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When Job Loss Equals Weight Gain

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 16:41

Unexpected job loss is one of the most stressful life events a person can experience, and it affects much more than one's pocketbook. It might also lead to weight gain, research suggests. 

Studies have indicated that unemployed people tend to have a higher body mass index, on average, than those who are employed. A new University of Arizona study will look at why that might be.

Patricia Haynes, assistant professor of psychiatry in the UA College of Medicine, has been awarded a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the link between job loss and weight gain. She will look specifically at how post-job-loss changes in sleep and social rhythm — a person's daily routine — might affect weight.

"The idea is that unemployed individuals have had a disruption of their daily routine, which is like losing an anchor in the time structure of their day," Haynes said. "Their social rhythm becomes disrupted, which may then impact their biological rhythms and sleep, and increase the propensity towards excessive caloric consumption."

While existing data suggests that insufficient sleep can lead to changes in appetite and satiety hormones, few studies have examined that relationship in a real-world setting, Haynes said.

Haynes developed the idea for the study after listening to National Public Radio. A story about unemployment and the recession was immediately followed by a separate, unrelated story about the country's growing obesity problem. It occurred to Haynes that the two issues might be connected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 65 percent of Americans are now overweight or obese. Research suggests that the obesity rate increased during the recession, but the cause for the increase is not entirely clear. Haynes believes that poor sleep quality and disruptions to people's daily routines after job loss could be largely to blame.

Haynes and her research team will follow 250 recently unemployed people over an 18-month period, using smartphones to capture information about participants' daily behaviors in real time. For example, participants might be prompted, via a message on the phone, to report on how they slept the night before, what kind of exercise they did that day or what activity they are doing at any given moment. Select participants also will be asked to take and submit photos of the food they eat. All participants will undergo weight and nutrition assessments in the lab.

Haynes is partnering with the Arizona Department of Economic Security's Unemployment Insurance Administration to identify potential study participants — people who involuntarily lost their jobs within six months of enrolling in the study.

She expects that some study participants will be more vulnerable to weight gain than others. Those hardest hit by the job loss might engage in more sedentary activities, such as watching TV or eating unhealthy foods, she said. At the same time, there may be a subset of more resilient people who see job loss as an opportunity to devote more time to exercising or improving their health.

Haynes also is interested in exploring the effects of re-employment — that is, how a person's sleep, daily routine and weight is impacted if he or she finds new employment during the course of the study.

Haynes hopes that the results of her study will inform health and weight interventions and programs for the recently unemployed.

"Sleep and social rhythms are highly amenable to change by behavioral intervention," she said. "Therefore, these data will help us determine whether typical weight-loss programs might be enhanced by also targeting sleep and social rhythms."

Dr. Ole Thienhaus, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry in the UA College of Medicine, said the study could have a broad impact.

"Unemployment, chronic sleep restriction and obesity are highly prevalent social and public health issues," he said. "I anticipate that the results of this study will be of high relevance to a large segment of the U.S. population."

Haynes is a behavioral sleep medicine specialist and clinical psychologist who studies insomnia, stress and how people's daily behaviors affect sleep. As director of the UA's Stress and Trauma Recovery Clinic, her research includes studies looking at sleep and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her collaborators on the unemployment study include Emily A. Butler, associate professor of family studies and human development in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Duane Sherrill, professor of biostatistics in the UA's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health; Graciela Silva, assistant clinical professor of nursing in the UA College of Nursing; Cynthia Thomson, UA professor of public health and director of the Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion; Dr. Stuart F. Quan, professor emeritus of medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine in the UA College of Medicine and the Gerald E. McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School; George W. Howe, professor of psychology and psychiatry at George Washington University; and Nirav Merchant, director of information technology for Arizona Research Laboratories at the UA.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Patricia Haynes in the UA College of Medicine has been awarded $3.1 million to study the relationship between unemployment and putting on pounds.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

'My Students Taught Me': Fulbright Scholar Back From Pakistan

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 16:49

After spending five months in tumultuous Islamabad, Adele Barker says the experience has changed her outlook on education, her work and life.

Barker is a professor in the University of Arizona Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, and was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach and write in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan. Fulbright Scholarships allow scholars to travel to other countries for a variety of educational activities such as university lecturing, research, graduate studies and teaching.

Barker was one of only two Fulbright Scholars to work in Pakistan.

Pakistan has seen increasingly violent rallies and protests against the country's government, based in Islamabad. For this reason, Barker was kept under strict security restrictions during her entire stay.

"The security around me was very, very tight," Barker said. "But it was also something I knew about before I went there. In my case, because I write, I simply adjusted my vision downwards to accommodate the smaller world in which I was placed."

During her time abroad, she taught graduate students at Fatima Jinnah Women University, located in Rawalpindi, approximately a 40-minute drive from Islamabad. She taught courses on contemporary American women writers and 19th-century Russian literature, primarily focusing on Leo Tolstoy's classic novel "Anna Karenina."

"I tell you, if there's any way to break down barriers, it's by sitting in a room talking about a text," Barker said. "I didn't realize it, but I wasn't winning any popularity contests when I arrived. All but one of my students had never met an American, and had never been taught by an American. Their opinion of me was initially formed by many of the U.S. government's missteps in Pakistan. Fortunately, our time together in the classroom created a space where I became more than the representative of U.S. policy."

Barker said that she never felt her safety was threatened, although she witnessed public rallies, and the Pakistani military became a pervasive presence on the streets of Islamabad during her time there.

"Essentially, everyone in a city of any size in Pakistan is moving about with the Pakistani military on every street corner and road," she said. "It is a country in which anyone becomes a target because of the random nature of the violence. Islamabad in particular saw some very tough times in 2008, the bombing of the Marriott Hotel being just one example, and as a result businesses, government buildings and even private residences are heavily guarded, indeed sandbagged today. The memory of those times still reverberates over there today."

Barker spent much of her free time learning the local language of Urdu, reading contemporary Pakistani novels, visiting her local market and learning to cook the local cuisine, including her new favorite dish called saag, or Pakistani spinach.

She received permission for the Fulbright Commission to take evening walks with her neighbor in one of the large parks in Islamabad.

"Teach me Pakistan,” she told him. "And he did, six kilometers a night."

Because she wasn't allowed to travel far, her students became her window to Pakistan.

"They were my key to the culture," Barker said. "They taught me. I had never lived in an Islamic society. I was fascinated. ... I remember during my last week there, it was Ramadan. I was cooking iftar – that's the meal you cook to break the fast. As I was serving it, I realized everybody in this country was having the exact same meal at the exact same time. I found that notion very compelling.  For me, it was the antidote to much commonly voiced opinion that sees the country as descending irrevocably into chaos."

Barker, who is also a writer, is working on a writing project about her experience, and hopes to return to Pakistan soon  – ideally with more freedom to move about the culture.

"I was in the middle of my writing project and I had to come back," she said. "My work over there isn't done. My (Pakistani) colleagues and friends said 'Don't give up writing, you must write about this country, because we would like you to correct the impression that many Americans have of who were are.' I knew I wanted to do this."

While she readjusts to American culture and starts a new academic year at the UA, she hopes her students appreciate the opportunity they have to receive an education.

"I can't claim to have any scholarly expertise on Pakistan, but what I have is the unique experience – which I hope to repeat – of being able to teach in the Pakistani classroom and to teach young Pakistani women, for whom there is really a high risk in certain parts of that country if they want to get an education," she said.

"I think the greatest thing I bring back from my students is the great motivation from every young person I met to get an education, to get it right and really do something with it. When you live on the edge, as they do over there ... you take nothing for granted."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

For more information about the Fulbright Scholars program at the UA, visit the Office of Global Initiatives website.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Adele Barker, UA professor of Russian and Slavic studies, recently returned from teaching in Islamabad for five months. She was one of only two Fulbright Scholars selected to travel to Pakistan.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

"What I Wish I Had Known as a Freshman"

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 18:45

Reflecting on their time as undergraduate students, three University of Arizona Regents' Professors say that collaborative work is underrated, humanities and history courses are indeed valuable, and mistakes can be a great teacher.

That’s just some of the wisdom imparted by Diana Liverman, Regents' Professor of Geography and Development and co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment, who is currently on sabbatical; Toni Massaro, Dean Emerita of the UA James E. Rogers College of Law; and Pierre Meystre, a Regents' Professor of Physics and Optical Sciences and director of the UA Biosphere 2 Institute. UA alumni also talk about their experiences and share advice in "Career After College: Alumni Share Tips for New Students."

Q: What tips would you share with today's students to help them succeed in the academic environment? 

Liverman (left): Try to turn up to most of your classes and spend some of the time listening to what's being said instead of taking notes on your computer or checking social media. In smaller classes, ask questions, and never begin your comment with “This is probably a stupid question but ...” Remember, there really are no stupid questions! Go to exam study sessions and form study groups.

Massaro (right): Make your academic ends the first priority. A lot of things are available in college that are exciting and important to the experience: making new friends, exploring autonomy, balancing school and social life. But the classroom and academic work should be your first priorities in order to make the most of the opportunity to grow intellectually.

Meystre: Embrace your ignorance. Learn to be comfortable with not knowing the answer, but then don't stop until you have it figured out. Don't be afraid to ask questions, even simple questions. Questions that may seem simple can lead to profound answers. And chances are that others don't know, either, and will be happy that somebody asks — or they will know the answer, and then they'll be able to help you. Also, be open to unexpected opportunities and challenges.

Q: What do you wish you had known when you were a freshman? 

Liverman: That so many opportunities would open up for me as an environmentalist and woman during my lifetime. When I was a freshman, there were no “green” careers, and it was tough for a woman to succeed in the environmental arena. Second, that working in a group — rather than competing — can help you be a success. And third, that I didn't have to find a husband my first year at college (that's what my grandmother thought I should be focusing on). It is much more fun to look around, travel the world and find someone later.

Massaro: That the humanities and history courses would so enrich my entire life. I wish I had taken a lot more of them, even as a science major.  

Meystre (left): That one should not be afraid to make mistakes. Being overly cautious can be paralyzing, and one often learns more from failures than from success. And for a curious mind, what can possibly be more boring and uninteresting than having things run just as expected?

Q: What would you have done differently?  

Liverman: I would do study abroad. I would do internships and/or volunteer for local environmental or other organizations. I would take more science.

Meystre: I don’t think much about that. I don't find it particularly useful to obsess about "missed opportunities." We have just one ride and may as well enjoy it.

Q: What turned out to be your best move? 

Liverman: Helping a visiting professor with her research one summer. She then invited me to take a master’s degree with her in Canada.

Massaro: Taking Bergen Evans' world literature course.  A Northwestern classic, and the best course I took in college. And then choosing law school for my graduate work.

Meystre: Picking a great field of study. Physics is extraordinarily beautiful and exciting. It challenges you at every turn and always hits you with new surprises, with profound questions ranging from the origin of the universe to the nature of reality, and with practical applications that can have a significant societal impact.

Q: What was your most career-determining stroke of luck or serendipitous event?  

Liverman: Getting an internship at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and persuading climate scientist Stephen Schneider to supervise me. He set me on my path to becoming a researcher, mentored me for many subsequent opportunities. 

Massaro: A conversation with an undergraduate professor my senior year of college telling me "You ought to go to law school," even though she had been steering me to her own graduate/Ph.D. program the previous three years. Her shift helped me take the big leap professionally (and personally). And then, at the end of law school, two professors encouraged me to apply for a law-teaching job after my time in practice. I was extremely fortunate to have teachers who took such a keen interest in all of their students.  

Meystre: There are too many to count. Most lucky perhaps was picking a specialization that was not very fashionable at the time but that turned out to become very hot, and also being at the right place at the right time.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?  

Liverman: You will make the most amazing friends in college who will see you through all the ups and downs of life. Look for ways to meet new people, not always like you, and it will change your life.

Massaro: Make the most of this moment, knock on your teachers' doors and enjoy your classmates. They can be your best teachers, too. Raise your hand. Be curious. Then "pay it forward" by helping others with their studies or volunteering in the community. There is no better way to learn than to teach others.

Meystre: Don't forget to have fun. If you don't, maybe you are not doing what you should be doing.

Diana Liverman's expertise and research interests focus on the human dimensions of environmental change, connecting earth and social sciences to understand challenges of drought and climate change, climate policy, climate change communication, food security, land use and international environmental governance. Liverman has advised a wide range of government committees, non-governmental organizations and businesses on climate issues. The first woman to serve in the position, Toni Massaro is also one of the longest-serving UA deans in recent history. Massaro, who holds the Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law, has been with the college since 1989 and is an expert in civil procedure and constitutional law. And originally from Switzerland, Pierre Meystre, who joined the UA in 1986, has developed theory that has profoundly influenced all aspects of quantum optics, according to Nobel Prize winners in that field. He was named Regents' Professor in 2002.

Categories: Teaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: FacultyResearchStudent LifeByline: Daniel Stolte, University Relations - Communications |UANow Image: Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Wednesday, September 10, 2014Medium Summary: UANews asked three University of Arizona Regents' Professors about what they would do today to get the most out of their college experience if they were to be undergraduate students again. The title of Regents' Professor is the highest of faculty rank at state universities in Arizona.Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: UANews asked three University of Arizona Regents' Professors about what they would do today to get the most out of their college experience if they could be undergraduate students again.

Don’t Underestimate Your Mind’s Eye

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 16:29

Take a look around, and what do you see? Much more than you think you do, thanks to your finely tuned mind's eye, which processes images without your even knowing.

A University of Arizona study has found that objects in our visual field of which we are not consciously aware still may influence our decisions. The findings refute traditional ideas about visual perception and cognition, and they could shed light on why we sometimes make decisions -- stepping into a street, choosing not to merge into a traffic lane -- without really knowing why.

Laura Cacciamani, who recently earned her doctorate in psychology with a minor in neuroscience, has found supporting evidence. Cacciamani's is the lead author on a co-authored study, published online in the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, shows that the brain’s subconscious processing has an impact on behavior and decision-making.

This seems to make evolutionary sense, Cacciamani said. Early humans would have required keen awareness of their surroundings on a subliminal level in order to survive.

"Your brain is always monitoring for meaning in the world, to be aware of your general surroundings and potential predators," Cacciamani said. "You can be focused on a task, but your brain is assessing the meaning of everything around you – even objects that you’re not consciously perceiving."

The study builds on the findings of earlier research by Jay Sanguinetti, who also was a doctoral candidate in the UA Department of Psychology. Both studies go against conventional wisdom among vision scientists.

"According to the traditional view, the brain accesses the meaning – or the memory – of an object after you perceive it," Cacciamani said. "Against this view, we have now shown that the meaning of an object can be accessed before conscious perception.

"We're showing that there’s more interplay between memory and perception than previously has been assumed," she said.

Cacciamani asked participants in her study to classify nouns that appeared on a computer screen as naming a natural object or artificial object by pressing one of two buttons labeled "natural" or "artificial." For example, the word "leaf" indicates an object found in nature, while "anchor" indicates a man-made or artificial object.

But before each word appeared on the screen, the computer flashed a black silhouette that – unknown to participants – had portions of natural or artificial objects suggested along the white outside regions (called the "ground" regions) of the image. Participants were not told to look for anything in the silhouettes, and they were flashed so quickly – 50 milliseconds – that it would have been difficult to notice the objects in the ground regions even if someone knew what to look for. Participants never were aware that the silhouette’s grounds suggested recognizable objects.

Cacciamani measured how well study participants performed at categorizing the words as natural or artificial by recording speed and accuracy.

"We found that participants performed better on the natural/artificial word task when that word followed a silhouette whose ground contained an object of the same rather than a different category," Cacciamani said.

This indicates that the brain accessed the meaning of the objects in the silhouette’s grounds even though study participants didn’t know the objects were there, she said.

"Every day our visual systems are bombarded with more information than we can consciously be aware of," Cacciamani said. "We're showing that your brain might still be accessing information without your conscious awareness, and that could influence your behavior."

Cacciamani's study was co-authored by Mary Peterson, Cacciamani' primary adviser and a UA professor of psychology and cognitive science as well as director of the UA's Cognitive Science Program, and by Sanguinetti and Andrew Mojica, recent graduates of the Department of Psychology's doctoral program. After graduation, Cacciamani will take a position as a postdoctoral fellow at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesWriter: Shelley LittinByline: Shelley LittinByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA study finds that objects in our visual environment needn’t be seen in order to impact decision making. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Doctoral Candidate Produces Cover Image for Journal

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 15:14

A stunning image of green fluorescent protein-expressing cancer cells intertwined with red blood vessels, containing a fluorescent dye, has brought the work of a fifth-year UA doctoral candidate into sharp focus.

Rachel Schafer (Photo credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)

With a Nikon confocal microscope with heightened optical resolution, and using a high-magnification, 40X objective lens, Rachel Schafer captured the image that landed on the cover (right) of BioTechniques, an international journal.

"It is enjoyable to see my hard work come to fruition through this publication and be well-received within the research community," said Schafer, who is in the biomedical engineering program. "The publication and feedback received pave the way for cancer research studies using the model to be performed in the lab."

Schafer caught the image for an article she co-authored with researchers Hui Min Leung and Arthur F. Gmitro, both of the UA. The article, "Multi-modality imaging of a murine mammary window chamber for breast cancer research," was published in the July issue of BioTechniques.

The image, which was selected for the August edition, captures individual cancer cells and the network of small blood vessels from one location in a tumor, Schafer said.

"The image is one example of the multiple imaging technologies we applied to this unique cancer model," she said. "We aimed to expand the imaging capabilities applied to this type of cancer model and, in so doing, highlight the potential of the model for use in cancer studies."

The ability to combine multiple imaging capabilities enables researchers to gather information at different scales, aiding the analysis of tissues.

"The optical sectioning capability of confocal microscopes allowed a series of images to be acquired at sequential depths into the tissue," Schafer said. "These multiple slices through the tissue were combined to create the single maximum intensity projection image seen in the cover image."

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: StudentsResearchEducationOutreachByline: University Relations - Communications |UANow Image: Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Thursday, September 4, 2014Medium Summary: Rachel Schafer, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the UA biomedical engineering program, has made it to the cover of BioTechniques, an international journal focused on the technical aspects of research in biotechnology. The journal featured Schafer’s image on its August cover.Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: An image by UA student Rachel Schafer is on the coverage of BioTechniques.

New 'Arizona Illustrated' Premieres This Weekend

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 12:31

Arizona Public Media's "Arizona Illustrated," a 30-minute weekly television and online magazine-style series, will resume this weekend after a hiatus, with a new format that builds on its history of engaging viewers with thought-provoking, diverse stories that reflect the southern Arizona community.

For more than 30 years, "Arizona Illustrated" has been AZPM's flagship original production on PBS 6 and online. Through the years, the program has delivered news and information about politics, the arts, history, science, nature and technology to the living rooms, laptops and smartphones of viewers throughout the region.

The program went on hiatus during the spring through the summer and will now repeat multiple times during the week instead of airing on Sundays only.

"AZPM's production staff has worked diligently over the summer to research, develop and produce stories for the relaunch of 'Arizona Illustrated,'" said John Booth, the executive producer of AZPM, an operating unit of the UA.

"Each episode will feature character-driven 'minidocumentaries' – carefully crafted to be informative, journalistically sound, and yet personal," Booth said about the new format.

The host will be 36-year veteran broadcast journalist Tom McNamara, who will invite viewers to discover untold stories that showcase creative storytelling with a special focus on the people who shape our community’s identity. The new format premieres Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on PBS 6.

The show is a "slice of life you won't find anywhere else," McNamara said.

Several documentaries, which will soon air on the show, are available to view online:

  • "Growing Up Roosevelt," a storytelling narrative with Nina Roosevelt Gibson, the granddaughter of former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
  • "The New Keepers," habitat and groundwater conservation and protection efforts in the Tucson region.
  • "Drummer Artt Frank: Giving a Rhythm to Greatness," about Frank's lifelong career and work with some of the world's most famous jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Chet Baker.
  • "Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge," which explores the protected habitat, which has been reserved for threatened and endangered animals and plants.
  • "Urban Bees," which features backyard honeybee enthusiasts.

McNamara, a member of the Tucson community since 1997, serves as the evening news anchor at KVOA-TV Channel 4. McNamara will continue his role as news anchor for the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts at KVOA while hosting "Arizona Illustrated."

"I am thrilled to host 'Arizona Illustrated,' and am grateful to KVOA for allowing me to jump on this opportunity," McNamara said. "This program returns me to my roots in local television."

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: Arizona Public MediaExtra Info: 

Arizona Public Media produces award-winning original television, radio and online content from its digital studios on the campus of the UA and is provided as a community service and educational resource. Learn more online, and follow Arizona Public Media on Twitter.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: "Arizona Illustrated" will resume this weekend with thought-provoking and diverse stories about southern Arizona. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Send Your Tweet – and Your Name – to an Asteroid

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 13:34

The OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission team invites the public to submit short statements and images about solar system exploration – today and in the future – to fly aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launching in 2016.

The Asteroid Time Capsule campaign asks people to think about what space exploration looks like today and what it might look like in the year 2023. They can share their predictions via Twitter or Instagram.

A digital collection of the top entries will travel to the asteroid Bennu aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Led by the University of Arizona, the robotic OSIRIS-REx mission is the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

The selected entries will be etched into two "time capsules," each consisting of a one-square-inch silicon wafer. One wafer will be affixed to the spacecraft, the other will be attached to the sample return capsule, which will detach and deliver its cargo of asteroid material to Earth in 2023.

"Our progress in space exploration has been nothing short of amazing," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and professor in the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab and Department of Planetary Sciences. "I look forward to the public taking their best guess at what the next 10 years hold and then comparing their predictions with developments in 2023."

Posts can be about science, engineering, technology or other subjects related to space exploration today and in 2023. OSIRIS-REx will collect tweets and choose the top messages and images to send with the spacecraft. 

"We're excited to see if we can predict how we will be operating in space a decade from now," said Ed Beshore, the mission's deputy principal investigator. "Here's a sample – '2014: We're building a spacecraft to go to an asteroid for a sample; 2023: We'll be using asteroids for fueling stations for expeditions.'"

OSIRIS-REx will study and map the 1,760-foot-wide asteroid Bennu for two-and-a-half years, then will collect a sample of surface material and head back to Earth. In 2023, after a journey of more than 3.9 billion miles – the equivalent of going around the earth 160,000 times – the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will release the sample return capsule as it approaches Earth.

The capsule will enter Earth's atmosphere at about 28,000 mph, streaking across the western United States and landing in the Utah desert, returning as much as 4 pounds of asteroid material and one of the two "time capsules" to Earth. Upon arrival, mission managers will retrieve the digital content to check on the predictions. The other wafer, affixed to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, will continue to travel through deep space indefinitely.

"In 2023, when the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule comes back to Earth with some of the oldest material found in solar system, we'll see where public perceptions of space exploration in 2014 were and where we thought we'd be in 2023," Lauretta said.  

A few simple rules help guide members of the public in creating a time capsule entry:

  • Think about what we are doing in solar system exploration in 2014 and what we might be doing in 2023.
  • Tweet your statement with hashtag #AsteroidMission or tag OSIRIS-REx on Instagram with the hashtag #AsteroidMission to share your ideas as a graphic or photo.

OSIRIS-REx's sample of asteroid material will help with the investigation of planet formation and the origin of life and will provide insight into the future exploration of asteroids for resources and economic development. The data collected from the asteroid also will aid in the threat assessment of future asteroids that are headed toward Earth.

The Asteroid Time Capsule campaign complements "Messages to Bennu!," a public engagement campaign launched in January that invites people from around the world to submit their names to fly on the spacecraft.

Submissions for both campaigns will be accepted until Sept. 30.

"We have collected almost 350,000 names with the 'Messages to Bennu!' campaign," Beshore said. "Our goal is to collect 500,000 names by the end of September, but we'd like to shatter that goal."

"OSIRIS-REx has to take many years to perform a complex asteroid sample return," said Bruce Betts, director of science and technology for The Planetary Society, a public outreach partner on the mission. "A time capsule capitalizes on the long duration of the mission to engage the public in thinking about space exploration: Where are we now, and where will we be?"


Byline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

To submit entries, go to or


To watch a series of videos explaining the mission and what we can learn from asteroids, visit


To submit your name to the "Messages to Bennu!" campaign, visit

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Members of the public are invited to use social media to share their predictions about solar system exploration in the year 2023. Selected entries will travel through billions of miles of outer space, all the way to the asteroid Bennu and back. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA Flandrau Science Center Goes 'FullDome'

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 11:55

Imagine breathtaking views of Earth from orbit, watching hurricanes churn a hundred miles below, then following the billowing plume of a volcanic eruption as it spreads out across the ocean before you plunge into the glowing veils of the aurora dancing toward you over the horizon.

You don't have to be an astronaut aboard the International Space Station to experience all this – all you need is a ticket to the University of Arizona's Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, where a state-of-the-art digital projection system called Flandrau FullDome has been installed over the summer.

The FullDome projection system consists of two ultra high resolution digital projectors driven by powerful computers, a software capable of turning near real-time science data into images and a new audio system. The system uses two projectors linked to a powerful computer system that will digitally “stitch” the images together to deliver crisp detailed pictures that cover the whole planetarium dome and surround the audience.

"Our new projection system really transforms the planetarium experience," said Bill Plant, exhibits director at Flandrau Science Center. "Imagine an IMAX theater with a joystick, and you have a sense of what this awe-inspiring new planetarium technology can do." 

Uniview, the system's software engine, provides access to a network of satellite imagery, updated daily, that Flandrau personnel can quickly integrate into a show to engage viewers with fascinating events occurring anywhere on the globe, Plant explained.

"For example, if there is a volcanic eruption somewhere, a forest fire or a hurricane, we can take our visitors on a visual journey right into the center of action and explain what's behind those phenomena."

Currently, visitors can immerse themselves into swirling weather patterns, fly over the surface of Mars, swoop through the ice crystals of Saturn’s rings, zoom out from our solar system to see our entire Milky Way galaxy in vivid detail, explore the majestic and colorful remains of a recent supernova, and travel to the edge of the known universe.

Eventually, the FullDome system will be able to turn virtually any scientific topic into a visual experience, from dinosaurs to microbes. For example, viewers will be able to embark on a journey into the human body and even explore the inner workings of cells. Shows about a wide variety of science topics have been produced and Flandrau will be bringing in new FullDome shows in the months ahead.

Flandrau is the first in the U.S. to install the new projection system, which is produced by Swedish company SCISS under the name Colorspace. The imagery dataset, called Digital Universe, was developed by the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium.  It incorporates data from dozens of organizations worldwide to create the most complete and accurate 3-D atlas of the universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe.

Flandrau, part of the UA College of Science, will also use the new system as a powerful teaching tool for UA students, allowing for a truly immersive learning experience. Thomas Fleming, an Astronomer and Senior Lecturer at the UA Steward Observatory and Department of Astronomy, already is using the FullDome system to teach astronomy to undergraduates this fall semester.

Since it opened in 1975, the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium has been using a mechanical star projector, nicknamed "Hector Vector Star Projector," to give visitors a tour of the night skies. 

"Hector was the state-of-the-art when he was installed, and he is a beautiful machine, but he can’t compete with today’s high-resolution digital technology," Plant said. "In recent years, both science and technology have advanced by leaps and bounds. We now have incredible images of our own planet Earth as it changes over time, and photos and data maps of other planets and other galaxies. New discoveries are being made every day, and now we can share those with our audiences in stunning ways."  

FullDome is set to transform STEM education and outreach in the Tucson area, as the system can play any of the many shows produced for full dome systems on topics ranging from ocean life to neuroscience to the world of M.C. Escher. At the moment, Flandrau is screening the full dome shows "Magic Tree House: Space Mission" based on the popular children's book series, "Back to the Moon for Good" about the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and "IBEX," a documentary about NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft.

"The experience will reach people of all ages and backgrounds, help them understand the marvels of science, and inspire the next generation of scientists," Plant said.

Flandrau Science Center, part of the UA College of Science, worked closely with the College and UA Bookstores to raise funds for the new system. Purchase and installation of the FullDome system was made possible entirely through the generous support of a number of donors to the UA College of Science.

Writer: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

The new Flandrau FullDome system will debut to the public on Friday, Sept. 5, with a kickoff event from 4 to 9 p.m. that will include live science demos, a raffle, and prizes.


On Sept. 6, Flandrau will host "International Observe the Moon Night" from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Organized by the Planetary Science Institute, admission to Flandrau will be free with lunar telescope viewing outside and moon-related activities inside the Science Center. Shows in the Flandrau FullDome will feature the moon and cost $7 for adults and $5 for youth ages 4 to 17.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A state-of-the-art digital projection system has been installed at the UA Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium that will captivate visitors as they tour the Earth, the universe, the human body and virtually any other part of the natural world like never before. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA Astronomers Witness Asteroid Smashup

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 16:27

Using data taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers at the University of Arizona have spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of terrestrial planets.

A few months after scientists began tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013.

"We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star," said Huan Meng, the study's lead author and a graduate student in the UA's Department of Planetary Sciences.

While Spitzer has observed dusty aftermaths of suspected asteroid collisions before, this is the first time scientists have collected data before and after a planetary system smashup. The viewing offers a glimpse into the violent process of making rocky planets like Earth.

Rocky planets begin life as dusty material circling around young stars. The material clumps together to form asteroids that occasionally run into each other. Although the asteroids often are destroyed, some grow over time and transform into proto-planets. After about 100 million years, the objects mature into full-grown, terrestrial planets. Our moon is thought to have formed from such a giant impact between proto-Earth and a Mars-size object when the sun was somewhere between 20 and 100 million years old.

In the new study, Spitzer – which includes technology developed at the UA  – set its heat-seeking infrared eyes on the dusty star NGC 2547-ID8, which is a solar-type star that is about 35 million years old and lies 1,200 light-years away in the Vela constellation. Beginning in May 2012, the telescope began watching the star, sometimes daily.

A dramatic change in the star came during a time when Spitzer had to point away from NGC 2547-ID8 because the sun was in the way. When Spitzer started observing the star again five months later, team members were shocked by the data they received.

"We not only witnessed what appears to be the wreckage of a huge smashup, but have been able to track how it is changing – the signal is fading as the cloud destroys itself by grinding its grains down so they escape from the star," said Kate Su, an associate astronomer at the UA Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory and co-author on the study.

"Imagine two asteroids, each 100 miles across, coming at each other at 40,000 miles per hour," said George Rieke, a UA Regents' Professor of Astronomy who led one of the instrument-developing teams on the Spitzer telescope project and a co-author on the study. "When they collide, much of the rock vaporizes and creates a cloud of gaseous minerals, which then condense into new, sand-like particles. Those particles smash into each other at incredible speeds, grinding each other down in the process."

A very thick cloud of dusty debris now orbits the star in the zone where rocky planets form. As the scientists observe the star system, the infrared signal from this cloud varies in proportion to what is visible from Earth. For example, when the elongated cloud is facing us, more of its surface area is exposed and the signal is greater. When the head or the tail of the cloud is in view, less infrared light is observed. By studying the infrared oscillations, the team is gathering first-of-its-kind data on the detailed process and outcome of collisions that create rocky planets like Earth.

"We are watching rocky planet formation happen right in front of us," Rieke said. "This is a unique chance to study this process in near real time."

Since terrestrial planet formation is a messy process that takes more than tens of millions of years, scientists rely on computer simulations to understand the process. The observations reported here open an avenue to compare on those simulations with how it happens in the real world, Rieke said.

The team is continuing to keep an eye on the star with Spitzer. They will see how long the elevated dust levels persist, which will help them calculate how often such events happen around this and other stars, and they might see another smashup while Spitzer looks on.

After Spitzer's expected end of operations later this decade, astronomers will catch a glimpse of the dust around these stars with the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, currently under construction and planned for launch in late 2018. JWST, too, will use technology developed at the UA to observe the most distant objects in the universe: a mid-infrared-wavelength camera developed by Rieke and a near-infrared-wavelength camera developed by Regents' Professor of Astronomy, Marcia Rieke, his wife.

"JWST will let us see if the dust clouds have dissipated and also let us probe the composition of the dust and gas in these systems much more powerfully than was possible with Spitzer," Su said. "Combining work with both telescopes over 20 to 25 years will provide us with a detailed look at how planets like Earth are assembled."

The results of this study are posted online on the website of the journal Science.


Byline: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, UA astronomers have spotted an eruption of dust suggesting planets are forming around a young star 1,200 light-years from Earth.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA Science Could Make Canola Oil More Nutritious, and Broccoli More Tasty

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 18:21

Genomics researchers of the University of Arizona's iPlant collaborative, housed in the BIO5 Institute, have helped unravel the genetic code of the rapeseed plant, most noted for a variety whose seeds are made into canola oil.

The findings will help breeders select for desirable traits such as richer oil content and faster seed production. Other potential applications include modifying the quality of canola oil, making it more nutritious and adapting the plants to grow in more arid regions.

In addition, they help scientists better understand how plant genomes evolve in the context of domestication. Brassica plants have been bred all over the world for centuries and resulted in produce and products diverse enough for supermarkets to place them across several different aisles.

Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, turnip, collared greens, mustard, canola oil – all these are different incarnations of the same plant genus, Brassica.

"Whole-genome sequencing efforts like this one allow us to address two fundamental questions," said Eric Lyons, an assistant professor in the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, whose research team provides the software architecture for this and many other genome research projects. "How does the genetic information stored in the genome help us understand the functions of the organism, and what does the structure of the genome tell us about the evolution of genomes in general?"

The endeavor, which was led by institutions in France, Canada, China and U.S., revealed that the rapeseed (or Brassica napus) genome contains a large number of genes – more than 100,000 – due to the fact that it arose from a merger between two parent species, Brassica rapa (Chinese cabbage) and Brassica oleracea, a cultivar that includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and others.

The findings appear in the Aug. 22 issue of the journal Science and come at the heels of another international sequencing effort led by UA researchers, which revealed the complete genome of African Rice.

The computational power and cyberinfrastructure for running the analyses is provided by the iPlant Collaborative, a $100 million project funded by the National Science Foundation and headquartered in the UA's BIO5 Institute.

"The rapeseed genome has a very interesting history," said Haibao Tang, one of the leading authors of the study, who just joined the UA as a senior scientist for bioinformatics. "As a result of the merger event, it ended up with four copies of each gene. In this study, we looked at what happened after this merging event. For example, what genes were gained and what genes were lost."

"The Brassica group is extremely versatile with regard to human use," he said. "In all of the cultivars, we find something to eat. The genome defines what Brassicas are."

"It also defines what kids hate to eat," Lyons added. "The bitterness in some cultivars such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts comes from a class of compounds called glucosinolates, and we find that precisely those genes that code for those compounds were lost from the rapeseed genome."

The sequencing effort provides scientists and breeders with a map they can use to home in on certain genes and, by extension, the plant's metabolic pathways. For example, they could strive to create a cultivar of broccoli that's not bitter, or tweak the lipid biosynthesis pathway to favorably modify the oil content in rapeseed. Being able to modify the content of bitter-tasting compounds has implications beyond what meets the tongue, because in most plants, those chemicals also confer defense against pests.

"Depending on the cultivar in question, breeders may want to change the biochemistry," Lyons said. "You could knock down chemicals you don't want and ramp up others you do want. Or you may want to change the shape of the plant or parts of it. With Chinese cabbage, for example, we don't care too much about its oil content, but the size and shape of the leaves and how they taste. With rapeseed, it's the other way around."

The successful completion of the rapeseed genome sequence stems from a long-standing collaboration between Lyons and Tang, who comes to the UA from the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland. Tang has specialized in writing the core algorithms of the Comparative Genomics’s platform, CoGe, which is powered by iPlant’s cyberinfrastructure, and provides a management layer for genomic data and tools to process them.

"Plugging into the infrastructure of iPlant allows us to scale far beyond of what we could do otherwise," Lyons said. "Each of these analyses takes hundreds of computing hours. In other words, either one computer working for hundreds of hours, or hundreds of computers working for one hour. With iPlant, we have access to a thousand or more computers to do this."

"We developed the tools people need to analyze large genomes, and now we can focus on discoveries," Tang said.

Lyons added: "Because we have been working to make these tools scalable, they are being used for virtually every genome analysis."

"Currently, CoGe and iPlant are being utilized to analyze 23,000 genomes from 17,000 organisms," Lyons said. "What started out as a plant genome platform has long expanded into all other areas of biology."

"We are currently involved with the genomes of birds, insects, bees, cows, fish, pig, horses and many plants," Lyons said. "The tool that we have developed for that past few years has become critical part of the ecosystem of bioinformatics tools that people regularly use."

"Leveraging iPlant we can empower scientists around the world to compare genomes among each other, and allow people to pick what they want to do, when they want it, and the way they want it," he added.

Writer: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Genomics researchers of the University of Arizona's iPlant collaborative have helped unravel the genetic code of the canola plant. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Blog Series: UA Student Navigates Germany, Works to Advance Research

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 11:04

This is the fifth and final post in a University of Arizona blog series about the University's STEM education initiatives and students conducting research abroad.

Photos courtesy of Austin Brown

Austin Brown, a UA undergraduate researcher, is conducting research in Germany thorugh the Biological Research Abroad, Vistas Open! program. Brown is majoring in neuroscience, cognitive science and ecology and evolutionary biology. This summer, his research has been supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Q: Why did you decide to get involved in research at the UA?

A: It sort of happened by chance. I was searching for a lab to volunteer in the summer before I started at the UA and Wulfila Gronenberg (an associate professor of neuroscience), who works mostly with bees and ants, welcomed me into his lab. He was very open to me doing whatever I was most interested in, so I ended up catching paper wasps on the UA Mall and conditioning or teaching them to expect a sugar reward when presented an odor. Before that I was actually in an environmental lab, looking at water contaminants. But while in Wulfi's lab, I became intrigued by the complexity of such a small brain, so I've been pursuing research in that field to this day.  

Q: What are you doing in Germany?

A: I am in working in professor Wolfgang Rössler’s neuroethology lab at the University of Würzburg under Martin Strube-Bloss and in collaboration with Johannes Spaethe. Previously, Martin examined the olfactory processing of different odorants in the honeybee using electrophysiology. Different pheromones would be presented to the animal and he would analyze how the brain, particularly the antennal lobes, would respond to and discriminate between the different odors. I am a part of a similar project, but am using bumblebees as a model organism instead to compare. We hypothesize that odorants of similar structure would be processed more similarly than those that are less similar.

Q: Why is this particular area so important to you and your scientific colleagues?

A: I just really like it. I knew it was for me the moment I began doing research independently and found myself reading articles like they were literature, becoming enticed by the findings and conclusions as they spurred my curiosity and imagination. Sometimes I find myself realizing I could never really answer all the questions I thought up, but the prospect is tantalizing.  What I find the most interesting about the brain is that it has taken a multitude of different forms throughout evolutionary time. Though a bee's brain is quite obviously different from our own, I find it intriguing that it can solve the same problems and perform analogous tasks such as complex learning/memory and navigation. By studying the diversity of neural mechanisms that exist in nature I hope to gain an understanding of how this wonderful organ called the brain works in general.

Q: How has your experience at the UA prepared you for your international research?

A: Being in a higher-level learning environment has matured me and made me more adept in conversing on scientific subjects with not only my peers, but professionals with the same interests. I may not have taken any German classes at the UA – I took Latin – but being involved in research has exposed me to the international side of science. And it has developed me further into what I hope to be in the future: not just an American but an international citizen.

Q: What are your plans after completing your undergraduate studies at the UA?

Brown: I plan to take some time to dedicate more hours to the lab and hopefully complete a reputable project worthy of publication in a high-ranking journal. Also, Martin, who spent some time as a post-doc at Arizona State University, has informed me that his old adviser is looking for an up-and-coming electrophysiologist to use Martin's old experimental setup, which I have been trained on while here in Germany. So I may choose to complete a master's degree in Phoenix and then possibly locate to a lab that studies a subject more suited to my interests. So far, though, I am just taking it step by-step and seeing what opportunities present themselves to me, as I had no idea previously that ASU would be possible in my future, being a native Tucsonan Wildcat and all.

Read about other UA students conducting research abroad:

Categories: Campus NewsScience and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: StudentsStudent LifeUAStemByline: University Relations - Communications |Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Friday, August 15, 2014Medium Summary: UA undergraduate researcher Austin D. Brown is in Germany conducting research and expanding his knowledge of the brains of insects.Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA undergraduate researcher Austin Brown wants to advance what we know about brain processes.

Top 10 Tips for Maintaining Proper Nutrition for College First-Timers

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 12:19

We know that the better you eat, the better you think. That's what a growing body of research tells us.

Research also tells us that brain development does not stop when we are in our teenage years, but continues through the 20s. For most college students, these are very crucial points to note, indicating that proper nutrition – along with numerous other healthy lifestyle choices – are important to brain function and, ultimately, learning.

We enlisted Sarah Rokuski, is a nutrition counselor for the UA's Campus Health Service, to help identify some of the most important things students can do to ensure that they are getting proper nutrition. Here are Rokuski's top 10 tips.

Tip 1: Make occasional trips to a grocery store. Although picking up food on campus is more convenient, trips to the grocery store can save you money.

Tip 2:. Stock up on your favorite frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and veggies, without added sauces or seasoning, are a great option and are quick and easy to store and prepare.

Tip 3: Learn to cook. Learning to feel more comfortable in the kitchen opens up tons more opportunities for healthy eating. Learn how easy it is to prepare deliciously healthy recipes at the Cooking on Campus classes offered every other Tuesday at the UA Campus Recreation Center's instructional kitchen, located in the Outdoor Adventures area. 

Tip 4: Make sure your plate has color. This can be done easily by adding your favorite fruits and vegetables to each meal.

Tip 5: Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals can lead to overeating and may lead to poor food choices. It also can affect your energy level and ability to focus. Prepare for busy days by packing your lunch or a few healthy snacks to bring along with you. For healthy meal and snack ideas, visit Cooking on Campus.

Tip 6: Eat mindfully. This means eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full. It's easy to get into the habit of eating just because it's the time for it, or continuing to eat past the point of satisfaction. Listen to your body and trust that it will tell you when it needs food or that it has had enough.

Tip 7: Look for the Smart Moves symbol at Student Union eateries. The symbol indicates that a food is unprocessed, colorful, delicious and environmentally sustainable. Make a smart move to eat real foods, more plant-based foods, and less processed, bagged or boxed foods.

Tip 8: Don't diet. Diets often look attractive because they promise fast results, but these results may never come and if they do they often don't last. Dieting can also lead to weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, or even the development of an eating disorder. Focus on living an active lifestyle and making mindful food choices. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the UA's Counseling and Psych Services can help.

Tip 9: Eat locally and seasonally. Eating local and seasonal foods will not only benefit your health, but it's also good for local farmers, the environment and the local economy. To learn more about how to eat healthy, local, seasonally and sustainably, check out the UA Food Day Fair

Tip 10: For more specific nutrition information and tips, visit the UA Campus Health Service.

All gifs courtesy of

Categories: Campus NewsTeaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: StudentsStudent LifeEducationOutreachByline: University Relations - Communications |Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Monday, August 25, 2014Medium Summary: The UA's Sarah Rokuski provides her top 10 nutrition tips for incoming students.Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: Our top 10 nutrition tips.

Blog Series: UA Students Studying, Researching Abroad

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 13:16

Under its strategic academic and business plan, "Never Settle," the University of Arizona has underscored its commitment to student engagement by ensuring 100 percent of students have the opportunity to be involved in some form of practical, engaged activity relevant to their future careers.

One of the students who has embraced that concept is UA undergraduate Jordan Richard Brock, who spent his summer in Turkey as part of Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open!, a summer research program that grew out of the UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program. Since the program was founded in 1992, more than 220 undergraduates have worked in laboratories located in dozens of countries outside of the U.S.

While abroad, Brock shared some thoughts about his experience.

This is the first in a five-part Q-and-A series highlighting the UA's efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM fields, and the work of students like Brock.

Q: What is your current research?

A: I am working in Turkey studying the emerging biofuel crop, Camelina sativa. I am here to present my research at a Turkish Biology Congress, but also to make new collections of wild Camelina species from across Turkey. In previous years, I have traveled to Turkey, Georgia and Armenia to collect wild populations of various Camelina species.

Q: Why is this particular area of research so important?

A: I have been doing molecular phylogenetics in my laboratory at the University of Arizona to understand the evolutionary history of this genus. Because Camelina sativa is an emerging biofuel crop, we are interested in learning about the other species in the genus and how they may be used to further improve Camelina sativa.

Q: Why do you have a specific interest in Camelina sativa, and how has your research supported your studies?

A: I have an academic interest in studying Camelina because my project has allowed me not only to use the knowledge I have learned from my courses but also to build upon it. Lectures and laboratory experience are perfect complements to each other, and without practicing what you learn, eventually you will forget. My professional interest in my research is quite direct; the research I am doing as an undergraduate will help me excel in my future studies. I have been able to learn a variety of valuable laboratory skills but also skills such as analyzing data and critical thinking.

Q: Considering your work abroad, and your time at the UA, how do you feel you are becoming prepared for your future career? 

A: My experience at the University of Arizona has prepared me very well for my international research. Classes such as plant systematics have been extremely helpful in developing my plant identification skills as well as teaching how to properly collect specimens. Furthermore, my principal investigator, Mark Beilstein, is an exceptional teacher, role model and friend; he always leads me in the right direction while giving me confidence to solve problems on my own. In my previous research trips abroad, I was accompanied by my principal investigator, but now I feel comfortable traveling and researching on my own.

Q: What are your long-term plans? 

A: After I graduate I hope to pursue my Ph.D. in plant sciences or plant biology. My ultimate goal is to improve plant productivity and provide plant-based solutions to the world's decreasing arable land and water.

Read about other UA students conducting research abroad:

Photos courtesy of A. Dönmez and Zübeyde Uğurlu

Categories: Campus NewsScience and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: StudentsStudent LifeResearchUABack2SchoolByline: University Relations - Communications |Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Monday, August 11, 2014Medium Summary: UA undergraduate researcher Jordan Richard Brock, who has been studying and researching abroad, says that "without practicing what you learn, eventually you will forget." Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: UA student Jordan Richard Brock has been conducting research in Turkey.

Galápagos Hawks Hand Down Lice Like Family Heirlooms, Study Finds

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 14:22

Say what you will about the parasitic lifestyle, but in the game of evolution, it's a winner.

Given that about half of all known species are parasites, biologists have long hypothesized that the strategy of leeching off other organisms is a major driver of biodiversity. Studying populations of Galápagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) and feather lice that live in their plumage (Degeeriella regalis), a group led by University of Arizona ecologists and evolutionary biologists has gathered some of the first field evidence suggesting that a phenomenon called co-divergence between parasites and hosts is indeed an important mechanism driving the evolution of biodiversity.

"The idea is really simple," said the study's lead author, Jennifer Koop, who is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Noah Whiteman in the UA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "Each time a host population splits into separate populations that potentially become different species, we predict that their parasites could do the same thing."

However, biologists have long struggled to test this hypothesis, as parasites are elusive.

"Often, the evolutionary trees of parasites and their hosts are congruent – they look like mirror images of one another," said Whiteman, who is an assistant professor in EEB, a joint assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and the School of Plant Sciences, and a member of the UA's BIO5 Institute. "But because parasites tend to be inside or attached to hosts, their distributions are difficult to study."

"We found the lice are passed on from mother to babies during brooding, almost like genes," Whiteman said. "They're evolutionary heirlooms, like your family's silverware or engagement ring diamond."

Because the hawks pass on the feather lice from generation to generation, the researchers wanted to know whether the louse populations diverge between populations of hawks and between individual hawks, or whether the populations of the birds and the lice diverged independently of each other.

Remarkably, the findings, which are published in the journal Biology Letters of the Royal Society, revealed that the population structure of the lice matched that of the birds across the archipelago, even though the two are very different species.

"To the lice, each bird is an island, and their populations are very different from bird to bird," Whiteman said. "The same pattern is repeated between bird populations on different islands. It's like Russian dolls."

In other words, the lice living on any one bird and its offspring are more closely related than the lice living on a different bird. As the birds diversify into distinct populations on each island, their parasites diversify with them. The findings help explain the rapid rate of parasite evolution, according to the research team.

"You have to be in the right spot at the right time to see this process happening," Koop said. "Our study empirically demonstrates an important evolutionary process in which the hawks separate into different populations, and the lice living on them do the same."

This process is hypothesized to lead to the formation of different species, in this case different species of hawks and lice, and may explain some of the extraordinary diversity seen among parasites, she said.

The team chose the Galápagos Islands, located 575 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, for the study because the species that colonized the geologically young group of islands have evolved in isolation, making the area an ideal natural laboratory.

"Of all the vertebrate species native to the Galápagos, the Galápagos hawk is the most recent arrival," Whiteman said. "So whatever is happening in terms of evolution of the bird population and the parasite population is most likely in the earliest stages of that process."

In four years of fieldwork on eight major islands, the team caught hundreds of Galápagos hawks – which later were released unharmed – and collected blood samples and feather lice for genomic analysis, in a partnership with the Galápagos National Park. Whiteman said the hawks' lice are specialized on their host species and the feathers they consume, and unable to survive on any other species.

Co-authors Karen DeMatteo and Patricia Parker, both at the Department of Biology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, then used the DNA from the samples to generate a genetic fingerprint of each population. Parker helped with the fieldwork.

A better understanding of how parasites and their hosts coevolve has implications for biomedical sciences, according to Whiteman. In addition, it can help researchers who study parasites as evolutionary tags of the host species.

"The fact that we were able to work with these birds, which are the top predators in their habitat, and reveal some answers to fundamental questions in biology shows why such places should continue to be preserved," Whiteman said.

The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Saint Louis Zoo's Field Research for Conservation, the University of Missouri Research Board, the John Templeton Foundation, a UA Faculty Seed Grant to Noah Whiteman and a National Institutes of Health-PERT postdoctoral fellowship to Jennifer Koop.

Writer: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A UA-led study provides some of the first evidence for the hypothesis of co-divergence between parasites and hosts acting as a major driver of biodiversity.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

The UA Named a Top College by The Princeton Review

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 17:35

The Princeton Review has named the University of Arizona one of the best higher education institutions in the nation for undergraduate education.

The UA is included in "The Best 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition," the annual college guide released by The Princeton Review, a Massachusetts-based education services company known for its test-prep courses, tutoring, books and other student resources.

"The UA community takes great pride in being recognized by The Princeton Review," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "We know that our inclusion means that University students are pleased with their overall experience at the UA and see true value in their UA education, whether it's the academic training, career-oriented support or the community aspects of being a Wildcat."

The Princeton Review does not rank the 379 colleges. But it does assign scores between 60 and 99 in several categories. The UA was included in several categories: 96 for sustainability or "green" initiatives; 87 for fire safety; 84 for quality of life; 79 for selectivity; 75 for academics; and 73 for financial aid.

The Princeton Review team relies on a survey of 130,000 students who attend the schools. The 80-question survey asks students to rate their schools on several topics – including the quality of the faculty, library resources, career services, financial aid offerings and social aspects of college – and report on their campus experiences.

"The University of Arizona offers outstanding academics, which is the chief reason we selected it for the book," Rob Franek, the guide's author and The Princeton Review's senior vice president and publisher, said in a prepared statement.

Also based on survey results, UA students reported being "happy" with the institution, saying the UA has "great" career services and lab facilities, while noting the University's "strong commitment to undergraduate research." Students also reported being pleased with campus life and found that the University offers "a place for you to fit in no matter what you want to get out of your college education."

Ultimately, only 15 percent of the nation's four-year colleges – and only four institutions outside of the country – were profiled.

"Every college in our book offers outstanding academics," Franek noted. "These colleges differ significantly in their program offerings, campus culture, locales and cost. Our purpose is not to crown one college 'best' overall or to rank these distinctive schools 1 to 379 on any single topic. We present our 62 ranking lists to give applicants the broader base of campus feedback to choose the college that's best for them."

The Princeton Review's announcement follows the UA's inclusion as a top 100 U.S. institution in Money magazine's "Best Colleges" list. Money also ranked the UA 12th among the top 25 "best colleges you can actually get into."

The Princeton Review considers a variety of factors in its rankings, including student surveys and institutional data from college administrators. The guide includes detailed profiles of each school and ratings in a variety of areas, such as academics, quality of life and financial aid.  

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The UA is included in "The Best 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition." Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Photo Essay: UA Journalism Student Shares Experience Covering Politics in D.C.

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 13:29

I was in the White House for about 20 minutes before the magnitude of where I was really sunk in. That was roughly the difference in time between me walking through the door and U.S. President Barack Obama entering the room I was in with other reporters. 

Amer Taleb (Photo credit: Ken Sterns/UANews)

It was a Medal of Honor ceremony, and I was there to photograph it. The endless rows of chairs were full of soldiers and generals; even the U.S. Secretary of Defense was present. But it was the instant that the room fell silent, and I saw the president, that I began to appreciate just how special this moment was.

The photo of President Obama that accompanies this brief essay is from that event, roughly a year ago. The rest of the images were also taken last year, during my political reporting internship in Washington, D.C. with the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. Every picture has a story behind it, and I can tell you where I was and what was racing through my mind as I aimed the camera and snapped the shutter. All of them carry a very deep, and personal meaning to me.

You may also notice that each image was taken at a political function. Covering politics has played a significant role in my development as a journalist. The power of policymakers and the broad impact of their decisions is a dynamic that has caught my interest since high school.

Heading into the future, whether it be as a reporter or government official, I hope my path is one with a political focus. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be back at a major event in the White House or Capitol Hill. Except this time, instead of being the one taking photos, I'll be on the other side of the lens.

To learn more about Amer Taleb, read: "Remarkable Résumé: UA Student Journalist's Career Includes CNN, NYT Phoenix."



President Barack Obama speaks at the White House during the Medal of Honor ceremony. 

Thousands of people attended the 2013 presidential inauguration.  ​

Chelsea Clinton speaks in Washington, D.C., during the National Day of Service. 

Chuck Hagel, the U.S. secretary of defense, during a confirmation hearing.  ​

Leon Panetta (left), former director of the CIA, and Clint Romesha (right), former U.S. Army staff sergeant, at the Medal of Honor ceremony at the Pentagon.

Plaintiffs after Proposition 8 oral arguments at the Supreme Court.  View from the Supreme Court after Defense of Marriage Act oral arguments.  

Veiw from the Supreme Court after DOMA oral arguments.

Photography Credit: Amer Taleb

Categories: Teaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: StudentStudent LifeEducationGuest PostByline: University RelationsEditor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Monday, August 18, 2014Medium Summary: Amer Taleb, an award winning UA student journalist, has worked with numerous news organization. In the future, he hopes to work for a reporter or government official. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA journalism student Amer Taleb covered the landmark DOMA and Prop 8 arguments.

Longtime Band Leader Jay Rees Returning to Alma Mater

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 14:11

When Jay Rees began directing the Pride of Arizona Marching and Pep Bands – having just completed his graduate studies at the University of Arizona – he had a revolutionary idea that would drastically change the band's identity, bringing it international fame.

The idea was unconventional: introduce more rigorous demands to professionalize the student experience, and infuse the band's traditional, somewhat militaristic feel with popular and alternative music. It was a risk to build custom arrangements around music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, the Talking Heads and others, and Rees withstood backlash from colleagues across the nation and, at times, his own students.

But as Rees leaving the UA and now heading up University of Miami's marching band, reflections on his nearly 20-year tenure illustrate an unyielding pride in having transformed the band from its purely traditional college marching band to one know for its innovation. 

"People thought I was crazy. A lot of people didn't understand bringing this kind of music into this setting," he recalled.

"But who wants to do what others are doing. It's not challenging and it's not engaging," said Rees, who had directed the band since 1995 and also taught at the UA School of Music. "Now, when people talk about the Pride of Arizona they talk about it because it is unique and it has an identity. And I'm very proud that bands are now playing more unusual music. That wasn't happening in 1995."

Allison Howard, a UA alumna and assistant director of bands, will serve as the interim director while a national search is conducted to find Rees' successor.

Rees, the second-longest-serving band director in UA history, also took his passion and energy to the classroom, where he taught music education, jazz studies and a course in leadership.

"Jay Rees is focused and exigent as a professor, and he trained music education students in his philosophy, procedures and materials and sent them out to build on his work," said Rex Woods, the UA School of Music director 

"He builds an esprit de corps and uses well-timed humor and is in tune with the musical preferences of young people, using that awareness to identify direct entry points for learning," Woods said.

"He expects much of himself and inspires his students to dedicate themselves to excellence that they themselves can measure. Student motivation quickly becomes intrinsic because progress, individual and collective, is vividly evident. He has left a lasting mark on the Pride of Arizona and a challenge to continue to excel."

Rees often involved students in community-based service, believing they were representatives of the UA and state and had a responsibility to connect with the community. Among his students, given his sharp leadership style and open communication, Rees gained a reputation for being equally hard-edged, compassionate and genuine.

"He instilled in us a sense of teamwork and a never-ending desire to reach our highest potential," said UA alumna Karin K. Nolan, who served as a Pride of Arizona baritone and tuba player.

"In an age where 'good enough' sometimes passes, Rees taught us to go back and do it again until it 'can't get any better,'" said Nolan, now the coordinator of field experiences for the UA College of Fine Arts.

Rees, who said he especially loves teaching college students, refused to accept average performance. He worked with his students to reach their potential, holding them accountable for their missteps, often unapologetically.

Rees' efforts to build "a culture of uncommon discipline" within the marching band is chronicled in "Marching Bands and Drumlines: Secrets of Success from the Best of the Best," published in 2009.

"It is my job to push the student, or drag them kicking and screaming, into professionalism. I don't want them to just get a job. I want them to do something they are amazing at doing. I want them to be energized to be great," Rees said.

"I am always honest, and sometimes people don't want that," he said. "But when I tell them, 'That was wonderful,' then that means something."

Lindsay McDonald Johnson, a former Pride of Arizona member who completed a UA nursing degree in 2008, said it was through Rees' teachings that she was able to expand her capacity for hard work, dedication and meeting high expectations.

"One might wonder how a music professor could teach a cardiovascular nurse anything relevant in health care. But throughout my time as a student, a staff member, and a friend, I have not had a mentor quite like professor Jay C. Rees," said Johnson, now a cardiovascular critical care nurse at the University of Arizona Medical Center.

His passion included excitement and heated exchanges at rehearsals and performances alike, Johnson said.

"He holds no emotion back," Johnson said. "Through this, he has formed a unique connection with each of his students and demonstrates what it means to be a leader. He has taught me that if I’m going to do something, I should do it well and care about it. He's a pretty powerful teacher."

UA alumna Kelsi Sullivan, who was involved with the band beginning in 2010 before graduating in 2014, also recalled his excitment, remembering one of the band's performances during her freshman year.

"He was jumping and screaming and slapping the railing, his ponytail becoming undone from pure excitement," Sullivan said. "He is so passionate about everything that he does that sometimes he cannot physically handle how amazing his masterpiece is when it comes to life."

While moving to Miami was a homecoming for Rees – the University of Miami is his alma mater – many said he would be terribly missed in Arizona.

"The mark he has made on students, faculty and music lovers connected with the UA will resonate in the halls of the School of Music for years to come," said UA alumnus Dan Kruse, senior radio announcer for Arizona Public Media. Kruse worked directly with Rees while serving as a percussionist with the UA Wind Symphony.

"Working in the Wind Symphony, I learned a great deal – not only about how to perform the particular piece of music placed before us on a given day – but also about the composer’s intent, the deeper meanings of the music itself, and the tools that were at our disposal to bring those meanings forth," Kruse said. "When that happens, truly happens, the result is a musical experience that is enriching to both the performers and audience members, on a profound and deeply rewarding level."

Jane McCollum, general manager for the Marshall Foundation, meet Rees about 20 years ago while organizing a fundraiser for the UA Bands. The performance gave her goose bumps, she said.

"I still get goose bumps today when I hear the Pride at Bear Down Fridays and in Arizona Stadium," McCollum said.

"When I hear the booming voice of Jay during band camp, I know that students' and other’s lives will be changed forever by this brilliant composer, arranger, choreographer, mentor, teacher, community servant, musician and friend," she said. "Mine has. I will miss that voice. I will miss my friend."

Rees and the band also drew attention for their musical efforts outside the UA.

In 2009, the College Band Directors National Association named the band, which has released a number of CDs and has appeared on the Today's Show and Fox Sports, among the top five in the nation. That was the same year Rees established Sylvan Street, a Jazz group.

In 2006, Pride of Arizona performed a Radiohead set, which drew the attention of The Guardian and the band's singer, Thom Yorke.

In 2001, Rees choreographed about 10,000 citizens into a "live human flag" after Sept. 11. The memorial aired on CNN and was featured in Sports Illustrated.

Although Rees and his wife, Wendy, have moved to Miami, they remain connected to Arizona. Their eldest son is attending Arizona State University and their younger son, who begins his freshman year at the UA this fall, will be a Pride of Arizona member.

Rees' influence will also be evident at Arizona Stadium: He completed arrangements for the 2014-2015 season focusing on the music of Daft Punk, which came at the suggestion of several of his current and former students.

"I love all these student so much, and I want them to be the best ever," Rees said. "I always want to create an environment of excellence and unique talent. And if I have a legacy, it's about the students and the experiences they had."

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesWriter: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

Former students and fans shared their appreciation of Jay Rees in "A Tribute to Outgoing Pride of Arizona Band Director, Jay Rees," featured on the UA blog.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Jay Rees is leaving the UA after nearly two decades directing the UA's nationally recognized Pride of Arizona marching band.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Support for UA Native American Grad Students Gets Boost With $2.4M Grant

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 11:47

In a multimillion dollar effort to increase the number of Native American students in graduate programs, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is continuing funding of a program founded at the University of Arizona. 

The Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership will have its funding renewed for three years, enabling the UA and its partner institutions – the University of Alaska at Anchorage and Fairbanks, the Montana University System and Purdue University – to bolster efforts to recruit, retain and graduate Native Americans, specifically in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM disciplines.

"As we know, STEM education has taken off mostly due to the fact that, as a nation, we want to be competitive in the global arena," said Karen Francis-Begay, UA assistant vice president for tribal relations. "Knowing that we've had very little diversity in the STEM fields, it make sense to invest resources and dollars in targeting students who would be up-and-coming scholars in STEM."

"Knowing that we've had very little diversity in the STEM fields, it make sense to invest resources and dollars in targeting students who would be up-and-coming scholars in STEM."

The majority of the newly awarded $2.4 million will go directly to students in the form of stipends, providing support to an estimated 59 students in master's programs and 20 students pursing doctorates. Of those, the UA expects to have 15 master's students and six doctoral students, said Maria Teresa Velez, associate dean of the Graduate College, who wrote the intial grant for the program in 2003.

The money also will be used by the UA and the three other institutions – all of which adopted the UA program in 2005 after it began at the UA – to launch a national network to connect the Sloan scholars with one another at least monthly while also addressing the unique challenges they face, particularly associated with cultural and social isolation after leaving their home communities, Velez said.

"We will be bringing them together as a community – a network of friends who are pursuing similar goals," said Velez, who leads the Arizona Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership program. "That will help them to be a great social support for one another."

According to the Sloan Foundation, American Indians and Alaska Natives make up 1.2 percent of the U.S. population but earned just 0.3 percent of all doctorates in 2012, a decline from the 0.5 percent earned 20 years prior. 

"When it comes to meeting the needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students, Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Purdue are truly exemplary programs," Elizabeth S. Boylan, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's program director, said in a prepared release. "Now they're coming together to forge new opportunities and expand their already measurable impact." 

Francis-Begay noted that many Sloan scholars return to work for their tribal nations. Others work with organizations and companies, mostly around environmental issues.

"This investment is significant to tribes' abilities to strengthen their sovereignty, especially when they are up against challenges like growth and economic development within their nations," Francis-Begay said.

The UA has a strong track record of enrolling and graduating Native American students at the baccalaureate, master's and doctoral levels, Velez noted. More than 700 undergraduates and about 200 graduate and professional American Indian students attend the UA, she said, adding that the Survey of Earned Doctorates shows the UA leading the nation in the number of American Indian students graduating with doctoral degrees.

To date, the UA's Sloan program has graduated 40 students with master's degrees and 13 with doctoral degrees, Velez said.

One of the graduates is Nazune Menka (Athabascan/Lumbee), who is interested in doing consulting work around environmental policy, specifically as it relates to tribal issues.

Having already conducted environmental research in New Zealand and Norway, she plans to work in environmental law nationally and internationally.

Menka's interest is rooted in the environmental changes she has witnessed since her youth. Menka recalls her family members surviving on the fish they caught when she was growing up in Anchorage during the 1970s.

The sharp contrast between food access during her youth and the current environmental conditions become evident during an Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals conference she attended. It was during that conference that elders spoke about a notable shift in the ice season and increases in fish mercury levels. Also, the ice season shift was creating hazardous conditions for humans, she said.

"It wasn't safe to walk on the ice during times when it should have been, and there were deaths," Menka said. "The elders were speaking, and they were crying. I've never seen any elders cry in a professional setting. It really impacted me. I knew that we had to ask questions nobody was asking – that if we didn't do this for ourselves, the likelihood of someone else coming in and demanding solutions was really small."

Having earned her master's degree in environmental science from the UA in May, Menka will begin pursuing a law degree at the University of Hawaii this fall.

For now, she is interning with the Department of Energy in Colorado, where she is monitoring water levels and contaminants in drinking water around mills and mining sites.

"I'm thankful for Sloan. The program has been extremely instrumental in everything I did in graduate school and up to this point, and I appreciate Dr. Velez's support and feel camaraderie with her," Menka said. "Sloan was definitely a game changer for me," Menka said. "I'm happy to move in to this next step in my career having had this opportunity."

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesWriter: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The money will be used to support American Indian and Alaska Native students pursuing graduate degrees and the UA and three partner schools.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Photo Essay: UA Training the Next Generation of STEM Specialists

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:40

This summer, 45 high school students from Tucson, Tuba City, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Nogales took part in an innovative University of Arizona program called KEYS – Keep Engaging Youth in Science. During the seven-week immersion program, the students served as interns alongside faculty members, postdoctoral students and graduate students in various UA laboratories.

Monica Schmidt, an assistant professor in the School of Plant Sciences, supports KEYS intern Melisa Bohlman. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

The program is one example of the UA's focus on accelerating student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM fields. During the program, the student interns were trained in bioscience techniques and communication skills, and performed hands-on scientific laboratory research. The KEYS students earned three UA academic credits for their efforts. 

"KEYS is designed to reflect one of the University's primary outreach initiatives: to create pre-college opportunities that attract and retain the best and brightest students to the UA," said Dr. Fernando Martinez, director of the BIO5 Institute at the UA.

Ted Trouard, an associate professor of biomedical engineering, (left) with lab mentor Mike Valdez and Brian Liu, a KEYS intern. (Photo credit: Mark Thaler from Biomedical Communications)

The program is co-directed by staff at BIO5 and the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center at the UA College of Pharmacy. It relies on financial support from foundation, corporate and UA sponsorships, as well as contributions from individual donors. Program leaders are currently working to build an endowment to enhance student support under the program.

The program came to a close Friday with the KEYS Research Showcase, where students presented their work to members of their scientific communities, their families and the general public.

"They've learned how to ask questions, develop leadership skills and succeed in a college environment," Kimberly Andrews Espy, UA senior vice president for research, said during Friday's program.

"Programs like KEYS are developed to create a pre-college pipeline for our state's best and brightest students to experience the best and brightest of what the UA has to offer," Espy said, adding that the program's long-term goal is to improve diversity in STEM-related fields. 

KEYS intern Mateo Mahoney presents his research on medical devices during the program's research showcase. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

Since the program began in 2007, more than 90 UA faculty members have mentored 233 interns, with more than half of the students from backgrounds underrepresented in science careers. Among all KEYS alumni, 78 are still high school students and 155 have gone on to pursue higher education.

"These statistics are important to the UA, important to our state, and important as we look to build our next generation of scientists in order to solve many of the grand biological challenges that lie ahead," Espy said.

Espy said the program also aligns with the UA's "Never Settle" strategic plan. Of note, students gain real-life laboratory experiences, which help them in degree and career choices, Espy said. KEYS also serves as a mentorship opportunity for undergraduates and graduate and postdoctoral students – and students often return to volunteer in UA labs after the KEYS internship ends.

KEYS intern Samantha Andrade (left) speaks with Serrine Lau, director of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center. Andrade works directly with UA researcher Terrence Monks, who shares a lab space and collaborates closely with Lau. (Photo credit: Jeb Zirato from Biomedical Communications)

KEYS enables pre-college students to contribute to ongoing, innovative research at the UA. "They bring an open and enthusiastic perspective and offer fresh ideas that research mentors often apply," she said.

To date, 87 KEYS interns have chosen to attend the UA, with 18 set to enter the University as freshmen this fall. While the majority of students pursue degrees in STEM, some choose to study in programs such as pharmacy and business.
"The top KEYS programmatic goal is to give students real-world experiences that spark scientific curiosity and discovery, which can play a huge role in helping them decide whether to pursue science careers," said Serrine Lau, director of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center.

Dozens of KEYS interns have earned recognition as well as competitive scholarships, including the Wildcat Excellence Award, National Merit Scholarships and Flinn Scholarships.
"I believe that programs like KEYS highlight the very best of the UA in terms of experiential learning opportunities," said Rick Myers, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents and a staunch advocate of the UA program. "Top-performing students from diverse backgrounds who are able to spend quality time on campus and work in laboratories with our world-class researchers while still in high school are far more likely to be excited about returning as undergraduates."

All photos courtesy of Biomedical Communications and the BIO5 Institute at the UA

Contacts: Lisa Romero of the UA BIO5 Institute at 520-626-9598 or; Karin Lorentzen of the UA College of Pharmacy at 520-626-3725 or

Below are images of students working in UA laboratories with principle investigators and lab mentors, and also presenting their work during the KEYS Research Showcase:

UA professor and biomedical engineer Jennifer Barton (left) with lab mentor Weston Welge and KEYS intern Olivia Austin. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

David Cai, a KEYS intern, presents his research during the recent showcase. KEYS affiliates believe that the ability to communicate science to a non-science audience is an important and valuable skill, so KEYS students participate in weekly workshops and also discuss and present their research. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

Lab mentor and KEYS Crew member Yurika Isoe and KEYS intern Jazmin Greyeyes work in the Miesfeld Lab, one centered on studying blood meal metabolism in mosquitoes. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

The 7-week KEYS Internship program is a unique summer opportunity for high school students who have an interest in bioscience, engineering, environmental health or biostatistics.

KEYS interns learn laboratory techniques, practice reading scientific literature, communicate about science and work to improve presentation and writing skills.

KEYS interns learn about cutting edge research at the UA and STEM careers.

KEYS intern Melisa Bohlman presents during the program's poster session, held at the end of the program. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

KEYS interns work 40 hours a week in UA research laboratories.

Lab mentor Vicki Chu (left) works with KEYS intern Venecia Yazzie. (Photo credit: Chad Westover from Biomedical Communications)

Categories: Science and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: ScienceEducationOutreachStudentsFacultyStaffByline: University Relations - Communications |UANow Image: Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Tuesday, July 22, 2014Medium Summary: Aligned with nationwide attention on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the UA's KEYS program is designed to prepare high school students, most from backgrounds underrepresented in science careers, into STEM. Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: Where are the future scientists? At the UA.