Washington University in St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University biologists holding a glass jar containing bacteria that have been engineered to use nitrogen from the atmosphere to help it grow.
Joe Angeles | Washington University

Someday, farmers may no longer need to use fertilizer for their crops. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have recently made a crucial step toward engineering plants to fertilize themselves.

Plants need nitrogen to grow, and, in nature, they absorb the nutrient from dead plants. In agriculture, farmers apply fertilizer, as crops alone cannot convert nitrogen from the air into ammonia. Because fertilizer pollutes the environment and is costly for farmers in developing countries, scientists have long researched ways to engineer plants to convert nitrogen by themselves.

In the journal mBio, Wash U researchers reported that they’ve genetically engineered a species of bacteria to use nitrogen from the air to grow.

Natalia Cantu stimulates the neurons in a cockroach leg at a lab session on July 25, 2018, while fellow program participant Ryan Evans observes.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Natalia Cantu attaches electrodes to a cockroach leg and taps its spiky hairs with a paintbrush.

The neurons in the leg fire rapidly in response, appearing as sharp peaks and valleys on her smartphone.

Cantu, who teaches ninth-grade biology in Edinburg, Texas, is in her second year of Washington University’s Master of Science in Biology for Science Teachers program. As part of the program, high school teachers from across the country do hands-on lab work to improve their own knowledge of science, in the hopes that they can help spark an interest in their students.

The City of Clayton has apologized to the 10 black Washington University students involved in the July 7 incident.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated July 20 at 4:15 p.m. - STLPR journalists Holly Edgell and Chad Davis joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to provide context and analysis about this story.

Original story from 7/19:

Clayton City Manager Craig Owens, Clayton Police Chief Kevin R. Murphy, and other officials met with several black students who were falsely accused of “dining and dashing” at an IHOP in Clayton.

Owens said the meeting was “emotionally powerful.”

“In hindsight, it is clear to us that we mishandled the interaction with these 10 Washington University students and lacked sensitivity about their everyday reality,” he said in a statement.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University | Flickr

Updated at 2:20 p.m. on July 17 with information on the city's apology. Updated on July 16 at 4:15 p.m. with comment from Clayton Police Chief  – Washington University asked the city of Clayton to apologize to 10 black incoming freshmen for an incident on July 7, and the city has complied.

The city posted a statement including the apology on its website.

Andrew D. Martin will serve as the 15th chancellor of Washington University. His tenure as chancellor will begin June 1, 2019.
James Byard | Washington University

Washington University announced on Saturday that Andrew D. Martin will be the university's 15th chancellor.

Martin comes to Wash U from the University of Michigan, where he serves as dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He will replace Wash U’s current chancellor Mark Wrighton effective June 1, 2019. Wrighton has served as chancellor for 22 years. He announced his plans for retirement last fall.

Washington University professor Daniel Giammar is leading a team of engineers and geologists to understand how quickly carbon dioxide becomes limestone rock when injected into volcanic rock deep underground.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

With mounting concern over climate change, scientists around the world are looking for ways to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

A team of geologists and engineers at Washington University is testing ways to trap carbon dioxide beneath the Earth’s surface. The process, known as carbon sequestration, involves injecting carbon dioxide deep underground. Over time, the gas reacts with the surrounding rock and water and becomes rock itself.


Understanding how bacteria detoxify and eat antibiotics might help us develop ways to address antibiotic contamination in the environment.
Michael Worful

Ten years ago, Gautam Dantas stumbled across a strange phenomenon in the lab: bacteria that were able to feed on antibiotics.

“The story really starts very serendipitously,” said Dantas, who is now a professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University. “Like whoa, there are bugs in the soil that are munching on antibiotics.”

Local musicians perform at PorchFest STL in 2017. The event grew out of a partnership between Washington University students and the Skinker DeBaliviere Community Council.
Thomas Whitener

Residents in the Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis are set to welcome local musicians and bands Sunday afternoon for a unique music festival.

Inspired by a similar event in Ithaca, New York, PorchFest STL aims to bring the community together and encourage neighbors to connect with one another.

Hawthorn students Lanet Williams, at left, and Lauryn Holmes, center, practice taking each other's blood pressure with Washington University medical student Helen Liljenwall on April 13, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University students are working closely with staff at Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls in north St. Louis to help students succeed academically and introduce them to new experiences.

As part of the InvestiGirls program, Wash U undergraduates provide after-school tutoring and enrichment workshops for Hawthorn students in sixth through ninth grade. The initiative, which is spearheaded by the university’s Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, recently completed its third year.

The City of Clayton has apologized to the 10 black Washington University students involved in the July 7 incident.
File Photo | Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly a quarter of female undergraduates at Washington University in St. Louis experienced sexual assault after they entered the college, a 2015 estimate by a contracted research agency shows.

Student activists today say the administration has failed to protect people from sexual assault, and that they do not trust the school to investigate complaints.

