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Game, Set, Match: UA Grad Heading to Google

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 2:05pm

This is the first in a five-part series on University of Arizona students who will graduate during the 151st Commencement ceremony, to be held at Arizona Stadium on May 16.

After playing professional tennis and interning on Wall Street, Andre Vidaller soon will embark on a new adventure with the world's most popular search engine company after graduating from the University of Arizona in May.

Vidaller is earning dual degrees in finance and entrepreneurship with a global business minor from the UA Eller College of Management. Earlier this year, he landed a job at Google's European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, where he will provide marketing and advertising solutions to a portfolio of clients as an associate account strategist.

"I've never been to Ireland," Vidaller said. "I'm really excited. I think it's about time for me to move on to the next stage."

Vidaller grew up playing tennis in his hometown of Santos, Brazil. At the age of 15, he moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil. With the support of a sponsor, he spent the next three years playing tennis professionally, traveling the globe and playing at some of the world's best facilities.

"I got to meet Rodger Federer, who is my idol," he said. "The experience was great."

After a serious back injury, doctors told Vidaller he needed to cut back on his training.

"I wasn't really sure what I was going to do," he said. "That's when I opened my eyes to the opportunities to come to America, pursue a degree and keep playing high-level sports."

Although he had a few offers from different schools, he found the coaching staff, players and academic support offered as part of the UA tennis program his most appealing option. He came to the UA in the spring of 2011 on a full tennis scholarship.

However, there was a big obstacle to overcome: Vidaller didn't speak any English.

"That was my second time in America," he said. "It was really tough communications-wise, going to training and going to classes. I would be listening to words, but didn't know what was going on. ... I lived with a New Zealander and Australian. It was their first time being in contact with someone that didn't speak English. It was a little tough at the beginning, but we became very good friends."

Over time, Vidaller began to pick up on English, and he used his personal experience to help other international teammates who joined the men's tennis team adjust to life in the U.S. He was selected as captain of the team his sophomore year.

"It was a great opportunity dealing on a daily basis with different perspectives, opinions and approaches," he said.

In addition to tennis, Vidaller has excelled in academics at the Eller College of Management. Coming from a family of engineers, Vidaller is breaking the mold by pursuing a career in business.

"I always liked to understand investment opportunities and what's going on in the market," he said. "I've always been interest in math. I knew business was for me."

Last summer, he had the opportunity to intern at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank that operates on Wall Street in New York City. He landed a job with his most desired employer, Google, earlier this year and will start in June.

Vidaller said his experience playing tennis and the support of his family have contributed greatly to his academic and early career success.

"Playing professionally requires a lot of discipline and time management skills," Vidaller said. "Without my family and friends' support back home in Brazil, I don't think this would be possible."

Although he is excited to start a new chapter in his life, Vidaller says he will greatly miss the friends, coaches, teammates, faculty members and advisers to whom he has close at the UA.

"I met great, amazing people who really helped me develop as a human being and as a professional," he said. "I created a family here. ... For me, I will miss those people."

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

The UA's 151st Commencement ceremony will be held May 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium.

 

More information about the ceremony is available online for 2015 graduates and also family members and other guests.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Tennis player Andre Vidaller is earning dual degrees in finance and entrepreneurship from the UA Eller College of Management.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Academy Elects UA Planetary Sciences Professor

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 1:50pm

Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as part of a new class of accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and civic, business and philanthropic leaders.

Malhotra, who joined the UA faculty in 2000, serves as chair of the Theoretical Astrophysics Program in the UA's Department of Planetary Sciences. The interdisciplinary program was established in 1985 to foster scientific and academic links among the physics, astronomy and planetary sciences departments, as well as the Applied Mathematics Program and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

Malhotra's work in planetary dynamics has spanned a wide variety of topics, including extrasolar planets and debris disks around stars, the formation and evolution of the Kuiper belt and the asteroid belt, the orbital resonances among the moons of the giant planets, and the meteoritic bombardment history of the planets. She has revolutionized the understanding of the history of the solar system by using the orbital resonance between Pluto and Neptune to infer large-scale orbital migration of the giant planets and to predict the existence of the "Plutinos" and other small planets in resonance with Neptune. She has received honors and awards from the UA, American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union, and the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi.

The academy's 2015 class of nearly 200 members also includes former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Pulitzer Prize winner Holland Cotter, singer-songwriter Judy Collins, Nike co-founder Philip Knight, Nobel Prize winner Brian Kobilka, Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and novelist Tom Wolfe. 

One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the academy also is a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

"We are honored to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership," said Don Randel, chair of the academy’s board of directors. "Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world." 

In addition to Malhotra, mathematicians and scientists in the new class include: theoretical computer scientist Sanjeev Arora, who developed the PCP Theorem; leading probabilist Gerard Ben Arous; epidemiologist James W. Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health; Michael Elowitz, whose work helped to initiate synthetic biology; Howard Eichenbaum, director of the Center for Memory and Brain; George Georgiou, inventor of protein drugs and protein production technologies; Linda Hsieh-Wilson, a pioneer in the new field of chemical glycobiology; Victoria Kaspi, a leader in high-energy astrophysics; neurobiologist Margaret Livingstone; virologist Paul A. Offit; nanoscale scientist Paul L. McEuen; Philip Needleman, who discovered and developed Celebrex; Rebecca Richards-Kortum, whose works focuses on developing low-cost, high-performance imaging technologies for low resource settings; Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a leader in the study of regeneration; evolutionary biologist Joan B. Silk; and Gerhard Wagner, who performed the first comprehensive study of hydrogen exchange on a protein.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 10 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The complete list of new members is at https://www.amacad.org/content/members/members.aspx.

Since its founding in 1780, the academy has elected leading "thinkers and doers" from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart is a member of an advisory group for the academy's Lincoln Project, which is focused on the development of new federal, corporate and philanthropic sources of support to sustain public higher education. The project is named for President Abraham Lincoln to commemorate his role in signing the Morrill Act of 1862, which paved the way for land-grant universities such as the UA.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Renu Malhotra, a faculty member since 2000 who chairs the Theoretical Astrophysics Program, joins a distinguished list of scholars, scientists, artists and leaders announced by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Student Entrepreneurs Rise to the Innovative Minds Challenge

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 6:19pm

The Arizona Center for Innovation launched the 2015 Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Challenge at the University of Arizona in partnership with InnovateUA and Perkins Coie LLP to link UA students with business savvy mentors and help to fund innovation.

The Challenge culminated with UA student teams demonstrating their innovative ideas and commitment to commercialization during the 2015 Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Demo Day at the Arizona Center for Innovation, AzCI.

UA student teams presented their innovative and creative ideas to solve real business and social challenges. Student teams competed for three top cash prizes sponsored by Perkins Coie and business development services sponsored by the Arizona Center for Innovation which includes six months of one-on-one business mentoring as part of the Mentored Launch Program as well as use of AzCI’s world-class office space.

Innovative Minds Challenge winners include:

Infinurja, which provides low-cost, renewable electricity to underserved and underdeveloped areas to improve standard of living and economic strength by using patent pending products. The team took the Top Winner award – a $5,000 cash prize sponsored by Perkins Coie, with six months of business development at AzCI.

AzCI Edible Optics, which provides youth and parents an engaging, hands-on introduction to optical engineering using edible lenses. The team received a $2,500 cash prize sponsored by Perkins Coie, and will receive six months of business development at AzCI.

Agent Sage also received a $2,500 cash prize sponsored by Perkins Coie, and will receive six months of business development at AzCI. Agent Sage provides an online platform where homebuyers and sellers can efficiently find an amiable real estate agent while simultaneously feeding agents' valuable intelligence, which could then be used to streamline home transactions.

Autism Technology Solutions, LLC is developing an iPhone and iPad app that helps special education teachers and autism therapists collect better data for writing government mandated progress reports for the special needs children they teach. The team received a $1,000 cash stipend sponsored by Innovate UA.

CrateCrops provides K-12 schools and universities with a platform for experiential STEM education by combining aquaponics, vertical gardening and sensor and control systems. The team received a  $1,000 cash stipend sponsored by Innovate UA, and a scholarship to the Thryve program, an incubator program that connects technology startups with social entrepreneurs.

Handle, which makes connecting with one another as easy as sharing your name, received a  $1,000 cash stipend sponsored by Innovate UA, and a scholarship to the Thryve program.

LinkX provides a transparent health care database for pricing and availability of medications along with medication therapy management to facilitate a seamless transition of care from the outpatient facility to the home. The team recieved a $1,000 cash stipend sponsored by Innovate UA.

The Smart Mason provides a smart kitchen scale utilizing the mason jar lid. The team received a $1,000 cash stipend sponsored by Innovate UA.

