WSU Tri-Cities Tag

By John Sutherland, University Communications

Ramesh Ray Vizzini HaynesRamesh Ray Vizzini Haynes WSU TriCities chancellor candidates Ramesh, Ray, Vizzini, Haynes
Ramesh, Ray, Vizzini, Haynes (l-r)

RICHLAND, Wash. – Four finalists for the WSU Tri-Cities chancellorship have been announced and will visit the Tri-Cities and Pullman campuses Nov. 27-December 5.

The finalists, identified after a national search, include:

S.K. Ramesh, director and lead principal investigator of the AIMSprogram (Attract, Inspire, Mentor and Support Students) and a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cal State University, Northridge. He served as dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at CSU Northridge from 2006-2017. He earned a Ph.D. in molecular science at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

  • Tri-Cities campus visit: November 27
  • Pullman campus visit: November 28

Douglas Ray most recently served as the first director of strategic partnerships at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland during a 27-year career at PNNL. He held a variety of positions at PNNL, including associate laboratory director for fundamental and computational sciences directorate; deputy director for science and technology; and chief research officer. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Tri-Cities campus visit: November 28
  • Pullman campus visit: November 29

Anthony Vizzini, provost and senior vice president at Wichita State University. He also has served in administrative and faculty positions at Western Michigan University, Mississippi State University and the University of Maryland. He earned a Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Tri-Cities campus visit: November 29
  • Pullman campus visit: November 30

Sandra Haynes, deputy provost of academic and student affairs, a position that oversees all academic affairs units, at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She previously served 13 years as dean of the College of Professional Studies at Metropolitan State Denver. She earned a Ph.D. in experimental neuropsychology at Colorado State University.

  • Tri-Cities campus visit: December 4
  • Pullman campus visit: December 5

“We are very pleased with the exceptional caliber of these four individuals,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “The Tri-Cities campus is a vital part of our statewide enterprise, and each of these candidates offers the vision and skills required to guide the campus to an expanded role in serving the state’s needs.”

The finalists will meet with administrators, faculty and staff during their visits to Pullman. They will meet with campus leaders and participate in open forums with students, faculty, and staff during their visits to the Tri-Cities campus. More details about the visits are online at https://president.wsu.edu/tri-cities-chancellor/.

Current WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young announced last May he would step down from the position. He will remain as chancellor until a successor is in place.

WSU Tri-Cities enrolls 1,937 students, more than 70 percent of whom study STEM-related academic disciplines. The campus offers 20 undergraduate and 33 graduate degrees. The student body is the most diverse among the university’s five campuses.

 

Contacts:

  • Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communication, 509-335-4742, weiler@wsu.edu
  • Jeffrey Dennison, director of marketing and communications, WSU Tri-Cities, 509-372-7319, dennison@wsu.edu

Chosen as one of approximately 30 students nationwide for summer optometry experience in Berkeley 

By Jessica Roth, WSU Tri-Cities

Catalina Yepez

Catalina Yepez

RICHLAND, Wash. – As a result of resources and mentorship she received at Washington State University Tri-Cities, student Catalina Yepez not only began the initial steps of realizing her future dream of becoming an eye doctor. The opportunities also led her to be selected for an opportunity open to only 30 students nationwide.

Yepez was selected as one of 30 students across the country to participate in a weeklong workshop that prepares students for medical school and careers in optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, this summer. The opportunity is one that was recommended to her by a WSU Tri-Cities professor.

She is now using the support of both her professors and her academic advisor to propel her opportunities as a future optometrist.

Identifying career dreams

Prior to beginning college, Yepez said she didn’t know what she wanted to pursue as a professional career. While going to school at Columbia Basin College, Yepez earned a receptionist job at a local vision clinic to help finance

Scan of Yepez's eye

During her optometry experience in Berkeley, Yepez got get a close look of her eye as part of an introductory eye exam.

her education. As she worked her way up, from clerical duties to conduction pre-testing for patients, she became fascinated by the whole field of optometry and found that she enjoyed working in the clinic.

While conducting an eye exam for a young boy who was fearful of the whole experience, but then became elated when receiving his first pair of glasses, Yepez’s eyes were opened about the opportunities in optometry.

“He exclaimed ‘I can see! I can see!” she said of the young boy’s reaction upon receiving his new glasses. “It was rewarding knowing that something so small and simple can change a person’s attitude and expression for the better. That is when I realized that optometry is what I wanted to do.”

Propelling dreams into actions

Shortly after that experience, Yepez began restructuring her academic plan to meet the pre-med requirements for optometry. She decided to transfer to WSU Tri-Cities her junior year to complete her undergraduate degree and to take advantage of the opportunities and resources available through the four-year university. An academic advisor, she said, was incredibly helpful with that process.

“I spoke to Mariella (Lora) with advising, she helped me out so much with my decision to transfer to WSU Tri-Cities,” she said. “It’s amazing how far you can go with the right support.”

Last spring, Elly Sweet, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of biology, encouraged Yepez to apply to internships to help her prepare for her future in optometry. This prompted her to look into prospective schools that she’d be interested in attending, and through her search she found a workshop offered at University of California, Berkeley.

Yepez and friends in an eye exam room

Yepez and friends in an eye exam room

The workshop allows students to experience what life was like as a medical student in the school’s optometry program. The program also provides students with valuable information about the admissions requirements and standards for medical school.

Yepez gained a recommendation from Nelmi Devarie Baez, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of chemistry, to include with her application for the program. She said she had Devarie Baez as an instructor for her organic chemistry class, which was one of her hardest courses. But through his mentorship, she gained an understanding for the material that would be vital to her future as an optometrist. With his recommendation and to her surprise, Yepez was selected of one of 38 students from around the United States for the experience.

“I didn’t expect it at all,” she said of her admittance into the program.

Through the program, Yepez spent one week in California with her cohort learning about strategies for a good score on the Optometry Admission Test, which is required for admittance into any optometry program, in addition to learning about how to prepare for an interview in the medical school application process and opportunities for real-world experiences in optometry after graduation. She also got to tour the university’s facilities and get a feel for the types of things they would be doing as medical optometry students.

“It was exciting,” she said. “We played with all of their equipment and learned how to perform a basic eye exam on each other. We learned more about the eye and vision and we got to experience a little bit of what it’s like to be a student there.”

Planning future career success

Yepez said if it wasn’t for the help and support of the faculty and staff at WSU Tri-Cities, she might not have realized her potential as a future optometrist and wouldn’t have gained admission into the Berkeley workshop.

“Everybody here at WSU Tri-Cities is trying to help you succeed,” she said. “There are a lot of resources here if you use them, and they help you out a lot. I am very happy I came here.”

Following her graduation this spring, Yepez said she plans to spend a gap year job shadowing local optometrists in the field and volunteering at a local cancer center before applying to optometry programs. She said she one-day hopes to work in a medical firm in the Tri-Cities region and might consider opening her own practice.

“WSU Tri-Cities has made me realize that optometry is a competitive field and I need to be a competitive applicant,” she said. “There are ways for me to prepare and resources here I can use. I’ve definitely gotten help every time I’ve asked for it.”

By Roberto Tapia, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities, Dreamer’s Club and the World Research Club partnered to host a Dia de los Muertos celebration, or Day of the Dead as it is translated to in English, this month to promote the Mexican culture and give students the opportunity to experience a different kind of celebration.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and other parts of Central and South America during the days of Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 every year. The celebration brings together family members and friends to pray for and remember the people in their lives that have died.

The celebration originally took place in the beginning of summer before the 16th century, but gradually evolved to its current celebratory days to coincide with western Christianity’s celebration of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.

During the celebration, individuals build altars to commemorate their lost family members and fill them with different foods and items of their departed member’s liking.  The clubs chose to honor both individuals who had ties to the Tri-Cities and WSU community who have passed, in addition to well-known individuals in the Mexican culture who are now deceased. Some of those people included former WSU President Elson Floyd and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, artist Frida Khalo and writer Nellie Campobello, who are all well-known in the Mexican culture.

The altars displayed food, clothing and items that were favored by the deceased during their lives.

Other features included pan dulce (sweet bread), pan de muerto (bread of the dead), hot chocolate, face painting, sugar skull decorating and a performance by Chiawana High School’s mariachi band – Mariachi Halcón del Río.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The progress and future of cleanup efforts at the Hanford Site will be the focus of a presentation by Tom Fletcher, deputy manager of the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office, 3-4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the WSU Tri-Cities East Auditorium.

This is the fourth in a series of lectures focusing on the Hanford Site and is cohosted by Washington State University Tri-Cities and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Fletcher, a WSU alumnus, will focus on the Richland Operation Office’s priorities for continuing the Hanford Site cleanup while strictly adhering to safe, environmentally-acceptable and responsible management practices.

The Richland Operations Office has an annual budget of approximately $1 billion. It oversees multiple contractors working on the cleanup project that stretches over the 580-square-mile site.

“We are pleased to welcome Mr. Fletcher and his expertise” on the Hanford cleanup project, said Akram Hossain, vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and external programs at WSU Tri-Cities. “This is an exceptional opportunity for our students, faculty and all of the community to learn what is currently happening at the Hanford Site, as well as how this is accomplished from an operations perspective.”

Fletcher became deputy manager of the Richland Operations Office in December 2016. He oversees daily operations, program planning, project execution, budgeting and compliance with the Hanford Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order. He has more than 20 years of experience managing nuclear operations, construction, deactivation, demolition and environmental remediation projects.

Fletcher holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from WSU.

 

Contacts:

Tish Christman, WSU Tri-Cities administrative assistant, 509-372-7683, tish.christman@wsu.edu

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, maegan.murray@wsu.edu

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities will honor its international students, faculty and staff members with a new international flag installation and celebration that will take place at 1:15 p.m. on Monday in the Floyd Atrium on campus.

There will be an initial total of 32 flags represented of the known 32 countries of current international students, faculty and staff that will be hung as part of the installation. Members of the public are welcome to attend the celebration.

“These flags are displayed in a prominent place in recognition of faculty, staff and students who have come to our campus from countries around the world and of their diverse backgrounds and experience strengthen the campus,” said Jana Kay, campus registrar.

As part of a brief celebration for installation, the campus community will hear from Kate McAteer, assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, Israa Alshaikhli, president of the Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities, and Yuna Okamoto, a student in the Intensive American Language Center, on the importance and impact of having the installation on campus.

If there are flags not represented of current campus community members’ home countries, those individuals are encouraged to contact Erika Kraus, WSU Tri-Cities international student coordinator, at erika.kraus@wsu.edu. Additional flags will be installed as they are identified.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Jonah Firestone
Firestone

RICHLAND, Wash. – WSU Tri-Cities is developing a teacher endorsement program in computer science that has attracted a $49,000 grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and a matching contribution from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Currently, there is no teaching endorsement program at any universities in Washington state for computer science, which makes program development in the subject increasingly important in today’s advancing technological society, said Jonah Firestone, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of teaching and learning and campus lead on the grant.

“The state of Washington has pushed to have at least one computer science teacher at every school who has an endorsement in the subject,” Firestone said. “Up until now, it was usually a math or science teacher who also had an interest in computing that would serve that role. But we need to take that further and offer an endorsement in the subject in order to best prepare our teachers.”

The first phase of the grant funds, he said, will fund the development and offering of professional development workshops with teachers from five districts that include Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Prosser and Othello. The workshops, which currently are being developed by WSU Tri-Cities and PNNL and will be taught by PNNL computer scientists this spring, will provide training on computer science concepts and skills and for designing computer science curriculum.

The funds will also go toward stipends for educators who participate.

Firestone said there will be a combination of teacher recruitment for the program and recommendations from districts for current instructors who would immediately qualify for the program based on their roles in schools.

“We’re looking at teachers who are already in technology classes, plus we’re working with our contacts at the local science, technology, engineering and mathematics schools to inquire about teachers who would qualify and be interested,” he said.

Morrison Judy
Morrison

The second phase of the grant entails the analysis of data collected over the course of the workshops, which will then be used for the development of a computer science certificate program for educators. Firestone and Judy Morrison, associate professor of teaching and learning, will co-lead the project. Together they will analyze the workshops and develop the certificate program.

Firestone said the certificate program will combine education courses with computer science courses.

“Classes on the content are not enough,” Firestone said. “We have to have classes on how to teach this material to the kids.”

WSU Tri-Cities is the only university in the state selected for the grant program. Twenty-four other districts, schools and nonprofits also were selected for the program, who will use the funds to train teachers, provide and upgrade technology, and expand access to girls, students from underrepresented populations and communities who have historically been underserved. The grants awarded to higher education institutions across the state total nearly $1 million.

“We are very grateful to OSPI for presenting this opportunity and to PNNL for providing the in-kind matching funds that will go toward the program and their time in working with us on this endeavor,” Firestone said. “This grant is allowing us to get this program started and off the ground. This is stage one of a multistage process.”

 

Contacts:

By Maegan Murray

In graduate student Kenny Nyirenda’s home country of Zambia, access to clean water sources can be challenging, especially in remote areas.

That is why he has committed his graduate research as a Fulbright scholar at Washington State University Tri-Cities to improving access to clean sources of drinking water and finding solutions to prevent water pollution.

The Fulbright Scholarship allows students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The prestigious program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Kenny Nyirenda with UK Groundwater Project

Kenny Nyirenda completes some work with the UK Groundwater Project.

As part of his Fulbright program, Nyirenda is studying under Yonas Demissie, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WSU Tri-Cities, to look at the impacts of mining on groundwater resources, as well as how climate change is impacting groundwater resources.

“Because of what is happening in terms of climate change and in terms of pollution, people are now resorting to the ground for their water sources,” he said. “Groundwater is often a clean source of water and is readily available in the ground, although it can get depleted and polluted especially by anthropogenic activities.”

Nyirenda said Zambia is largely known for its mining, which puts pressure on water resources as a result of excessive pumping and pollution from the activity.

“We want to make sure that this resource is protected, and many surface water bodies are drying up in some parts of the country due to prolonged dry seasons attributed to climate change,” he said. “There is fresh water available in the ground and we need to make sure we are protecting the resource, especially in these areas that are prone to climatic change.”

Currently, as part of a graduate seminar, he is reviewing the data and literature on the impacts of mining on groundwater in Zambia and around the globe, assessing the potential of acid mine drainage and its impact on groundwater sources.

“What they are mining in Zambia are mainly base metal sulfide-rich mineral deposits, which have the potential to generate acid when exposed to air, moisture or rain water,” he said. “Once that acid is generated, it becomes a nuisance because it spreads into the environment together with the dissolved heavy metals it carries and ends up in groundwater.”

Solving the issue of access to clean drinking water and preventing pollution from occurring within not only his home country, but throughout Africa, he said, could solve many more problems throughout the continent.

“Many diseases that are prevalent in Africa stem from consumption of poor quality drinking water,” he said. “If you sort out the problems with water, you sort out problems with most of Africa. We need to figure out how to protect the resources that we have, as well as improve access to good quality water across Africa.”

Geophysical survey of groundwater - Kenny Nyirenda-1

Kenny Nyirenda participates in a geophysical survey of groundwater.

Nyirenda said he has never personally suffered from lack of access to clean drinking water, as he grew up in a military barrack where his father served in the military. As a result, he and his family were provided with water and electricity. Across rural parts of Zambia and in other parts of Africa, however, people may not have regular access to the same resources.

“For one, many might not have the knowledge to know whether a water source is OK,” he said. “Additionally, because there are natural sources of pollution, people may collect water thinking that it is of good quality, when in fact, there may be serious issues with it.”

Nyirenda said he plans to take the research he develops through WSU Tri-Cities and inform people, as well as implement changes, in his home country. His home university, The Copperbelt University, was selected by the World Bank as an Africa Center of Excellence in Sustainable Mining. One of its aims is to promote a balance between environmental sustainability and mine production. The pairing of his Fulbright experience at WSU Tri-Cities with the resources afforded to him at his home university will allow him and his colleagues to make a true difference when he arrives back home.

“One of the great things about the Fulbright program is the mutual understanding between the two countries that I can take my work back home to implement positive changes,” he said. “When I go back home, my network here will still be there as a result of this Fulbright experience. My work doesn’t have to end here. We will still be in touch to communicate about developments and regarding new opportunities once I return home.”

Nyirenda hopes to work with the United Nations Environment Programme or United Nations Water to bring about positive change regarding water infrastructure and policies surrounding the resource in his home country. From there, he hopes to become a politician so he can help lead initiatives that will improve access to good quality water.

“Politicians have the opportunity to be more powerful to implement most of these innovative ideas regarding water access and policy,” he said. “I want to use this influence to implement these ideas.”

Gear Up logoRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities recently received a $11.7 million seven-year GEAR UP grant to prepare students in low-income schools to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.

This award marks the eighth U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant received by WSU Tri-Cities since 2002. These awards have helped the university serve more than 30,000 students in middle and high schools in southeastern Washington. Total GEAR UP grant funds received by WSU Tri-Cities now total more than $123 million.

The GEAR UP grant — GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs — will allow for the hiring of nine new salaried staff and a variety of tutors to work with students in middle schools. The goals of the program are to improve academic performance, completion of rigorous courses, knowledge of financial aid and post-secondary education, state exam pass rates, on-time graduation, post-secondary enrollment and freshman retention rates.

The grant will help raise student awareness and readiness for post-secondary education and career opportunities,” GEAR UP director Chuck Hallsted said. “It will really make a difference in our communities, especially for first generation and underrepresented populations.”

Partnerships with local schools

The new grant, titled the One Vision Partnership, will serve 2,185 students in nine partner districts in Washington: Clarkston, Columbia, Finley, Ephrata, Kiona-Benton, Mabton, Pasco, North Franklin and Prosser.

WSU Tri-Cities GEAR UP staff will assist students in the sixth and/or seventh grades and will follow the students through high school and into their first year of post-secondary education to increase their academic success.

Additional resources and support for student success

Students will have access to academic tutoring, mentoring, advising, college trips, career exploration, after-school programs, summer programs, non-academic skills for success and some technology. Professional development will also be available for teachers.

Hallsted said the WSU GEAR UP program also emphasizes collaboration with school administration to ensure an effective team approach and alignment with their educational framework and GEAR UP grant objectives, including advisory board meetings comprised of the partner school superintendents.

Contacts:

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Yichien Cooper, adjunct professor of teaching and learning at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is showing the world that arts education is more than the creation of physical and digital media through her work in growing international partnerships across the globe.

Yichien Cooper and teachers from STEAM workshop in Hong Kong

Yichien Cooper and teachers from STEAM workshop in Hong Kong

Cooper traveled to Asia this summer to create and build upon international partnerships in arts education where she presented at conferences and provided workshops in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. During these presentations, she worked with arts educators and researchers from around the world, discussing ways to bridge gaps in arts education. She said instilling arts-based academic programming among STEM-based programming is critical to growing a students’ problem-solving and innovative ability.

“Art isn’t just art,” she said. “It is the confluence of ideas that come from many different experiences and knowledge that one obtains throughout their life. When applied to subjects like science and engineering, for example, that is when products and initiatives develop that continue to change the world.”

Leading by example

Cooper said many Asian nations are now trying to catch up on American standards for pairing the arts with technical and science-based academics. The United States, she said, began a focused philosophy to include arts with STEM fields, combining the old “STEM” acronym to make “STEAM.”

She said countries in Asia have witnessed the successes of companies ranging from Microsoft, to Apple, to scientific and medical firms that have

As an invited speaker for the 2017 InSEA World Congress, Cooper gave a talk on “Building A Sustainable Creative City through Art with Social Purposes: An Autoethnographic Account of Being an Arts Commissioner.” She talked about how one discovers identity and sense of self through the planning and development of public arts.

taken the world by storm by means of developing products and apparatuses that originated out of creative real-world problem-solving.

“What research has shown is that with the introduction of arts concepts among these technical fields, children thrive in their creative product development, their teamwork ability and their ability to think long-term to come up with creative solutions to real-world problems,” she said. “It’s a tool that is effective in bridging across curricular areas and improving learning.”

Cooper said other countries are emphasizing how arts can enrich students’ learning. With the popularity of STEAM education, they are looking up to what American students are able to accomplish through that creative process.

“They want to collaborate and implement those strategies within their own schools,” she said.

Presenting to countries across Asia

During her travels in Asia, Cooper gave a range of presentations focusing on how to incorporate the arts into various academic fields.

One of her presentations focused on integrating arts at Washington State University Tri-cities, providing highlights from her upcoming Chinese book, “The Power of Integration” which will be out in November in China. During another presentation, Cooper talked about her work partnering with local schools in the Tri-Cities to develop their arts programming in combination with STEM curriculum. Cooper also spoke about her journey as an art advocator in Richland at the 36th International Society for Education Through Art World Congress in Daegu, Korea..

Cooper (second from right) with some participants during her STEAM presentation in Foshan, China, where she conducted a three-day workshop on STEAM. The participants were asked to apply simple machinery in a craft design Displayed in the photos, participants showcase an octopus head dress where the wearer pulls strings to move all tentacles.

Cooper spoke to educators and individuals from various industries on improving visual literacy and research through data visualization. As the chair of the data visualization working group for the National Art Education Association Research Commission, she said it is important to create visual representations of information that is easy and accessible for all to understand and ingest, making it more accessible to the non-technical expert in that field.

Cooper also conducted hands-on workshops that were organized by the Art Education Research Institute in Taiwan, Art Education Training Center at Foshan in China, and the Hong Kong Society of Education in Art.

Further, Cooper used her experience abroad to build partnerships with local students overseas. She worked with teachers at Shang-Shi Elementary School in Taiwan, where both groups hope to partner to develop joint curriculum for arts education.

“We could have the students in Taiwan showing our American students what their art and arts curriculum looks like and our American students can share with them what art looks like in America,” she said. “Our ultimate challenge is the time difference, so we might go for a video-based route and exchange videos, as well as talk about each other’s daily life and how they are similar and different.  Shang-Shi strives to provide global education to children’s life, being able to assist them finding opportunities for students only shows that we are living in a global village.”

Looking toward the future of arts education

As the Acting President of World Chinese Art Education Association, Cooper will organize the International Society for Education Through Art Asia Regional Congress in 2018 in Hong Kong with colleague Solan Wong, of the Education University of Hong Kong, and Kaitak Kwong, president of the Hong Kong Society of Education in Art.

Focusing on collaborative efforts to sustain greater arts education community, she said the conference aims to welcome groups from throughout Asia and south-east Asia. The congress will focus on the theme of “challenges and transformations,” or CT for short in connection to the type of body scan, and the goal will be to evaluate the next steps for arts education and embracing challenges within current educational systems.

“So many countries individually write their teaching standards, training standards and curriculum,” she said. “The fact that we can come together and work collaboratively and share ideas is a huge win for education. We all have a common goal that is focusing not only on the immediate results for our students, but the long-term value of their education. That is a good change.”

Cooper said it is true that many schools across the world have slowly began to narrow their scope on art, but through these types of international partnerships, arts associations around the globe hope that individuals will see the value and significance of arts in education, especially when combined with the traditional STEM fields.

“We need to make art visible,” she said. “Art brings people together. It transcends gender, age and physical boundaries and it’s an important part of a student’s education.”

By Maegan Murray

Wine is a $2 billion industry in Washington state, but many students will not be exposed to the science behind the field as a possible career option until they reach college. Thanks to the Partners in Science program, however, one high school teacher had the opportunity to shadow and complete research alongside a renowned wine science researcher and professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities – the science behind the experience, of which, he is now introducing to his high school students.

Fred Burke, science teacher at Chiawana High School, sets up equipment for a smoke taint trial at the WSU Prosser Research Extension vineyards. He was paired with Tom Collins, assistant professor of wine science at WSU Tri-Cities, to complete wine research the last two summers at WSU Tri-Cities as part of the Partners in Science program.

Fred Burke, a teacher at Chiawana High School, had the opportunity to shadow and complete research with Tom Collins, wine science researcher and assistant professor of wine science at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“This experience has allowed me to show my students how the nature of science is more than what they experience through a text book and allow them to experience the techniques and capabilities of it in a real-world setting,” Burke said. “It has not only allowed me to participate in research that will have an impact in the wine industry today, but it also it makes doing science a lot more fun for my students.”

Through the Partners in Science program, which is supported by a $15,000 grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, high school teachers are paired with a university professor in their field and the pair spends two consecutive summers completing research. During the end of each summer experience, the teachers prepare a presentation on their research and how they plan to implement what they learn into their classroom setting. The university professors also get the value of an additional hand in the lab and in the high school teacher’s second summer, an experienced lab researcher to help with their studies.

As part of his research experience, Burke worked with Collins to characterize wine grape varieties using sophisticated research techniques known as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. For the techniques, the researchers use devices that allow researchers to look into the intricate chemical and other properties of each type of grape for classification and categorization. Burke also had the chance to work with Collins to start a study analyzing the impact of wildfire smoke on wine grapes, which could hinder the taste and overall quality of the wine.

Tom Collins, assistant professor of wine science at WSU Tri-Cities, prepares smoking equipment for a smoke taint trial to evaluate the effect of smoke on wine grapes at the WSU Prosser Research Extension vineyards.

“Both projects are relevant to the classes we’re teaching,” Burke said. “In environmental science, we’re able to look at how the smoke impacts not only the wine grapes, but also the chemical components and properties of the wine.”

The study of the impact of wildfire smoke on wine captured the interest of the Washington wine industry, with Collins stating that since they announced they were completing the research, he gets calls throughout the year on updates for the research, results they’ve tabulated and generally how they can protect wine grapes from the exposure. The interest grows each year as the summer wildfire seasons commence.

“We got three calls today, alone, regarding smoke taint,” Collins said. “The fact that Fred has been able to be a part of this project provides him with a great in-depth look at how lab and field research have a substantial impact on industry. The Washington wine industry increases exponentially year, with the mid-Columbia region being a hub for the industry. So this research is crucial for our area’s winemakers.”

Last summer during Burke’s first of two summers working with Collins in the lab, the duo set up experiments at the WSU Prosser Research Extension to test different amounts of smoke on grape vines. They are now in the process of analyzing samples collected from that experiment. Collins plans on continuing the study for at least the next several years.

“Just being able to look at all the parts that go into a real-life field of scientific study has been immensely beneficial,” Burke said. “I get to share that with my students and they benefit from that real-world application. Within their science classes, our students have to conduct procedures, collect data and analyze that data through labs and lessons. This real-world experience allows me to show them that what they’re practicing in class can be applied out into the field, as well as provide them with concrete examples of stuff we’re actively doing in the labs.”

Burke also had the opportunity to bring some of his classes out to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center to see how the research is conducted and get an idea of how a research lab operates.

“Science in agriculture is kind of one of those unknowns for many of my students,” he said. “They see people planting and watering, but they don’t know the science behind it. This provides them with an in-depth look. It’s a career option that most of my students probably have never even considered.”

Burke plans to apply for a supplemental grant from the Partners in Science program, which would extend his research partnership time frame with Collins and provide Burke with dollars for science equipment for his classroom.

“It would provide us with more money for use in the classroom, which would allow my students to conduct some research of their own,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”