Ray Arvidson with model of Mars Rover

Our Research

Arts & Sciences faculty, students, and research staff investigate questions at the forefront of the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a great university is its ability to contribute new knowledge through research. Faculty in Arts & Sciences are frequently recognized around the world for their research leadership. In addition to faculty, both graduate and undergraduate students are critical to research and often play a hands-on role in major projects.

Fostering connections — among disciplines and throughout the research community — is an idea that lies at the heart of Arts & Sciences research. Our faculty are pioneering interdisciplinary approaches for investigating some of the planet’s most intractable challenges, such as climate change, antibiotic resistance, and global food insecurity. Our vibrant campus serves as an incubator for original ideas and scholarly innovations across disciplines and among faculty and students.

In Arts & Sciences, we are uniquely positioned to bring together scientific and humanistic approaches that will develop critical perspectives on global heath, the environment, social issues, and policy. Such topics form the basis for engaging our students in a variety of academic research projects both in the US and abroad. Our new initiatives address complex problems for society’s benefit, focusing on diversity, community, and culture.

Patti with student

Why we shine

Bold leaders

Our faculty have been elected to the world's top scientific and scholarly academies, often serving in leadership roles. They are leaders in disciplines across the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, and increasingly their work is interdisciplinary, crossing traditional boundaries of departments and professional schools. Arts & Sciences continues to recruit and retain outstanding faculty who are eager to collaborate in new ways.

Nurturing future scholars

At Washington University, we support the scholarly potential of our undergraduates from the very beginning. One in three students engages in an in-depth mentored research project by the time they graduate. We are committed to maintaining small class sizes and low faculty-student ratios, as well as developing exceptional learning and research experiences. We continue to expand our freshman FOCUS program offerings to provide more of our first-year students with year-long small-group courses that introduce them to our faculty and to exciting issues and ideas both in and out of the classroom. We also enhance student engagement by supplementing some of our larger lecture courses with small group discussion sections, where students can explore course concepts and themes in greater depth.

Innovative approaches

Our scholars are leaders in interdisciplinary research. For example, biologist Joseph Jez is exploring the ways in which the environment affects health. Current research in the Jez lab employs a combination of x-ray crystallography, enzymology, molecular biology, proteomics, and cell biology to understand the molecular foundations of heavy metal detoxification in plants and to explore new metabolic pathways in nematodes that are of possible pharmaceutical interest. This research addresses a worldwide problem: nearly a quarter of all disease and premature deaths are attributable to environmental factors, especially in the least developed regions of the world.


Phage or Foe?

As everyone has probably heard, antibiotics are less and less effective. So what would happen if you got an infection that was resistant to all the known antibiotics? One surprising answer is that they might treat you with viruses from pond sludge. As Fredrik Inglis explains, this old remedy is getting a new look.

Resources and Information

Research Gateway
Numerous research-related resources, tools, forms, and applications for Washington University faculty and staff

Interdisciplinary Grant Services
Grant-writing and preparation services for faculty conducting interdisciplinary scientific research

McMillan Hall Grant Administration Services
Research and grant support available to McMillan Hall-based departments and programs

The Center for the Humanities
Support for innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship for faculty and graduate students

Resources for Graduate Students
An overview of external grant opportunities for graduate students

Office of Undergraduate Research
Promotes and facilitates research by WU undergraduates

Ray Arvidson with model of Mars Rover

We’re exploring Mars to better understand Earth. On Mars, we can learn about geological processes and environmental processes — maybe habitability, maybe life, that remains to be seen — for a period of time that’s lost on Earth.

―Ray ArvidsonJames S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences