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UA Creates Accessible, Study-Abroad Geosciences Course

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 8:34pm
Extra Info: 

Accessible Earth will be taught in English to juniors, seniors and graduate students. Both UA and non-UA students are invited to apply. The application deadline for summer 2016 is Feb. 15, 2016.

Course requirements: 2.5 GPA | Laptop or notebook and digital camera

What’s included in the tuition and fees: housing, excursions, in-country transportation, insurance and course materials

Accessible Earth Program:

Related websites:

UA Department of Geosciences

UA Disability Resource Center

UA Student Abroad

UA Office of Student Engagement

International Association for Geoscience Diversity

Story Contacts: 

Researcher contact:

Richard Bennett

UA Department of Geosciences



Diedre Lamb

UA Disability Resource Center



Media contact:

Alicia Saposnik

UA Department of Geosciences


The geosciences capstone field course will be based in Italy and serve juniors, seniors and graduate students starting next summer.

Accessible Earth, the first course of its kind, will make earth sciences more accessible to students with and without disabilities and provide international research experience.

The University of Arizona course is designed to satisfy a key requirement for many geosciences bachelor’s programs: a capstone field course, often called "field camp." Such courses typically involve physical work in difficult terrain: an insurmountable barrier for many students, particularly those with disabilities, said Richard Bennett, UA professor of geosciences and the lead instructor for Accessible Earth.

Diedre Lamb, senior access consultant with the UA Disability Resource Center, said, "This is an exciting collaboration, because it’s an opportunity to create something for students who might have otherwise thought geosciences were not a possible career path."

Starting in the summer of 2016, Accessible Earth will be based in Orvieto, Italy, and will serve 10 to 20 juniors, seniors and graduate students. The location was chosen for its geologic and cultural history and to help provide all students with the academic and social benefits unique to study-abroad experiences.

"In developing this geoscience study abroad we critically assessed the curriculum, the physical environment and living arrangements in Orvieto — and even the software — to ensure as many disability-related barriers have been eliminated as possible," said Lamb, who is also an Accessible Earth instructional assistant.

Learning about earth processes by collecting rocks and studying geological formations is still a crucial part of geosciences. However, technology such as satellites permits some earth sciences research to be done solely by analyzing data with a computer.

"With modern Internet and remote sensing technologies," Bennett said, "anyone can download data and make substantial contributions to our understanding of the Earth system from just about anywhere using a common laptop computer. There are literally petabytes of data out there just waiting to be analyzed and interpreted."

Remote sensing is the practice of taking observations from a distance, usually by satellite, but also from drones, airplanes, balloons and even ground-based instruments.

Accessible Earth will extend the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, curriculum by introducing students to these new methods for conducting earth sciences research. 

"This isn't your parents' geology," said professor Peter W. Reiners, head of the UA Department of Geosciences. "This is bringing some of the most exciting new technological developments to bear on some of the most critical and dynamic aspects of the Earth system and training our students in state-of-the-art computation and interpretations. It's changing how we do earth science and addressing some of the grandest challenges facing the planet."

This new inclusive study-abroad program was developed by the Department of Geosciences, the Disability Resource Center and the UA Study Abroad & Student Exchange.

Christopher Atchison, executive director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity and an assistant professor of geoscience education at the University of Cincinnati, said, "This program is a perfect example of cross-disciplinary experts working together to develop an innovative opportunity that focuses on what students can do, rather than any disabilities. Learning experiences such as this will continue to pave the way for the future development of inclusive geoscience instruction in classrooms, laboratories and field-based learning environments."

Accessible Earth contributes to the UA’s 100% Engagement initiative, which promises all undergraduate students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field before they graduate.

"The Accessible Earth program is a welcomed addition to our campus," said Vincent Del Casino, UA vice provost of digital learning and student engagement. "What is so exciting about the program is that it combines study abroad with the application of scientific methodologies. Students are both immersed in the culture of another place and in the everyday skills of scientific inquiry."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyAlicia SaposnikOctober 16, 2015UA Department of Geosciences

Findings May Lead to Next Semiconductors

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 3:41pm
UA scientists see promise in a unique family of materials that could replace silicon in everyday electronic devices.

Smack in the middle of Brian J. LeRoy’s office floor lies an idle air-hockey table and the box it arrived in. A user's manual is strewn to one side. The table, as it turns out, is an experiment gone awry, for now at least. LeRoy was hoping to use it in a physics lab to teach undergraduates about collisions.

But another experiment in LeRoy’s lab, one involving a family of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, or TMDs, is going quite well.

Based on optical, or laser-based, experiments, researchers long have suspected that TMDs could one day replace silicon in everyday electronic devices. But LeRoy, an associate professor of physics at the University of Arizona, and his collaborators have gathered the first electronic-based evidence confirming what the optical evidence already suggested. The results were published last month in Physical Review Letters.

These materials have been classified optically quite well, using lasers, says Matthew Yankowitz, a graduate student in the UA Department of Physics and a member of LeRoy’s lab.

"The optical way doesn’t tell you what will happen in real devices," Yankowitz says. "But we’ve characterized these materials with a direct electrical probe, and for device purposes that’s most relevant because that’s how they’ll be operated."

Thanks to its abundance, low cost and electronic properties, silicon is now the semiconductor of choice when it comes to electronic devices. But scientists are searching for even better semiconductors, ones that are two-dimensional, structurally flexible, more energy efficient and nearly transparent, meaning that devices could process information faster, have longer battery life and be used in touch screens.

As it turns out, TMDs may fit that profile. Currently, LeRoy and his colleagues are focusing their research on one TMD in particular — tungsten diselenide, or WSe2.

It should be noted that in the 1970s, researchers focused their attention on TMDs, but only in their three-dimensional form. Recently, though, scientists found that semiconductors can take on a two-dimensional state, and that includes WSe2. As a result, interest has surged in TMDs as semiconductors.

"Interestingly, current research on TMDs was sparked by the discovery of graphene, a one-atom layer of graphite," says LeRoy, gesturing toward a thumb-size glass bottle of shimmery gray graphite flakes resting on his desk.

"Historically, people thought it was impossible to make monolayers of graphene," Yankowitz says. "The fact that it even exists was a huge revelation. Its electronic properties are really out of this world. It’s the most conductive material we know of. It’s defect free, flexible and nearly transparent."

So, why hasn’t graphene taken over the world yet?

"The problem is that graphene is intrinsically metallic," Yankowitz says. "So, no matter what you do, there’s always current flowing through the material. But silicon is a semiconductor, so at some energies there’s current flowing, and at other energies there’s no current flowing."

Instead, the traits of semiconductors in two-dimensional materials are what researchers such as LeRoy and Yankowitz are after.

"Now the idea is to find out how to exploit these materials’ unique properties for application in all sorts of devices," LeRoy says.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyRobin TricolesOctober 22, 2015University Relations - Communications

UA Law Adds Native Nation Building Degree Program

Fri, 10/16/2015 - 3:15pm
The program is offered by the James E. Rogers College of Law and Native Nations Institute.

Two of the University of Arizona's internationally recognized programs focused on serving the higher educational needs of indigenous peoples have teamed up to offer a new certificate and master's degree in indigenous governance, law and policy.

This new programing, offered by the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the James E. Rogers College of Law and the Native Nations Institute at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, allows students to earn University credits and builds substantially on the executive education program the partners have offered since 2012.

The UA's Indigenous Governance Programs, or IGP, are designed to provide the latest research, knowledge and expertise in the emerging field of indigenous governance to indigenous leaders, frontline administrators, tribal attorneys, government policymakers, academics and others interested in master's-level executive education.

Taught by a renowned faculty of leading scholars, experts and practitioners in the fields of Native nation building and indigenous peoples law and policy, the IGP offerings now include a six-unit, non-degree Continuing Education Certificate, which does not require an undergraduate degree; a 12-credit Professional Studies Certificate; and a 30-credit Masters of Professional Studies degree in indigenous governance. Separate enrollment in one or more courses is permitted. By combining intensive live classes with distance learning options, the IGP certificates and master's degree maximize student flexibility in pursuit of an individualized study plan.

A special three-week session called "January in Tucson" is the centerpiece of the IGP, offering students a unique set of opportunities to learn and to forge meaningful connections with internationally recognized faculty and their fellow students. Among the courses to be offered in January 2016 are:

  • Indigenous Peoples' Rights Under International Law, taught by James Anaya, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Regents' and James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights and Policy at the UA
  • Law, Policy, and Economic Development in Indian Country, the definitive course on Native nation building, taught by Joseph Kalt, one of the scholars whose groundbreaking research produced the nation building principles, and the Ford Foundation Professor Emeritus of International Political Economy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government
  • Comparative Legal Systems and Their Role in Nation Building, taught by Robert A. Williams, Jr., the E. Thomas Sullivan Professor of Law at the UA, and author of "Savage Anxieties: The Invention of Western Civilization"
  • Comparative Indigenous Governance, co-taught by Stephen Cornell, director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, UA professor of sociology and co-founder of the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development
  • Evidence for Indigenous Governance Principles, taught by Miriam Jorgensen, research director for both the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and the Native Nations Institute at the UA and editor of the seminal book "Rebuilding Native Nations: Strategies for Governance and Development"
  • Native Economic Development, co-taught by Jorgensen and Joan Timeche, executive director of the Native Nations Institute and a former director of Arizona Native American Economic Coalition
  • IGP also will offer distance-learning courses, internship opportunities, a thesis option and supervised independent study, all for credit toward certificates or a master's degree in indigenous governance.

The faculty members have worked with Native nations and indigenous communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Africa and Asia and are uniquely qualified, said Ryan Seelau, manager of the Indigenous Governance Programs. 

Seelau said: "Professors Kalt and Cornell are the unquestioned leaders in the field of Native nation building; Professor Williams is a leading legal scholar who literally wrote the book on federal Indian law and has been instrumental in bringing the principles of Native nation building into the legal context; and Professor Anaya is a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who is recognized around the world for his work on Indigenous peoples' human rights. Miriam Jorgensen is widely known for her research on how the principles of Native nation building can be used to strengthen meaningful self-determination and sustainable economic and community development for indigenous peoples and their communities."

Seelau also noted the unique setting offered by IGP's "January in Tucson" session.

"Tucson is in the heart of Indian Country here in the desert Southwest," he said. 

IGP courses will be offered for continuing legal education credits for attorneys interested in attending the "January in Tucson" session. A few scholarship stipends based on financial need are available for individuals interested in any of the programmatic areas.
For more information about the Indigenous Governance Programs, including how to apply, visit or send an email to

Category(s): Business and LawOctober 16, 2015UA James E. Rogers College of Law

Computational Skills Key for Research

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 6:31pm
Story Contacts: 

Lisa Romero

BIO5 Institute


At UA-led workshops, researchers, students and educators across Arizona hone the skills needed to meld big data and scientific outcomes.

To advance science today, researchers must not only be experts in their field, they must also be able to use computing to analyze, interpret and share data. Because most scientists were not formally trained in computational processes, they must learn the skills necessary to quickly, efficiently and reliably process data sets and analyses.

In answer to this need, the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute and iPlant Collaborative have teamed up to host a series of Software Carpentry workshops, offering instruction to researchers, students and educators across Arizona that will help them to hone their computing skills. At the same time, the organizations are aiming to increase the number of trainers able to provide instruction in managing big data.

Uwe Hilgert, director of STEM training for BIO5 and iPlant, envisioned these workshops as an opportunity to "bring together already existing computational strengths and collaborations at the UA." Hilgert has seen how important it is that researchers be empowered with the ability to utilize big data to further scientific goals.

The first workshop, held in February, proved to be a huge success. The two-day session attracted more than 50 participants hailing from all three of Arizona’s public universities and a wide range of disciplines, including biosciences, management information systems, computer sciences, engineering, physics and statistics.

The most recent workshop was held at the UA on Oct. 3 and 4, with nearly twice as many registrants. Instructors included attendees of previous workshops from the UA’s School of Plant Sciences and iPlant. Cutting-edge software and infrastructure support for complex data sequencing and cloud computing developed by iPlant and University Information Technology Services are used extensively in the training.

"We want the attendees to walk away with a sense of how different software-related technologies can, and do, fit together," said Jonathan Strootman, an iPlant software developer and workshop instructor. "We can't teach them everything we know in two days, but we can remove enough of the mystery to help them get started."

Attendees were led through basic programming and data management skills, and they were trained to work with the software that will allow them to efficiently handle large data sets.

"This training has better positioned me to make full use of R-programming and the iPlant cloud to better manage my data, analyses and figures to deliver higher-impact science in tree-ring research," said workshop participant Paul Szejner of the UA’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

Without the need to outsource, researchers are given more control over their work, the interpretation of their findings and how to better share this to maximize collaborative impact. These skills traditionally weren't needed for researchers. However, as science moves fully into the Digital Age, knowing how to handle data and computational analyses becomes imperative.

The Software Carpentry workshop also was supported by the Arizona Environmental Grid Infrastructure Service, a statewide Arizona initiative to provision the transition to informatics-intensive research programs, funded by a Regents’ Innovation Award to the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

Founded in 1998, Software Carpentry hosts brief, intensive workshops geared toward researchers in science, engineering, medicine and related fields, covering skills including program design, version control, testing and task automation.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyOctober 15, 2015BIO5 Institute

UA Geoscientist Awarded Packard Fellowship

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 4:19pm
Extra Info: 

For the complete list of the UA's Packard Fellows:

Story Contacts: 

Jessica Tierney

UA Department of Geosciences



Peter Reiners

UA Department of Geosciences


Paleoclimatologist Jessica Tierney, one of only 18 awardees this year, will receive a research grant of $875,000 over five years.

Jessica Tierney, a University of Arizona associate professor of geosciences, has been awarded one of this year’s prestigious Packard Science and Engineering Fellowships.

One of only 18 such awardees this year, she will receive a grant of $875,000 over five years to pursue her research.

"I’m extremely delighted and honored to receive this award," Tierney said. "This award will facilitate new directions in my research."

Tierney is a paleoclimatologist who uses the Earth's history to gain perspective on past and future climate change. Her research uses paleoclimate data to assess the ability of computer climate models to simulate changing climates. Recently, she led research showing that the Horn of Africa has become increasingly arid in sync with the global and regional warming of the last century and at a rate unprecedented in the last 2,000 years. 

"As CO2 levels in the atmosphere exceed 400 parts per million for the first time in 4 million years, humanity faces the challenge of adapting to a climate unfamiliar to our species," Tierney wrote in her fellowship application. "The need to understand how the Earth's climate responds to higher levels of greenhouse gases has never been more pressing."

Tierney is the first member of the UA’s Department of Geosciences to be awarded a Packard Fellowship and the ninth UA faculty member to receive the award. She is the only UA Packard Fellow for 2015.

"Jess's Packard Fellowship is a great reflection of the importance and potential of Jess's work," said Peter Reiners, head of the UA geosciences department. "She's combining cutting-edge chemistry, statistics and geology to understand paleoclimate and a huge range of other past environmental secrets. The kinds of things she's developing and doing have huge potential in a wide range of geosciences."

Said Tierney: "To know where we’re headed in the future, we have to know what happened in the past. This is why studying paleoclimate is so important. The only way we can really understand the full range of the variability of the Earth’s climate system is to study the geological record to see how the climate has changed."

Each year, the Packard Foundation invites the presidents of 50 universities to nominate two early-career professors. Packard Fellows must be faculty members who are eligible to serve as principal investigators on research in the natural and physical sciences or engineering, and they must be within the first three years of their faculty careers.

The foundation established the fellowships program in 1988 to provide early-career scientists with flexible funding and the freedom to take risks and explore new frontiers in their fields.

The fellowships program was inspired by David Packard’s commitment to strengthen university-based science and engineering programs in the United States, recognizing that the success of the Hewlett-Packard Co., which he cofounded, was derived in large measure from research and development in university laboratories.

Category(s): Science and TechnologyOctober 15, 2015UA College of Science

Marshall Scholarships to Aid H.S. Scientists

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 2:59pm
Story Contacts: 

Nadja Anderson

UA College of Science


A dual-enrollment program at the UA, in its fourth year, has received a boost and will be able to offer an additional 60 grants in the spring.

An additional 60 students from Pima County high schools will be able to enroll next spring in two dual-enrollment classes in molecular and cellular biology offered by the University of Arizona, thanks to new, need-based scholarships underwritten by the Marshall Foundation.

The dual-enrollment program in biology, in its fourth year and modeled after a similar program in the UA’s engineering college, had 174 students last year and awarded scholarships to 54.

"This will be the first year that we can really offer the college credit to any student who wants it," said Nadja Anderson, BIOTECH Project director at the UA and a member of the BIO5 Institute. "Through the generosity of the Marshall Foundation, we can really help Tucson students.

"At all schools, we have kids who can’t afford this program," Anderson said. "I don’t think we’ll have any problem distributing the scholarships."

To qualify, students must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, have academic standing of "A" or "B," and compose an essay of 200 to 400 words.

The dual-enrollment classes, MCB101 and MCB102, are designed to introduce high school students to the UA College of Science. A dozen Tucson-area high schools are offering MCB101 and MCB102 dual enrollment. The teachers of those classes have participated in training with the BIOTECH Project, developed by the UA to provide technical support for hands-on teaching of biotechnology. 

MCB101 explores careers in biotechnology, history and applications of recombinant DNA technology and the human genome project, laboratory safety practices, and general biotechnology techniques. MCB102 allows students to perfect biotechnology techniques, learn to read research papers and conduct an independent research project to be presented at the Southern Arizona Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

Students in both courses are exposed to cutting-edge UA research, and many of them interact with UA research faculty and graduate students on their independent projects. They receive both high school and college credit upon satisfactory completion.

For more information about the dual-enrollment program, go to

Category(s): Science and TechnologyOctober 15, 2015University Relations – Communications

UA Pharmaceutical Startup Awarded Grant

Thu, 10/15/2015 - 12:54pm
Story Contacts: 

Paul Tumarkin

Tech Launch Arizona


The turmeric-based anti-inflammatory TAI-LCx, seen as a possible replacement for NSAIDs, takes another step toward the marketplace.

Botanisol, a University of Arizona startup company, has been awarded a grant totaling nearly $225,000 to develop a new anti-inflammatory drug, TAI-LCx.

The company was based on technology developed in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UA College of Pharmacy and the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine in the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. The grant, from the National Institutes of Health and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, was given under the Federal STTR, or Small Business Technology Transfer, program.

