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Wildcats Explore African Wildlife

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 16:28

Arizona Wildcats recently traveled to several African countries — Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe — and were able to learn about animals living in the southern region of the continent.

Jacob Chinn, the UA Alumni Association's director of photography, traveled with the group to document the two-week experience. During the trip, Chinn and others were able to canoe, fish, take nature walks and enjoy a river cruise, among other activities. The group also visited Victoria Falls and had the chance to see endangered black rhinos, a lioness and her cubs, Cape buffalo and a herd of elephants.

"Every day brings a new adventure," Chinn wrote about the trip.

"This morning on our game drive, I witnessed a baboon being born and cradled in its mother's arms. Another small baboon was clearly jealous and was disciplined by a larger baboon.  After that, our guide said we needed to hurry up because a pack of wild dogs was spotted. Our group wasn't that excited, but we soon found out the African wild dogs are the second-most endangered species in Africa. They are seldom seen on a safari, and even our guide got out his camera to capture the moment. One thing I've learned: If your guide and your driver get out their cameras, then what you are seeing is special."

To read more about the experience, visit the Alumni Association's blog.

The Alumni Association hosts dozens of international trips through the year, with trips to India, Cuba, Madrid and Paris among those forthcoming. To learn about travel, and to plan a trip with other Wildcats, visit the Alumni Travel page.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsYouTube Video:  Africa's Wildlife Video of Africa's Wildlife Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Jacob Chinn, the UA Alumni Association's director of photography, recently traveled to the southern region of Africa with a group of Wildcats, documenting the trip. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, January 12, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Head of UA Journalism School Reacts to Paris Attack

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 13:51

It shouldn’t take a tragedy such as the recent shootings at a magazine’s offices in Paris for Americans to fully appreciate the value of a free press.

But perhaps it does.

"The outpouring of support has surprised me," said David Cuillier, director of the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism and an expert on issues pertaining to freedom of the press. He served as national president of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013-14.

"I generally don’t expect that kind of sympathy for journalists," Cuillier said. "But the nature of the attack was so horrific, I don’t think you can just stand by."

On Jan. 7, four prominent political cartoonists were among a dozen killed in an attack at the offices of the French satirical weekly publication Charlie Hebdo, known for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Two days later, the two suspects in the attack and a gunman linked to them were killed by French police in a dramatic end to separate standoffs.

The initial attack left Cuillier "floored and flabbergasted," he said, and he found it ironic that it had taken place in France.

"We have such a close affinity to France in the birth of a free press," Cuillier said. "Their thinkers were the genesis of our liberties. (The attackers) hit us all."

In the attack’s aftermath, T-shirts and signs with the words "Je Suis Charlie" ("I Am Charlie") materialized in a show of solidarity with those who had been killed.

Cuillier was reminded of incidents closer to home in which journalists were threatened while doing their work. About a year ago, he said, a UA student blogger received death threats after writing about a peace initiative between Muslims and Jews, and the FBI became involved.

"That was a teachable moment," Cuillier said.

Several of Cuillier’s students produce in-depth news stories in English and Spanish for the Arizona Sonora News, a resource for community newspapers, news websites and Spanish-language publications on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Given the passionate positions on the issue of immigration, that’s not the safest work, either.

"We take a lot of precautions in northern Mexico in doing reporting," Cuillier said. "But I also worry about (students) driving to Tombstone or being hit head-on by a drunk or being stalked by a source.

"We try to minimize risk, but you learn (journalism) by doing."

Cuillier said Americans always have had a love-hate relationship with the press, but he insists they wouldn’t want any part of a society without a free press.

"The press will always be a punching bag," he said. "People like to get mad when the press isn’t on their particular side of an issue, but they also rely on the press."

Journalists needn’t be working in war zones or high-crime areas to feel threatened, he said, noting that a certain amount of heat comes with the job and is even part of the profession’s allure.

"Every journalist has been worried about their safety," Cuillier said. "More than 30 or 40 years ago, news organizations began beefing up their security. There are guards at places like the (Arizona Daily) Star, the (Arizona) Republic and TV stations. But journalists won’t stop doing their jobs."

Mort Rosenblum, a UA journalism professor who has covered stories all over the world and was editor of the International Herald Tribune, took to Facebook after the Charlie Hebdo attack to salute reporters for their courage.

"In Paris, we have seen how high a price many pay, whether they venture into the heart of darkness or work at a desk in the City of Light," Rosenblum wrote.

"Reporters, our eyes and ears, enable us to fathom the complexities that shape every aspect of our lives…. The rest of us must realize their worth and protect them with everything we’ve got."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: David Cuillier says freedom of the press always involves risk, adding that journalists won't stop doing their jobs out of fear.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA Online Programs Rated Highly by US News

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 14:33

The University of Arizona’s Eller M.B.A. program ranked 29th and the UA College of Nursing 36th in the U.S. News and World Report survey of 2015 Best Online Graduate Programs, released this week.

This marks the first year of eligibility for the Eller College of Management, which launched its online M.B.A. program in September 2013. The first graduating class walked last month, with students traveling from as far as Wisconsin and Texas to celebrate their achievement on the UA campus.

The nursing college, which offers three advanced-degree programs online, launched its RN-to-M.S. program in January 2013, also graduating that program's first cohort last month. The college's ranking represents an improvement of 43 spots, making it the highest-ranked online graduate nursing program in Arizona.

The early successes are gratifying for the two UA colleges.

"Just one year into our launch, we’re already among the top 30 programs nationally," said Hope Schau, associate dean of M.B.A. programs at the Eller College. "We’re proud of this accomplishment — which is a tribute to the quality of our faculty and our students — but we are also focused on continuous improvement for the best student experience possible."

The Eller online M.B.A. is unique in offering six start dates each year, allowing flexibility for the working professionals the program was designed to serve. The most recent class began on Jan. 5; the next start is March 2.

"We constantly strive to incorporate student and faculty feedback," said Paige Bausman, director of the Eller online M.B.A. program. "We just launched concentration areas so that students can customize their graduate education. Now we have options in finance, management and organizations; management information systems; and marketing. And we plan to add more down the line.”

Ofek Devinney, who traveled to Tucson from Wisconsin for her December convocation from the Eller online program, also holds a Ph.D. in toxicology and works for a Fortune 500 company.

"I definitely got a lot out of the program,” Devinney said. "The online community Eller has created is so welcoming, and the professors are excellent. They are very accommodating and responsive."

Jeff Schatzberg, dean of the Eller College of Management, has taught accounting in the Eller M.B.A. for 21 years. When the online M.B.A. launched, it was a natural for him to add the new platform to his teaching, which also has included the full-time, evening and executive programs.

"While each program is structured a bit differently, the end result is the same," Schatzberg said. "The students are across-the-board great, and those who are working professionals make their platform decision on what fits best into their lives." 

For example, many of the online students have demanding travel schedules that make attending the weekly or twice-monthly Eller evening and executive M.B.A. commitments difficult to manage.

About two-thirds of students currently enrolled in the Eller online M.B.A. program are based in Arizona, with the remaining percentage divided among 13 states, including California, New York, Florida, Indiana and Washington. The Eller online M.B.A. joins the Eller evening M.B.A. program (ranked No. 25) and the Eller full-time M.B.A. program (No. 48) in being recognized by U.S. News and World Report among the best graduate management programs in the country. 

Offered online through the College of Nursing are three advanced-degree programs: Doctor of Nursing PracticeDoctor of Philosophy in Nursing and the new Registered Nurse to Master of Science (RN-to-M.S.) in Clinical Systems Leadership. Also offered online are several graduate nurse practitioner certificate programs.

Development of the RN-to-M.S. program began in 2010 with a proposal to educate clinical systems leaders through a unique, online master’s degree program for working registered nurses. Since the launch of the program in January 2013, enrollment has grown from 20 students to more than 350.

"We are confident that our ranking will continue to climb as RNs with leadership aspirations, especially within health systems, continue to seek professional development and career advancement through our program,” said Joan Shaver, dean of the College of Nursing.