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: Tech Parks ArizonaExtra Info: 

The Arizona Center for Innovation fosters technology startups, emerging, and mature companies in the development of their ideas, inventions, and next evolution of product. AzCI provides facilities including office, wet and dry lab space, and a structured business development program called Mentored Launch, which offers a program of workshops, seminars and networking opportunities. Participating companies also receive individual coaching from mentors experienced in technology innovation, product development and business management. AzCI is located at the UA Tech Park and is a component of Tech Parks Arizona which is part of Tech Launch Arizona, a UA office of integrated teams creating an ecosystem of invention and commercialization.

 

Innovate UA is a program that fosters a student-led culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across campus. Using a "student leadership" model, Innovate UA works to grow an authentic and lasting campus-wide culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The Innovate UA leadership team of directors, organizers and volunteers is made up of students drawn from all corners of campus and ensures that the work of Innovate UA remains relevant to the student body.

 

Perkins Coie LLC is a premier technology-focused law firm. With more than 1,000 lawyers in 19 offices across the U.S. and Asia, the firm represents companies across a range of industries and stages of growth, including start-ups to Fortune 50 companies.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: An entrepreneurial cohort of UA students competed for funding and development support to transform business ideas into reality. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Seniors to Be Honored at Commencement

Thu, 04/23/2015 - 4:19pm

Seven exceptional seniors will be honored for their outstanding achievements during the University of Arizona's Commencement ceremony on May 16.

Nominated by faculty and their peers, the students were selected for their notable accomplishments as UA undergraduates.

This year's honorees include:

Provost Award

This award honors an outstanding graduating student who transferred to the UA from an Arizona community college. Criteria for the award include perseverance and commitment to academic studies, contributions to the UA community, and above-average scholastic ability, citizenship and leadership.

Vincent Redhouse is a member of the Navajo Nation and is a first-generation college student.

Raised in Tucson, he graduated from high school in 2006 and spent the next several years taking classes at Pima Community College on an intermittent basis. With support from his family and friends, Redhouse completed the requirements for the Arizona General Education Curriculum and transferred to the UA in 2012. His degree is in philosophy, politics, economics and law. While studying at the UA, Redhouse has worked with various organizations to improve retention and graduation rates for Native American students.

Robert Logan Nugent Award

Candidates for this award display a record of accomplishments that exemplifies the high ideals of Robert Logan Nugent, who was the UA's executive vice president. Those ideals include active and enthusiastic participation and service in community and University endeavors.

Amanda Ehredt will graduate Summa Cum Laude from the UA with a Bachelor of Arts in history with honors, a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and a minor in adolescents, community and education.

Thanks to her outstanding commitment to service and scholarship, she has earned membership into Phi Beta Kappa, the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, the Golden Key International Honor Society and the Phi Alpha Pre-Law Fraternity. After graduation, she plans to attend the James E. Rogers College of Law.

Stephanie Kha is a National Merit Scholar from Mesa, Arizona, who will graduate Summa Cum Laude from the UA Honors College with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, and a minor in sociology.

While at the UA, Kha was able to achieve high academic distinction while being actively engaged in health advocacy, cancer research and community outreach. She has been involved in the ASUA Student Health Advocacy Committee for four years and leads six subcommittees in coordinating health promotion programs. She also organized a tobacco-free initiative that cleaned up 22,000 cigarette butts across campus.

Robie Gold Medal Award

Qualifications for this award include personal integrity, initiative, cooperation, enthusiasm, humility, well-rounded interests, active participation in student affairs, service to the University, willingness to give more than required, and a love of God and country.

Carolina Ramirez is a first-generation American from Yuma, Arizona.

After completing her first economics course as part of a Stanford University summer program, she was motivated to pursue a degree in economics after noting she was the only minority and one of the few females in the course. While at the UA, Ramirez was named one of the Eller College of Management's top 20 undergraduates, and a top-50 Eller Hispanics and Collegiate Woman. Ramirez will graduate Cum Laude with a degree in economics and minor in Spanish. After graduation, she will begin working as a technology risk consultant for Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Stephanie Zawada is a native Tucsonan graduating Magna Cum Laude from the UA Honors College with a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry, as an associate in the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship Program and with a minor in management information systems and biosecurity.

While at the UA, Zawada served as leadership and development director for ASUA and co-designed Tech Launch Arizona's fellows program to expose students to careers in commercialization. She also chaired the IT Student Advisory Board, soliciting student feedback from across campus and engineering a funding proposal process for new information technology initiatives.

Merrill P. Freeman Medal

Born in 1844 in Ohio, Merrill Freeman served the UA as a regent and as a chancellor, and his will provided for two medals to be awarded annually to students selected by the UA administration. Qualifications include outstanding qualities of moral force of character. Additional factors that may be considered include popularity, receipt of athletic awards, membership in organizations and service on committees as officers.

Alex Huhn is graduating from the Eller College of Management with a Bachelor of Science in business management and an emphasis in Spanish. Huhn was admitted to Eller Leadership and Integrity Training for Excellence, the college's distinguished freshman program that helps students develop their social and professional skills. In 2014, Huhn was elected as president of the Eller Leadership Board and oversaw the ELITE program. His long-term goals are to become an entrepreneur and community leader focused on building aquatic centers whose emphasis is on teaching future generations to swim, snorkel and scuba dive.

Jennifer Sedler will graduate Summa Cum Laude from the UA Honors College with a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree in physiology and a minor in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. A fifth-generation native of Arizona, Sedler earned the title of Miss Arizona in 2011 and spent the year speaking at outreach events to thousands of K-12 students across the state. At the UA, she was a member of the Physiology Club, the Flying Samaritans UA and the Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society, and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Sedler plans to continue her education at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and pursue a career as a physician.

More information about the awardees is available online.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

The UA's 151st Commencement ceremony will be held May 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Arizona Stadium. More information about the ceremony is available online for 2015 graduates and also family members and other guests.

 

More information about the UA's spring Commencement ceremony and the convocation events is available online:

 

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Nominated by faculty and their peers, seven students were selected for their notable accomplishments as UA undergraduates.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Hubble's UA-Made 'Eyes' Help Us See Space

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 3:17pm

Twenty-five years ago, the space shuttle Discovery blasted off into the sky, carrying a telescope that would revolutionize not only desktop wallpaper on computer screens across the globe but humankind's view of our place in the cosmos like no other man-made tool before it.

The next day, on April 25, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope, or HST, was released from the shuttle's cargo bay, and it has been orbiting Earth ever since, poised to peer deep into space and time and open unprecedented views into the cosmos. 

Since then, Hubble has revolutionized our ideas about how the universe works. The HST participated in the studies that led to the realization that the expansion of the universe was not slowing down but in fact accelerating, resulting in the Nobel Prize for three astrophysicists, including UA graduate Brian Schmidt.

The UA has been an essential element in the HST program. The University gave the HST its first infrared eyes with the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, or NICMOS. Launched on Feb. 11, 1997, NICMOS was installed on the telescope by spacewalking astronauts and is still part of the present HST instrument complement. NICMOS was built by the UA's Steward Observatory with funding from NASA. The instrument can see objects in deepest space — objects whose light takes billions of years to reach us here on Earth. 

Many secrets about the birth of stars, solar systems and galaxies are revealed in infrared light, which can penetrate the interstellar gas and dust that block visible light. In addition, light from the most distant objects in the universe "shifts" into the infrared wavelengths. By studying objects and phenomena in this spectral region, astronomers probe the universe's past, present and future, by learning how galaxies, stars and planetary systems form.

Rodger Thompson, professor of astronomy in the UA's Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, led the team, and Marcia Rieke, Regents' Professor of Astronomy, was the deputy principal investigator on the project.

"Beyond its role in scientific inquiry, Hubble has made humankind citizens of the universe," Thompson said. "Images of new stars forming and old stars dying have shown both the beginning and end of stellar life. Photos of distant galaxies revealed the universe as it was shortly after the Big Bang, the explosive beginning of the universe. HST has rekindled interest in science and captured the attention of people, young and old, around the world.

"It is quite a bit more than just a telescope. It is our window on the universe."

The NICMOS program developed the first large-scale infrared detector arrays, which completely changed the way infrared astronomy was done both in space and on the ground, Thompson explained. The successful development of this technology paved the way for a $466 million NASA contract to provide the Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, for the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, Hubble's tennis-court-size successor set to be launched in 2018.

Hubble has been invaluable personally and professionally, said Rieke, speaking for several other UA researchers who have made important discoveries using data and images obtained by the space telescope.

"On the personal level, being the deputy PI on NICMOS gave me invaluable experience that led to my becoming the PI for NIRCam," she said. "On the professional level, HST has opened fields of investigation that JWST will excel at: the early universe and exoplanet transit spectroscopy. These fields in particular will be exploited by JWST, but Hubble has set the stage."

Over the past 25 years, UA scientists in both astronomy and planetary sciences have been heavy users of the HST for observations as close as planets in our solar system to the most distant galaxies ever seen. The list of UA faculty, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students involved in important Hubble projects is long, and so is the list of discoveries. UA Regents' Professor Roger Angel and others have been involved in the Faint Object Spectrograph, UA astronomer Richard Green with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Numerous others include UA Regents' Professor George Rieke, University Distinguished Professor and deputy department head Chris Impey and department head Buell Jannuzi.

Brant Robertson and Daniel Stark, assistant professors of astronomy at Steward Observatory, were part of a collaboration called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2012 that took what is still the "deepest ever" image of the sky. The image revealed a previously unseen population of seven galaxies so far away that their light took most of the time the universe has been in existence to reach Hubble's light sensors. Those galaxies were observed as they appeared in a period 350 million to 600 million years after the Big Bang, when universe was in its infancy. No other instrument had ever probed so far back into space and time.

Using data from Hubble, Robertson and Stark were part of an international team of astronomers that was the first to determine the distance of the galaxy HDF850.1, well known among astronomers as being one of the most productive star-forming galaxies in the observable universe.

Currently, Brant and others at the UA are working on Hubble’s largest ongoing project, the Frontier Fields Project. It peers into the deepest space to determine when the earliest galaxies formed. Frontier Fields draws on the power of massive clusters of galaxies to unleash the full potential of the HST. The gravity of these clusters warps and magnifies the faint light of the distant galaxies behind them. Hubble captures the boosted light, revealing the farthest galaxies humanity has ever encountered and giving us a glimpse of the cosmos to be unveiled by the JWST.

"By combining the light grasp of Hubble with the magnification from gravitational lensing, the Hubble Frontier Fields project is producing an unparalleled view of the formation of galaxies in the first 600 million years of cosmic time," Stark explained. "The first Hubble images from the program have recently provided our first view of typical galaxies during this early period, revealing a population that is much less massive and smaller than our galaxy. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will soon allow us to study these faint systems in the early universe in much greater detail."

The HST is expected to continue to operate past its 30th anniversary in 2020.

Hubble's silver-anniversary week is filled with events at locations around the world, culminating with a NASA-televised celebration Friday night at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  HST images have spurred the imagination and curiosity about the universe throughout the world, and this week’s activities include the unveiling of an HST 25th-anniversary image on Thursday at science centers.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsExtra Info: 

More information about Hubble and its milestones, including image and video galleries as well as a Hubble 25th anniversary commemorative slide set that provides a brief overview of the Hubble Space Telescope and some of its achievements, is available at the Hubble Anniversary Website and on the Hubble Space Telescope Website.

 

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA researchers and engineers have used the Hubble Space Telescope, which has its 25th anniversary on Friday, to make unexpected discoveries of the universe, and they have provided instruments aboard the spacecraft observatory. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Literacy, Learning and Leadership

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 2:13pm

The Literacy, Learning and Leadership major, known informally as LLL or L3, was created by the University of Arizona College of Education for students who want to pursue leadership positions in a variety of educational settings outside of the traditional school context. A recent L3 poster event on campus gave student interns a forum for sharing the work they have been doing in the community.

Flexible coursework prepares students for a future that will impact diverse learning communities through transformative leadership, educational policy and innovative practice. They examine policies that promote equity and educational access for a wide range of groups, including immigrant children and adults, people living in poverty and people with disabilities. 

Students are prepared for work in a variety of settings that:

  • Promote literacy for children, adults, and families.
  • Respect learners of all ages and backgrounds.
  • Impact leadership at the community, state and national policy levels.

Community internships provide L3 majors with hands-on experiences that allow them to practice the leadership skills learned in coursework. These skills closely align with the types of 21st century skills employers desire in their employees, and the L3 program supports the University's 100% Engagement initiative focusing on real-world experience prior to graduation.  

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Social Sciences and EducationTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  Literacy, Learning and Leadership Video of Literacy, Learning and Leadership Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Hear from UA student interns in "L3" who have pursued leadership positions in nontraditional educational settings outside of the classroom.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, April 22, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

UA to Join 'A-Team' in Search for Earthlike Planets

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 6:27pm

Are we alone?

To get answers to one of humanity's oldest questions, NASA has selected an interdisciplinary research team led by the University of Arizona for a major grant in a new program focusing on the search for clues to life on faraway worlds. As part of this virtual institute — called Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or NExSS — UA researchers will help understand how Earthlike planets form and which nearby stars are most likely to host Earth's twins.

In bringing together the best and brightest, the NExSS team hopes to better understand the various components of exoplanets — planets around other stars — as well as how the parent stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.

"Participation in the new NExSS program allows us to endeavor on an ambitious program to understand how Earthlike planets form and acquire their water, carbon, and nitrogen budget — in other words, how to equip a planet with the ingredients and processes necessary to sustain life as we know it," said Daniel Apai, who leads the Earths in Other Solar Systems, or EOS, team at the UA.

NASA sees the search for extraterrestrial life as one its most exciting challenges. Since the launch of NASA’s Kepler space telescope six years ago, more than 1,800 exoplanets are known, with thousands of additional candidates waiting to be confirmed. Some of these worlds are potentially habitable, and their presence tells scientists that similar planets also should be common in the solar neighborhood, where astronomers have a chance to search them for signs of life, or biosignatures.

Key to this effort is understanding how biology interacts with the atmosphere, geology, oceans and the interior of a planet, and how these interactions are affected by the host star. NExSS will address this challenge by coordinating research in astronomy, planetary sciences, biology, atmospheric sciences and earth sciences. NExSS will include team members from 10 universities, three NASA centers and two research institutes.

"With our current technologies, we have primarily measured the physical and astronomical properties of exoplanets — such as their masses or sizes, and their orbital properties," said Natalie Batalha, NASA's Kepler mission scientist and co-director of NExSS at NASA. "But the integration described above will be required for a new era of measurements of the chemical properties of these worlds that will determine what they are made of, and detect specific chemicals in their atmospheres."

Building on its decades-long tradition of excellence in astronomy, planetary sciences and space mission development, the UA’s Steward Observatory and Lunar and Planetary Laboratory coordinated an international team to successfully propose complex, five-year interdisciplinary research in NASA’s new Nexus for Exoplanet System Studies program.

The EOS team, which includes 25 investigators, will carry out 14 closely coordinated research projects and combine its results into a comprehensive computer model of planetary system formation, capable of predicting connections between the properties of planetary systems (such as presence of other planets) and the likelihood that they host Earthlike planets. The team will make use of the UA's radio telescopes, the Large Binocular Telescope (the world’s largest optical telescope, located on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona) and several other cutting-edge telescopes, as well as the UA’s state-of-the-art microscopic facilities. Over the next five years, 13 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will be able to join the study.

Other institutional partners in the EOS project include the University of Chicago and the Tucson-based National Optical Astronomical Observatory. The NOAO-based team will focus its attention on disks around nearby young stars in its search for answers to some basic questions about planet formation. 

"Using infrared and millimeter wavelength observations, we will look for chemical evidence of planet formation in action and try to better understand the timing of planet formation, when it begins and how long it takes," said Joan Najita, astronomer and NOAO lead. 

In recent years, the UA has established itself as a leader and a key NASA partner in the search for extraterrestrial life. It hosted last year’s largest conference on the search for extraterrestrial life, has multiple world-class teams carrying out research on exoplanets and astrobiology, and also provides training for undergraduate and graduate students in its astrobiology minor programs.

Thomas Zega, EOS deputy principal investigator and assistant professor in the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said, "Meteorites are physical relics from the time the solar system formed, and by studying the organics that they contain with high spatial resolution microscopy techniques, we can get insight into pre-biotic chemistry."

Among NASA’s ambitious plans are next-generation major space telescopes developed specifically to survey the atmospheres of extrasolar Earths for gases characteristic to life, and the UA’s exoplanet hunter teams and UA students are now set to be part of the adventure.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A new NASA initiative is embracing a team approach to the quest for life on planets around other stars. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

UA Hosts Forum on Food, Energy, Water

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 4:13pm

A select group of representatives from academia, government and industry convened last week at the University of Arizona's Biosphere 2 facility to identify the top scientific questions surrounding the availability of energy, water and food for future generations.

The workshop, among the first in a series of meetings across the country to address the critical intersection of resources, was funded by the National Science Foundation and was designed to foster national and international collaborations. The NSF had asked members to emphasize the issue as a way of finding solutions to a booming global population.

"We were honored to host this important meeting with the goal of establishing an interdisciplinary, broad-based approach to one of the most significant challengers of the 21st century," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president for research at the UA. "Helping to solve the grand challenges that we face to make Arizona a better place is part of our strategic plan.

"This conference takes advantage of the UA's and regional strengths in science, engineering and economics to cut across the scientific challenges," she said, "to make sure in the future we have the availability of inexpensive, secure and accessible supplies of energy, clean water and food systems."

One of the issues examined by the participants involved determining how to deliver electricity with less energy. For instance, as energy demand increases, the water required to meet that demand actually will exceed the energy needed. Other issues discussed included efficient ways to grow food and alternative ways to create potable water.

"It is absolutely clear that food, energy and water are interlinked systems," said Neal Armstrong, a Regents' Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Optical Sciences who directs the UA’s Energy Frontier Research Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

"It has now become clear that the three groups need to work tightly together to get it right in new science and technologies. And those of us who work in the basic sciences have to make sure that what we are working on has a chance of being massively scaled into solutions that people can afford to buy."

The workshop followed a recent visit to the UA by France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, hosted by the Office for Research & Discovery and University Relations. During the visit, Córdova met with faculty, talked to students and visited some of the UA’s world-renowned research facilities, including Biosphere 2, the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

"During that visit, Córdova mentioned the nexus of food, energy and water and its possibilities for understanding will really be a spotlight for efforts by her agency and so critical to our future," Espy said.

The issue of finding a reliable way to improve the delivery of energy, water and food has become a priority on the scientific landscape. As the leading research agency of the federal government, the NSF has set aside $76 million in its 2016 budget to understand, design and model the interconnected nature of food energy and water systems. Other federal agencies — such as the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency — also have made it a top priority.

"When you think about it — water is a challenge, food is a challenge, and so is energy," Espy said at the workshop. "In my view, the nexus of the three is really the 'uber-challenge' ... that will take some bold moves forward."

According to Espy, the goal of the workshop was to begin to find a roadmap for solutions going forward.

"We won't solve all the issues today or have all the answers, but hopefully the participants will design some of the important questions that will set us on the path towards new solutions," she said.

More than 75 people from around the world attended the two-day event. Attendees included representatives from the UA, Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, UNAM in Mexico, the National Science Foundation, the Arizona Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Arizona Public Service.

Arizona was an ideal spot for the workshop because of the arid environment and scarce water resources, according to the organizers. The water issue is of critical importance as population swells around the globe and weather patterns continue to change, making droughts more prevalent and temperatures warmer. California’s current water restrictions highlight the need for new solutions.

"Increased climate variability has raised the stakes, there is no doubt about that," Armstrong said. "We live in an area where we have known for a long time that we're short of water, and there is a culture that's been built in this part of Arizona, which is now being enhanced, where we understand the linkages probably better than anybody, because we live in a living laboratory. We're doing the experiment, whether we like it or not. We're part of the research, and we have got to get it right. If we don't get it right here, we probably won't get it right anywhere."

Espy emphasized the collaborative framework of the UA, both across university entities and with outside partners in academia and industry.

"We are looking at everything from finding ways of growing crops more efficiently in innovative ways, to harnessing the power of the desert sun and making sure we have energy to stay cool and deliver water in the future," Espy said. "Arizona is the crucible for this nexus and, as was said before, we are in fact a living laboratory where these solutions will be found. At the UA, we often talk about boundless opportunities, driven in part by our high mountains, our big clear skies and the broad expanse, and I'm really excited to see you all in this environment tackle this grand challenge. I'm looking forward to the report that comes out of this workshop."

Conference leaders will draft a report to submit to the NSF highlighting some of the issues that were discussed. The goal would be to follow up with research regarding those issues in an effort to find solutions.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Funded by the National Science Foundation, the workshop brings together government officials, business leaders and academics from Arizona, the U.S. and Europe to tackle pressing global questions. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Narrating the Wildcat Way

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 12:40pm

Four students will be selected to write a column this summer that will amplify student voices and share the University of Arizona experience.

University Relations, Communications is introducing a new student column on the UA's official news site, UANews.org, which is designed to inform and engage the campus community and a general audience. The column, which may be extended into the 2015-16 academic year, is aligned with the UA's 100% Engagement initiative to provide students with career-applied experiences before they graduate.

Over the course of the summer, the four students will be asked to produce at least one guest column per month about their experiences. Students will be encouraged to include photography and short videos to complement their writing.

Each columnist will receive regular individualized coaching, mentoring and editing support. In addition to blog placement, the column may be promoted through the University's official social channels and placed in UANow, a UA-endorsed e-newsletter with a readership of more than 135,000.

Students are invited to apply via Wildcat JobLink, UANews Guest Columnist (#771307). Applicants must be enrolled at the UA at least part time and must have plans to be involved in a summer internship, job, fellowship, assistantship or other engaged work. The application deadline is April 30.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A guest column is launching on the UA's official blog, featuring students who are involved in a summer internship, job, fellowship, assistantship or other engaged work. UA students are invited to apply. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Astronomers Probe Young Star and its Planets

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 6:19pm

Astronomers have probed deeper than before into a planetary system 130 light-years from Earth. The observations mark the first results of a new exoplanet survey called LEECH, or LBT Exozodi Exoplanet Common Hunt, and are published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The planetary system of HR8799, a young star only 30 million years old, was the first to be directly imaged, with three planets found in in 2008 and a fourth one in 2010.

"This star was therefore a target of choice for the LEECH survey, offering the opportunity to acquire new images and better define the dynamical properties of the exoplanets orbiting," said Christian Veillet, director of the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, or LBTO.

The LEECH survey began at the Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, in southeastern Arizona in February 2013 to search for and characterize young and adolescent exoplanets in the near-infrared spectrum (specifically, at a wavelength of 3.8 micrometers that astronomers call the L' band). LEECH exploits the superb performance of the LBT adaptive optics system to image exoplanets with the L/M-band infrared camera, or LMIRCam, installed in the LBT Interferometer, or LBTI.

"The LBT enables us to look at those planets at a wavelength that nobody else is really using," Veillet explained. "Because they are gas giants and still very young, they glow nicely at the L' band, and because they appear so bright there, they stand out, allowing us to observe closer to the star. This has allowed us to nail down the orbits of this system, which is pretty far away."

"Normally the problem with this approach would be that at 4 microns, telescope optics glow themselves," said Andy Skemer, a Hubble Fellow at the University of Arizona's Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory and the lead of the survey. "However, with LBT, everything about the telescope, its adaptive optics system and science camera have been optimized to minimize this glow. As a result, LEECH is more sensitive than previous exoplanet imaging surveys, and this new image of HR 8799 is proof."

The study was dedicated to studying the planet architecture of the HR 8799 system, according to the leading author, Anne-Lise Maire, a postdoctoral fellow at INAF-Padova Observatory in Padova, Italy. The team sought to constrain the orbital parameters of the four known giant planets and the physical properties of a putative fifth planet inside the known planets.

"To address the first point, we investigated in particular the types of resonances between the planet orbits," Maire explained. "From the resonances, we learn not only about the overall architecture of the planetary system, but also about the mass range of the planets.

"They cannot be too massive, or else the system would be dynamically unstable, as previous studies have suggested. Moreover, the presence of resonances between the planets indicates that they gravitationally interact with each other, which gives us a lower limit on their masses."

The results of this study favor an architecture for the system based on multiple double resonances — in other words, each of the three outer planets takes about twice as long to complete an orbit around the star as its neighbor closer to the star.

"LEECH's unique sensitivity enabled us to probe the inner region of this planetary system," added Wolfgang Brandner, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. "A fifth massive giant planet in an inner resonant orbit was excluded. This could mean that the HR 8799 planetary system has an architecture similar to the solar system, with four massive planets at larger distances, and potentially lower mass planets — which haven't been detected, yet — in the inner planetary system."

Added Veillet: "Our observations give us good idea that this system is pretty stable. In other words, there is no indication those planets are going to collide with each other in a few million years."

In its current configuration, the inner planet LEECH can see approaches the star to about 15 Astronomical Units, or AU, Veillet explained, or 15 times the average distance between the Earth and our sun.

"If there were planets of similar brightness closer to the star, we should see it as close as 10 AU," he said, "which corresponds to the orbit of Saturn."

According to Veillet, the LEECH survey is an exemplary project in two ways.

"It takes full advantage of the adaptive optics performance offered by our adaptive secondary mirrors, and it combines resources from most of the LBTO partners — four U.S. universities, two institutes in Germany, and the Italian community — to build a large program of more than 100 observing nights. This would not be possible for a single partner on a reasonable time scale."

The LBT is an international collaboration among institutions in the U.S., Italy and Germany. LBT Corporation partners are: the University of Arizona on behalf of the Arizona university system; Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy; LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Germany, representing the Max-Planck Society, the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, and Heidelberg University; Ohio State University; and the Research Corporation, on behalf of the University of Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota and the University of Virginia. The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer is funded by NASA as part of its Exoplanet Exploration program. LMIRCam is funded by the National Science Foundation through grant NSF AST-0705296.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Taking advantage of the unprecedented sensitivity of the Large Binocular Telescope in southeastern Arizona, an international team of astronomers has obtained the first results from the LEECH exoplanets survey. The findings reveal new insights into the architecture of HR8799, a "scaled-up" version of our solar system 130 light-years from Earth. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Global Leader in Insect Management Earns Koffler Prize

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 3:59pm

Bruce Tabashnik, professor and head of entomology in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been awarded the Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize for Research/Scholarship/Creative Activity.

