Washington University | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University

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.

A 14-pound rock collected from the Moon's Taurus-Littrow valley.
NASA Johnson Space Center

Geologists at Washington University will be among the first researchers to study lunar samples from the final crewed mission to the moon. 

The Apollo 17 mission in 1972 brought back moon rocks that have been kept in a vacuum-sealed tube for nearly five decades at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Nine research teams across the country will receive portions of the collection this fall. 

The samples will help scientists understand how the moon and the solar system formed, said Brad Jolliff, a lunar geochemist at Wash U.

A documentary short by Joshua Kelley, 14, is among those in the spotlight at this year's Filmmakers Showcase.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A total of 113 films will be in the spotlight during the 19th Annual Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, which gets underway Friday and continues through July 21. Ranging from narrative and experimental shorts to feature-length documentaries, this year’s lineup also includes a documentary short directed by 14-year-old Joshua Kelley.

Kelley, whose film “A Look Ahead: Our Energy Future in 20 Years” considers the future environmental state of St. Louis and the country as a whole, joined Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air for a conversation with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl. 

Also participating in the discussion was Chris Clark, who is the artistic director of the nonprofit Cinema St. Louis. The organization presents the annual festival, which serves as the region’s primary venue for films made by local artists.

A new report recommends that Clayton officials strengthen policing relationships.
File Photo | Flikr

A new report recommends that Clayton officials participate in more extensive police and community engagement opportunities as a way of improving relations.

Released Wednesday, the Strategic Plan for Clayton, MO: Community Engagement and Reconciliation report lists several recommendations, including more community interactions and gatherings between the Clayton Police Department, business owners and residents.

Teddy Washington, 18, was one of 10 African American Washington University students  involved in the July 7, 2018 incident. Washington poses for a portrait on June 27, 2019
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

On July 7, 2018, when Teddy Washington was walking with nine other black incoming Washington University students from the IHOP in Clayton back to campus, the last thing he expected was for the night to end in a confrontation with police officers.

“The emotions I think was mostly shock, but it’s that initial adrenaline rush that you just kind of freeze,” Washington, now 18, said. 

The series is produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center. 

Wash U Will Raise Its Minimum Hourly Wage To $15 By 2021

Jun 26, 2019
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

After a year of Fight for $15 protests, Washington University’s chancellor announced on Tuesday that he will raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 for regular employees and basic service contractors by July 1, 2021.

The decision affects about 1,200 regular and contracted workers, according to the Service Employees International Union Local 1.

Better Angels members hold political discussions at a workshop last December.  The organization's president David Blankenhorn said the group uses tactful conversation to dive into opposing political values.
Better Angels

After the 2016 presidential election, David Blankenhorn, president of the national organization Better Angels, wanted to bring voters together to try to find common ground despite their political differences.

Blankenhorn gathered 10 Democratic Party voters and 10 Republican Party voters in South Lebanon, Ohio, to discuss the election and explore how to rebuild a civil society. This groundwork led Blankenhorn to founding his organization.

The group has hosted over 400 community events in the past three years, and will host a three-day convention beginning Thursday at Washington University to tear down political stereotyping and conversation barriers among voters.

Michael Kinch is the author of "The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure."
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Cancer in its many forms has plagued humanity for millennia, and it’s still taking a relentless toll in the 21st century. The hope that scientists will eventually find a cure can feel like a long shot. But one Washington University scholar is making the case that cancer researchers are on the cusp of a breakthrough.

In his latest book, “The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure,” Michael Kinch offers readers a history of cancer research and treatments, as well as a view toward what’s ahead in this rapidly evolving field.

"We're not saying this is an excellent outcome for the status or the persistence of this native mosquito," said Tyson Research Center director Kim Medley.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

As you’re swatting at swarms of mosquitoes this spring, take comfort in this fact: Our bloodsucking foes have their own parasites.

The tiny waterborne parasites only infect mosquitoes — but not every species is susceptible.

The invasive Asian rock pool mosquito, first found in Missouri in 2005, appears to be virtually immune to a protozoan parasite in Missouri. Biologists at Tyson Research Center now say this invasive mosquito acts like a vacuum, sucking up parasites that attack a native mosquito species.

A flame lit on the International Space Station.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

NASA scientists are lighting flames on the International Space Station to help a Washington University engineer learn how soot forms from fire.

The NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio is conducting the flame experiments remotely. The space agency is sending data to researchers who are exploring ways to eliminate soot so that fuel can be burned more cleanly.

Washington University Chancellor Andrew Martin speaks at a press conference with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in May 2019 about climate change.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Washington University in St. Louis will become the anchor of a regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop climate change.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Thursday the creation of the Midwest Collegiate Climate Summit at a press conference in downtown St. Louis. The summit, which would take place at Wash U in 2020, would involve universities, local governments, nonprofits and businesses.

Benjamin Akande is an assistant vice chancellor for International Affairs-Africa and also the associate director of Wash U's Global Health Center.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

A little over a year ago, Benjamin Akande was tasked with a big job: strengthening and expanding Washington University’s efforts in Africa. He was appointed as director of the Africa Initiative, which aims to strategically enhance a wide range of institutional activities connected to the African continent.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Akande joined guest host Ruth Ezell for an update on the initiative as well as conversation about other topics. 

Feb. 7, 2019. Ngone Seck takes the MetroLink and multiple buses to get to work in St. Ann.
File photo | Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Ngone Seck, a first-generation college student from Florissant who received a full scholarship to Washington University, is smiling bigger after getting her teeth fixed. But the long hours she spent working toward that goal have taken a toll.

After St. Louisans learned that her dental problems and heavy work schedule made college a struggle, dozens reached out to the Italian immigrant of West African heritage.

Some offered money, others free dental services. Seck took a Ladue dental clinic up on its offer of treatment and surgery, and completed the work this spring.

But after falling behind in her classes, Seck took a leave of absence from Wash U. Although she’s disappointed, Seck retains her full scholarship.

Mussels stuck to a bottle
Zhang Laboratory

Engineers at Washington University are studying the substances that make mussels cling to boats and ships to develop stronger, waterproof types of glue.

Many super glue products and other adhesives on the market are ineffective when they become wet. Researchers want to know how the proteins in mussels allow them to stick to any surface despite being in very wet environments.

Wash U's Gayle Fritz is the author of "Feeding Cahokia: Early Agriculture in the North American Heartland."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Cahokia Mounds – the peaceful, sprawling historic site that sits just outside Collinsville, Illinois – was once home to thousands of people. Contemporary understandings of what life was like within the thriving ancient civilization continue to evolve and expand, and Washington University paleoethnobiologist Gayle Fritz’s new research is part of that.

Her new book “Feeding Cahokia: Early Agriculture in the North American Heartland” presents fresh findings about Cahokian agriculture – and about the role and status of the women who took the lead in this aspect of daily life.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, the professor emerita of anthropology joined St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl to talk about it.

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