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Washington University

Siteman Cancer Center

Siteman Cancer Center’s newest location will bring access to new treatments and clinical trials to the Metro East.

The cancer center's Shiloh, Illinois, location began accepting patients this week. As a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, Siteman’s facility will go beyond traditional treatment and allow patients to receive experimental procedures such as immunotherapy and genomics, Siteman Cancer Center Director Tim Eberlein said.

January 14, 2020 Miranda Popkey
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Miranda Popkey is a California native, and much of her debut novel, “Topics of Conversation,” is set in the state. But the novel has a St. Louis origin story. It’s while she was in the MFA program at Washington University that she wrote much of it. And it’s at Wash U that she realized it could be, and was, a novel.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Popkey joined us to discuss her novel. 

The novel’s focus on ideas over plot — and its sometimes “unlikeable narrator” — have drawn pushback from some readers, she acknowledged.  

Philip Bayly, a mechanical engineer at Washington University, holds a model of a human brain on January 1, 2020. Bayly is part of a team of engineers and doctors working to better understand brain injuries.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Philip Bayly has spent years trying to figure out the best way to jiggle a brain. 

The mechanical engineer is part of a team of researchers at Washington University studying how a jolt to the head can shake the brain — the kind of injury a football player suffers when crashing into an opponent. Using a specially designed device that vibrates volunteers’ heads, they hope to better understand the effects of repeated brain injuries.

Washington University composer Christopher Stark's "Seasonal Music" explores the ways our environment is changing. (Dec. 5, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A growing number of artists are trying to start a conversation about climate change — without words or data. 

Some, like Washington University composer Christopher Stark, are communicating their anxiety about climate change through music. His newly released string quartet, “Seasonal Music,” explores the ways our environment is changing in real time.

Dr. Joshua Swamidass
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Bring up Adam and Eve in contemporary conversation, and you’ll likely be met with either total skepticism or deep confidence, depending on the audience. Diametrically opposed views of the biblical origin story come with the territory of ongoing cultural battles between creationists and evolutionists and the typical right and left.

But Washington University’s Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass, who describes himself as “a scientist in the Church and a Christian in science,” is hoping to shift the conversation. In his new book “The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry,” he hopes to reach secular and religious readers alike.

“What if the traditional account is somehow true, with the origins of Adam and Eve taking place alongside evolution?” he asks.

Washington University researchers collected bacteria samples from more than 100 families with children who had been treated for MRSA infections. They found MRSA on multiple household surfaces, including towels and bedsheets.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

People treated for drug-resistant MRSA often develop infections again and again — even multiple times in a single year.

Part of the problem is the hardiness of the bacteria responsible, which can live on household surfaces for months.

Washington University researchers report family members who share specific items, including towels and bedsheets, are more likely to pass the bacteria to each other. The team, which spent a year collecting bacteria samples from St. Louis families, also found that children who attend day care were often the ones who brought MRSA bacteria home. 

Mare Nectaris is a small lunar sea located on the near side of the moon.
Paul Stewart | Flickr

The Earth’s moon contains ice, but scientists don’t know much about where the water came from. As the moon formed, water could have come from Earth’s volcanoes in the form of gas. It could have been brought there by comets and meteorites. Or, it may have traveled to the lunar surface via solar wind that interacted with minerals on the moon to create water. 

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are teaming up to find some answers. The team has been chosen as one of NASA’s eight new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institutes. They are part of a five-year cooperative agreement valued at more than $7 million.

An illustration of astronauts at a lunar crater.
NASA

Space explorers could someday use the moon to mine for elements needed to make rocket fuel on the moon, making it a launchpad to other worlds. 

But first, scientists need to study the moon’s ice deposits. A team of astrophysicists at Washington University has received a $7 million agreement with NASA to study the origins of lunar ice, ammonia and methane over the next five years.

More than 70% of U.S. seniors surveyed lived in homes without any accessibility features, like handicap ramps or grab bars.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Seniors with disabilities who live alone show faster declines in brain function than those who live with others, according to Washington University research.

But there’s an encouraging finding: Seniors who live in homes with handicap-accessible features stay mentally sharp longer. 

More than 12 million seniors in the U.S. live alone. Many are opting to age in their homes, rather than move into nursing facilities. But most homes in the U.S. lack features that make them accessible for disabled people.

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Predominantly black neighborhoods in the St. Louis region where poor people live have a much higher exposure to carcinogenic air pollution than white middle-class neighborhoods, according to a study from Washington University. 

Researchers analyzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s data on risk of cancer from air pollutants, like ozone, among census tracts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In the journal Environmental Research, scientists reported that the risk was five times higher for census tracts that had mostly black residents and high levels of poverty than for areas with white middle-class residents.

From left, Lynn Novick, Salih Israil and Paul Lynch joined Friday's program.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Filmmaker Lynn Novick’s new documentary “College Behind Bars,” set to air on PBS later this month, follows the journeys of men and women pursuing academic degrees while in prison. In doing so, it illustrates the life-changing nature of educational opportunity while also putting a human face on mass incarceration and, as the film’s website puts it, “our failure to provide meaningful rehabilitation for the over two million Americans living behind bars.”

Prison education programs, including the one featured in Novick’s film, the Bard Prison Initiative, are among efforts to address that failure across the nation. Locally, both St. Louis University and Washington University run programs that bring faculty members to several of the region’s correctional institutions to lead college-level classes. And like other such programs, they boast extremely low recidivism rates for participants who have since been released from prison.

"Michelangelo, God's Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece" will be published on Nov. 19, 2019.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Most people are knowledgeable about the early accomplishments of Michelangelo, like his work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in his 30s. But the artist and architect worked well into his 80s, at a time when the average life expectancy was about 40 to 45 years. In fact, he was still carving sculptures four days before he died.

Maliyah Isadora and her mother Courtney at their home in Florissant in this 2015 photo.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Black infants in St. Louis County are more than twice as likely to die as white infants, according to a new report.

The first Maternal and Child Health Profile, released today at Washington University’s Institute for Public Health conference, highlights troubling racial disparities in the health of moms and babies in St. Louis County. Health officials acknowledge these persistent issues, but also point to progress in other areas — including declines in teen pregnancy.

Black teens were the only racial group to show an increase in reported suicide attempts, according to new research from Washington University.
LA Johnson | NPR

Black teenagers in the U.S. are attempting suicide more often — even as suicide attempts have dropped for teens of other racial groups.

Suicide is the second most common cause of death among American teenagers. 

Suicide attempts for black teenage boys have been climbing since the early 1990s,  and research from Washington University suggests a similar trend for black girls.

The Lewis family bought their Lotus Avenue home (center) in 1984.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis civic leaders will come together Tuesday for a public discussion about shrinking the wealth gap.

A 2019 Institute for Policy Studies report found that the median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. In the St. Louis metro area, the median income for white residents is $66,614, compared to $36,712 for black residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Luka Cai is a co-founder of the newly launched SQSH project.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Growing up in Singapore, Washington University undergraduate Luka Cai was closeted, finding little support there for members of the LGBTQ community. But even in their new home of St. Louis, where Cai openly identifies as a pansexual transmasculine queer person, they’ve observed a need for more peer-to-peer support.

“When I came to St. Louis, I felt very much more affirmed and accepted by the St. Louis queer community, and I saw the same needs around me,” Cai said, “of people feeling isolated, rejected, discriminated against — and that comes out in terms of housing insecurity and employment security as well.”

This led Cai to the idea for SQSH, the St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline that they and a co-founder launched earlier this month. The all-volunteer effort aims to be “for the St. Louis LGBTQIA+ community, by the community,” inviting calls to 314-380-7774, with highly trained volunteers ready to provide support.

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum's new facade is 34 feet tall and made of pleated stainless steel.
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum once sat at the edge of a parking lot, shielded from passing traffic by a row of trees. 

Following an expansion project that closed the museum for a year and a half, it’s back open and much more visible. 

A gleaming, 34-foot-tall facade made of pleated stainless steel now calls attention to the museum of modern and contemporary art. Behind that facade are new galleries that increase the museum’s exhibition space by 50%. 

Chancellor Andrew Martin greets the crowd at his inauguration event at Washington University on Thursday afternoon. Oct. 3, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Regional students from low-income and middle-class backgrounds will be able to attend Washington University completely free under a major expansion of financial assistance by the prestigious university.

When it starts next year, the Wash U Pledge will be available to students from Missouri and the southern half of Illinois with household incomes below $75,000, which is roughly triple the federal poverty line for a family of four. The full cost of a Wash U education is about $72,000 a year with tuition, room and board and fees.

A worker installing a solar panel.
Ameren Missouri

Two recently launched programs in Missouri aim to lower cost barriers for residents, nonprofits and businesses that want access to solar energy and to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Ameren Missouri began taking applications today for its $14 million Neighborhood Solar program. Under the program, Ameren will pay the cost of installing and maintaining solar panels for up to seven schools, nonprofits or community organizations.

The Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University also recently began offering St. Louis and St. Louis County residents discounted rates for installing panels on their properties.

According to Washington University's Center for Social Development's latest study, predominantly black residents and low-income communities in the region face barriers in casting their ballots.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

While working at polling stations in the St. Louis region for the 2008 presidential election, Gena Gunn McClendon noticed the voting process varied, largely depending on the neighborhood. She observed hours-long wait times, malfunctioning machines and a number of people turned away because they were not registered to vote. 

“As a black woman, I am accustomed to things being a little imbalanced, but I just assumed that when it comes to voting that democracy was fair across the board, especially at the local level,” McClendon said.

A central feature of the newly opened Weil Hall is a vertical garden. The building is part of a $280 million expansion to Washington University's campus. [9/26/19]
James Ewing

Washington University students and faculty are using new classrooms and workspaces this fall, now that $280 million in construction projects are nearly complete. 

The construction includes new buildings for engineering, art and architecture students. The university also added a major extension to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, a new welcome center, a cafe, an underground parking garage and a public green space.

Washington University's Mini-Medical School started in 1999.
Courtesy of Cynthia Wichelman

Since 1999, Washington University’s Mini-Medical School has taught students everything from the basics of a checkup to how to repair nerves via microscopic surgery.

There is no homework and there are no tests. These courses are offered simply to help foster a better understanding of the medical field, and anyone with an interest in learning can attend. In fact, students come from all walks of life. The course’s youngest students come from high school, and the oldest student attended class at 96 years old.

Danforth Center researcher Malia Gehan next to a growth chamber containing plants in September 2019.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Washington University are studying the long-term consequences of exposing plants to high levels of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in 800,000 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists expect levels of the greenhouse gas to continue to rise and worsen the effects of climate change over the next several decades if people do not reduce their use of fossil fuels and other natural resources.

The Institute in Critical Quantitative, Computational, and Mixed Methodologies will launch in 2020. The program will train up to 75 researchers of color in data science methods.
Washington University | Flickr

Washington University is spearheading a new effort to diversify the field of data science.

Beginning in 2020, the university will train faculty and grad students from across the country in how to use data science tools and methods. The three-year program will focus specifically on recruiting underrepresented minorities, including Latino, indigeneous and black scholars. 

An Asian tiger mosquito
Centers for Disease Control

Biologists at Washington University have discovered that an invasive species of mosquito in the U.S. has adapted to colder climates by laying eggs that can survive harsh winters.

Researchers at Wash U’s Tyson Research Center and the University of Central Florida wanted to know how the Asian tiger mosquito can survive in northern areas like Iowa and New Jersey. The species first appeared in Texas in the mid-1980s and can transmit the West Nile, dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses. 

Pixabay

For years, doctors have used an expensive brain scan to detect symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. 

But researchers at Washington University have found that a simple blood test could be similarly effective, according to a study published this month in the journal Neurology. A blood test to diagnose early symptoms could help make finding a cure easy or cheaper and even guide treatment for the disease in the future, the study’s authors say. 

Earlier this year, Wash U's chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced the institution would open the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Equity this fall. Adrienne Davis, Wash U's vice provost and professor of law, will lead the center as its founding director.
Washington University

A year after the Ferguson unrest, Washington University’s then-Chancellor Mark Wrighton convened a commission to explore what the university could do following the movement. The commission tossed around various ideas, but the primary suggestion was to open a university-wide center to study racial and ethnic disparities. 

Now, five years later, the university plans to open the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity this October with the goal of becoming a national leader in research and learning when it comes to issues of race. 

Adrienne Davis, Wash U’s vice provost and a professor of law, will lead the center as its founding director. She said one reason the university created the space was that St. Louis has become a research destination for examining problems of racism.

Premature babies in the St. Louis Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit heard an average of 14,000 fewer words over a 16-hour period, compared to full-term babies in delivery rooms. Differences in language exposure may affect brain development.
ceejayoz | Flickr

In the neonatal intensive care unit, keeping fragile infants alive is the number one priority.

But new research from Washington University suggests doctors and parents should also consider the amount of background noise premature babies are hearing.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

She started using drugs at 16. After moving around the country and trying to quit several times, she came back to St. Louis four years later, hoping for a fresh start. 

After a few months, B. started using again. She has borderline personality disorder, a mental illness that makes it difficult to regulate emotions. She used drugs, mostly illegal opioids, to deal with the mental pain. 

Last winter, she had a chest cold and went to an urgent care center to get a steroid shot. After an exam, a nurse called her over and explained she couldn’t get the medicine, because it might harm her baby. Soon, she would need help with prenatal care and overcoming her addiction, the kind of treatment a Washington University clinic provides.

St. Louis-based conductor and composer Darwin Aquino joined Tuesday's talk show.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

When Darwin Aquino was a young boy growing up in the Dominican Republic, his father directed him to choose one instrument to learn to play. Aquino opted for the violin and, with that early decision, took his first steps along a musical journey that would eventually lead him to St. Louis.

Along the way, his musical accomplishments have expanded beyond his skills as a violinist. Aquino is now a conductor and a composer, with his current roles including positions at both Washington University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He was recently named the musical director of Gateway Festival Orchestra, which is partway through its 2019 season.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Aquino talked with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jeremy D. Goodwin about his local musical endeavors and compositions.

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