It’s the evening of September 26th, 2013. I open the door to the Grand Hyatt in Downtown Seattle, ride up the escalator, walk around the corner, and find a table filled with name tags.
My destination? WSUi3, a research expo showing and telling of WSU’s innovations. There is no music, but rather the soft hum of conversation filling the room just beyond the check in table. Clipping my nametag to my shirt, I enter the grand room to the right of the booth.
Scanning the room I see people congregating around presenters, food, wine, and tables. The first booth displays shiny red apples and small Dixie cups filled with dirt and seeds. Curious, I lean in to hear what Dr. Kate Evans has to say.
*to find out more about each researcher, click on their picture*
Kate Evans, PhD
Apple Breeding & Genomics
I discover that Dr. Evans breeds new and improved apples. She has us try various types, noting differences in taste, color, and texture. Finally, we try her apple, with genetic markers that were selected with the growing conditions of central Washington in mind.
I learn that the WSU apple breeding program is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, utilizing the newest tools and technologies to improve the efficiency and likelihood of producing more delicious and robust Washington apples. From my understanding, they are making more “good” apples that taste better and last longer.
Karl Englund, PhD
Composites – Recycled Materials
Dr. Englund researches how to make new products out of previously-manufactured materials. He shows me composite materials made from ski gear and recycled wood that have a wide range of application. I also learn that research, such as this, addresses much of the fundamental science and engineering associated with materials and composites. At the same time he also provides extension research and development for many industrial and commercial clients.
Dr. Englund is part of the Composite Materials and Engineering Center (CMEC) which caters to a variety of clients from commercial, government, and academic markets to collaborate on research projects that include the manufacture of composites and performance evaluations of all types of products.
Chen-Ching Liu, PhD
Smart Grid Technology
Dr. Liu advances the potential of smart grid technology. I learn that smart grids facilitate efficient energy use, but raise issues concerning cyber security and information privacy vulnerability. For example, someone could obtain energy usage of a home to figure out when the house is empty. This is just one small example of a much bigger potential issue.
But with Dr. Liu’s smart grid research, products and technologies provide improved cyber security measures, along with the continued development of more efficient and environmentally-friendly power networks for large systems and corporations.
Santanu Chaudhuri, PhD
Applied Sciences Laboratory (ASL)
Dr. Chaudhuri is a member of the contract research organization Applied Sciences Laboratory (ASL), which turns knowledge and innovation into practical applications. In talking to him, I find he is working on various projects that address important challenges related to national security, energy, advanced materials, and aerospace. When I told him to give me a pitch in under 140 characters, I got something along the lines of “Canola oil used as hydraulic fluid in dams, how cool is that.” Even in those few words, I see the application of knowledge and innovation into practical solutions.
Joe Harding, PhD
Leen Kawas, PhD
Dr. Harding and his team work to develop drugs to treat diseases many of us have been touched by. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia, Diabetes, and Cancer are among the diseases they work to treat.
Harding’s WSU spin-out company M3 Biotechnology Inc. has produced a number of drug candidates that target hepatocyte (liver cell) growth factor and have been shown to be effective in suppressing cancer in melanoma and breast cancer models. This same technology has also contributed to restoring cognitive and/or motor function in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease models.
Bernie Van Wie, PhD
Desktop Learning Modules (DLMs)
As a recent grad I can attest to the difficulties of lecture-only classes mainly because I have always been a visual learner. That is why Dr. Bernie Van Wie’s work is important. His team has developed desktop learning modules (DLM) that are used in conjunction with existing lecture-style engineering classes. The DLMs, in conjunction with associated interactive in-class activities, allow professors and teaching assistants to listen and observe students as they process information and interject immediately at the very points of misunderstanding.
DLM’s allow students to “see” concepts in action which has led to improved understanding and enthusiasm for topics they are learning.
Grant Norton, PhD
Next Generation Lithium-ion Battery Technology
Dr. Norton and his group are producing next-generation batteries that are lighter, safer and more environmentally friendly, with applications in cell phone technology, computers, tablets and home electronics. As I take pictures with my camera and tweet some things on my iphone, I quickly recognize the application of this research.
The new battery holds almost three times the amount of energy as traditional batteries. Using lithium-ion battery technology, this battery is constructed of nanostructured tin rather than a traditional, carbon-based anode, enabling it to recharge many more times and more quickly than current batteries.
Aaron Crandall, PhD
Intelligent Home Environment
Dr. Aaron S. Crandall is a founding member of the CASAS Smart Home research group. He is the lead engineer in developing the smart environment and collaborates with experimental psychologists on user experience and user goals for smart home technologies. His work has had significant impact on the fields of health care, gerontechnology, and smart home technology deployment.
One application that he explained is in the home of an elderly person. The devices collect data to understand living patterns (when the person walks to the kitchen or the bedroom). If a person breaks the pattern, the system is alarmed. This allows the elderly to maintain their independence but still be monitored in case something goes wrong.
Hakan Gurocak, PhD
Haptic Interfaces and 3D Environments
Dr. Gurocak and his team develop small, electronically-controllable brakes that can apply large resistant forces. A haptic interface, such as a force-feedback joystick, applies forces, vibrations or motion to the user’s hand as he or she handles virtual objects in a computer simulation.
Application spans the fields of scientific and medical visualization, simulation and training, and video game technology. I learn of some examples that provide a little bit more clarity. The gloves could be used to test designs prior to building prototypes which saves time and money. Or the same technology could be used by medical students to practice virtual surgery.
Thomas Henick-Kling, PhD
Markus Keller, PhD
Viticulture and Enology
Finally, I arrive at the wine booth to end the night. Here Drs. Thomas Henick-Kling’s and Markus Keller’s collaborate on improving the product quality, production efficiency, and environmental and economic sustainability of the wine and grape juice industries, focused in and extending beyond the state of Washington. The specific example they bring is a wine with 75% irrigation and one with 30%. They are using science (and their taste buds) to figure out how to decrease water usage in wine production. Doing so helps lower production cost and conserve water.
In looking around the room, there are many types of research represented but what they have in common is their dedication to solving real life problems that our world faces. Their work helps us live healthier more efficient lives, and in that lays the true value of innovation.
To learn more about WSU’s innovations, please contact the Office of Commercialization.