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

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 11:04

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

Photos courtesy of Austin Brown

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

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

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

Q: What are you doing in Germany?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read about other UA students conducting research abroad:

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

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

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 12:19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All gifs courtesy of

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

Blog Series: UA Students Studying, Researching Abroad

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 13:16

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

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

While abroad, Brock shared some thoughts about his experience.

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

Q: What is your current research?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What are your long-term plans? 

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

Read about other UA students conducting research abroad:

Photos courtesy of A. Dönmez and Zübeyde Uğurlu

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

Galápagos Hawks Hand Down Lice Like Family Heirlooms, Study Finds

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 14:22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UA Named a Top College by The Princeton Review

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 17:35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 13:29

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

Amer Taleb (Photo credit: Ken Sterns/UANews)

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

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

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

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

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



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

Thousands of people attended the 2013 presidential inauguration.  ​

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

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

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

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

Veiw from the Supreme Court after DOMA oral arguments.

Photography Credit: Amer Taleb

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

Longtime Band Leader Jay Rees Returning to Alma Mater

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 14:11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 11:47

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Essay: UA Training the Next Generation of STEM Specialists

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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