Trio Receives Prestigious Scialog Award To Study Collective Cancer Cell Dynamics

A cancerous tumor has cells that act as leaders as the tumor invades and degrades the body’s extracellular matrix, a collection of molecules secreted by healthy cells that provides for their structural and biochemical support. Little is known about how cancer cells become leader cells or how a hierarchy is established as the invasion moves forward.

Three scientists — Michelle Digman, University of California Irvine, Steve Pressé, Arizona State University, and Bo Sun, Oregon State University – have formed a collaboration to screen novel metabolic and rheological (i.e., flow) markers within an invading group of cancer cells. Specifically they aim to determine the probabilities of a cell belonging to a certain type within the invading tumor, and also determine how to eliminate leading cells, as well how new leaders are “elected.”

Among the three scientists, who have not worked together before, there is considerable expertise in live cell imaging and analysis, mathematical analysis and statistical modeling, and tumor patterning and cancer migration.

Digman, Presse and Sun formed their collaboration at the most recent Scialog: Molecules Come to Life conference organized by the private foundation Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).
Scialog is a combination of “science” plus “dialog.” The unique conference encourages early career scientists to form multidisciplinary teams to identify and tackle critical research challenges. The program is designed to fund highly innovative, but untested, ideas with the potential for high impact on challenges of global significance.

“Funding early stage, potentially high-impact research of this nature can be riskier than funding well-established lines of research,” notes RCSA Senior Program Director Richard Wiener, “but it represents an approach to accelerating the pace of breakthrough scientific discoveries.”

The $168,750 in funding for the trio’s research is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which is co-sponsoring Scialog: Molecules Come to Life.


About Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA):
Founded in 1912, Research Corporation for Science Advancement ( is the second-oldest foundation in the United States (after the Carnegie Corporation) and the oldest foundation for science advancement. RCSA is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in America’s colleges and universities.

Media Contact:
Research Corporation for Science Advancement
Dan Huff

Physics Dept. Head, Heidi Schellman has been chosen as Chair of Commission of Commission 11 of the International Union for Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP)

US IUPAP representatives in 2015. Beverly Berger, Aihua Xie, Kennedy Reed (IUPAP president-elect) and Heidi Schellman. Courtesy APS news.

IUPAP is an international organization formed in 1922 with the mission “to assist in the worldwide development of physics, to foster international cooperation in physics, and to help in the application of physics toward solving problems of concern to humanity.” In addition to its ongoing role in assuring international cooperation in Physics,  IUPAP is occasionally asked, as the worldwide organization for the field, to endorse international agreements, such as the proposed modifications of the standard for SI units and C11’s reports on authorship standards in particle physics.

Commission C11 is the body concerned with Particle and Fields.  C11 oversees the major international conferences in the field and sponsors the International Committee on Particle Accelerators and a Young Scientist Prize awarded every two years.

See  outgoing IUPAP President Bruce McKellar’s recent article in Physics Today for a longer explanation of IUPAP and its work in international development and equity.  Or check out their website at

Ben Whiteley, right, with Prof. Janet Tate and Elaine Whiteley at the COS awards earlier this year.

Ben Whiteley, who with his wife Elaine, had been long term supporter of Physics at Oregon State, passed away in Portland on May 4th. Ben was CEO of Standard Insurance from 1983-1994 and a leader in Oregon business and philanthropy. The Whiteley’s have sponsored the Whiteley Materials Research Fund, which supports research in Materials, and in memory of Elaine’s father – Edwin Yunker, long-serving chair of Physics – the Yunker Lecture series that brings famous scientists to our Department every year.  He was a long-serving OSU trustee. Ben and Elaine received the College of Science Distinguished Service Award in 2016.


Ben’s impact on Oregon and our Department cannot be overstated, we’ll miss him and send our deepest condolences to Elaine and his family.

Obituary from the Oregonian

Bethany Matthews has been awarded the Ben and Elaine Whiteley Endowment for Materials Research Fellowship.  This endowment, established in 2007, provides support for materials research in the College of Science.

Ms. Matthews is a fourth-year PhD student working with Prof. Janet Tate. Her research involves the design, synthesis, and characterization of thin film semiconductors for the improvement of renewable energy applications such as solar cells, thermoelectrics (materials which can convert heat to usable energy), or piezoelectrics (materials which can convert a mechanical stress or push to a usable energy). These semiconductors are stabilized in higher energy states than they would normally be found in through alloying and appropriate temperature control to improve their properties and make them more suitable for devices. She is particularly interested in studying the microstructure (e.g. size, composition, structure, and orientation of crystals on a very small scale) of these materials by electron microscopy and learning how changes to that microstructure explain changes to properties on a much larger scale. This fellowship will allow her to study these materials and similar systems in greater detail at the microscopy facility at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado and to explain anomalous property behaviors which, if they can be controlled, could greatly increase device efficiency.

Physics students and faculty have received a total of 7 SURE Science Awards.

The SURE Science Awards support an undergraduate student for a summer of research in a faculty member’s lab.

our student and faculty awardees are:

Cassandra Hatcher (Physics) in the Lazzati Group
Garret Jepson (Physics) in the Schneider Group
Michelle Zhou (Physics) in the Johns Lab (Vet-Med)
Youngmin Park (BB) in the Qiu Lab
Theresa Dinh (Biology) in the Sun Lab
Dublin Nichols (Physics) in the Minot Lab
Attila Varga (Physics) in the Hadley Group

Congratulations to all – we’re looking forward to hearing your reports at the end of the summer.

SPIE – the international society for optics and photonics has chosen Matt Graham as one of 10 Rising Researchers for 2017.  He will be honored at their meeting in Anaheim next week!–commercial-sensing/rising-researchers    has the story.

(Graham group member Hiral Patel received the poster award at SPIE last year. Go Micro-Femto group!)

Shane Larson, BS 91, has won the Vth Fermilab Physics Slam – a public contest in which scientists are given 10 minutes on stage to explain what the heck they do to over 1000 people in a sold out auditorium.  has a Chicago Tribune article about the contest.

Shane works  at the Adler Planetarium and teaches at Northwestern University.  He gave a talk here in 2016 on the LIGO gravitational wave discovery.