Research Overview

Washington State University research brings together the best minds across disciplines to address the challenges of today and to advance knowledge for a better future.

As part of our commitment to our land-grant mission, we continue to support research and creative activity to enrich the lives of the communities we serve, from Washington to the World.

Partnering with scholars and researchers around the Globe, WSU faculty target critical problems and questions with nation-wide and world-wide impacts. We engage in collaborative scholarship and research with federal and state agencies, national laboratories, business and civic leaders, and philanthropists to find sustainable solutions; we look to innovate to improve quality of life.

Our research enterprise continues to evolve, maximizing interrelationships between the social sciences, engineering and physical sciences, the fine arts and the humanities, and life and health sciences. These synergistic relationships generate dynamic research strengths that uniquely position WSU to do strategic research and scholarly work that lead to meaningful and positive societal impacts in five broad and highly interconnected areas: Agriculture: Food and Nutrition; Energy and Environment; Equitable and Thriving Communities; Health and Well-being; and Next-Generation Materials and Technologies.

We strive for a safer, more abundant and higher-quality food supply by optimizing the production, processing, and distribution of sustainable and safe foods while also minimizing negative impacts on natural resources. WSU researchers look for ways to increase efficiencies in existing systems and creating novel systems, such as smart farms, informed by life cycle and economic analyses.

WSU looks to establish itself as a world leader in human nutrition, identifying connections between agricultural innovations, food production and packaging, and health outcomes under real-world conditions in diverse global populations.

WSU efforts to reduce hunger include investing in improved breeding, novel antibiotics, nutrition, agricultural capacity, and sustainable development. Washington State’s agricultural industry requires improved varieties of region-specific crops as well as varieties of other crops that are adapted to our unique climatic and soil conditions. WSU world class breeding programs improve water and nutrient use efficiency, pest resistance, resilience in variable environments, and generating unique quality traits for specific markets. With a critical mass of leaders in studying the mechanisms of reproductive biology and translating biological function from genomic information, WSU has developed one of the most diverse and impactful crop improvement programs in the world to create more nutritious, affordable, and accessible foods.

WSU studies ways to slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance in animal and human pathogens and mitigating the effects of resistant strains. Similarly, weed and insect pests and pathogens of crops continue to evolve to forms that are resistant to herbicides, pesticides, and genetic resistance. Research

into alternative non-chemical pest management is a major emphasis for managing herbicide resistant weeds and pests for integrated control with a reduced reliance on chemical inputs.

Crop and animal breeding programs focus on genetic methods for preventing losses, adaptation to changing weather patterns, among other problems. Increasing food production with minimal but optimized inputs—like water, fuel, and fertilizer—is a major focus of WSU cropping systems research to ultimately conserve natural resources and increase profitability.

Advances in imaging, machine learning, and robotic technology for the development of automating processes in tree fruit and wine grapes are part of our efforts to reduce food waste and for sustainable and secure food production.

Reliable and efficient energy storage and transmission and strengthening the security and resilience of national critical infrastructure are key aspects of a sustainable energy future. Robust renewable energy production systems, such as bio-, hydro- nuclear and wind energy, must be developed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels while minimizing impacts on water quality, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas production. WSU’s research portfolio includes electric power and

smart grid technology. We are leaders for research, education, technological innovation, and technology transfer in energy systems.

With government and industry partners, WSU is a national leader in developing, testing, and using catalysts for the production of biofuels and the advancement of safe food production to secure a more sustainable and healthier environment. Internationally recognized for research on the causes and consequences of environmental change, our holistic approach to climate change research emphasizes the historic, biologic, atmospheric, and social responses to climate change and its effects.

Our scientists are researching mechanisms for mitigation of climate change by reduced use of fuel and other inputs and enhanced carbon sequestration in soils. They are also examining modified production systems to maintain sustainability and productivity of our managed lands in a changing climate while adding value to forestry and cropping systems and expanding the bioeconomy.

WSU research examines the food-water-energy nexus, identifying and reducing current and future frictions between agricultural production, energy generation, and environmental needs for water to achieve a more sustainable system for the health and well-being of human populations.

We are working to develop the needed infrastructure and strategies to be ‘fire resilient’ so that we can reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Our researchers quantify landslide susceptibility after wildfire and examine post-fire recovery of forested landscapes. We provide expertise from wildfire smoke monitoring and mapping to assessing indoor air quality impacts of fires. WSU researchers study how past populations adapted to changing conditions, providing lessons in resilience and providing invaluable insights as wildfires become more frequent.

Understanding the operation of ecosystems is critical as we navigate a future characterized by a changing climate, human-induced and natural environmental disturbance, population increase, and the reconfiguration of the world’s productive zones, all of which will challenge the resilience of our global social and food systems. WSU seeks to assist policy makers by evaluating current conditions and developing best practices to develop solutions.

Building an educated society with opportunities for all requires research across the spectrum of society itself, from political science to business, from communication to psychology, and from the humanities to the arts. It involves big data, culturally-sensitive qualitative research, and an examination of pedagogical practices in our educational systems.

Our researchers study and document systemic inequity, proposing alternatives for a more equitable society. WSU faculty focus on access to basic needs like education, health care, housing and food, equity in the workplace, and wealth. WSU scholars study treatment and representation by/in social institutions such as in the criminal justice system, Pop culture/the Media, the government, among others.

WSU collaborates with Native and Indigenous communities to promote and support community-based research that is embedded in tribal sovereignty, values and knowledge systems. WSU has one of the largest research groups in the nation in the field of health care of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Educational scholars research strategies to ensure that tribal history is understood by future teachers and that educational resources are accurate and available, and that they bring a true Indigenous perspective to Washington public schools, as well as training and professional development of individuals in education professions that serve American Indians and Alaska Natives.

WSU research supports policy, curriculum, and instructional changes that enhance STEM education and learning environments, including Indigenous student engagement in STEM and medical fields, and to contribute to the restoration of Indigenous languages. Our scholars explore society to better understand our humanity and to offer evidence-based solutions to redress historical and contemporary inequities.

WSU scholars work to advance the physical, mental and social health of individuals and communities. Researchers across WSU collaborate to discover new ways to prevent and treat diseases. Our researchers employ community-based participatory research methods that facilitate partnerships with diverse communities, thus increasing the likelihood of effective translation of research findings into beneficial interventions and policies. Our quest to healthy people and communities requires considering social, cultural, and environmental determinants of health and well-being.

Home to many of the world’s leading experts in addiction science, WSU conducts cutting-edge addiction research and associated disorders. Our faculty develop treatment and prevention efforts and engage with healthcare professionals to optimize healthcare delivery in at-risk communities.

WSU conducts research to optimize physical activity, motivation, as well as its psychological benefits to promote positive mental and physical health outcomes in varied settings. Integrating neuropsychology, nursing, and computer engineering, WSU’s multi-pronged approach to adaptive healthcare technologies research includes smart-home technologies for aging in place, automated disease detection and monitoring, and personalized healthcare. WSU researchers also look to advance knowledge of the natural, social, and built environments to improve air and water quality, the creative arts, and the communities and buildings in which we live.

WSU researchers use their understanding of the brain’s organization to link sleep to key aspects of performance and health with impacts on productivity, safety, health, and well-being. Other related areas of research include sleep and circadian rhythms, cognition and cognitive neuroscience studies that focus on working memory, executive function, decision making, and sleep deprivation.

WSU is one of the few US research institutions with a stated focus on zoonotic disease research. Our zoonotic disease research portfolio spans multiple disciplines looking into many diseases, global infectious disease surveillance, and diagnostic capacity building in developing countries across the world. WSU researchers look to discover, develop, and deploy solutions to prevent and address emerging zoonotic threats, enhance community-based efforts to promote health, and empower communities to retain or reclaim economic viability.

Emergent materials that optimize resource management, are environmentally friendly, and provide enhanced performance provide the foundation of advanced infrastructures to improve quality of life. WSU researchers are developing innovative machine learning methods, reliable sensor networks, and innovative new materials that drive sustainable infrastructure development and monitoring.

We are worldwide leaders in the detection, monitoring, and cleanup of radioactive materials. WSU researchers look to understand and control how materials evolve in radiation environments to advance knowledge in nuclear materials management, next-generation nuclear energy, and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. WSU quantum research includes work on applications in quantum computing, ultrasensitive rotational or gravitational sensors, imaging, fundamentally secure communications, and precision measurement. WSU also has efforts underway through collaborations centering on quantum information science.

Our researchers focus on understanding materials response at extreme pressures and temperatures to advance fundamental knowledge in physics, chemistry, geo/planetary science, materials science, and

engineering to discover and develop applications impacting national security, additive manufacturing, space technology, and energy.

WSU uses 3D printing for bone tissue engineering and the design of different materials and coatings for implants. We have extensive research capabilities for metallic and ceramic materials and various types of printers to develop micro-scale structures. Our researchers explore new techniques to manufacture sensors, antennas, and energy harvesting devices and study metal and ceramic nanoparticles to fabricate scaffolds to grow artificial articular cartilage. WSU research also studies soft materials for electronics, soft bio-materials, pharmaceuticals, asphalt, and others.

WSU is a leader in next generation energy production technologies and in designing smart technologies that provide automated health monitoring and assistance, allowing individuals to be more productive and self-sufficient, buildings to be more energy efficient, communities to be more connected, and infrastructure to be more sustainable and secure.