Three projects receive $150,000 in final round of Cougar Cage event

A gloved hand holding a small vial in a research lab.
Researchers work at the PACCAR Environmental Technology Building (photo by Bob Hubner, WSU Photo Services).

Three projects proposed by Washington State University researchers were awarded $50,000 each in this spring’s Cougar Cage event.

Over the course of a day in Seattle, six faculty research projects were evaluated by the Palouse Club — a group of WSU alumni dedicated to supporting the university — in the culmination of the third semi-annual Cougar Cage event. The six projects were hand-selected by WSU leadership from a pool of 26 submissions representing WSU students, faculty, and staff from across the system. 

“We are excited by the potential of the work we are seeing,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “Cougar Cage is a fantastic opportunity for WSU researchers to match with private donors that want to make an impact. This program provides inspiring opportunities each semester, and we look forward to seeing where these projects will go with the support of the Palouse Club.”  

Since its launch in January 2021, fifteen proposals have received nearly $575,000 in funding through Cougar Cage events. The three projects selected for funding in this round encapsulate a broad range of initiatives emerging from the university system.

Targeted drug delivery in endometriosis therapy

Professor Kanako Hayashi from the School of Molecular Biosciences and Professor Yuehe Lin from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering have joined forces to improve the quality of life for people with endometriosis, a chronic and incurable disease that affects nearly 200 million worldwide. With funding from Cougar Cage, they plan to develop a non-hormonal therapy that will rely on biocompatible nanocarriers to deliver drugs to afflicted cells with fewer side effects than current treatments. 

Kanako Hayashi
Yuehe Lin

Study of cannabis, human milk composition, and infant development

In an effort to address the historical lack of research on pregnant and breastfeeding women, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies and Professor of Anthropology Courtney Meehan seeks to populate the information desert surrounding these vulnerable individuals and their children. Her proposed study will assess whether milk composition differs among women who use and do not use cannabis, and how the presence of cannabinoids in milk affects infant development. Meehan hopes the results will enable healthcare providers to offer evidence-based advice and allow mothers to make more informed decisions.

Courtney Meehan

Upcycling plastic waste to create 3D printable resin

Yu-Chung Chang, a postdoctoral research associate, and Professor Jinwen Zhang at the Composite Materials and Engineering Center want to do more than recycle polylactic acid plastics with processing that makes them weaker. In a global market that continues to grow each year, Chang aims to offer a more sustainable and economical alternative to traditional recycling methods. He hopes that through chemical upcycling, plastic can be taken out of landfills and transformed into 3D printable resin that can be used in any commercially available photocuring printer.

Professor Jinwen Zhang (left) and Yu-Chung Chang (right) at the Composite Materials and Engineering Center.

Each project was approved for the full requested funding by the Palouse Club as part of Cougar Cage. Mike Connell, vice president for advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation, and Victoria Miles, associate vice president, attended Cougar Cage alongside President Schulz and Palouse Club members. 

The next Cougar Cage event is planned for the fall of 2022, with more details to come. 

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