Author Archives: Matt McConnell

About Matt McConnell

Matt McConnell is from Midland, Michigan and received his undergraduate BS in Psychology and Philosophy at Central Michigan University. After graduating he spent several years in North Carolina. Most of this was at UNC working as a medical research lab assistant using mice as model organisms, but some of his work also involved cognitive research with Rhesus Macaques at a Duke University field site in Puerto Rico. Matt currently live in Corvallis, OR where he attends OSU as a graduate student in the History of Science master's program. He is taking Science Education as a related minor, with an emphasis in Free Choice Learning. His interests in History of Science and Science Education meet on the practice of Science Communication. Matt is currently co-host of the weekly radio show 'Inspiration Dissemination', in which graduate students discuss their personal journeys. Inspiration Dissemination is open to all graduate students and airs every Sunday evening at 7pm on 88.7 FM, KBVR Corvallis.

Pathogens Ruining Your Pinot: Grape Powdery Mildew and Willamette Valley Vineyards

Cracked berries: Grape powdery mildew on chardonnay berries with cracking of berries being a result of heavy infestation.

Cracked berries: Grape powdery mildew on chardonnay berries with cracking of berries being a result of heavy infestation.

In the 1960s and 70s Oregon wine makers did something incredible. They began growing pinot grapes in the cold, wet climate of the Pacific Northwest, where it was previously believed they could not be produced. Since then, the Willamette Valley has come to prominence as one of the United States’ premier growing regions, with vineyards harvesting grapes for every kind of wine you can imagine.

However, there are serious challenges to the wine industry in Oregon. A fungus known commonly as grape powdery mildew, which plagues vineyards across the United States, is one of the main culprits. Unlike other places in the United States, the growing season for grapes is completely different in the climate of the the Pacific Northwest. In this environment, traditional strategies for protecting grape harvests from outbreaks of these fungal spores are not as effective.

This is where Lindsey Thiessen comes in. A PhD candidate in Walt Mahaffe’s Botany and Plant Pathology lab, Lindsey studies plant and fungal pathosystems. Pathosystems are the relationships between the disease causing agent (in this case, a fungus) and the host (in this case, the grapes). In order to protect the Oregon wine industry, Lindsey is learning about the ecology of grape powder mildew fungus and grape plants during ‘overwintering’, when the grape buds and fungus go dormant. Lindsey helped devise a spore trapping device for use in the growing season to provide valuable information on fungal threats. This device, along with her own models for potential disease outbreak, should aid vineyard management in developing treatment strategies for their grapes.

Join us tonight at 7PM PST to find out more! You can tune in to 88.7 KBVR or stream the show live online at!

Cleistothecia on leaf: Fungal fruiting bodies (cleistothecia, approximately 130 µm diameter) of Erysiphe necator (causal agent of grape powdery mildew) under 20x magnification. Brown/black cleistothecia are mature enough for overwintering, whereas white and yellow fruiting structures are presently being formed.

Cleistothecia on leaf: Fungal fruiting bodies (cleistothecia, approximately 130 µm diameter) of Erysiphe necator (causal agent of grape powdery mildew) under 20x magnification. Brown/black cleistothecia are mature enough for overwintering, whereas white and yellow fruiting structures are presently being formed.

Sieving: L.T. sieving cleistothecia being collected from leaves in cement mixer-ice water bath.

Sieving: L.T. sieving cleistothecia being collected from leaves in cement mixer-ice water bath.


All photos courtesy of Lindsey Thiessen

Write About Now

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived in search of me.

I don’t know, I don’t know where it came from, from winter or a river.

I don’t know how or when,

No they were not voices, they were not words, nor silence,

But from a street I was summoned,

From the branches of night, abruptly from the others,

Among violent fires,

Or returning alone,

there I was without a face

and it touched me.


– Pablo Neruda


As humans, writing—whether it is fiction, history, of even science and technology—is one of the primary ways in which we communicate and describe the world around us. Tomorrow evening, Sunday, October 10th, André Habet of the School of Writing, Literature, and Film joins us on Inspiration Dissemination to discuss his thesis on rhetoric and composition teaching style in classrooms in Belize.

After falling in love with poetry in High School in Belize, where he was raised, André decided to pursue a creative writing degree in the United States. Now André studies how the process of writing itself is taught in the classroom, something that has a rich literature in the United States, but has been very little attention in the country of Belize. In writing, composition is the form and style of putting a written work together. Different ways of teaching composition in school have different theoretical foundations and different ideological agendas, and these can sometimes have a powerful impact on the way we grow up to view the world around us.


To lean more about André’s research and his personal journey, tune in on Sunday night to 88.7FM KBVR Corvallis at 7PM PST, or stream the show live online at!

A Bridge over Troubled Water: Connecting Policy Makers and the Public

As a graduate student in public policy, Misty Freeman has a passion for bridging the communication gap between decision makers at the state and local level and the people who are affected by their policies. Working underneath Dr. Denise Lach, Misty’s dissertation work has focused specifically on the issue of water usage. As the climate continues to change and droughts on the West Coast worsen, Misty’s work becomes ever more important. By comparing the needs and resource availability of water among different rural areas in Oregon, Misty hopes to contribute to initiatives across the United States bringing critical thinking about rural needs to resource management policies at the state level.


To lean more about Misty’s research and her personal journey, tune in tonight to 88.7FM KBVR Corvallis at 7PM PST, or stream the show live online at!

Bringing Humanities Back to the Hospital: Bioethics and Narrative Medicine

Tonight, at 7PM Pacific Time, tune in to Inspiration Dissemination to discover how Kate Swenson is connecting philosophy, story telling, and medicine. A recent graduate with a Philosophy degree from Oregon State, Kate came to OSU to complete a unique Medical Humanities certificate program as well as her pre-med program requirements. Studying underneath Doctors Anita Helle and Courtney Campbell while working on her undergraduate thesis in narrative medicine (itself a new and rare discipline), Kate focuses on how we relate to our bodies and wellness in and outside of the examination room, hoping to improve the medical experience for doctor and patient alike!

Set your dial to 88.7FM KBVR Corvallis or stream the show live at tonight and hear Kate read some of her work, and to learn more about how story telling and literary technique can make for better bedside manner and better clinical technique!

Printing Parts for Planes and Hearts

From medical implants to aerospace engineering, Ali Davar Panah is working with new technology in incremental forming (similar to 3D printing) that might allow thermoplastics and biodegradable polymers to be customized and produced for a variety of applications. Similar to dissolving stitches, items made from biopolymers could be of great medical value. Once in the body they would serve their purpose and dissolve entirely with no surgical removal required. Biopolymer printing would also be valuable for producing any number of disposable plastic items (coffee lids or plastic silverware, for example) which would decompose completely if buried. Because this type of incremental forming is a a room temperature operation, it is also useful for producing complex geometric surfaces made from heat sensitive plastics, such as those used on the insides of airplanes or space shuttles.

Ali is a doctoral student working underneath Dr. Malhotra in the Advanced Manufacturing program here in OSU’s Mechanical Engineering department. Tonight, tune in to 88.7FM KBVR Corvallis at 7PM PST, or stream the show live online at to learn more about Ali’s work and his story!

Can Trees Take the Heat? Climate Tolerance in Conifers and Coffee

As the average temperatures all over the world steadily increase year by year, there may be detrimental effects to economically valuable plant species. Although we here in Oregon are far from the equator and enjoy a generally temperate climate, shrinking habitat ranges and the physiological effect of heat stress on plants are a global concern. Joining us tonight on the show is Danielle Marias, a PhD student at Oregon State University studying underneath Rick Meinzer in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. Danielle’s research examines the influence of environmental stress from climate phenomenon such as drought on plants. Specifically, she studied the importance of heat alone in coffee plants and conifer seedlings.









All pictures courtesy Danielle Marias, OSU Forest Ecosystems and Society, 7.25.2015

Danielle grew up in Connecticut, and didn’t always know that she wanted to study plant physiology and ecology, but she new that she was interested in applying her undergraduate work on the subject to something with a large impact related to current issues. As a first generation college student, Danielle knows well (as many students do) how complicated it can be to find your way in the world of higher education. She participates in a blog called GradHacker which features the stories of graduate students from many different schools, sharing in their successes and their struggles. The blog is a great resource for any graduate student looking for ideas as to how to advance their academic career, or to get a simple reminder that you aren’t alone, which is sometimes crucial to maintaining your sanity in grad school! The blog is also a great resource for undergraduates who might be trying to find out more about what grad school is like, or how to best prepare for and be successful in higher education.

Tune in tonight at 7pm on 88.7 KBVR Corvallis, or stream live online to hear more about Danielle’s research on climate tolerance in coffee and conifers, and her unique personal journey!


Rise of the Robots


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Tonight at 7pm Aswin Raghavan will join us on Inspiration Dissemination. Tune in at 88.7 KBVR Corvallis or stream live here to learn about his project preparing for the robotic revolution (imagine household robots and self-driving cars)! Aswin isn’t worried about these machines coming to conquer humanity, in fact he’s hoping that increased use of Artificial Intelligence can make many aspects of human society more efficient.

As a fifth year PhD student  in computer science working under Dr. Tadepalli, Aswin doesn’t build robots or focus much on what the specific application of his A.I. will be- he works on ‘automated planning’. This means that Aswin develops algorithms used by computers in decision making processes. Computers running these decision making programs can more efficiently manage many human affairs, everything from coordinating traffic lights in your home town to running a loading dock full of multiple automated cranes.

From helping your local fire station more efficiently dispatch vehicle to “smart cities” that manage the provision of utilities to millions, artificial intelligence is on the rise! Join us tonight to find out how!

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.


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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!