Research Recap for April 23

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research across a variety of fields. Periodically, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarship and research at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button. Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Mike Larsen, Chemistry

WWU Assistant Professor of Chemistry Mike Larsen recently received a three-year, $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation titled "Dynamic Guanidine-based Polymer Networks." The accelerating global accumulation of plastic waste is a pressing environmental issue, and major contributors to this problem are a class of compounds called thermosets, which consist of crosslinked polymer networks with a fixed structure. As their name implies, once thermosets are formed, they typically cannot be reprocessed or recycled and their potential for reuse is limited. One way to address this is to incorporate dynamic chemical bonds into the network structure. Under specific conditions, these bonds continuously break and re-form, enabling the network to flow, and thus be remolded or recycled. The Larsen research group has discovered a new dynamic chemical reaction, which they call “thermal guanidine metathesis," which can serve as the basis for recyclable polymer networks. Projects supported by this grant will include exploring the effects of polymer structure on the properties of corresponding networks, synthesizing new types of guanidines to examine their influence on polymer dynamics, and examining the detailed rheological behavior of these materials. It will involve from six to eight undergraduate students and a graduate student over the lifetime of the grant, providing them with experience and training in important, in-demand techniques in addition to their contributions to the advancement of the fields of polymer science and sustainability.

Liz Cameron, Biology graduate student

WWU graduate student in biology Liz Cameron, who studies cellular stability during development, was recently awarded both the WWU Graduate Research Award for her thesis project and the WWU Washington Space Grant Summer Research Award, a 10-week internship funded by NASA through the Washington Space Grant Consortium. As an intern, Cameron will examine how the molecular mechanisms of cells may be altered by the environmental conditions of space by pushing her thesis project, “Interrogating dynamic changes in centrosome protein conformation with FRET-FLIM," as it relates to NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD). FRET-FLIM stands for “Forester Resonance Energy Transfer - Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Microscopy” and is a highly specialized kind of microscopy Cameron has been trained in at WWU.  This summer, she’ll be working together with the other WWU Washington Space Grant awardees to facilitate a STEM outreach event for school-aged children in Bellingham. All awardees will present their research from the summer during Scholars Week in spring 2022. 

Stephen Haines, MFA student

Current Masters of Fine Arts student Stephen Haines is the managing editor of Bellingham Review. His work has been shortlisted at Epoch Press and has appeared or is forthcoming in AdelaideRathalla ReviewCreative ColloquyBright Flash Literary Magazine, and the Scholar’s Week showcase at WWU. His thesis is a multigenre collection of fiction and creative nonfiction experimenting with form and mnemonic association.

Bellingham Review's issue 82, put together by Haines with help from assistant managing editor Keegan Lawler and under the direction of editor-in-chief Susanne Paola Antonetta,  went live on April 19. The Bellingham Review is the literary journal produced by Western Washington University’s MFA program.


Friday, April 23, 2021 - 10:08am

Undergraduates Amy Pollock (left) and Evan Van Pelt (right) at work in Mike Larsen's lab

Liz Cameron

Stephen Haines