Monthly Archives: February 2016

Teaching Old Factories New Tricks

There’s more than one way to s3172457kin a cat, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This just about sums up the status of modern manufacturing. Although it may make an entertaining reality show, I don’t mean to imply that factories are trying to teach old dogs new ways to skin cats.

It used to be the manufacturing process was simple, design a part and pick a material to machine it out of. In the last decade or two, major breakthroughs in engineering have led to the development of drastically different manufacturing techniques. For example, additive manufacturing (e.g. 3D printing and friction welding) can reduce material waste while still yielding a part with the same strength and functionality as other methods. Although these new methods have caught the public’s attention, they don’t always transition into factories as quickly as one might expect.

Companies tend to be slow to adopt new techniques due to the cost of retooling and a lack of good comparisons between old and new methods. Working in Karl Haapala’s lab, Harsha Malshe hopes to bring some clarity to this process with a computer program that can help companies sort through all the new manufacturing options and compare them with the tried-and-true methods. The program Harsha is helping to build, along with his colleagues in the Haapala lab, will allow engineers to submit their part designs and get out a detailed comparison of all the manufacturing options IMG_0434for that part. Hopefully this information will encourage companies to embrace new manufacturing technologies that save money and resources, or maybe we’ll find out that the old dog already knows the best tricks. I’m guessing the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

We’ll be talking with Harsha on this week’s episode to learn more about the rapidly changing field of manufacturing engineering.

Adrift in a sea of noise

Imagine walking around your neighborhood in a dense fog as night settles in; you may be familiar with the layout, but everything seems different. Innocuous obstacles like low-hanging tree branches and broken sidewalks become invisible right until you stumble upon them. You must be extra vigilant in order to avoid blindly injuring yourself as visibility drops.

For many humans, sight is our most valuable sense, but for marine mammals like dolphins, whales, and seals, their hearing is most precious. As sound travels better through water than air, the ocean is already a noisy place with atmospheric activity and other animals passing around, but their senses have had millions of years to evolve in such an environment. Unfortunately, because of an increased human presence in the ocean, like a fog bank rolling in, the ocean is getting noisier and putting these already threatened animals in danger.

Samara ready to deploy a hydrophone

Samara ready to deploy a hydrophone in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Samara Haver, a Masters student of Holger Klinck in Wildlife Science is interested in knowing about how the noise is affecting marine life. To do this, she must first characterize the ocean soundscape with hydrophones (pictured right) situated in various parts of the globe. With these data, she hopes to understand how loud the ocean is, how much noisier it’s getting, and where the noise is coming from. Tune in on Sunday, February 28th at 7PM PST on 88.7 FM in Corvallis or stream us online at to hear Samara’s journey into the sounds of science.

No show on February 21st

We will not have a show on February 21st, 2016 due to a broadcast of a Women’s Basketball game.

Tune in on February 28th, 2016 to hear a whale of a tale from Fisheries and Wildlife Student, Samara Haver.

American Agriculture is Getting Rusty

In the year 2000, a disease called Wheat Stripe Rust occurred in more than 20 American states. This was the largest incidence in US history. While fungicide can reduce losses, the disease no doubt hurt farmers across the United States. Wheat Stripe Rust continues to be widespread around the United States, and is particularly threatening in the Pacific Northwest, west of the Cascades, where annual temperatures are cool and humidity is high. The weather in the Willamette Valley provides ideal growing conditions for the fungus, which looks like golden striations on the leaves of healthy wheat.

from, "PhD students fight Wheat Strip Rust", 2014.

from, “PhD students fight Wheat Strip Rust”, 2014.

Joining us on the show Sunday, February 14th is Daniel Farber. Daniel is a PhD student in Botany and Plant Pathology here are Oregon State University, where he studies the disperal of a fungus called Puccinia striiformis triticina that is the causal agent for the disease Wheat Strip Rust. Dispersal from a single infection of this fungus can spread the disease over a single generation, and spores can travel through the air and remain viable up to 500 kilometers away from the source of infection!

Researchers in the past have looked at these large scale patterns of spread, but they may have missed the trees for the forest, since no one has done detailed studies of how such a process occurs at the level of a single spore. By examining the shape of dispersal gradients in local, isolated infections, Daniel hopes to understand the root of this phenomena by asking how airborne infection dispersal occur from one leaf to another, at the smallest observable level. Using modelling to predict disperal patterns, Daniel hopes that this deeper understanding might lead to a more sustainable agricultural practice that is less dependent on excessive fungicide use, and that the understanding of how to model airborne pathogen spread in this way might also be applied to human health issues ranging from bird flu to the current Zika virus epidemic.

To learn more about Daniel and his work, tune in Sunday night at 7PM PST or stream the show live!

Too Young for this Shtick

Have you ever started a job and wondered why no one around you seems to be able to tell you how to do it well? That may be because your boss simply didn’t bother to ask the last person in your position what their secrets were before they left.

Graduate students today often have parents who are members of the Baby Boomer generation, and many of the Baby Boomers are now retiring from jobs that they have held for the past several decades. Many of these men and women were on the ground floor of new innovations in science, technology, and engineering in companies that are hiring new graduates at spectacular rates. So we have to ask ourselves: are we gaining as much skill and knowledge as we’re losing when these men and women leave the workforce; or is their detailed knowledge of the field and their ability to innovate retiring with them?





The self-motivation a retiring employee has to pass on their knowledge to the next generation is part of a life stage that all people go through. This stage is called ‘generativity’, and it’s something that our guest this Sunday night, Drew Hatlen, knows quite a lot about. Drew is a Masters student in the Oregon State University Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) who focuses his research on a combination of Adult Education, Speech Communication, and Psychology. Where these three issues meet is on the topic of skill transfer in the workplace.

Drew will be joining us on 88.7 KBVR FM at 7PM PST tomorrow evening to talk about how knowledge and skill transfer can succeed or fail as people transition into retirement, and what some factors might be that influence people’s desire to share their wisdome with the next generation.

Drew is the Graduate Student Success Research Assistant for the Grad School at OSU.  If you have questions about getting into graduate school or being successful in graduate school you can email your questions to Drew at

Tune in or stream the show live tomorrow night at 7!