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TLA Initiative Brings Tech Dollars to Arizona

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 3:33pm

A new initiative called SBIR/STTR Tech House from the University of Arizona's Tech Launch Arizona sets its sights on bringing in dollars to support the state's most innovative technologies.

The initiative has been in the works for several months now, but TLA — the UA unit that commercializes the inventions stemming from research — recently formalized how Tech House operates, and the services it will provide. Its primary metric of success is the dollars coming to Arizona small businesses and startups via federal funding. 

Eric Smith, Commercialization Network Alliance ambassador at TLA, said, "TLA sees Tech House as a long-term economic development initiative that will allow the University of Arizona and the surrounding community to increase capital."

Tech House will do this by providing services such as proposal review and workshops to educate small businesses on how to win SBIR funds. Tech House also provides useful connections, which can be to companies that might be interested in licensing technologies, lawyers or faculty members to serve as principal investigators on research projects.


SBIR/STTR are federally funded programs designed to develop innovative technologies, stimulate small business growth and economic development.

The SBIR, or Small Business Innovation Research, program provides research funds to help grow small, technology-based businesses. The STTR, or Small Business Technology Transfer, program cultivates public-private partnerships with small businesses and nonprofit research institutions.

By educating clients about SBIR and STTR funding, Tech House hopes to help the UA and the state become leaders in commercialized innovative tech, modeling an innovation and commercialization ecosystem. 

"The Tech House program is extremely unique," Smith said. "The University of Arizona is in prime position to not only work with small businesses and provide faculty with commercialization opportunities for innovative technology, but also to help stimulate a culture of commercialization at the University of Arizona. It's a wonderful way to put something on the marketplace, and another tool to put in our kit."


One UA startup company in particular, SenesTech, has been "a great model" for the sort of success Tech House promotes, according to Smith.

It all started in 2000, when Loretta Mayer became a postdoctoral fellow in the UA's College of Medicine. There, in professor Patricia Hoyer's lab, Mayer developed a chemical means for inducing ovarian failure in mice using 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide, or VCD.

VCD works in female rodents by speeding up egg loss. It specifically targets and destroys ovarian follicles, and because females are born with only a finite number of eggs, depletion is irreversible. Repeated exposure to the chemical causes ovarian failure that mimics menopause in women.

VCD is good news for the environmentalist and the animal-rights activist, too. When compared with other chemicals that are toxic to the ovary, VCD requires much higher doses in much higher concentrations to take effect. In other words, it's not very toxic. Moreover, it shows very little or no side effects in the rodents as they continue to live out their full life span.

A veterinarian on the Navajo reservation quickly caught wind of Mayer's work and gave her a call. He asked if the solution, which was being given as an injection to the belly, would work on dogs, too. "If so," he said, "you have to come out here."

The Navajo Reservation is overpopulated with feral dogs. They run in packs, sometimes biting children and frequently causing problems with livestock. If the veterinarian could give an injectable with the active ingredient VCD instead of euthanizing them in large numbers, it would be a triumph. 

The solution, now called ContraPest, worked. One of the first female dogs to receive it, Cheetah, is now the "mascot" in SenesTech's Flagstaff headquarters, according to Ali Applin, vice president of business development at SenesTech. Cheetah never had pups.

Mayer later traveled to Indonesia, where rats were devastating rice fields. Farmers did not know how to stop it, and some had dedicated an entire field to the rats in hopes that would alleviate things. Alas, no such luck.

The rats were so in tune with the rice fields that they would go into heat just as rice plants were about to flower.

Mayer used an early formulation of ContraPest to sterilize the rat populations and reduce devastation to the crops.

Since then, the innovative formula has only improved. It now has a chemical targeting the male testes as well. It is given as liquid bait composed of mostly fats and water. An artificial sweetener makes it more appealing to rodents than, say, garbage in a subway station, and the active ingredients render most all exposed male and female rats sterile within eight to 12 weeks of ingestion.

Liquid bait is particularly appealing to rats, as they have to drink 10 percent of their body weight per day to survive.

SenesTech's technology is poised to solve problems and drive economic growth in big ways.

"Domestically it's about controlling disease vectors and keeping rodent infestations under control. Globally, ContraPest impacts food security and food production by reducing the amount of food that is contaminated or consumed by rodents," Applin said.

A single rat lives between eight and 12 months, becoming fertile at two months. It will have, on average, between four and seven litters of pups per year, with nine to 12 pups per litter. That means a mating pair can have up to 15,000 descendants in a year.

And while major U.S. cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City could benefit from having to see fewer of them around, SenesTech's impact could be even greater globally.

Currently, between 10 and 15 percent of the world's stored food is contaminated or eaten by rodents. By dealing with the source of the problem — reproductive rats — SenesTech hopes to bring down that percentage.

SenesTech recently was one of 23 businesses to be honored with a Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The award acknowledges SBIR-funded businesses for outstanding innovation in the small, technology-driven business arena.

SenesTech's ContraPest formula is currently in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation process.

In the meantime, TLA's Tech House initiative looks to businesses such as SenesTech as the ultimate success story. Smith said that if Tech House can "increase our region's win-rate of these awards," it will have served its purpose.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Emily LitvackByline: Emily LitvackByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: By looking to a successful small business, SenesTech, Tech Launch Arizona dreams up new ways to win funding for innovative technologies.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Tumamoc Hill Promotes Learning, Stewardship

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:48am

About half a million round-trip hikes take place at Tumamoc Hill every year. A collection of newly installed signs along the west-side walking trail seeks to add an educational element to those hikes.

Michael Rosenzweig, director of Tumamoc and a University of Arizona professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, believes each hike represents an opportunity to bring the classroom outdoors and to create stewards of Tumamoc’s unique ecology.  

Rosenzweig and a group of community stakeholders, including Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva and Tucson Councilor Regina Romero, gathered on the hill Tuesday to celebrate the installation of the signs. The hill, west of "A" Mountain and downtown Tucson, is an 850-acre ecological and archaeological reserve.

Rosenzweig said Tumamoc's hikers have been "having fun and they're getting healthier, but they're not learning anything."

Now they will.

Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the UA College of Science, said "half of Tucson" exercises at the hill, calling it "a place where arguably modern ecology was invented."

Paul Mirocha, a scientific illustrator and graphic designer, created artwork for the signs. He said they were placed at 1.5-mile intervals along the trail, where hikers might naturally stop to catch their breath and enjoy the view. They also were designed so that they could be replaced as needed, based on hikers' response.

"People see Tumamoc as an exercise course," said Mirocha, but the signs will "create a mixture of health and ecology."

"It's really gratifying when people stand there long enough to read them and discuss," he said.

The signs, funded by a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, feature wildlife indigenous to Tumamoc and explanations of how they fit into the ecological landscape. The explanations were a collaboration between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Rosenzweig, who joked about how wrongly he would have represented the mule deer without the department's help.

"Teaching science is not like filling a bucket with lots of interesting facts," Rosenzweig said. "It's lighting a fire."

The signs at Tumamoc Hill were designed to light that fire. 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Emily LitvackByline: Emily LitvackByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: New signs along the walking trail add an educational element to the popular exercise haven for Tucsonans.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Welcome Home, Wildcats

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 5:19pm
Thursday, August 27, 2015

UA to Partner With Uber on Research

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 4:57pm

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart joined Uber executives at the UA College of Optical Sciences on Tuesday to celebrate a major economic development partnership between Uber and the UA.

As part of the partnership, which focuses on research and development in the optics space for mapping and safety, the University will become home to Uber’s state-of-the-art mapping test vehicles. Additionally, Uber will donate $25,000 to the College of Optical Sciences to help the next generation of scientists, engineers and researchers continue to explore and develop new, innovative technology.

Ducey called it "a great day for Uber, for the UA and for the future of innovation in Arizona," adding that his administration has been focused on helping companies such as Uber succeed in the state.

"Today’s announcement is the latest signal that it’s working," Ducey said. "All Arizonans stand to benefit from embracing new technologies — especially when it means new jobs, new economic development, new research opportunities and increased public safety and transportation options for our state. That’s what this partnership is about, and I thank Uber and the University of Arizona for their efforts and commitment to making it happen."

"This is an exciting new partnership, and I am glad that the UA's global research leadership allows us to join in a collaborative effort that will have great benefit for this state," Hart said. "Ranked as a top-20 public research university by the National Science Foundation, the UA’s role in Arizona’s innovation and knowledge economy is absolutely vital. Our achievements in advanced optics and imaging technologies in particular will help Uber on the ground in Arizona.

"I’m impressed with Uber’s vision and commitment to this partnership, and grateful for Gov. Ducey’s support and leadership in helping to facilitate it."  

Brian McClendon, vice president of advanced technologies for Uber, a transportation network company with headquarters in San Francisco, said "it’s clear that Arizona welcomes innovation."

"We applaud Gov. Ducey and the University of Arizona for their eagerness to embrace new technology," McClendon said. "Over the last 20 years, technology has helped democratize access to so many services — working in partnership with forward-thinking universities and elected officials across the United States. We’re still in the early days of what’s possible, and I look forward to working with Arizona to make the next step of that journey a reality."

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and Thomas Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences, also were on hand for the announcement on the lower level of the optical sciences building on campus.

This content originated with a news release from the Office of Gov. Doug Ducey. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The University will become home to Uber's state-of-the-art mapping test vehicles.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Future Doctors Immersed in Coursework

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 12:31pm
Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bearing Down and Moving In

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 11:15am
Monday, August 24, 2015

Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Body and Soul

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 11:02am

Photo: FJ Gaylor

Taking the whole-person approach seriously, the University of Arizona either facilitates or supports a major suite of offerings designed to ensure that students are not only academically successful, but that they also lead healthy lifestyles.

The UA has been recognized for this work. Last year, the University was named among the top 25 healthiest colleges in the U.S. by the Greatist Team.

Here, we present a sampling of offerings designed to support students — body and mind.

For mental health

The UA's Counseling and Psych Services at Campus Health Service offers a number of consultative services to University students.

The UA also offers a number of resources for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender that are both supportive and social in nature, including the LGBTQA+ Support Group and the Gender Spectrum Support Group. Both groups are facilitated by the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Affairs. A number of organizations also exist on campus in support of LGBT students.

For physical health

Campus Recreation offers the full array of fitness options: club sports, activity classes, challenge programs, intramural sports, aquatics and more.

Also, the UA supports numerous student-led clubs and organizations that promote health, wellness and overall fitness, including those devoted to different types of dance, cycling and self-improvement.

Elsewhere, and in response to student requests, the UA Libraries has introduced stand-up desks. Some members of the library staff recently began using the desks, which are known to help reduce risks associated with obesity and metabolic problems. The library also has introduced several desks on the second floor of the main library. The desks are first come, first serve.

For proper nutrition

Arizona Student Unions is consistently surveying students and employees about food options, offering foods that are gluten free, vegetarian and vegan.

The UA is so committed to promoting healthy lifestyles among the student body that it hired registered dietitian Christine Carlson to help revise and expand menus, to ensure that students have access to more choices. Carlson is working in tandem with UA executive chef Michael Omo to expand options for students with special dietary requirements.

For example, the Student Union and Park Student Union each offers gluten-free options. In fact, Core+ at the Park Student Union is entirely gluten-free and also a tree nut/peanut free facility, offering salads, fajitas and stir fry, among other options. Students also can connect with the UA Gluten Free club.

Other options include Nosh at the Park Student Union and Fuel at the Student Recreation Center. At the Student Union, Pangea's world fare offers 10 food stations changing daily, including carved lean meats, artisan salads, fire-roasted vegetables, custom-created ramen bowls, whole grain breads and pasta, whole fruit and more. The Chobani Creation Bar is also at the Student Union.

The Union's sports nutrition program, “Eat Like a C.H.A.M.P.," has expanded from Bear Down Kitchen to Fuel in the Student Recreation Center and McKale Center.

Also, the Den by Denny's at the Park Student Union's remodeled upstairs food court has options to substitute healthier choices.

In addition to offering nutritional information about various outlets, the UA offers the Smart Moves program to help students more easily identify campus programs, services and food options that encourage and promote active, healthy lifestyles. 

HealthTeaching and StudentsStudentsStudent LifeOutreachUniversity Relations - Communications |dougcarroll0Monday, August 24, 2015In addition to focusing on students' academic success, the UA encourages overall wellness. NoIn addition to focusing on students' academic success, the UA encourages overall wellness. 0

Plasma Research Could Make Flight Safer

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 6:06pm

Plasma has generated excitement among aerodynamics researchers for its effects on air flow and its potential for building more agile and fuel-efficient flying machines, ranging from planes, helicopters and drones to rockets and satellites.

Now a rising star in aerodynamics at the University of Arizona College of Engineering is putting plasma’s promise to the test.

Assistant professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering Jesse Little received a $245,000 grant in June from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program, or DURIP, for a project titled "Interaction of Three-Dimensional Unsteady Flows With Aerodynamic Surfaces." DURIP is a collaboration of the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force research divisions.

The grant augments Little's ongoing plasma aerodynamics work funded with a 2014 Army Research Office Young Investigator Program Award. Little received an earlier YIP Award in 2012 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

"These awards are evidence of Jesse’s significant contributions to this important research focus," said Jeff Jacobs, head of UA aerospace and mechanical engineering.

Little is one of several UA engineering faculty to receive DURIP and Young Investigator awards. Ivan Djordjevic of electrical and computer engineering received a DURIP award in June.

Controlling Chaos

Little directs the UA Turbulence and Flow Control Laboratory, where he studies what causes turbulence, how it behaves and how it can be controlled. Turbulent flow is inherently chaotic — think of water crashing at the bottom of a waterfall — and filled with vortices and eddies that scientists are only just beginning to understand.

"As more airplanes, helicopters and drones fly at lower altitude and in urban areas — where air tends to be more unsteady than, say, at 40,000 feet — it becomes even more important to understand turbulent air flows and how they interact with solid surfaces," Little said.

Little is one of many researchers around the globe using active flow control, a technology pioneered by UA aerospace and mechanical engineering professor Israel Wygnanski, who, with engineers from Caltech, Boeing and NASA, designed a smaller, lighter airplane tail using sweeping-jet actuators, which emit tiny bursts of air to disrupt and control air flow.

Little’s actuators use high voltage to ionize air, producing plasma. Plasma, or ionized gas, is believed to be the most abundant state of matter in the universe. It produces thermal energy for some of nature’s most spectacular displays: lightning and stars, for example, which can exceed 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The thermal energy from a plasma discharge can interrupt and control air flows to an extraordinary degree — and even dissipate shock waves, which has prompted aerodynamics researchers to write of "plasma magic" in their papers.

In one example of turbulence, air flows can separate from a surface. This puts considerable drag on an airborne object and reduces its lift. Plasma’s thermal bursts can reattach these separated flows at the precise spot they originated. This means plasma can reduce drag on an aircraft and prevent it from stalling.

Little and students working in his lab use power generators to ionize air particles that are exposed to strips of copper tape. The copper strips act as electrodes, conducting high-voltage electricity to actuate the plasma floating above them.

Actuators in hand, the researchers climb into the aerospace and mechanical engineering department’s subsonic wind tunnel to attach them along with strips of dielectric, or insulating, tape, at precise locations on the airfoil, a cross-section of a wing.

Back outside, with the press of a button, they turn on the actuators, which emit nanosecond pulses of plasma over the airfoil’s surface. The team takes precise measurements and conducts computer analyses of how these plasma "hot spots" affect air flow at specific locations on the airfoil, particularly the leading edge.

Cleaner Technologies

Little’s findings will help engineers design plasma actuators that can be attached, perhaps in sheets, to an airplane wing or helicopter rotor blade. These lightweight electronic flow control devices could shrink or even replace much heavier airplane control surfaces, such as wing flaps and tails, reducing the plane’s weight and enabling it to fly farther on less fuel. The plasma actuators also have potential to revolutionize aspects of wind-tunnel testing, allowing researchers to perform experiments currently limited to expensive flight tests.

Plasma actuators could improve efficiency inside planes, too.

"Industry faces ever greater pressure to improve combustion efficiency, reduce pollutant emissions and make ignition and combustion processes more reliable," Little said. "We know that plasma discharges can enhance fuel-air reactivity and reduce exhaust. Plasma actuators could lead to much cleaner engines, not just in aviation, but in many industries."

A high school intern and undergraduate student — funded by 2015 Army Research Office apprenticeship grants — and an Army captain pursuing his master’s degree are among the students working on the project with Little.

"I have wanted to be an aerospace engineer since I was in the fourth grade," said Zachary Wellington, who graduated from Sonoran Science Academy in May and is starting his first year as a UA engineering student.

For Timothy Ashcraft, a helicopter pilot whose military honors include the Bronze Star, the project hits close to home.  

In August 2010, Ashcraft was co-piloting an Apache helicopter in Afghanistan when it was shot down. Both pilots survived.

Ashcraft is pursuing his UA master’s degree in aerospace and mechanical engineering with funding from the Army. After he graduates, he will teach engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 2007.

"I survived for two reasons," he said. "The exceptional skill of the pilot in command, and the engineers who built and designed the aircraft to withstand severe battle damage.

"I hope I can give back to the field of aerospace engineering, because it literally saved my life."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Jill GoetzByline Affiliation: UA College of EngineeringHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: With Department of Defense funding and student researchers that include a decorated Army pilot, UA assistant professor Jesse Little studies plasma’s potential to transform aerospace testing and technology. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

UA Library Exhibit Celebrates Tucson

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 2:38pm

Visitors to the University of Arizona's Special Collections Gallery reflected on transgressions of the past and celebrated Tucson's community identity with the opening of "Tucson: Growth, Change and Memories."

The exhibition, which commemorates Tucson's 240th birthday, opened Tuesday and runs through Jan. 14.

A panel discussion, "Growing Up Tucson," is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 17. City Councilwoman Molly McKasson, local business owner Katya Peterson, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias and UA professor of Mexican American studies Lydia Otero will comprise the panel of native Tucsonans, sharing stories about life in the city from the 1950s to the present.

The exhibit, co-curated by UA associate librarian Bob Diaz and Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation board member Andie Zelnio, illuminates Tucson’s history, paying close attention to its growth as an urban community. It prompts visitors to consider what is lost and gained through urbanization.

"Tucson: Growth, Change and Memories" showcases historic photos retrieved from the Special Collections vault, maps and vintage memorabilia of Tucson. A large installation dreamed up by collaborators at the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation features a map of Tucson from the past, with red string linking historic buildings on the map to enlarged black-and-white photographic prints of them.

Diaz said UA Libraries was happy to contribute these photos, and to make digitized versions available to the public online.

"This exhibit brings people together and helps them remember parts of the past they can no longer physically see," he said.

At Tuesday's opening event, about 200 members of the community filled a room to capacity, eager to hear a lecture by UA anthropology professor Thomas Sheridan. His lecture, "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? The Mexican Community of Tucson, 1940-2015," considered how the sociopolitical climate of the city has impacted its Mexican community.

One woman who recognized her 1950s-era car on the street in one of the featured photographs. The event ended an hour later than scheduled, with guests staying to talk about their memories.

"Tucson is really a special place," Diaz said. "By providing programming and education, we're planting seeds for people to explore further and to understand more about the different cultures and people that have been here for a very long time." 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Emily LitvackByline: Emily LitvackByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A new exhibition at UA Libraries Special Collections commemorates Tucson's 240th birthday by reflecting on its past, present and future.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Sport Psychologist Promotes Peak Performance

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 6:08pm

Student-athletes ease themselves onto padded tables as athletic trainers probe and prod and wrap long, beige bandages around twisted ankles. 

Here, in the training room in McKale Center, a sports medicine team of physicians and trainers treats the whole student-athlete, and Amy Athey, the University of Arizona's director of clinical and sport psychology, is part of that team.

As a former college basketball player, Athey found working with athletes a natural fit as she began pursuing her clinical psychology doctorate in the late 1990s.

"I could relate and bring services in a way that reduces stigma and normalizes taking care of mental health," she says. "This is just another part of their training."

At the core, it is about the well-being of the students, Athey explains, including addressing everyday issues such as anxiety and depression — common challenges for all students. As Athey notes, sports promote mental health in some ways, but athletes also face distinct demands and pressures. 

While wellness counseling may be the first priority in sports psychology, that’s not how it’s usually portrayed in entertainment media.

"One of the challenges for our field is that we’re often defined by the interventions," Athey says, referring to the high-impact speeches in the films "Rocky," "Hoosiers" and "The Karate Kid" — moments that take ordinary people to a state of elite physical prowess and legendary performance. 

It's true, there are certain tools and techniques — "interventions," in the professional parlance — that many sport psychologists draw on to help athletes live and play at their best. But they're built on fundamentals common to all fields of psychology, and there are no shortcuts.

"These students are talented, but they've also worked hard," says Athey, a sport psychologist for teams at the University of Oregon and Mississippi State University previously.

"They wouldn't have gotten this far if they hadn't. What's amazing is that at this stage in their lives, they know what to do to get in the flow or the zone. Our job is helping them get there more consistently."

That might involve coaching them on better "self-talk," or helping them learn to click into a certain level of alertness. And there is research suggesting that an athlete tends to run, jump and shoot better after watching a highlight reel of his or her best moments.

Even so, these interventions are elements in a larger system of nurture and care.

"I have colleagues who help surgeons, ballet dancers, C-level executives," Athey says. "Some of them make the argument that we should shift the label to 'performance psychologists.'"

What works for athletes works also works for those who aren't athletes. Many endeavors require dedication, persistence and focus. 

"Everyone can focus," Athey says. "What's hard is to refocus, and to stay focused on the right things." 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Eric Van MeterByline: Eric Van MeterByline Affiliation: UA Alumni AssociationExtra Info: 

Read more on the Arizona Alumni Magazine site.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: For student-athletes, the UA works to balance athleticism, academic performance and mental health. Amy Athey plays an important role in that equation.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Teach Arizona Grad Named TUSD Top Teacher

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 4:12pm

Jesús Orduño walks through the office of Pueblo Magnet High School, fist-bumping students and chatting with folks at the front desk.

Orduño, the 2015 High School Teacher of the Year for the Tucson Unified School District, has found his calling.

"Students feel comfortable with me, and we connect with each other," said the 24-year-old Spanish teacher, who won the award with only two years of teaching under his belt.

"They see that I respect where they come from and who they are, and they respect where I come from and who I am."

The University of Arizona College of Education graduate, who received a master's degree in teaching and teacher education through UA Teach Arizona in 2013, knows the challenges his students face. He has lived them.

"I was born and bred here," said Orduño, a 2008 graduate of Pueblo. One of seven siblings, Orduño was the first to be born in the United States and the first to graduate from college.

"This community has helped me, and to be able to give back is the best thing I can do."

Orduño excelled in math and science, initially dreaming of attending Arizona State University to study engineering.

But after a couple of high school camps, he decided engineering was not for him.

"It wasn't something I was passionate about," he said. "I couldn’t see myself waking up every day and being happy."

He describes his choice of the UA as "the best decision I made."

Orduño, who said he was blessed with an outstanding Spanish teacher at Pueblo, was drawn to the profession. He studied Spanish literature and received a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in Teach Arizona.

"Teach Arizona is fantastic in terms of preparing teachers in logistics and classroom management, and actually learning what it is like to be a teacher," he said.

Patty Stowers, who directs Teach Arizona with Barry Roth, said Orduño serves as a role model.

"He has a lot of passion, and Pueblo is just the place for him," Stowers said. "He is completely committed to students and faculty."

Since Teach Arizona was launched 15 years ago, 499 students have received master's degrees. The program expanded to Chandler in 2012, and 55 students graduated from the two programs last May.

The intensive, yearlong program includes a full year of UA classes, in tandem with a school year of student teaching.

"What students like, and what we like, is the ability to talk about research-based teaching practices in the classroom that they can take back to their schools the next morning," Stowers said. "They can come back the next day and talk about what worked and what didn't work."

Augustine F. Romero, Pueblo's principal, said Orduño inspires students to make the most of their opportunities.

"He is passionate about students, he is passionate about our school and he is passionate about our community," Romero said. "Students recognize how authentic he is — authentic about his teaching, authentic as to why he is there. He is truly authentic in his love for them, and it is mutual."

Many of the students come from difficult environments.

"He empowers them without enabling them," Romero said. "He has high expectations. He believes deeply in the kids and encourages them to transcend their reality. What students see in him is hope."

Orduño said the best part about being named Teacher of the Year was the impact it had on his parents, José Juan Orduño and Luz Juana Orduño.

"My mom was shaking and crying and my dad was speechless," he said of the moment they learned he had won the award. "My family struggled so much, with my dad working three jobs at a time for us to be able to be in the United States.

"This shows my family that their struggles weren’t in vain."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Gabrielle FimbresByline: Gabrielle FimbresByline Affiliation: UA College of EducationHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA alumnus Jesús Orduño was named the 2015 High School Teacher of the Year for the Tucson Unified School District. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

A Moving Welcome for International Students

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 4:30pm

The universal language of dance was spoken freely at the annual pizza party for new undergraduate and graduate international students at the University of Arizona.

The UA welcomed about 1,000 new students from more than 80 countries for the fall semester. Four days of orientation concluded with the party in the North Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center. There were no wallflowers, only Wildcats ready to cut loose after a flash mob got things going.

Noelle Sallaz, program director for the Office of International Student Services, said the week followed a familiar pattern.

"The students are probably very jet-lagged and tired for orientation," she said, "and probably a little bit nervous. They might not know anybody in the U.S. It might be their first time coming to this country and their first time being on their own.

"As the days progress, they start meeting other students and becoming a little more familiar with the UA and the campus, and opening up a little bit more."

Imanol Suarez, a doctoral student in Hispanic linguistics from Spain, said he was still taking it all in.

"I wasn't expecting such a big campus," he said. "In Europe, the towns are more compact.... This is huge."

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Teaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  UA International Pizza Party and Dance Video of UA International Pizza Party and Dance Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: After four days of orientation activities, it was time for the UA's new international students to cut loose, and you'll be impressed by their dance moves. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, August 19, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

Student Rec Center Turns 25, Plans Monthly Celebration

Wed, 08/19/2015 - 4:06pm

Twenty-five years ago, when the Web was new and Jazzercise was a popular group-fitness program, a dedicated recreation facility was built to serve the student body at the University of Arizona.

This year, the UA Student Recreation Center has reached its quarter-century birthday.

"The UA has always embraced the importance of keeping both the mind and body fit," said Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and senior vice provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success.

Today, the UA Department of Campus Recreation receives more than 1 million visits a year, offering a diverse menu of programs, classes, activities and open recreation opportunities. The facility now serves students, faculty, staff, alumni and other UA affiliates.

"The 25th anniversary of the Recreation Center recognizes our best-in-class recreation facilities, as well as the dedication and energy of the Campus Recreation team, who create state-of-the-art physical activity, recreation and wellness opportunities for the entire campus community," Vito said. "They truly lead the way in inspiring a healthy and engaged lifestyle for all of us."

Campus Recreation has planned several anniversary events in honor of the 25th anniversary.

The celebration kicked off Monday with "Meet Me at the Rec," an event held at the William David Sitton Field at the Student Recreation Center, which is at 1400 E. Sixth St.

Also, on the 25th day of each month through April, Campus Recreation will offer free entry for individuals affiliated with the UA in addition to fitness opportunities, themed classes, giveaways, raffles, and other special events and activities.

The process to build the Student Recreation Center dates to the mid-1970s, when students lobbied the UA for a facility dedicated to student recreation and wellness. In 1979, a committee was appointed to study the separation of physical education and intramurals from the UA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

In 1985, the Arizona Board of Regents approved legislation for the purpose of building a student recreation facility, and UA students voted in favor of a referendum calling for a $25-per-semester fee to help pay for the building. These student efforts lead to the creation of what is now the Student Recreation Center.

The new facility opened during the 1990-1991 academic year, featuring two levels of activity space, including basketball courts, racquetball courts, and dance and aerobics rooms. The building also included a juice bar, weight rooms and a swimming pool.

With the debut of Campus Recreation, more comprehensive recreation programs and services, such as aquatics programs, group fitness and personal training, and outdoor adventure offerings came into place. 

The center has received national acclaim over the years.

In 2010, the building saw a significant renovation and update, leading to it becoming the first of three LEED platinum certified buildings on campus. Issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, the certification recognized the UA building's energy efficiency and design and construction practices that increase longevity while reducing the negative environmental impacts.

Also, the 54,000-square-foot expansion included the addition of a fitness center, an outdoor adventure facility and a multi-use activity court gymnasium. Programming has expanded to include comprehensive activity and wellness offerings.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: UA Department of Campus RecreationExtra Info: 

Read more about how the UA is helping to support students beyond academics: Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Body and Soul


And more ways to engage in the 25th anniversary of the Student Recreation Center: 

  • Share a story about the center on the Campus Recreation site.
  • Participate in the 2015 UAFit Challenge, a HealthyU Interactive program supported by Student Affairs Enrollment Management and also Academic Initiatives and Student Success.
  • Consider making a donation to the center via the UA Foundation.
  • Save the date for homecoming events.
Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The Department of Campus Recreation logs more than 1 million visits a year, offering a diverse menu of programs, classes, activities and open recreation opportunities.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Dining Goes Global at the UA Student Unions

Tue, 08/18/2015 - 11:50am

This fall, the University of Arizona Student Unions will debut a wide variety of new restaurants, along with innovative nutritional guidelines, dietary resources and even a mobile kitchen.

Students and faculty got to sample a portion of the new offerings over the weekend at the Student Union Memorial Center during the Wildcat Welcome 2015 Bigger.Better.Bash!

"This summer was the perfect time for us to look at everything we're doing and make it better across the board," said UA Student Unions executive director Jason Tolliver. "The needs and expectations of today's student are much different than a few years ago. It's up to us to deliver on those expectations."

Fifteen outlets saw their menus tweaked, altered or completely overhauled this summer as a result of a comprehensive survey that asked students and faculty what they wanted these restaurants to serve.

"We can't wait to have all of these ideas finally come to fruition," said Sara Rohde, assistant director of the UA Student Unions.

The most ambitious plan is the new globally inspired menu at Pangea. With international music playing throughout the space, a "Taste of Travel" slideshow that will spotlight photo contest winners in partnership with UA's Global Initiatives, and an always-changing menu drawing from Asian, Russian, French and Italian flavors, the all-you-care-to-eat buffet at the Student Union has been reinvented to give students the feeling as if they're studying abroad.

"We wanted to make sure people have a wide variety of choices when they dine with us," said UA executive chef Michael Omo. "The number of choices and the quality of the ingredients is just at a higher level."

Elsewhere in the Student Union:

  • IQ Fresh is debuting a healthy Mediterranean-inspired menu.
  • The Cellar will have 10 flat-screen TVs and two projection screens in the courtyard that will broadcast NFL Sunday Ticket and all of the UA football and men's basketball away games to accompany their burgers and shakes served until 1 a.m.
  • Sabor, the Student Union's Mexican restaurant, has added tableside guacamole service to its menu.
  • The U-Mart convenience store will be renovated later this fall, with a separate space dedicated solely to ice cream.

In addition, the Park Student Union underwent a major facelift this summer, with a completely remodeled top floor and new furniture throughout the building.

The UA Student Unions' influence reaches beyond the two unions on campus. Today, more than 40 restaurants and shops accept Wildcat Meal Plans through student and faculty CatCards, including the brand-new Slot Canyon Café at the new Environment & Natural Resources Building, which held its soft opening Aug. 14.

Also new this year is the RoadRunner Mobile Kitchen, the UA's first food truck, which will appear at special events throughout the school year, including homecoming and Cat Crawl. The UA Student Unions also will update the RoadRunner's location through its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Students and staff interested in organic foods will have an opportunity to shop at the Main Campus Farmers' Market on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. This fall's first Farmers' Market is scheduled for Sept. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the UA Mall.

Staff at the UA Student Unions also has taken a closer look at the kinds of foods they serve, as well as the nutritional information they provide.

Omo and registered dietitian Christine Carlson helped spearhead the revamped menus and additional options for students with special dietary requirements.

Many restaurants now feature a variety of gluten- and nut-free options, and the UA Student Unions' website provides information on nutritional content and flags potential allergens.

"This is a responsibility we take very seriously," Omo said. "Our biggest push is to raise the bar on food quality, which takes nutritional content and flavor into account."

Omo and Carlson also reached out to the UA athletic department to launch the "C.H.A.M.P." program for student-athletes, which stands for carbohydrates, hydration, anti-inflammatories, mental focus and protein, with the portions tailored to each athlete's needs.

For students and faculty in a hurry, UA Student Unions is releasing a free app called Tapingo to allow customers to order and pay ahead of time. Tapingo can be used at more than a dozen locations, including On Deck Deli, Einstein Bagels and Highland Market, to deliver food direct to dorm rooms or other locations around campus.

With nearly 1,000 student employees and thousands of customers, UA Student Unions is a central component of Wildcat life.

"It's for students, by students," Rohde said.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Nick PrevenasByline: Nick PrevenasByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Students and faculty have the opportunity to take advantage of many new food options and dietary resources through the UA Student Unions.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Curcumin Shows Potential to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 3:16pm

Researchers at the University of Arizona Steele Children's Research Center have made another promising discovery about curcumin — the bioactive ingredient in turmeric — as a potentially viable means to prevent inflammation-associated colorectal cancer and balance the microbiota of the gut.

"The microbiota of the gut is becoming recognized as a major player in health and disease," said Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan, professor and head of the UA Department of Pediatrics and director of the UA Steele Children's Research Center. "This is the first study to implicate the role of curcumin in modulating the microbiota of the gut and preventing colon cancer."

Colorectal cancer — cancers of the colon and rectum — is the third-highest cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States. Individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease — Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis — have a higher chance of developing colon cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 approximately 93,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 40,000 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer, and 50,000 will die from the disease.

Genetic components, environmental factors, inflammation and gut microbiota have been implicated as causing colorectal cancer and its progression. Diet, dietary supplements, exercise, control of body weight and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, have been proposed as the primary means to prevent colorectal cancer.

Curcumin has been shown in a number of studies to have anticancer effects and to enhance the effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Ghishan and associate professor Pawel Kiela, along with their research team at the UA Steele Center, have investigated the anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of curcumin for several years.

In their latest study, Rita-Marie McFadden, Dorrance Fellow and then-Ph.D. candidate, studied the effects of dietary supplementation with curcumin on the development of colorectal cancer and on the changes in the composition of gut microbiota in mice with inflammation-associated colorectal cancer.

Under the guidance of Kiela and Ghishan, McFadden worked with a team of researchers at the UA Steele Center and Northern Arizona University. She was first author on their study, "The Role of Curcumin in Modulating Colonic Microbiota During Colitis and Colon Cancer Prevention," published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in July.

"Our research showed that specific doses of curcumin greatly reduced or prevented tumors from forming in mice with colitis-associated colon cancer," McFadden said. "Moreover, this was associated with an increase in the diversity of bacteria within the colon, demonstrating how diet and microbial populations can play a significant role in disease prevention and treatment, especially during the switch from chronic inflammation to the onset of cancer. This is especially promising for patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease who are at a high risk for developing colon cancer."

In the research model, the investigators used genetically modified mice, which lack an anti-inflammatory protein interleukin 10, or IL-10, and thus spontaneously develop intestinal inflammation. They then were treated with azoxymethane, a chemical carcinogen capable of selectively inducing the formation of colon cancer.

The study showed that suppression of the mucosal inflammation was not necessary to see the chemopreventive effects of curcumin. In fact, at a dose of 0.5 percent in the diet, curcumin treatment led to a complete prevention of tumor formation. Moreover, in healthy and IL-10-deficient mice, long-term curcumin supplementation helped maintain bacterial richness and microbial diversity, the hallmark of a healthy gut. This was associated with the expansion of Lactobacillales — represented mainly by genus Lactobacillus, which also includes known probiotic strains of bacteria. The relative abundance of the Lactobacillales order was decreased in mice with intestinal inflammation and cancer, and dietary curcumin restored this order to control levels.

This finding may be highly relevant for the protective effects of curcumin, as Lactobacillus strains have been used successfully in preventing colorectal cancer in animal models and have been shown to protect against DNA damage, and Lactobacillus genus has been associated with stopping cell division and inducing apoptosis — a form of cell death — in colon cancer cell lines.

"Curcumin is a safe supplement and may have significant clinical value both in the general population and in those with inflammatory bowel disease in which increased occurrence of colorectal cancer has been documented," Kiela said.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Darci Slaten Byline: Darci Slaten Byline Affiliation: UA Department of Pediatrics and Steele Children's Research CenterHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA researchers say the bioactive ingredient in turmeric could balance the microbiota of the gut, a major player in health and disease.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Exploring the Private Lives of Hummingbirds

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 11:01am

In July, while workers were wrapping up construction of the new University of Arizona Environment and Natural Resources Building, or ENR2, they discovered someone else wrapping up a little construction of her own. That someone was a hummingbird, and she had built her nest on a data cable dangling directly in front of a security camera.

A live feed was quickly launched on the UA Planning, Design and Construction website. In the weeks that followed, the world watched as twins were hatched, mouths were fed and wings were tested. Media outlets picked up on the story. Last week, the fledglings took to the sky. Staff believe the birds are either an Anna's or black-chinned hummingbird.

In light of hummingbirds’ prevalence here, William Mannan, a UA professor of wildlife ecology, answered a few questions about the tiny birds, their beefier avian cousins and Tucson’s diverse urban wildlife.

Q: How do hummingbirds choose where to build a nest?

A: They pick places where there’s a support system. Almost everyone has hummingbirds nesting in their mesquite tree or pine tree. The site is often just a little, teeny branch that hangs down, and it supports that tiny cup nest they make.

Q: When it comes to building a nest, how do birds adapt to urban environments?

A: Birds that live in urban environments are not what you would call adapted to urban environments. They’re doing what they normally do. It’s just that urban environments provide the resources and the conditions that they recognize as nest sites. In general, and I would say this is true for most birds, their urban environments can be very rich. For example, they can offer lots of food and lots of shelter.

Q: How do hummingbirds fare in Tucson?

A: I don’t believe the adults are often killed by predators. My sense is they’re too little and too quick. For example, the species I work with, Cooper’s hawks, don’t pay any attention to hummingbirds. The hummingbirds are too little, and the hawks couldn’t catch them anyway. Also, there is a lot of food for hummingbirds here, feeders and flowering plants. Obviously there’s plenty of water relative to the desert, and there are places to nest. A place to nest could be anything that matches their perception of what a nest site is. In ENR2, a little wire hanging down that was stable triggered something that said, "This is a good place to build a nest."

Q: How do other birds fare here?

A: Electrocution, being hit by cars and flying into windows are major sources of mortality for urban birds. Tucson Electric Power has done a really good job of reducing the number of large birds that are electrocuted. I work with TEP on that. Poisoning also is a potential problem, if people use poison to get rid of pack rats or other pests. The bottom line is that urban areas can be positive and negative for species that live here.

Q: What should people consider when they come across a nest or a fledging?

A: Most birds need to be left alone. If you bother some birds during incubation, before their eggs are hatched, the adults may abandon the nest. That often happens to quail that nest in town especially if they put their nest right by an entrance to a building, and people have to go in and out. If you flush a bird out enough times, it will abandon its nest. The admonition we give people is to just leave them alone as best as you can.

One of the issues we have with the hawks we study is that the fledglings end up on the ground pretty regularly for a day or so, and that’s when people "rescue" them because they think they’re orphans even though mom and dad are sitting right overhead taking care of them. So, we’ve really tried to educate people not to pick them up. It has nothing to do with the smell of humans. That’s a myth. Instead, it has to do with this: If you take them to a rehabilitation center, the fledglings are not going to go through a critical developmental period that they need to go through to learn to fly and hunt.

Q: One last question: There seem to be a lot of hummingbirds in Tucson. Is that correct?

A: There are a lot of hummingbirds in this part of the world. Ramsey Canyon is a mecca for birders to go to look at hummingbirds. The Southwest United States and Arizona, in particular, are places where birders from all over the world come. We live in a very rich place from the standpoint of urban animals. People have varying opinions about some of them, coyotes, raptors, bobcats and the mountain lions that live outside of town. But really, we live in a fascinating place from an urban wildlife standpoint, so I think this is a pretty special place to live.

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Byline: Robin TricolesEditor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Monday, August 17, 2015Medium Summary: While workers were wrapping up construction of the new Environment and Natural Resource Building, they discovered a hummingbird nest, complete with occupants. William Mannan, a UA professor of wildlife ecology, talks about the tiny birds, their beefier avian cousins and Tucson’s diverse urban wildlife.Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA professor William Mannan answers questions about the tiny birds and their cousins.Send to Never Settle Site: 0UA in the News Spotlight: Includes video: 

Rethinking the Cost of Climate Change

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 10:15am

From the environment to the economy, climate change affects various facets of our everyday lives.

Now a new statistical framework makes it possible to understand just how much climate change impacts markets across the globe.

A newly released paper, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, outlines methodology for using historical climate and economic data to predict how climate change will affect gross domestic product, a common economic performance measure, of countries around the world.

"A Top-Down Approach to Projecting Market Impacts of Climate Change," is co-authored by Derek Lemoine, assistant professor of economics in the UA Eller College of Management, and Sarah Kapnick, physical research scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

"If you want to think about the economics of climate change, one of the major questions is 'What are the costs of climate change?'" Lemoine said. "The worse it is, the more we should be doing about it."

As a result of Lemoine and Kapnick's research, two primary insightful findings were revealed.

First, data shows that nearer-term climate change could raise the average rate of economic growth in more affluent countries, while reducing the growth rate in poorer countries.

"Nearer-term climate change may not be that bad — in terms of GDP — for richer countries," Lemoine said. "What countries should be asking is, 'How much do we care about inequality around the world?'"

The second major finding was the correlation between climate variability and economic variability in many countries. When climate change makes weather in regions across the globe more variable, the variability of economic growth also increases.

"As the world warms ... that can actually make GDP more variable, which is a largely unexplored consequence of climate change," Lemoine said.

Rather than using the standard, bottom-up approach of analyzing and aggregating individual sectors, the new prediction framework utilizes a top-down, macroeconomic approach. Kapnick said this offers a new, credible avenue for estimating climate impacts.

"It frees us from making various assumptions about individual sectors of the economy for each country," she said. "This new methodology can be applied to any climate model output. It allows for an independent assessment of economic impacts of climate change from current methods (and) provides another tool in our toolbox for estimating climate change impacts."

Lemoine explained that while the framework uses historical temperature and rainfall data, it does not account for factors such as ecological disruptions or rising sea levels, which could end up being more important than the types of GDP impacts they focus on. For this reason, he envisions that their framework could be used as a starting point on which additional assumptions can be added to develop thorough climate change models and influence climate change policies.

"The major benefit is that we are not introducing a lot of new assumptions," Lemoine said. "With that baseline, anybody else can layer on whatever assumptions they want to make it more comprehensive or long-term."

Uncovering the true costs of climate change is a complicated challenge, but using historical data to predict future impacts offers an empirically grounded model to approaching the task, Lemoine said.

"It's a really hard question because there are a lot of links in the system," he said. "We are really just letting the data speak and projecting that forward to predict near-term climate change impacts."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A new methodology co-developed by a UA economist uses historical data to predict how climate change will impact markets across the globe.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Wanted: Young Engineers With Drive

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 6:39pm

Last week, a dozen undergraduate students from across the country gathered for the pinnacle of their 10-week research program at the University of Arizona: navigating a slow-moving, ByWire XGV vehicle through an empty parking lot.

The Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, program at the UA, funded by the National Science Foundation, helped the students develop applications to remotely control the Cognitive and Autonomous Test vehicle, or CAT. The program has been hosted for three years by Jonathan Sprinkle, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the UA.

Sprinkle said the students for the program were chosen from 350 applicants.

"We look for students who have the potential for research," he said. "The research they’ve done here has been with almost no previous experience in the area of control systems."

One student team, consisting of UA senior electrical engineering major Alberto Heras and Lykes Claytor, a senior computer science and mathematics major from Wofford College in South Carolina, focused on an issue pervading the surface streets of Tucson: traffic.

Driverless vehicles would be useful for more than passengers' texting and eating during the morning commute, they said.

Heras said that a standard solution for traffic — increasing the width of roads — can change the density of cars on the road but not the management of them, and management is what has a greater effect on congestion.

Heras and Claytor propose platoons — lines of cars where one leads and the rest follow, communicating via radio technology. Then, roadside units, or RSUs, on a grid system would monitor and regulate the speed and position of platoons based on data from intersections. RSUs would fire off important messages to platoon leaders, which would take less computational power — and less money — than sending it to each car on the road.

"None of this is so different than a lot of technology already available and used in regular cars," Heras said. "It’s just being applied in a different way. A big part of doing research is familiarizing yourself with something others may have already been studying for years. You read a lot of papers and learn a lot that way."

Then comes the application aspect.

"That’s the fun part,” Claytor said. “That’s what we love doing."

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Teaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  NSF Takes the Wheel With Reasearch Experiences for Undergraduates Video of NSF Takes the Wheel With Reasearch Experiences for Undergraduates Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: The UA hosted an autonomous-car research program for undergraduate students from across the country, challenging them to create applications to control a vehicle remotely.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Friday, August 14, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

UA's Largest Incoming Class Has Diversity, Distinction

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 4:59pm

Preliminary enrollment data show that the University of Arizona will welcome approximately 42,100 students for the fall and is on track to exceed several of its enrollment goals. 

With classes starting today, the UA has enrolled more than 8,100 freshmen, up from 7,944 enrolled at about the same time during the fall of 2014. The UA also enrolled more than 2,100 transfer students.

"This is the largest freshman class we have ever had," said Kasey Urquidez, the UA's vice president for enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions. "This is an exciting time for our University as we grow and increase opportunities."

The UA received the highest number of freshman applications at more than 35,300, up from more than 33,600 last year. Prior to 2014, applications maxed out at about 26,000, Urquidez said.

Also, more than 40 percent of the new freshmen are ethnically or racially diverse, according to applications. Official enrollment figures are not available until the 21st day of class.

Preliminary data also indicate increases in the numbers of students choosing to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as the STEM fields. About 34 percent of UA undergraduates have declared a STEM major this fall.

Under the charge of the campuswide Never Settle strategic plan, and with funding from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust through the Association of American Universities' STEM Undergraduate Education Initiative, the UA has introduced numerous new initiatives and programs over the last several years to reform STEM education and learning.

Incoming freshman Kathia Antillon, a National Merit Scholar, said she chose the UA because of its strengths in STEM. 

Antillon will study chemistry, psychology and Spanish. She is on the research track and plans to be involved in the Honors College; Blue Chip Leadership, a nationally renowned foundational engagement program; and the Arizona's Science, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars Transfer, or ASEMS-T, Program.

Having transferred in with credits she accrued from Rio Salado Community College while in high school, Antillon is a member of the first cohort of the ASEMS-T Program. Earlier this year, Arizona's Science, Engineering and Mathematics Scholars received funding from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to expand its traditional STEM training program specifically for transfers.

"Everyone I have come in contact with has been really helpful," said Antillon, a native of Avondale. " I am really excited to begin my time at the UA, and I know that these next four years will be great."

Preliminary figures also indicate strong academic quality among students, Urquidez said.

The estimated freshman SAT is 1126, with an average high school GPA of 3.4.

The Honors College is expecting nearly 1,500 incoming freshmen and transfers, with 18 percent being first-generation students. Of the transfer students, 42.6 percent are first-generation. The college's average freshman SAT is 1310, with an average high school GPA of 3.83.

Alex Stoken, a native of Tempe, was named a 2015 Presidential Scholar by the U.S. Department of Education — one of the nation's highest honors for high school students.

Stoken said he chose to attend the UA because of its faculty expertise in research related to string theory and supersymmetry.

"I felt that the UA is the perfect blend of both amazing campus experiences and cutting-edge research in areas that really interest me," said Stoken, who is majoring in physics and mathematics.

"The opportunity to study under such experts and learn from them as they make new discoveries is a dream come true," he said.  

And with the workforce increasingly demanding diversified skill sets beyond the traditional markers of academic success, Urquidez pointed to numerous UA programs and initiatives designed to "ensure that our students are workforce ready and have a strong return on investment" after studying at the UA.

Of note, the 100% Engagement initiative — a major component and newly formalized policy under Never Settle — promises all undergraduate students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field before they graduate. Beginning this fall, students will be able to graduate with an "Engaged Learning Experience" notation on their official transcript.

"I chose the University of Arizona because of the countless opportunities available," said Riley Campillo, a neuroscience and cognitive science major from Folsom, California.

Campillo learned about the Student Alumni Ambassadors program during orientation and said she already has made connections with individuals in her programs.

"I believe that a huge part of having a successful experience in college is making connections with various people and having the willingness to share advice and knowledge," Campillo said. "It is exciting to be a part of a group of teachers and students who are excited to grow together."

While searching for schools in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, twin brothers Andris and Marton Szep took specific interest in the UA, partially because of its highly ranked Eller College of Management.

Also, their parents previously worked in Tucson and hold fond memories of the city and the UA, Andris said.

Now, both are UA Honors College freshmen pursuing studies in Eller with a second major in physics.

Since Andris began developing mobile apps for personal and business use in 2011, selling them through the App Store, he has been keen on continuing that work in the global marketplace.

"When creating an iPhone app, I do all of the designing, programing, publishing, managing and marketing," he said. "For me, this was the first time I got deeply involved in marketing, management and in business, and since this area interested me especially, I decided to pursue it further." 

Andris said the UA is the ideal institution to help expand his expertise in application development and business management. He already is impressed with the school, crediting UA recruitment and outreach counselor Jenni Keatseangsilp and his pre-business honors adviser, Elise Romero, for their support with his transition. 

Marton's interests are in business management, and he intends to pursue a degree in management information systems with his studies in physics.

"Physics is a great way to exercise the brain — in my opinion, it needs math skills, knowledge, creativity and lots of logic," Marton said.

"It will also be great to spice up the business-oriented environment with something pretty different," he said. "I have had glimpses into the world of business, but so far I have never actually been part of that world. Now I will finally be able to be part of it."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

Major points about the fall 2015 class:

  • Overall enrollment is more than 42,100
  • The average incoming grade-point average is 3.4 (based on a 4.0 scale)
  • More than 8,100 freshmen were enrolled, and more than 2,100 transfer students
  • Most popular home states for UA freshman are Arizona, California, Illinois, Colorado, Washington state and Texas
  • Freshmen ethnic diversity is more than 40 percent; and over 47 percent among transfer students
  • About 34 percent of the freshman class declared a STEM major
  • The most popular majors among freshmen are pre-business, engineering, pre-physiology, biology and psychology
Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Based on preliminary data, the UA is welcoming more than 42,100 students for the fall of 2015. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA iSchool Project to Test Artificial Intelligence

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 4:47pm

Kelland Thomas, professor and associate director of University of Arizona's brand-new School of Information, recently began a research project to build a robotic jazz musician that tests the bounds of artificial intelligence.

His MUSICA project — which stands for MUSic Improvising Collaborative Agent — received a $2.3 million research grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a branch of the Department of Defense, to be utilized over the course of five years.

Jazz music and DARPA may seem an unlikely pairing, but the endgame has little to do with music. It's about collaboration. The project will address the question of whether information systems, such as computers, are capable of collaborating with humans. If Thomas' MUSICA program can effectively build a computer system that improvises in real time with a human musician, the answer may be yes.

Paul Cohen, program manager at DARPA, commented, "I'm very concerned that we treat computers as servants, and because we treat computers as servants, we're not exploiting everything they could do for us."

Because "being able to view machines as colleagues" is a central goal of DARPA's Communicating With Computers program, "It was sort of a no-brainer that (this) kind of work would be selected," Cohen said.

According to Cohen, computers not only process large amounts of data in ways that a human cannot, they also do not have biases.

He points to economic policymaking as an example. The number of variables to consider, the amount of literature to pore over and the polarizing nature of some political systems make it a job for computers, he said.

MUSICA, which ultimately aims to create a robotic collaborator, taps into that potential. It uses jazz music as a vehicle for testing a computer’s ability to be a colleague rather than a servant. Cohen and Thomas agree that addressing some of the greatest challenges of our time — curing cancer, investigating climate change and ensuring global food security — could require this technology.

Information systems helping us get our jobs done better is not novel. 

For example, Uber, which owns not even a single taxicab, has been wildly successful by brokering information.

"Information systems match people who have a need with people who have a capacity," Thomas said.

If computers themselves had agency to make informed decisions using open-access data, it could be a slam-dunk for humans, too.

As for taking the jobs of human musicians, Thomas promises that his robot will do no such thing. In fact, he has enlisted the help of some musician friends to come into a studio for a jam session. He will record video and transcribe and analyze their playing to use as a model for the robot, which will look fairly unimpressive to the untrained eye — like a big, clunky processor.

Asked if the robot will have musical preferences of its own, Thomas responded, "It'll be interesting to see if it develops something like taste. I anticipate that these kinds of things may emerge and surprise us, but that remains to be seen."

He said the MUSICA project represents the potential of the UA's School of Information.

MUSICA "combines artificial intelligence, music and engineering," Thomas said, "and the big idea is that we need to move to an educational model that is intrinsically interdisciplinary. The iSchool is poised to contribute to great research that gets at the heart of important problems of the 21st century."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Emily LitvackByline: Emily LitvackByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Are computers capable of collaboration with humans? Professor Kelland Thomas plans to find out with the MUSICA project, funded by a $2.3 million research grant.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: