University of Washington

Smithsonian Institution

A squishy little sea creature fished out of the Salish Sea may be rewriting our history of how animal life first evolved.

They’re called comb jellies, and they have nothing to do with hair products. They are translucent blobs that propel themselves with rows of shimmering threads called cilia.

Scientists captured specimens at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories and analyzed their genomes, coming to two pretty startling conclusions. First, these animals have nervous systems, but they look almost nothing like those of people or fish, or any other animal on Earth.

Flickr

For engineers that use sensitive equipment like electron microscopes, a train is a big, moving, magnetic nightmare.

That’s why Sound Transit and the University of Washington are hashing out a deal that would give the university $43 million to move some of its labs across campus, away from a new light rail line in the works set to run beneath them.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Business owners in Seattle and around the state are lining up to tap the expertise of an unusual group of consultants: undergraduates at the University of Washington.

That may sound surprising, since the students mostly just have a few internships on their resumes. But their consulting class pushes them to dive deep into their clients’ business problems and deliver tangible, practical advice.

For one local chef, it’s a partnership that has yielded results.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington State University will waive next year's tuition and fees for students who live near the site of the deadly March 22 mudslide in Snohomish County, school leaders announced this week.

The slide "was such an obvious tragedy for our state and for the folks in that area that the troops rallied early and discussions started about how WSU could help," said university spokesperson Kathy Barnard.

kyle~ / Flickr

The University of Washington is launching a new online degree in integrated social sciences aimed at people who want to complete their education.

The move is the university’s latest push into the competitive world of online education.

Nadine Fabbi

Curiosity about what’s happening in some of the coldest places on Earth has prompted the University of Washington to launch its first Arctic Studies minor.

The program is the first of its kind offered by a university in the lower 48. 

Florangela Davila

Each March, scientists around the world host open houses to get people thinking about the brain.

The events are all part of Brain Awareness Week.

At the University of Washington, that means the mother of all science fairs in a room decked out with human brains, spinal cords, finch chirping and flying fruit flies.

Take an audio tour of an event that drew more than 650 elementary and high school students.

Courtesy of Washington Sea Grant

Garfield High School students will put their smarts to the test to defend their title at the annual Orca Bowl at the University of Washington this weekend.

In a competition that slightly resembles the TV game show “Jeopardy,” 20 teams from around the state will try to answer multiple-choice questions about marine sciences, many of them specifically geared toward this year's theme of ocean acidification. Then finalists from Ocean Science Bowls around the country will meet again in May to vie for the national title. This year, it's taking place for the first time in Seattle.

Florangela Davila

Students at Seattle's John Muir Elementary School are trying to answer life's big questions. Along with reading and math, the school's curriculum includes philosophy. 

Why philosophy? Kids start asking all sorts of "why" questions starting in preschool, says philosopher Jana Mohr Lone: "Why is the sky blue? Why are some things in color and some things aren’t? Can you be happy and sad at the same time?"

Undated photo via The Associate Press, courtesy of SAM

The movie “The Monuments Men” spotlights a platoon of real-life U.S. soldiers who rescued artistic masterpieces from the Nazis during World War II. 

Overall, there were approximately 350 men and women from 13 nations who fought to preserve art from the ravages of war. Two of them came from Washington state.

Sherman Lee, who was born in Seattle, was an expert in Asian art who served as associate director at the Seattle Art Museum in the late 1940s.

ADMX Collaboration

Think of the immense amount of stuff in the cosmos: stars, planets, interstellar dust and clusters of galaxies. Now consider this: all that stuff is probably only about one-sixth of the matter in the universe.

The rest is thought to be a mysterious invisible substance called dark matter — something scientists have been hunting for decades. Now an unexpected turn of events has put a low-key research team in Seattle right at the center of the dark matter search.

dalexeenko / Flickr

A new state audit has found Washington university credit cards were used to make more than $225,000 in purchases not allowed by state policies.

Most of the purchases were for alcohol or gifts. And the majority were made by people associated with the University of Washington.

NASA

A University of Washington researcher may have helped solve a Martian mystery by explaining how the chilly surface of Mars could have once flowed with water.

Pictures of Mars clearly show features that look like valleys and old lakebeds, suggesting liquid water once churned on the planet's surface. And yet that surface is really cold, at -80 degrees Fahrenheit, on average.

Kael Martin / University of Washington

Quick quiz: In springtime, does snow melt faster out in the open or in the shade? 

You might figure it melts faster in the sunshine, and that seems to be the case for cold climates. But in places with temperate winters, like the Pacific Northwest, it might be just the opposite.

Gabriel Garcia Marengo / Flickr

Today’s teens are pushing the boundaries in their artwork, but playing it safe in the stories they write, according to new research by the University of Washington Information School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Using a set of criteria, the study examined artwork and writing produced by teens and published in magazines between 1990 and 2011.

Michael Schweppe / Flickr

Count the rings on a tree trunk to figure out its age.

Or, if you’re University of Washington climatologist Jim Johnstone, study the molecules of a redwood trunk and crack the code for natural weather data that could date back more than a thousand years.

Justin Steyer

Seattle researchers led an effort that has produced a new estimate of war-related deaths in Iraq, finding 461,000 Iraqis have died. The study is the first of its kind to cover the entire span of the Iraq War, from 2003 to 2011.

National Institutes of Health

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a way for some deaf people to enjoy music. The findings could help people with cochlear implants, a bionic inner ear that allows deaf or hearing-impaired people to hear speech, albeit in kind of a robot voice.

Cochlear implants can be a lifesaver for people without hearing, but when it comes to music, this very practical device can’t carry a tune to save its life.

The implants simply aren’t sensitive to pitch and what’s called timbre—the qualities of a sound that make, say, a guitar sound different from a harp.

A commercial submarine operator is teaming up with the University of Washington to build a new manned deep-sea sub. The five-passenger mini-sub could be available for charter by oil companies or researchers beginning in 2016.

Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. currently operates two small submarines for hire. It sees a market for deeper diving manned submersibles. To that end, the small company has partnered with the University of Washington and Boeing to design a stubby, bullet-shaped mini-sub with a 180-degree viewing dome in its nose.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The Washington Huskies host the Oregon Ducks Saturday in a highly-anticipated game. It begins at 1 p.m. at Husky Stadium in Seattle, but fans will be gathering well before that, with cable station ESPN featuring the matchup in their weekly “College GameDay” program—a first for Washington.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says this year, the game is more than just a regional rivalry; it’s a matchup between two nationally-ranked teams.  

University of Washington Visitors Center's Facebook Page

The University of Washington is one of the highest-rankings schools when it comes to contributions to the public good, according to the Washington Monthly.

The school is also one of the magazine’s top 20 picks on its “best bang for the buck” list.

Cecilia Bitz photo

Arctic sea ice is melting at record rates, and the loss of that ice could drive significant degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, according to a researcher at the University of Washington. The researcher, Cecilia Bitz, is part of an international team of scientists whose findings are published this week in the journal, Science

Courtesy of University of Washington / Nature Chemistry

Even the tiniest misprint in a person’s genetic code can cause big health problems, but they can be hard to find. Now members of a team at University of Washington say they’ve designed a better way to track down those mutations.

If you think of DNA as a twisted ladder, each rung is made of two little structures called bases, stuck together. If even one of the billions of these rungs gets copied wrong it can have serious consequences, such as which kind of tuberculosis you get.

Max Kaufman / Alaska Volcano Observatory/University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

Most volcanoes rumble before they erupt, but Washington and Alaska researchers say a big recent eruption was preceded not by a rumble, but a scream.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt blew its top several times in 2009. Leading up to many of the explosions were a series of little earthquakes—not uncommon for an active volcano. But these quakes began to accelerate, one after another, like a drumbeat building to a climax.

Paula Wissel

Spending a semester abroad is often a highlight of college life. But for one University of Washington graduate, it was anything but.

Grace Flott is still dealing with scars from a tragedy she suffered while overseas. Now she’s working to help others learn from her experience.

Craig Damlo / Flickr

Seattle consistently ranks high on top-10 lists for bike-friendly cities. But the keynote speaker at an urban cycling symposium taking place at the University of Washington this week gives Seattle a scathing review.

Craig Damlo / Flickr

Experts on urban cycling are convening at the University of Washington this week to talking about how to get more people out of cars and onto bikes. And the experts say Seattle is poised to get to the next level.

Seattle is about half way through its ten-year Bicycle Master Plan. An update is under way and expected to be approved by the Seattle City Council this fall.

Curtis Cronn / Flickr

Some freshmen engineering students at Washington’s largest universities will get an extra year to find their footing, thanks to a new “academic redshirting” program.  

The idea of redshirting comes from college sports, and here’s how it works: When Huskies quarterback Keith Price joined up as a freshman in 2009, he didn’t take the field. Instead he got a year of practice and workouts to acclimate before starting his four years of eligibility.

Now the University of Washington, along with Washington State University, want to apply that to academics.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Should students earning in-demand degree pay more?

That's the idea behind behind differential tuition, which would allow colleges to raise the price of earning expensive, sought-after degrees like engineering and computer science.

Some local students are rallying against the idea and urging their schools not to boost tuition to match their majors' demand. 

But the schools say differential tuition could help offset deep cutbacks in state funding.

The Northwest's public universities pull in massive amounts of federal research dollars. It totaled $1 billion last year at the University of Washington. Oregon State University won close to $200 million in federal research funds. The University of Idaho is counting on $100 million this year. So it's no surprise that university administrators are hanging on every scrap of news about imminent automatic federal budget cuts.

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