The novel drug represents a possible replacement for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Current NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, are used to treat a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, but research has linked the drugs to bleeding ulcers, kidney problems, stroke and heart attacks, with patients older than 65 experiencing elevated risk. 

TAI-LCx originally was developed by Barbara Timmermann, former Regents' Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the UA and current Distinguished Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Kansas, and Clark Lantz, UA professor of cellular and molecular medicine, and their colleagues. The compound is a highly specific constituent derived from the essential oils of turmeric; it is not curcumin or a derivative thereof.

Early published research has shown the drug to be a promising treatment for inflammation and inflammatory pain that utilizes a pathway different from NSAIDs to achieve safer treatment results. Current NSAIDs overuse has resulted in warnings from the FDA.

The competitive grant will fully fund three stages of TAI-LCx development, and it represents a milestone for the company, according to its CEO and co-founder, P. Scott Waterhouse.

"TAI-LCx is a promising discovery because the research has shown that it reduces inflammation without affecting the COX-2 (cyclooxygenase) enzyme," Waterhouse says. COX-2 mediation is directly linked to the known cardiovascular adverse effects of NSAIDs.

The novel TAI-LCx compound was discovered at the UA as the result of an NIH-supported research program. Through Tech Launch Arizona, the unit of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from University research, the UA sought protection for and patented the technology, and licensed it exclusively to Botanisol.

Tod McCauley, the Tech Launch Arizona licensing manager working with Botanisol’s TAI-LCx technology, said, "We are excited to see Botanisol’s tremendous developmental efforts being recognized by the NIH’s Small Business Technology Transfer program with funding that is critical to the commercial advancement of TAI-LCx."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyPaul TumarkinOctober 15, 2015Tech Launch Arizona

An Infestation of 'Ear Worms'

Wed, 10/14/2015 - 12:55pm
October 14, 2015 Ear Worms Infest Tucson Playground Video of Ear Worms Infest Tucson Playground

They are called "ear worms," and a team of researchers at the University of Arizona is investigating what makes them stick.

We've all experienced it: a tune stuck in our head that we just can't seem to shake. Maybe it's a catchy commercial jingle, or that last Top 40 hit you heard on the radio.

Dan Kruse, Andrew Lotto and Dan Traut launched the Arizona Ear Worm Project in an effort to better understand the ear worm phenomenon, using a combination of cognitive science, music theory and people's reported experiences with such "sticky" songs. The project received grant funding from the UA's Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, which supports interdisciplinary projects across campus.
Kruse is a radio announcer for Arizona Public Media and has a degree in ethnomusicology from the UA. Lotto is an associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences and also psychology and linguistics. Traut is an associate professor of theory, Daveen Fox Endowed Chair for Music Studies, and head of the composition, musicology and theory area in the UA's Fred Fox School of Music.
The three of them shared some of their early findings on ear worms during the first lecture in the Confluencenter's 2015 "Show & Tell @ Playground" series in downtown Tucson.

Category(s): Social Sciences and Education

The UA's Biggest Party of the Year

Tue, 10/13/2015 - 12:41pm
Extra Info: 

For complete details on Homecoming events, go to


What: Homecoming 101When: Thursday through SaturdayWhere: UA campus locationsMore than 50,000 people are expected to attend the University's 101st Homecoming.

Tens of thousands of people are set to attend the University of Arizona's 101st Homecoming, which began with the lighting of "A" Mountain on Sunday and will have events extending through Saturday, Oct. 24.

To commemorate the event, the UA Alumni Association has relaunched its Homecoming mobile app, which is available for free download in the App Store and Google Play by searching "Arizona Homecoming."

Major Homecoming 101 events include:

Homecoming Bonfire and Pep Rally

The Pride of Arizona marching band, Wilbur and Wilma T. Wildcat, the UA cheerleaders, the Homecoming court and others will join in during the annual Homecoming pep rally and bonfire, to be held Friday at 8 p.m.

The program begins with a march from the Bear Down Friday pep rally at Main Gate Square to the Old Main Fountain. The Homecoming king and queen will be crowned at about 8:10 p.m., and the bonfire will start immediately afterward.

Wildcat for Life Tailgate Party

A new addition to Homecoming is Food Truck Village, part of the Wildcat for Life Tailgate Party on the UA Mall at Cherry Avenue and University Boulevard. The village, in front of the Henry Koffler Chemistry Building, will be the site of 10 food trucks. Among those expected to participate are Cool Cajun Café, Truck 54, RR BBQ, Ricuras de Venezuela, Drew's Dogs, Mobile Bistro, Burgerrito, Purple Tree Acai, Isabella's Ice Cream, Happy Tummy, Sonoran Mexican Cuisine and Gigi's.

Food Truck Village will open at 8 a.m. Saturday and close 30 minutes after the start of the game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. Trucks will take cash and credit cards. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the UA Alumni Association.

Homecoming Parade and Football Game

The parade, with more than 50 floats, Homecoming royalty and the Pride of Arizona marching band, will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The UA's football game against Washington State will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in Arizona Stadium. The game will be televised by Pac-12 Networks.

Alumni of the Year Awards

The UA Alumni Association will recognize the achievements and significant contributions of University alumni from each college at the Alumni of the Year Awards. Friday's event will be held from 3-5 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom South of the Student Union Memorial Center. Each degree-granting college is invited to participate in this annual tradition.

Greek 100

This year, the UA is celebrating 100 years of Greek Life on campus. Numerous events will be held to honor the historic and contemporary contributions of Greek members. Some fun facts:

  • "Bear Down, Arizona," the UA's rallying cry, memorializes football legend John "Button" Salmon, who was a Sigma Nu member.
  • "All Hail Arizona," written by E. C. "Ted" Monro, a Kappa Sigma member, was adopted in 1926.
  • And "Fight! Wildcats! Fight!" — the UA's original fight song — was written by Dugald "Douglas" Holsclaw, a Delta Chi member.

Greek 100 events include Thursday's Greek Blog Party, to be held from 6-8 p.m. on East First Street between North Cherry and North Mountain avenues, and Friday's Geraldo Rivera Greek Heritage Park groundbreaking, to be held at 10:30 a.m. at East First Street and North Cherry Avenue.

'Virtual' Homecoming

As part of the UA Alumni Career and Professional Development Lab, University alumni who are unable to attend the events in Tucson are encouraged to participate in a virtual meetup event.

The Alumni Association will host a virtual meeting "whether you're in Tucson or Taiwan" from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday (MST). During this opportunity to reconnect with fellow Wildcats, individuals will be paired for brief, text-based conversations.

Category(s): Campus NewsUniversity Relations - CommunicationsOctober 19, 2015

Valley Fever Awareness Growing

Mon, 10/12/2015 - 9:49pm
With the NIH and FDA supporting efforts to develop better diagnostic tools and vaccines against the respiratory disease, a public education campaign by the UA's Valley Fever Center for Excellence gains momentum.

With two impending clinical trials, Valley Fever Awareness Week, to be observed Nov. 7-15 in Arizona, is bigger than ever this year.

In fact, activities for the 13th annual occasion — held by proclamation of the Arizona governor’s office since 2003 — have grown beyond the official second week in November, with free presentations for the public and health professionals in Tucson and Phoenix scheduled from Oct. 24 to Nov. 18.

The More You Know, the Better

"You can’t prevent valley fever, but it’s important the public know about this disease largely of the lungs so they can ask their doctor when they get sick whether or not it’s valley fever," said Dr. John N. Galgiani, a University of Arizona professor of medicine and founding director of the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence. "A third of all pneumonia cases in Phoenix and Tucson are caused by valley fever, but doctors often may forget to look for it. They’re more likely to do that if patients also know about this possibility and remind them."

Common to the U.S. Southwest and northwest Mexico, valley fever is caused by the Coccidioides species of fungus, which grows in soils in areas of low rainfall, high summer temperatures and moderate winter temperatures. These fungal spores become airborne when soil is disturbed by winds, construction, farming, gardening and other activities. In people and animals, infection occurs when a spore is inhaled. Most exposed people never show symptoms. In those who do, the symptoms resemble those of pneumonia, including cough, chills and chest pain as well as fatigue, fever, headaches and night sweats. Skin rashes or lumps also may occur.

Most people suffering from valley fever recover in a few weeks or months. Of the approximately 150,000 U.S. valley fever infections that occur per year, however, about 160 people die. Two-thirds of these infections affect Arizonans, mostly in the "Valley Fever Corridor" that runs between the state’s two largest cities of Phoenix and Tucson. Pets, especially dogs, also are susceptible to valley fever.

Valley Fever Awareness Week events provide opportunities to hear experts and ask questions about the illness formally known as Coccidioidomycosis.

Infectious Disease Threats

Physicians can get an early preview with Galgiani’s "Coccidioidomycosis Update" lecture on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., at the fourth annual Southwestern Conference on Medicine. The Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association event, whose theme is "Infectious Disease Threats in Primary Care," will be hosted at the Tucson Osteopathic Medical Foundation Conference Center, 3182 N. Swan Road, Tucson. Register at

Galgiani will discuss the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence’s participation in clinical trials about to start for a National Institutes of Health-funded study for which Duke University’s Human Vaccine Institute was awarded a $5 million contract in June to support research into valley fever pneumonia. That funding could grow to $9 million if all contract options are explored.

"We’re working with Duke as an enrollment site both in Tucson and Phoenix at the Banner – University Medical Centers," Galgiani said. "It also involves study sites in California’s Central Valley."

