The Innovators


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ARCS at Washington State University:

Enhancing Quality of Life Worldwide

February 7, 2008

Dr. John Browse is a fellow and Regents professor of biochemistry and plant physiology in the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University. He is an expert in acyl lipds, which are essential in photosynthesis and of central importance to all life on earth. In humans, inappropriate dietary intake of lipids is associated with many diseases, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes, inflammatory disorders, and some cancers. Because vegetable oils are the main source of lipids in human diets, the research Dr. Browse and his colleagues conduct toward understanding and modifying the biochemistry of lipid synthesis in oilseeds has broad implications in many areas of biology and medicine.

Dr. Browse earned his Ph.D. at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1977. He joined the WSU faculty in 1988 and co-chaired the Molecular Plant Sciences Program from 1997 to 2005. He has mentored 18 graduate students and 36 postdoctoral fellows and authored more than 170 scientific publications on lipid biochemistry research. He is co-author of chapters on lipid biochemistry in two leading textbooks of plant biology for undergraduate and graduate students. In 2003, the Institute for Scientific Information recognized Dr. Browse as among the 250 most highly cited authors in plant and animal science.

Dr. Stephen A. Hines is professor of veterinary microbiology and pathology and Berger Keatts distinguished professor for excellence in teaching at Washington State University. He is a diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Pathology, having earned his doctor of veterinary medicine degree at Ohio State University and his Ph.D. in immunology and infectious disease at University of Florida. A member of WSU faculty since 1989, Dr. Hines has won numerous research and teaching awards at the college, university, and national levels.

In recent years, Dr. Hines’ research at WSU has centered on rhodococcal pneumonia, a serious affliction of young horses and a model for human tuberculosis research. By studying horses and mice, Dr. Hines’ laboratory helped define the immunologic mechanisms that result in either immune protection or life-threatening pneumonia. This discovery resulted in an important series of articles in prominent scientific journals. The work also offers implications for improving neonatal immunity in humans. Dr. Hines suspects that novel vaccine approaches designed to induce a unique group of “killer cells” early in life will be an important factor in disease prevention. In earlier research, Dr. Hines studied Babesia bovis, a type of protozoa that significantly limits cattle production in much of the world and causes an illness closely related to malaria.

Crystal Montoya is in her third year of Ph.D. work in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at Washington State University, studying in Dr. Stephen Hines’ laboratory. Her examination of the differences in immune systems of young and old horses promises insights toward treating diseases that affect animals as well as humans, especially infants and people with weak immune systems. The long-term goal of her research is to develop a vaccine that will make young horses less susceptible to Rhodococcus equi, a bacterium related to the pathogen that causes tuberculosis in humans. The success of her work could open new avenues for combating Mycobacterium tuberculosis, especially important, Montoya says, “because it currently infects 33 percent of people worldwide, with a new infection occurring every second.” 

Montoya graduated from Whitworth University with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology, a bachelor’s of arts in chemistry, and a minor in biochemistry. As an undergraduate, she co-authored “The biological fuel cell” published in The American Biology Teacher. She plans to expand her research to include studies of the transmission and invasion of emerging infectious diseases in hopes of developing new vaccines and antibodies.

Laura Wayne is enrolled in the Molecular Plant Sciences Ph.D. program at WSU, studying in Dr. John Browse’s laboratory. Her research focuses on development of bioproducts, specifically deriving industrial oils from plants. She is investigating safer biological sources for producing castor oil, such as the canola plant, first using a model organism called Arabidopsis. Driven by her passion for the environment and a “yearning quest for discovery,” Wayne seeks to identify renewable sources for domestic oil production “to benefit our environment, boost jobs, and enhance the overall economy.”

At WSU, Wayne is a National Institutes of Health Protein Biotechnology trainee and received a WSU Graduate Student Scholar Award. As an undergraduate at the State University of New York college of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in Syracuse, she majored in biotechnology and earned a bachelor’s of science degree magna cum laude in only six semesters. She conducted an undergraduate honors thesis with the aid of a fellowship from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) and presented posters at several ASPB conferences. Wayne was also awarded the SUNY Chancellor's Award of Student Excellence and SUNY-ESF’s Distinguished Biology Scholar Award for Biotechnology. She began her university research as a junior in high school and was a finalist at the International Intel Science and Engineering Science Fair.

Overview

Crystal Montoya wants to see the end of human suffering from tuberculosis. Laura Wayne wants to see the creation of safe and sustainable oils for food, fuel, and commercial products.

Both young women are working full time to realize their visions through the advanced research they conduct as doctoral students at Washington State University. Top in their fields as undergraduates, Montoya and Wayne received valuable support to pursue their educations and research from the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation. They are among 23 ARCS fellows at WSU now working closely with faculty mentors, who are experts in their areas of research.

In a laboratory of WSU’s Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology, Montoya studies Rhodococcus equi, a bacterium that causes severe pneumonia in young horses and in people with weakened immunities. While seeking to design a vaccine against the disease, she hopes insights from her research will lead to treatments for human infant diseases and to a vaccine against tuberculosis. Wayne’s work in bioproducts research explores novel plant sources for industrial oils. From combating human infertility to increasing wheat productivity to preventing depression, the range of important research being led by ARCS fellows at WSU aims to improve life worldwide.

Believing that the best graduate students, working in critically important areas, are key to our nation’s scientific success, the ARCS Foundation promotes worldwide advancement of science and technology through fellowships to outstanding students in the natural sciences, engineering, and medicine.

ARCS’ generosity enables the brightest students to make critical career decisions by helping them financially, says Dr. Howard Grimes, vice provost and dean of WSU’s graduate school. “Working with some of our most outstanding faculty, ARCS fellows help to conduct ground-breaking research while they develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding they’ll use to change our world.”

2008 is a year of celebration for the Seattle Chapter of ARCS as it marks 30 years of continuous support for Ph.D. students attending Washington’s two premier research universities. One hundred percent of donations to ARCS directly benefit students.

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