Research Recap for April 30

Western’s faculty and students are engaged in exciting research and scholarship across a variety of fields. Each Friday, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in scholarly work at the University. Interested in reading in-depth stories about science and research at Western? Go to Gaia, the university's online journal of research, discovery and scholarship, and subscribe (it's free) to that site by clicking the "Follow" button.  Want more research news? Follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Yanara Friedland

Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies Assistant Professor Yanara Friedland is the author of “Groundswell,” a book of creative nonfiction just published by Essay Press.

“Groundswell” is a collection of border narratives, rituals, and biographies of Grenzgaenger, or “border crosser.” Inside the narrator’s dream to return home, we encounter the living archive of walls and ruins. Along Germany’s former east-west division or the southwest borderlands of the U.S. and Mexico, the ground begins to swarm with stories. The multivocal text, composed from oral histories and memories, presents voices at the crossroads who weave a map between teller and listener, site and onlooker, the dead and the living as well as the walking body and earth itself. Find out more about Friedland’s new book here.

Hannah Fisher

Biology graduate student Hannah Fisher winner of last year’s Biology Department Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, was recently a recipient of a Graduate Research Award for her project, “From the inside out: How the spatial organization of the cell drives ciliary Ca2+ signaling,” an investigative research project on what factors influence the way calcium is regulated in cilia.  After WWU’s labs closed at the beginning of pandemic, she was part of the team of Western faculty and graduate students who partnered with Northwest Pathology in Bellingham to get community COVID testing up and running. She’s now a supervisor in the lab and plans to go into medicine.  

Benjamin Haagen

Biology graduate student Benjamin Haagen is studying natural variation in protein expression on the genome level. Haagen is a recipient of a Graduate Research Award for his thesis project, “Establishing Genetic Expression Patterns of Mating Pheromone Response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by mRNA Sequencing.” His will be one of the first cases characterizing how natural genetic variation impacts gene expression in a dynamic (non-steady state) biological system.

Like Fisher, Haagen was part of the team of Western faculty and graduate students who partnered with Northwest Pathology in Bellingham to get COVID testing up and running. Haagen said he is dedicated to holistic science connecting research, education, and communities and is interested in organizing outreach projects that would allow him to partner with local middle, high schools, and environmental nonprofits because he believes that connecting community with nature is an integral part of being a scientist.   

Kaitlin Rink

Second-year Doctor of Audiology candidate Kaitlin Rink was recently awarded a WWU Graduate Research Award for her capstone project, “Evaluating performance of the Portable Automated Rapid Testing (PART) application in a non-clinical setting.” Rink’s research is especially timely with pandemic restrictions on in-person services. Where in-clinic testing has traditionally been very expensive and relies on bulky equipment, Rink’s research will extend the portability of, and add a multidimensional approach to, diagnostic auditory processing testing, allowing for a more tailored approach to treatment. This will increase both accessibility of services for the hearing impaired and patient satisfaction.

Rink said she is especially grateful for the collaborative research culture at Western and supportive faculty, who have empowered her to take ownership over her research.