Meanwhile, the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence continues pressing forward in efforts to get a potentially curative anti-valley fever drug, nikkomycin Z, or NikZ, into clinical trials. Those efforts got a boost last October when NikZ won fast-track designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a "qualifying infectious disease product," or QIDP. The UA has been helping to move the antifungal drug into clinical trials and eventually to help patients. It licensed development rights for NikZ to Valley Fever Solutions Inc., a small startup business in Tucson.

Animals Get It, Too

The plan, Galgiani said, is to start clinical trials with dogs first and move to humans later. "Dogs get valley fever just like humans and even more commonly," he said.

Dr. Lisa Shubitz, an associate research professor in the UA School of Animal & Comparative Biomedical Sciences who works on the valley fever vaccine project, said valley fever in animals is a huge problem, with costs affecting dogs alone estimated at about $60 million a year in Arizona. The center isn’t quite ready to begin canine trials.

"We’ve completed some studies and have another about to start looking at how long mice stay immune," Shubitz said. "So far, it’s up to six months. We’re looking to find out at what point the efficacy drops off. That study won’t be completed until next spring."

Events Open to the Public

The public is invited to participate in six Valley Fever Awareness Week events — two in the Phoenix area, three in Tucson and one in Cottonwood, Arizona:

  • The lecture "Valley Fever: The Silent Epidemic," will be held on Monday, Nov. 9, from 9 to 11:30 a.m., at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center, 14502 W. Meeker Blvd., Sun City West, and will feature Dr. Craig Rundbaken, pulmonologist, Arizona Institute of Respiratory Medicine & Valley Fever Clinic, and Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis, professor of medical microbiology and immunology, University of California, Davis. Pappagianis’ work on clinical trials for a valley fever vaccine in the 1980s underpins today’s efforts, Galgiani said.

  • Tune in to KVOI Radio (1030 AM) on Monday, Nov. 9, at 12:30 p.m., for "What You Should Know About Valley Fever,” an interview with Galgiani on "The Bill Buckmaster Show," with livestreaming online at

  • A Galgiani lecture, "Valley Fever," will be held on Thursday, Nov. 12, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., in the Great Room at the Arizona Senior Academy at Academy Village, 13715 E. Langtry Lane, Tucson. For reservations, email or call 520-647-0980.

  • A silent auction at the Coyote Classic Dog Shows, hosted by the Tucson Kennel Club and Greater Sierra Vista Kennel Club at the Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S. Houghton Road, Tucson, will be held Nov. 13-16, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will benefit canine vaccine research at the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence. Admission is free. For details:

  • Alcantara Vineyards & Winery, 3445 S. Grapevine Way, Cottonwood, Arizona, will host a Wine & Noses benefit wine tasting on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with proceeds after expenses going to the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence for canine vaccine research. Tickets are $35 per person.

  • A Valley Fever Stakeholder Meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m., at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, Health Sciences Education Building, 435 N. Fifth St. This event is co-sponsored by the Arizona Medical Association and the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medical epidemiologist Dr. Tom M. Chiller will present current understanding of the public health impact of valley fever, and others will discuss examples of how startup companies in the Southwest are developing improved diagnostics and drugs to address the problem.

Other Events

For medical professionals, "Some of Your Patients Have Valley Fever — Do You Know Which Ones?" by Galgiani will be held on Friday, Nov. 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., during the American College of Physicians - Scientific Meeting at the Doubletree Hilton Tucson, 445 S. Alvernon Way. Register at

For the scientific community, Chiller is the featured speaker at the UA’s 20th annual Farness Lecture. His lecture, "There’s Fungus Among Us: CDC’s Fight Against Fungal Diseases," will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 18, from noon to 1 p.m., at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, Room 5403, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. The event will be livestreamed online, where it also will be archived for later viewing, at:

For more information about valley fever events, visit the Valley Fever Center for Excellence website at

Category(s): HealthDavid MogollónOctober 13, 2015UA Department of Medicine

Digging Up the Celluloid Pueblo

Mon, 10/12/2015 - 12:26pm
Extra Info: 

The Arizona Historical Society call numbers for the images are as follows:

  • Portrait of Lucile and Charles Herbert: MS1255/Box 1/F8/Image F
  • Man photographing saguaro: MS1255/Box 2/F16/Image L
Story Contacts: 

Jennifer Jenkins

UA Department of English


A UA associate professor of English uses media archaeology to uncover rich, all-but-forgotten history of the American Southwest.

Jennifer Jenkins' smile betrays the fondness of someone talking about an old friend. Her language evokes indulgence of the Thanksgiving dinner variety. She leans in as if she were telling the juiciest of secrets, and her voice jumps up a couple pitches as she says film geeks would totally "gobble up" her "yummy" cellulose nitrate reels. 

Then, she stiffens up in her chair and tilts her head sideways. She's thinking.

"Film captures the way people present themselves to the world. So why do this? It's our cultural heritage. Plain and simple. I mean, it just plain is," she says.

"This" is media archaeology, the process by which Jenkins has spent years painstakingly bringing the old Southwest back to life. And "this" is referred to as archaeology because it involves digging.

Jenkins' book, "Celluloid Pueblo: Western Ways Film Service and the Invention of the Postwar Southwest," forthcoming from UA Press in the fall of 2016, invites readers into the Southwest's past lives that she has dutifully uncovered.

Jenkins graduated from high school in Tucson, went to the University of Arizona for her bachelor's and doctoral degrees and has remained in Tucson ever since. She is an associate professor in the UA's Department of English.

People are nostalgic for the Old West, but the short, nonfiction films Jenkins analyzed for her research project contain "such a wealth of information." They are more than just "retro curiosities" — they are visual time capsules.

"Issues of class, of gender, of race … who's onscreen and who isn't, who's in center frame and who isn't, who's given a bigger portion of the frame…. That gives us a lot of information about the attitudes and the culture of the time that's being filmed. You just have to know to look for it," she says.

A portrait of Lucile and Charles Herbert in the ramada on their property, featured in a 1972 edition of Arizona Highways (Photo courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society)

The Herberts

Jenkins' research focuses on films by Charles and Lucile Herbert, a prolific filmmaking couple in Tucson.

Charles, a Fox Movietone cameraman, met Lucile in Florida on his travels. After they married in 1926, she began joining him on his Movietone jaunts.

"Part of Herbert's genius was that he could visualize how a story would unfold before shooting it," Jenkins says. "It was so natural to him and so ingrained in him. You can just tell that he saw the edits before he ever turned on the camera."

When they eventually settled in Tucson, the Herberts shot more than 100 reels about Arizona and northern Mexico, on everything from planting a saguaro cactus at a mansion in the foothills to souvenir shopping in Nogales — all on cellulose nitrate film.

The Volatile Chemistry of Cellulose Nitrate

Before the base for film switched to cellulose acetate around 1948, there was cellulose nitrate, now considered a Class 4 hazardous substance.

Back when theaters would play cellulose nitrate films on the big screen, projection booths always had metal shutters; this way, if there ever were a fire — there were many — only the guy working the projection booth would be in danger. Entire film libraries burned to the ground, all because of a little 35mm film that looks something like a clear Fruit Roll-Up.

Early 20th-century film was made out of this chemical blend of cotton and nitric acid. It is highly flammable and unstable. It has an ultra-low flashpoint of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, emits poisonous gases as it burns and can’t be put out by water.

In order to process it, "you can't just slap it on a flatbed scanner," says Jenkins, who is certified to handle cellulose nitrate film. The friction from rubbing up against the surface and the heat from the scanner could cause it to burst into flames. Instead, cellulose nitrate film must be sent to federally licensed labs, where it will float on a cushion of air as it is digitized.

Starting in 2007 and with some funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research, Jenkins sent 15 different 10- to 12-minute Herbert films to a lab on the West Coast, where they were carefully restored and transferred, at a cost of $1,000 per 10 minutes of film.

Damaged "Cowgirls Shopping" cellulose nitrate film, before preservation (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jenkins)

'Cowgirls Shopping' Restored

One such film by the Herberts is titled "Cowgirls Shopping," which came to Jenkins in a rather sorry state. The movie was literally in pieces. Years of decomposition had eaten away at it, and the remaining film was cracking.

"Most people would've probably thrown it away," says Jenkins, but the National Film Preservation Foundation gave Jenkins funding to restore "Cowgirls Shopping."

The lab had to splice the reels more than 50 times, carefully filling seams with rubber cement and covering them with a transparent tape to hold the seal.

When Jenkins finally received the restored film, about a year later, she was able to identify it as a promotional film for Steinfeld's, a high-end department store that used to stand in downtown Tucson, on the corner of Pennington and Stone.

At the time the film was made, the Southwestern artist Ted DeGrazia had an agreement with Steinfeld's to paint original designs onto skirts and blouses. This was the era of the prairie dress.

In the film, two young cowgirls ride up to the store on horseback. When they enter, "live mannequins" twirl around in DeGrazia's "Southwestern deco" designs for them to see.

"There's this wonderful shot where the mannequin walks toward the camera in this skirt and it dissolves into the skirt on his easel at his studio where he's painting it. It goes through him painting it and then cuts back to the girls wearing their new outfits and looking very fetching," Jenkins says.

To determine when the film was made, Jenkins began digging.

She enlarged a single shot of the intersection, carefully examining the license plates on the vehicles. There, she would find their registration dates, which pointed her in a general direction: late 1940s, early '50s. She could also tell the time of the year, based on the clothing of passersby in the film.

The intersection of Stone and Pennington, positively dated to winter 1950, from "Cowgirls Shopping" (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jenkins)

With some rough dates and seasons in mind, she scoured online archives of newspapers from the time, until she eventually found an advertisement for DeGrazia's skirts in Women's Wear Daily. This discovery was followed by another: a story in a local Tucson paper inviting "everyone" to come to Mr. and Mrs. Steinfeld's residence at the top of the Pioneer Hotel for a screening of "Cowgirls Shopping."

Women's Wear Daily advertisement for DeGrazia's painted prairie skirts at Steinfeld's (Photo courtesy of DeGrazia's Gallery in the Sun)

In this article, one of the "cowgirls" in the film is mentioned by name. She was a student at the UA.

Jenkins searched for her online ("Google is a wonderful thing") and quickly deduced that she had graduated from Tucson High School in 1950. Jenkins then emailed the president of the Class of 1950, also found online via the school's alumni association.

She got a response right away. The "cowgirl" happened to be a good friend of the president's. Jenkins was able to meet with the cowgirl, who is now in her 80s, and conduct an interview.

Media archaeology requires perseverance and passion: From the time Jenkins first opened that can of old film to when she was sitting in front of the cowgirl this past spring, it had been five years.

"It's so fascinating opening a time capsule like that," she says. "It restores people and places to cultural memory in ways that the official history books haven't done. It adds to the texture of our understanding of a historical period.

"If all you get are the official government newsreels, that's not real life. It's a version of it, but not the messy one that real people lived in. It's not just names and dates anymore."

Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesSocial Sciences and EducationEmily LitvackOctober 16, 2015University Relations - Communications

UA, UNAM Discuss Mining Collaboration

Fri, 10/09/2015 - 5:19pm
Engineers and scientists on a panel celebrating the new Center for Mexican Studies talk about ways to make mining more environmentally sustainable.

The Southwest U.S. and northwestern Mexico, with similar geology and climate in the copper- and gold-rich region spanning from Utah to Baja California, share many challenges in minerals exploration and waste remediation.

Researchers working on mining sustainability north and south of the border, however, do not often share findings and technological advances.

That should soon change with the opening of the Center for Mexican Studies, a joint program based on the campus of the University of Arizona and involving the UA and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, or UNAM, Latin America’s largest university.

The UA hosted a panel on environmentally sustainable mining recently as part of educational and cultural events celebrating the center’s opening. More than 40 people — including mining and chemical engineers, geologists and environmental scientists from both universities, UA students and scientists from the Arizona Geological Survey and U.S. Geological Survey — attended the event in the Environment & Natural Resources Phase 2 building, or ENR2, the University’s newest and greenest building.

"Both the U.S. and Mexico are getting a lot more serious about mining in more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible ways," said Raina Maier, director of the UA Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining. "The UA-UNAM collaboration will foster more intelligent and science-based decision making on where to mine and what cleanup processes to use."

Mary Poulton, UA Distinguished Professor of mining engineering, geosciences, law and public health and director of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, emphasized the complexity of minerals extraction and environmentally and social responsible mining practices in the region and the need for cross-disciplinary studies and solutions.

"How do we use less water, less energy, more benign chemicals and leave a smaller footprint?" Poulton asked. "A lot of that will be determined at the interface between science and technology — especially engineering."

UA professor of environmental engineering James Field discussed his research using microorganisms from sewage sludge to safely and effectively extract valuable elements from mine waste byproducts.

The world produces 18 million tons of copper each year, with an estimated 3 billion tons of copper mine tailings, noted Field, director of the UA Dean Carter Binational Center for Environmental Health Sciences and a key researcher with the UA Superfund Research Project.

"Some compounds in those tailings are toxic, and we need to stabilize or get rid of them," Field said. "But some include extremely valuable elements like tellurium, which are critical in making solar panels and many other products."

By safely extracting tellurium from mine tailings, this bio-refinery technology could convert a hazardous byproduct into a valuable commodity for mining companies and the communities dependent on them, he said.

Presenters from UNAM included Elena Centeno, professor and director of the Institute of Geology, and geology faculty Martin Valencia and Rafael del Río. They discussed the region’s complex geology, which can make it difficult to find and extract minerals, reduction of mine tailing dust and contaminated wastewater transported into nearby communities, the need for a comprehensive database on climate patterns that affect release of hazardous mine waste, and market volatility in the mining industry.

One of the best ways for the mining industry, research organizations and local communities to weather the boom-and-bust cycles of metal commodities pricing is to have a balanced financial portfolio that includes federal, state and private support, said Poulton, who also predicted significant changes in the makeup of mining companies.

"There is a huge generational shift underway in mining," she said. "People of my generation — 60 and older — are leaving, and people in their 20s, who are often more open to new technologies and have a broader perspective on the need for environmentally and socially responsible practices and policies, are coming in."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyJill GoetzOctober 9, 2015UA College of Engineering

Does Soy Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

Fri, 10/09/2015 - 3:47pm
Donato Romagnolo and Ornella Selmin of the University of Arizona Cancer Center have been awarded a $1 million research grant from the Department of Defense to study the impact of soy isoflavones intake and risk of breast cancer.

Once you understand how something works, the next step is to figure out how to keep it working.

That is precisely the goal of Donato Romagnolo and Ornella Selmin of the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Knowing that the BRCA1 gene functions as a tumor suppressor, Romagnolo and Selmin are working on a way to keep the gene from being repressed through epigenetic changes caused by environmental factors.

Roughly 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer diagnoses are a direct result of an inherited mutation on the BRCA1/BRCA2 genes. But what is causing the other 90 percent?

The researchers have identified the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, or AhR, as a nuclear factor that represses BRCA1 expression when it encounters ubiquitous environmental pollutants, metabolites of certain dietary fats or prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays as a common link in non-inherited breast cancer cases.

"We’re still not sure if AhR is the cause or the effect — whether it’s driving the lower BRCA1 expression, or if it’s simply a passenger in a larger, more complex series of events," Romagnolo said. "But we do know AhR is involved and its activation is repressive of BRCA1 expression in breast epithelial cells."

Romagnolo and Selmin are among the few researchers investigating this potential link. Research funded by the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, along with the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission and the Soy Health Research Program, is allowing Romagnolo and Selmin to explore dietary compounds found in soy as a possible factor that can keep the activated AhR receptor from inhibiting the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene. 

This has the potential for broad and far-reaching implications. Soy foods are consumed extensively in the U.S. According to the Soy Foods Association of North America, 31 percent of Americans incorporate soy into their weekly diet, a 7 percent increase from 2010. U.S. consumers are spending more on soy products; the retail soy foods industry generated a total of $4.5 billion in revenue in 2013, up nearly 25 percent from the 1990s.

Soy consumption may be associated with reduced risk of breast cancer incidence, recurrence and mortality. But concerns remain about the timing and dose of exposure.

Romagnolo and Selmin are expanding on their investigation of a potentially groundbreaking genetic marker that could lead to more targeted therapies for previously untreatable breast cancer cases. This investigation specifically addresses the question of breast cancer susceptibility in women who have no family history of breast cancer.

The ultimate goal of this study is to determine whether AhR and its target genes can serve as a diagnostic markers to develop preventive models and new targeted therapies for estrogen receptor negative (and possibly triple-negative) breast cancers, providing safer, more effective treatments for a disease that claims more than 40,000 lives each year.

Last year, Romagnolo and Selmin published a paper in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis, suggesting that exposure to these external environmental and dietary factors during gestation may have an impact on subsequent breast cancer risk for the offspring, as well.

The Romagnolo-Selmin study will test in an animal model how timing of exposure during gestation and genetic background influence mammary cancer risk in the female offspring. This may afford new insight into the transgenerational effects of soy intake on breast cancer risk and the refining of dietary recommendations for breast cancer prevention.

The BRCA1/BRCA2 mutation links to breast cancer made headlines worldwide when actress Angelina Jolie wrote about her experiences with her inherited genetic condition in 2013. Yet one thing nearly all breast cancer cases have in common is reduced expression in these genes, even if there is no inherited mutation or familial history with breast cancer.

The support comes from the Department of Defense's $34 million breast cancer funding mechanism called "Breakthrough Award – Funding Level 2." Romagnolo and Selmin are the principal investigators on one of the 16 programs out of 227 applications submitted through this funding mechanism.

Romagnolo and Selmin hold faculty appointments in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College and Agriculture of Life Sciences and share a laboratory at the Cancer Center. They have a long history of funding.

Each arrived at the Cancer Center in 1997 and began researching the links between AhR and breast cancer with their first successfully funded grant in 1999 through the Department of Defense. The DOD established the Breast Cancer Research Program in 1992 to promote innovative research focused on eradicating breast cancer.

In 2014, their research received the highly sought-after idea Expansion Award — a three-year, $560,000 grant to assist Romagnolo’s lab with setting up protocols and genetic models for the next phase of this study. Recently, the DOD included these findings as one of the BRCA1 research milestones.

"We know the BRCA1 gene’s blueprint, and we know some of the risk factors. The next step is to turn these findings into life-saving therapies," Romagnolo said.

Category(s): HealthCody CassidyOctober 9, 2015UA Cancer Center

Horn of Africa Drying Ever Faster as Climate Warms

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 6:01pm
Story Contacts: 

Researcher contact:

Jessica Tierney

520 621 5377


Peter deMenocal



Media contact:

Mari N. Jensen



Stacy Morford

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory


The findings from a UA-led study suggest a worsening future for the conflict-troubled region, which includes Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

The Horn of Africa has become increasingly arid in sync with the global and regional warming of the last century and at a rate unprecedented in the last 2,000 years, according to new research led by a University of Arizona geoscientist.

The region has suffered deadly droughts every few years in recent decades.

The scientists suggest as global and regional warming continues, the eastern Horn of Africa, which includes Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia, will receive progressively less rain during the crucial "long rains" season of March, April and May.

Such a trend could exacerbate tensions in one of the most geopolitically unstable regions in the world.

The team’s suggestion that the Horn of Africa will become even drier contradicts the global climate models that indicate future warming will bring more rain to the region.

"What we see in the paleoclimate record from the last 2,000 years is evidence that the Horn of Africa is drier when there are warm conditions on Earth, and wetter when it is colder," said lead author Jessica Tierney, a UA associate professor of geosciences.

"The rate of the recent drying in the Horn of Africa is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years," Tierney said.

In their paper, the scientists call for researchers to develop more computer models of climate that hone in on the regional scale. Such models might better predict how future warming will affect the Horn of Africa’s seasonal rains.

Study co-author Peter deMenocal said, "The region is drying in sync with carbon emissions. This has significant socioeconomic implications for this geopolitical hotspot into the future." The Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is headed by deMenocal.

The researchers used cores of ancient marine sediments from the nearby Gulf of Aden to reconstruct regional temperature and aridity for the past 2,000 years.

The team found their reconstructions of local temperature and aridity were in step with an independent reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperatures stretching back to the year A.D. 1. All the data point to the Horn of Africa becoming warmer and drier in the last 100 years.

The team’s report, "Past and future rainfall in the Horn of Africa” (, is scheduled for online publication today in the open-access journal Science Advances. Co-author Caroline Ummenhofer is at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. The National Science Foundation funded the research.

The sediment layers within the core are so well-preserved that researchers can peer back in time, decade by decade. Tierney did some of the analyses of the core at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

That core, which has sediments dating back 40,000 years, already has provided new insights into Africa’s climate. Tierney and deMenocal showed in a previous study that the Sahara, which once bloomed with regular rainfall, had suddenly dried out about 5,000 years ago in just a century or two — not more gradually, as many researchers had assumed. The finding provides evidence that climate shifts can happen suddenly.

To determine the Horn of Africa’s 2,000-year history of temperature and aridity, the researchers analyzed the chemical contents of the core, layer by layer. The chemical compounds that indicate past temperature and aridity came from particular organisms that change their chemistry depending on their environment.

Past temperatures were inferred by analyzing chemicals left in the sediment by single-celled marine organisms known as archaea. The archaea alter the chemical composition of their cell membranes depending on the water temperature.

To track past levels of aridity, Tierney and her colleagues analyzed fatty acids from the leaf wax of terrestrial plants. Because leaf litter and soil are blown into or wash into the nearby Gulf of Aden, the wax ends up in the sediment.

When the climate is drier, the fatty acids in the leaf wax have a higher proportion of a heavy form of hydrogen known as deuterium. Although the Horn of Africa had experienced a wet period during the Little Ice Age (A.D. 1450-1850), the researchers found an increasing shift toward heavy hydrogen in the last century, indicating the climate was drying.

Global-scale models used to predict future changes under global warming suggest the region will become wetter, primarily during the "short rains" season from September to November. But the new study by Tierney and her colleagues suggests those gains may be offset by declining rainfall during the March-to-May "long rains" season, which is particularly important for the region’s agriculture.

"It is getting drier right now in the 20th century and we expect it to continue to get dry," Tierney said. "If we can simulate rainfall in these arid tropical and subtropical regions better, we can understand the future impact of climate change."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyMari N. JensenOctober 9, 2015UA College of Science

2 UA Units Partner on Breast Cancer Research

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 4:33pm
Extra Info: 

The University of Arizona Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center headquartered in the state of Arizona. Bringing promising new therapies from the laboratory to the bedside is a high priority. The clinician scientists of the Cancer Center are engaged in more than 200 clinical trials, investigating a broad spectrum of new diagnostic, prevention and treatment strategies. To learn more about active clinical trials, call the center at 520-321-7444 or visit online:

Story Contacts: 

Dr. Jessica Martinez

UA Cancer Center 



Ariane Gutrhie

UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences  


Patricia MacCorquodale

UA Honors College 


The University's Honors College and Cancer Center are raising funds to support the work of Jessica Martinez and Ariane Guthrie, who are studying pathways related to cancer prevention.

The University of Arizona Honors College and the University of Arizona Cancer Center are partnering in October to support breast cancer awareness — and raising funds to support the work of two researchers.

Members of the campus community are asked to wear pink each Wednesday in October, and also to consider making a donation to support Jessica Martinez of the Cancer Center and research collaborator Ariane Guthrie, an Honors College student studying microbiology, nutritional sciences and biochemistry. Donations will be accepted at the Slonaker House, 1027 E. Second St.

The first $1,000 raised will be matched by Honors College dean Patricia MacCorquodale, Cancer Center director Dr. Andrew Kraft, and development officers Scott Koenig and David Scott Allen. An additional $500 will be matched by Honors College board member Susan Esco Chandler.

Martinez, an assistant research professor, is working with Guthrie to find a way to help prevent breast cancer by studying the effects of resveratrol on human enzymes and metabolites, which are part of pathways related to cancer prevention. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in grapes and peanuts that has been attributed to a variety of health benefits, including cancer prevention.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. And the American Cancer Society reports that one-third of cancer deaths are related to these issues. Increased body weight is associated with clinical factors such as insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and increased circulating sex hormones, all of which contribute to the initiation and progression of obesity-related cancers, including breast cancer.

"Given the continued increase in overweight and obese Americans, despite public health efforts to promote diet and exercise, identification of chemoprevention agents that target the metabolic deregulation associated with overweight issues and obesity will hopefully have a larger impact on lowering cancer burden than weight-loss programs alone," Martinez says.

Previous resveratrol studies have shown metabolic deregulation in animal models, but human trials have been limited.

"Resveratrol's effect in humans is not well-characterized," Martinez says. "If we can get a systemic picture of what’s going on in an individual, then we can learn which pathways resveratrol targets in a person."

Guthrie is hoping to identify which and how metabolites are altered by resveratrol through metabolomics analysis, which is an analysis of the set of molecular chemicals from a biological sample.

"By having a snapshot of an individual’s responses to resveratrol, we can identify how metabolites are altered," Guthrie says. "Recognizing shifts in one's metabolomics profile can help us to understand how resveratrol is acting in the human body and how this action might reduce the risk for breast cancer."

A greater understanding of which metabolites are affected by resveratrol could potentially lead to preventing breast cancer in some patients through resveratrol supplementation, which is extremely important, as even patients who have been diagnosed with and successfully treated for breast cancer can experience remission.  

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"Breast cancer is a highly preventable disease, yet there are over 230,000 new cases each year," Martinez says. "If we can implement prevention strategies, we can make a huge impact for women in the future."

The research conducted by Martinez and Guthrie is just one step toward a medical breakthrough. Knowing exactly how the metabolome is affected by resveratrol will lead to more effective measures in the future, and the impact may only be seen in what does not show up.

"If resveratrol's targets are not elucidated, we cannot know exactly how this compound is acting in our bodies," Guthrie says. "This research could be a major step forward toward understanding those targets."

Category(s): HealthTeaching and StudentsOctober 9, 2015University Relations - Communications

How Happiness Came Into Beings

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 3:37pm
UA scientists have illuminated the evolutionary history of dopamine, also known as the "happiness molecule."

Psychology Today has described dopamine as the "reward molecule."

Researchers have long pondered the evolutionary origins of this molecule linked to regulation of neural activity, gene expression, and social and reproductive behaviors.

"I personally think that the fact that receptors for dopamine were retained allowed vertebrates to develop complex personalities," said Asher Baltzell, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona's Genetics Graduate Interdisciplinary Program.

Baltzell, along with a team of UA scientists and Erich Jarvis of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, published a paper in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience that illuminates the evolutionary origins of vertebrate dopamine receptors — the gateways to happiness.

Baltzell worked with Eric Lyons of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and BIO5 Institute and Fiona McCarthy with the UA's Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, along with iPlant Collaborative staff, in compiling the data for publication. His work was funded by the Arizona Biological/Biomedical Sciences Program.

By cross-comparing 50 recently sequenced avian genomes, along with genomes from a few other vertebrates, the researchers discovered that the current configuration of vertebrate dopamine receptors originated around 450 million years ago during phenomena known as whole genome duplication events. These uncommon genetic events occurred in the vertebrate common ancestor shortly after the genetic separation of vertebrates and invertebrates.

Baltzell sees two main applications of this study: agricultural and medical.

"Understanding how these receptors work and how you can possibly manipulate them are incredibly important in agriculture," he said. "For example, brooding in chickens is behavior that you do not want if you want your chickens to keep laying eggs. There is a strong correlation between dopamine receptors and brooding. So if we understand how these work, it might be possible to mitigate or treat the behavior.

"For humans, there are a lot of implications for health," Baltzell added. "It's very difficult to resolve the exact functions of a receptor when there are multiple receptors that appear the same. By understanding the evolution, where they came from, how they duplicated, it can help guide research and uncover the differences in function."

A Flock of Data

Until now, lack of sufficient vertebrate genomes or computational tools powerful enough to perform the necessary large-scale analyses prevented scientists from further investigating the origins of vertebrate dopamine receptors.

But Baltzell is a data scientist working with CoGe, a powerful comparative genomics platform developed by Lyons.

Storing genetic information of more than 24,000 genomes of nearly 17,000 organisms, CoGe derives its immense power from the computational framework of the iPlant Collaborative, the National Science Foundation's premier data management and analysis platform led by the UA, of which Lyons is also a co-principal investigator.

"CoGe leverages iPlant's cyberinfrastructure for user identity management and data scalability, allowing the CoGe team to focus on developing software for answering genome-driven questions," Lyons said.

Additionally, Baltzell had access to 50 avian genomes, which recently had been sequenced by Jarvis and other researchers — sufficient data to investigate the evolutionary origins of individual genes.

"We were lucky that the evidence had been preserved in the bird genomes we investigated," Baltzell said. "Placental mammals have lost two of the receptors since the duplication event, so you wouldn't be able to see these events in human genomes, for example, because the genes have been deleted at this point. Whereas in birds, the code for the original receptors is still maintained in their genomes."

Baltzell accessed the 50 bird genomes stored in iPlant's Data Store, a cloud platform that allows researchers to securely store massive amounts of data.

"I started working on this project before publication of the bird genomes, so Jarvis was able to share the data with me securely through the Data Store before it had been made available to the public," Baltzell said.

Meanwhile, CoGe allowed Baltzell to visualize and work with the genomes, running comparison analyses to locate the target genes for his study in each species' genome.

Two by Two, the Molecules Came

"Two dopamine receptors in particular, DRD1A and DRD1B, were thought to have come from a whole genome duplication event, because they match certain patterns," Baltzell said.

A whole genome duplication event is what happens when, during cellular replication — instead of splitting and copying a chromosome once, as usually happens — chromosomes are copied twice. "You wind up with two sets of every gene," Baltzell said.

In plants, such double-chromosome operations are common. But in animals, it's usually lethal, Baltzell explained, wreaking havoc on the regulatory functions of a fetus extremely early in development.

"There are rare occasions in which animal species have been known to survive whole genome duplication events," Baltzell said. "There is a period called fractionation, where genes are rapidly lost to restore the genome to approximately its original size. However, not every gene is actually deleted. Some are retained, and now you have two copies of the same gene, which allows one copy to diversify and take on a new function while the first copy continues fulfilling its original purpose.

"We found that during two rounds of whole genome duplication early in the evolution of vertebrates, one of those events resulted in the duplication of two important dopamine receptors, DRD1A and DRD1B, and both duplicates were retained. It's fairly unlikely that would happen."

Why two dopamine receptors were duplicated — and more incredibly both retained in surviving vertebrate lineages — remains a genetic mystery, Baltzell said. "But it does seem to have implications on how vertebrates have developed since," he said.

Dopamine receptors are chemically similar across all species, he explained, but how they're expressed and the exact roles they play may vary, along with the number of receptors. For example, most bird species have all seven known dopamine receptors, while humans have only five.

Does this mean that birds are happier than humans?

"Potentially," Baltzell said with a laugh. "There is quite a bit of interest in understanding the distinct roles of the different families of dopamine receptors."

Category(s): Science and TechnologyShelley LittinOctober 8, 2015iPlant Collaborative

UA Offers CPR Training for EMS Professionals

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 1:26pm
The University recently held its first training session in a collaborative project called "High Performance CPR University."

Every day, more than 15 people in Arizona suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital. The University of Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center has made strides in saving those lives by translating basic science advancements in cardiopulmonary resuscitation research into action by emergency care providers.

Research discoveries have led to important changes in national CPR standards, and there is a need to educate every emergency medical services provider and in-hospital medical professional on new techniques.

In response, the UA recently held its first training session, part of a collaborative project called "High Performance CPR University," in the Center for Simulation and Innovation at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Emergency medical services personnel from across the nation, as well as Japan and Taiwan, took part in the first of many planned high-fidelity training sessions.

Industry partners in the effort include ZOLL Medical Corp. of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, and Laerdal Medical of Stavanger, Norway, which supplied advanced cardiac equipment and new-generation mannequins with the ability to give providers real-time audiovisual feedback during CPR to improve performance and outcomes.

"CPR performance is what saves lives from cardiac arrest, and during the past decade we have had a wonderful partnership in our ongoing mission to implement High Performance CPR and save as many lives as possible from cardiac arrest," said Dr. Ben Bobrow, UA professor of emergency medicine and co-director of the research center in Phoenix. "We are incredibly grateful to ZOLL Medical and Laerdal Medical for having the long-term vision to help us push the limits on how many cardiac arrest victims we can return to their homes and families."

"We are extremely fortunate that we have an outstanding facility in which to move forward this important work," said Dr. Sam Keim, director of the UA Emergency Medicine Research Center. "We know this kind of initiative is nearly impossible without the resources we have in the Center for Simulation and Innovation on the Phoenix campus."

"ZOLL Medical is committed to using state-of-the-art technologies to improve CPR performance in all settings," said Jonathan A. Rennert, president of the company. "We are proud to partner with the University of Arizona in our combined goal to effectively implement lifesaving treatments for a leading cause of death, cardiac arrest."

UA research shows the use of the chest compression-only CPR triples survival rates, and this summer the Institute of Medicine further endorsed the technique in a series of recommendations developed by a national panel of medical experts, including UA faculty members.

"With this kind of support, we can expand our efforts and train many more emergency medical professionals on the most effective resuscitation techniques," said Dr. Dan Spaite, professor of emergency medicine and co-director of the UA research center in Phoenix.

"Performance, not protocol, is what saves lives from cardiac arrest. The goal of this effort is to provide not just the knowledge, but the implementation tools to create High Performance CPR programs across Arizona and around the world," said Bobrow, who also is the medical director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System for the Arizona Department of Health Services. "The high-fidelity simulation training focuses on the psychomotor skills required to deliver and measure High Performance CPR in teams and how to make this a priority for health care systems."

Part of the latest effort by Bobrow's team is to focus on effectively delivering the correct rate, depth and chest wall release during CPR, along with appropriate ventilation, patient monitoring and measuring this intervention to assure it is optimized.

"We used to think 'CPR was CPR,' but we now know that for CPR to save the most lives it must be done exquisitely well and that is really challenging for multiple reasons," Keim said.

"This type of realistic simulation training may not be glorious, but it is actually what saves lives," Spaite said.

The first training project was held in partnership with UA researchers, the Arizona Department of Health Services Save Hearts in Arizona Registry and Education program, ZOLL Medical and Laerdal Medical. For more information, visit

Category(s): HealthOctober 13, 2015UA Health Sciences

Racial Bias in Crosswalks? Study Says Yes

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 12:20pm
Story Contacts: 

Arlie Adkins

UA College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture


UA researcher Arlie Adkins has co-authored research finding that drivers tend to discriminate based on race.

Could it be that a driver choosing to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk has something to do with the pedestrian's race?  

A multi-university research team involving University of Arizona transportation planning expert Arlie Adkins applied that question to the yielding behavior of motorists at crosswalks to examine potential racial bias. And, with a new $30,000 grant from the National Institute for Transportation and Community, the researchers have begun investigating the influence of gender-based bias on drivers’ stopping behavior.

In the original investigation — the first known field experiment of its kind — the team found that African-Americans experienced a wait time about 32 percent longer than for whites before drivers chose to yield. The team also found that African-Americans were twice as likely as white pedestrians to be passed by multiple vehicles.

"We were surprised at just how stark the difference was," said Adkins, an assistant professor in the UA School of Landscape Architecture and Planning and a transportation planning expert, noting that the team controlled for age, clothing and other socioeconomic factors of the pedestrians.

"It was not a very large study, so we weren't sure the amount of data collected would be enough to reach statistical significance, so we were surprised to see how quickly the significance showed up," Adkins said. "Drivers were clearly displaying behaviors consistent with implicit racial bias."

Findings from the study — involving 88 pedestrian trials and 173 driver-subjects — were published in August by Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior in the article, "Racial Bias in Driver Yielding Behavior at Crosswalks." Adkins co-authored the article with Portland State University researchers Kimberly Kahn, an assistant professor of social psychology and principal investigator on both NITC grants, and Tara Goddard, a doctoral candidate in urban studies at Portland State. The trio began working together while Adkins completed his doctorate at Portland State.

"It’s nice to have this cross-university collaboration," Goddard said. "We are really excited about building on psychological theory and social psychology, applying both to transportation domains that are clearly relevant to people's experiences and actual physical safety."

Studying Implicit Bias

Combining expertise in urban transportation and planning with social psychology enabled the team to study discrimination and the possibility of implicit bias, which references the various unconscious stereotypes and beliefs people hold that shape how they think and act.

"We are not saying drivers are overtly racist," Kahn said, emphasizing that the study results are consistent with implicit biases that individuals may hold beneath their awareness against certain groups of people.

"Improving the pedestrian experience is not just going to be an engineering problem," she said. "You have to bring in psychology to get a deeper understanding of the issues we are trying to solve."

Comparable questions about implicit bias have been posed by researchers studying why people of certain backgrounds are medically misdiagnosed in greater numbers, have more difficulty having their resumes seriously considered for potential jobs and even struggle to hail a taxi.

"These subtle forms of stereotyping are pervasive across society, and the majority of Americans hold some level of subconscious bias or association just by growing up in this culture," said Kahn, an expert in implicit stereotyping, biases and discrimination.

"That's what makes contemporary forms of bias so pernicious — we may not be aware that we have these biases," she said. "That's where implicit bias comes from in the first place. So, you can think you're just driving to work and won't even notice that you were differently stopping for one pedestrian over others."

With the new funding, the team has this month begun the new 18-month project conducting field research in Portland. While studying the possibility of gender bias, the team will expand its study of racial bias while also studying the influence of crosswalk design and signage on yielding behavior. The team also will capture data on the race and gender of drivers. Thus, the study will involve men and women and individuals who are African-American and white at two different types of crosswalks.

"Cars don't drive themselves and, as humans, we are somewhat flawed in our processing, especially in the roadway environment where there are a lot of distractions and we are moving at much higher speeds," Goddard said.

"A lot of information processing is involved, which means we may fall back on automatic processing quite a bit," she said. "Clearly, there is so much work to be done everywhere with racism and discrimination. The more we deal with that on a systematic level, the greater chances we have in terms of long-term impacts."

Disparity Indicated by Data

Motivating the team's research is nationwide data indicating a disparity in pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this year reported that 4,735 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in 2013, representing 14 percent of all traffic-related fatalities. The agency estimated that 66,000 pedestrians were injured that same year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported that during a period that spanned 2000 to 2012, African-American and Hispanic male pedestrians were more than twice as likely then white men to die in traffic crashes.

Kahn said experiences with subtle forms of discrimination could then result in individuals altering their transportation choices. That is also true about the pedestrian experience, she said.

"You can imagine how, if you are constantly experiencing these disparities, you might choose to avoid walking or force the right of way when cars are not stopping, potentially putting yourself in dangerous situations," Kahn said. "That may play into these shocking statistics."

Goddard and Adkins said their work carries numerous implications for public safety and urban planning, particularly in informing planners and engineers on ways to improve spaces used by pedestrians and motorists. The team also hopes to initiate a larger investigation in cities across the country, and eventually to help improve public awareness around pedestrian safety.

"We want this work to continue, and it will be very important to see if there are disparities in other parts of the country," Adkins said.

"While implicit bias does not explain the disparity in safety outcomes, it may be a contributor," he said. "These microaggressions in different contexts add up to become a very negative situation for some people. It is a problem if people feel threatened, or if they are treated unequally."

Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationLa Monica Everett-HaynesOctober 12, 2015University Relations - Communications

Spiral Arms Discovered in Planet-Forming Disk

Thu, 10/08/2015 - 10:38am
According to a new paper co-authored by UA researchers, an ultra-rare spiral structure lives inside a planet-forming disk, some 400 light-years from here.

Using a powerful, state-of-the-art new instrument, Kevin Wagner, a first-year graduate student in University of Arizona's Department of Astronomy, and his adviser Daniel Apai were hunting for exoplanets — planets that orbit stars outside of our own solar system.

But as Wagner and his colleagues pored over images of a young star some 400 light-years from Earth and twice the size of the sun, they noticed something curious.

It's not uncommon for young stars such as HD100453 to be encircled by planet-building disks. The disk that orbits this particular star is like most others, too: It's a gigantic, orbiting cosmic pancake of gas and dust. But inside it, they discovered, lives an odd, beautiful, symmetrical, two-armed spiral structure.

Up to now, after observing hundreds of young stars, astronomers discovered such spirals only in two other stars — and the one around HD100453 is by far the closest to Earth and most symmetrical in shape. Each of the two arms of the disk is about 3 billion miles, or about 40 times longer than the Earth-sun distance.

Compared to our own solar system, the gap in this disk ends at about the orbit of Uranus, and the spirals extend to about the orbit of Pluto, suggesting that HD100453 may resemble the young solar system and it may be where scientists should look for ongoing formation of giant planets.

Using the planet-finding SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, the research team took the first high-resolution, high-contrast images of HD100453 and discovered the unique spiral protoplanetary disk.

"(We are) trying to figure out how planetary systems form, but we can't watch it happen because it takes tens of millions of years," Wagner said.

Instead, by studying multiple systems in different stages of evolution, researchers are able to make inferences on their general evolution from young disks of star- and planet-forming material to mature planetary systems.

This disk has not been imaged previously, and the spiral structure likely indicates interaction with unseen planets, according to Apai and other astronomers, although so far the observations have not been sensitive enough to detect them.

"Directly imaging planets around other stars is exciting, but very challenging — even giant planets are about a million times fainter than their host stars," Apai said. "The rare disk structures, such as Kevin's majestic two-armed spiral, are our best indicators of where the just-forming planets may hide."  

Finding out how many systems are like our own is an important part of answering the question of how rare planets such as Earth are in the Milky Way. Investigating how, when and where planets form in the disks around young stars will help pin down that number.  

The team's images also show a large gap in the disk, seen for the first time in this system and probably suggesting the presence of one or two massive, undetected planets, which could be driving the spiral arms and quickly clearing the disk of material, Wagner said.

He explained that while the possibilities are compelling, the only way to know for sure is to revisit the spiral by taking even more sensitive images to search for the planets themselves.

"We can't wait to see what our next, more detailed images will reveal," Apai said.

Apai, principal investigator and assistant professor of astronomy and planetary sciences, led the proposal and the observations, while Wagner performed the data reduction and analysis and is lead author on the paper. They are members of the major NASA-funded project Earths in Other Solar Systems team.

Apai, Wagner and astronomers Markus Kasper of the European Southern Observatory and Massimo Robberto of the Space Telescope Science Institute will have their results published as a letter in the Astrophysical Journal.

Ultimately, this kind of imaging and analysis is about answering big questions, Wagner said.

"Is our solar system rare or typical? Are there others like ours?"

Category(s): Science and TechnologyEmily LitvackOctober 9, 2015University Relations - Communications

UA Study: More Power Means Less Trust

Wed, 10/07/2015 - 4:30pm
Story Contacts: 

Liz Warren-Pederson

UA Eller College of Management


The findings by two Eller College of Management researchers will be published in a forthcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Consider a single mother who is between homes and promised the perfect new apartment at a great price.

The landlord, a wealthy man who owns properties across the city, says he doesn't have the lease drawn up yet but asks for a deposit to hold the unit and invites the young mother to move in right away. Will she trust the landlord's promises and write the check in hopes of moving her family in? 

New research by Oliver Schilke and Martin Reimann at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management and co-researcher Karen S. Cook of Stanford University gives surprising insight into that scenario.

The researchers designed a series of experiments that asked participants to consider, and sometimes supposedly interact with, a second participant. In one study, for example, participants were asked to sell a mobile phone, with rewards tied to the contract they negotiated. In another, they were asked to give away or keep money with the understanding that giving it away would triple the amount but that their unknown partner could then split it evenly with them or keep it all.

In each scenario, participants were given information to change how they perceived their relative advantage or disadvantage, and tests validated that the manipulations worked: Participants had very different perceptions of their own and/or their partners' empowerment as intended.

"In the final analysis, four studies converged on what many will see as a surprising finding: Power-disadvantaged actors placed significantly more trust in their more powerful scenario partners," said Schilke, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Eller College and assistant professor by courtesy in the UA School of Sociology.

The findings will be published in the article "Power decreases trust in social exchange" in a forthcoming issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rational Action Vs. Psychological Crutch

Returning for a moment to the single-mom scenario, one might have predicted she would see the powerful landlord as caring little about their connection — and therefore potentially opportunistic and untrustworthy. Conversely, one might have thought the landlord should see the woman as vulnerable, well aware of her own neediness and thus unlikely to cross him.

Those predictions would fit what social scientists call the "rational actor" model, which suggests that for all kinds of social transactions, we routinely and automatically put ourselves in our partners' shoes to size up if they should rationally feel a need to preserve our relationship. According to this model, if we think they should feel that need, we're more likely to trust them.

Instead, findings from these studies align with another model, "motivated cognition," which posits that people subconsciously work to reach conclusions that fit what they want to believe.

"Scientists see this behavior as a kind of psychological crutch — one way we minimize the discomfort we'd feel when our thoughts, beliefs and actions don't square," said Reimann, assistant professor of marketing in the Eller College and founding editor of the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics.

"In this model, power-disadvantaged people are more likely to see an advantaged other as trustworthy because the alternative — feeling vulnerable to someone who might be both powerful and predatory — is just too uncomfortable."

Zooming In on Why

Schilke, Reimann and Cook believe these findings alone surface unique empirical knowledge of how power affects trust in binary social exchanges. However, taking the investigation further, their research also offers insight into what drives that trust from disadvantaged parties.

To unpack that dynamic, questions in the fourth study also probed participants on three ostensibly distinct dimensions of trust: belief in people's ability, integrity and benevolence. Put another way, when we think someone will do something, it's because of varying levels of belief that she can do it, will do what's right and is, at some fundamental level, a kind and well-meaning person.

In statistical analysis, the researchers found that belief in benevolence underlay the greater trust expressed by disadvantaged parties, but found no significant effects for belief in ability or integrity.

Category(s): Business and LawSocial Sciences and EducationOctober 8, 2015UA Eller College of Management