Geneticist and lead Cancer Genome Atlas scientist Li Ding
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis reached a new milestone in cancer research this month with the completion of a comprehensive analysis of the molecular underpinnings of the causes of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health funded the PanCancer Atlas project, more than a decade in the making. Biologists from more than two dozen institutions analyzed DNA from 11,000 cancer patients with 33 major types of the disease, including breast and pancreatic cancer.

The analysis is part of a larger NIH initiative called the Cancer Genome Atlas.

Cultures of bacterial strains belonging to researchers at Washington University that can turn toxic compounds into the precursors of biofuels
Washington University in St. Louis

In the near future, gasoline could be replaced by a fuel that uses bacteria instead of fossil fuels.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California-Berkeley are studying a species of bacteria that could be used to manufacture a renewable biofuel. The U.S. Department of Energy gave scientists $3.9 million to fund the research for three years. 

William Gass teaches a class at Washington University in 1984
Herb Weitman | Washington University

Updated Dec.12 — On Tuesday's St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the life and legacy of noted author and Washington University professor William Gass.

Joining him for the discussion were Lorin Cuoco, co-founder and former associate director of the International Writers Center at Washington University, Stephen Schenkenberg, creator and curator of the website Reading William Gass and author and publisher of "The Ears Mouth Must Move: Essential Interviews of William H. Gass" and William Danforth, chancellor emeritus and member of the Board of Trustees at Washington University.

Gass died on Dec. 6 at his home in St. Louis. He was 93. The former Washington University professor was known for his contributions to fiction, criticism and philosophy. 

An illustration of prescription drugs.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump's proposal to cut the National Institutes of Health 2018 budget by more than a fifth could severely hamper the ability to deliver life-saving treatments to patients, according to a report by Washington University researchers.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell Chemical Biology, researchers looked at 100 of the most prescribed drugs and drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the last decade. The NIH funded 93 percent of the 100 widely prescribed drugs and 97 percent of drugs approved between 2010 and 2016.

A Washington University researcher holds a piece of paper coated with tiny gold particles that can be used to test blood for Zika virus.
Provided | Washington University School of Medicine

St. Louis researchers have used a strain of the Zika virus to shrink highly lethal brain tumors in mice. 

The study, run by Washington University and the University of California San Diego, used 33 lab mice with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Mice injected with a strain of the Zika virus lived longer and were measured to have smaller tumors than the control group, which was injected with saltwater.

A Washington University researcher holds a piece of paper coated with tiny gold particles that can be used to test blood for Zika virus.
Provided | Washington University School of Medicine

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a test for the Zika virus that produces results quickly and don't require refrigeration. 

To test for the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos and is linked to birth defects, blood samples have to be sent to a laboratory, where a positive or negative result is generated in a couple days. The blood and the chemicals used in the test have to be refrigerated. Researchers at Wash U's medical and engineering schools created a test for the virus using nanotechnology, or particles smaller than 100 nanometers. It shows results in a matter of minutes.

Dr. Sarada Garg takes measurements with a portable ultrasound machine at Washington University in St. Louis. A pregnant volunteer looks on.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Adly Castanaza, nurse from Jalapa, Guatemala, guides the probe of a portable ultrasound over the belly of a volunteer in St. Louis. It’s the same machine she’ll use back in Guatemala, to measure how pregnant women, their children and the elderly are affected by smoke from cook stoves.  

“I have seen, when I was in the hospital, so many people who come from rural communities that have [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease],” Castanza explained. “We have to know exactly if there’s a relation(ship with air pollution).”

Washington University in St. Louis is training health workers from India, Rwanda, Guatemala and Peru to conduct a massive study on how the smoke from traditional cook stoves affects women and children.

Washington University graduate student Jarod Roland tries out a device that detects electrical signals in his brain and casues his hand to open and close in response.
Leuthardt Lab at Washington University

A mind-controlled robotic glove under development by Washington University scientists could give hope to those whose hands have become paralyzed due to a stroke. 

In the journal Stroke, researchers reported some success with using the device, called the Ipsihand, to help stroke patients regain the ability to grasp objects. A  group of 10 patients wore the robotic exoskeleton over the hand, wirelessly connected to a cap fastened to the head that reads brain signals that tell the hand to open and close.

Antiobitic resistance is a big concern in the medical community these days. On Wednesday's St. Louis on the Air, we turn our attention to the issue.
Nathan Reading | Flickr

When Meredith Littlejohn died, her parents Steve Littlejohn and Stefanie London had spent over a year in and out of the hospital with her for treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. It wasn’t AML that killed Meredith, but rather an antibiotic-resistant infection she developed in the hospital while her immune system was compromised.

Antibiotic-resistant infection is a rising issue in American society and thousands of people die each year when they develop infections that no antibiotic can control.

Daniel Doerr, University of Missouri-St. Louis' assistant director for international studies, advises students about the impacts of President Donald Trump's travel ban at a forum Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated, Jan. 31 7:10 p.m. with advice from University of Missouri-St. Louis officials: 

Local colleges are advising all international students to avoid leaving the country amid President Donald Trump's executive order barring entry to travelers from seven countries.

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