By Maegan Murray

A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities placed 17th recently during the SAE Aero Design Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

WSU Tri-Cities - SAE Aero Design Competition

The WSU Tri-Cities mechanical engineering team poses with the airplane they designed and competed with at the SAE Aero Design Competition.

The team, composed of senior mechanical engineering students Erik Zepeda, Austin Shaw, Ryan Hagins, Matt Kosmos, Arich Fuher and Jose Espinoza, spent five months designing and constructing their airplane. The plane spanned seven feet long and had a wing span of eight feet.

The team said they chose a different design from WSU Tri-Cities teams who competed in years prior, and that their design was also different from many teams competing.

“Most of the other designs were pretty square, but we wanted to go with a more aerodynamic shape,” Shaw said. “We got numerous compliments on the design of our plane.”

During the competition, the team had a very successful first flight, placing fourth in the first round. During their second flight, however, the team had some electrical problems, which they weren’t able to remedy mid-air and the aircraft crashed.

“Even with that crash, we ended up placing 10th in the flight category,” Shaw said. “If we hadn’t crashed, we probably could have placed in the top five teams. That was disappointing, but everything else went really well.”

In addition to their 17th overall placing, the team placed 23rd in regular class design, 22nd in regular class presentation and 18th in regular class most payload transported.SAE Aero Design Competition - Spring 2017

All of the team members said despite their disappointing second flight, they all thoroughly enjoyed the design process, as well as the competition.

“It was a pretty cool experience, especially since it was our senior project,” said Zepeda. “I had never thought about aerospace engineering before, but now I’m thinking about it as a possible career direction.”

All the team members said the project presented them with excellent preparation for their future careers as engineers, regardless of the field of engineering they each go into.

“It definitely gives you good experience for taking on a large engineering project, as well as working with different people, scheduling, meeting deadlines and making presentations in front of judges,” Fuher said.

SAE Aero Design Competition - Spring 2017The design project was part of a senior capstone course taught by Messiha Saad, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of mechanical engineering and faculty adviser for the campus’ SAE Aero Design team. Saad said the competition provides the opportunity for his students to learn the mechanics and importance of teamwork, project organization, scheduling, system and product design, product testing, cost analysis and project reporting.

“Through this design project and competition, my students are able to demonstrate and develop their engineering skills set in a real-world environment with real deadlines and stiff competition,” he said. “I am very proud that my students demonstrated the ability to successfully compete with students from some of the top-rated engineering programs in the country.”

By Terren Roloff, WSU Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. – Hosts in Everett, Vancouver, the Tri-Cities and Spokane are sought to welcome, support and orient Washington State University medical students to their communities during six weeks over a two-year period beginning in September.

While studying for their first two years at WSU Spokane, students will spend six individual weeks in the city where they will be located in their third and fourth years. Individuals and families are sought to help broaden the students’ connections and understanding of their communities during those weeks.

Since Spokane students will already have housing, only hosts in Everett, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver will provide housing.

“We look forward to having hosts introduce students to individuals who are actively involved in their communities, as well as provide fun activities for our students,” said John Tomkowiak, founding dean of the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

WSU’s charter class of 60 students will begin their four-year medical education program in August. Residents of Everett, Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver are being sought to host during:

Sept, 3-9, 2017
Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2017
March 25-31, 2018
Aug. 19-25, 2018
Nov. 11-17, 2018
March 24-30, 2019

Hosts will be invited to participate in the college’s community nights, to be held on Wednesday each of the weeks at the respective WSU campuses.

For more information, please email community hosting coordinator Kyle Holbrook at


News media contacts:
Kyle Holbrook, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, 509-368-6779,
Terren Roloff, WSU Spokane communications, 509-358-7527,

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will honor 13 individuals as part of its first women of distinction class during a gallery exhibition opening and reception at 5:30 p.m. on April 13 in the entrance to the East Building on campus.

The program recognizes WSU Tri-Cities female students, staff, faculty, alumnae and community members who have made notable contributions to the campus and community through service, teaching or involvement.

“This is a way to honor our female leaders within the WSU Tri-Cities community who have gone above and beyond to improve access to educational opportunities, driven momentous initiatives within their respective professions and have given generously of their free time in dedication to service and volunteerism,” said Chris Meiers, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student services.

Those being honored as WSU Tri-Cities’ 2017 Women of Distinction include:

  • Amber Eubanks – WSU Tri-Cities community engagement specialist
  • Anna King – news correspondent for the Northwest News Network and Northwest Public Radio
  • Cindy Bruckner-Lea – project manager at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • Dana Parmenter – WSU Tri-Cities junior in digital technology and culture
  • Elizabeth Hernandez-Osorio – WSU Tri-Cities master’s student in educational leadership
  • Jana Kay Lunstad – WSU Tri-Cities academic affairs coordinator
  • Katherine Banks – WSU Tri-Cities instructor of political science in the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs
  • Kay Olson – WSU Tri-Cities clinical nursing instructor
  • Lisa Godwin – executive director of Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity
  • Lura Powell – chair of the WSU Board of Regents
  • Michele Acker-Hocevar – WSU Tri-Cities interim vice chancellor of academic affairs
  • Selene Torres-Medrano – WSU Tri-Cities senior in biological sciences
  • Shawnta DiFalco – commanding officer in the Washington National Guard and secondary school administrator

Photos of the Women of Distinction and their biographies will be on display in the hallway nearest The Bookie, WSU Tri-Cities’ student bookstore, through May 12.

For more information, visit

RICHLAND, Wash. — Israa Alshaikhli secured her second term as president of the Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities for the 2017-18 school year and will serve with a new vice president – sophomore Zachary Harper.

Israa Alshaikhli is a junior majoring in biological sciences and hopes to one-day become a doctor. Harper is majoring in business administration.

ASWSUTC student leaders

2017-2018 ASWSUTC Vice President Zachary Harper (left) and ASWSUTC President Israa Alshaikhli

The duo ran on a platform of bringing innovation, inclusion, transparency, community and accessibility to all students on campus.

One of the team’s largest initiatives in the upcoming year will be transitioning the student government into the new student union building while maintaining the current student lounge as a student-centered space.

“It will be nice to have a large space that is entirely student-focused,” Alshaikhli said.

Alshaikhli said they are also excited about continuing to build the WSU Coug nation, further connecting all of the WSU campuses together to share resources and provide support for all students.

“It has been our goal to provide the right resources and support in order to build a campus community where everyone feels welcome and represented,” she said. “It feels good to continue what I started last year and improve for next year. One thing that made me really happy about getting reelected is that students trust me to finish what I started.”

Harper formerly served as ASWSUTC’s director of finance. He said he is excited to step into larger leadership role as vice president.

“I’ve had such a great experience serving with ASWSUTC and I’m now excited to work side-by-side with Israa to continue to improve our campus and our community,” he said.

The elected college-specific senators include:

  • Connor Burnham – School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Anjellica Ampil – College of Nursing
  • Tyler Schrag – College of Business
  • Essence Braggs – College of Arts and Science

To learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experience and dynamic community engagement, visit

News media contacts:

Jeffrey Dennison, WSU Tri-Cities director of marketing and communications, 509-372-7319,

Brandon Fox, WSU Tri-Cities assistant director for the office of student life, 509-372-7300,

A collection of underground comics are featured this month as part of a new exhibition at the Washington State University Tri-Cities Art Center.

The exhibition, titled “A life Underground: Exploring WSU’s Alternative Comix Collection,” will be on display through April 30 at the Art Center in the university’s Consolidated Information Center (CIC) building.

"A Life Underground: Exploring WSU’s Alternative Comix Collection" opens April 6 at the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center.

“A Life Underground: Exploring WSU’s Alternative Comix Collection” opens April 6 at the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center.

All the comics featured in the exhibition are prints made from archived publications, featuring works from the “Steve Willis Comix and Small Press Collection” and the “Lynn R. Hansen Underground Comics Collection.” The comics are regularly housed at WSU Pullman’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections department.

A reception is being held from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Thursday, April 6, in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibition was organized by Adam Whittier, a WSU Tri-Cities digital technology and culture student, who discovered the collection while participating in a conference at WSU Pullman. Whittier also received the help of Robert Franklin, an adjunct instructor, historian and assistant director of the Hanford History Project at WSU Tri-Cities, to curate the show.

A comic book fan, himself, Whittier said he wanted to bring the underground publications to light so that they may be used as a resource for students and community members.

“Comics are one of the most important, engaging and inclusive forms of media that we have available to us, as they have a way of bringing people together, and of being profound, simple and beautiful all at the same time,” he said. “Underground comics of the type in the archives are a snapshot of a peculiar period and worldview, preserved for the exploration and wonderment of future generations.”

Whittier said the collections are difficult for students from other WSU campuses to explore, as the publications are located in Pullman. But with the exhibit, he said he hopes to expose individuals to the diversity and range of underground comics and culture.

“We have a tremendous resource in these collections, and it would be an affront to the art and creativity of the underground cartoonists not to appreciate and share it,” he said.

The WSU Tri-Cities Art Center is open noon – 6 p.m. Monday –Thursday and by appointment.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities welcomes community participation in its annual service day 9 a.m-5 p.m. Friday, April 7.

As part of Cougar Pride Day, volunteers will bring new life to the tiered garden at the entrance of the West Building and the garden around the Cougar statue on campus. Participants will develop a new garden that embodies the Cougar spirit by spelling out “WSU” with a floral arrangement that will be visible to those driving onto campus.

Volunteers will receive a free Cougar Pride T-shirt, as well as free lunch from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Those under the age of 18 will need parental consent to participate.

Cougar Pride day is a part of the Cougs in the Community program at WSU Tri-Cities, in which volunteers engage, network and have fun while sharing knowledge, skills and resources. For more information, contact Amber Eubanks, WSU Tri-Cities community engagement specialist, at 509-372-7106 or

News media contacts:
Amber Eubanks, WSU Tri-Cities community engagement, 509-372-7106,
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,

By Kaury Baucom, Viticulture & Enology

RICHLAND, Wash. – Connor Eck, a senior at Washington State University Tri-Cities originally from Del Mar, Calif., has been named a national Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

The fellowship provides learning and networking opportunities to teach students leadership and how to bring communities together for positive change. As a student winemaker in WSU’s Blended Learning program, Eck worked with local growers and winemakers to develop leadership skills, gain hands-on experience and exercise environmentally friendly winemaking practices.

“I aim to find a way to limit the amount of water used in the farming of grapes and during the winemaking process, while still producing a high-quality product,” he said.

“The cultivation of community-committed leaders has never been more crucial,” said Andrew Seligsohn, Campus Compact president. “Our country needs more people who know how to bring communities together.”

The fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, chose 273 students for the 2017 cohort. It is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.
News media contact:
Kaury Balcom, WSU viticulture and enology communications, 509-327-7223,

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities took third place among 21 teams at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge’s finals this week for their creation and business model presentation of a technology that converts lignin, a natural byproduct of plant-based materials, into biojet fuel.

Photo courtesy: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Libing Zhang talks with people at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

During the challenge, interdisciplinary student teams define an environmental problem, develop a solution, design and build a prototype, create a business plan that proves their solution has market potential and pitches their idea to 170 judges from throughout the Northwest who have expertise in cleantech, as well as to entrepreneurs and inventors, at a demo-day event.

The WSU Tri-Cities team, composed of postdoctoral researcher Libing Zhang and Manuel Seubert, a master’s in business administration student, advanced to the finals from an initial pool of 29 teams during the first round of the competition.

Paul Skilton, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of management, and Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities associate professor of biological systems engineering, advised the team. The WSU Tri-Cities team also worked regularly with researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to prepare for the competition.

The team was presented with the Starbucks $5,000 prize for their third-place ranking in the final round of the competition.

Advancing biofuels

Zhang, team leader for the challenge, said the main benefits for their technology is that it takes lignin, a waste

Photo courtesy: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Manuel Seubert presents at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

product in the biorefineries and pulping process that is considered one of the most abundant renewable carbon sources on Earth, and turns it into an environmentally-friendly, cheap jet fuel that can potentially reduce the carbon emissions for commercial airlines.

“I see several advantages of the technology and hope we can scale it up for commercialization, which will help commercial airlines to achieve their goals in reducing greenhouse emissions,” she said.

Developing a commercial product

Seubert, team co-leader for the challenge, said their goal with the competition was to capture people’s attention for the value of their technology, while using the experience as a learning opportunity for their future in developing the lignin-based jet fuel product into a commercial business.

“The next challenge is to secure funding so that we can scale it up to an industrial scale,” he said. “We are

Libing Zhang displays a container of lignin

Photo courtesy: Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship
Libing Zhang displays a container of lignin

actively looking for funding sources at this point and are thinking about establishing a limited liability company, which will allow us to pursue small business grants.”

Zhang said raising awareness about the product was a crucial part of the competition experience.

“We want people to know that the technology for converting lignin to biojet fuel has a commercial value,” she said. “It is encouraging knowing that people care about the technology and see its potential for reducing the carbon footprint. Now, we hope to take the technology to the next level in the business world.”

Zhang is also the entrepreneurial lead on a National Science Foundation I-Corps lignin-to-biojetfuel project, which was awarded to Yang and his team.

Skilton said the project represents an excellence illustration of the cutting-edge, hands-on programming students experience at WSU Tri-Cities.

“This is an example of the kind of integrated project team work our MBA students come to WSU Tri-Cities to do,” he said.

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is the creation of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship in the Foster School of Business, in partnership with the University of Washington’s College of Engineering, College of the Environment, Clean Energy Institute, College of Built Environments and the Department of Biology.


Libing Zhang, WSU Tri-Cities recent doctoral graduate and postdoctoral researcher,

Manuel Seubert, WSU Tri-Cities master’s in business administration student,

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333,

By Maegan Murray

Jamie Silva hadn’t considered a career in the medical profession until he saw directly how he could use research and patient interaction to better medical care for all citizens, regardless of demographic.

The recent nursing graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities said it was through the research experiences he observed through both as a community college student, as well as in his undergraduate experience through WSU Tri-Cities, that opened his eyes to the possibilities of medicine.

As a community college student in Wenatchee, Silva participated in a research experience where he completed research on algae that they used to replicate the behavior of cancer cells and observe treatment effectiveness. The effort tied directly in with what friends and family had experienced in their battles with cancer. It propelled Silva’s interest in the medical field.

“I’ve seen family and friends pressured into certain types of treatments and this made me realize that I could have an impact on how patients are consulted about treatment,” he said. “My aunt, for example, was pressured into chemotherapy right away. Since she didn’t really understand English, so she assumed that was the best route for her. I want patients to be able to better understand their options.”

Silva began focusing on how he could take his newfound passion for medical research and patient care to the next level and applied to WSU Tri-Cities’ competitive nursing program. The school, he said, provided a perfect blend of medical research and implementation of innovative patient medical care that he had sought for a future in the profession.

This year, he was named the undergraduate nursing student of the year for WSU Tri-Cities.

“I feel that the nursing program is really impactful,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in a lab all day. I wanted that patient interaction. I wanted to see how the research applies directly to and affects the patient. WSU Tri-Cities ended up being a perfect fit for that.”

Real-world experiences

Through his hands-on courses at WSU Tri-Cities, Silva learned about how cancer and other diseases impacted the human body, how to treat those ailments, about different medicines, as well as how to approach patients about possible treatment options.

Silva said his courses utilized innovative tools such as advanced medical mannequins that mimicked individuals with various ailments and allowed students to practice their medical procedures. Additionally, he learned from world-class nursing faculty that tied what the students were learning in the classroom to extracurricular opportunities outside the classroom.

“Some of my biggest highlights were actually the professors,” he said. “They really care about us and really want to make sure that we succeed, and in turn, that our patients succeed.”

Silva’s professors at WSU Tri-Cities helped pair him up with a practicum experience at the Kadlec Regional Medical Center where his work focused specifically in research and administration. Through the experience, Silva attended meetings with physicians, nurse navigators and dietitians where they discussed cases, what worked best for individual patient cases, as well as what needed some changes. They then applied those strategies directly to their patient care.

Through the practicum, Silva also completed a research project that detailed how the hospital could reduce the time that patients suffer from neutropenia — a condition where the patient has an abnormally low count of a type of white blood cell, causing their immune system to be weak and creating a higher risk of infection. Neutropenia occurs in about half of people who receive chemotherapy. It is also a common side effect for people with leukemia.

“We compiled data on the time from when the patient walked in, to when they received antibiotics, the type of antibiotics they used and when those particular antibiotics were administered,” he said. “I compiled all of that data and showed it to the chief of nursing. It was a pretty informative experience and I hope it helps to make a difference in the lives of future patients.”

During his time at WSU Tri-Cities, Silva also gained admittance into a highly competitive summer internship through the National Institute of Health in Washington, D.C. Through the experience, Silva studied the latest and greatest methods for combatting cancer using the patient’s immune system.

“I would get to the laboratory and would have a research experiment in mind and I would write a protocol and conduct that experiment,” he said. “Some of those experiments involved observing how certain treatments would impact rats with cancer. I would also examine all the organs within the rat and see how effective the treatment was.”

Silva said he didn’t really realize it at the time, but he got the opportunity to work with some of the nation’s leading scientists and medical researchers.

“It was a pretty extraordinary experience,” he said.

Silva’s future in medical care

Silva said he hopes to take the experience he has had through WSU Tri-Cities, his experience at Kadlec, as well as his experience through the National Institute of Health to further improve the standard for patient care, as well as create and improve upon current and future cancer treatments.

“My friends and family who have had cancer have been the driving force with where I want to go and the influence I hope to have in the medical field,” he said. “It’s why I went into nursing.”

His end goal, he said, is to one-day become a physician focusing on cancer immunology. Because of his experience at WSU Tri-Cities, the WSU medical school is on his list of potential medical schools he hopes to gain acceptance to into the future.

“The nursing program at WSU Tri-Cities was more than impactful,” he said. “I learned how I could advocate for people with these diseases, the research behind those diseases, as well as how to combat those diseases through research into different treatment options.”

“I want to take a little bit of time working as a nurse and then apply what I’ve learned through my undergraduate courses, my experience as a nurse, as well as what I am going to learn through medical school in my future as a physician,” he said.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Visitors will use MP3 players and smartphones to step into the life of a human trafficking victim for the multisensory experience, “SOLD: The Human Trafficking Experience,” 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, April 4 and 5, in Consolidated Information Center 120/120A at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Suited for those age 13 and older, the free experience combines technology with true stories to educate visitors about human trafficking locally and globally through the lives of victims in nine parts of the world. Developed by the nonprofit Christian organization Mirror Ministries, the experience travels regionally and nationally.

A “recovery room” at the end informs participants about what is being done for human trafficking victims and how they can help. Visitors will also be encouraged to blog about their experience in the exhibition.

“Human trafficking is a pervasive evil that is largely unknown and misunderstood,” said Amber Bruce, communications director for Mirror Ministries. “Shedding light on this issue is the first step in combating it. When we are aware, we can make a difference.”

For more information about the exhibition, visit


News media contact:
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,