Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Personal Computer and the Pharmacy Counter: Statistics Helps Clinical Trials Bring New Medicines and Therapies to the Market

A pharmacist counts pills into a tray as she fills a patient's prescription.

A pharmacist counts pills into a tray as she fills a patient’s prescription. Image from Maryland

In the world of health care things are always changing. When you go to pick up your prescription or visit your doctor for treatment, you are relying on the work of researchers who are constantly determining new and better treatments and drugs, and testing the efficacy of those that already exist. Clinical trials that bring new drugs and therapies to the market usually involve hundreds of people and require many repeated experiments, but one Oregon State graduate student is learning how to use statistical analysis to make this process more efficient.


Statistical Analysis used in Experimental Design. Image from:

Joining us tonight on Inspiration Dissemination is Tim Skalland, PhD in Statistics. Tim is advised by Sarah Emerson and Paul Murtaugh in the College of Science, and he studies the design and analysis of experiments; specifically those used in the clinical trials which are required to bring new drugs and treatments to the market. Accurate statistical analysis and efficient experimental design are doubly important. By using statistical analysis during a series of experiments Tim aims to determine whether or not a drug or treatment is effective or promising. If the answer is no, then researchers can end clinical trials early, saving money and reducing costs to the health care system overall. On the other hand, Tim might also discover during the experimental process that the benefit of a drug or treatment is already obvious, and no further clinical trials are required. This allows helpful medicines and therapies to reach the pharmacy counter faster than if the trials proceeded in the traditional way.


Image from:

Tim wasn’t always interested in statistics, or in medicine, but comes from a background in physics at William Jewell College, Missouri. Tim is also a fellow DJ here at KBVR and has produced his own dance music in California as DJ Timid. Join us tonight at 7pm at 88.7 KBVR Corvallis to learn more about Tim’s research, and to listen in as he treats us to a special set in the studio!

From Records in the Reef to Stories in the Snow: One Student’s Journey from Florida to Antarctica to Study the Geological History of the Earth

Tonight at 7 pm Pacific time Nilo Bill joins the hosts of Inspiration Dissemination to discuss his research in the Geology Program of the College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences. Tune in to 88.7 FM KBVR Corvallis, or stream the show live, here!

Working underneath Peter U. Clark, Nilo studies paleoclimate, the ancient climate of the Earth. By examining erratic boulders in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet moved by glacial decay between 10 and 20 thousand years ago Nilo tries to understand when and why the Antarctic ice sheets began to recede. For example: How much of this change can be attributed to CO2 increases in the atmosphere?  When the sea levels rose after the last ice age, what glaciers did most of the water come from?


The West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Image from:

Nilo became interested in the question of ancient climate and sea level rise far from Oregon State or any ice sheets, in the geomicrobiology lab at University of Miami, where he studied coral reefs to learn how much water levels rose 10 to 20 thousand years ago during the last large scale glacial melt.

Nilo’s work on ancient climate allows us not only to better understand the history of the world, but also where we are headed, as we continue to contribute to increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. Increases in atmospheric CO2 that have been linked to global climate changes and glacial melt in the past are being seen again in our own time, but at much faster rates. Whereas in the past these changes occurred over a span of nine to ten thousand years, humans have artificially increased global CO2 by comparative levels in only one hundred years.

By understanding how the earth has behaved under similar circumstances in the past, Nilo hopes that we might better predict what will occur in our own future.

Giving the Cold Soul of a Machine a Burning Desire to Teach Your Children Well:

Tonight at 7 pm Pacific time on 88.7 KBVR Corvallis, Beatrice Moissinac comes into the studio at Inspiration Dissemination to talk about Artificial Intelligence and fire safety training. If you’re curious how those two subjects are related, tune in live or stream the episode here!


Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT,

A PhD student in Oregon State’s Computer Science program, Beatrice works underneath Prasad Tadepalli and collaborates with Enterprise Risk Services to design computer programs which guide students through a virtual fire safety training experience.

What kind of virtual training? As it turns out, Oregon State has an entire virtual campus dedicated to it in the online game Second Life (a virtual world that may or may not use more energy than some South American countries). Using one of the dorms in the second life version of OSU, Beatrice designs a training program that responds to individual students’ needs. Students are then immersed in a fully interactive virtual world where they learn what to do in the event that their dorm were to catch fire.


By analyzing what knowledge has not been learned, and by determining the best way to challenge the student, the artificial intelligence program is intended to provide a perfectly matched learning environment. This is crucial for training in something like fire safety, or other natural disasters, since training scenarios in real life could not be safely (or economically) constructed.

Beatrice is also the co-program manager for ChickTech Corvallis, a local chapter of the national non-profit group that organizes science and technology outreach and communications projects for high school girls. As a woman in computer science, a program that (at OSU) is still less than 10% female, Beatrice understands that the gender gap in science and technology studies is still very real in the United States. With here interests in both teaching and computer science combined, Beatrice continues to work for the academic benefit of the next generation. If she isn’t teaching a computer to teach people, then she’s teaching them herself!