UW News

December 20, 2017

UW’s 2017: A year of innovation, access and impact

UW News

collage of top story images

Clockwise from top left: The opening of the Global Innovation Exchange in Bellevue; students working with Clean Energy Institute researchers; ‘The Body Politic’; Jeff Brotman; volunteers help set up for Tent City 3; the women’s rowing team wins NCAA Division 1 National Championship.


In all corners of the University of Washington, staff, faculty and students are working hard to improve the lives of people around the world. This year undoubtedly embodied that passion and drive to serve the public good.

As 2017 comes to a close, we look to what 2018 will bring, including the 50th anniversary of the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity and continued progress on our Diversity Blueprint; advancing Population Health worldwide; and continuing to foster innovation in every corner of our University.

In July, the UW will serve as a primary venue for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, with hundreds of volunteer opportunities for faculty, staff and students.

This fall, the UW welcomed the most diverse class of new students across all three campuses, and the largest number of Washington residents in UW history. This year also marked the 10th year of the Husky Promise, the UW’s guarantee to Washington students that it will not let financial challenges stand in the way of attending the UW.

Whether it’s through climate research, a new study on how babies learn language, or a timely class on fake data, the UW is an epicenter for groundbreaking discoveries as well as a place for critically important discussions around race, equity and inclusion.

Here are just a few of the many ways UW research has reached the global community this year:

  • More than 40 analysis articles written by UW faculty and graduate students published in The Conversation; with more than 1.3 million total reads.
  • Nearly 100 mentions in The New York Times; totaling about 950,000 social engagements.
  • More than 4,600 mentions in all external media coverage.

In addition to the stories highlighted in the video above, the UW has had a tremendous year for groundbreaking research. Here are a few of those stories, listed in chronological order.


Predicting autism: Researchers find autism biomarkers in infancy

A child and an adult playing with toys.

Annette Estes, left, plays with 2-year-old Caellum Ortiz at the UW Autism Center.Kathryn Sauber

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age. Their study appeared in February in Nature.

Read more

See related stories in Business Insider and The Guardian

UW astronomer Eric Agol assists in new seven-planet NASA discovery using ‘distracted driving’ technique

UW astronomy professor Eric Agol was part of the large team of researchers that in February announced confirmation of several Earth-sized, potentially habitable planets orbiting a star about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) away.

Read more

See related stories on KING 5 and Q13

Tackling resilience: Finding order in chaos to help buffer against climate change

A new paper out in March by the UW and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center aimed to provide clarity among scientists, resource managers and planners on what ecological resilience means and how it can be achieved.

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Retreating Yukon glacier caused a river to disappear

river headwaters

The Kaskawulsh River, seen here near its headwaters, is running higher now thanks to the addition of water that used to flow into the Slims River.Jim Best/University of Illinois

In April, a new study led by UW Tacoma professor Dan Shugar provided a postmortem on the Yukon’s Slims River, whose flow was diverted in early 2016. It is the only documented case of “river piracy” in modern times.

Read more

See related stories in The New York Times, BBC News and USA Today

UW, UW Bothell scientists explain new discovery in gravitational wave astronomy

The announcement that a third collision of black holes had been detected three billion light years away validated the work of hundreds of scientists, including teams at the UW and UW Bothell.

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See a related story in the South Whidbey Record

A pocket-size revolution in kidney research

kidney of a chip

With a device that can model a real kidney, researchers at the UW School of Pharmacy are giving new hope to people with kidney conditions — as well as astronauts who dream of exploring the farthest reaches of space.

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See related stories on GeekWire and the UW Be Boundless website

Microscope can scan tumors during surgery and examine cancer biopsies in 3-D

Photo of Adam Glaser tweaking microscope

Mechanical engineering postdoctoral fellow Adam Glaser assembles the next generation of the light-sheet microscope, which will provide greater resolving power and imaging depth than the first system.Mark Stone/University of Washington

A new UW microscope could provide real-time results during cancer-removal surgeries, potentially eliminating the 20 to 40 percent of women who have to undergo multiple lumpectomy surgeries because cancerous breast tissue is missed the first time around.

Read more

See related stories in Popular Science and U.S. News & World Report

Study shows high pregnancy failure in southern resident killer whales; links to nutritional stress and low salmon abundance

Two killer whales swimming.

A southern resident killer whale calf with its mother in 2004.NOAA

A multi-year survey of the nutritional, physiological and reproductive health of endangered southern resident killer whales found that up to two-thirds of pregnancies failed in this population from 2007 to 2014.

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See related stories in Pacific Standard, Business Insider (AP) and KING 5

In Seattle, cost of meeting basic needs up $30,000 in a decade

In October, the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Washington State 2017 was released, revealing how much the cost of making ends meet has grown in recent years. The researchers that compiled the report say they hope the data helps show the importance of government aid programs to help low-income families.

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See related stories in The New York Times, The Seattle Times and KUOW

50 simulations of the ‘Really Big One’ show how a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake could play out

Animation comparing two scenarios of a M9 Cascadia earthquake.

Animation comparing two scenarios of a M9 Cascadia earthquake.

A team of UW researchers created 50 different simulations of how a 9.0 Cascadia earthquake could impact the Pacific Northwest. They hope their data can be used to better predict how the “Really Big One” could affect people living in this area.

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See related stories in Live Science, National Geographic and Atlas Obscura

In first, 3-D printed objects connect to WiFi without electronics

The UW team also 3-D printed plastic scroll wheels, sliders and buttons that can wirelessly interact with computers, phones and other WiFi-connected devices.

The UW team also 3-D printed plastic scroll wheels, sliders and buttons that can wirelessly interact with computers, phones and other WiFi-connected devices.Mark Stone/University of Washington

UW engineers have developed the first 3-D printed plastic objects that can connect to other devices via WiFi without using any electronics, including a laundry bottle that can detect when soap is running low and automatically order more.

Read more

See related stories in GeekWire, Quartz and Fast Company