Eighty-five years ago this winter, a new instructor stood in front of an Oregon Agricultural College chemistry class for the first time and nervously asked which of the 25 students could describe the nature of ammonium hydroxide. With no immediate takers, and wanting to get his first lecture off to a good start, he scanned the class roll to call on a student with an easily pronounceable name.
“Miss…Ava Helen Miller,” called the instructor – a dark-haired, charismatic senior by the name of Linus Pauling.
Ava Helen provided a memorably good answer “and was very attractive,” too, Pauling remembered years later. Just like that, a romance was born – it would last nearly six decades and produce four children, and it was documented by endless love letters throughout the rest of their lives together. One letter – from Pauling to Ava Helen – begins, “I love you, sweetheart, with all the love there is in the world. Your happiness is dearer to me than everything else.”
The letters are among more than 500,000 items in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, part of the Special Collections at the Oregon State University Valley Library. Pauling, the only recipient of two unshared Nobel Prizes, donated the items to his alma mater in the 1990s (Oregon Agricultural College evolved into OSU in 1961).
“Sixty Years of Valentines,” written for Valentine’s Day in honor of Ava Helen and Pauling’s devotion to each other, is the first in a series of monthly pieces that will celebrate Pauling, and lead to the groundbreaking of the Linus Pauling Institute’s new building in fall 2008.
While teaching Ava Helen’s chemistry class – an honor for an undergraduate – Pauling seems to have worried about the appearance of favoritism toward his new love interest, says Clifford Mead, head of OSU Special Collections and an expert on Pauling’s life. (A new paperback edition of his book, Linus Pauling, Scientist and Peacemaker, co-written with Pauling biographer Thomas Hager, is due out next month from Oregon State University Press.)
“They wrote notes back and forth to each other on assignments she turned in – it was obvious to others that they had something for each other,” says Mead. “Even though she was the smartest student in the class, he gave her a ‘B.’ She was angry, but they soon made up.”
This wasn’t the only bump in the road for the young couple. They had to overcome family opposition to their budding romance before marrying the following year, just as Pauling completed his first year of graduate school at the California Institute of Technology.
Their passion never cooled. The hundreds of love letters contained in the Pauling Papers illustrate a relationship that was as strong when Ava Helen died in 1981 as it was when they first met 59 years before.
OSU student teachers in Portland and Salem immerse themselves in the communities where they teach.
For students in Oregon State University’s Master of Arts in Teaching immersion program, the line between work, school and home can get pretty blurry. The one-year program, offered jointly by OSU’s College of Education and Extended Campus, embeds students in a multiethnic school in Salem or Portland — and many of the student teachers, encouraged by program leaders, choose to live in the communities where they teach. Jean Moule, the program’s coordinator, says she doesn’t know of any other program in the U.S. where you can earn a master’s degree, a teaching license and an ESOL or bilingual endorsement all in one year. And on top of those credentials, the OSU immersion teaching program helps students build up cultural knowledge that makes them uniquely qualified to teach in today’s ethnically and culturally diverse classrooms.
Since its start in 2002, the immersion program has enrolled about 20 students a year. Typically, half of them live in Portland and the other half in Salem. They meet as a class in both cities, usually in a school where some of them teach – although the “cohort” has also been known to meet for class in a coffee shop in Northeast Portland. “The cohort is extremely supportive,” Moule says. “And part of the reason is that, without a physical campus, they have to be. Many of them commute to class together. The group becomes very close-knit.”
The students are able to teach one another through the experiences they bring to class from their host schools. The Salem schools tend to be bilingual, while the Portland ones typically have a prominent African-American population. But Moule says she thinks the skills they develop in their OSU classes and host classrooms are transferable among many different cultures. “Being culturally competent means to me that you get in the learner’s seat and stay there,” she says.
Eric Marsh, a 2006 graduate who did his in-school training at Martin Luther King Jr. school in Northeast Portland, now teaches fourth grade in a Hubbard, Ore., elementary school with a sizable Russian population. At both schools, he says, he has found use for the “cultural lens” he fine-tuned in the immersion program. The children in his class who belong to the Russian Old Believer religious tradition have dietary restrictions on certain days, for example, and Marsh has learned to schedule class parties around those days. This exposure to different ways of experiencing the world is what drew him to the immersion program. “It piqued my interest, teaching in a population I was not part of,” he says. “I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone.”
“It was a wonderful opportunity to stretch my cultural awareness,” Marsh adds, “and it had a lasting effect on me and how I view the world.”
Dawn Wright earns national recognition for her inspirational work in the classroom
Dawn Wright, an Oregon State University professor of geosciences, has been named Oregon Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
An OSU faculty member since 1995, Wright is a marine and coastal geography expert so passionate about her subject area that she’s known as “Deepsea Dawn.” Her popular web site with links to many interactive features can be found at http://dusk.geo.orst.edu. She has a joint appointment in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.
Wright is an international expert in marine applications of geographic information science. She has taught more than 4,300 students during her 12-year tenure at OSU, in lecture and laboratory courses designed to “bring science to life.”
“Professor Wright exemplifies the very best in undergraduate teaching,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “That’s because the pioneering science she brings to each of her courses is made personal and accessible by the genuine caring she conveys to each of her students.”
Undergraduate students are often mesmerized by tales of her first-hand experiences from 25 scientific voyages across the planet, including descents to the deep-sea floor in manned submersibles and explorations of endangered tropical coral reefs. Discussions about topics closer to home include efforts to map Oregon’s near-shore geology and continental shelf, with applications many students and others can relate to — tsunami preparedness, fisheries management, coastal erosion and wave-generated electricity.
“When you go down in a submersible, it feels very much like being an astronaut,” Wright has said. “You’re going through this alien world, but it’s inner-space instead of outer space. It has that wild, exploratory feeling.”
Wright also often speaks to younger students, especially girls and underserved students aspiring to science careers. She has received numerous other honors for education and mentoring, such as the Education Award from the Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs in 2006. Wright is featured on a website about “Women Exploring the Ocean,” and was profiled in Sally Ride Science’s “What Do You Want to Be? Explore Earth Sciences.”
Editor’s note: The following profile on Professor Wright is excerpted from the Spring 2007 issue of Terra, the OSU research magazine.
Pressing her face against the jetliner window, Dawn Wright scanned the azure expanse of the shimmering ocean for a glimpse of her destination: a tiny volcanic archipelago that is barely a blip in the vast South Pacific. Located 5,000 miles from Wright’s office at Oregon State University, American Samoa is closer to New Zealand than to Hawaii.
It was 2001, and the OSU geosciences professor was on her way to the outer reaches of Oceania to study the most remote of the U.S.’s 13 national marine sanctuaries, Fagatele Bay. Using state-of-the-art sonar equipment mounted on a small survey boat, she and a team of oceanographers from the University of South Florida “pinged” clusters of sound beams into the bay’s crystalline waters. These acoustic readings produced the sanctuary’s first precise seafloor map.
The mapping, though, was just one facet of the mission. As an international innovator in marine GIS — geographic information systems — Wright was laying the groundwork for a sweeping storehouse of data about Samoa’s sanctuary. Science and policy-making are stymied, Wright points out, when data are skimpy and scattered, as they are on this distant shore. And the dearth of data is not unique to Fagatele Bay.
Wright’s bigger vision is of a new era in global ocean data management built on the “seamless merging” of data into a Web-based clearinghouse. Drawing from oceanography, geography and geology, from the disparate agencies and jurisdictions that compile oceanic data, the clearinghouse would give scientists, resource managers, fishermen and conservationists fingertip access to simulated ocean systems from anywhere on earth. It is not an easy vision to implement, but Wright is undaunted.
Her intrepid spirit took hold early — throughout a sun-drenched Maui childhood, her mother, Jeanne, repeatedly told her: “You can be anything you want to be.”
