August 6, 2013

News Digest: UW wins two CASE awards, cosmic ray detectors being assembled, informant testimony questioned, Honor: Charles Johnson

Logo of world with CASENews office, “Love Purple, Raise Gold” campaign each win awards
News releases on topics ranging from “gaydar” to American megachurches by Molly McElroy and Peter Kelley, and the “Love Purple, Raise Gold” campaign mounted by University Marketing, Advancement Services and Advancement Communications, have each won awards in the annual contest sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

The international competition honors outstanding work in advancement services, alumni relations, communications, fundraising and marketing at colleges, universities, independent schools and nonprofits, according to the organization, one of the world’s largest nonprofit educational associations.

McElroy and Kelley, public information officers in the Office of News and Information, won a bronze award for general news writing for releases they submitted that are representative of what they produce: “Gaydar automatic and more accurate for women’s faces, psychologists find,” “God as a drug: The rise of American megachurches,” “Food deserts’ abound in King County for those without cars, UW study shows,” “Homeless heavy drinkers imbibe less when housing allows alcohol” and “Longer time to find new job, less pay for moms laid off during recession.”

The judges wrote that, “the choice of subject matter is almost universally engaging. We would read any of these stories on nbcnews.com, and they largely fit within UW’s framework of sharing information that could inform how we conduct our lives, make choices and understand the world around us.”

Text that reads Love purple, raise goldThe “Love Purple, Give Gold” campaign was a campuswide effort in honor of the UW’s 150th anniversary. During one concentrated 48-hour period, donors were asked to go online and donate to the units and funds of their choice. The $154,116 raised exceeded the goal set for the campaign. It won a bronze in the category of “targeted” fundraising campaigns.

The judges told CASE they liked how the institution used school pride in the online giving event. Also, “The targeted effort was successful at identifying younger donors and using technology to increase gifts,” they wrote.

Local high school students, teachers assembling cosmic ray detectors
Four teachers and six students from Seattle-area high schools will take part in a weeklong University of Washington workshop to learn more about particle physics by assembling and operating cosmic ray detectors.

The workshop, led by Shih-Chieh Hsu, a UW assistant physics professor, is taking place Aug. 5-9. Four UW students will also be involved, and Jeffrey Wilkes and Toby Burnett, UW physics professors, will speak to participants about current cosmic ray and gamma ray research.

The teachers and students will assemble their own comic ray detectors and then, through hands-on operation, data collection and analysis, they will learn about technology used in particle physics experiments.

The final two days will be devoted to analyzing data from the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (also called CERN), which last year was used to discover the long-sought Higgs boson that completes the Standard Model of particle physics.

Triple exoneration aided by UW’s Innocence Project Northwest
Three Washington state men who unjustly served time for robbery are now free, their convictions vacated, thanks in part to the University of Washington School of Law’s Innocence Project Northwest.

In December 2012, Spokane County Superior Court ruled that evidence presented since the 2009 convictions of Tyler Gassman, Robert Larson and Paul Statler raised serious doubts about the original verdict and the reliability of a state informant in their case. After their release, the state indicated intent to retry the three, but recently dropped all charges against them.

“These cases poignantly demonstrate the need for our system to re-examine its use of informant testimony,” said Jacqueline McMurtrie, UW associate professor of law and Innocence Project Northwest director. “Paul, Tyler and Robert are innocent men who spent nearly five years in prison based solely on the word of an informant who got an extraordinary deal – one ‘too good to be true’ – for his testimony.”

Mug shot of Chales Johnson in front of bookcaseCharles Johnson recipient of Humanities Washington Award
University of Washington English Professor Charles Johnson will be the recipient of the 2013 Humanities Washington award, an honor bestowed annually by a nonprofit group of the same name.

The award recognizes “exemplary achievement in the public humanities” and is given to “an individual or organization whose time and talents enlarge the meaning of the humanities in our lives,” press notes state. Past winners have included Rep. Norm Dicks and librarian Nancy Pearl.

“It’s very humbling,” Johnson said of the honor. “I was just looking over the past recipients of (the award), and they’re very, very distinguished and diverse people … who’ve all made very selfless contributions to the humanities, to culture, to literacy.”

Johnson will receive the award at Humanities Washington’s Bedtime Stories Literary Gala in Seattle on Oct. 4, an event Johnson helped to found in 1999.