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March Pub Talk

Science Pub: “Changing the Strategy for Treating Neurodegenerative Diseases” followed by a Special Interactive Session
March 3rd, 2020 | 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Paradise Creek Brewery’s Downtown Restaurant – 245 SE Paradise St
Free Admission – $5.00 suggested donation (all donations support the Palouse Discovery Science Center)

Sip your favorite brew, while you learn a thing or two! Science Pub is an opportunity to enjoy learning about science in an informal atmosphere; no scientific background necessary! Just bring your curiosity and a thirst to learn.

Topics and presenters are arranged by the Palouse Discovery Science Center (PDSC) and WSU’s Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador (EFA) Program. All Donations support PDSC. Click here for more information.

This month’s speakers:

Join Joe Harding on March 3rd at Paradise Creek Brewery for his pub talk “Changing the Strategy for Treating Neurodegenerative Diseases” followed by a special interactive research commercialization session with Grant Norton and Kimberly Christen.

By any measure, the efforts to develop an effective treatment for any of the major neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease have been an abject failure. The pharmaceutical industry has spent over one trillion dollars trying to develop anything effective with zero to show for it. So why? Come listen to Joe break down the reasons and present the effective approaches that have been championed by his research group to combat neurodegenerative diseases.

The special interactive session will highlight current research developments and what it takes to move the results of research out into the communities.

Dr. Joe Harding is a professor of physiology and neuroscience at WSU, and Chief Scientific Officer, director, and co-founder of Athira Pharma, a Seattle based company which is developing novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases based on technology developed at WSU.

Joe’s laboratory is focused on the development of small molecule therapeutics that target growth factors. These include both activators and antagonists. Most recently they have been developing activators of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which have powerful regenerative properties. Two of these molecule are poised to enter human clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to their potential utility in treating multiple neurodegenerative diseases they are currently being considered in his laboratory and collaborator’s laboratories as treatments for traumatic brain and spinal cord injury, transplant reinnervation, hearing loss, general wound healing, fibrotic diseases, type II diabetes and congestive heart failure. Conversely they are actively developing and examining the utility of HGF and dual HGF/macrophage stimulating protein (MSP) antagonists as anti-cancer and anti-angiogenic therapeutics. Dual HGF/MSP antagonist have exhibited promising therapeutic activity in xenograph models of pancreatic cancer, which has up until now been untreatable. One of Athira Pharma’s drugs is poised to enter the final phase of human clinical trials.

Dr. Grant Norton is Dean of the Honors College and Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. In 2007, Professor Norton co-founded GoNano Technologies, a start-up company focused on applications of a unique nanomaterial platform. More recently, his research on next-generation battery materials was licensed to Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures. As an EFA, Norton shares his expertise with the National Science Foundation’s SBIR program, technology licensing, and developing business plans for early-stage funding.

Dr. Kim Christen a Professor in and the Director of the Digital Technology and Culture program and the Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University. Her work explores the intersections of cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, information ethics, and the use of digital technologies in and by Indigenous communities globally. She directs several projects including: the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, a collaboratively curated site of Plateau cultural materials; Mukurtu CMS, a free and open source content management system and community access platform designed to meet the curatorial needs of Indigenous communities; and the Sustainable Heritage Network, an online initiative dedicated to making the preservation and digitization of cultural heritage materials sustainable, simple, and secure.

February Pub Talk

Science Pub: Family, Community and Distance – Research in Bolivia and India
Feb 4th, 2020 | 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Paradise Creek Brewery’s Downtown Restaurant – 245 SE Paradise St
Free Admission – $5.00 suggested donation (all donations support the Palouse Discovery Science Center)

Sip your favorite brew, while you learn a thing or two! Science Pub is an opportunity to enjoy learning about science in an informal atmosphere; no scientific background necessary! Just bring your curiosity and a thirst to learn.

Topics and presenters are arranged by the Palouse Discovery Science Center (PDSC) and WSU’s Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador (EFA) Program. All Donations support PDSC. Click here for more information.

This month’s speakers:

Join Anne Pisor and Io Palmer on February 4th at Paradise Creek Brewery for their pub talk “Family, Community and Distance – Research in Bolivia and India” Pisor and Palmer’s research stems from a singular question- Why and how do people build community? Through the movement of goods-fabric, food or communication, materials are used to build and maintain community.

Data from across the sciences suggest that humans are really flexible in our attitudes towards people from other places – these attitudes can range from aggressive to tolerant and everything in between. When and why do we build long-distance relationships? Pisor’s theoretical work suggests that long-distance family and friends can help when times get rough locally, or when something is only available where they live. Since 2010 she has collaborated with three populations of horticulturalists (slash-and-burn farmers) in the Bolivian Amazon. Though things are rough locally – their production is being negatively affected by floods, droughts, and windstorms, consequences of climate change – they are able to manage most of these effects in their communities. However, long-distance relationships are important for accessing things, both material and immaterial, from the city. During this talk Pisor will walk through who these long-distance relationships are with, how they are maintained, and why they matter in 2020.

Io Palmer’s research project titled Created Consumed and Scrubbed, addresses this question of community via the materiality of material. How do fabrics move through Indian societies. High end, finely woven and embedded silks and wool and cheap cotton tourist fabrics, move and create community and a language. Weddings are a multi million dollar business in India. Often lasting for days and planned to the smallest detail. Women come together to visit local fabric shops touching and desiring the abundance of hand and machine made material. Equally important to Palmer’s research are the tourist shops dotted along the western coast of southern India. Structures are built along the sea and display dresses, pants and shirts often made of fabrics woven and printed in India. Within these spaces tourists can purchase a memory. Another facet of Palmer’s research is in the space of the dhobi ghat- the open air laundries of India. A slowly disappearing part of this country, these dhobi ghats are entire communities of generational washer families who launder clothing from homes and industries throughout India. All these spaces weave together in a unique way to develop community through labor and commodity.

Dr. Ann Pisor is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology. Pisor is an evolutionary and cultural anthropologist interested in why people have such far-flung social relationships – relationships that cross community, ethnic, religious, and even national boundaries – and the role these relationships play in managing fisheries and coping with climate change. She collaborates with three populations of horticulturalists living in the Bolivian Amazon, where she’s been working since 2010.

Pisor directs the Human Sociality Lab at WSU, focused on the evolution, form, and function of human social organization. Her most recent papers are in Behavioral Ecology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Evolution & Human Behavior, and Psychological Science, and her most recent grant is from the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). She came to WSU from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in 2018.

Io Palmer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at WSU. Palmer was born on Hydra – a motor-less Greek island off the coast of the Peleponesse. The first seven years of her life were spent amongst the donkeys, the fishes, the clear blue Mediterranean sea and the jazz music her parents listened to.

Through depictions of cleaning products, laborer’s garments and various other industrial and domestic forms, Palmer’s artworks explore the complex issues of class, capitalism and societal excess. Trained originally as a ceramicist, Io uses a variety of processes and materials including fabric, wood and sound.

Palmer has been featured in several national and international exhibitions of note. Some include the Dakar-International Arts Biennial, Dakar, Senegal; Working History, Reed College, Portland, OR; Hair Follies, Concordia University, Montreal and Rush Gallery, New York City, NY. Solo exhibitions include York College, CUNY, Jamaica, NY; Deluge Contemporary, Victoria, BC; The Art Gym at Marylhurst University, Marylhurst, OR and a two person exhibition at the Howard County Arts Council, Ellicott City, MD. She has participated in several artist residencies including the Sanskriti Foundation, New Delhi, India; the Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, NM and the Ucross Foundation, Clermont WY. Io received an Idaho Commission on the Arts grant, 2014. And most recently was awarded a Fulbright Nehru Research Grant to India, 2018-2019. Io holds and MFA from the University of Arizona, Tucson and a BFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.

November Pub Talk

Pub Talk Nov 5thScience Pub: Women’s Representation in Engineering: What are we Missing?
Nov 12th, 2019 | 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Paradise Creek Brewery’s Downtown Restaurant – 245 SE Paradise St
Free Admission – $5.00 suggested donation (all donations support the Palouse Discovery Science Center)

Sip your favorite brew, while you learn a thing or two! Science Pub is an opportunity to enjoy learning about science in an informal atmosphere; no scientific background necessary! Just bring your curiosity and a thirst to learn.

Topics and presenters are arranged by the Palouse Discovery Science Center (PDSC) and WSU’s Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador (EFA) Program. All Donations support PDSC. Click here for more information.

This month’s speakers:

Join Dr. Candis Claiborn and Dr. Julie Kmec on November 12th at Paradise Creek Brewery for their pub talk “Women’s Representation in Engineering: What are we Missing?”

Candis Claiborn will discuss her efforts to encourage more women students to pursue an engineering degree and why it is important to do so, both as a former engineering dean and in her current research. Julie Kmec will describe findings from a project exploring women’s engineering participation in Jordan, Malaysia, and Tunisia – – 3 countries where women have a much higher representation in engineering than in the US. She will also describe efforts to create a virtual reality experience to show how US-based engineers can learn from female engineers in these three countries.

Candis ClaibornDr. Candis Claiborn is a Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She served as Dean of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture (VCEA) at Washington State University from 2006 to 2016. She led WSU’s NSF-funded ADVANCE program, which ran from 2008 to 2014. As Dean, she also oversaw numerous initiatives aimed at recruitment and retention of students, including women and underrepresented minorities, in engineering and computer science.

Candis currently serves on the Executive Advisory Board for the University of Houston Center for Advancing UH Faculty Success, as well as the advisory board for the University of Idaho Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. She is a member of the University of Idaho Academy of Engineers. Fun fact: in 2018, she was featured in Pioneering Women, a special section of the Moscow Pullman Daily News.

Julie_KmecDr. Julie A. Kmec is a Professor of Sociology at WSU. Her research focuses on gender and race-based workplace inequality. She has published on topics including gender differences in work effort, work-family policy impacts, family caregiving penalties at work, the glass ceiling, and employment discrimination. She received the 2017 Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Instruction and teaches courses on social stratification, research methods, and the labor market. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Sociology Compass.

Fledgling EFA Program Adds Members to its Ranks

By Amit Dhingra, Ph.D., Professor, and Chair, EFA

The nearly three-year-old Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors (EFA) Program at Washington State University has recently added students, staff, administrative leaders, postdocs and faculty to its ranks as the community continues to grow ( The EFA members are a part of an advocacy group dedicated to promoting and supporting innovative initiatives, policies, and practices aimed at improving the lives of our constituents in alignment with WSU’s land-grant mission.

The group was founded in 2016 and has been active since then to build a grassroots community of members inspired by the ideals of the land grant mission. We have also been working to realign the policies at WSU so that a community driven to further the institution’s mission gets the support it needs.

The EFA community is engaged in implementing the recommendations of the External Review of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WSU ( To foster entrepreneurial and innovative activities on campus, the conflict of interest process has been streamlined ( and, an institutional award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to recognize the work done by our colleagues ( Most importantly, student programs focused on entrepreneurial training are being coordinated through federally funded programs such as NSF I-Corps (

Last October, the EFA held its inaugural retreat (, where the community made its first foray into engaging the entire WSU community across all campuses. There were several ideas shared at the inaugural event that focused on enhancing WSU’s infrastructure and processes. The aim of the ideation process was to identify areas of improvement that can enable the WSU community to contribute to the goals of the President’s Drive to 25 mission of achieving preeminence in research and discovery, teaching, and engagement. Regent Heather Redman, Partner, Flying Fish Ventures presented the keynote address at the retreat, and President Kirk Schulz delivered the inaugural address. Both speakers emphasized the need for incorporating entrepreneurial and innovative thinking in research, teaching and external engagement to enhance the University’s societal impact.

The founding members of the EFA program ( have assumed a leadership role to help oversee the growth of the innovation and entrepreneurial communities on campuses, and to develop both local community and system-wide events to keep the momentum achieved till date. One such activity is the Science Pub developed in collaboration with the Palouse Discovery Science Center (

EFA Membership Letters

The EFA program is continually expanding its membership to a larger, more inclusive group of innovators across the WSU system. I would love to hear about your ideas for future EFA events and activities, and how we can contribute to our beloved institution’s progress. Please feel free to drop me an email if you are interested in getting involved.

Contact: Amit Dhingra at

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Capstone: A Factory4U

About a year ago last February I had the privilege of being involved when WSU re-started active recruitment of regional top high-school students via a faculty call-a-thon. We faculty would call top high-schoolers considering college and we would answer any questions they had about WSU, their planned majors, or life in general on the Palouse. In short, the effort was a substantial success with a huge increase in the percentage of these top students committing to WSU. However, I’ve long had an uneasy feeling about one of my phone calls–

The phone rang and he answered. I introduced myself as Professor Leachman and asked if he had time to talk. His response was uncharacteristically calm, sincere, and efficient: “Look, I’m kindof in a hurry. So what’s your pitch? Why should I go to WSU?”

My mind reeled. I was prepared to answer why WSU over UW — a relative response. But an absolute response — answering without comparison to other schools, in a way that was original and definitively WSU… I thought about pulling a Mike Leach and responding with, “Well that’s a stupid question.” — not right for this kid’s sincerity. This was the exact type of student we wanted to recruit. It was the obvious question and despite eight years of recruiting for my department and nearly a lifetime in the region, I wasn’t prepared. The Cougar Nation and ‘Work ready day one’ wasn’t what this kid was looking for. We needed something more.

What students, the NSF, and alumni want from degree programs

Students want the “University Experience” — something that fundamentally changes them, adding definitive lifelong values that shape careers and families, to have pride in becoming a community bigger than themselves. And every University in the US is continually working to shape their brand promise into a unique and distinct experience for students while still conforming with the needs of regional constituents and accreditation standards.

That’s no small task. To give you an idea how hard it is for universities to adapt to an ever changing cultural milieu, many alumni, foundations, and federal funding organizations offer substantial funding awards to promote change.

Last Fall I was tasked with leading the development of a Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) proposal to the National Science Foundation for the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. The NSF RED program offers $1M, 5 year grants “to catalyze revolutionary, not incrementally reformist, changes to the education of the next generation of engineers. Revolutionary means radically, suddenly, or completely new; producing fundamental, structural change; or going outside of or beyond existing norms and principles…”

The activities specifically sought by the RED program include:

  1. Establishing convergent technical and professional threads that must be woven across the four years, especially in core technical courses of the middle two years, in internship opportunities in the private and public sectors, and in research opportunities with faculty;
  2. Exploring strategies for institutional, systemic, and cultural change, including new approaches to faculty governance or department structures and to restructuring faculty incentive or reward systems;
  3. Exploring collaborative arrangements with industry and other stakeholders who are mutually interested in developing the best possible professional formation environment and opportunities for students;
  4. Exploring strategies to bridge the engineering education research-to-practice gap, primarily through faculty development and adoption of best practices in the professional formation of engineers; and
  5. Exploring revolutionary means of recruiting and retaining students and faculty reflective of the modern and swiftly changing demographics of the United States.

Over several decades the MME capstone design program has decisively shown that many of these activities are what our alumni want. Our alumni want to provide real projects that help their alma maters, they want to help us remain professionally relevant, they want to play a role in coaching the next generation, and they want to hire our awesome grads. I would argue that this is true of all disciplines at WSU.

To capture this info, MME sent a survey out to our current students, alumni, advisory board members, and faculty/staff. The first question was “What’s your bluesky vision for MME’s design program?” If you’re unfamiliar, bluesky is often used to describe a wild dream idea that is not yet practical or profitable due to certain realities — in a perfect world we’d have _____. The concept of bluesky is novel enough to clean the cognitive pallet of survey respondents while providing an interesting baseline for the group. Here’s a few responses to what the Bluesky vision for MME design and manufacturing should be:

  • Design for Manufacture courses should be the core of the Engineering curriculum – it’s the class that throughout a student’s time in the program grounds them back to the “why.”
  • Design for Manufacture concentration of courses should taken by students every semester they are at WSU.
  • A program that builds the best foundation for continuing experience, giving graduates real world skills that bring value to their community.
  • A program that will help industry bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
  • Every student in ME would be individually confident and capable in manufacturing design and application.
  • “Real-World Applicable”
  • Everyone being so engaged and interested in homework or projects that it’s something they actively seek out to do.
  • MME students know how to get something made; not just designed, not just fabricating a prototype or assembling off the shelf, but understanding the entire cycle from design for manufacturing to life-cycle analysis concerns.
  • Figure out whatever it is the Germans are doing.
  • FactoryU: Design and Manufacturing Education Reimagined as a Production Operation
  • The best undergraduate experience in mechanical and materials engineering in the country.

Challenge accepted.

What the Germans are doing

Back in 2012, the German government launched a new initiative promoting what they called “Industry 4.0”. Industry 4.0 is the phrase used to describe what is becoming known as the fourth industrial revolution towards Internet of Things (IOT) and cyber-physical systems. The IOT, much like the internet and the prior industrial revolutions, will fundamentally disrupt all disciplines, not just mechanical and materials engineering. The following figure shows a progression of industrial revolutions:

Image credit: Christopher Roser,

Industry 4.0 has four key principles:

  1. Interconnection
  2. Information transparency
  3. Point of use technical assistance
  4. Decentralized decisions

All four of these principles are becoming increasingly needed in any major in academia and by industry in our region that is rapidly adopting Industry 4.0. With this key piece, we knew we had the structure for our pitch to the NSF RED program.

Factory4U: Cooperatively Managed, Data Systemic, Learning Factories

The following is the excerpt of the Vision Statement for MME’s NSF RED proposal:

Jesse’s foot often shakes when she is excited about new ideas, but this was game-changing. She couldn’t contain herself, exclaiming, “It’s a Factory4U!” Her manufacturing elective project teammates looked at her with quizzical anticipation. Jesse continued, “The entire curriculum, all of us, we’re analogous to an Industry 4.0 factory.” She quickly got up, grabbed a marker, and began to draw on the white-board.

“Our curriculum already follows the design process: freshmen learn how to identify problems and generate ideas, sophomores CAD the concept, juniors manufacture the parts and optimize the life-cycle, and seniors work with clients to deliver. It’s the decentralized decision making process of Industry 4.0 — each class is like a separately functioning engineering division within a company. Except our courses currently don’t work together at all. Faculty just make up the project assignments. It could all be fixed if we seniors could outsource our capstone project tasks by working with early courses, even outside our majors, and pull projects through to completion. Just think how efficient we would be if lower level courses added value to capstone.”

Flow structure for the Factory4U.

Jesse’s teammate chimed in, “The design classes form a spine of professional practice throughout seven of the eight semesters of the curriculum that would help sophomores and juniors. I might not have made it through my sophomore year without a senior mentor. But what will I do with all the extra time in capstone?”

Jesse was ready, “Manage the experience for your clients. We can revise and optimize as needed. What’s more, if we moved Senior Design forward by one semester, we’d be able to test our prototypes in the Experimental Design course before delivery. We’d also be able to work with other majors in year-long capstones. Why are we not doing this already?”

Her first teammate raises an eyebrow,“It’s logistically complex. We only have a couple of faculty members running capstone. For this to be successful, you’d need an incredible management system.”

Jesse thought for a moment, “We could form a cooperative within the university. It’s like the food cooperative back home, or the local ag cooperative, that coordinate the efforts of many producers to sustain the members — and everyone gets a vote. We could elect students from all of the design and manufacturing courses to be on a board of representatives with elected faculty-members, project-sponsors, and community members that manage the cooperative. The mission of the board would be to sustain the Factory4U like a non-profit business based on the revenues from capstone projects. We could even bring in business and communication majors for financial and marketing plans.”

Her first teammate remained skeptical, “Isn’t Industry 4.0 also about embedding internet-of-things, big data analysis, and point-of-use technical assistance? How can we incorporate these?”

Her other teammate jumped in, “Crowd-source a fundraiser. There have to be many foundations and big companies that can help us to do this. We could use the funds to hire a staff member to setup a basic Factory4U system that we continuously improve based on future project revenues. There are local experts that we can collaborate with to setup an open-source web platform to handle the internet side. We could adapt our manufacturing technical electives to analyze the data and make improvements to the Factory4U. Our state has a Manufacturing Extension Program with change-experts that help organizations adapt to advanced manufacturing philosophies. They could probably mentor us while using the Factory4U to teach local industry and community members.”

Jesse’s first teammate was now opening up, “I can see how this could work. The default is just the status quo. This Factory4U won’t be easy. We just need to begin.”

Thus was born the vision for a cooperatively run, faculty and industry mentored, community-supported, crowd-funded and self-sustaining student enterprise for a societally and industrially relevant engineering design process spanning over all four years of the undergraduate curriculum.

The concept and proposal are a big hit so far. We received letters committing support from no less than Intel, Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing. We’ll start fundraising efforts in the coming months.

Getting the timing and resources right

Every degree discipline at WSU tends to have a capstone program with some level of industry/real world involvement. Hence, the non-profit, self-managed student cooperative model is transferable. By combining this model with faculty from business and marketing, this model can be a major revenue source to sustain the core laboratory facilities that students utilize for capstone. The key question is a classic challenge for any entrepreneur: How much money is required and when is the right time to phase this in? Of course there is never enough money or connections and the timing is never perfect or enough. You just have to begin and get as far as you can, as fast as you can.

Funny thing is that along the way, you start to attract attention, you build momentum, and people take notice. A community forms. People identify with the movement as being original, definitive. Folks start to say, “Why can’t we do that here?” and then do. Eventually the movement becomes the expectation, like capstone programs after phasing in during the late 1990’s. But it takes a start.

I want to go back to that phone call with the perspective student. I want to say, “Why WSU? Because we’ve got a Factory4U.”

I’ll be ready next time.