The University of Arizona

Campus News

Subscribe to Campus News feed
Updated: 5 min 28 sec ago

Research Uses DNA to Study Key Events in Plant Evolution

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 12:18

As part of the One Thousand Plants (1KP) initiative, scientists from North America, Europe and China have published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet.

"Our study generated DNA sequences from a vast number of distantly related plants, and we developed new analysis tools to understand their relationships and the timing of key innovations in plant evolution," said Jim Leebens-Mack, associate professor of plant biology at the University of Georgia and coordinating author of the paper.

Analysis of the DNA sequences of so many plants was only possible by leveraging the cyberinfrastructure computing capacity provided by the National Science Foundation-funded iPlant Collaborative, based primarily at the University of Arizona.

UA evolutionary biologist Mike Barker, who has been involved with the 1KP initiative since its conception in 2009, contributed bioinformatics pipelines for high-throughput genomic analyses — as well as genetic information of a few fern species — to the paper.

From strange and exotic algae, mosses, ferns, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables we eat and the ornamental plants adorning our homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.

The international research team is generating millions of gene sequences from plant species sampled from across the green tree of life. By resolving these relationships, the team is illuminating the complex processes that allowed ancient water-faring algae to evolve into land plants with adaptations to competition for light, water and soil nutrients.

Lead author Norm Wickett of the Chicago Botanic Garden described the study as "like taking a time machine back to get a glimpse of how ancient algae transitioned into the diverse array of plants we depend on for our food, building materials and critical ecological services."

"When plants colonized the land 450 million years ago, it changed the world forever," said Simon Malcomber, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research. "The results of this study offer new insights into the relationships among living plants."

As plants grew and thrived across the plains, valleys and mountains of Earth’s landscape, rapid changes in their structures gave rise to myriad new species, and the group’s data also helps scientists better understand the ancestry of the most common plant lineages, including flowering plants and nonflowering cone-bearing plants such pine trees.

The investigation also has revealed a number of previously unknown molecular characteristics of some plant species that may have applications in medicine and industry.

"We are using this diverse set of sequences to make many exciting discoveries with implications across the life sciences," said Gane Ka-Shu Wong, principal investigator for 1KP, professor at the University of Alberta and associate director of BGI-Shenzhen. "For example, new algal proteins identified in our sequence data are being used to investigate how the mammalian brain works."

"Seeing the impact that 1KP has had inspired us to launch a series of 1000-species projects for organisms like insects, birds and fish," said Yong Zhang, director of the China National GeneBank, or CNGB.

Taming big data

The project required an extraordinary level of computing power to store and analyze the massive libraries of genetic data, which was provided by the iPlant Collaborative at the UA, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Compute-Calcul Canada and CNGB.

"This study is very ambitious in the sense that we’re analyzing not just lots of species but many of the genes in these species," noted Barker, an assistant professor in the UA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "It’s a new landscape of bioinformatics challenges that we are trying to overcome, and this pilot study is really the first attempt to bring everybody together that has a unique toolkit to bear on this problem so we can efficiently analyze the data."

Barker, a doctoral candidate at Indiana University during the conception of the 1KP project in 2009, met with a small group of scientists to compile the initial bioinformatics tools to analyze such a large data set.

"This study demonstrates how life scientists are using high performance computing resources to analyze astronomically large datasets to answer fundamental questions that were previously thought to be intractable," said iPlant’s Naim Matasci, now at the University of Southern California.

Working with Matasci, Barker’s lab contributed high-throughput bioinformatics pipelines developed using computational infrastructure provided by the iPlant Collaborative to enable the analysis of so many genetic sequences.

Computer scientist Tandy Warnow from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her student Siavash Mirarab developed new methods for analyzing the massive datasets used in the project. "The datasets we were analyzing in this study were too big and too challenging for existing statistical methods to handle, so we developed approaches with better accuracy," Warnow said.

Many organizations, including iPlant, CNGB and the Computational Analysis of Novel Drug Opportunities group at SUNY Buffalo have joined forces to provide web-based open access to these results. The resources and sequence repositories are described in a companion paper published in the open-access journal GigaScience.

The 1KP project is ongoing, Barker added, with analyses of additional plant genetic sequences continuously running on iPlant supercomputers at the UA and the Texas center.

Ultimately, the researchers hope that their project will not only help in an understanding of the origins and development of plant life, but also provide scientists with a new framework for the study of evolution.

"We hope that this study will help settle some longstanding scientific debates concerning plant relationships, and others will use our data to further elucidate the molecular evolution of plant genes and genomes," Leebens-Mack said.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: James Hataway, University of Georgia, and Shelley Littin, iPlant CollaborativeHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: An international research collaboration involving UA scientists and cyberinfrastructure provided by the iPlant Collaborative, based in part at the UA, has used DNA to look back in time at important turning points in plant evolution. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Giffords, Kelly Speak to Hometown Crowd at UA

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 10:42

Gabrielle Giffords’ arduous comeback, marked by both frustration and motivation, was wrapped in a theme of inspiration Sunday night in an appearance by Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, on the University of Arizona campus.

The couple, who recently concluded a nine-state speaking tour, addressed a hometown audience at the UA’s Centennial Hall in a 70-minute program. Much of the program was shouldered by Kelly, the retired astronaut and U.S. Navy captain, who effortlessly weaved together anecdotes and life lessons with ample use of self-deprecating humor.

“Bono and I have something in common,” Kelly said after a short film clip set to U2’s “Beautiful Day” showed him at work aboard the space shuttle. 

“My wife is in love with both of us.”

Kelly, a veteran of four space missions who also flew bombing missions over Iraq, said a career of staring into the face of danger is nothing compared to what Giffords, the former congresswoman, has been through since she was critically injured in a supermarket shooting on Jan. 8, 2011, in suburban Tucson.

“As it would turn out, Gabby was the one who would nearly lose her life serving her country,” Kelly said.

The days and weeks that followed the shooting, which claimed the lives of six people and injured 13 others, showed him the unrelenting work of being a caregiver.

“It never got easy, but it got easier,” he said, adding: “She reminds me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure.”

Kelly spoke for about an hour before introducing Giffords, who came onstage to a standing ovation and spoke clearly but haltingly for a few minutes. Although she remains partially paralyzed, she said her days are filled with activities such as physical and speech therapy, yoga, playing the French horn, learning Spanish and riding a bike.

“It’s been a long, hard haul, but I’m getting better,” she said. “I’m still fighting to make the world a better place — and you can, too.”

The couple concluded with a brief question-and-answer session with Anne Thwaits of UA Presents, which put on the appearance.

Asked what she had learned from her experiences since that fateful day in 2011, Giffords said, “To be grateful for friends and family, and to live every day to the fullest.”

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Former astronaut and Navy pilot says his career pales by comparison to the challenges faced by his wife over the past three years.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Architecture Alumnus of the Year: James Edward Richärd

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 19:00

Leading up to the UA's 100th Homecoming, we are highlighting UA alumni who are being honored with alumni of the year awards.

James Edward Richärd, seated center in front (Photo courtesy of James Edward Richärd)

James Edward Richärd is the architect responsible for UA's award-winning Meinel Optical Sciences Building, the Bryant Bannister Tree Ring Building and the new Environment and Natural Resources Building II. He is the Alumnus of the Year for the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.

In 1996, Richärd partnered with UA alumna Kelly Bauer to open Richärd+Bauer in Phoenix. The firm's focus is primarily higher education, research and library design. It has established a reputation for successful planning, design and construction of complex, high-profile projects.

His many awards include the AIA Arizona Architect's Medal in 2008. The Meinel Optical Sciences Building garnered state, regional and national AIA Honor Awards. Also, Richärd+Bauer recently was awarded a five-year contract with the U.S. Department of State Overseas Building Operations to design embassies and consulates.

Richärd earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from the UA.

Leading up to the UA's 100th Homecoming, we are highlighting UA alumni who are being honored with alumni of the year awards. They are:

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: AlumniByline: University Relations - Communications and the Alumni Association |Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Friday, October 24, 2014Medium Summary: James Edward Richärd is the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture's Alumnus of the Year. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA alumnus James Edward Richärd designs award-winning buildings. Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Optical Sciences Alumnus of the Year: Jacobus “Jim” Oschmann

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 18:59

Leading up to the UA's 100th Homecoming, we are highlighting UA alumni who are being honored by their colleges with alumni of the year awards.

With two optics-related patents and more than 20 scientific publications to his name, Jacobus "Jim" Oschmann personifies enormous influence and is the UA College of Optical Sciences Alumnus of the Year.

Earning a master's degree in optical sciences from the UA in 1983 was not easy for the New York native. Granted a fellowship to study at the UA for one year, Oschmann doubled up on courses and lab work.

"It was intense, but extremely rewarding," he said. "Dedicated professors like Jack Gaskill and Eustace Dereniak, the college's 2013 Alumnus of the Year, helped me succeed."

In 2001, Oschmann returned to Tucson, this time to pursue an MBA.

His career has been a progression of increasing responsibility in technical and managerial positions across the industry and science community. Today, Oschmann serves as vice president and general manager of the Civil Space and Technology strategic business unit at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.

A consistent advocate for the optics profession, Oschmann has served on review panels and advisory boards for NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. He is a lifetime member, a Fellow and a former member of the board of directors of SPIE, the international professional society for optics and photonics technology. Also, he serves on UA College of Optical Sciences development board and is the principal for Ball Aerospace's membership with the college's Industry Affiliates program.

Oschmann credits the generosity of others for his education and says that he and his wife, Michelle, are giving back through the the Jacobus M. and Michelle L. Oschmann Scholarship in Optical Sciences and Business Leadership to support a first-year graduate student.

Leading up to the UA's 100th Homecoming, we are highlighting UA alumni who are being honored with alumni of the year awards. They are:

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: AlumniByline: University Relations - Communications and the Alumni Association |Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Friday, October 24, 2014Medium Summary: Jacobus "Jim" Oschmann is the UA College of Optical Sciences Alumnus of the Year. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA alumnus Jacobus "Jim" Oschmann has held numerous positions in industry and science. Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Humanities Alumnus of the Year: Eric Scott Baker

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 18:56

Leading up to the UA's 100th Homecoming, we are highlighting UA alumni who are being honored by their colleges with alumni of the year awards.

President Barack Obama and Eric Scott Baker (Photo courtesy of Eric Scott Baker)

Eric Scott Baker, the University of Arizona College of Humanities Alumnus of the Year, is a corporate lawyer in Manhattan for Starbucks, responsible for a broad territory in the Northeast. 

For his success in his legal career, Baker credits the College of Humanities' German studies department and his experience studying abroad in Munich, Germany, while at the UA. Baker said both provided a stellar undergraduate opportunity, which continues to provide value in his life.

After earning his Juris Doctorate at UA's James E. Rogers College of Law, Baker began his legal career in Phoenix at Snell and Willmer LLP, where he specialized in real estate. He spent eight years there and another eight years as associate general counsel at Western Wireless before joining Starbucks.

Baker maintains close ties to Arizona. He visits frequently and has a home in Tucson. A philanthropist, Baker is a longtime supporter of the UA athletic department and recently endowed a scholarship for the UA's Institute for LGBT Studies.

"The minute I arrived on the UA campus, I fell in love with the desert," he reminisces. "I loved to linger around Old Main and the Mall. To this day, I come back to the University regularly to walk, run and remember my great days on campus."

Baker also earned undergraduate degrees in political science and German from the College of Humanities, and a master's degree in political science from Northern Arizona University.

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesBusiness and LawThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: AlumniByline: University Relations - Communications and the Alumni Association |Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Thursday, October 23, 2014Medium Summary: Eric Scott Baker is the College of Humanities Alumnus of the Year. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA alumnus Eric Scott Baker is a corporate lawyer for Starbucks. Send to Never Settle Site: 0

At the Intersection of Art and Science

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 13:54

The elegance and beauty of science as expressed in art was the basis for the second annual Art of Planetary Science exhibition, hosted Oct. 17-19 at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on the University of Arizona campus. More than 200 works from 84 artists and scientists were on display. The award of Best in Show went to UA visiting artist Cui Jing, whose spectrum of daytime photos of sheets of white paper, placed in the open air of Tucson and Hangzhow, China, revealed a stark difference in the environment of the two cities.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesScience and TechnologyYouTube Video:  The Art of Planetary Science Video of The Art of Planetary Science Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: They're not such strange bedfellows after all, as demonstrated by an exhibition at the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, October 22, 2014Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Art Professor Creates New World of Awareness

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 11:17

Ellen McMahon grew up in a home where art and science often collided – with a psychiatrist father and artist mother who did not always see eye-to-eye. And so she found herself, from a young age, serving in the role of peacemaker, bent on finding common ground between two seemingly different worlds.

Years later, she has much the same mission in her work as a professor in the University of Arizona School of Art in the College of Fine Arts.

"I'm still trying to get the artist and the scientist to understand each other," she says.

A trained artist and biologist, McMahon teaches a "Critical Issue in Design" course, in which she encourages her design students to develop an awareness of environmental issues and to thoughtfully consider those issues in their work.

"You could say we've designed a world that separates us from the consequences of our actions," McMahon says. "We don't see where our garbage goes, we don't think about where our energy comes from, we hide the ecological connections between things.

"As a design educator, I feel like my job is to explain these connections, help people understand them so they can act accordingly so they can help other people understand the bigger picture."

Art and design can be used to interpret and communicate scientific fact in any number of ways, McMahon notes – from an infographic that illustrates statistics related to global climate change to a mural that draws attention to pressing environmental issues.

At the same time, design also can aid in creating real solutions to environmental and other societal challenges. For example, a designer might create an innovative product or mobile app that supports or encourages natural resource conservation.

"Design identifies problems and creates solutions. So I focus on and teach my students to do a critical analysis of what's wrong and what can be done to make a difference," McMahon says.

"It's really important for designers to have a real environmental consciousness because they are making apps, they are changing the way we see the world and they're designing all the ways we interpret things."

Engaging students in the natural world

About a decade ago, McMahon began taking her design students to Mexico to work at the field station of the Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans, also known as CEDO, which focuses on the natural resources and cultures of the Sonoran Desert and Sea of Cortez.

She wanted them to connect with the natural world while learning about the impact their work could have.

"There's a lot of science coming out about the benefits of direct experience with the natural world,” she says.

In the field, her students learned about the various environmental challenges in the coastal community and worked on art and design projects for CEDO.

UA alumna Margi Kimball, who earned master's degrees in visual communication and creative writing from the UA in 2011, was one of those students. She made illustrations of endangered animals, which were featured on banners, T-shirts, calendars and other CEDO materials.

She says McMahon pushed her to think about art and design in new ways.

"Rather than just creating 'stuff,' she taught us about creating experiences and solutions to lifelong problems, which hadn't occurred to me before," says Kimball, who now teaches illustration at Lesley University in Massachusetts.

Another of McMahon's former students, Mike Buffington, also has fond memories of working in Mexico, where he contributed to an educational mural featuring endangered animal species in the area.

He says the message of McMahon's class is critical.  

"Humans have removed themselves from nature and … see the Earth as an unlimited resource," says Buffington, who earned an undergraduate degree in visual communications in 2005 and now works at a metal fabrication studio in New York. "Design can help re-bridge that connection."

Although McMahon's class trips to Mexico have become less frequent in the last few years, she continues to engage her students in work on environmental issues in the classroom and out in the field.

In 2010, she received a grant from the UA's Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry for a collaborative project exploring Tucson's dry riverbeds, particularly the Rillito River.

The resulting book, "Ground Water: The Art, Design and Science of a Dry River," published last year, features photographs, graphic design, architectural drawings, essays and poems by faculty and student contributors in art, architecture, English and the sciences.

Cross-disciplinary collaborations such as "Groundwater" are important to McMahon, who is part of a larger movement at the UA to get campus researchers and artists working more closely together.

Partnering across disciplines

McMahon is one of several UA faculty members involved in the Art and Environment networking initiative, started in 2012 by faculty in the UA's Institute of the Environment.

UA climate scientist Gregg Garfin, who helped get the initiative off the ground, said the goal is to facilitate collaborations between artists and researchers on campus and in the greater Tucson community.

"The arts can get to a more visceral, immediate understanding that's easier for people to grasp than dry technical writing," says Garfin, an associate professor in the UA's School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Garfin, who contributed an essay to the "Groundwater" book, applauds McMahon's ability to "think outside the box" as an educator.

"It's important to expand the perspectives of students who are the generation of leaders and contributors to solving our problems," he says.  

Eric Magrane, a Ph.D. student in geography and research assistant with the Institute of the Environment, facilitates the networking initiative and writes a blog called Proximities, which chronicles the work of McMahon and others who are collaborating on similar cross-disciplinary projects.

"The UA and Tucson are vibrant places for arts and environmental projects," he says. "Ellen's an inspiration for people here working at the nexus of art and the environment. She reaches across disciplines and brings students into the field to engage in real environmental issues in a way that's really inspiring."

In addition to her work with students, McMahon also is partnering with UA researchers.

She is currently collaborating with UA ecologist David Breshears, a professor in the School of Natural Resources in the Environment, who is working on a National Science Foundation-funded project to understand why forests around the world are dying.

After spending time in the field with Breshears and his team in New Mexico, McMahon is producing a series of drawings and collages and working on a photo and sound installation in collaboration with Beth Weinstein, an associate professor in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, and Jesse Chehak, a graduate student in the School of Art. McMahon received funding from the School of Art and Confluencenter for the project, titled "Tree Mortality Through the Lens of Art and Science."

She will display the work in the University's Bryant Bannister Tree Ring Building, home to the UA's renowned Laboratory for Tree-Ring Research. McMahon curates art for the building, including pieces by UA students, alumni and employees.

"People come to the tree-ring lab to learn about the science, but they also can learn about how art and design interpret the science," she says. "So it's a matter not of decorating places, but having visitors really think about these different ways of knowing – the scientific way of knowing, the artistic way of knowing and the designer’s way of knowing."

McMahon says she would like to coordinate similar exhibits in other University buildings to demonstrate the role of the visual arts in shaping our understanding of the world. She also has plans to collaborate on projects with Kathy Jacobs, director of the University's recently launched Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions.

"Most scientists don't have the resources and access to good visual communicators, but they understand the value of it," McMahon says. "That's why I really want to get design students into these science centers around campus to get them involved in critical visual problem solving."

From biology to brushstrokes

McMahon's path to the art and design world was somewhat unconventional and has helped shape the unique perspective she brings to the field today.

As an undergraduate, she majored in biology and was awarded two NSF grants for her research on bats and herons. After earning her undergraduate degree in biology from Southern Oregon University, she went to work for the forest service, netting bats for forest management studies. But in the field, she realized she enjoyed drawing the bats more than the biology fieldwork.

That led her to the UA, where in 1980 she began taking courses in scientific illustration – part of the general biology department at that time. After completing her master's degree in biology, she was hired to work as a designer on campus and eventually transitioned into teaching, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree through the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

"The reason I didn't continue in science is because I wanted to function more like a naturalist, and ecology had become highly statistical," McMahon says. "I knew I wouldn't excel at that, so scientific illustration was perfect because I was really interested in how things looked, and in exploring the natural world through close observation and representation."

This past summer, McMahon returned to Oregon to visit the field stations where she worked in her early career. She wanted to revisit the place where she first began making the connections between art and the environment that have remained so important to her.

Contributing to a national dialogue

McMahon is now tapping into her unique background, experience and passion to contribute to a national conversation about arts and the environment.

Next month, she will participate on an "Envisioning Ecology" panel at the national conference of the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, held at Iowa State University.

She also was one of 18 Tucson-area fellows chosen to participate in the OpEd Project's inaugural Arizona Public Voices Fellowship Program for 2013-14.

McMahon penned an editorial for the Pacific Standard over the summer about her efforts to boost her students' environmental awareness. In it, she wrote:

"If we are to tackle climate change, a good place to start would be in convincing designers to be prepared to bring their strengths as creative thinkers – and makers – across the aisle to work with natural and social scientists. An immediate challenge for academic institutions is to provide opportunities for students to use their design thinking skills as members of interdisciplinary teams working on real environmental and social problems. We need to shift how we educate designers so they don’t think of themselves as artists for hire but as informed and empowered creative forces working for the greater good."

In her second editorial, published in The Huffington Post earlier this month, McMahon discussed the importance of designers – and all of us – spending more time in the natural world:

"The science is accumulating to suggest that we are suffering from what David Louv calls 'nature deficit disorder,' sacrificing mental and physical health as we replace nature time with screen time. We need to get out more – outside, that is. And the folks who really need to get more are the 'experience designers' who are adding layers of augmentation to our every moment. Like my university design students, mostly 20 to 30-somethings, the people who are designing our smart devices and the ways we interact with them grew up in a digitally saturated world but have too little experience with the non-human living world."

McMahon hopes her efforts – in the classroom, in labs and in the public sphere – will help shed new light on environmental challenges, such as global climate change.

And she hopes her students will leave her class with a new perspective on how art and design can make a real difference.

"Designers are our interpreters," she says, "and it's the values of design and designers that are really going to affect the future of the species."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Ellen McMahon started out as a biologist but later found her passion in art and design. Today, she unites art and science in her work and teaching.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

AZPM Wins Record 15 Emmy Awards

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:41

Arizona Public Media had a record 15 award winners in a variety of categories at the recent Emmy Awards in Scottsdale, a harvest of more awards than any other broadcaster in southern Arizona — and more than any other public broadcaster in the state.

“We’re extremely proud of each person who worked on these pieces and of the quality of work AZPM consistently delivers,” said Jack Gibson, AZPM’s general manager. “Twenty-two people on our staff received awards. It’s very gratifying to see them recognized for the exceptional stories they produce.”

Each year, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognizes outstanding work in some 90 television, production and creative communications categories. The Oct. 18 awards ceremony was the chapter’s 38th.

AZPM's winners were its most ever in a year, and their respective categories were:  

Arts/Entertainment — News Single Story/Series/Feature: "Chamberlab, DIY Classical Music for the Masses," Luis Carrion

Arts/Entertainment — Program Feature/Segment: "Busker," Mitchell Riley

Documentary — Topical: "Level One Trauma," Thomas Kleespie, Steve Bayless, Robert Lindberg and Martin Rubio

Education/Schools — Program Feature/Segment/Special: "Tucson Nonprofit Helps Homeless Teens Graduate High School," Fernanda Echavarri

Environment — News Single Story/Series/Feature: "Pop-Cycle," Mark McLemore and Andrew Brown

Magazine — Program Feature/Segment: "From Above: Aerial Photography of Heisey," Luis Carrion and Steve Bayless; "The Gold Buckle," Mitchell Riley; "Watercolor Pleinair," Luis Carrion

Military — Program Feature/Segment: "Boneyard 5K," Andrea Kelly

Photographer — Program (Non-News): "Busker," Matthew Ehrichs

Public/Current/Community Affairs — Feature/Segment: "The Soup Patrol," Mitchell Riley and Andrew Brown

Religion — Program Feature/Segment: "Native Cultures and Resilience," Gisela Telis and Robert Lindberg

Societal Concerns — Program Feature/Segment: "Building a Crisis Intervention Team," Gisela Telis

Special Event Coverage (other than News or Sports) — Live or Edited: "Community Interactive: The Working Poor," John Booth

Teen (13 and older) — Program Feature/Segment: "Preventing Tragedy in Tombstone," Thomas Kleespie

About AZPM: AZPM is a member-supported, nonprofit media organization that serves all of southern Arizona. AZPM includes six public television channels and three radio stations, including PBS 6, PBS Kids and NPR 89.1. AZPM produces award-winning content from its digital studios on the campus of the University of Arizona and is provided as a community service and educational resource. More information about AZPM, including program schedules and Video-on-Demand offerings, can be found online at

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA-based public broadcaster sets the pace for southern Arizona as 22 staffers are honored across 13 categories.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

New Radio Telescope Ready to Probe

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:52

Whirring back and forth on a turning turret, the white, 40-foot dish evokes the aura of movies such as "Golden Eye" or "Contact," but the University of Arizona team of scientists and engineers that commissioned it earlier this month isn't planning to listen for signals from extraterrestrials or hijack satellites.

Instead, the team detected the faint radio signals emanating from giant clouds of gas wafting through the Milky Way. The observations mark the first "light" received by the new, state-of-the-art, 12-meter radio telescope of the Arizona Radio Observatory on Kitt Peak near Tucson. This makes the UA the only university in the continental U.S. that has its own modern radio telescope.

"These first light measurements not only prove that the new 12-m is fully functional for scientific observations, but also represent a huge leap forward in astronomical capability for the ARO and the UA,” said Lucy Ziurys, director of the ARO, which is part of the UA’s Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The new 12-m telescope was installed in the existing ARO observatory dome on Kitt Peak, replacing a venerable but less capable antenna, which contained components more than 40 years old. The radio telescope is one of three prototype antennas built and tested for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array and became property of the UA on March 23, 2013. The antenna, obtained through an agreement with the European Southern Observatory, uses the most advanced technology for radio telescopes.

Performance-enhancing features include the reflector surface made from panels with a rhodium skin, and an instrumentation cabin and reflector structure constructed from lightweight carbon fiber. The new antenna can point at new targets 10 times faster and 20 times more accurately than the previous telescope.

"The antenna moves as fast as six degrees per second, with less than a second settling time," Ziurys said. "Speed is important in doing large surveys of numerous radio sources in the universe, because we gather our data by switching between source and reference position, and subtracting out the reference."

In addition, the telescope is less susceptible to wind than its predecessor and can be pointed directly at the sun without damage.

"We can see deeper into our universe in a shorter period of time, allowing for new discoveries previously not attainable and increasing the science output," Ziurys said.

Radio and in particular millimeter-wave astronomy can detect the cold, dark matter of the Milky Way and other galaxies that is not visible for telescopes detecting light, because it is simply too cold, Ziurys explained.

Making up at least half of the matter in our galaxy, giant gas clouds are the unique sites of present-day star and solar system formation. Understanding how stars and planets are created is a major theme of astronomy. In addition, these clouds foster the seeds for the origin of life, containing a wide number of prebiotic molecules, some which are carried by comets and meteorites to planet surfaces.

Recommissioning of the antenna took place over the past eight months. Several miles of wiring had to be reconnected without any errors. More than 20 large magnets were remounted on the telescope for the direct drive motors, along with a special cooling system for the instrument cabin. In early September, the first detector system was mounted on the telescope.

During first "light," the new telescope detected carbon monoxide, one of the 160 or so chemical compounds found to date in interstellar gas. Such interstellar molecules are the unique probes of cold, dense galactic material and are widely used to study the life cycle of stars and planets, from stellar birth to stellar death, as well as the chemical evolution of the galaxy and the extent of the so-called Galactic Habitable Zone.

"The results are truly outstanding given that these were the first observations ever made with a completely new and quite complex system," Ziurys said. "The entire team can be very proud of their achievement."

The telescope will be used for a variety of scientific projects, aimed at understanding the myriad of molecules now known to exist in outer space and thought to play a major role in the formation of stars and planetary systems, including our own. It also will be a key element in the Event Horizon Telescope array that will create images of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, including the Milky Way.

"I congratulate the entire ARO staff and Professor Lucy Ziurys for successfully bringing the instrument to this point in so short a time," said Buell T. Jannuzi, director of Steward Observatory. "We are all excited by the imminent start of science observations with this new modern facility."

      Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Newly installed, 40-foot dish achieves "first light" detecting cold gas clouds in the Milky Way. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Newly Discovered Microbe Is Key in Climate Change

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 18:46

Tiny soil microbes are among the world's biggest potential amplifiers of human-caused climate change, but whether microbial communities are mere slaves to their environment or influential actors in their own right is an open question. Now research by an international team of scientists from the U.S., Sweden and Australia, led by University of Arizona scientists, shows that a single species of microbe, discovered only recently, is an unexpected key player in climate change. 

The findings, published in the journal Nature, should help scientists improve their simulations of future climate by replacing assumptions about the different greenhouse gases emitted from thawing permafrost with new understanding of how different communities of microbes control the release of these gases.

Earlier this year, the international team discovered that a single species of microbe, previously undescribed by science, was prominent in permafrost soils in northern Sweden that have begun to thaw under the effect of globally rising temperatures. Researchers suspected that it played a significant role in global warming by liberating vast amounts of carbon stored in permafrost soil close to the Arctic Circle in the form of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere. But the actual role of this microbe — assigned the preliminary name Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis, which roughly translates to "methane-bloomer from the Stordalen Mire" — was unknown.

The new research nails down the role of the new microbe, finding that the sheer abundance of Methanoflorens, as compared to other microbial species in thawing permafrost, should help to predict the collective impact on future climate change.

"If you think of the African savanna as an analogy, you could say that both lions and elephants produce carbon dioxide, but they eat different things," said senior author Scott Saleska, an associate professor in the UA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the UA's new Ecosystem Genomics Institute. "In Methanoflorens, we discovered the microbial equivalent of an elephant, an organism that plays an enormously important role in what happens to the whole ecosystem."

Significantly, the study revealed that because of these microbial activities, all wetlands are not the same when it comes to methane release.

"The models assume a certain ratio between different forms, or isotopes, of the carbon in the methane molecules, and the actual recorded ratio turns out to be different," said lead author Carmody McCalley, a scientist at the Earth Systems Research Center at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the study while she was a postdoctoral researcher at UA. "This has been a major shortcoming of current climate models. Because they assume the wrong isotope ratio coming out of the wetlands, the models overestimate carbon released by biological processes and underestimate carbon released by human activities such as fossil-fuel burning."

Soil microbes can make methane two different ways: either from acetate, an organic molecule that comes from plants, or from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

"Both processes produce energy for the microbe, and the microbe breathes out methane like we breathe out carbon dioxide," McCalley said. "But we find that in thawing permafrost, most methane initially doesn't come from acetate as previously assumed, but the other pathway. This ratio then shifts towards previous estimates as the frozen soils are turned into wetlands and acetate becomes the preferred carbon source."

One of the big questions facing climate scientists, according to Saleska, is how much of the carbon stored in soils is released into the atmosphere by microbial activity.

"As the 'global freezer' of permafrost is failing under the influence of warming, we need to better understand how soil microbes release carbon on a larger, ecosystem-wide level and what is going to happen with it," he said.

"For years, there's been a debate about whether microbial ecology 'matters' to what an ecosystem collectively does — in this case, releasing greenhouse gases of different forms — or whether microbes are just slaves to the system’s physics and chemistry," said co-author Virginia Rich, who has joint appointments in the departments of Soil, Water and Environmental Science (UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular and Cellular Biology (both UA College of Science).

"This work shows that microbial ecology matters to a great degree, and that we need to pay more attention to the types of microbes living in those thawing ecosystems."

Added McCalley: "By taking microbial ecology into account, we can accurately set up climate models to identify how much methane comes from thawing permafrost versus other sources such as fossil-fuel burning."

The paper was co-authored by: Richard Wehr of the UA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Eun-Hae Kim of the UA Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science; Gene Tyson, Ben Woodcroft and Rhiannon Mondav of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia; Suzanne Hodgkins and Jeffrey Chanton of Florida State University; and Patrick Crill at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research through awards DE-SC0004632 and DE-SC0010580, and by the UA Technology and Research Initiative Fund through the Water, Environmental and Energy Solutions initiative.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: As permafrost soils thaw under the influence of global warming, communities of soil microbes act as potent amplifiers of global climate change, an international study has shown. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

“On this day 88 years ago, a man died and a legend was born. #BearDown”

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 15:35
Short Summary: “On this day 88 years ago, a man died and a legend was born. #BearDown” UANow Image: Social Network: InstagramSocial Author: @arizonaalumniSocial Link:

Ebola Not Just a Matter for Medicine

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:28

As Ebola continues to pose national and international risks, a role is envisioned for engineers, who are being called on to design devices and processes to help protect against the virus. 

Last Thursday, the National Science Foundation issued an invitation to the scientific community for research proposals related to Ebola and other infectious diseases, noting important contributions engineers could make to aid rapid diagnostics, vaccinations and decontamination. On the same day, President Barack Obama signed an order allowing for National Guard and Reserve members to travel to West Africa to help build Ebola treatment centers. A number of national media outlets have reported that engineers and logistical specialists likely will be on the team.

At the University of Arizona, engineers and researchers such as Linda Powers, the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair in Bioengineering, are contributing to preventative methods while also training the next generation of engineers to be prepared for biomedical issues of global concern.

Powers, who holds appointments in biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering and is a BIO5 Institute member, has been working with a UA team developing fast, disposable blood tests for detecting the pathogens that cause diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, malaria and other viruses.

"In cases such as Ebola, or any kind of crisis, epidemic or pandemic, it is important for engineers to understand what we need to do to help," Powers said, speaking Monday to dozens of UA engineering students and high school students. "Engineers can help mitigate risks to help prevent others from getting infected."

Powers presented her talk during in Engineering 102, a course that just started a month long project where students evaluate issues related to ways that engineers can improve health care, provide access to clean water and improve the urban infrastructure, among other things.

The College of Engineering restructured the introductory course several years ago to include a month long project around the National Academy of Engineering's "Grand Challenges for Engineering" to help students explore these and other grand challenges within the discipline.

"Throughout my career, there have been a number of events that have led to questions about how engineers can produce better structures and sensors," said Kathleen Melde, a professor in the UA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who teaches one of the course sections. As examples, Melde pointed to California earthquakes, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the current Ebola situation.

"In the College of Engineering, one of the things that is very important for us is that we emphasize that engineers engage in lifelong learning and ways that engineers can think out of the box," Melde said.

"But when people think about electrical engineers, they think of someone sitting in a cubicle developing circuits. But that couldn't be further from the truth. A lot of people choose engineering because they want to help people and, as those like Linda (Powers) show, we are really at the forefront of helping people."

Melde and Powers said engineers can make significant contributions to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. For example, engineers have developed and advanced the electron microscope to analyze nanopaticles as well as microbe sensor technology, among other instruments used for disease detection. Engineers also have developed lab safety protocol, built protective emergency materials, and developed lightweight devices used in medical research and treatment. 

Powers' company, MicroBioSystems of Arizona, was awarded two U.S. Department of Defense contracts for the technologies that she and her team are working to develop.

Since receiving the contracts, Powers and her team members have developed a self-contained device and an instrument for testing for the presence of pathogens, which may one day be used by military personnel in the field and even by people living in remote areas.

The technology is meant to greatly improve the detection of blood-borne diseases, especially for individuals who have no access to medical facilities and who do not have medical training. Another boon: The self-contained device can be disposed of in the same way as medical waste, to keep infectious diseases from spreading, Powers said.

"This country has been fortunate that it has not had to deal with many situations like this," Powers said, referring to the Ebola cases. "But there are many more of these situations on the horizon, so there will be plenty of work for engineers who want to help tackle issues like this."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Outbreak in Africa reveals a need for the contributions of engineers to global health, UA researchers say. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

The Man Behind the UA's Presence in Mexico

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 18:10

Since it was founded, the University of Arizona has had deep ties with Mexico. Through its Mexico City office, the UA is developing even deeper partnerships designed to answer important questions that extend beyond physical borders.

The UA is located just 63 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, making it easy to focus on research and partnerships in the Sonoran region in northern Mexico. But having an office in Mexico's capital city helps the University extend its international reach even more, according to José Lever, director of the UA's Mexico City office.

"In order to have the University's connections grow and to do proper follow-up, the UA needed to have a permanent presence in the heart of Mexico, which is Mexico City," Lever said.

The UA established an office in Mexico City in 2007. It was created to help encourage collaboration between the UA and businesses in Mexico as part of the Office of Western Hemispheric Programs, which also was established in 2007 and is dedicated to identifying collaborative opportunities between the University and agencies in Canada, Mexico and Latin America.

Collaborative research was a focus from the beginning. For example, the office established a binational consortium to research arid lands issues facing both the Southwest and Mexico. The consortium is a partnership between the UA and the National University of Mexico. It is funded by Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology, also known as CONACyT, which is the country's equivalent of the National Science Foundation.

In recent years, the office also has increasingly focused on facilitating technology transfer initiatives.

"The interest in tech transfer and innovation has grown dramatically in Mexico," Lever said. "Now there are programs that are fostering this topic, but the groundwork was done by the UA. We really did make an impact."

The University's Never Settle strategic academic and business plan calls for the UA to build partnerships that enhance the University's positive impact not only in the local community, but in the global community as well. The plan also calls for the UA to develop innovative solutions that address the world's grand challenges by expanding research initiatives and external partnerships.

Before joining the UA to help establish the Mexico City office, Lever worked for a decade with CONACyT. He travels to the UA's main campus in Tucson about twice a month, although he makes more frequent trips depending on the projects requiring his attention.

Most recently, Lever attended an Oct. 16 meeting of the Intelligent Manufacturing Initiative for the U.S.-Mexico Border, convened by the U.S. Mexico Foundation for Science as part of the Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council.

The council was formed last year by President Barack Obama and Mexican President Peña Nieto to promote and strengthen cross-border entrepreneurship and innovation. Representatives from multiple U.S. and Mexican higher education institutions, businesses and other organizations attended the meeting, which was co-hosted by the UA's Office of Global Initiatives and the College of Engineering.

The purpose of the meeting was to gather information to identify joint opportunities for intelligent manufacturing in the border region.

"This was a very important meeting," Lever said. "The focus is on what kinds of things we should be doing together in order to foster competiveness of the region. Intelligent manufacturing is part of that."

During the meeting, attendees discussed how human capital, technology and innovation can be developed to increase productivity in the advanced manufacturing sector in the Arizona-Sonora region and throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region.

"This meeting has brought a great deal of momentum to this discussion at a critical time for the region, especially if the manufacturing and innovation ecosystem in Arizona and Sonora wish to capitalize on the nearshoring trend and attract industry that is relocating from Asia to North America," said Justin Dutram, coordinator for academic outreach programs in the Office of Global Initiatives.

"Collaboration between higher education, government and in this case, the manufacturing sector, will make our region more competitive for business growth and attraction," Dutram said. "As the economies of both the U.S. and Mexico and increasingly interdependent, it is important for the UA to contribute to the preparation of the next generation of leaders in both nations, and to support industry with new knowledge from our research and innovation enterprise."

"Manufacturing is a key area in the region's future economy," said College of Engineering dean Jeff Goldberg, who participated in the meeting. "The UA can play a major role in the education and training of a strong workforce. It is not the UA alone. U.S. and Mexican high schools, career and technical education, technical schools and community colleges are also part of the solution, but we should be leading players, as it is a part of our land-grant mission and it is a good opportunity for students."

Lever said that the UA is poised to fuse international partnerships that can benefit the region, the state and the U.S. as a whole.

"The connections with Mexico are just natural," Lever said. "It's our location, it's our heritage. ... We have a significant number of faculty and students that are from Mexico. We have a significant number from faculty working on issues that have to do with Mexico. That's what positions the UA to better understand issues where we can make a very significant contribution partnering with our colleagues in Mexico for the benefit of the greater region."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The University's Mexico City office, which encourages collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico, is overseen by José Lever. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA Breaks Ground on Downtown Phoenix Project

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 16:14

With shovels full of dirt, construction has been launched on the 10-story Biosciences Partnership Building, the latest University of Arizona project in downtown Phoenix.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton ceremoniously tilled the soil, marking the beginning of the two-year design and construction for the 245,000-square-foot research building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

“This building will foster collaborations with scientists that will lead to more cures, better treatments and bring more federal and private dollars to the state,” Hart said. “We will pursue expanded partnerships with industry that we hope will lead to groundbreaking discoveries in the areas of neuroscience, cardiovascular and thoracic science. This building will allow us to further these efforts and, ultimately, improve lives."

The research building will sit just north of the Health Sciences Education Building on the downtown campus.

“This building will serve the medical school and beyond with important research and faculty to teach the next generation of health professionals,” Stanton said. “Of course, this just adds to the economic vibrancy of downtown. The research facility initially will bring construction jobs and then high-paying, research-related jobs, including specialized technicians and other support staff for faculty and scientists.”

Construction on the $136 million building is expected to translate into nearly 500 jobs initially and an additional 360 permanent jobs at build-out.

"The Biosciences Partnership Building represents yet another milestone as the city and the University develop a major academic medical center in downtown Phoenix," said Dr. Stuart D. Flynn, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. "Research in this building, in collaboration with our partners, will advance health care for all and expand our role as an economic driver for the city, Valley and state."

In 2012, the Health Sciences Education Building opened, housing health education for both the UA and Northern Arizona University. Construction continues on the UA Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s. The cancer center, a 220,000-square-foot outpatient and research facility, is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

The Phoenix Biomedical Campus also is home to the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health as well as the colleges of nursing and pharmacy. Also on campus are NAU programs for physician assistants, physical therapists and occupational therapists as part of the university’s College of Health and Human Services. Arizona State University’s School of Nutrition and Health Innovation is housed in the Arizona Biomedical Collaborative 1 building southwest of the education building and immediately south of the Translational Genomic Research Institute.

The funding for the Biosciences Partnership Building comes from economic and educational development bonds approved by the Arizona Legislature in 2008 that paid for construction of the Health Sciences Education Building and related campus improvements. Research focus areas include neurosciences, health care outcomes, cancer and precision medicine. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The Biosciences Partnership Building, due for completion in two years, will add to the UA's presence and serve the next generation of health professionals.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Why Companies and Schools Must Partner for STEM Education

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 15:37

My passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM fields, began in my youth in Lima, Peru.

I had strong backing from loving parents, who served as my role models. Both were scientists, and this meant that math and science classes were certainly more interesting to me. I took pleasure in challenging my math skills by mastering competitive university admission exams. Still, I observed that young girls' career aspirations were not often geared toward math and science careers. In addition, these young ladies did not have a strong support system, nor did they have many role models, to encourage and influence them to study the areas of science and technology.

When I became an engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems, I joined a defense company that, aside from developing the latest technology products, is an amazing employer of choice for women. A leader in diversity and inclusion, Raytheon is also devoted to reaching out to the local communities in support of STEM career awareness.

At Raytheon, one of my duties is supporting emerging engineering solutions, which encompass a wide variety of technologies in support of new capabilities. In addition, my position requires building strong collaborations with internal customers, academia, national labs and research institutions. In collaboration with the University of Arizona, my alma mater, we are developing new intellectual property in departments such as Electrical and Computer Engineering and Management of Information Systems.

Also, with the huge support of my Raytheon mentors and role models who invigorated my interest in continuing my education, I recently enrolled in the electrical and computer engineering doctoral program. 

I also supporting outreach efforts, and one of my proudest moments came with an opportunity to be involved with extraordinary individuals and technical colleagues from Raytheon and the UA serving as a cyber-instructor for GenCyber 2014 Summer Camp, a residential camp held at the UA's Biosphere 2 during the summer.

The experience was especially beneficial, given the industry demands for STEM graduates in technology-dependent companies such as Raytheon. These companies have been experiencing a severe shortage of talented and well-educated students in the STEM curricula. The UA camp provided not only the opportunity to interact with high school students, but a chance to engage young men and women in a manner that might interest them in pursuing science and technology.

And the opportunity to support and collaborate with UA faculty members Bill Neuman of the MIS department and Salim Hariri of electrical and computer engineering was very rewarding. And, during the camp, George Ball, an IT Fellow at Raytheon, shared with the participants the concepts of cyber threats, exploitations of systems, high-performance computing and cloud technologies. By popular demand, the Raytheon team returned for a second week of the camp, during which Anthony Jones, the director of Advanced IT, instructed the cyber participants on the topics of network security, secure infrastructures, ethical hacking and random number generators.

Also, I was able to present on my areas of expertise by introducing the topics of applied cryptography and cloud computing. The Raytheon team closed the day by having students compete in the Raytheon Cyber Challenge, in which they had to present to the audience their answers and findings on various cyber-related questions.

We look forward to continuing to encourage these students, and students in all of our local schools, to pursue STEM careers — and perhaps become future Raytheon employees. Together we can inspire the next generation through STEM education.

Carla Sayan is a senior information systems engineer with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson. A first-year doctoral student in the UA's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering focusing on cybersecurity, Sayan recently received the Promising Engineer Award, a national award granted by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. "I truly believe that my education at the UA was key in my being able to receive this prestigious technical award," Sayan said. The award recognizes outstanding technical contributions in the areas of engineering, science and technology.

Categories: Science and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: EducationOutreachByline: Carla Sayan, Raytheon Missile Systems |UANow Image: Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Thursday, October 16, 2014Medium Summary: Carla Sayan, a UA doctoral student and engineer at Raytheon, says the public-private partnership between the UA and companies such as Raytheon is beneficial to STEM education. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: Carla Sayan, a UA doctoral student and engineer at Raytheon, explains the importance of STEM education. Send to Never Settle Site: 0

UA's Eller College Announces $6M in Gifts

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:47

The University of Arizona Eller College of Management has announced three new gift commitments totaling $6 million from Shamrock Foods, Karl and Stevie Eller of Phoenix, and the Diamond family of Tucson.

The announcement came at a recent celebration of the Arizona NOW fundraising campaign, hosted by the Eller College and the UA Foundation National Leadership Council at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

The Shamrock Foods gift of $3.5 million establishes the McClelland Family Endowment for Faculty Excellence, which will help the Eller College attract and retain outstanding teachers and researchers in the business disciplines.

The Eller gift of $1.5 million will name the Professional Development Center, a two-story addition to the business school that will house undergraduate career coaches, recruiter meeting space and student collaboration space.

The Diamond gift of $1 million will support the Eller College’s overall campaign priorities.

“The Eller, McClelland and Diamond families have long histories with the UA,” said James H. Moore Jr., president and CEO of the UA Foundation. “These new commitments contribute to their respective legacies, which will benefit business students at the university for generations to come.”

Norman P. McClelland, chairman of Shamrock Foods, and his late sister Frances graduated from the UA.

“Norm has been a force for growth and change at the University of Arizona for decades,” said Len Jessup, dean of the Eller College. “Over 20 years ago, the visionary leadership he and Frances brought made a new building possible for the Eller College. We are grateful for the family’s unwavering support, particularly of faculty, who are the cornerstone of every leading business school.”

Faculty reputation is a key factor considered by peer schools that vote in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings. In September, the Eller College was named No. 21 overall and No. 11 among public undergraduate business programs in the 2015 America’s Best Colleges issue.

Karl and Stevie Eller are UA alumni and among the most influential figures in Arizona’s history. Their generosity has benefited higher education, business, athletics and the arts.

“Karl is truly a visionary, not just as a leader in outdoor advertising and in his other entrepreneurial ventures,” Jessup said. “In the early 1980s, he came to the UA with the concept of establishing a place where students could learn how to be entrepreneurs. In 1984, our entrepreneurship program became one of the first named centers in the country.”

The center, now known as the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, is consistently ranked among the country’s best. Its flagship, yearlong program was named No. 6 in the country and No. 2 among public programs by U.S. News & World Report.

“We are honored that the Eller College bears his name,” Jessup said. “Entrepreneurship and innovation continue to be a hallmark of what we call the Eller experience, thanks in part to the extraordinary example he sets for our students.”

Donald and Joan Diamond also are UA alumni. Donald is the chairman of Diamond Ventures, a leading real estate and private equity company in the region. The Diamond family’s giving includes Diamond Children’s Medical Center, part of the UA Health Network.

“Don is a leader and entrepreneur whose insight has benefited the Eller College National Board of Advisors for many years,” Jessup said. “The Diamond Family Foundation and its leader, Helaine Levy, also supports faculty in finance at the Eller College, which helps us retain the very best teachers for our students.”

In addition to the McClelland, Eller and Diamond gift announcements, the Eller College also recognized 11 individuals who have made previously announced gifts in excess of $1 million each toward the college’s campaign goal of $65 million.

The overall goal of Arizona NOW is $1.5 billion.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: Eller College of ManagementHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A commitment of $3.5 million from Shamrock Foods and its chairman, UA alumnus Norm McClelland, will be used to help attract and retain outstanding teachers and researchers.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Kuiper belt missions could reveal the solar system's origins

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 18:25
Date of Publication: Tuesday, October 14, 2014 Organization : Scientific AmericanCategory(s): Science and TechnologyOther Story Image: Short Summary: The very existence of the Kuiper belt — a vast swarm of billions of objects beyond Neptune — appears inconsistent with how theorists believe it must have formed.Include in Olympic coverage: noFeature on olympic page: noMedium Summary: The very existence of the Kuiper belt — a vast swarm of billions of objects beyond Neptune — appears inconsistent with how theorists believe it must have formed.

Close Encounter 'One in a Million'

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 14:54

University of Arizona scientists have their eyes on Mars for the fly-by of comet Siding Spring, which will pass the red planet on Oct. 19, closer than any comet has ever zoomed past the Earth in recorded history.

"We expect Mars to be bathed in the comet's coma, the gas and dust clouds that make for their famous tails," said Roger Yelle, a professor of planetary science in the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who is on the science team of NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, which went into orbit at Mars on Sept. 21.

"The probability of an encounter like this is one in a million."

MAVEN — short for NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission — is the latest addition to an armada of seven spacecraft currently studying Mars, either observing from high above or roving and digging on the surface.

During the comet fly-by, NASA has programmed its orbiters to take measurements and images, then "duck and cover" behind the planet, just in case.

"It only takes a half-a-millimeter-size particle traveling at 56 kilometers per second to injure one of these spacecraft," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office.

Yelle and his colleagues anxiously await the arrival of the city-block-size chunk of ice, rock and dust on its first-ever journey toward the sun. Unlike so-called short period comets whose journey around the sun takes them into the inner parts of the solar system every few years or decades, Siding Spring is a long period comet, visiting the solar system for the first time from the far reaches of space.

The comet originated in the Oort Cloud, a vast region of space surrounding the solar system speckled with billions of far-and-few-between comets, some of which embark on journeys that bring them back into our system of planets from which they originated billions of years ago during the early evolution of the solar system.

"Those comets are especially interesting because they are pristine," Yelle explained. "Comets are leftovers from the birth of the solar system, but unlike short-period comets, which have been altered by the sun's heat and solar wind, Siding Spring has been in deep freeze, in deep space, for billions of years."

Alfred McEwen, a professor in the UA Department of Planetary Sciences, leads the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, known as HiRISE, on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO.

"This is the first time the nucleus of a long-period comet can actually be resolved by a telescope, either in space or on the ground," McEwen said. "Planning a spacecraft mission to these types of comets is nearly impossible because there is typically only about a year's notice between discovery and passage into the inner solar system."

Because comets such as Siding Spring are difficult to study, scientists know very little about them.

"We want to know the shape of its nucleus, rotation period, its brightness, and hopefully observe the inner coma for jets and outbursts," McEwen said.

All previously resolved comet nuclei are nearly black on their surfaces, despite being rich in ices. A key unanswered question is whether comets are formed black, become black from exposure to galactic cosmic rays, or are blackened over frequent visits to the inner solar system.

In hopes of lifting some of Siding Spring's secrets, the UA-led HiRISE camera team will interrupt its daily routine of photographing the Martian surface.

"We will roll the spacecraft and point HiRISE at the approaching comet," McEwen said. "The tricky part is to predict where the camera has to look, because the comet will be close and traveling fast. Photographing the comet's nucleus at its closest approach is like trying to photograph a speeding bullet while riding a roller coaster."

"Over the past month the comet has been observed to fade in brightness compared to standard comet models, but we should still get a good look at the nucleus even if the coma is not very active."

Comet Siding Spring first appeared on images taken by the UA's Catalina Sky Survey but was not identified as an Oort Cloud comet until independent discovery observations were made approximately four weeks later, by Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Survey. The survey was one of three telescopes operated by CSS — and the only full-time asteroid survey in the Southern Hemisphere.

On Oct. 19, Siding Spring will race past Mars within 88,000 miles, less than a third of the Earth-moon distance, closer than any comet has ever passed the Earth in recorded history. Traveling at 35 miles per second, the comet — less than half a mile in diameter — would shoot over Los Angeles and out into the Pacific Ocean only one minute after it appeared over Manhattan.

Siding Spring will never get close to the Earth, Yelle said.

"After its pass by the orbit of Mars, it will go back to the Oort Cloud and not come back for many millions of years, if ever," he said.

Scientists are not sure of what to expect when Siding Spring zooms by Mars. What is certain, though, is that there is no chance of an impact.

"Earlier on, there was some concern the dust trail could endanger the spacecraft, but that no longer seem to be a possibility," Yelle said. "Nevertheless, we are taking mitigation strategies to be cautious. When the comet is coming, we'll be hiding on the other side of Mars, and when it goes by, we'll turn the MAVEN spacecraft so that the least sensitive surfaces are pointing to the comet and can't damage instruments.

"After about an hour, we'll come out of hiding. MAVEN will be observing the comet for about three days before and two days after the fly-by."

In contrast, MRO will observe the comet during its closest pass to Mars, although the orbiter will be hiding behind Mars when the dust trail will pass, if it extends that far. 

Over eons, Mars has been losing its atmosphere to space, and MAVEN is a mission designed to study the physical and chemical aspects of that process.

"The atmosphere escape process happens from the upper parts of the atmosphere, close to the region that will be perturbed by the coma of the comet, mostly by water molecules," Yelle said. "They will hit the Martian atmosphere about 250 kilometers above the surface and heat it through their impact momentum, which will in turn tell us about the escape process. We will also study the comet itself — for example, ions that stream from its coma."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Faster than a speeding bullet comes the comet Siding Spring, which will have the attention of UA scientists as it passes Mars on Oct. 19. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

In Training With Women's Basketball

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:03

The UA women's basketball team will host its second annual 5K walk/run at 8 a.m. on Oct. 26 on the UA Mall.

Fans will have an opportunity to meet and greet head coach Niya Butts and the 2014-15 team while taking part in some exercise.

All of those who attend will receive a T-shirt, and the top three male and female finishers will be awarded prizes.

Registration is free and available online. Season-ticket holders also are invited to attend an exclusive team brunch immediately after the run, to be held at about 10 a.m. For more information, contact Drew Gaschler at or 520-621-7072.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): SportsYouTube Video:  Boot Camp V2 Video of Boot Camp V2 Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: The price is right (free) at Sunday's 5K to meet the Wildcats, get some exercise and take home a T-shirt. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, October 20, 2014Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Kerrs Pledge $1 Million to UA Athletics

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 16:24

University of Arizona alumni Steve and Margot Kerr have committed $1 million to the University of Arizona to assist with the McKale Center renovation and future academic facility enhancements.

The gift by the couple joins the $6 million lead gift from Cole and Jeannie Davis, a $1 million gift from George Kalil and a number of additional Arizona Athletics donations in support of McKale's Phase I renovation.
"My experience as a student-athlete at the U of A shaped my life and my entire career," said Steve Kerr, now head coach of the NBA's Golden State Warriors. "I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity I was given to be a part of such a special University. This gift reflects my thanks and also my support for all the future student-athletes who will come to Arizona to compete, study and shape their own lives moving forward."
McKale's renovation will impact all 20 of the UA's sports programs and specifically the basketball, volleyball and gymnastics teams, which use McKale as their competition site. Volleyball was the first program to compete in the new-look McKale Center on Sept. 5, and renovations are expected to be complete by the start of the men's basketball regular season, which opens on Nov. 16.
"We are really excited that Steve and Margot have decided to show this kind of support for Arizona Athletics," said Greg Byrne, UA director of athletics.

"Steve is one of the icons of our athletics department and he has been such a great ambassador for this program throughout his professional career," Byrne said. "We know McKale is a special place to him and his family and we’re thrilled that they could be involved in this renovation. It’s even more exciting that an athletics alum has provided this level of commitment and we believe it will lead to even more former student-athletes getting involved."
The first aspect of the renovation project was completed in early 2014 with the installation of a state-of-the-art, high-definition scoreboard. The new version features four, 19x11 video screens totaling 836 square feet, which is more than two-and-a-half times larger than the previous board, a static ring on top for promotional opportunities and two LED rings.
"Just as Steve Kerr wowed University of Arizona fans with his leadership on the basketball court, his generosity will inspire others," UA President Ann Weaver Hart said. "This generous gift from Steve and Margot reflects their passion for sport and will benefit aspiring basketball players and other student-athletes, as well as our loyal UA fans who cheer them."
Phase I of the renovation began in May and includes upgraded seating, hand rails, enhanced lighting and a new playing floor. In addition, the renovation addresses amenities and upgrades that include men's and women's locker rooms, concessions and restrooms.
"I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Steve and Margot for their incredible generosity and continued support of our program," said Sean Miller, head coach for men’s basketball. "Steve’s basketball career is extraordinary on so many levels. However, his qualities as a person and the qualities of his family are equally exemplary. Today’s gift epitomizes the reasons that we take so much pride in referring to Arizona basketball as 'A Player’s Program.'"
Upgrades and renovations to McKale and other campus facilities are an integral part of Arizona NOW, the UA's $1.5 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign launched in April.

McKale's positive impact on UA's student-athletes, and its ability as a premier Tucson venue to unite the community in support of the Wildcats, positions it as a campaign priority. Arizona NOW already has surpassed the $1 billion mark in the first year of its public launch.
"We are incredibly grateful to the Kerrs for their gift to McKale," said James H. Moore Jr., president and CEO of the UA Foundation. "Arizona NOW is thriving with thanks to the generosity and loyalty of donors like Steve and Margot."
The Kerrs join 42 percent of men's basketball letterwinners and nearly 30 percent of all alumni letterwinners who have given back to Arizona Athletics at some point in their lives.
While at Arizona, Kerr left an indelible mark on Arizona basketball in the mid-to-late 1980s, which culminated with the Wildcats' first-ever Final Four in 1988. That group went 35-3 overall (17-1 in what was then the Pacific-10 Conference) in the fifth season for Lute Olson as head coach.
With Kerr on the roster, the UA won two regular-season Pac-10 titles and a conference tournament championship, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his last three seasons on the court.

Kerr also earned two first-team All-Pac-10 honors and a pair of Pac-10 All-Academic accolades. He remains Arizona's career leader in three-point field goal percentage with a mark of .573, accomplished during the 1987-88 campaign to set an NCAA single-season record that still stands. Kerr’s jersey is one of only four to have been retired by the Arizona men’s basketball program.
Kerr went on to play for six teams over a 15-year NBA career, including stints in Chicago and San Antonio that led to five NBA championships. Kerr shot better than 45 percent from three-point range over 910 regular-season games and retired as the NBA leader in three-point field goal percentage for a career (.454).

After his retirement as a player, Kerr served as general manager of the Phoenix Suns from 2007-10 and also was a television commentator on NBA and college basketball broadcasts for TNT cable. He was named as coach of the Golden State Warriors in May.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: Arizona AthleticsExtra Info: 

Learn more about the campaign for the University of Arizona online.


Arizona Athletics receives no state appropriations or student fees, but does receive 315 tuition waivers annually, authorized by the Arizona Board of Regents. Tuition waivers also are granted to Arizona State University and Nofrthern Arizona University. The athletics department is responsible for the cost of room, board and books to supplement the tuition waivers and is responsible for generating revenues to cover the department’s annual operating costs and budgetary obligations. Additionally, all funds required for new facilities and renovations are provided through the continued support and generosity of athletics department ticket buyers and donors.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Thanks to donors such as Steve and Margot Kerr, Arizona NOW has surpassed the $1 billion mark in the first year of its public launch.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: