More than a dozen chemistry students from Saint George’s School in Spokane will visit Washington State University on Wednesday, Dec. 10, as part of the university’s Chemistry Outreach program. The program allows students to perform advanced experiments using state-of-the-art equipment. Working with WSU chemistry instructor Jeremy Lessmann, the high school juniors and seniors will identify the chemical components they extract from apples by using atomic spectroscopy techniques. Participation in the WSU program gives the Spokane students the opportunity to conduct laboratory procedures that cannot be performed in high school labs due to the need for sophisticated, expensive equipment and required safety equipment.  For more, see http://wsunews.wsu.edu/detail.asp?StoryID=4257

WSU’s fall commencement will be held Saturday, Dec. 13. For details on the ceremony, as well as the stories of some outstanding students who will be receiving their diplomas, see http://wsunews.wsu.edu/viewTips.asp?id=30

In the news

How well are students learning?: Parents of K-12 students are well aware of the trend toward the use of standardized testing to measure educational effectiveness and outcomes. Higher education is dealing with the same emphasis on developing clear measures for how well its students are learning. But what form should those measures take? Doug Baker, vice provost for academic affairs at WSU, will help deal with that issue when he becomes director of the Office of Undergraduate Education when that office is launched in January. “The federal government and regional accreditation commissions are putting a lot of pressure on universities to clearly identify learning outcomes and then make programmatic adjustments. They are taking these processes very seriously and will hold us accountable in the next few years,” Baker said. For more on the Office of Undergraduate Education, see the WSU Today story at http://www.wsutoday.wsu.edu/completestory.asp?StoryID=833

Baker can be reached at ddbaker@wsu.edu or 509.335.5581.

Battling bark beetles: Bark beetle infestations were a factor in the devastating forest fires in California this fall, and such infestations have a huge economic impact on U.S. forests. The U.S. Forest Service is seeking ways to reduce bark beetle impacts. One approach is to deploy artificial pheromone sources in a forest to disrupt normal bark beetle behavior. However, because little is known about dispersion patterns of such pheromones in forest canopies, it is difficult to know how to deploy an array of pheromone sources to be most effective. Researchers in the Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, led by Brian Lamb, professor in civil and environmental engineering, have been working with the Forest Service to better understand how pheromones released by bark beetles are transported and dispersed in different types of forests. They have conducted experiments in several states, and this summer they will go to Louisiana, where they will conduct studies in selectively thinned pine forests. For more information, contact Brian Lamb, 509.335.5702, blamb@wsu.edu or Tina Hilding, communications coordinator for the College of Engineering and Architecture, 509.335.5095, thilding@wsu.edu.