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UA at the Forefront as Climate Change Heats Up

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 3:37pm
This year's College of Science Lecture Series, "Earth Transformed," will showcase UA researchers' expertise on climate change and its implications for the planet. ENVIRONMENT

What is the UA's role in the climate change conversation?
The UA is an expert on global climate change and adaptation and is a location for two regional climate research centers for the U.S. government. It sent a delegation to the recent United Nations COP21 climate change conference in Paris.

Why is climate change important?
Climate change remains a pressing global issue, with the potential to have significant impact on the environment, human health, food security and more. UA research in these areas can help inform policies and solutions.

Who should attend the "Earth Transformed" lecture series?
The free series is for anyone interested in learning more about the climate change problem and solutions — and the UA's expertise.

  "Earth Transformed" will kick off on Monday and run through March 7 at Centennial Hall. Joellen Russell will launch the lecture series with a talk on the planet's warming oceans. Jonathan Overpeck will wrap up the series with a talk on "The Changing Earth: It's Not Just a New Normal."

The University of Arizona, an international leader in global climate change research, will share its scientists' expertise with the community during the College of Science Lecture Series, "Earth Transformed."

The popular series, which kicks off Monday and runs through March 7, again is expected to play to capacity crowds at the UA's Centennial Hall. It will include six lectures on climate change and its impact on Earth today and in the future. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the lectures start at 7. The talks will be streamed live by Arizona Public Media On Demand.

Topics range from the ocean's role in climate change, which Joellen Russell, associate professor of geosciences, will address in the first lecture, to the impact of climate change on health and food security.

"It is important that we all understand what we know about global climate change and what we can do about it," said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science.

The timing of the series couldn't be better, coming on the heels of the UA's presence at the 2015 United Nations COP21 climate change conference held in late 2015 in Paris. Seven representatives of the University participated in the conference.

Understanding the Problem, Working on Solutions

The UA's expertise on climate change is broad and varied, with dozens of researchers in various colleges working on the issue in some way. Their ongoing efforts will be among the top stories to watch in 2016.

While many are dedicated to the science behind the change, others are interested in the ins and out of climate-related policymaking and the social implications of climate change. Some are leveraging arts and humanities to communicate the issue.

Russell said she is excited to share her knowledge and talk about how the UA has become a leader on climate change — and what researchers are doing to think ahead.

Her lecture will address the amount of heat the ocean is absorbing from the atmosphere and how the ocean's uptake of heat has affected sea creatures and plant life.

"The ocean keeps warming every year without fail," Russell said. "But that's not the only thing the ocean is doing for us. If all of the heat in the ocean from just the warming over the last 30 years was put back into the atmosphere, we would be 100 degrees warmer. The ocean is like a big air conditioner, just sucking up tons of the heat that would otherwise be making us hotter."

Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the UA's Institute of the Environment, will talk on "The Changing Earth: It's Not Just a New Normal," which will conclude the series.

While climate change is a serious issue, Overpeck said he wants to talk about optimism around the topic.

He said he believes there will be much economic growth in the Southwest as part of a switch to renewable energy, which will in turn create more jobs. He also said there will be ideas for adapting to climate change that the Southwest can export.

"I want to make sure everyone in the room leaves not depressed but optimistic of our ability to solve these problems," said Overpeck, Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Science and a Regents' Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences in the College of Science.

Ruiz said he hopes the audience comes away from the lectures with new information and a desire to learn more.

"I get really excited about three things," Ruiz said. "One (reason) is our speakers presenting what we know of the particular topic, and that makes me really proud because we have fantastic faculty. Second is the response from our community. Our community is sucking it up, and that's not everywhere where that happens. We live in a special place."

The third thing that excites Ruiz, he says, is new programming designed to educate and involve students in the lecture series.

Engaging Students in the Conversation

New to the series this year will be follow-up question-and-answer sessions in which UA students will be able to interact directly with the lecturers.

Instructors across campus are encouraging students to view a live stream of the lectures at the University's Environment and Natural Resources 2, or ENR2, building. After the lecturers finish their presentations in Centennial Hall, they will head to ENR2 to answer students' questions in a feature called QA Science.

"We felt that the issue of climate change is most relevant to the generation now attending the UA," said John Pollard, associate professor of practice in the UA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who will facilitate the QA Science discussions along with Ed Prather, associate professor of astronomy, and Lisa Elfring, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology and of chemistry and biochemistry and a member of the BIO5 Institute.

The sessions build on the concept of Pollard's "Selected Topics for Science Educators" course for K-12 teachers, which for the past five years has engaged local educators in the lecture series with the goal of helping them incorporate the topics in their own classrooms.

As in years past, about 20 K-12 teachers will attend the talks and have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters afterward. This year, UA students from varying majors will pose questions, as well.

"We hope they take away an awareness of where we're at with this issue, and that we have some really top-notch scientists here at the UA working on this problem," Pollard said. "I also hope they become reflective about their daily lives and how they can develop more sustainable habits."

The "Earth Transformed" series will showcase the tip of the iceberg in UA climate change research, which spans the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, public health and the arts.

"We are a center for excellence for climate research, and climate negotiations are always dependent on the latest science — natural science and social science," said Diana Liverman, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment and a Regents' Professor in the School of Geography and Development.

In the fall, Liverman led a delegation from the UA — including two other faculty members, three graduate students and an undergraduate — to the climate change conference in Paris, where they attended and participated as experts in panels and discussions, observed negotiations, and hosted an information booth with Arizona State University to share the latest climate research and publications from Arizona.

At the conference, a global pact known as the Paris Agreement was negotiated that makes a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

'We Work in This Area'

The University is uniquely positioned to support efforts to meet that goal, Liverman said.

"It was clear in Paris that a lot of countries could reduce fossil fuel emissions through solar energy, and we work in this area," she said.

However, we still need to find ways to live in a warmer world, Liverman said.

The University is a global leader in climate adaptation and how communities can adjust to warmer and drier living conditions. It already is a location for two regional climate research centers for the U.S. government: the Department of the Interior's Southwest Climate Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Assessment for the Southwest, or CLIMAS. In addition, the University's Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions brings together faculty from across campus to work on adaptation.

"The U of A has enormous potential to help Arizona and the world cope with a changing climate," Liverman said. "We connect climate science to solutions and decisions and share our insights into living sustainably in warm, arid environments."

For more information about "Earth Transformed," visit the series website. The schedule of lectures:

  • Jan. 25 | Joellen Russell, "Ocean's Role in Climate: Heat and Carbon Uptake in the Anthropocene"
  • Feb. 1 | David Battisti (University of Washington), "Climate Change and Global Food Security"
  • Feb. 8 | Russell Monson, "Ecosystem Resilience: Navigating Our Tenuous Connection to Nature"
  • Feb. 22 | Kacey Ernst, "Climate Change and Human Health: Impacts and Pathways to Resilience"
  • Feb. 29 | Kimberly Ogden, "Carbon Sequestration: Can We Afford It?"
  • March 7 | Jonathan Overpeck, "The Changing Earth: It's Not Just a New Normal"

UANews is exploring six stories to watch as 2016 begins. Previously in this series:

Health & Medicine: The asthma research of Dr. Fernando Martinez 

Big Data: The UA's expanded role in turning data into discovery

Humanities: In February, a visit from Shakespeare's touring First Folio

Category(s): Science and TechnologyAmy Williams and Alexis BlueJanuary 20, 2016University Relations - Communications

From Inception to Innovation, Hack Arizona Is All About Ideas

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 10:43am
Extra Info: 

Three types of prizes will be awarded at Hack Arizona:

  • Sponsor prizes, which are chosen by the representatives of the sponsor and awarded based on their own, varying criteria.
  • Category prizes, which are awarded by the Hack Arizona team. Each team winning a category will receive a Raspberry Pi 2 Canakit for each team member.
  • The grand prize, which is selected by the Hack Arizona organizers. The winners will receive a secret prize, which will be disclosed on the event's first day.
What: Hack ArizonaWhen: Jan. 22-24Where: UA Science-Engineering Library, 744 N. Highland Ave. Story Contacts: 

Nick Morin

Hack Arizona

The organizers of the second Hack Arizona, to be held at the UA, affirm that programming experience isn't required to be an innovator.

To encourage original thought and inventiveness, and after a successful inaugural year, Hack Arizona — the largest student-run hackathon in the Southwest — will return with more participants, more sponsors and more volunteers.

The free event, open to undergraduate and graduate students in all academic programs from across the country, provides a competitive space at the University of Arizona for teams to develop and build websites, cloud software, robotics, Web and iOS apps, and other creations. Students can apply online.

"Innovations in hacking are what power the technology we use everyday," said Hack Arizona marketing director Nick Morin, a UA School of Information senior majoring in eSociety.

At least 800 participants are expected to attend this year's event, which is offered through a partnership between InnovateUA and the UA Libraries, as well as dozens of national and international corporate sponsors.

Members of the general public are invited to attend the Project Exposition, to be held on Jan. 24, from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m, in the Grand Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center. During that time, projects will be on display and award winners will be named on Jan. 25 on the Hack Arizona website.

Hack Arizona does not reference or endorse malicious or illegal cyber crime. Rather, "hacking" refers to the work of inventors, builders and creators who spend 36 hours in solution-oriented mode coming up with an answer to a problem or challenge.

