An OSU scientist’s trip to the coast inspired a new adhesive that may revolutionize the wood products industry.

Kaichang Li developed a wood glue based on mussels
Kaichang Li developed a wood glue based on mussels

One day a few years ago, Kaichang Li was at the Oregon Coast harvesting mussels. When the day was over, in addition to mussels, he returned to Corvallis with questions that led to development of an environmentally friendly wood glue.

Li, an associate professor in Wood Science and Engineering in the College of Forestry at OSU, noticed during his visit to the coast how mussels clung tenaciously to rocks despite being pounded almost continuously by ocean waves.

“I was amazed at the ability of these small mollusks to attach themselves so strongly to rocks,” Li says. “Thinking about it, I didn’t know of any other type of adhesive that could work this well in water and withstand so much force.”

The protein in the small threads the mussel uses to attach itself is an exceptional adhesive, but it’s not readily available. In trying to identify a protein that could be adapted for this purpose, Li had another inspiration–while eating tofu. Soy beans, from which tofu is made, “are a crop that’s abundantly produced in the U.S. and has a very high content of protein,” Li says.

But soy protein lacks the unique amino acid that provides adhesive properties. So his research group went to work and was able to add these amino acids to soy protein, making it work like a mussel-protein adhesive. They’ve also developed other strong and water-resistant adhesives from renewable natural materials using the mussel protein as a model.

Their discoveries have resulted in three pending patents and should lead to a wide range of new products. The research work also has resulted in 11 papers in journals such as Macromolecular Rapid Communications and Journal of Adhesion Science and Technology.

One of the new adhesives is cost-competitive with a commonly used urea-formaldehyde resin, researchers say, but it doesn’t use formaldehyde or other toxic chemicals. Formaldehyde, which has been used to make wood composites since the 1950s, has been shown to be a human carcinogen, and in some circumstances it may be a cause of “sick building syndrome” when used in building products.

In addition to the environmental advantage, the new adhesives have superior strength and water resistance. “The plywood we make with this adhesive can be boiled for several hours and the adhesive holds as strong as ever,” Li said. “Regular plywood bonded with urea-formaldehyde resins could never do that.”

Kaichang Li home page

OSU news release on development of new adhesive

Columbia Forest Products announces use of new adhesive in its products

OSU Department of Wood Science and Engineering

OSU College of Forestry website

OSU’s Education Double Degree is allowing Evan Johnson to take advantage of his love for computers and for teaching.

Evan Johnson has a love for computers and teaching
Evan Johnson has a love for computers and teaching

“Growing up in the computer generation, I was always interested in computers,” says Evan Johnson, an OSU senior from Oregon City. “I knew it was the future and I wanted to be in on it.”

But he also had the feeling that he’d like to teach. “Playing basketball in high school, people told me I’d be a good coach. Teaching people was something I liked.”

He got a taste of teaching when he volunteered to tutor students at Corvallis High School last year. “It was supposed to be for a term, but I liked it so much I decided to stay with it for a full year.”

That caused the computer engineering major to enter OSU’s Education Double Degree program, which allows students to get two degrees–one in their primary field and one in education when they graduate.

Evan now plans to teach high school mathematics. “I hope I can put both majors to work,” he says. “As a computer engineer, I can think of about a thousand reasons students need to learn math. And I could also teach technology education.”

He hopes to make an impact on his students. “One of my personal goals is to be a motivator–an encourager–that’s important,” he says. “Students can’t carry all of their books home, and they want to take books from classes they enjoy. I want them to take math books home.”

He recently was awarded a $2,500 College of Education scholarship for his final year of school. “That will really help,” he says.

But engineering is still part of Evan’s life. He was part of a team that took second place in OSU’s Engineering Expo this spring, developing a cell phone-car alarm interface that allows users to arm and disarm their alarm by phone.

Education Double Degree

College of Education

College of Engineering

Pua McBride became involved in OSU’s Residence Hall Association to keep busy and to try to help other Hawaiian students adjust.

Pua McBride feels at home despite being 2,00 miles away from it
Pua McBride feels at home despite being 2,00 miles away from it

Pua McBride is more than 2,500 miles away from her hometown on Hawaii’s Big Island, but she feels right at home in her OSU residence hall. “I know everyone and am friends with everyone in my hall,” Pua says. “In that respect it’s just like in Hawaii–a small community where everyone takes care of everyone else.”

Pua learned about Oregon State from her high school English teacher, an OSU graduate. Besides the strong programs in her areas of interest, business and education, Pua chose OSU because of the large Hawaiian population. “It made me feel comfortable that I’d be part of that community,” she says.

“I came to OSU with the dream of being a teacher,” Pua says. “As a child of two deaf parents, I learned sign language at a young age and then taught both of my brothers. At OSU I have had the opportunity to teach sign language to other students as a teaching assistant in the Speech Communication 379 (Sign Language) class.”

Realizing that being far from the comforts of home can often be hard for Hawaiian students, Pua decided to run for office in Finley Hall. She thought that if she could design programs of interest to Hawaiian students they would be more likely to be active in their residence hall and it would help keep them from becoming homesick.

“I know that it’s important to be involved and active,” she says. “I have been so busy that I haven’t had the time to be homesick.”

As her first year progressed Pua took on more responsibility, becoming active in the Residence Hall Association, serving as the National Communications chair and the Educational Programs Activities chair. She had the opportunity to attend two national leadership conferences through RHA and plans to continue this year as the Fundraising/Marketing Communications chair.

Hui-O-Hawaii website

University Housing & Dining Services

Residence Hall Association

Kenneth Lowe chose singing over blocking to help pay his way through college.

Kenneth Lowe chose music over football
Kenneth Lowe chose music over football

Kenneth Lowe was an all-league football player in high school who came to OSU as a walk-on, but quickly showed he was good enough to earn a scholarship–in music.

Kenneth participated in football and track, as well as music, at Grant High School in Portland. When it was time to choose a college, he opted for music over football selecting OSU and turning down several small college football offers.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve been singing,” says the senior music major, who grew up in a low-income, single-parent family. “I sang in church choirs when I was young, and in the 5th grade I was in the Portland Children’s Opera version of Carmen.”

Even though neither of his parents graduated from college, Kenneth knew it was important for him. “I knew college would give me more opportunities for my life,” he says. “I saw the struggles of a lot of family and friends who didn’t go to college.”

Participating in the OSU choirs has broadened Kenneth’s life experiences. “I’ve been to Europe twice with the choirs, and to Canada and Mexico,” he says. “These are things I’d never have gotten to do otherwise.” Opera is still in his life as well, and he recently participated in a Corvallis production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte.

At OSU, Kenneth works closely with Steven Zielke, director of choral studies, and Richard Poppino, director of vocal studies. He credits them with helping him through the transition to college and keeping him on the track toward graduation.

The importance of music in his life is reflected in how he spends his free time: participating in Outspoken, an a cappella male ensemble organized and led by students. “We do popular songs and have a chance to compete with groups from other colleges. It’s kind of a release–a getaway.”

OSU Department of Music website

Steven Zielke’s web page

Richard Poppino’s web page

Katie Briggs devotes her Friday evenings to playing with and helping children who have special needs.

Katie Briggs wants to work in a career in health
Katie Briggs wants to work in a career in health

It’s a typical Friday night for Katie Briggs – a game of tag, teaching kids how to hit a baseball, and playing with a big, colorful parachute. “I just can’t imagine doing anything else with my Friday night,” Katie says. “I love it so much!”

For the past three years Katie, an exercise and sport science senior, has been a volunteer in the IMPACT (Individualized Movement and Physical Activity for Children Today) program, which is run through the College of Health and Human Sciences and is designed to develop important skills for children with special needs.

“My favorite part of the experience has been watching the kids develop over time,” she says. “For example, when I first started working with my child, he was afraid to get in the water. But after a year, he had overcome his fear. The day he got in the pool was one of the happiest days for me.”

Katie has always known that she wanted a career in health. “I chose to attend OSU because of the good programs offered in the College of Health and Human Sciences,” she says. She has also always enjoyed working with children. Through her experience in the IMPACT program and the connections she has made at OSU she has decided to pursue a career in pediatric nursing after graduation.

“I just naturally love to take care of others,” she says. “It’s just what I do!”

IMPACT website

College of Health and Human Sciences website

Exercise and Sport Science website

Jane Clark keeps herself involved in OSU and in the world.

Jane Clark stays very involved at OSU
Jane Clark stays very involved at OSU

Jane Clark is an active student by most standards. She’s the publications coordinator for the OSU Women’s Center, co-chair of the judicial branch of student government, on the University Honors College steering committee, and a member of Mortar Board senior honor society.

But the political science senior from Newport, Oregon, also finds time to serve away from campus.

During the past few years, she has studied abroad in Italy, done a political science internship providing voter information in New England, and taken trips to Brazil and Siberia with Habitat for Humanity to help build houses.

She was prepared for Brazil because she and her family had previously traveled to South America.

“Siberia was a shock because it’s so far removed from everywhere,” Jane says. “Everything is so old and outdated. It’s like it’s still in the Soviet era.”

Getting there was no picnic, either. “We flew to Moscow, then there was a seven hour flight to Ulan Ude,” she says. “Everyone was packed on the flight, and they served pickled fish. It wasn’t a great experience.”

Attending OSU seemed to be a natural decision for Jane. Her parents, aunt, and uncle went to OSU, and her grandfather taught at the university years ago. But being accepted into the Honors College and receiving a Presidential Scholarship were also big factors in her decision.

Currently she’s working on her honors thesis “on the labor movement and why it hasn’t been more politically progressive.” After she graduates, she plans to take a little time off from school and then go to law school.

For a career, she’s “interested in working with a nonprofit organization,” she says. “I’d like to be involved in international development. Women’s development in other countries would be ideal.”

Associated Students of Oregon State University website

University Honors College website

Department of Political Science website

OSU Women’s Center website

Habitat for Humanity website

An international expert on honeybees is better known at OSU for teaching a “far out” course.

Michael Bugett is teaching a "far out" course
Michael Bugett is teaching a "far out" course

Michael Burgett’s Far Side Entomology course is so popular that even though he’s officially retired, he has started offering it twice a year instead of once.

Earlier this year, in fact, National Public Radio selected Far Side Entomology as one of the nation’s most popular college courses.

Using entomological cartoons by Gary Larson and others, Burgett encourages his students to take an in-depth look at the more serious aspects of insects and their relevance to human activities. “Each two-member team does four presentations per term. I give them two cartoons and some entomological reference works to start. They can then go off on any tangents they want,” Burgett says.

The course is filled with humor, but it also involves serious learning. “Each team will have four entomological themes, and they really dig into those and learn the material pretty deeply. They also say they improve their speaking skills,” Burgett says. “Students do 10-12 minute presentations, but they have to spend three or four hours putting each one together. That’s where they learn.”

It’s no surprise that Burgett’s a good teacher. It’s what he always wanted to do, and he received his bachelor’s degree in education in 1966.

“Then 17 days later I got my draft notice,” he says. “I was assigned to a medical lab’s entomology division, so I did medical entomology for two years.”

That interested him in entomology, so he applied to Cornell University for graduate work in the field. “They had one graduate assistantship available, and it was in honeybees. So I went into honeybees,” he says. “People ask me if I’ve always loved honeybees. Actually, it was just a matter of money, but it has developed at least into a large affection.”

Over the years the wild honeybee population in the United States has been devastated by mites, but commercial populations have been saved by chemical controls developed by Burgett and others at OSU and other western universities.

Burgett still finds time for honeybee research, but much of it is done in Thailand because most honeybee varieties are found in Asia. And he plans to continue finding time to teach Far Side Entomology.

“I’m still excited about teaching, so I’ll continue to do it,” he says.

Michael Burgett’s website

OSU news release on NPR selection of the course

NPR story on Burgett class (includes audio)

Childhood obesity is becoming a crisis in Oregon, and OSU professors are working with schools and communities to get it under control.

Childhood obesity is on the rise in Oregon and the U.S.
Childhood obesity is on the rise in Oregon and the U.S.

Although Oregon is considered one of the hungriest states in the nation, 28 percent of 8th graders in the state are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That means those children probably have a fat-rich, nutrition-poor diet and don’t get enough exercise, which can lead to serious health problems–heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure–that will affect them over their lifespan.

Obese children are likely to become obese adults, and in Oregon the Centers for Disease Control estimates the obesity figure for adults at 60 percent. Clearly the way to reverse the trend is to change the habits of the young.

That’s why the College of Health & Human Sciences and the OSU Extension Family and Community Development Program are working with schools and health practitioners to tailor programs that change nutrition and exercise behaviors of children and their families. Here are some of the programs:

  • Bilingual and bicultural Extension faculty, staff, and volunteers work with Hispanic, Native American, African American, Asian, and Russian communities that represent about half of those in limited-income nutrition programs.
  • A school-business-community collaboration in Waldport promotes eating fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking water.
  • Fourth graders in Tillamook are learning the importance of calcium for healthy bones, along with ways to cook calcium-rich foods.
  • More than 450 Spanish-speaking families in Marion County participated in Las Comidas Latinas, an informal course on nutrition and food safety.
  • In Columbia County, nutrition education has elementary school children requesting more fruits and vegetables in their cafeteria.

“We have evidence that shows investments in our children pay off–that early learning and success lead to continued learning and success throughout life,” said Tammy Bray, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “We know, too, that the later we try to repair deficiencies, the costlier it becomes.”

College of Health and Human Sciences website

Extension Family and Community Development Program website

Tracy Daugherty and Marjorie Sandor utilize their writing and teaching abilities in OSU’s master’s degree program in creative writing.

Husband and wife wins major writing awards
Husband and wife wins major writing awards

When Marjorie Sandor and her husband, Tracy Daugherty, captured major writing awards last year, it was nothing new for either of them.

Sandor won the 2004 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction for her collection of 10 short stories, Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime.

The stories are fictional portraits that revolve around a Jewish immigrant family that keeps secrets from each other to protect the younger generation from the family’s unfortunate history and contemporary struggles. “My mother really wasn’t very thrilled with the title,” Sandor says. “I had to explain to her the context for the title, and then she was okay with it.”

Daugherty, meanwhile, brought home the Oregon Book Award for the novel for his book, Axeman’s Jazz.

It was the third time he has won the Oregon Book Award, taking it for short fiction in 2003 and for the novel in 1996. Sandor won an Oregon Book Award in 2000 for a collection of essays, The Night Gardener.

Both are faculty members in OSU’s Department of English, and they bring their writing talents and success to the classroom as teachers in the university’s master of fine arts program in creative writing.

Daugherty, who is director of the MFA program, says although writers tend to be introspective and he was “petrified” when he first started teaching, he believes writing and teaching can be complementary activities.

“Learning to articulate an element of craft to a writing class helps me be clearer in my own approach to writing,” he says. “In other ways, they are opposed activities. In teaching the critical mind is most engaged; in writing, it’s the creative side of the brain that’s tapped.”

Sandor award news release

Online interview with Daugherty

Online interview with Sandor

MFA program in creative writing

Audio Selections (MP3)
You can download a free audio player from

Marjorie Sandor:
audio icon Elegy for Miss Beagle (MP3) and (text equivalent)
audio icon Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime (MP3) and (text equivalent)

Tracy Daugherty:
audio icon Power Lines (MP3) and (text equivalent)
audio icon Lamplighter (MP3) and (text equivalent)

You can’t overestimate the value of a good first impression, says OSU psychology professor Frank Bernieri.

Frank Bernieri is professor of Psychology at OSU
Frank Bernieri is professor of Psychology at OSU

Can you overcome a bad first impression and gain someone’s trust?

Not likely, says Frank Bernieri, chair of Oregon State University’s Department of Psychology.

“First impressions are liking planting a seed,” Bernieri says. “When you shake someone’s hand, you immediately make a judgment. Was it a good handshake? Was the person well-groomed? Are they attractive? Everything that happens after that point is anchored to that first impression and skews what we learn and perceive.”

Several years ago Bernieri worked with Dateline on a project involving an Ohio employment agency’s in-depth interviews with candidates for a technical position. The agency provided personality profiles, questionnaires, and reams of background on the candidates.

Bernieri then had several focus groups analyze five seconds of video of the opening handshake and correctly pick out the successful candidate. It’s a scenario that repeats itself time after time, he says.

“People are amazed when they see the research. They find out how biased and inefficient our social analytical skills are, and there just isn’t much we can do about it.” What happens is that people tend to filter out information that doesn’t back up their first impression, or they skew the data to make it fit.

“When we hand out a teaching evaluation form on the first day of class–right after the syllabus–invariably students will fill it out almost the same as they will on the final day of class,” Bernieri says. “All that they experience during the term won’t change the evaluation they made based on the syllabus.”

In addition to appearing in numerous scientific journals, Bernieri’s research has been featured on the Discovery Channel, in the Science Times, Redbook, Self, the London Evening Standard, and even in a book by noted columnist E. Jean Carroll.

Frank Bernieri’s home page

Bernieri students looked at first impressions last summer

Bernieri’s research on identifying people in love