likely to have bronchitis and 39 percent less likely to have wheezing. The study also showed that lung function, an important biological marker of asthma, was significantly better among girls from homes that used ventilation when operating their gas stove.

Many people in the study also reported using their gas stoves for heating, researchers found. That was also related to poorer respiratory health in children, particularly when ventilation was not used. In homes where the gas kitchen stove was used for heating, children were 44 percent less likely to have asthma and 43 percent less likely to have bronchitis if ventilation was used. The results did not change even when asthma risk factors such as pets or cigarette smoking inside the home were taken into account, Coker said.

“Asthma is one of the most common diseases in children living in the United States,” said Molly Kile, the study’s lead author. Kile is an environmental epidemiologist and assistant professor at OSU. “Reducing exposure to environmental factors that can exacerbate asthma can help improve the quality of life for people with this condition.”

The findings were published recently in the journal “Environmental Health.” Co-authors included John Molitor and Anna Harding of the College of Public Health and Human Sciences and Daniel Sudakin of the College of Agricultural Sciences. The research was supported by OSU.

Researchers used data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics from 1988-1994. Data collected for NHANES is a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population.

The third edition of the survey is the only one in which questions about use of gas stoves were asked, Coker said. Participants were interviewed in their homes and also underwent physical exams and lab tests.

Researchers examined data from about 7,300 children ages 2-16 who has asthma, wheezing or bronchitis and whose parents reported using a gas stove in the home. Of those who reported using no ventilation, 90 percent indicated they did not have an exhaust system or other ventilation in their homes, Coker said.

Even though the study relies on older data, the findings remain relevant because many people still use gas stoves for cooking, and in some cases, for heat in the winter, the researchers said.

“Lots of older homes lack exhaust or other ventilation,” Coker said. “We know this is still a problem. We don’t know if it is as prevalent as it was when the data was collected.”

Researchers suggest that future health surveys include questions about gas stove and ventilation use. That would allow them to see if there have been any changes in ventilation use since the original data was collected.

“More research is definitely needed,” Coker said. “But we know using an effective ventilation system will reduce air pollution levels in a home, so we can definitely recommend that.”

Story By: 
Source: 

Eric Coker, 206-235-2859, escoker@gmail.com; or Ellen Smit, 541-737-3833, Ellen.Smit@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Gas stove
 Gas cook stove

Children with autism are more sedentary than their peers, new OSU study shows

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new Oregon State University study of children with autism found that they are more sedentary than their typically-developing peers, averaging 50 minutes less a day of moderate physical activity and 70 minutes more each day sitting.

The small study of 29 children, some with autism and some without, showed that children with autism perform as well as their typical peers on fitness assessments such as body mass index, aerobic fitness levels and flexibility. The results warrant expanding the study to a larger group of children, said Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

“These kids, compared to their peers, are similarly fit,” MacDonald said. “That’s really exciting, because it means those underlying fitness abilities are there.”

The findings were published this month in the journal “Autism Research and Treatment.” Co-authors are Kiley Tyler, a doctoral student at OSU, and Kristi Menear of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The study was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education with additional support from OSU.

For the study, researchers tested the fitness and physical activity levels of 17 children with autism and 12 children without autism. The fitness assessments, conducted in the Movement Studies in Disability Lab at OSU, included a 20-meter, multi-stage shuttle run to measure aerobic fitness; a sit-and-reach test to measure flexibility and a strength test to measure handgrip strength; as well as height, weight and body mass index measurements.

The fitness tests were selected in part because they are commonly used in schools, MacDonald said. Children in the study also wore accelerometers for a week to measure their movement, and parents filled out supplemental forms to report other important information.

Even though they were more sedentary, the children with autism lagged behind their peers on only one fitness measure, the strength test. The results were surprising but also encouraging because they show that children with autism are essentially on par with their peers when it comes to physical fitness activities, MacDonald said.

“That’s really important for parents and teachers to understand, because it opens the door for them to participate in so many activities,” she said. 

More research is needed to determine why children with autism tend to be more sedentary, MacDonald said. It may be that children with autism have fewer opportunities to participate in organized sports or physical education activities, but if that is the case, it needs to change, she said.

“They can do it. Those abilities are there,” she said. “We need to work with them to give them opportunities.”

MacDonald encourages parents to make physical activity such as a daily walk or trip to the park part of the family’s routine. She’s also an advocate for adaptive physical education programs, which are school-based programs designed around a child’s abilities and needs. Some communities also offer physical fitness programs such as soccer clubs that are inclusive for children with autism or other disabilities, she said.

“Physical fitness and physical activity are so important for living a healthy life, and we learn those behaviors as children,” MacDonald said. “Anything we can do to help encourage children with autism to be more active is beneficial.”

Story By: 
Source: 

Megan MacDonald, 541-737-3273, Megan.MacDonald@oregonstate.edu

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Megan MacDonald

megan_macdonald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story By: 
Source: 

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

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

Story By: 
Source: 

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

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

Carolyn Aldwin

Carolyn Aldwin

Greener neighborhoods lead to better birth outcomes, new research 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.”

Story By: 
Source: 

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

Multimedia Downloads
Multimedia: 

 

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

Researcher Perry Hystad

Hystad

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

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.

Story By: 
Source: 

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

Fungi that changed the world featured at Corvallis Science Pub

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.

 

Story By: 
Source: 

Joey Spatafora, 541-737-5304

OSU sociologist: Policy will determine economic impact of legal marijuana

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The economic impact of legalizing marijuana in Oregon is difficult to estimate because the potential market will depend in large part on what kind of policies would be adopted if a proposed ballot measure passes in November, according to an Oregon State University sociologist who studies the issue.

“Marijuana is already a serious economic force in Oregon,” said Seth Crawford, an expert on the policies and market structure of marijuana in Oregon. “When you consider the proposed excise tax and additional revenue from income taxes, it could become a sizeable income stream for the state.”

Oregon voters will decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana production and use. Policymakers are trying to determine the economic impact of legalizing marijuana and Crawford’s research was recently cited in an economic report commissioned by backers of the ballot initiative, as well as by the state legislative revenue office.

If marijuana is legalized in Oregon, the state could net anywhere from $35 million to $105 million in new tax revenue per year, Crawford estimated in research published earlier this year in the Humboldt Journal of Social Relations.

Any additional expenses generated from legalizing marijuana would be small in comparison to money generated from the taxes, Crawford believes. Police and court expenses would be lower if marijuana use was legalized, he pointed out.

“From a purely economic standpoint, it’s a net win for the state’s budget,” he said. “There are still going to be enforcement issues, but the costs are likely to be lower than what is spent on enforcement now.”

The economic effect of legalizing marijuana will be determined in part by how much of the existing black market moves into the new legal market and by how much marijuana producers will be allowed to grow, Crawford said. Under the proposed ballot measure, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would determine how marijuana would be legally sold and distributed.

“We won’t know what’s going to happen until those policies are settled, though the conversations have already begun in earnest,” said Crawford, an instructor in the School of Public Policy in the College of Liberal Arts.

Crawford also serves on the state’s Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, which advises the director of the Oregon Department of Human Services on administrative aspects of the state’s medical marijuana program. He has provided expert testimony on marijuana-related policies in Oregon.

Crawford specializes in analyzing social networks and began studying the underlying structure of marijuana production and user networks as a doctoral student several years ago because there was no available data on Oregon producers or users.

In his study of Oregon’s informal marijuana economy, Crawford surveyed Oregon residents 18 and older to collect information about marijuana use and sales patterns. He found that the average marijuana user pays about $177 per ounce of the drug and uses about 6.75 ounces per year.

Marijuana producers generally sell small amounts, earning less than $10,000 per year; they generally are educated and employed in other legitimate occupations, Crawford found. His research also indicated that many marijuana producers in the current black market live in economically depressed regions of the state, particularly in southern Oregon, and use marijuana sales to augment low incomes.

“It’s these small producers who have the most to lose in the policy development process,” Crawford said. “If they’re unable to participate in the legal market, marijuana legalization could result in increased economic inequality, particularly in traditional areas of production like southern Oregon.”

Setting a high tax rate or imposing hefty capital requirements could serve as barriers for current small-scale marijuana producers to enter the legal market, Crawford said. In Washington state, the requirements to obtain a permit were so stringent that many were shut out of the market, he said.

Also, Washington’s taxes and early supply woes put marijuana between $420 and $840 per ounce, while in Colorado, marijuana is slightly more than $260 per ounce after taxes. At rates that high, there is a strong chance users won’t actually enter the legal market; they’ll continue making small-scale purchases from friends or acquaintances or grow their own, Crawford said.

“We don’t know if people will go to retail stores,” he said. “If the ballot initiative passes, the market will be shaped by policies adopted by the OLCC.”

Story By: 
Source: 

Seth Crawford, 541-760-5419, seth.crawford@oregonstate.edu

Walmart and The Walmart Foundation award OSU grant to help boost U.S. manufacturing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been chosen for one of the first seven grants from the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund created by Walmart and The Walmart Foundation to help accelerate manufacturing in the United States.

The $590,000 grant will support the development of innovations in plastics injection molding – one of the most common manufacturing processes for making consumer products – in which melted plastic resins are injected into a shaped cavity made by two metallic molds.

“Current practices for fabricating these molds are labor-intensive and costly, and much of the mold material is wasted as metal chips,” said Sundar V. Atre, OSU associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “We estimate that mold-making costs can be reduced by 40 to 50 percent.”

“That will give U.S. manufacturing an edge,” Atre added.

The Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the Conference of Mayors, will provide a total of $10 million in grants over the next five years. The first $4 million in grants were announced Thursday (Aug. 14) at the 2014 U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver.

“Researchers at many of America’s best universities are hard at work on tough manufacturing challenges,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of The Walmart Foundation. “We are excited to support the development of innovative solutions, which we hope will unlock new opportunity for manufacturing in this country.” 

Mayor Julie Manning of Corvallis noted that her city has earned a national reputation for innovation, ranking fourth last year in a report of patents per capita.

“A manufacturing renaissance is taking place in our region,” she said. “This project builds on the steps taken in recent years to more closely align the economic development strategy of Corvallis and Benton County with the growing success of Oregon State University and other local employers in fostering innovation and job creation.”

Over the course of the three-year project, Atre and his co-principal investigator, Oregon State mechanical engineering assistant professor Rajiv Malhotra, will work with three industrial partners – Metal Technology, Inc., in neighboring Albany, Ore., plus Arburg and North American Höganäs – to develop and test their manufacturing innovations. Part of the work will take place at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute, collaboratively managed by OSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The team will work with the OSU Advantage Accelerator to develop a commercialization plan. This program helps move promising ideas out of the laboratory and into the marketplace, strengthening the economy.

Atre’s and Malhotra’s project is a prime example of the university’s leading-edge research that creates a better future for Oregon and the nation, said Robert B. Stone, head of OSU’s School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering.

“Making U.S. manufacturing more competitive globally is something all of us can relate to,” Stone said. “When we shop, we know the ‘Made in the USA’ label signifies jobs and stronger communities. This support from Walmart, The Walmart Foundation and the Conference of Mayors represents a vote of confidence in our track record at Oregon State of doing research with real-world impact, as we work in partnership with industry.”

In 2010 alone the U.S. plastics industry produced an estimated 16 billion pounds of injection-molded products for applications in packaging, electronics, housewares and biomedical areas.

The grant to Oregon State is part of The Campaign for OSU, which has raised more than $1.06 billion to support university priorities, including more than $140 million in private faculty research grants. The university community will celebrate the campaign’s impact Oct. 31 during Homecoming.

 

Media Contact: 

Michelle Williams, 541-737-6126

Source: 

Sundar V. Atre, 541-908-1483; Rajiv Malhotra, 541-737-5621

Racial makeup of private prisons shows disparities, new OSU study finds

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A disproportionate number of Hispanics are housed in private prisons across the United States, a pattern that could leave such prisons vulnerable to legal challenges, new research from Oregon State University shows.

The percentage of adult Hispanic inmates in private prisons was two points higher than those in public facilities, while the percentage of white inmates in private prisons was eight points lower than in public facilities, said Brett Burkhardt, an assistant professor of sociology in the School of Public Policy at OSU’s College of Liberal Arts.

“This is a systemic issue,” Burkhardt said. “Prison administrators should be aware of racial disparities in inmate placement to ensure that inmates’ rights are being upheld and to avoid future lawsuits.”

Private prisons are those operated by private for-profit or non-profit companies that have contracts with government agencies. In some cases, the private company operates an existing prison, while in others the company builds and operates the facility. About 8 percent of those sentenced to state or federal prison are being held in private facilities, according to a 2011 study.

But there are some concerns that those in private prisons have fewer opportunities for jobs and rehabilitation and are more likely to get in trouble while incarcerated, which could raise questions about whether private prisons provide inmates equal protection under U.S. civil rights laws.

Research has shown that private prisons have higher rates of inmate misconduct; fewer work assignments for prisoners; more inmate grievances; and more escapes than public facilities, Burkhardt said. 

“The data can’t demonstrate that there is a violation of inmates’ rights,” Burkhardt said. “But prison officials should be aware of the pattern because it could trigger lawsuits.”

Burkhardt’s study is the latest in a growing body of research on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. African-Americans and Hispanics are incarcerated at much higher rates than whites in the U.S. and previous research has found widespread racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system.

The disparity in prison placement is not linked to higher overall incarceration rates of Hispanics. It appears to stem from the process in which inmates are assigned to a correctional facility, Burkhardt said. How those decisions are made is unclear; they typically are handled by prison administrators. The research indicates there is a racial pattern to inmate assignment at correctional facilities, which also could raise legal concerns for corrections officials, he said.

Burkhardt’s findings were outlined in an article titled “Where Have All the (White and Hispanic) Inmates Gone? Comparing the Racial Composition of Private and Public Adult Correctional Facilities.” The article was recently published in the journal “Race and Justice.” The research was supported by OSU.

Burkhardt analyzed national correctional facility data for all state and federal correctional institutions from 2005, about 1,500 in all. Federal immigration detention facilities were excluded. He found that Hispanics were overrepresented and whites were underrepresented in private prison populations.

African-Americans also were overrepresented in private prisons, but the difference was not considered statistically significant, Burkhardt said. When populations of African-American and Hispanic inmates were combined, they were four percentage points higher in private facilities than in public ones, which was significant, Burkhardt said.

The racial disparity is present in both federal and state facilities and it does not appear to be connected to the security level, size or age of the facility, he said. More research is needed to determine why Hispanics are over-represented in the private prison population, he said. For example, private firms may prefer healthier inmates, which tend to be young, non-white inmates; or the assignments may be tied to prisoners’ gang affiliations.

“It’s not entirely obvious why this is happening,” Burkhardt said. “It’s a little bit of a mystery.”

Story By: 
Source: 

Brett Burkhardt, 541-737-2310 or Brett.burkhardt@oregonstate.edu