"Hacking simply means improving upon something, so by encouraging innovations in hacking, you are really encouraging people to solve problems," said Morin, who is also InnovateUA's senior director.

This year, Hack Arizona participants will build design innovations around sustainability, health, community, data science and open source resources.

Participants also learn about new software and technologies, attend instructional and active workshops, collaborate across disciplines and receive free meals and entertainment.

"Immediately after the first Hack Arizona, our team went back to the white board asking how we could make the next event even better," Morin said. "Our main focus this year centers around the hacker experience, the core value we bring to all of our participants, from the minute they arrive at opening ceremony to the event conclusion on Sunday."

UA alumni who now work with companies such as Google also will be on site during the hackathon to mentor and support teams. Other event sponsors, which also will be offering demonstrations of their technologies and products, include Raytheon, Cisco, Intuit and Amazon.

"At Hack Arizona, the most talented students from across campus and across the globe are converging at the University of Arizona," said Justin Williams, executive director of InnovateUA, an organization that supports and fosters a student-led culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

"The talented student leaders behind Hack Arizona and all InnovateUA programs are an essential reason why the UA is recognized as a world leader in innovation," said Williams, also a lecturer in the UA Eller College of Management and College of Engineering.

Last year's 450 Hack Arizona participants produced nearly 70 projects, including a text-based system to help language learners practice and a robot that taught itself to take steps while using only minor instruction from a basic mathematical algorithm.

"Hack Arizona is not only a hackathon but a learning experience, a resume booster, a way to get involved, a way to meet company sponsors, a way to get a job or an internship, a way to work on team-building skills," Hack Arizona organizer Brittany Paielli, a UA student studying mathematics and computer science, said in a statement. "It can bring you one step closer to being more successful in the future."

Hack Arizona's team contributed to this article.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyLa Monica Everett-HaynesJanuary 15, 2016University Relations - Communications

UA Sociologists: Teen Pregnancy Not an Isolated Issue

Wed, 01/13/2016 - 12:57pm
Extra Info: 

Christina Diaz's and Jeremy E. Fiel’s research was funded by multiple agencies and organizations, including the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and the Center of Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. 

Story Contacts: 

Christina Diaz

UA School of Sociology



Jeremy E. Fiel 

UA School of Sociology


Christina Diaz and Jeremy E. Fiel found that socioeconomic disadvantage may reduce the effect young motherhood has on how successful a person is academically, and also what wages can be expected in the future.

In a nationwide study, University of Arizona sociologists Christina Diaz and Jeremy E. Fiel found that the negative effect of young motherhood on educational attainment and earnings is not limited to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and actually is most significant among better-off teenagers.

Diaz and Fiel analyzed a subset of the Child and Young Adult Cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which launched in 1986 to analyze the lives of more than 10,000 American youth.

Their findings of the subset — more than 3,600 young women — confirm existing literature that most young mothers have lower educational attainment and earnings overall compared with those who delay having children.

However, they also found that the impact of early fertility on one's educational attainment and wages depended on a woman’s personal attributes, experiences and factors such as their household income and familial expectations around family planning.

"It is important to think about the ongoing debate about the causal relationship between teen pregnancy and attainment," said Diaz, an assistant professor in the UA School of Sociology.

"Despite all of our methods and studies, we (as a research community) haven’t nailed down the effect of teenage pregnancy. So, we wanted to take a step back and think, 'Why might there be divergent findings?'"

Diaz's and Fiel’s findings are detailed in the co-authored paper "The Effect(s) of Teen Pregnancy: Reconciling Theory, Methods and Findings," which was published in a January 2016 issue of Demography, a peer-reviewed journal. Fiel is a UA assistant professor of sociology.

For the investigation, Diaz and Fiel analyzed survey results from two groups: individuals who became pregnant and had children, and others who had yet to do so.

Diaz and Fiel wanted to understand variation in the effects of early fertility among women with differing likelihoods of teen pregnancy and childbearing. For both groups, they analyzed high school graduation rates, rates of college attendance and completion, and also earnings when respondents were between ages 25 and 35. 

Some of Diaz's and Fiel's findings confirmed other existing research indicating that pregnant teenagers have more disadvantaged backgrounds, fewer academic skills, more behavior problems and delinquency, and lower feelings of self-worth. 

"By the time a young woman becomes pregnant, there are already factors from her socioeconomic background that influence her experience," Diaz said. "To that end, it is not necessarily the pregnancy itself that results in negative consequences. And for someone who is comparatively better off, they already have tools to succeed."

Interestingly, it was those better-off teens for whom the consequences of an early pregnancy were most severe. The negative effect on earning a bachelor's degree was twice as large among better-off teens compared to those who were less advantaged.

Diaz and Fiel found evidence suggesting that young women in families where early fertility was more common, and who had stronger familial relationships and support, may have experienced less stress transitioning into motherhood.

Such findings reveal the problem with assuming that all women see similar outcomes when having children at a younger age, Diaz and Fiel said.

The two affirmed in their paper that "women differentially respond to motherhood," later noting: "Specifically, we argue that negative, trivial or positive effects could be simultaneously occurring among different types of women in the population."

While nationwide data indicates that teen pregnancies among women ages 15-19 has been on a steady decline since the 1970s, the World Bank reports the nation still maintains some of the highest rates on the globe. Based on 2014 figures, the financial institution reported that the U.S. had more births per 1,000 women in that age bracket than those that include the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France and Spain.

From a policy perspective, the findings can help to better identify how to support teen mothers who need it most, Diaz said.

"There are a lot of campaigns that set out to reduce pregnancy rates in disadvantaged communities that are based on the belief that there are still negative causal effects of teen pregnancy," Diaz said.

The analysis, however, suggested that teen pregnancy prevention in isolation of other life challenges is likely to be ineffective for disadvantaged women. Such campaigns may be beneficial only for more advantaged women, Diaz said.

"There are all these underlying issues that happened before pregnancy — attending lower-quality schools, living in poor neighborhoods, living in high poverty contexts — so that teen pregnancy is just one issue," she said.

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationLa Monica Everett-HaynesJanuary 20, 2016University Relations - Communications

UA Launches First Dual Degree Law Program in China

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 2:54pm
Story Contacts: 

Tracy Mueller

UA James E. Rogers College of Law



Brent White

UA James E. Rogers College of Law


An innovative partnership with Ocean University of China is hailed as a response to the globalization of legal practice.

The University of Arizona has received accreditation to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Law in Qingdao, China, through a dual degree program at Ocean University of China, or OUC. The degree program is the first U.S.-China joint offering in law available fully in residence in China.

The UA-OUC program, which allows Chinese students to earn undergraduate law degrees from both universities in four years, launched in fall 2015 with an inaugural class of 77 students and is expected to grow to 400 students at full capacity.

"This dual degree partnership responds to the globalization of legal practice and takes the University of Arizona to students who would not otherwise have access to a high-quality U.S. legal education," said Brent White, associate dean for programs and global initiatives and professor of law at the UA James E. Rogers College of Law.

Students in the program will earn an LLB (the law degree commonly offered outside the United States) from OUC and a Bachelor of Arts in Law from the UA — taking the same U.S. law courses and receiving the same legal training as UA bachelor's in law students in Tucson.

In fall 2014, the UA became the first U.S. university to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Law domestically. That degree program now has 300 students, all of whom are eligible to spend up to one year studying law at OUC.

Marc Miller, dean of the James E. Rogers College of Law, said, "The creation of the B.A. in Law in partnership with the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the UA School of Government and Public Policy opens the door to these types of global partnerships, since law is overwhelmingly studied at the undergraduate level around the world."

All required law courses will be offered at the UA's new location on OUC's campus in Qingdao, China, although students will have the option to complete a portion of their studies in residence at the UA's Tucson campus.

Students will spend the first two years completing coursework for the Chinese LLB and UA general education requirements, in addition to English language training under the supervision of the UA Center for English as a Second Language. During the third and fourth years, students will complete their bachelor's in law coursework.

"China is the second-largest economy in the world and has become the United States' largest trading partner," said Andrew Comrie, UA provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. "Both countries benefit from a better understanding of our economy and our laws. The University of Arizona partnership with Ocean University of China serves a pressing need for bilingual lawyers competent in both legal systems."

OUC is a comprehensive research university with 17 colleges and more than 45,000 students, including those at the undergraduate, master's, doctoral and continuing education levels.

Category(s): Business and LawJanuary 12, 2016UA James E. Rogers College of Law

In Married Couples, Death May Not Entirely Do You Part

Mon, 01/11/2016 - 6:02pm
Story Contacts: 

Kyle Bourassa

UA Department of Psychology



Alexis Blue

University Relations, Communications



Anna Mikulak

Association for Psychological Science


A person's quality of life at the time of their death continues to influence his or her spouse's quality of life in the years following the person's passing, according to new research by UA psychologists.

As married couples spend day in and day out together, they begin to experience a level of interdependence in which one spouse's quality of life is very closely tied to that of the other.

This interdependence persists even after the death of one spouse, according to new research from the University of Arizona.

A person's quality of life at the time of their death continues to influence his or her spouse's quality of life in the years following the person's passing, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

What's more, the association between a deceased and surviving spouse is just as strong as the association between partners who are both living, the researchers found.

"If your partner has higher quality of life before they pass away, you're more likely to have higher quality of life even after they're gone," said Kyle Bourassa, a UA psychology doctoral student and lead author of the paper. "If he or she has lower quality of life before they pass away, you're then more likely to have lower quality of life."

In previous work, Bourassa and his colleagues found evidence that a person’s cognitive functioning and health influence not only his or her own well-being but also the well-being of his or her partner. They wondered whether this interdependence continues when one of the partners passes away.

To find out, they turned to the multinational, representative Study of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe, or SHARE, an ongoing research project with more than 80,000 aging adult participants across 18 European countries and Israel.

Specifically, they examined data from 546 couples in which one partner had died during the study period and data from 2,566 couples in which both partners were still living.

The researchers were surprised to find no observable difference in the strength of the interdependence in couples' quality of life when comparing widowed spouses with spouses whose partners remained alive. They replicated these findings in two independent samples from the SHARE study, while controlling for other factors that might have played a role, such as participants' health, age and number of years married.

"Even though your marriage ends in a literal sense when you lose your spouse, the effects of who the person was still seems to matter even after they're gone," Bourassa said. "I think that really says something about how important those relationships are."

While it's not entirely clear why the interdependence persists, it's likely that the thoughts and emotions a person experiences when reminiscing about a lost spouse may contribute to the ongoing connection, the researchers say.

"Relationships are something we develop over time and they are retained in our mind and memory and understanding of the world, and that continues even after physical separation," said Mary-Frances O'Connor, UA assistant professor of psychology and a co-author of the paper who specializes in grief and the grieving process.

Bourassa said the findings could have implications for end-of-life care and for helping those who have lost their spouses. "If you can boost someone's quality of life before they pass, that might affect not just their life, but the quality of life of their partner and their family."

Other authors on the paper were David Sbarra, UA associate professor of psychology, and Lindsey M. Knowles, UA psychology doctoral student.

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationAlexis Blue, University Relations - Communications, and the Association for Psychological ScienceJanuary 13, 2016

Building Research Infrastructure for the Infinite

Mon, 01/11/2016 - 1:23pm
Story Contacts: 

Parker Antin



The UA is at the leading edge of turning data into discovery in ways never before implemented, and CyVerse (formerly iPlant Collaborative) represents a significant step. BIG DATA

What is the UA's role?
The UA is pioneering efforts to rebuild and rethink cyber infrastructure, as the compilation of research data is outpacing the ability to analyze it.

What can be learned?
UA efforts in data management and security can serve as a template for other research institutions attempting to solve their informatics issues.

Why does it matter?
The UA is enabling scientists worldwide to reach scientific breakthroughs never before possible.


How do researchers turn mountains of raw data into tangible, applicable breakthroughs?

It's the core issue facing scientific exploration in the 21st century and beyond, and it's one the University of Arizona is prepared to address in a big way in 2016.

"We're in an era right now where collecting data has far outpaced our ability to house it, analyze it and translate it into something meaningful," said Parker Antin, professor at the UA College of Medicine, associate dean for research of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a member of the UA Sarver Heart Center, an affiliate of the BIO5 Institute and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Think of it this way. The Internet is often thought of as a repository for the history of human knowledge. It has irrevocably altered every mode of communication and any research effort currently underway. The data that exists within this system, however, requires server space to house it, secure connections to share it and individuals with the technological expertise to access it.

But that is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Storage is finite, but data is not. Today's researchers across all disciplines are embarking upon unprecedented information collection efforts in search of generation-defining breakthroughs, which means the sheer amount of data at their disposal is simply impossible to comprehend.

This will, of course, lead to new lines of questioning requiring even more data-processing infrastructure. Information will increase exponentially in perpetuity. Current data management platforms inevitably will buckle under the weight of this new information, grinding research to a halt and slowing the Internet to a crawl.

"It is our job to connect data across all levels to see the big picture — to sift through the data and figure out 'why' instead of simply 'what,'" said UA Kimberly Andrews Espy, the UA's senior vice president for research. "Without the proper platforms, researchers spend too much time staring at frozen computer screens and not enough time making discoveries."

The University's leadership role in this effort began in 2008, when the UA-led iPlant Collaborative was launched with a $50 million grant from the National Science Foundation to provide computational infrastructure for plant sciences. The platform was so sound and robust that a number of institutions saw its potential to expand well beyond plant sciences.

iPlant recently transitioned into CyVerse, expanding its data management and computational infrastructure services across a variety of scientific disciplines. It is a continuing collaboration among four institutions, led by the UA. Partner sites are the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

Antin, CyVerse's principal investigator, says flexibility is the program's greatest asset.

"We've created an environment where researchers can store, share and analyze large data sets without having to know all of the back-end functionality," Antin said. "Our stacked infrastructure takes advantage of a myriad of already available resources and leverages their strengths to unlock an entirely new set of capabilities."

Researchers can simply visit the CyVerse website at and sign up for an account. It's an open-source platform that requires only an Internet connection to access it.

"Fundamentally, it's people who answer questions," Espy said. "We're enabling a human interface that allows researchers to collaborate with each other. That's the power of this program — we put a human face to it."

In addition to the UA's groundbreaking data storage efforts, it also is among the leaders in the recently formed American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) Consortium. This New York-based public-private partnership is developing photonic integrated circuits, or PICs, a light-based method of quickly and securely transferring data at much higher speeds than through the current fiber optic grid system.

Over the last 18 months, Thomas Koch, dean of the UA College of Optical Sciences, led the effort to establish both the technical concepts and the academic, industry and government partnerships to realize the prodigious manufacturing capabilities that AIM Photonics will represent.

"This is an absolutely thrilling project, and it will enable computing like nothing that came before it," Espy said. "UA researchers are at the cutting edge of this breakthrough, and our students are seeing it first."

Essentially, the UA is leading the effort to house and securely share the past and future sum of human knowledge at the speed of light.

"CyVerse is the most exciting project I've ever been involved with," Antin said. "This is the new frontier."

UANews is exploring six stories to watch as 2016 begins. Previously in this series:

Health & Medicine: The asthma research of Dr. Fernando Martinez 

Category(s): Science and TechnologyNick PrevenasJanuary 13, 2016University Relations - Communications

McGuire Students Build the Future They Imagine

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 7:54pm
Extra Info: 

The McGuire Entrepreneurship Program is now accepting applications for the Class of 2017. The application deadline is Jan. 20. Visit for more information. 

The entrepreneurship program in the UA Eller College of Management is long on multidisciplinary collaboration, and the diversity enhances the career readiness of participants.

Brian Herrera was snowboarding in Colorado when he was overcome with the beauty of the scenery. The University of Arizona optical sciences and engineering major snapped photos from different angles, trying in vain to accurately capture the scene before his eyes. It was a photograph of the view reflected in his goggles that sparked his imagination.

"It was so beautiful and the photos were just not doing it justice," he said. "I thought it would be so cool to build a 3-D camera that could share in VR (virtual reality) so others could experience what my eyes were seeing." 

Thanks to his major, Herrera understood how to tackle the complex challenge of building a 3-D camera. However, how to transition the concept into a viable business was not a challenge he understood, so he turned to the top-ranked McGuire Entrepreneurship Program in the Eller College of Management.

While not every such moment leads to an innovation, the McGuire program gives budding UA student entrepreneurs the ability to turn inspiration into reality. The program is multidisciplinary, open to UA undergraduate and graduate students from all fields of study. It annually accepts 80-90 students who form small new-venture teams and learn the principles of entrepreneurship through the hands-on process of taking an innovation from an early stage idea to a viable venture.

Herrera has teamed with marketing, finance and systems engineering students in the program to develop the commercial potential of the 3-D camera, which he is developing as an engineering senior design project thanks to a grant from the Thomas R. Brown Foundation.

"We’re making a wearable 3-D camera to replicate sensory data — the human experience — and hope to leverage it into a different type of immersive digital experience," he said.

Projects Demonstrate Variety

Herrera is one of several engineering students who teamed up with other STEM, humanities and business students in the McGuire program this year to develop projects as varied as big-data analysis for social media engagement, VR-driven educational applications, biometric security systems, software for drone developers, commercialization of a drug to aid those suffering from Parkinson’s disease and more.

"We are teaching our students to understand the impacts they can make, and the McGuire program helps prepare them to solve challenges," said Jeff Goldberg, dean of the UA College of Engineering.

McGuire students own their own intellectual property, and Herrera already has applied for a provisional patent for his device. If he encounters any legal questions, students from the James E. Rogers College of Law will provide legal advice in a mock law-firm setting through the Business/Law Exchange, a partnership between the law college and McGuire.

McGuire new-venture teams are paired with experienced and successful entrepreneurship mentors-in-residence who meet with every team several times a week to provide individualized guidance. Throughout the year, students also are coached by communication mentors, connected with industry experts and given personalized feedback from angel investors. 

"When you’re trying to do a project like this, it’s really important to have support, and the McGuire program is providing that," Herrera said.

McGuire students receive an "Engaged Learning Experience" notation on their transcript as part of the UA’s 100% Engagement initiative, which is based on the recognition that experiences beyond the classroom enrich students’ professional and personal growth.

The experience is what attracted Rodrigo Savage, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering, to McGuire.

"The main reason I wanted to do the McGuire program is because it’s an interdisciplinary program," he said. "Anyone can participate and collaborate with other people with complementary skill sets."

While Savage was thrilled to team up with students with finance, management, communication and media know-how, the three M.B.A. students in his group benefit from having a teammate who can work directly on the technical side of their cutting-edge new venture.

"Our product is a standardized drone software development platform — basically a drone app store," Savage said. "We’re creating an API (application programming interface) so a drone software developer can program an app once, and we will make it available to multiple drone manufacturers."

Collaboration's Payoff

Students benefit from collaborating with peers in other fields of study, said Joseph Broschak, executive director of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.

"The diversity of expertise our students bring to the McGuire program enriches everyone’s educational experience," Broschak said. "Welcoming students from all fields of study means our students are exposed to different ways of thinking, new methods of problem-solving, and a broader range of business ideas."

Ari Nicolini, a biomedical engineering doctoral candidate, formed a McGuire new-venture team with an M.B.A. student, an M.B.A./J.D. student and a doctoral candidate in pharmacy last year. Their concept, a website for renting personal goods, took second place at the year-end McGuire New Venture Competition.

"I believe that our team diversity, coupled with the critical mentorship the program was designed to provide, led to our success at the end of the year in the NVC," said Nicolini, who has applied the $5,000 they won at the competition toward preparing the new-venture website for launch.

Nicolini has long been interested launching a startup in the biotech industry. Learning to put together a business plan and give concise, timed pitches was an eye-opening experience, she said.

"I knew regardless of what specific type of venture I participated in, I would still be able to learn the basic skills of company formation," she said. "It was a steep learning curve for someone with almost no knowledge about the business world coming into the McGuire program, but the close mentorship and team exercises exceeded expectations for preparing myself for a venture launch."

Category(s): Business and LawSarah MauetJanuary 12, 2016McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship

Mars Navigator Joins UA to Launch Space Research Initiative

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 6:58pm
Story Contacts: 

Pete Brown

UA College of Engineering



Lucio Guerrero

UA Office for Research & Discovery


Moriba Jah will spearhead efforts in space object behavioral sciences, part of the Defense and Security Research Institute.

A spacecraft navigator for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Odyssey and other missions to Mars aims to make the University of Arizona a world center of research and discovery on how objects behave in outer space.

Moriba Jah, who has steered spacecraft to Mars for NASA, is joining the College of Engineering and the Office for Research & Discovery to direct a new UA initiative focused on space object behavioral sciences — the examination of objects in space, which includes locating satellites, studying the movement of objects in space and space traffic management. 

"We are so fortunate to have Dr. Jah joining us and spearheading our efforts in space object behavioral sciences," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UA senior vice president for research. "This initiative brings together our leadership in space systems, imaging technology and high-capacity cyberinfrastructure, and his world-recognized expertise and leadership will cement our position.

"The work in this area relates directly to the University’s Never Settle strategic plan, which calls for us to solve grand challenges as we team up boundlessly across disciplines, attract new resources and constantly think in new ways."

The new space object behavioral sciences initiative will be part of the University’s Defense and Security Research Institute.

Space object behavioral sciences addresses the causes for why and how objects behave in space. These inputs are not only due to the space environment, but also due to laws, policies, regulations and guidelines. This knowledge is critical to not only locating satellites and spacecraft debris, but also predicting their movement, preventing collisions and protecting space capabilities and services from loss, interruption and degradation.

"People work in different domains — land, maritime, airspace, cyberspace," Jah said. "Outer space is another domain that requires surveillance, traffic control and protection. We are creating a new harmonized field comprised of both new and old disciplines that need to be integrated in order to meet global needs. Space object behavioral sciences is this field. We shall become experts and thought leaders on how to gather a body of evidence on the behaviors of objects in outer space, identify threats or hazards, and present quantifiable findings to decision makers."

Jah, an aerospace engineer and astrodynamicist, will be based in the UA College of Engineering as an associate research scientist of engineering and associate research professor of engineering.

"We believe we have the right person in place to lead our space object behavioral sciences initiative," said Jeff Goldberg, dean of the UA College of Engineering. "Dr. Jah is incredibly well integrated into the national and international communities on this topic. I can’t think of a better person to lead this effort and put us on a path to pre-eminence in this field."

Surveyor of the Spheres

Jah has led research programs in space object behavior assessment and prediction for the Air Force Research Laboratory since 2007. He directed the Air Force’s Advanced Sciences and Technology Research Institute for Astronautics, or ASTRIA, on Maui, Hawaii, for eight years, and for the past two years has headed the space situational awareness program at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As a spacecraft navigator (a title he shares with few people) for the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1999 to 2006, Jah charted courses for the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He also has participated in missions to the red planet for the European Space Agency, or ESA, and to asteroid Itokawa with the Japanese space agency, JAXA.

Jah has designed space data fusion and analysis software for the Air Force and private research laboratories to detect, track, identify and characterize objects in space, particularly satellites and their debris. In space object behavioral sciences, he is pioneering a new foundational and cross-cutting area of space domain awareness.

"My goal for the UA initiative is to lead a multidisciplinary team to grow and develop space object behavioral sciences, which is founded upon a rigorous marriage of engineering and physics with data science, analytics, and brings in space law and policy," he said. "I want the UA to be the go-to place for research, education and innovation in this area."

Synergies at the UA

Jah has been thinking about creating an academic research hub for some time.

"Through my years working in the space domain for the Air Force, it dawned on me that the U.S. has never achieved anything of significant technical brilliance without a strong academic partnership," he said. "I saw a great need for a galvanizing force in academia that could bring research scientists and engineers from many disciplines and public and private agencies together for a change for good."

He was courted by other universities, he said, but the UA was different.

"Other universities have invited me to join a single department," Jah said. "When I visited the UA earlier this year, I met researchers from many units, including aerospace engineering, computer sciences, astronomy, biological sciences, optical sciences and the Steward Observatory. The UA clearly recognized that great things happen only through partnerships and collaborations."

It was the first time Jah had met directly with a group of UA researchers, but not the first time he had collaborated with them — in an indirect, most unusual way.

Jah was the orbit determination lead for the interplanetary phase of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, carrying the UA-built HiRISE camera that recently captured stunning images of water on Mars.

Not surprisingly, he thinks big.

"What MIT was for the Apollo space program, I’d like the UA to be for space domain awareness, leveraging world-class expertise in space object behavioral science," he said.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyJanuary 11, 2016UA Office for Research & Discovery

Breathing New Life Into the Study of Asthma

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 12:07pm
The UA's Dr. Fernando Martinez wants to know why children on Amish farms are healthier, and his research could have far-reaching implications. HEALTH & MEDICINE Why is the UA studying asthma?
Asthma affects 24 million American adults and children, and its prevalence is on the rise.   Who is Dr. Fernando Martinez, and why is he studying Amish farms?
Martinez is a Chilean-born researcher, physician, husband and grandfather who wants to know why rural Amish children have a lower rate of asthma than urban children.   What does Martinez hope to discover?
New treatments for asthma — and even a cure. 

Dr. Fernando Martinez’s first childhood memory was one of awaking in the middle of the night to find his mother suffering an asthma attack. His father, a physician, quelled the flare-up with a nebulizer.

But this attack would not be her last. Martinez would witness many more.

Today, Martinez, a physician and researcher, is trying to pinpoint asthma’s genetic and environmental origins in hopes of finding treatments that prevent people from developing the disease. His efforts are one of the stories to watch from the University of Arizona as 2016 begins. 

"We want to know what factors in early life determine whether you develop the disease," says Martinez, a UA Regents' Professor of Pediatrics and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center.

Asthma affects 24 million Americans and causes breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing, coughing and in extreme cases death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s more, the disease is becoming more prevalent in westernized countries. Researchers know that genetic makeup plays a role in its onset. However, studies also suggest that environmental influences are the only possible explanation for its rise.

With that in mind, Martinez and his colleagues are studying two U.S. farming populations, the Indiana Amish and the South Dakota Hutterites. The Hutterites live on large, communal farms, employ modern farming technology and live separately from their farm animals. Meanwhile, the Indiana Amish live on single-family farms, use horses for work and transport, and live in close contact with their farm animals.

As it happens, the proportion of Amish children suffering from asthma is lower than the Hutterite children, at 5.2 percent versus 15 percent.

"Their (the Amish’s) barns are very close to where the homes are," Martinez says. “You feel the presence of the farm. The animals are that close to the home. The Amish use animals for almost everything, so almost everything is done like it was done 150 or 200 years ago.

"So what you have are these two traditional communities except for the way they farm, but the Hutterites have the same prevalence of asthma that we have in the rest of United States whereas the Amish have practically no asthma. (The communities) are in fact genetically very similar to one another. So what we have concluded is that it’s the exposure to the close contact with the animals that is associated with protection."

But now, Martinez says, we try to raise children in the most aseptic way — that is, with the least possible contact with bacteria, in particular the bacteria related to animal waste.

"Rightfully so, we fear that some of those bacteria could be very dangerous for the child," Martinez says. "The problem is that only a very small proportion of bacteria that we are in contact with in the environment are truly dangerous. There’s bad and good bacteria in the environment, but we have eliminated our contact with the good bacteria, the ones that have allowed us to train our immune system.

"In the same way that we have to learn to deal with cold and warmth and people, we have to learn how to cope with who is the enemy. Otherwise, there are so many billions of bacteria, we would be constantly fighting them, even those that aren’t going to do anything bad to us. So, what we want to do in the future is train the body to recognize foe from friend."

Which is why Martinez and colleague Donata Vercelli are analyzing dust from Amish farms to determine what component in the dust protects against asthma.

"We are studying that dust in collaboration with Shane Snyder, who can separate the products that are within a certain sample," Martinez says.

Snyder, a UA professor of chemical and environmental engineering, is "an artist in taking a sample and dividing it into its different components," Martinez says. "If we could find that component (that protects against asthma), we could use it in people to prevent the development of asthma."

Likewise, Martinez and his colleagues are beginning a clinical trial this year in which they will give babies naturopathic products, which contain dead parts of bacteria that are associated with farms, to see if those substances imitate the preventative effects of specific components of dust found on Amish farms.

"We believe within the next five years we will have the results of this big clinical trial but also of the studies that are determining which dust particles protect against asthma," Martinez says.

"We can’t go back to living around animals as we did 100,000 years ago, but maybe we can find out what is protective about them."

Category(s): HealthRobin TricolesJanuary 8, 2016University Relations - Communications

NSF's iPlant Collaborative Rebrands to CyVerse

Fri, 01/08/2016 - 9:58am
Story Contacts: 

Shelley Littin



The National Science Foundation-funded project expands its data management capabilities across several scientific disciplines.

The National Science Foundation's premier data management platform for the life sciences has rebranded, shedding the project's original label of iPlant Collaborative and donning the new name CyVerse. The rebrand emphasizes the project’s capacity to provide data management and computation services beyond plant sciences, for collaborations across scientific disciplines.

"The CyVerse name reflects and communicates our expanded mission of enabling data-driven discovery across all of the life sciences," said Parker Antin, PhD, CyVerse's principal investigator and a professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, associate dean for research of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a member of the UA Sarver Heart Center, an affiliate of the BIO5 Institute and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The official launch of the new branding happens this week, including a new home page at with a new look and layout and updated logo, symbolizing the fluid momentum of data streams that are transforming modern science.

The vision for the new CyVerse brand, "transforming science through data-driven discovery," invokes the transformative power of big data, computational technology and human intellect — all combined to enable scientific discovery.

"Given the UA’s proud tradition of encouraging interdisciplinary work, it's not surprising that iPlant is expanding," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UA senior vice president for research. "One of our main themes at the UA is to 'boundlessly collaborate,' and that is exactly what CyVerse is doing: breaking boundaries of data science and transforming how we do research."

The iPlant Collaborative was launched in 2008 with a $50 million grant from the National Science Foundation to provide computational infrastructure for plant sciences. The project's early success led to a renewal grant in 2013, also worth $50 million, but with the expanded directive to serve all life sciences' data management needs.

"We are delighted the scientific research community has embraced iPlant and found new and exciting ways to make use of the platform, integrating it into forward-looking plans for data management and analysis," said Jane Silverthorne, deputy assistant director for NSF's Biological Sciences Directorate, which funds iPlant.

CyVerse is a continuing federation of four institutions led by the UA. Partner sites are the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

"Over the past several years, we have attracted thousands of users in all areas of biology, ecology, environmental sciences, geography, climate and even space sciences," Antin explained. "As more fields of science become driven by the acquisition and analysis of very large data sets, the need for ways to store, share, analyze and archive data and results are becoming critical requirements for scientific advancement. CyVerse provides a comprehensive platform for researchers to realize their goals."

Said Espy: "The work from iPlant has been a great benefit to plant scientists across the globe, but the computational infrastructure it provides goes far beyond that specific field. CyVerse really reflects those expanded capabilities, handling the computational infrastructure for everything from astronomy to zoology."

CyVerse aims to push boundaries continually and challenge the "convention" in conventional ways of doing science.

"We are guided by several future-focused goals," Antin said. "These include enabling data-driven discovery by providing deep data integration and analysis capabilities, fostering a growing ecosystem of interoperability across computational resources and platforms, and developing a sophisticated workforce through training of data scientists.

"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead a project with the potential to transform how science is conducted and accelerate scientific discovery across all areas of science."

CyVerse is funded by NSF award numbers DBI-0735191 and DBI-1265383. Co-principal investigators include Eric Lyons and Nirav Merchant of the UA, Matthew Vaughn of Texas Advanced Computing Center and Doreen Ware of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyShelley LittinJanuary 11, 2016CyVerse

Obama Appoints UA Doctoral Candidate to Humanities Council

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 11:40am
Extra Info: 

The National Council on the Humanities consists of 26 individuals who meet three times a year in Washington, D.C., to make recommendations on grant applications, and to advise the chairman. The other new council members are:

  • Francine Berman, Hamilton Distinguished Professor in Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
  • Patricia Limerick, faculty director and chair of the board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a professor of environmental studies and history.
Story Contacts: 

La Monica Everett-Haynes

University Relations, Communications


Shelly C. Lowe (Diné), who has received two UA degrees, has been appointed to serve on the National Council on the Humanities, which advises the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

President Barack Obama announced his nomination of University of Arizona graduate student Shelly C. Lowe (Diné) — months after the White House gave her cousin and fellow Wildcat a "Champions of Change" award — to serve as a National Endowment for the Humanities board member.

Lowe, a doctoral candidate in the UA Center for the Study of Higher Education, is one of three new National Council on the Humanities appointees named by Obama. The U.S. Senate has since confirmed Lowe and the two other nominees to serve on the board of the endowment, an independent federal agency and one of the greatest supporters of the humanities nationwide.

"Dr. Francine Berman, Patricia Limerick and Shelly Lowe are distinguished, prominent leaders in their respective fields of study and I look forward to their insights and contributions," William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, said in a statement issued Monday. "Their expertise will help NEH strengthen and promote excellence in the humanities for all Americans."

Lowe will be sworn into her new position during an initial meeting in March.

"I was thrilled to learn about Shelly's most recent accomplishment," said John Paul Jones III, dean of the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "We are proud that Shelly’s degrees in sociology and American Indian studies helped prepare her for her impressive work supporting Native American communities and that she is now in a position to advance the humanities on a national level."

As a member of the National Council on the Humanities, Lowe will help review grant applications and also advise the National Endowment for the Humanities chairman on recommendations for policies and programs.

"One of the important things about the NEH is that it strives to highlight the cultural history of this country, and creates tools to encourage learning about the American culture, language, writing and history," said Lowe, who, while completing her doctoral degree at the UA, is executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program. "I will also be thinking about opportunities for Native histories and Native languages and figuring out how we bring these more prominently into the larger conversations in America."

Lowe's close cousin, Amanda Tachine (Diné), received her White House honor in September. Both women grew up together on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona and both studied at the UA, ultimately pursuing doctoral degrees at the College of Education's Center for the Study of Higher Education.

And although Lowe knew of her own presidential nomination at the time of Tachine's award, she kept the news from her family and others, as required.

"I was dumbfounded. I don't think they knew we were related," said Lowe, who attended the ceremony in Washington, D.C., honoring Tachine and other recipients. Tachine earned her doctorate in May 2015, and now serves as a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University's Center for Indian Education.

Lowe, a two-time UA graduate already, began her studies in 1992 at the UA as a Flinn Scholar and Honors College student. For her thesis, she investigated the leadership qualities of American Indians in higher education, under the direction of Mary Jo Tippeconnic Fox, a research professor of American Indian studies. A sociology major, Lowe completed minor studies in American Indian studies.

Along with Fox, Lowe also credited the late Richard Kissling, former Honors College dean, and the current dean, Patricia MacCorquodale, for her personal development and also for her professional development as a scholar. In fact, Fox convinced Lowe to pursue a master's degree in American Indian studies, which Lowe completed in 2005.

"The University, even though it was such a foreign place for me, really created an atmosphere and environment that was very competitive if you were looking at places like Harvard and Yale," Lowe said. "The Honors College and the UA do a fabulous job preparing you." 

After the UA, where Lowe also served as the graduate education program facilitator for American Indian studies, she took a position as Yale University's director and assistant dean of the Native American Cultural Center in 2007. She took her current position at Harvard in 2009, where she serves the American Indian student, faculty and alumni population while also helping to facilitate teaching and research projects throughout the campus related to Native and Indigenous peoples' issues. 

For her dissertation work — under the direction of Gary Rhoades, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education — Lowe is studying how American Indian students present their identities when applying to college. Her work is meant to help practitioners better understand the discrepancy between the numbers of American Indian students that institutions believe they enroll as compared with the lower numbers of Native students who actually identify and participate in programs designed to support them.

Lowe has served on the boards of the National Indian Education Association and the National Museum of the American Indian, and has published numerous articles and co-edited a book on American Indian student transition and success. She also serves on the board of the Beantown Cats alumni chapter in Boston.

"One of the things Amanda said at her awards ceremony, and it's something many Natives say when we serve on boards, is that it is important to have Native voices and Native perspectives at the table," Lowe said. "I am honored to be able to say that there is someone at the table who is Native, and who understands the import contribution of Native cultures, Native history and Native representation."

Reflecting on her nomination from Obama, and Tachine's White House honor, Lowe said she and Tachine received strong foundational support and encouragement, which would ultimately lead to their academic and professional success. 

"We were told that education is a tool, education is a ladder. Once you obtain it, it is something you can use to make things better for people by strengthening the community and bringing tools the community needs to continue to grow and prosper," said Lowe, a mother to five children, with one daughter.

"For the both of us, when we look at how we grew up — and not just in our families, but in our communities and on the Navajo Nation — we have to point back and say, 'You encouraged us and supported us. That's why we are where we are now.'"

Lori Harwood, external relations director for the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, contributed to this article.

Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesLa Monica Everett-HaynesJanuary 11, 2016University Relations - Communications

Cultural Preservation Is Theme of Humanities Grants to UA

Thu, 01/07/2016 - 11:26am
Story Contacts: 

Lori Harwood

UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences


The National Endowment of the Humanities has awarded J.C. Mutchler of the Southwest Center and Wendy Burk of the Poetry Center grants for independent projects.

Two National Endowment of the Humanities grants coming to the University of Arizona will quicken independent projects that share a thematic connection: the preservation of important social and cultural materials and spaces. 

J.C. Mutchler, an associate research historian at the UA Southwest Center, received a $500,000 challenge grant to establish La Búsqueda ("the search" in Spanish), a place to host scholars, visitors and members of the community engaged in Southwest-focused studies in the humanities.

The UA will need to raise $1.5 million in matching non-federal funds. Mutchler said the Southwest Center already has secured more than 40 percent of that match through $500,000 in property equity, and with $125,000 from the Southwestern Foundation for Education and Historical Preservation.

Also, Wendy Burk, a UA Poetry Center librarian, received more than $4,200 from the endowment as a follow-up to an initial grant awarded in 2013 at more than $5,800.

The new grant will enable Burk and her team to purchase professional preservation supplies and environmental monitoring equipment to ensure protection and preservation of the center's collection, including 47,500 volumes of poetry, 27,000 periodicals, 5,000 photographs and nearly 1,000 broadsides. The grant also will fund improved environmental controls, easier methods for cleaning delicate materials quickly and more efficient display materials.

"These grants provide a blueprint for our future, in terms of caring for the library collection," Burk said, adding that the initial grant enabled the center to complete a preservation assessment. That assessment has led to new strategies for collection care and handling.

With enhanced protections in place, the center — housed in the College of Humanities and maintaining one of the most comprehensive collections in the field of contemporary English-language poetry — will be able to expand public access to some of its more delicate holdings, Burk said.

"It has been invaluable having the grants," Burk said. "They have allowed us to take steps in preservation that we might not have been able to without NEH's support."

For Mutchler, who led the NEH application process, La Búsqueda has the capability to attract visiting faculty and collaborators from across the country.

"We have received strong interest in La Búsqueda from other universities," Mutchler said, adding that priority will be given to groups engaging the grand challenges themes, which will further leverage its impact.

The late Bazy Tankersley, a famed Arabian horse breeder, bequeathed her Tucson home to the Southwest Center, housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, for the express purpose of creating a meeting place for scholars to study the biggest challenges of our time, drawing upon the humanities to help illuminate new solutions.

The NEH grant and matching funds will be used to repair and renovate the Tankersley property and to launch an endowment to support the intellectual activities planned for the space. Programming will include visiting scholars, conferences, and public outreach such as lectures, readings and salons. The 9,100-square foot facility will have room to house as many as 20 visitors, host conferences for up to 40 participants and provide public outreach programming for 100 attendees.

The grand challenge themes that will frame La Búsqueda’s first three years of programming align with the NEH initiative "The Common Good": The first year will focus on cultural and political polarization in the Southwest, the second on investigating humanity's relationship to nature and the third on researchers' exploration of the societal effects of shifting demographics in the region.

"The understanding of a complex region divided by an international border is greatly enhanced by experiencing it firsthand," said Joseph Wilder, the director of the Southwest Center. "The UA's proximity to Mexico, combined with the University's faculty expertise and library and museum collections that are particularly strong in their Southwestern and borderlands holdings, creates a synergy of geography and intellectual resources."

La Búsqueda will disseminate scholarship through the publication of special issues of the Southwest Center's Journal of the Southwest, and monographs in the Southwest Center Series at the UA Press.

Also, a key feature of La Búsqueda's programming will be its inclusion of "community fellows," non-academics working within their communities to create solutions to humanistic problems using their unique and valuable knowledge.

"La Búsqueda will provide the physical and intellectual space for thoughtful critical inquiry and discourse," Mutchler said. "I believe it will catalyze Southwest-focused humanities research relevant to both academics and the public for decades to come."

Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesSocial Sciences and EducationJanuary 15, 2016University Relations - Communications and UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Student-Built Experiment Integrated Onto OSIRIS-REx

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 4:22pm
Extra Info: 

For more information on OSIRIS-REx, visit and


Story Contacts: 

Erin Morton

UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory


Called REXIS, it will determine elemental abundances on the surface of asteroid Bennu, complementing two other instruments on the spacecraft.

A student-built experiment designed for the University of Arizona’s OSIRIS-REx NASA mission has been integrated onto the spacecraft.

The Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, or REXIS, will determine elemental abundances on the surface of asteroid Bennu, complementing the mineral and chemical mapping capabilities provided by two other instruments on the spacecraft.

REXIS will observe the solar X-rays and their interaction with the asteroid’s surface material, or regolith. The surface responds to this incoming energy by glowing faintly, or fluorescing, by emitting X-rays. These X-rays have an energy that is uniquely characteristic of the elements. REXIS is a telescope that images this X-ray fluorescence, allowing the production of maps of the different elements present on Bennu's surface.

"The REXIS instrument has already achieved its primary objective – to train the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona. "This team should be proud of all they have accomplished. I look forward to seeing the REXIS data from Bennu and using it to learn more about the chemistry of the asteroid surface.”

REXIS brings together students and faculty from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, both in Cambridge. After a competitive selection process, REXIS was selected as a student collaboration experiment as part of OSIRIS-REx.

The instrument will involve more than 100 students throughout the mission. Students at Harvard and MIT will perform data analysis as part of their coursework.

"The students worked incredibly hard to get to this point," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It is quite an accomplishment to develop a flight instrument and have it integrated to a spacecraft that's headed to an asteroid."

OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid. After launch in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and retrieve at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of surface material and return it to Earth for study. Scientists expect that Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation also will inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an asteroid impact on Earth, should one be required.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyErin MortonJanuary 6, 2016UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Record Fundraising Highlights UA Culture of Collaboration

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 2:43pm
Extra Info: Story Contacts: 

Phil Schlesinger

UA Foundation


Fiscal 2015 saw nearly $300 million in gifts and commitments, with $1.273 billion of the Arizona NOW campaign already achieved.

The University of Arizona Foundation received a record $293 million in gifts and commitments in fiscal 2015. The investments, both outright and endowed, show just how much alumni, friends and donors believe in the institution and its future.

Philanthropic support for the UA never has been stronger than it is today. For three out of the past four years, philanthropic giving to the University has topped the previous year. Records also were set in 2012 with $212 million raised, and in 2014 with $234 million in gifts and commitments.

These investments in the UA are the essence of the Arizona NOW campaign, which aims to raise $1.5 billion by June 30, 2018. At the close of last fiscal year, $1.273 billion of that goal was achieved through more than 300,000 gifts from nearly 85,000 donors.

"Thanks to the overwhelming generosity and dedication of UA alumni and friends, the campaign is on pace to reach our goal well ahead of schedule," said Sarah Smallhouse, campaign co-chair. "People realize their gifts are as impactful as they have ever been. Private donations to the University are allowing students and faculty to keep their momentum in a most difficult fiscal environment."

The campaign is closely aligned with the University’s Never Settle strategic academic and business plan, which focuses on engagement, innovation, partnership and synergy. Donor support is essential to enhance the student experience, empower innovative thinkers and expand the UA’s reach.

"By supporting the University of Arizona, our donors help drive the University’s work to ever-greater heights of excellence," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "Through their transformative support, these vital partners are creating the foundation for our best and brightest students, faculty and researchers to address the world’s most pressing challenges with new knowledge and innovations that will heighten our collective impact."

Investments large and small contributed to Arizona NOW’s fundraising record last year. Among them are a $50 million estate gift from the late philanthropist Agnese Nelms Haury — one of the largest gifts in UA history — and a $500 scholarship gift from recent alumnus Charles Ezeani.

Haury’s endowed funds will benefit the University in perpetuity, facilitating ongoing University and community partnerships aligned with her lifelong interests in social justice and the environment. Growing the UA’s $673 million endowment is imperative to keeping the institution competitive for generations to come. While it is strong and the largest higher-education endowment in Arizona, it currently ranks in the bottom third by size compared to 14 institutional peers — including many in the Pac-12 Conference.

Ezeani, whose scholarship gift memorializes his late friend and fellow alum Uchenna Okeke, said it is critical for alumni to get involved.

"You look at other top universities and their endowment fund, and what makes them a top school is their alumni involvement," Ezeani said. "I was a sophomore when Uche passed away, and I remember thinking, 'I’ve got to do something because this is someone that meant a whole lot to me.' I graduated in 2013, and I decided the best time was now. I’m trying to make an impact on someone else’s life and honor the legacy of someone who made an impact on mine."

Given that Ezeani and Okeke graduated with degrees in electrical and computer engineering, it is fitting that the scholarship provides support to an undergraduate engineering major. Its impact is extended through matching gifts from the UA College of Engineering and Ezeani’s employer, Goldman Sachs.

"It’s exciting to see the UA’s culture of collaboration come to life in the form of philanthropy," said John-Paul Roczniak, interim president of the UA Foundation. "We had an amazing year, but we still have much to do and our donors are helping us get there. The success of this campaign is a true team effort — every gift makes a difference."

Category(s): Campus NewsJanuary 6, 2016UA Foundation

Network Poised to Remodel Human Rights Activism

Wed, 01/06/2016 - 11:57am
Extra Info: 

In related news, the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry is accepting aplications for its Faculty Collaboration Grant awards through Jan. 29. More information is available online.

What: Show & Tell @ PlaygroundWhen: Wednesday, Jan. 13, 6-7:30 p.m.Where: 278 E. Congress St. Story Contacts: 

Jamie Manser 

UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry


Global Human Rights Direct will be previewed at the UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry's Show & Tell event.

It doesn't take more than a quick glance at news headlines to see that human rights are compromised in every part of the globe.

But, behind these headlines, there are groups of people working to stop human rights abuses. They are survivors, activists, scholars, translators and policymakers from around the world who want to build connections, share their knowledge and create solutions.  

Inspired by his work in the classroom and his activism around the globe addressing human rights abuses, Bill Simmons, a University of Arizona associate professor in the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, is launching a website with an eye on defending peoples' rights and finding achievable solutions to ending abuses.

"Our main goals are to revolutionize how human rights is taught, how it is conceived, and what counts as expert knowledge in rights discourses," Simmons said. "By doing so, we hope to address human rights abuses in novel ways that take into account the voices of those not normally heard."

Funded by a UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry "Innovation Farm" grant, the website,, is set to launch in January. The site allows members to video conference with human rights experts, connect with individuals and groups interested in similar human rights issues, learn more about important human rights topics, publicize human rights causes/organizations and become educated in ways to contribute to stopping abuses.  

The project will be previewed at the Confluencenter's Jan. 13 Show & Tell event, during which Simmons will showcase the features of Global Human Rights Direct.

"Bill Simmons' website and project is a testimony of the highly positive impact that Confluencenter's Innovation Farm program will have in the field of human rights," said Javier Durán, the Confluencenter's director.

"The website is poised to transform the global conversation about human rights and social justice issues for the next decade," Durán said. "The project is creating a new model for a multiplicity of actors to become engaged and closely connected in many areas of the world. The innovative and collaborative nature of the project demonstrates how the University of Arizona’s talented and passionate faculty are working together to provide solutions to humanity’s grand challenges."

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationJamie Manser and Irene JaglaJanuary 12, 2016UA Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry

UA Science Lecture Series to Focus on Climate Change

Tue, 01/05/2016 - 1:32pm
Extra Info: 

For more information about the College of Science Lecture Series, visit

Story Contacts: 

Rick Neter

UA College of Science


For the first time in the 10-year history of the popular series, UA students will have an opportunity to meet with the lecturers afterward.

The popular University of Arizona College of Science Lecture Series, which has played to capacity crowds throughout its 10-year history, will focus this year on climate change and its impact on the planet.

The 2016 series of six lectures, "Earth Transformed," will run from Jan. 25 through March 7. Lectures will begin at 7 p.m. in the UA’s Centennial Hall.

The series will kick off on Jan. 25 with "The Ocean’s Role in Climate: Heat and Carbon Uptake in the Anthropocene," a talk by Joellen Russell, an 1885 Society Distinguished Scholar and associate professor of geosciences in the UA College of Science.

The remainder of the series is as follows:

  • Feb. 1: David Battisti, Tamaki Endowed Chair and professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, will discuss "Climate Change and Global Food Security." Battisti will explore the impact of climate change and volatility on food production and availability in the future.
  • Feb. 8: Russell Monson, the Louise Foucar Marshall Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research in the UA College of Science, will lecture on "Ecosystem Resilience: Navigating Our Tenuous Connection to Nature." The talk will explore how recent trends in land use and climate warming have exposed vulnerabilities in the ecosystem and revealed the potential for surprising shifts.
  • Feb. 22: Kacey Ernst, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, will discuss "Climate Change and Human Health: Impacts and Pathways to Resilience." Climate change's impact on human health ranges from heat-related mortality during extreme heat events to infectious-disease transmission.
  • Feb. 29: Kimberly Ogden, professor of chemical and environmental engineering in the UA College of Engineering, will discuss "Carbon Sequestration: Can We Afford It?" In addition to examining carbon-capturing technologies, Ogden will discuss methods for reducing carbon emissions.
  • March 7: Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment, Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Science and Regents’ Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences in the UA College of Science, will talk on "The Changing Earth: It’s Not Just a New Normal," outlining what Arizona can do to adapt to climate change.

For the first time in the history of the series, students will have an opportunity to meet with the lecturers after the talks and discuss their research. These QA Science sessions will provide students with a firsthand look at how influential researchers think about the challenges of climate change.

UA students and faculty are invited to watch a live stream of the lectures and attend the QA Science series in the Environment and Natural Resources 2 building. The discussion, designed for students from all disciplines, will focus on the story behind the science and provide an engaging venue for asking questions and considering how to translate science into action.

The discussions with the lecturers will be led by Lisa Elfring, a member of the BIO5 Institute and associate professor of molecular and cellular biology and chemistry and biochemistry; John Pollard, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Ed Prather, associate professor of astronomy.

"The scientists who are lecturing in the series include award-winning teachers, and the QA Science student discussion series is being led by three faculty members who have won just about every major university teaching award," said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the UA College of Science.

Each week's QA Science series will begin with a pre-lecture discussion at 6:30 p.m. in the Environment and Natural Resources 2 auditorium, followed by a live stream of the lecture at 7 and discussion immediately afterward with the speaker. Arizona Public Media On Demand will live stream each lecture.

Tucson Electric Power and Ventana Medical Systems are the presenting partners of the series.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyJanuary 5, 2016University Relations – Communications

UA Researchers Launch Guide to El Niño

Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:32am
Extra Info: 

El Niño is still on track, and the best is yet to come. In the Southwest, El Niño-related storm activity typically sees the strongest effects in the late winter through early spring. There is still an increased chance of above-average precipitation in the forecast for much of the Southwest later this winter.

Short periods of warm and dry conditions are likely throughout the upcoming winter season, but this doesn’t mean El Niño has been canceled. El Niño is a seasonal climate phenomenon, which means we must wait until spring to judge the strength of its cool-season impacts.

El Niño could improve short-term drought conditions (i.e., within the month or season) but will not erase the long-term water deficits associated with our current multiyear drought. If the winter is wetter than average (as forecast), this is a step in the right direction, but longer-term drought improvements will be measured in years and not seasons.

El Niño-related flooding is possible on larger rivers across the Southwest this spring. Flooding events in Arizona typically occur during warming conditions, when heavy rain falls on existing snow, which melts the existing snow and sends excess water cascading through our watersheds.

Above-average precipitation across low desert areas in October coupled with the expectation of more precipitation in the early winter could result in an exceptional wildflower season this spring.

Story Contacts: 

Ben McMahan

UA Institute of the Environment



Stephanie Doster

UA Institute of the Environment

520- 626-3451


Even though the current weather pattern will affect everyone in the Southwest, understanding its causes and effects can be a difficult task. The UA's CLIMAS has developed a guide that breaks it down for weather hobbyists and resource managers alike.

It has been heralded as the Godzilla El Niño, but researchers at the University of Arizona want to assure you that the climate force forecast to pummel North America this winter is no monster.

Instead, they say, this wet season could bring cooler temperatures and record rain and snow to the Southwest in a natural oscillation that occurs every two to seven years.

The prospect of high rainfall totals and drought relief have taken the public and media by storm, prompting the Climate Assessment for the Southwest, or CLIMAS, program to launch the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Hub, a Web page for all things El Niño.

"This El Niño will be one of the top three strongest events on record," said Ben McMahan, a research outreach and assessment specialist with CLIMAS. "People are interested in it because these kinds of strong events don’t happen very often."

This El Niño could rival the big El Niño of 1997-1998, when slightly less than 8 inches of winter rain fell over Tucson, about 4 inches more than the average for those months. However, the scientists at CLIMAS emphasize that although this El Niño might break the record for overall winter precipitation, it doesn’t mean that Tucson should expect a consistent deluge.

"A lot of the forecast models and media coverage give people the impression that it’s going to rain every day, but when you talk to the forecasters and climate scientists, none of them think that’s likely to happen," McMahan said. "We might have some severe weather, but we might also have some below-average months, too. But overall we expect above-average rainfall this winter."

To help people understand what El Niño might have in store, McMahan and climate science extension specialist Mike Crimmins devised a Web page containing information pulled from the National Weather Service, the Western Regional Climate Center and other regional climate datasets, as well as an El Niño podcast, FAQs, predictions and even a live Twitter stream.

"Some of what we’re trying to do is be responsive to the speed at which information flows on the Internet without getting caught up in the hyperbole of it," McMahan said. "It’s a balance between coming up with information that’s compelling, that’s interesting to people, that has some type of narrative, but doesn’t necessarily engage in extreme language."

The hub includes basic facts about the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, a natural seesaw in oceanic sea surface temperatures and surface air pressure between the east and west tropical Pacific Ocean; graphs and charts; and timely articles written by CLIMAS scientists about topics that are relevant to the general public about regional climate.

In addition to targeting the everyday weather enthusiast, the ENSO Hub is designed as a resource for stakeholders and decision makers in Arizona, New Mexico and the borderlands region, providing background and context to better understand the El Niño phenomenon.

"We’ve pulled together a mix of maps and models and projections, and then we’re adding interpretations and commentary about how they might matter to people in the Southwest," McMahan said. "So a visitor to the page might be someone who is just interested in seeing what’s coming, but it might also be a range manager who wants to think about the condition of their land for the next six months.

"We’re trying to bring together materials that we think are important in explaining El Niño, in a centralized hub on the CLIMAS website."

And after the El Niño season has passed? The team plans to continue providing information about the current weather patterns, especially if the trend swings back to La Niña, a period of less precipitation and possible drought.

"We’ll still have a subpage that links to the El Niño information," McMahan said, "because it is a cycle."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyPaulina JenneyDecember 22, 2015UA Institute of the Environment

UA Names Paulo Goes as Dean of Eller College

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:16pm
Extra Info: 

Click here to watch a video about Paulo Goes' leadership of the Department of Management Information Systems at the UA.

Story Contacts: 

Liz Warren-Pederson

UA Eller College of Management


Head of the highly ranked Department of Management Information Systems will take over in March.

Paulo Goes, head of the Department of Management Information Systems at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, was named the new dean of that college today. Goes, who was selected after a yearlong national search, will begin his tenure as dean in March.

"I am absolutely thrilled that Paulo Goes will be the next leader of the Eller College of Management," said Ann Weaver Hart, president of the UA. "Dr. Goes is a wonderful scholar and his leadership of the Department of Management Information Systems has helped build it into an international powerhouse. As a leader and as a faculty member, he is deeply attuned to the needs of business, and his unique perspective will see the Eller College achieve new heights of excellence and impact."

Goes is the Salter Distinguished Professor in Management and Technology. Under his stewardship, the MIS department continued to lead in national rankings – it is the No. 2 public undergraduate and No. 1 public graduate program in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report – and generated more than $85 million in grant funding, making the Eller College a top business school for externally funded research.

"When I arrived at the UA seven and a half years ago, I had the sense that this was the place where I belong," Goes said. "The Eller College is exceptional, thanks to a combination of its people, its principles and its potential. All of the ingredients are in place to execute on becoming a truly great 21st-century business school."

"Paulo has demonstrated considerable skills as a thoughtful and effective leader and is widely respected for his collaborative leadership style," said Andrew Comrie, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost of the UA. "He is also a big-picture thinker who has developed many creative relationships to grow successful programs. In short, Paulo has excelled in his career to this point, and it is clear that he is going to lead the Eller College into an exciting and outstanding future."

During his time heading the Eller MIS department, Goes increased its enrollment through the expansion of its top-ranked M.S. program to capture an increasing global demand. The department launched an online master’s in MIS program and created a donor-funded program aimed at attracting and retaining undergraduate students to the MIS major. He co-founded INSITE, a research center focused on big-data analytics projects for clients in health care and other industries. His fundraising successes include a major technology upgrade that transformed lab and teaching space for graduate students in the Eller College.

Goes served as editor-in-chief of Management Information Systems Quarterly, the top journal in that field, from 2013-2015. He joined the Eller College in 2008 from the University of Connecticut, where he co-founded a unique university-corporate partnership with General Electric and headed the Center for Internet Data Research and Intelligence Services. He completed his doctoral work at the University of Rochester in business administration.

Goes will succeed Jeff Schatzberg, Lou Myers Professor of Accounting, who has served the Eller College as dean since January 2015, when then-Dean Len Jessup accepted the presidency of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"I extend special thanks to Jeff, who has done a phenomenal job as interim dean this past year," Comrie said. "Thanks are also due to Marc Miller, dean of the College of Law, who headed up the search, as well as the faculty, alumni, staff and students who served on the excellent committee that helped bring this search to the best possible conclusion."

Category(s): Business and LawDecember 21, 2015UA Eller College of Management

Crowdfunding Campaign Supports UA Students With Disabilities

Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:53am
Extra Info: 

Project FOCUS has initiated a crowdfunding project to raise $29,055 for the program, which helps students with intellectual disabilities transition from high school into the UA. Donation pledges can be made online through 11 p.m. (MST) on Jan. 13. Donations also can be made after Jan. 13 via the Project FOCUS giving site through the UA Foundation.

Story Contacts: 

Ana Luisa Terrazas

UA College of Education


Launched in 2010 with U.S. Department of Education funding, Project FOCUS was among fewer than 30 institutions supported to initiate programs to aid students with intellectual disabilities.

To expand higher-education access and certificate attainment for students with intellectual disabilities, a crowdfunding project is underway to support the University of Arizona's Project FOCUS.

Project FOCUS, or Focusing Opportunities with Community and University Support, is a comprehensive transition program offered in partnership with the Tucson Unified School District's Community Transition Programs.

"This program, the only one in Arizona with this kind of partnership, has been so beneficial to the students who are mentored and to our undergraduate peer mentors — each has gained both personal and career life lessons," said Stephanie MacFarland, a UA College of Education program director. "The university community as a whole benefits by having our students participating in campus life at the UA."

Through a crowdfunding project, more than $17,900 has been raised toward a goal of $29,055.

Donation pledges can be made online through 11 p.m. (MST) on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The funding will support internships for Project FOCUS peer mentor students, who form the foundational structure for student success in the program. Donations also can be made after Jan. 13 via the Project FOCUS giving site through the UA Foundation.

Currently, 41 students have graduated from the program, which has 15 students now enrolled. Seven are scheduled to graduate in May.

The peer mentors attend courses with students, assist with homework and encourage participation in social opportunities while also participating in campus activities, clubs and events.

"When I first started, I thought it was just going to be me helping out, but I learned it was so much more," said Kendra Baker, a Project FOCUS peer mentor and UA senior. "Through teaching my student, I have become more engaged in campus life by showing her everything the UA has to offer."

The peer-to-peer support complements the overall mission of Project FOCUS: to increase students' self-determination and to support them to become academically successful, which leads to gaining the skills and experience to eventually gain employment and ensure independence.

"Working at Project FOCUS gave me confidence in my abilities and also confidence that if we can create such a loving, accepting, compassionate community at the UA, this kind of community can spread to other places as well," said Ryan Romo, who served as a peer mentor.

Students ages 18 to 21 are supported in the post-high school program and enroll in at least six credits per semester for two years. Students receive individualized academic and instructional support, and they also receive training for job development.

Project FOCUS provides a personal engaged learning experience, with mentors learning as well as their mentees.

"In an autistic world, you are isolated not only by your disability, but you are isolated in the classroom and you are isolated within a school," said Kelly Krebbs, whose son, Nathan Krebbs, began his studies at the UA in 2014.

"So, to have your whole world open up and your opinion matter — his opinion does matter," Kelly Krebbs said. "And he gives it to me now. He really expresses to me now."

As Cari Hobbs, who is in the UA Family Studies and Human Development program, said: "Project FOCUS gave me a hands-on, engaged experience to prepare me for my future in occupational therapy. It is amazing to see the growth and development of these students."

Learn more about how Project FOCUS supports students and their families in this video:

Category(s): Teaching and StudentsJanuary 8, 2016University Relations - Communications

International Instrument Delivered for OSIRIS-REx

Thu, 12/17/2015 - 2:42pm
Extra Info: 

For more information on OSIRIS-REx, visit: and

Story Contacts: 

Erin Morton

UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory


A laser altimeter from the Canadian Space Agency will help in the asteroid mission's selection of a sample collection site.

A sophisticated, laser-based mapping instrument has arrived at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver for integration onto NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, or OLA, contributed by the Canadian Space Agency, or CSA, will create 3-D maps of the asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site.

"The data received from OLA will be key to determining a safe sample site on Bennu," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona. "This instrument is a valuable addition to the spacecraft, and I appreciate our Canadian partners' hard work and contribution to the OSIRIS-REx mission."

OLA is an advanced LIDAR, or Light Detecting and Ranging, system that will scan the entire surface of the asteroid to create a highly accurate, 3-D shape model of Bennu. This will provide mission scientists with fundamental data on the asteroid’s shape, topography (distribution of boulders, rocks and other surface features), surface processes and evolution. An accurate shape model also will be an important tool for navigators as they maneuver the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft around the 500-meter-wide (0.3-mile-wide) asteroid. In exchange for providing the OLA instrument, CSA will receive a portion of the returned asteroid sample for study by Canadian scientists.

"OLA will measure the shape and topography of Bennu to a much higher fidelity and with much greater efficiency than any planetary science mission has achieved," said Michael Daly, OLA instrument lead at York University, Toronto. "This information is essential to understanding the evolution and current state of the asteroid. It also provides invaluable information in aid of retrieving a sample of Bennu for return to Earth."

After launch in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and retrieve at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of surface material and return it to Earth for study. Scientists expect that Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation also will inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an asteroid impact on Earth, should one be required.

"The OSIRIS-REx project has worked very closely with our partner CSA and their contractor MDA to get this critical instrument delivered to the spacecraft contractor's facility," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "We are very pleased with the performance of the instrument and look forward to its contribution to our mission."

The laser altimeter was built for CSA by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. and its partner, Optech. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in May 2016, where it will undergo final preparations for launch.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission's principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyErin MortonDecember 17, 2015UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory