Meet the Fellows

Winners of Catalyst grants join a community of innovators—Amazon Catalyst Fellows—who share a passion for building solutions to real-world problems. Catalyst Fellows are UW students, postdocs, faculty, and staff working on a variety of projects, from computer science to global health. Find out more about the Catalyst Fellows and their projects below.

Solar Panels That Can Clean Themselves

Much of the nearly 18 billion square feet of solar panels installed worldwide are in remote arid regions, with high levels of sand and dust particles. Dust can reduce a solar panel’s efficiency by up to 35%, and cleaning the panels is expensive and time-consuming. But what if there was a way to help solar panels clean themselves? Di Sun and Karl Boehringer have invented a self-cleaning coating technology that employs scalable micro-patterning techniques that create hydrophilic patterns on a hydrophobic background. Water drops can be systematically steered along this patterned surface under orthogonal vibration, cleaning away contaminants. The coating is also oil- and water-repellent, making it less prone to adhesion of dust or pollen.

Team Members
  • Di Sun, Student - Graduate
    Electrical Engineering
  • Karl F. Böhringer Faculty - Tenured
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

June 2017

Forgery-Proof Passwords

In 2016, an estimated $8.6 billion was lost in e-commerce fraud—an amount expected to nearly double by 2020. Existing methods of credit card authentication are easily compromised, and current password systems have several limitations. Howard Chizeck and Junjie Yan have hit on a way to fix the problem: haptic passwords. Haptic passwords work with a pen or finger on touch-sensitive screens. The force, velocity and position of the pen or finger on the screen is sampled and used, in combination with signal processing methods and machine learning, to uniquely represent each individual. Thus, Haptic Passwords are very hard to hack or replicate.

Team Members
  • Howard Chizeck, Faculty - Tenured
    Electrical Engineering
  • Junie Yan , Student - Graduate
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

June 2017

Sensing System Will Help Drivers Find the Open Spaces

One of the most grinding tasks when driving in a city is finding a place to park. But what if there was a way to get directed to a free space, regardless of which garage it was in? A team led by Joshua Smith of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical Engineering is developing a system that could do just that. By deploying low-cost battery-free sensors that can detect free spaces in parking garages, their project will pave the way for less over-construction of parking, and more efficient use of land.

Team Members
  • Joshua Smith, Faculty - Tenured
    CSE & Electrical Engineering
  • Alex Brennan, Unaffiliated
  • Saman Naderiparizi, Student - Graduate
    Electrical Engineering
  • Zerina Kaptenovic , Zerina Kaptenovic
    Electrical Engineering
  • Meiling Wu , Student - Graduate
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

June 2017

Transforming Concussion Diagnoses to Make Youth Sports Safer

The CDC estimates that of the nearly four million sports-related concussions suffered in the U.S. each year, half will be missed. This increases the risk for young athletes of both future head injuries and permanent cognitive deficits. But diagnosing concussions is hard, especially on the sideline, since existing protocols are unreliable. A team led by UW surgeon Lynn McGrath has developed a device called a pupilometer. Available as an inexpensive, easy-to-use smartphone-compatible platform, the pupilometer measures a change in the eye that has been shown to be an indicator of concussion.

Team Members
  • Lynn McGrath, Medical Personnel
    Neurological Surgery
  • Tony Law, Medical Personnel
    Otolaryngology
  • Randy Bly, Medical Personnel
    Otolaryngology
Funding Date

June 2017

Simsong Helps You Find Your Next Favorite Song

Until now, streaming music players have all been variations on a theme: entire songs get labeled with tags, such as artist or genre, and then either automated-, human- or crowd-based curators match based upon these tags. But what about someone who wants to find new music based on particular elements of other songs they like, such as the opening melody, or an unusual chord? For those sorts of searches, streaming services can’t help you. Now, a team led by Les Atlas from the Department of Electrical Engineering has found a way to solve that problem. They have devised simsong, a browser-based application that uses the cloud to match a favorite portion of a song to essentially all music in Amazon Prime Music’s catalog.

