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President's Progress Report 2012: People making a difference
Author: Ucomm
Posted: March 6, 2012

Looking forward to history

As a straight-A history and Russian Flagship student in PSU’s Honors Program, William “Forrest” Holden’s intellectual curiosity seems boundless. The 22-year-old is spending winter term interning at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., after being nominated by his Honors professors. He plans to spend his senior year studying in Russia. Holden credits PSU faculty members with giving him powerful analytical tools that led to the understanding that “we are children of a particular historical moment.” Knowledge isn’t static, he says, but something that changes and is affected by time. Holden looks to his own life as proof. After high school, he wasn’t sure he saw the value of higher education. Now, thanks to the rigor and passion he’s found at PSU, his goal is clear: a Ph.D. in history.

Bringing the freshest ideas to market

Buy local. Eat sustainably. Oregon growers, wineries, dairies and meat producers stand to benefit from these trends, but how? These industries have turned to business professor Mellie Pullman for answers. Her research, examining food supply chains for such companies as Country Natural Beef and Hot Lips Pizza, helps foster sustainable, successful business practices. Pullman’s work with local wineries highlights the shift to eco-friendly solutions, including limiting pesticide and herbicide use, using bio-fuel in equipment, and distributing wine in 2.5-gallon reusable mini kegs rather than individual bottles. “There’s definitely an Oregon ethos in terms of believing in the natural world,” says Pullman, who found that taking care of the land is intricately linked to producing excellent wine.

Rising up through education

Margaret Carter, the first African American elected to the Oregon Legislature, believes that the way out of poverty is through education, and her life is the best example. When she moved to Oregon, she was a single mother of five children and quickly discovered that she needed a professional degree to survive. She enrolled in PSU, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1972. “I wanted to be a contributor and not just a taker; education allowed me to be that contributor,” she says. As a legislator for more than 20 years, Carter fought hard for education, social justice and economic development. Now 76, she is director of community engagement for the Oregon Department of Human Services and continues to help others find their way out of hardship.

Championing social justice

As the first in her family to attend college, social work master’s student Gabriela “Gaby” Mendez knows the hopes and challenges of marginalized communities. “Growing up bilingual and bicultural was something I processed everyday,” she says. From her Hood River beginnings, Mendez showed an interest in early childhood education. Then, an internship at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility deepened her understanding of the complex factors that lead women to prison and stoked her desire to fight for social justice. A social worker was born. While completing her 2011 bachelor’s degree in social work, she won Willamette Week’s Skidmore Prize for outstanding young nonprofit leaders in recognition of her work at Neighborhood House counseling grade schoolers at high risk for delinquency or substance abuse.

Researching a cure, reviving hope

The idea seemed so simple that chemistry professor David Peyton couldn’t believe no one else had thought of it. For many years, Chloroquine was considered a miracle drug in treating malaria until it developed a resistance. Instead of abandoning Chloroquine, Peyton wondered if researchers could simply attach Chloroquine to another molecule that shuts off the resistance. The work of Peyton’s team led to a group of Chloroquine hybrids that are effective in mice. His research also led to DesignMedix, a start-up company that develops drugs for other diseases as well. DesignMedix is housed in PSU’s Business Accelerator, home to 20-plus young bioscience, clean technology, and information technology companies.

Creating new solutions for Intel

Top researchers hunted for a solution for a year, and then told Intel it couldn’t be done. They couldn’t remove a layer of material from Intel’s microprocessors, a critical step toward developing smaller and faster semiconductor chips for computers, cell phones, and electronics. Nabil Mistkawi, then a Portland State student and Intel engineer, took up the challenge. He developed a new chemical solution that not only succeeded but was environmentally friendly. Intel now uses more than 6,000 gallons of Mistkawi’s mixture weekly. The 2010 doctoral chemistry graduate says, “everything that I have been able to achieve while I was a student and after graduation is a testament to the superiority of education at PSU and the excellence of faculty.”