The award was presented at the annual Awards of Distinction Ceremony luncheon recently at the Student Union Memorial Center on campus.

Sponsored by the UA provost, the prize was established through the generosity of Henry and Phyllis Koffler in 2000 and consists of a one-time award of $10,000, a medallion and a certificate.

"Dr. Tabashnik is internationally recognized for his innovative research on the evolution and management of insects," his nominators wrote. "Tabashnik’s discoveries have profoundly affected his field and provided a foundation for enhancing sustainable agriculture worldwide. His groundbreaking work has benefited agriculture, the economy, the environment, and human health in Arizona, the nation and abroad.”

Tabashnik has served as head of the UA Department of Entomology since 1996. He previously was a faculty member at the University of Hawaii and earned his doctorate at Stanford University. He has spent decades conducting pioneering research on strategies to delay insect resistance to proteins produced by the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kill some key insect pests, but are not toxic to most other organisms including humans and even most beneficial insects.

"A fundamental aspect of my research approach is developing, testing and applying evolutionary theory to delay adaptation of pests to environmentally friendly control methods," Tabashnik said. "This entails mathematical modeling, often implemented with computer simulations, to explore potential outcomes under different scenarios."

Since 1996, farmers have planted crops that are genetically engineered to make Bt proteins for pest control. This approach has boosted farmer profits and reduced the use of broad-spectrum insecticides that can harm wildlife and people. However, when insect pest populations are exposed repeatedly to transgenic Bt crops, they can quickly evolve resistance.

Tabashnik has studied in depth a creative and widely implemented "refuge" strategy, by which insect host plants that do not make Bt proteins are planted near Bt crops. These refuges allow pests that are susceptible to survive and mate with the few resistant insects that emerge, thus diluting their numbers and slowing the evolution of resistance.

Refuge strategies shaped by Tabashnik's work with the diamondback moth in vegetables and the pink bollworm in cotton have been implemented on most of the more than 1 billion acres of transgenic Bt crops planted globally since 1996.

Fred Gould, Reynolds Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, noted that Tabashnik's early work demonstrated the type of excellence and creativity that eventually would become his trademark.

"The influence of population structure on resistance had been given little attention until Bruce started his work, but has now become a central focus in the work of many researchers," Gould wrote in his nominating letter on behalf of Tabashnik.

Throughout his career, Tabashnik has worked with a wide range of collaborators in academia, government and industry, both nationally and internationally. For example, a four-year study he recently completed with scientists in China, monitoring 19 field sites in seven provinces and evaluating more than 70,000 insects, "provided compelling evidence that refuges planted by 10 million Chinese farmers delayed pest resistance," according to Tabashnik.  

He has served as an adviser to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on resistance management plans for transgenic crops, a member of the pink bollworm technical advisory committee; as a consultant for Bayer CropScience in India; and in many other capacities as a collaborator and problem-solver. He has contributed his time and efforts to many professional societies, regional committees and local organizations.

Along the way, Tabashnik has mentored more than 110 high school, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students in his laboratory. For younger (and older) audiences, he teamed with colleagues in entomology to initiate the annual Arizona Insect Festival, which has attracted thousands of children and their families to appreciate and understand insects.

Tabashnik's 300-plus scientific publications have been cited more than 16,000 times, according to Google Scholar. He has served as an editorial board member for six scientific journals and provided more than 700 reviews of grant proposals and manuscripts for eight granting agencies and 82 journals. His funded extramural research grants total more than $9 million, and he has co-authored a patent licensed to a major corporation. 

Among his numerous awards and honors, Tabashnik was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2010 and a fellow of the Entomological Society of America in 2007, which also honored him with the Excellence in Integrated Pest Management Award in 1992. He served as a guest editor for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and has been recognized as a "highly cited author" in two fields by the ISI Essential Science Indicators. He was honored as Faculty Member of the Year in CALS in 2014.

Tabashnik's enduring dedication to finding sustainable solutions for insect damage to crops stems from the severity of the poverty and hunger he witnessed during a backpacking trip through Kenya and Tanzania when he was 21. Decades later, his passion to find a way to help farmers produce a safe food supply has benefited millions of people worldwide.

"Bruce has contributed more to the area of pesticide resistance management research than any other single scientist in the world," Gould said.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: College of Agriculture and Life SciencesHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA Professor Bruce Tabashnik received the 2015 Koffler Prize for Research/Scholarship/Creative Activity, which honors a dedicated scientist, scholar and collaborator whose mission is to “conduct research to improve food production while preserving environmental quality.” Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Sustainability Highlights UA's Spring Fling

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 12:41pm

Spring Fling, the University of Arizona's three-day, student-run carnival in mid-April, could be renamed Earth Days and it would fit. Such was the enthusiastic commitment of organizers to recycling, composting and waste diversion efforts this year.

"Greening campus events helps make the events better, and it helps more people to connect with what sustainability means and how they can take part," said Ben Champion, director of the UA's Office of Sustainability. "It is important to mobilize our community for large-scale campus events because they are our biggest opportunities to engage the most people at once."

Members of Compost Cats collaborate with campus partners and local businesses and organizations to collect food waste and scraps, and Greening the Game organizes recycling efforts at UA athletic events and other opportunities throughout the year. At Spring Fling, those two groups were able to divert 1,284 pounds of compostable material and food scraps from landfills and recycle much of the rest of the waste. The result was nearly double the total from last year's event.

Organizers also hosted a bike valet to encourage cycling over driving for those who attended Spring Fling. And the team partnered with Grecycle, a local company that converts grease into biodiesel fuel.

"Our main objective was to reduce waste. It's a great way to have a large event have a huge impact," said Maya L. Kapoor, a graduate assistant for the Office of Sustainability, which coordinates environmental sustainability programs, initiatives and communication across campus.

"There is a lot happening at the UA all the time related to sustainability."

Spring Fling's conclusion coincided with the UA's inclusion in the 2015 edition of The Princeton Review's Guide to 353 Green Colleges. The Princeton Review studied the practices of more than 2,000 higher-education institutions across the nation, and the 353 institutions selected are considered leaders of the advancement of sustainability education and a healthy quality of life for students.

The UA has had success implementing green practices at other large-scale campus events, including homecoming and the recent Green Sports Alliance's Pac-12 zero waste competition.

Other UA sustainability programs and initiatives include:

  • The President's Advisory Council on Environmental Sustainability, which is composed of senior administrators, faculty, student and University community leaders, and representatives of the region who identify sustainability priorities across the campus.
  • The Green Fund, a student-led committee that funds sustainability project proposals that provide meaningful student opportunities to participate in the greening of the UA. The Arizona Board of Regents approved the Green Fund for the first time as part of tuition and fees in March 2010.
  • Eco-Reps, volunteers from the UA's residence halls who assist in educating others about sustainability.
  • Solar Cats, an environmentally conscious group of students who are working to increase the utilization of solar energy on campus.

And, for the first time, the Office of Sustainability has been consulting with organizers of the UA's May 16 Commencement ceremony to reduce the amount of waste and plastics generated by the event. A portable bulk water delivery system will be piloted.

Large-scale events at the UA have become the focus of a strategy that includes — but isn't limited to — recycling. In greening an event, all aspects are considered, including purchasing and alternative transportation.  

The Office of Sustainability worked with UA Parking and Transportation Services to offer a free bike valet for Spring Fling that was staffed by the UA Cycling Club. With the financial support of the Green Fund, the office also was able to provide compostable plates and utensils to student organizers who sold food during Spring Fling.

"It was a big effort in waste diversion, and the student groups were really enthusiastic and supportive of this opportunity," Kapoor said. "We want to be at the forefront, setting examples and leading the way for other schools."

Champion said a bigger picture is involved. 

"More sustainable campus events will hopefully increase participation in some of our student groups, in educational events on campus, in students choosing to major in areas related to sustainability, and students getting involved in the community efforts around sustainability challenges in Tucson," he said.

Spring Fling also gathered 2,156 pounds of canned food for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and more than 1,352 children's books, which will be donated to the Reading Seed, a Tucson-based literacy project. Spring Fling raised more tthan $70,000 for UA student clubs and organizations.

"This year, Spring Fling was a huge success for the student directors, the community and the organization as a whole," said Amanda Lester, an English and psychology major and executive director of Spring Fling.

"We enjoy, above all else, having the opportunity to grow as leaders while working with the community, campus partners, and the unique clubs and organizations on the University of Arizona campus."

Kaitlin Dickson, the Equestrian Team's representative, said it was the club's first time participating in Spring Fling.

"Not only is it a great way to raise money for our club, it also allows us to meet the community and educate them on what we do," said Dickson, an animal science major and Honors College student.

The team, which is part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, provides students with opportunities to compete and develop sportsmanship skills while building relationships with other students. Funding from Spring Fling will help students travel out of state to compete.

This was the second year of participation for Global Brigades, which works in Central America and Africa to help develop self-sustaining communities by implementing health, economic and educational programs.

"Our mission is to have a local as well as global presence, and events like Spring Fling are a neat way to engage our members locally," said fundraising chair Emily Long, an Honors College student studying neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology.

All of the funds the group generates go toward medications, supplies and personnel necessary to run its medical clinics, Long said. The group has traveled to Honduras, Panama and Ghana to facilitate clinics. 

"Our fundraising efforts go toward changing lives by offering accessible health care," Long said. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: One of the largest events held on the UA campus, with more than 32,000 visitors this year, Spring Fling provided an opportunity to divert waste while helping to fund student clubs and local organizations. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Students to 'Study Abroad' in U.S.

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 12:25pm

University of Arizona students have the chance to "study abroad" this summer without ever leaving the country.

The "Study Away Tour," a new, independent-study course offered this summer through the UA Department of Africana Studies, will give students the opportunity to visit historical sites in the South and learn about the civil rights era.

It is crafted like a domestic version of a study-abroad program, intended to give students an in-person understanding of some of the most important events that have shaped the United States.

"It's going to be a total immersion experience," said Tani Sanchez, a UA associate professor of Africana studies, who will lead the course with Johnny Bowens, a lecturer in Africana studies.

The course, open to all majors, runs June 1-6 and may be taken for up to six credits. To earn six credits, students can enroll in an introductory course to Africana studies offered in conjunction with the summer tour. During the summer course, students will live near Emory University in Atlanta.

Sanchez said the trip is meant to be valuable no matter a student's area of focus, whether it be Africana studies, health care, education or science.

"They will be better able to relate to different people and ideas," she said, adding that although the tour is a look at a specific time in history, the ideas can apply to today.

Students will participate in formal tours of sites such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the APEX Museum, the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a plantation and different interactive museums.

During the program, students will complete class assignments and document their experiences in a "digital diary," a blog where students compare their ideas about the civil rights movement before and after the tours. Students also will be asked to critically analyze their understanding of the ways African-American history has evolved and changed. The blog will be turned in at the end of the course, with the possibility of publication to an outside website.

"Each day is filled with very, very exciting and eye-opening experiences," said Bowens, who hopes students involved in the trip will commit to helping create greater acceptance of those from different cultural backgrounds.

One student enrolled in the summer course is UA junior Kevyn Butler, a double major in dance and Africana studies.

"Usually when you think about studying abroad, it’s out of the country, but taking a study course inside your own country to someplace you haven’t been, I think that’s just as cool as traveling outside the country," Butler said.

Butler has been to the South, recently participating in a dance performance for the 50th celebration of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in Alabama. He heard about the course before performing and wanted to learn more.

"I thought it would be a different way to experience learning Africana studies, learning about it hands-on," he said. "Seeing it is a different way to experience education."

That's what Sanchez is hoping for.

"I thought it would be really good if students could go there and just learn and see," she said. "It would be like making the pages of the history book come alive. I want people to think about possibilities and say, 'This is what it really looks like, this is how it happened,' then contrast it to wherever it is they came from."

Butler said he is excited to see the "realism of what black history means in America" and learn about sites familiar only through textbooks.

"Those places are a precedent on the abilities that I have now being a black student in higher education," he said.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Brittney SmithByline: Brittney SmithByline Affiliation: UANews Student Associate, University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

For more information about the summer course, or to enroll, contact Tani Sanchez at tsanchez@email.arizona.edu or 520-621-5613. The deadline for enrollment is April 24.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA students in any discipline can enroll in an independent studies course and take a “study away” tour of the South, visiting historical sites while staying in Atlanta. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

UA Students Gain Experience in Racing Industry

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 7:36pm

Patrons at Rillito Park Race Track in northwest Tucson may have noticed a new presence during the recently completed spring race meet: young adults, dressed in navy shirts, on the TV screens, in the admissions booths and in the racing office. 

Students from the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program in the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, had the opportunity to learn about the industry firsthand through a collaboration with the local track. They worked in different capacities at the track and in the classroom on projects related to the track’s operations.

One such project: a marketing and promotion plan to promote a Kentucky Derby party at Rillito on May 2. A strategic analysis of the track is coming in the fall, and the program's director, Doug Reed, said his vision is for Rillito to be a "working lab" for the students.

"I’d like to see students be able to use Rillito as a conduit for experiments," Reed said. "As ideas come up in the classroom, we could go to Rillito and use it as a lab to conduct experiments, and the students can report their research findings to the industry.”

That goal seems well within reach. The Race Track Industry Program is well-connected in the racing industry, recognized for its ability to train potential new members of the industry.  It was started in 1974 and offers both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Many of its students are older and have returned to school for this specific program.

Each December, the RTIP holds a symposium on racing and gaming that attracts members of the thoroughbred, quarter horse, standardbred and greyhound racing industries from around the world.

RTIP students have the opportunity to learn and connect through guest speakers, internships, the symposium and mentor lunch, alumni and a diverse faculty.

"We have a faculty that all have experience in the industry, but not the same experience," Reed said.  "We’re not all out of the same mold, which I think is a great benefit."

Nearly 600 former students now are working in the industry around the world. Some are accomplished trainers, such as RTIP graduate Bob Baffert, while others are managing large race tracks or have found success in business areas such as marketing or human resources.

"If you work hard and take advantage of opportunities, you will succeed," Reed said. "Our alumni always say to take advantage of everything."

Rillito Park’s new general manager, Michael Weiss, was a student in the program and went on to revive other tracks around the country, such as Beulah Park in Grove City, Ohio, with innovative marketing and promotions. He played a major role in connecting the RTIP to Rillito. 

Weiss said he believes students have had invaluable real-world experiences at the track.

"I don’t care if you say it’s just Rillito Park, not Belmont Park," Weiss said. "It’s the same game, just different numbers. And sometimes at a small track you have to dig in and get dirtier, and that’s what these students have the opportunity to do."

Weiss interviewed interested students before the spring semester, helping them to find work at Rillito and offering them paid jobs. Positions ranged from selling tickets to putting together the race card together to managing the track’s social media accounts.

Rillito’s handicapping team, the Desert Duo, is a product of the collaboration between the track and the RTIP.  Students Aaron Brukman and Randy Olson presented their picks for the live races at Rillito and for simulcast races from tracks around the country.

Many of the students worked weekends, but others worked all week long. Honore Bremer worked in the racing office taking entries during the week and then operated the photo-finish camera and timing equipment on weekends.

"It’s given me real-world experience because now I’ve seen the operations of a race track," Bremer said.

Anna Hibbard, a senior in the program, also worked in the office, which was a new experience even though she had completed multiple internships in the industry.

"All of my experience up until now has been on the back stretch with the horses and horsemen," she said. "This has given me a much broader spectrum of what the industry can offer me."                                                           

For more information, visit the RTIP’s website at https://ua-rtip.org.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Bridget GroboskyByline Affiliation: College of Agriculture and Life SciencesHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Rillito Park Race Track in Tucson has been home to the Race Track Industry Program, which began at the University in 1974 and has launched nearly 600 alumni on careers in the business.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Honoring Our Relationship With Words

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 5:40pm

In recognition of the largest literary celebration in the world, members of the University of Arizona community are highlighting the work and contributions of poets while encouraging support for poets and the reading of their work.

During National Poetry Month, the UA Poetry Center, one of the largest special collections of contemporary poetry in the nation, is hosting a number of events, which complement ongoing campus support for the preservation and spread of the literary form.

"In fundamental ways, I think a poem is a belief-making space, and the stakes of poetry are whether you as a reader or listener believe in the world and emotional landscape the poet has created for you by the end," Tyler Meier, executive director of the UA Poetry Center, explaining his devotion to and connection with poetry. 

"I come to poems wanting to believe in them in this way. It takes attention, empathy and honesty on the part of the reader, and it takes similar things on the part of the poet, as well as language that has been crafted in such a way as to have the potential to change us — to inspire us, to improve us, to challenge us," Meier said. "It's addictive, and I don't know anything that has been as rewarding."

Among the month's events, the UA Poetry Center is partnering with the Phoenix Art Museum, extending a successful collaboration that began last fall. Continuing the effort to bring artists and poets of national acclaim to Phoenix audiences, the organizations will host "Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings," featuring visual artist and poet Jen Bervin.

The May 1 event will be held 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. During the talk, Bervin will discuss the facsimile edition of Dickinson's "envelope poems" that she co-edited with scholar Marta Werner, and which was named a Best Book of the Year for 2013 from Times Literary Supplement, Hyperallergic and The New Yorker.

The UA Poetry Center is hosting or sponsoring a number of other events, including:

  • Thursday: The Oro Valley Poetry Series will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on "The Interior Voice: Emily Dickinson." Led by UA Poetry Center docents, the group will meet to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. The event will be held at the Oro Valley Library, 1305 W. Naranja Drive, Oro Valley.
  • Saturday: The Bilingual High School Corrido Farewell Concert will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the Poetry Center. The concert will include musical performances of the winning corridos by Salvador Duran, with lyrics written by high school students.
  • April 30: Bervin, whose works are held in more than 30 national collections, will speak at 7 p.m. on her work with Emily Dickinson’s archive at the Poetry Center, located in the Helen S. Schaefer Building, 1508 E. Helen St.
  • May 1: The Art & Environment Network at Institute of the Environment and Poetry Center is hosting a tour of the center's rare books from 11 a.m. to noon. Wendy Burk, the center's librarian, will speak about the pieces in the center's rare-book collection that blend art and the environment. To join the tour, RSVP to Eric Magrane at emagrane@email.arizona.edu.

In addition to the events, people across campus consistently draw on the influence of poetry.

Amanda Lester, an English and psychology major whose favorite poet is Robert Frost, also celebrates the continued importance of poetry in our social and cultural lives.

"Poetry has a unique way of drawing a reader into the words and bringing them to life. It conveys the deepest and most precious emotions in such an elegant manner," Lester said, adding that the literary form has helped her to become a better communicator.

"I have turned to poetry in times of sadness, grief, joy and love. Each time I have found comfort in the notion that all that I have felt has been felt before," she said.

University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy Chris Impey closed out the popular College of Science lecture series, "Life in the Universe," this spring with a poem from Diane Ackerman from "Ode to the Alien." Impey read the final lines:

Have you arts?

Do waves dash over your brain

like tide rip along a rocky coast?

Does your moon slide into the night's back pocket,

just full when it begans to wane,

so that all joy seems interim?

Are you flummoxed by that millpond,

deep within the atom, rippling out to every star?

Diana Liverman, a Regents' Professor in the School of Geography and Development and a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, has used poetry to communicate the value and necessity of sustainability efforts.

The College of Medicine's Harmony Magazine, which accepts submissions from across the U.S. and is disseminated nationally and internationally, publishes poetry and other works by students, medical and health care professionals, patients, and community members. Often writings are about the experiences people have when dealing with health and medical issues.

The UA Poetry Center is heading up a public outreach art project in partnership with artists Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead, rotating poetry on reader boards along the Tucson Streetcar route.

The Poetry Center also has produced and has begun to distribute a series of promotional postcards featuring quotes from poems that were recited in Tucson. The project specifically highlights poets who have recently dies, including Seamus Heaney, Maxine Kumin, Philip Levine, Mark Strand, Bill Knott and Carolyn Kizer.

"It has been a huge, significant period of loss as a generation of important, venerable poets have died," Meier said. The center has recorded and documented visits by artists, and it maintains the recordings in voca, an audio/video library that is accessible to the public.

"We produced these postcards to advocate for what the collection holds, and to remember these lives," Meier said.

Also, the Poetry Center is collaborating with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on a new project, "Woven Words," which will feature poetry installations throughout the museum grounds focused on the theme of conservation.

Eric Magrane, a research assistant and Carson Scholar for Institute of the Environment, is the first poet-in-residence at the Desert Museum and has been co-facilitating "Woven Words," which is designed to evoke conversations and actions around conservation.

"Poetry can surprise and affect people in ways that sometimes traditional interpretive signage does not," said Magrane, also a doctoral candidate in the UA School of Geography and Development and a Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry graduate fellow.

"Using poetry at the Desert Museum is a way to encourage visitors to think in new ways about the relationships between ourselves and other species," he said. "Poetry can help tell some of the great natural history stories of the Sonoran Desert and inspire visitors around conservation issues." 

On May 1 at 7 p.m., Magrane will present his work — along with "Miss Marple," a ringtail, in attendance — during a free public event to be held at Antigone Books, 411 N. Fourth Ave.

And as Meier and others continue to promote the value and importance of poetry, he said there is much to learn from the genre.

"Poems also have real educational value. They are literacy-makers, and we are language-based beings," Meier said.

"If you can read a poem, you are also equipping yourself to read other cultural texts — works of art, like a painting or a production, and also other performances, such as political rhetoric or the 24-hour news cycle," he said. "I believe the most valuable tools necessary for the world we live in are facility with language and emotional literacy. Experiences with poetry can do remarkable, necessary work developing both skills."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

The UA Poetry Center is in the midst of fundraising campaigns for its yearly programs, "Woven Words," and also an endowment, which will provide a sustainable path for future growth. For more information, contact Tyler Meier, executive director of the Poetry Center, at 520-626-5880 or tmeier@email.arizona.edu.

 

The center's Walt Whitman Circle is a membership-based program that provides the center with predictable base of support. Visit the center's website to learn more, or the UA Foundation's page to make a contribution.

 

Also, interested in summer workshops in poetry, fiction, nonfiction and letterpress print? The Poetry Center is now taking registration for its lineup of creative workshops to be held this summer. The full course schedule and registration form are available online.

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Meteorites Date Moon-Forming Impact Event

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 5:18pm

Through a combination of data analysis and numerical modeling work, researchers have found a record of the ancient Moon-forming giant impact observable in stony meteorites. Published in the April issue of the journal Science, the work was done by NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute researchers led by principal investigator Bill Bottke of the Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets team at the Southwest Research Institute and included Tim Swindle, director of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

The inner solar system's biggest known collision was the moon-forming giant impact between a large protoplanet and the proto-Earth. The timing of this giant impact, however, is uncertain, with the ages of the most ancient lunar samples returned by the Apollo astronauts still being debated. Numerical simulations of the giant impact indicate this event not only created a disk of debris near Earth that formed the moon, but it also ejected huge amounts of debris completely out of the Earth-moon system. The fate of this material, as much as several percent of an Earth mass, has not been closely examined until recently. However, it is likely that some of it blasted main belt asteroids, with a record plausibly left behind in their near-surface rocks. Collisions on these asteroids in more recent times delivered these shocked remnants to Earth, which scientists have now used to date the age of the moon.

The research indicates numerous kilometer-size fragments from the giant impact struck main belt asteroids at much higher velocities than typical main belt collisions, heating the surface and leaving behind a permanent record of the impact event. Evidence that the impact produced a large number of kilometer-size fragments can be inferred from laboratory and numerical impact experiments, the ancient lunar impact record itself, and the numbers and sizes of fragments produced by major main belt asteroid collisions.

Once the team concluded that pieces of the moon-forming impact hit main belt asteroids and left a record of shock heating events in some meteorites, it set out to deduce both the timing and the relative magnitude of the bombardment. By modeling the evolution of giant impact debris over time and fitting the results to ancient impact heat signatures in stony meteorites, the team was able to infer that the moon formed about 4.47 billion years ago, in agreement with many previous estimates. The most ancient solar system materials found in meteorites are about 100 million years older than this age.

Insights into the last stages of planet formation in the inner solar system can be gleaned from these impact signatures. For example, the team is exploring how they can be used to place new constraints on how many asteroid-like bodies still existed in the inner solar system in the aftermath of planet formation. They also can help researchers deduce the earliest bombardment history of ancient bodies such as Vesta, one of the targets of NASA's Dawn mission and a main belt asteroid whose fragments were delivered to Earth in the form of meteorites. It is even possible that tiny remnants of the moon-forming impactor or proto-Earth might still be found within meteorites that show signs of shock heating by giant impact debris. This would allow scientists to explore for the first time the unknown primordial nature of our homeworld.

Co-author Swindle, who specializes in finding the times when meteorites or lunar samples were involved in large collisions, said: "Bill Bottke had the idea of looking at the asteroid belt to see what effect a moon-forming giant impact would have, and realized that you would expect a lot of collisions in the period shortly after that.

"Here at LPL, we had been determining ages of impact events that affected meteorites, and when we got together, we found that our data matched his predictions," Swindle added. "It's a great example of taking advantage of groups that work in two different specialties — orbital dynamics and chronology — and combining their expertise."

Intriguingly, some debris also may have returned to hit the Earth and moon after remaining in solar orbit over timescales ranging from tens of thousands of years to 400 million years.

"The importance of giant impact ejecta returning to strike the moon could also play an intriguing role in the earliest phase of lunar bombardment," said Bottke, an alumnus of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. "This research is helping to refine our time scales for 'what happened when' on other worlds in the solar system."

Yvonne Pendleton, director of NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, or SSERVI, at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said: "This is an excellent example of the power of multidisciplinary science. By linking studies of the moon, of main belt asteroids, and of meteorites that fall to Earth, we gain a better understanding of the earliest history of our solar system." 

This research was supported in part by SSERVI, which is funded by the Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsExtra Info: 

An animated computer simulation of the impact scenario is available on the SSERVI Website

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Breathing Life Into Art

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 4:29pm

For centuries, scientists and artists have found inspiration in each other's work. The similarities between the two fields are undeniable — both require free exploration of ideas, careful expression of thoughts and boundless creativity on the part of the practitioner.

On Monday, student ambassadors of the undergraduate Neuroscience & Cognitive Science program and the University of Arizona chapter of the national neuroscience honorary society Nu Rho Psi will host the first "Symbiosis: An Exhibit of Biological Art," an event that aims to showcase the aesthetic appeal of life and promote a fusion of science and art. In biology, symbiosis is a term used to refer to a close, mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms.

"Scientists often admire the beauty of microscope images and even data, but I think there is an interested public that could see the aesthetic beauty in these images and hopefully want to know a bit of the science behind them," said Amy Nippert, an undergraduate NSCS senior who conceived of the event and helped to organize it. "For artists, it's a chance to explore something they may not know a lot about — but that affects almost every aspect of our lives."

The event will take place in the lobby of the Gould-Simpson building and feature work from more than 50 artists, including UA faculty, staff and students and members of the Tucson community. Select pieces will be available for sale to the public.

"I worry that people have this idea that science is the polar opposite of the arts, but in my mind they are very similar," said Julie Charlton, an undergraduate NSCS junior and artist displaying work at the event. "Both art and science have the potential to be expressions of appreciation for the interconnected beauty of nature."

Organizers hope that the public will come out to appreciate the life sciences from a perspective outside the classroom.

"Science and art may seem dichotomous, but they have a long history together," Nippert said. "They complement each other, as each requires a blend of creativity and precision."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Raymond SanchezByline: Raymond SanchezByline Affiliation: NASA Space Grant Intern, University Relations - CommunicationsWhat: "Symbiosis: An Exhibit of Biological Art"Where: UA Gould-Simpson building, 1040 E. Fourth St.When: Monday, April 20, 5-7 p.m.Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Students in the undergraduate Neuroscience & Cognitive Science program will host the first "Symbiosis: An Exhibit of Biological Art," an event promoting the fusion of science and art.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

UA Exec of Year: Restaurateur Sam Fox

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 4:39pm

Sam Fox, CEO and founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts, will be recognized as the 2015 University of Arizona Executive of the Year on Friday at a luncheon at the Westin La Paloma Resort in Tucson.

"Sam studied real estate at the University of Arizona, but food was always his passion," said Jeffrey Schatzberg, dean of the UA's Eller College of Management. "Since opening his first restaurant, Gilligan’s Bar & Grill, in Tucson at age 20, he has earned an outstanding reputation as a creative visionary, savvy entrepreneur and philanthropist — values we share here at the Eller College. It is only fitting that we honor him as Executive of the Year.”

Fox’s restaurant group currently has 44 locations and 15 unique concepts spanning seven states. Tucson’s Wildflower American Cuisine was the company’s first concept. Now based in Phoenix, Fox Restaurant Concepts includes Blanco Tacos & Tequila, True Food Kitchen, Olive & Ivy Restaurant & Marketplace, The Arrogant Butcher and Culinary Dropout. Together, his restaurant group employs more than 2,700 people.

Fox, a Sabino High School graduate, is a six-time James Beard Award nominee for Restaurateur of the Year and a New York Times best-selling cookbook author. He recently was named one of the 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry by Nation’s Restaurant News for the second consecutive year and he was the 2014 recipient of the Richard Melman Innovator of the Year Award by Restaurant Hospitality magazine.

A Paradise Valley resident, he nourishes and grows talent through his "un-corporate" culture and shares his success by giving back to the communities his restaurants serve. He has been an avid supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs since his company’s inception in 1998 and recently held the position of honorary chair for the American Heart Association’s 2013 Heart Ball. In addition, Fox Restaurant Concepts supports several nonprofit organizations, including notMYkid and UMOM New Day Centers.

The UA Executive of the Year program was established by the Eller College National Board of Advisors in 1983 to honor individuals who exemplify executive qualities in private enterprise and public service. Recent honorees include Janet Napolitano, former U.S. secretary of homeland security and former Arizona governor (2014); Larry Baer, president and CEO of the San Francisco Giants (2013); former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2012); and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (2011).

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Inside the Blue Chip Program

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 3:35pm

Arizona Blue Chip is a unique undergraduate leadership development program that began in 1999 with the induction of its first 238 members. The University program, which has received national recognition, accepts 200 new members annually into an experience that offers more than 100 leadership roles and countless leadership opportunities. Its core values are integrity, diversity, service and excellence.

Leadership development takes place through various experiences, events and activities. Each year in the program is referred to as a "phase," and each phase provides opportunities to learn and practice leadership. Blue Chip's four phases are engage, learn, practice and lead, and its five themes are the arts, community development, eco (sustainability), global (diversity and social justice) and social entrepreneurship (businesses with a social mission).

For more information about Blue Chip, go to http://leadership.arizona.edu/org/bluechip/home.

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UA Hosts Meeting on Environmental Health

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 2:45pm

When people hear "environmental health," they tend to think about protecting plants and animals, or combating climate change. While these efforts undoubtedly are important, less often considered is how human health is impacted by these aspects of the environment. 

This week, the UA College of Pharmacy's Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center, or SWEHSC, is hosting the annual joint meeting of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences core centers and training directors at the Marriott University Park hotel. The NIEHS meeting is addressing a range of topics, including environmental effects on obesity, epigenetics, metabolic disease and cancer, and the social and legal implications of environmental health issues.

Approximately 185 national leaders in environmental health from the University of Arizona, Washington University in St. Louis, New York University and several other institutions are presenting the latest in environmental health sciences research.

"We focus on the effects of the environment on the health of the human being," said Marti Lindsey, director of the SWEHSC Community Outreach and Education Program. "Not only do we showcase the heavy science, we translate it into living-room language and make it accessible to people without advanced degrees."

The interplay between environmental conditions and human health can be complex. The human body is composed of approximately a million billion cells, each of which can be one of many hundreds of different cell types. This incredible diversity stems from a single DNA blueprint, and the internal and external mechanisms by which DNA can be induced to cause cellular changes in the organism. The study of these mechanisms, called epigenetics, has become a key area of interest to environmental health researchers.

"Over the past few years, environmental toxicologists have discovered that epigenetic control systems are an important target of natural and man-made environmental toxicants," said Bernard Futscher, professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology and a speaker at the event. Earlier work by Futscher identified several environmental toxins that disrupt epigenetic systems, including arsenic, cadmium and benzopyrene, a cigarette combustion product. This disruption can result in a host of maladies to human cells, including pathologic cell immortality, a prerequisite for the formation of cancer.

Nathan Cherrington, professor and head of the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, was to speak about environmental factors affecting obesity and metabolic disease. Cherrington studies xenobiotics, foreign chemical substances not normally found in the body such as drugs, and the mechanisms by which they can induce liver toxicity. Of particular interest to Cherrington is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a severe liver disorder affecting 5 to 17 percent of Americans that can result in cirrhosis.

"Most people with NASH don't know they have it because a liver biopsy is needed for diagnosis," Cherrington said. "Since the disease alters the way we metabolize and eliminate drugs, which creates susceptibility to adverse drug reactions, these patients don't even know that they're at greater risk of toxicity."

Cherrington wants to understand how individual variations in metabolism result in xenobiotic-induced toxicity, and to apply this information to more targeted treatment plans.

"Identifying these patients and determining which drugs they will have problems with prior to initiating drug therapy can help us personalize our treatments and deliver the drug dosage that will be most effective for the patient," he said.

The NIEHS meeting also features a session titled "Social Sciences and Environmental Health," where speakers address the social and ethical issues raised by important environmental health problems such as toxic exposures, climate change and air pollution. 

James Hopkins, associate clinical professor in the Department of American Indian Studies and director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, was to discuss the merits of taking a human rights-based approach to environmental sciences. Specifically, Hopkins will address an ongoing river basin transfer and its potentially devastating effects on the indigenous Rio Yaqui Pueblos.

"Hopkins is doing important work with the Pascua Yaqui tribe, specifically in terms of the social and legal ramifications of potential environmental hazards," Lindsey said.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and caused the release of 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Five years later, researchers are still unclear on the extent of the spill's long-term social and environmental effects. Brian Mayer, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, was to present the findings of a study conducted with the University of Florida and the University of Maryland on local social vulnerability and community resilience in response to the spill.

"The research presented at the NIEHS meeting can be used to better the community," Lindsey said. "It's important for people to know about the researchers who dedicate their lives to understanding how human beings are impacted by environmental hazards and changes."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Raymond SanchezByline: Raymond SanchezByline Affiliation: NASA Space Grant Intern, University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The annual National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences meeting is addressing challenges on a range of environmental health issues, from carcinogens to the long-term effects of the BP oil spill. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

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