At age 8, transfixed by the televised moon walk, young Dawn briefly mulled a space career. But another TV experience tipped the scales toward ocean science: “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” “I was riveted,” she says.
In 1991, as the first woman of color to dive in the three-person autonomous craft ALVIN, Wright realized that the two careers are strikingly similar. “When you go down in a submersible, it feels very much like being an astronaut,” she says. “You’re going through this alien world, but it’s inner space instead of outer space. It has that wild, exploratory feeling.”
Today, with reefs dying and fisheries collapsing across the globe, a profound sense of urgency propels Wright’s energies. Accurate predictions — and sound policy — about the “great blue engine” that powers the planet depend, she says, on getting the data right.
Alexis Walker explores why women care for family members before they care for themselves.
Alexis Walker, a professor in OSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, is looking at a conundrum: The typical middle-aged woman takes care of everybody in her household except one — herself. The consequences of this benevolent self-neglect can be dire: chronic disease, even death.
Even the healthiest lifestyle can’t always prevent disease. Still, millions of wives, mothers and grandmothers could better fend off, or at least slow down, the ravages of diabetes, heart disease and stroke if only they could find the time (or make the time) to exercise and eat right. Walker is digging into the social and psychological reasons they can’t (or don’t). If she can identify barriers, she can help craft interventions that break them down.
Walker’s area of expertise, family dynamics, is the third prong of a cross-disciplinary OSU investigation into lifestyle choices among women who have been diagnosed with “metabolic syndrome” — a dangerous complex of risk factors that has reached epidemic levels in the United States.
Afflicting fully one-quarter of middle-aged Americans, metabolic syndrome is the coexistence of high blood sugar, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and extra fat at the waistline. After menopause, women’s risks go up. So middle age is the “last window of opportunity” to head off illness, Walker stresses.
Tackling the first prong of the metabolic syndrome study, motivational interviewing, is Rebecca Donatelle in Public Health. The second prong, diet and nutrition, is being handled by Melinda Manore in Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.
“My role in the study,” says Walker, “is to pay attention to how women’s family lives and responsibilities limit their ability to make changes that would benefit their health.”
For women juggling jobs, kids, husbands and homes, going to the gym usually means dropping something else. And then there’s the eternal question, “What’s for dinner?” When the answer is, “spinach salad,” the groans can be heard in Missoula.
“Women feel they have to keep the machinery of their families running — the psychological machinery, the emotional machinery and the practical machinery,” Walker says. “This research is really about helping women to be self-caregivers.”
The robots compiled by OSU’s nascent electrical engineers help students learn hands-on skills, exercise their creative muse and forge bonds with fellow TekBotters.
Educating tomorrow’s electrical engineers has come to this: Teamwork, creativity and ownership are as important as the principles of theory and design. All get rolled into a box that first-year Oregon State University students receive in their introduction to the field. Inside are circuit and charger boards, wheels, a steel roller ball and assorted electrical components. Batteries and instructions are not included. Working in teams, students must put the parts together, learning leadership and problem-solving skills as they go.
The resulting “TekBots” are far more than clever machines. They are the students’ companions through four years of lectures and labs. From course to course, year to year, students transform their TekBots with advanced electrical engineering concepts.
“It’s their own robot,” notes TekBots program director Don Heer. “They put their own money, their own time into it.”
The TekBots “give students the big picture,” says Terri Fiez, director of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Success arrives, she adds, when students get excited about an upcoming course that will help them solve a problem or add a new feature to their TekBot.
Some students even develop a fondness for their bot, giving it a name, such as Billy or Toby. Katy Humble called hers FlutterBot. The 2005 OSU graduate added motor-controlled wings and decorated them with lights. Her parents, Larry and Dona Nixon of Yachats, have put FlutterBot on the mantle like a trophy.
In 2000, Tektronix — the Beaverton, Oregon, high-tech manufacturer — gave OSU a $500,000 grant to start the program. Humble was part of the first corps of undergraduates hired to develop the kits.
“TekBots is all about debugging something that doesn’t work. It’s a constant problem in industry,” says Humble, who credits her TekBots experience with helping her to land a job with Intel in Hillsboro, Oregon. Today, she continues to mentor students with her employer’s full support.
Over the years, the students’ bots have taken on personalities. There was one that could balance on two wheels, like the Segway Human Transporter. Another morphed into a four-legged walking creature. And then there was the giant TekBot that grew to the size of a wheelbarrow.
The National Science Foundation and high-tech firms have supported the program, and OSU has sold kits to other universities, including Texas A&M, Rochester Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the Fukuoka Institute of Technology in Japan.
OSU’s TekBots program is run substantially by students. “All of the labs have been made by undergraduates,” Heer says. “It creates a culture where they are helping each other.”
The program has also fostered personal relationships. Katy Humble met her husband-to-be Ben while she was assembling TekBots kits. They married in 2006 and live in Beaverton, where Ben works for Tektronix.
“We say that TekBots brings people together,” laughs Ben. “That is really true for us.”
A team of OSU undergrads designs a wireless sensor system to help scientists study mountainous forests from the comfort of their PDA.
The science of mountain airsheds requires a strong back as well as a sharp mind – especially when you’re lugging a 65-pound golf-cart battery in your pack.
An interdisciplinary team of OSU students is working to make the science easier on the back, and also the environment. The three seniors – Drew Smith, Erin Wyckoff and Brian Wilson – recently spent 10 weeks scaling the steep slopes of H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, pooling their individual expertise in electrical engineering, soil science and atmospheric science to test and refine a networked wireless system for monitoring what OSU’s Terra magazine calls the “exhaled byproducts of the forest” (see Grasping for Air). They are helping unplug the high-tech sensors that researchers use to measure the ebb and flow of carbon-laden air, connecting them instead through a new generation of ultra-low-power sensing devices that save energy and vastly extend the range of existing equipment in mountainous terrain.
Thanks to their efforts, funded by the National Science Foundation, the miles of electric wire that currently snake through the experimental watershed in glistening black tangles will be relegated to the dustbin of technology.
Wires “degrade, animals chew through them, we trip over them,” says Adam Kennedy, the forest science faculty research assistant who coordinated the team. “This could totally reshape the design of future research sites.”
The project is a team effort. One typical workday in early August, Smith could be seen tapping away at his laptop as he crouched among ferns, reprogramming a custom-fabricated circuit board – the “hub” of the integrated system. The electrical engineering major pored over some 800 lines of computer code while Wilson and Wyckoff trekked the trails, positioning and repositioning the sensors in search of sweet spots that picked up signals.
Wilson was working to upgrade the Andrews’ air-sensing system, to gather vertical temperature and pressure profiles continuously and in real time. Wyckoff, meanwhile, programmed the “brains” of the Andrews’ prized auto-sampler – a state-of-the-art machine that measures carbon flux in soil – so it will work without wires. Instead of tramping across sensitive undergrowth to download data from probes that record moisture, decomposition, soil chemistry and other information, scientists will be able to tap readings remotely through their BlackBerry or Palm Pilot.
Once researchers develop robust sensor networks that operate without wires and batteries, the mysteries of mountain forests will be easier to unravel – for both the forests and the scientists.
University officials launch The Campaign for OSU, a $625-million fundraising effort and the university’s first ever comprehensive capital campaign.
Oregon State University leaders officially launched “The Campaign for OSU,” a $625-million fundraising effort and the university’s first ever comprehensive capital campaign, at a public celebration today. Supporters have already committed $350 million toward the goal.
As part of the event, OSU President Ed Ray also announced $77 million in private and public commitments toward a major campaign initiative: the Linus Pauling Science Center and its associated research and education programs. A 1922 OSU chemical engineering graduate, Pauling is the only person to have won two unshared Nobel Prizes. The center will house chemists from the College of Science and the world-renowned Linus Pauling Institute, which continues Pauling’s life’s work in health research. It will also provide learning space for students in chemistry, biochemistry and the life sciences (see related release, “OSU receives $77 million for science initiative”).
“This is an historic moment for Oregon State University,” said President Ray. “This university is about changing and enriching lives. Seizing on the momentum of this extraordinary campaign and building on the excellence we demonstrate every day, we can ensure that our students achieve bright and prosperous futures, create a stronger, more competitive Oregon and advance research that addresses some of the world’s most pressing problems.”
OSU plays an important role in the state’s prosperity, said Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
“Oregon State University not only educates many of our citizens but also develops our capacity in areas such as health, natural resources, energy development and new technologies,” the governor said. “An investment in OSU is an investment in Oregon’s future, and it will improve lives here and around the world.”
Beginning with a planning phase in 2004, the campaign has already received strong support, including $52 million toward a $100 million goal for scholarships and fellowships. More than 62 donors have given gifts of $1 million or more to the campaign to date. Participation has been broad, with more than 400 donors contributing $100,000 or more; 45 percent of these donors live outside of the state.
“The fact that so many people have come forward so quickly demonstrates how much we believe in this investment,” said Patricia V. Reser, a 1960 OSU graduate and campaign co-chair. “OSU is coming into its own at a time when its many strengths are in high demand around the world. It”s time to tell our story.”
Reser of Beaverton, Ore., is co-owner and corporate treasurer of Reser’s Fine Foods and one of three co-chairs leading a 13-member Campaign Steering Committee. The other co-chairs are James H. Rudd of Lake Oswego, Ore., CEO and principal of Ferguson Wellman Capital Management, Inc., and Patrick F. Stone of Santa Barbara, Calif., former CEO of Fidelity National Information Solutions.
OSU is launching this campaign in collaboration with the OSU Foundation, the nonprofit organization chartered to raise and administer private funds in support of the university’s education, research and outreach. The foundation retains assets of more than $570 million, and manages the majority of OSU’s composite endowment, valued at more than $430 million, which supports the work of the university and the people it serves.
OSU scientists are the nation’s most cited in agricultural sciences and rank sixth in geosciences, according to new reports.
OSU’s reputation as a national leader in important research areas has received a boost from recently published reports in Science Watch.
The publication reports that over the past four years researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Geosciences in the College of Science are among the most cited in the nation.
According to the reports, OSU was ranked No. 1 in agricultural sciences, followed by the Wisconsin, Cornell, Rutgers, California at Davis and Penn State. In geosciences, OSU was the sixth-most-cited, just behind Princeton and ahead of such institutions as MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
“This ranking demonstrates the important work our researchers are doing and their recognition at the top experts in their fields,” said Thayne Dutson, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Dutson, whose work focuses on meat science and muscle biology, and Ronald Wrolstad, distinguished professor of food science and technology emeritus, who examines antioxidant properties of fruit and fruit pigments, are among the most-cited experts in the world.
Geosciences at OSU includes work in the Department of Geosciences in the College of Science and the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS), with more than 90 faculty doing research in such fields as oceanography, atmospheric sciences, geology, and geography.
Projects include work by Chris Goldfinger (COAS) on underwater earthquakes and seafloor mapping, Robert Duncan (COAS) on clues to solar system history from moon rocks, Alan Mix (COAS) and Peter Clark (geology) on climate history information from cave stalagmites, and Sherman Bloomer (dean of College of Sciences) in a variety of areas, including igneous petrology and geochemistry.
“This is a clear recognition of the outstanding research in oceanography and atmospheric sciences being conducted in COAS, especially in the areas of marine geology, geochemistry, and geophysics,” said Mark Abbott, dean of the college.
Roger Nielsen, chair of geosciences at OSU, said, “This is a tribute to the quality of the work being done by our faculty, graduate students, staff and others at OSU. The important aspect of this rating is that it’s a quality metric. It measures impact of the specific research, not just how many papers we publish.”
Sea Grant Extension specialist Flaxen Conway helps distressed coastal communities deal with contentious issues – and groups.
Retired fisherman Scott McMullen sums up Flaxen Conway with one word: “peacemaker.”
In Oregon port towns from Astoria to Brookings, the OSU sociology professor is known for guiding factions often at odds — fishermen, scientists, policymakers, resource managers — toward common ground on some of the toughest issues facing rural communities.
“She runs meetings with groups that could be very contentious,” says McMullen, who owned and operated a shrimper-dragger for over 20 years. “Fishermen are oftentimes vocal and opinionated, but Flaxen keeps it under control. Amazingly, there’s never anybody yelling or throwing chairs.”
A specialist for Oregon Sea Grant Extension, Conway works with distressed coastal communities, helping to ease the tensions that flare when scarce resources and government policies bump up against ordinary people. With several Northwest fisheries declining, many shore-based families are facing financial insecurity and emotional upheaval. The 2006 salmon fishing closures were just the most recent blow to their livelihoods. Over her 13 years with Sea Grant, Conway has seen families struggle with the collapse of the commercial groundfish industry in 2000 and weather the severe salmon shortages of the mid-1990s.
“We’re used to evaluating the biological dimensions of resource management, but we rarely evaluate the social dimensions,” says Conway. “Sea Grant Extension is making sure that those human dimensions don’t get shortchanged.”
Her focus is what she calls “cross-community communication” — getting groups with competing interests and conflicting perspectives to talk. As a “neutral convener,” Sea Grant Extension opens avenues for collaboration among stakeholders more accustomed to competitive or adversarial stances.
When the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared a disaster in the West Coast groundfish fishery (mainly rockfish and ling cod) six years ago, Conway pulled together a coast-wide, community-driven coalition to connect people to resources and jobs. The Groundfish Disaster Outreach Project helped hundreds of families secure food, housing, mental health services, and new careers.
The old paradigm of extension education — the “expert” extending scientific information to the masses — has evolved into a new model in which expertise is recognized on both sides, Conway says. Knowledge sharing runs both directions. “I’m constantly learning along with the people I’m working with. It’s a process of co-discovery.”
In recognition of Veteran’s Day, we’ve gone to our archives to reflect on some of the amazing OSU people who’ve combined education with military service. We salute our veterans and value their contributions to both the nation and our university community.
After two tours in Iraq, Marine Sgt. John Dickman is preparing to become an officer through OSU’s Naval ROTC program.
John Dickman signed up for the U.S. Marine Corps on Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
He was planning to become a Marine anyway — in fact he had been in the Young Marines since age 13 — but 9/11 “sped up my plans by about a year,” he says.
Dickman’s first tour in Iraq was from January through September 2003, and he returned again from February through October 2004.
“The first tour was the actual invasion,” he says. “We worked up to Baghdad during the combat operation and then want to Karbala where we worked on stability and security operations. We built a couple of schools and got the power plant going.”
The second tour was in Al Anbar province on the Syrian border. “That was more of a search-and-destroy mission,” he says. “We were looking for munitions and insurgents. The province was an entry point for terrorists from Syria and other countries.”
Dickman says his experience with Iraqis is that “90 to 95 percent are very happy we’re there and recognize Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant.”
After the second tour, Dickman was accepted into the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program, which brought him to OSU, where he currently is color guard commander for the NROTC unit. The history major from Boise, Idaho, says he chose OSU because he wanted to stay in the Northwest, and only three schools in the area have Naval ROTC, which houses the Marine Corps officer program.
“I thought I might study engineering, so I wanted a school with a strong engineering program, and that was OSU,” he says. Later, he decided to go with his lifelong interest in history and major in that field.
His military background isn’t unique at OSU. More than 325 students are receiving veterans benefits, and it’s estimated that a few dozen of them have served in Iraq.
Dickman wants to be a career Marine officer, probably serving for 30 years. “I want to see the world and be the best citizen I can for the United States of America.”
And after retirement? “I want to start a custom hot rod shop. I like to build custom cars in my spare time.”