Team Members
  • Les Atlas, Les Atlas
    Electrical Engineering
  • Ruobai Wang, Student - Graduate
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

June 2017

New DNA Sequencing Methods Can Alleviate the Scientific Funding Crisis

Eliah Overbey wants to reduce the cost of genomic sequencing experiments, making the method accessible to a wider community of scientific investigators. A graduate student in Genome Sciences, Overbey knows firsthand that, while genomic sequencing is vital for work on everything from cancer to immunology, the up-front costs of single-cell sequencing can be as much as $695,000. Her solution is to adapt single-cell sequencing protocols to be compatible with a new genomic sequencing technology. This technology, called the Oxford Nanopore MinION, has an upfront cost of $1,000, which is significantly cheaper than alternative sequencers.

Team Members
  • Eliah Overbey, Student - Graduate
    Genome Sciences
Funding Date

June 2017

Resilient crops for a changing planet

Climate change threatens to slash crop yields, with warming temperatures leading to droughts or outbreaks of pathogens, among other potential stresses. A key to securing food for the future world is to cultivate crops that can withstand these stresses. To help with this, a team led by Orlando de Lange at the University of Washington has developed Seed-Seq. Using CRISPR technology, Seed-Seq will act as a bridge between fundamental plant genetics research and the application of that knowledge to improve stress resilience in crop plants. By identifying the genes that make plants drought- or pest-resistant, Seed-Seq will be an important platform for preparing the next generation of robust crops.

Team Members
  • Orlando de Lange, Postdoctoral
    Electrical Engineering
  • Eric Klavins, Faculty - Tenured
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

June 2017

Automated device can reduce complications from urology surgeries

Every year, more than 150,000 people who have urological surgery develop a condition called hematuria—the presence of blood in the urine. Blood forms clots, and if unmonitored these can lead to urinary retention, and even perforate the bladder, necessitating further surgical interventions. Treating hematuria, however, is time-intensive, requiring a nurse to check on a patient every fifteen minutes for up to three days. Now, a team at the University of Washington has developed a device that automates the treatment of hematuria. This both frees up nurses and reduces the time a patient needs to stay in a hospital. The device could save $285 million per year on healthcare in the United States alone.

Team Members
  • Tony Chen, Medical Personnel
    Urology
  • Akshay Randad, Graduate Student
    Mechanical Engineering Department
  • Lefteris Kampiankis, Graduate Student
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

June 2017

Cap that sanitizes reusable needles has potential to save lives around the globe.

In developing regions, the shortage of medical supplies, including needles, is a huge challenge. The average hypodermic needle is reused four times in some countries before being disposed of. But reusing needles carries the risk of spreading blood-borne diseases. According to the World Health Organization, contaminated injections are responsible for 21 million Hepatitis B, 2 million Hepatitis C, and 210,000 HIV infections every year. To combat this, Emily Willard and Katherine Brandenstein have developed SafeShot, a cap for the top of multi-dose medication vials. SafeShot contains a chamber with a liquid that sanitizes the needles as they pass through the cap. Through this simple process, SafeShot has the potential to save hundreds of thousands lives per year, and hundreds of millions of dollars of medical aid costs.

Team Members
  • Stephen Polyak, Faculty
    Global Health, Laboratory Medicine, Microbiology
  • Emily Willard,
    External Affiliate
  • Katherine Brandenstein,
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

February 2017

Whitening Teeth the Healthy Way

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, total annual revenue in the whitening industry topped $11 billion at the start of 2015, with $1.4 billion spent on over-the-counter whitening products. However, most of these products remove tooth discoloration by dissolving the stained mineral layer from the surface of teeth. The process may leave a whiter surface, but at the expense of the tooth’s enamel. This can lead to all sorts of other problems, like cavities or gum recession. But a team led by Deniz Yucesoy has discovered an innovative solution. Taking inspiration from the body’s own natural tooth-forming proteins, they are working to craft a lozenge that will add new mineral layers to discolored teeth, whitening by addition rather than subtraction, while helping maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Team Members
  • Deniz Yucesoy, Graduate Student
    Materials Science and Engineering
  • Hanson Fong, Staff
    Materials Science and Engineering
  • Sanaz Saadat, Faculty
    School of Dentistry - Department of Restorative Dentistry
  • Sami Dogan, Faculty
    School of Dentistry
Funding Date

February 2017

3D printers will make soft porous objects that are up to 90% air.

Every year, more than six hundred billion pounds of plastic are produced worldwide, most of which ends up in landfills or the environment at large. One way to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment is simply to produce less of it. A team of mechanical engineers led by Andrei Nicolae is proposing to do just that with 3D printers, with a technology that can 3D print air-filled plastic bubbles, thus creating products that are up to 90% air and only 10% plastic. The proposed printer will have an array of bubble-shooting nozzles, and so will be able to print on-demand. The end product will also be recyclable since the foam is expanded with pure air.

Team Members
  • Andrei Nicolae, Graduate Student
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Vipin Kumar, Faculty
    Mechanical Engineering
  • Kirshna Nadella,
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

February 2017

A low-cost, child-friendly way to give iron supplements to children in low-resource environments.

Iron deficiency anemia is a preventable condition caused by low iron intake. It affects more than 2 billion people worldwide, particularly in low-resource settings, where women and young children under the age of five are at the greatest risk. While there are existing iron supplements, getting kids to take them—and keep taking them—is a challenge. Iron tablets are hard to swallow. Liquid iron preparations stain teeth and cannot be easily stored in low-resource settings. Now, bioengineering seniors Christina Nhan and Namratha Potharaj are developing a simple iron supplement strip made of nanofibers that can dissolve in the mouth within ten seconds. The nanofiber strips are made of FDA-approved materials and can be stored in a variety of environments. Ultimately, the researchers aim to make progress toward reducing the global burden of iron deficiency anemia in children.

Team Members
  • Christina Nhan, Undergraduate Student
    Bioengineering
  • Namratha Potharaj, Undergraduate Student
    Bioengineering
Funding Date

February 2017

Building a Better Battery Tester

Better batteries are poised to deliver a carbon-neutral future by reducing the need for gasoline-powered vehicles and fossil-fuel power stations. However, the pace of battery research and development has been slow for the last 25 years. One bottleneck is the testing needed to evaluate new battery assemblies is time-consuming and limited by software and reliability issues. Now, a team led by materials science engineer Robert Masse has a plan to merge modern software (Cloud) with battery testers (Instruments) to produce a novel data analysis platform that provides instant feedback and a deeper understanding of battery data. This gives scientists and engineers the ability to aggregate and extract subtle battery performance trends that were previously invisible.

Team Members
  • Robert Masse, Graduate Student
    Materials Science
  • Dan Shea, Graduate Student
    Materials Science
  • Richard Revia, Graduate Student
    Materials Science
  • Slava Agoafonov, Graduate Student
    Business
  • Wyatt Homola, Undergraduate Student
    Materials Science
  • Sayna Parsi, Undergraduate Student
    Human Centered Design and Engineering
Funding Date

February 2017

A new phone-based technology is changing the way that farmers and entrepreneurs in Tanzania reach each other.

Billions of people in developing countries across the world now have mobile phones, but they often lack good ways to find each other. The implications are both widespread and profound: farmers sell crops at a loss, inventories are over-stocked in one area but under-supplied somewhere nearby, and aspiring entrepreneurs go out of business for lack of new customers. Now, a team led by UW policy specialist Brian Dillon will develop, launch, and evaluate a USSD telephone directory that will allow users to search for the contact information of both formal and informal businesses close to them. USSD is a platform that works on even basic phones. Through the new platform, users get responses to simple queries such as, “Nearest fertilizer store” or, “Cow doctor in Dodoma.” Since a pilot version of the project launched in Tanzania last August, tens of thousands of users have already made use of the directory, and nearly 12,000 entrepreneurs and businesses have registered to be listed.

Team Members
  • Brian Dillon, Faculty
    Public Policy
  • Joshua Blumenstock,
    External Affiliate
  • Jenny Aker,
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

February 2017

New Robot Surgical Assistant to Lend a Hand

Major surgical procedures require a master surgeon and one or more assistants. On top of that, the current high cost of surgical care demands the best use of highly skilled assistants. But this makes it hard for new assistants to get adequate time for training. The Intelligent Surgical Assistant, IRA, will help solve this problem. Developed by a team led by engineer Blake Hannaford, and neurosurgeon Dr. Laligam Sekhar, IRA will work unobtrusively in the surgical space. IRA can learn progressively, and also respond to spoken surgeon requests for precise tasks, such as suction and retraction during surgery, anticipating a surgeon’s needs. Trained to the exact preferences of each surgeon, IRA will, lead to a reduction in errors during precise and potentially dangerous operations, such as brain tumor removal.

Team Members
  • Blake Hannaford, Faculty
    Electrical Engineering
  • Laligam Sekhar, Faculty
    Neurosurgery
  • Niveditha Kalavakonda, Graduate Student
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

February 2017

New advances will let 3D printers produce objects made from more than one material.

Stereolithographic 3D printing has to date been mostly monochromatic, meaning that printers use uniform wavelengths (i.e., single colors) and light intensities for the whole of a printing session. This is good for the purposes of standardization, but offers little in the way of versatility if a user wants to print an object made out of more than one material. A team led by chemistry professor AJ Boydston hopes to change that. By taking advantage of the increasing number of resin materials available, and then using different wavelengths and light intensities to determine when a particular resin is incorporated into a printed object, Boydston’s team will enable 3D printers to produce objects made of more than one material, with complex shape, composition, and materials properties.

Team Members
  • Andrew Boydston, Faculty
    Chemistry
  • Johanna Schwartz, Graduate Student
    Chemistry
  • John Goldstone,
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

February 2017

A DIY Kit for a Bionic Leaf Bioreactor That Turns Atmospheric CO2 into Fuel and Food

Too much CO2 is now sequestered in Earth’s atmosphere, and it is no longer enough to just limit carbon dioxide emissions to prevent catastrophic effects. One solution is to actively remove excess carbon dioxide using negative emissions technologies, such as bionic leaves, which have the potential to be much more efficient than conventional plant-based photosynthesis. The excess CO2 could then be converted into burnable fuel. Biomemetic Engineers Mark Minie and Michal Galdzicki are building an open-source kit for just such a bioreactor. Manufactured from readily available materials and 3D-printed components, the kit will let DIY researchers and entrepreneurs rapidly improve and prototype more advanced systems, spurring development of negative-emissions technologies.

Team Members
  • Mark Minie, Faculty
    Bioengineering
  • Michael Galdzicki,
    Unaffiliated
Funding Date

February 2017

An Expanded Cloud Computing Lab for Life Science Research

Biomedical laboratories, entrepreneurs, and researchers need data to develop medical therapies. But the complex experiments the process requires can be error-prone, often leading to longer timelines and higher costs. Now, a team led by electrical engineer Eric Klavins will expand UW’s powerful BIOFAB, opening a full-service laboratory that will provide anyone with a laptop, whether undergraduate or faculty, access to full-scale molecular biology and cell engineering resources, and at a reasonable cost. Users will be able to design custom mammalian cell lines, develop experimental workflows to assay them, view and analyze data, and execute experiments, all from the comfort of a coffee shop.

Team Members
  • Eric Klavins, Faculty
    Electrical Energy
  • Justin Vrana, Graduate Student
    Bioengineering
  • Orlando DeLange, Postdoctoral
    Electrical Engineering
  • Michelle Parks, Staff
    Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

February 2017

Mixing Comics and Games to Help College Students Develop Writing Skills

College students need to learn to write effectively, but universities have struggled for ways to deal with the changing needs of their students. Research has shown that many students have trouble transferring the writing skills they practice in class to real-world situations. This problem has been compounded by an explosion in the numbers of international students at US schools whose needs can be significantly different from domestic students. Enter Cluster, a new suite of writing skill-building tools. Developed by composition researchers in the University of Washington’s English Department, Cluster is designed to help teachers turn a one-size- fits-all requirement into a customized coaching experience for each student.

Team Members
  • Dylan Medina, Graduate Student
    English
  • Tait Bergstrom, Graduate Student
    English
  • Yijun Wang, Graduate Student
    Business
  • Jiechao Tong,
    External Affiliate
  • Anis Bawarshi, Faculty
    English
Funding Date

November 2016

An ultrathin lens for people who need multi-focal glasses.

As people age, their eyesight almost always gets worse. According to the Vision Council of America, approximately 75% of adults use some sort of vision correction. But for a patient, buying new glasses every time their vision gets a little blurrier is costly. At the same time, keeping glasses with a prescription that isn’t quite right can cause headaches and other forms of mild discomfort. To fix this, two physicists are developing a pair of smart, vision-corrective eyeglasses. The glasses use a lens, thinner than a human hair, that has a wide range of tunable focal lengths. The user can adjust these focal lengths electronically. A single pair of glasses can thus accommodate a range of eye powers.

Team Members
  • Arka Majumdar, Faculty
    Electrical Engineering
  • Shane Colburn, Graduate Student
    Material Science and Engineering
  • Alan Zhan, Graduate Student
    Physics
Funding Date

October 2016

Keeping the Lights On: Low-cost battery will boost solar cell performance.

One of the barriers to large-scale adoption of solar and wind energy, is that, unlike fossil fuels, they don’t provide power on-demand. Instead, these renewables must be paired with battery technologies that can dole out the electricity they produce. One of the most promising types of large batteries, called flow batteries, is positioned to be the leader in grid-scale energy storage. But high production costs have so far hindered market adoption. Now, a team of engineers has figured out a way to lower the price of flow batteries. They have developed an important but costly component using materials commonly used in food packaging, potentially reducing the cost of flow batteries by as much as 30%.

Team Members
  • Gregory Newbloom, Postdoctoral Associate
    Chemical Engineering
  • Guozhong Cao, Faculty
    Material Science
  • Lilo Pozzo, Faculty
    Chemical Engineering
  • Eden Rivers, Undergraduate Student
    Material Science and Engineering
  • Aaron West,
    External Affiliate
  • Ian Hochstein,
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

October 2016

Making seawater fresh at a fraction of the cost.

Desalination, the process that gets the salt out of seawater, is typically done by a process called reverse osmosis. As powerful as this method is, it brings with it high energy and maintenance costs. But engineer Guozheng Shao thinks he has found a way to lessen those costs. Shao has built a device that uses paper coated with titania, the oxidized form of titanium, to desalinate seawater at a fraction of the cost of reverse osmosis. The device uses less than 10% of the energy of traditional methods, and could lead to a hundred-fold increase in the rate of clean water output.

Team Members
  • Guozheng Shao
    Postdoctoral Associate
    Chemistry
Funding Dates

January 2016

October 2016

Bringing people together, one conversation at a time.

It is hard to dismiss someone out of hand once you have sat down with them and talked face-to-face. The “Ask A_” project will bring participants together to have conversations with people of different backgrounds. They will meet, talk one-to-one, and break bread in an atmosphere of respect, which will create empathy and understanding. Participants will learn that Muslims or police officers or atheists or transgender people are not defined solely by those labels, but have full multi-faceted lives that defy stereotyping. They will learn there are some things they agree on which have nothing to do with their racial, political or social identity. Through this experimentation, the project will create an online toolkit with advice on outreach recruiting, organizing and staging, so any individual, organization or group could organize a successful person-to-person session.

Team Members
  • Ross Reynolds,
    Staff
  • Caroline Dodge,
    Staff
  • Lisa Wang,
    Staff
Funding Date

October 2016

Smartphone App Lets Users Screen Themselves for Osteoporosis

About every three seconds, someone suffering from osteoporosis breaks a bone. Even so, most cases of osteoporosis still go undiagnosed, since the two current methods for detecting the disease are expensive and unwieldly. But what if people could screen themselves? What if they could do it inexpensively, and at home, using just their smartphone? That is what a team of engineers and computer scientists led by Josh Fromm hopes to enable. They are developing OsteoApp, an app for smartphones that tests bone density and tells the user whether they are at a significant risk for bone disease. Just like any other solid, be it a guitar string or a rock, bones have a natural frequency at which they resonate. OsteoApp uses a vibration technique that emits a pulse from the smartphone, causing a bone to "ring" at its resonate frequency—a function of the bone’s stiffness and density. The smartphone’s microphone then listens to the ringing bone. From this, OsteoApp can estimate bone density and recommend whether the user contact a physician—staving off pain and suffering for middle-aged or older women and men all over the world.

Team Members
  • Josh Fromm, Graduate Student
    Electrical Engineering
  • Alex Mariakakis, Graduate Student
    Computer Science and Engineering
  • Shwetak Patel, Faculty
    Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Funding Date

September 2016

Charcoal can change the way we think about soil fertility.

The world’s cultivated soils have lost 50–70% of their original carbon due to agricultural practices. According to the United Nations, this loss could result in a 17% decline in food production by 2100. To put carbon back into soils, a team led by soil scientist Tom DeLuca is touting the benefits of charcoal. Their work has shown that adding charcoal increases the amount of carbon in topsoil by 30%, as well as the nutrient content of food grown in that soil. But for all its benefits, charcoal has struggled in the market due to a lack of, well, marketing. Many farmers just don’t know how much charcoal can help them. Adding to the problem is that there isn’t a reliable, cheap way to make charcoal. But DeLuca’s team says there is: simply use the woody waste that comes from forest restoration projects throughout the region. To develop the supply side of the charcoal market, DeLuca’s team is working to integrate charcoal production into forest restoration projects, which will not only decrease fire danger, but also connect sound forest management with food security.

Team Members
  • Thomas DeLuca, Faculty
    School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Si Gao, Graduate Student
    School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Kai Hoffman-Krull
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

September 2016

Smartwatch app can help patients manage impulse control disorders.

More than 1 in 40 people suffer from body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs), such as trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling) and excoriation disorder (compulsive skin picking). These types of disorders are hard to treat--the associated behaviors are often done unconsciously--so therapists have found the best approach is often to teach patients to become aware of their actions. But how can patients be reminded of these behaviors when they are on their own? Matthew and Joseph Toles started Slightly Robot and developed a smartwatch app and standalone bracelet that uses an accelerometer to monitor the motion and position of users' hands, vibrating to let them know whenever they are pulling or picking. Perhaps even more useful, the app tracks the frequency of compulsive behavior over time, meaning that for the first time, users, patients, and researchers can receive accurate, quantitative feedback on their progress. Given the willpower and concentration necessary to overcome body focused repetitive behaviors, even a small amount of positive, real-time feedback can go a long way.

Team Members
  • Matthew Toles, Undergraduate Student
    Materials Science and Engineering
  • Joseph Toles
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

September 2016

Move over, self-driving cars—here come self-driving bikes, at a fraction of the cost.

Almost all the petroleum used in the U.S. goes to transportation, whether it’s fuel for planes, diesel for trucks, or gas for cars. And of all that petroleum, urban car traffic accounts for approximately 38% of consumption. Enter the self-driving bike: a confluence of automated vehicle technology and ultra-light electric vehicles. A self-driving bike needs only a 25 lb. battery for a 15-mile range, longer than most commuting trips. With a top speed of 30 miles per hour, self-driving bikes can get riders to their destination faster than a car, once congestion is taken into account. And a self-driving bike can be built at a fraction of the cost of a self-driving car. We are at a critical transportation junction caused by climate change, the rise of electric vehicles, and the rise of automated vehicles. The self-driving bike presents a rare opportunity to change the transportation paradigm, with vehicles that weigh less than their riders.

Team Members
  • Tyler Folsom, Faculty
    UW Bothell Computer and Software Systems
  • Adam Zhu, Undergraduate Student
    UW Bothell Electrical Engineering
  • Nodira Povey, Undergraduate Student
    UW Bothell Computer Science
  • Jordan Walker
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

September 2016

New Biosensor Will Let Clinicians Detect Pancreatic Cancer Without Needing To Do a Biopsy, MRI

This year alone, more than 53,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nearly three-quarters of them will die within twelve months. Pancreatic cancer’s high lethality stems in part from the fact that, at present, there is no method of early detection. Only after the tumor has spread to the other parts of a patient’s body do symptoms manifest, making treatment much more difficult, if not impossible. But engineer Richard Lee is working to develop a biosensor that can identify a pancreatic tumor’s biomarkers in the disease’s earliest stages. Such a timely diagnosis will allow for quick intervention, when surgical removal of a tumor might still be an option, boosting a patient’s chances of recovery.

Team Members
  • Richard Lee, Graduate Student
    Material Science and Engineering
  • Mehmet Sarikaya, Faculty
    Material Science and Engineering
  • Carolyn Gresswell, Graduate Student
    Material Science and Engineering
  • Deniz Yucesoy, Graduate Student
    Material Science and Engineering
  • David Starkebaum, Graduate Student
    Material Science and Engineering
Funding Date

September 2016

Forests, Foresters Benefit from Thermally Treated Wood.

Most outdoor wood products are heavily treated with harsh chemical preservatives. But what if it were possible to produce an alternative that was not only environmentally friendly, but also provided a boost to struggling timber economies? That is what forest economist Ivan Eastin is trying to do. Eastin and his team are using an innovative treating process called thermal modification to create the next generation of wood products. Their tree of choice is the western hemlock, a species traditionally thought of as low-value. Eastin wants to change that. Creating a robust market for hemlock, which currently make up 40% of the growth stock in some stands, could provide vital economic opportunities on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where weak demand for timber has devastated communities.

Team Members
  • Ivan Eastin, Faculty
    School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Anthony Dichiara, Faculty
    School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Indroneil Ganguly, Faculty
    School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
  • Bernard Bormann, Faculty
    School of Environmental and Forest Sciences
Funding Date

September 2016

Regional Climate Prediction Will Guide and Protect Society as the Earth Warms

The Earth’s climate is undergoing massive shifts, and the impacts of those changes are already profound. But while current climate models are good at predicting the extent to which projected changes will vary all over the planet, they are less good at predicting what exactly those changes will look like at local or even regional scales. But that’s precisely the information that is crucial for government officials who want to bolster existing infrastructure—e.g., dams, roads, and reservoirs—so it can withstand the promised stresses of future climate scenarios. Now, a team of climatologists led by Cliff Mass is building a sophisticated climate prediction system that will give those planners a boost. The model they have developed, which can be applied anywhere in the world, will take global climate simulations and downscale them using high-resolution regional models. The result will be a state-of-the science probabilistic prediction of what sort of changes people can expect right where they live.

Team Members
  • Cliff Mass, Faculty
    Atmospheric Sciences
  • Eric Salathe, Faculty
    UW Bothell Climate Science and Policy
  • Adrian Raftery, Faculty
    Statistics
  • Richard Steed, Staff
    Atmospheric Sciences
  • Yolande Serra, Staff
    UW Institute for Atmospheres and Oceans
  • Guillaume Mauger, Staff
    UW Institute for Atmospheres and Oceans
Funding Date

September 2016

Using water treatment plant waste to clean stormwater

Urban lakes and streams throughout the United States can be impacted by slugs of phosphorus each time it rains. Phosphorus pollution in lakes often encourages algal growth, and can make harmful algal blooms occur more frequently. Harmful algae produce toxins which can lead to fishing and boating restrictions, or full lake closures. A team of engineers and scientists at the Center for Urban Waters is exploring ways to use a waste product from regional drinking waters to take the phosphorus from stormwater. The waste, which would typically be trucked off to a landfill, can instead be used to remove nearly all of the phosphorus from stormwater. And the product is practically free.

Team Members
  • Andrew James, Staff
    UW Tacoma Center for Urban Waters
  • Alex Gipe, Staff
    UW Tacoma Center for Urban Waters
  • Dana De Leon
    External Affiliate
  • Celine Mina
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

September 2016

Scientists design a high-altitude drone that can fly almost indefinitely.

Drones have opened up the world to exploration, letting scientists to do everything from monitor forest fires to tell whether a whale is pregnant. But the cost of such remote sensing is often steep, and drones are generally limited to short, low-altitude flights. Now, using newly developed high-altitude, air-breathing plasma thrusters, a team of engineers led by Robert Winglee has designed a drone that can fly at altitudes of up to 80,000 feet. And with solar panels in the wings, and batteries for energy storage, the drone can also stay up indefinitely. This high-altitude, long-range drone will enable scientists to carry out remote sensing in some of the planet’s most isolated places, asking questions they never could before.

Team Members
  • Robert Winglee, Faculty
    Earth and Space Sciences
Funding Date

August 2016

New Bioreactor Can Help Keep Textile Dyes Out of the World’s Water

A lot of us wear blue jeans, but few of us know the true cost of those jeans. The process that makes blue jeans blue (or shirts pink or yellow or orange) can lead to a tremendous amount of pollution, as those dyes and chemicals are often dumped into local waterways. But civil engineers Heidi Gough and Noshaba Malik are developing a solution. Using a newly discovered species of bacteria, they are building a water treatment bioreactor that can detoxify the dyes, which in turn will allow textile factories to reuse their own water. This will not only help eliminate the release of polluted wastewater into the environment—a major global threat—but also reduce a factory’s overall water usage by up to 80%. In world regions where clean freshwater is becoming less available, it will help preserve natural freshwater resources for future generations.

Team Members
  • Heidi Gough, Faculty
    Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Noshaba Malik, Staff
    Civil and Environmental Engineering
Funding Date

March 2016

FaceCrop Brings Online Educational Videos to the World’s Remote Regions

Educational videos are one of the most popular ways for people to learn in the more remote areas of the world. But how does a student play a high-quality video when they only have low bandwidth at their disposal? Jumana Karwa and Saurav Tomar, two computer scientists, say one way is to simply trim off the material in the video they don’t need so they can focus on the material they do. The powerful compression program they designed, FaceCrop, can zero in on the most informative parts of a video and eliminate the rest, letting users stream high-quality video even in places with very limited bandwidth.

Team Members
  • Jumana Karwa, Graduate Student
    Computer Science and Engineering
  • Saurav Tomar
    External Affiliate
Funding Date

February 2016

MegaShake:
An Early Warning for the Big One

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are in a state of high alert for the megaquake that could strike at any moment. Even a few seconds of advance warning can mean the difference between life and death, so there is a strong need for a system that can quickly and accurately pinpoint a large earthquake right when it occurs. Using GPS and seismic data, John Vidale’s team is developing MegaShake, a program that will identify a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake and send out an alert before the worst shaking hits urban areas throughout Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. MegaShake will give people vital seconds, or even minutes, to prepare for the worst, potentially saving thousands of lives and preventing massive property damage.

Team Members
  • John Vidale, Faculty
    Earth and Space Sciences
  • David Schmidt, Faculty
    Earth and Space Sciences
  • Paul Bodin, Faculty
    Earth and Space Sciences
  • Bill Steele, Staff
    Earth and Space Sciences
  • Ben Baker, Staff
    Earth and Space Sciences
  • Brendan Crowell, Staff
    Earth and Space Sciences
Funding Date

January 2016