For 2015, U.S. News ranked 133 nursing schools based on five categories:

  • Student engagement (30 percent)
  • Faculty credentials and training (25 percent)
  • Peer reputation (20 percent)
  • Student services and technology (15 percent)
  • Admissions selectivity (10 percent)
Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: Eller College of Management and College of NursingHeader image: NoNo Image: Subheading: Eller College of Management's M.B.A. program debuts in the rankings at No. 29, while College of Nursing jumps up to No. 36.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

UA Alum's Little Firm Tackles Big-Data Solutions

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 13:37

Big answers can come from simple data observations, such as noticing a sales uptick for neon clothing reminiscent of the 1990s, or that CrossFit classes are more popular on weekday nights, or that the demand for a certain prescription has spiked in a specific region.

Such data-driven insights can help transform attentive businesses. 

But the unfortunate reality is that companies — especially those that are smaller and have fewer resources — do not always rely on data in ways that help to improve products and services, make stronger connections with consumers and boost profits.

Mohan Rajagopalan, a University of Arizona alumnus and entrepreneur, has spent years trying to find a solution to that.

Finally, he said, he has one: Yaap, a robust data-science platform designed with management consulting principles, and a Silicon Valley startup of the same name, which he founded to help companies make better business decisions.

"People are sitting on piles of data that they consciously or subconsciously collect," said Rajagopalan, who earned his doctorate in computer science from the UA in 2006 after having earned his master's in the same discipline in 2001. 

"Our vision is to universalize data-driven decision making by getting more people to use data for decision making and providing the technology to re-enforce the foundation."

The problem with untapped data-driven information, he said, is that companies conceivably are losing valuable time and money.

Rajagopalan began giving brawn to his idea years ago during many hours spent at Dana Street Roasting Company, a cafe in Mountain View, Calif. There, he drafted early prototypes for what would become Yaap.

"It's a very ambitious process," Rajagopalan said. "We want to change how people see, think and feel about data."

Yaap was launched to remove the messy complexity involved in data mining and analysis, said Vrushali Malpekar, the company's media relations director.

During an era when big data is often perceived as a game changer and is introduced at the head of boardroom tables, the timing is ideal. 

For those who do not have the resources to build an in-house dashboard or even a background in statistics, Yaap simplifies a process that is usually heavily embedded with p-values, coefficients, scatter graphs and gradient boosting. 

Unlike some of the other data dashboards currently available, Yaap not only pulls the expertise of information technology, computer science, management consulting and visual communication into a single digital platform, but it also offers built-in and customizable reports that help interpret trends and highlight potential implications.

In effect, all data gathering, analyses and reporting happen at a single, centralized location. Also, data analysis happens more quickly and without the need for highly specialized, highly trained technology specialists, Rajagopalan said.

"Because we have simplified the experience for the end user, they are now able to ask questions they would not have even been able to ask before, often because they didn't have the time or the resources," he said. "We help companies to think through problems and encourage them to ask questions they haven't asked before."

Using Yaap, companies can move from merely tracking transactions to being able to observe nuances such as what types of shoppers are purchasing specific products and how well sales associates are performing.

Rajagopalan and Malpekar explained that data mining tools should be easy to use, easily updated, highly interactive and sophisticated enough to handle massive amounts of information. Yet it is rare to have all of these traits in a single system.

"Right now, what we observe is that the interpretation aspect is missing from a lot of business intelligence tools," Malpekar said.

"Many can create visual reports, but none tell you what to do with them. So, you may get the sophistication of the data collection, but when it comes to the implications, that is where there is a gap," she said. "Yaap is a layman's approach to data analysis. You don't have to have a number-cruncher."

To date, Yaap has worked with large Fortune 500 consumer and retail companies and with nonprofits. The list includes Dell, Pepsi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rajagopalan said.

"Our core market is still untapped," he said.

For his success, Rajagopalan offers credit to his time and training at the UA and the support of Saumya Debray, a UA computer science professor and his dissertation chair, and former UA computer scientist Rick Schlichting. 

After the UA, Rajagopalan went on to work as a senior researcher for Intel Labs and as an engagement manager for McKinsey and Co. before opting to launch Yaap.

"My training and experience during the six years at Arizona was maybe the most valuable life lessons professionally and culturally," Rajagopalan said.

"We've come really far, unbelievably almost, as a company in record time with a fairly modest crew. A lot of our day-to-day hustle reminds me of time at the UA, trying to be the best at what we do, making the best of our resources, going up against bigger, better-funded research groups at higher ranked-universities.

"Another key lesson was the ability to take guarded risks, and encouraging cross-pollination of ideas from different domains. I was fortunate to have experienced tremendous leadership, not just on the technical front, but also in terms of people management." 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline: University Relations - CommunicationsByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Companies often sit on a wealth of untapped data that, if appropriately analyzed and channeled, could inform business decisions. Yaap, designed by a UA graduate, is meant to help them do just that. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

International Students Arrive at UA

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 16:44

The spring semester began early for about 250 new international students, who attended a mandatory three-day orientation hosted this week by International Student Services, part of the Office of Global Initiatives at the UA. Classes do not officially start until Jan. 14.

The students met in rooms at the Student Union Memorial Center to make sure that their immigration, academic and financial papers were in order. They were welcomed on Wednesday, the second day of orientation, by Provost Andrew Comrie, the University’s chief academic officer.

"Get involved," Comrie encouraged the students. "Don’t just go to class. You’ll learn as much from your peers as you will from your professors, and you’ll do it in multiple contexts."

More than two dozen countries were represented by the students who sat before him, with an especially large contingent from China. Nearly half of a total of 3,700 international students enrolled last fall in UA academic programs were Chinese, according to Joanne Lagasse-Long, a native Canadian who is the director of International Student Services.

Lagasse-Long said that because of China’s strong economy, families are in better position today to send their children overseas to study. She said visa accessability also has improved in recent years for such students.

William Bowen, an economics instructor in the UA’s Eller College of Management, said the increase in the number of Chinese students has been dramatic in the 11 years that he has been teaching at the University.

"They’re highly disciplined and well-prepared," he said of the Chinese students in his "History of Financial Markets" class. In the fall, almost half of his 56 students were Chinese.

Comrie, who grew up in South Africa, said cultural assimilation can take awhile for international students. He knows from experience that many need time to learn that speaking up in class is a good thing.

"My culture trained me to be deferential and respectful of hierarchy," Comrie said. "You often didn’t talk to teachers or build a relationship with them. In the U.S., that’s really different."

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  International Students Video of International Students Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: A three-day orientation for spring semester welcomes about 250 to the Student Union in advance of the Jan. 14 start of classes. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, January 7, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0

A New, Public View of the Sky

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 10:18

On Jan. 6, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey issued its latest public data release, the final release of the third epoch of the survey. Weighing in at more than 100 Terabytes, "Data Release 12" (DR12) contains measurements of the properties of nearly half a billion stars and galaxies, making it one of the largest and richest databases in the history of astronomy.

"The most astonishing feature of the SDSS is the breadth of ground-breaking research it enables," said Daniel Eisenstein of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the director of SDSS-III. Eisenstein started the survey during his tenure as a professor at the UA's Steward Observatory, one of the survey's partner institutions.

"We've searched nearby stars for planets, probed the history of our Milky Way and measured nine billion years of our universe's accelerated expansion," he said.

SDSS-III is a six-year survey of nearby stars, the Milky Way galaxy and the distant cosmos. After a decade of design and construction, the SDSS began mapping the cosmos in 1998, using the dedicated 2.5-meter Sloan Foundation Telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. Each phase of the project has used this telescope, equipped with a succession of powerful instruments, for a distinct set of astronomical surveys.

SDSS-III started observations in July 2008 and completed its six-year, $45 million program in June 2014. The SDSS-III collaboration includes 51 member institutions and a thousand scientists from around the world.

According to Xiaohui Fan, a Regents' Professor in the UA's Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory who is involved in the project, some of the most interesting findings coming out of SDSS-III are measurements establishing the distance scale to faraway galaxies with unprecedented accuracy, gibing scientists a better handle on the properties of dark energy in the universe.

"SDSS-III was able to map the expansion history of the universe in a time frame never explored before — from nine billion years ago to now," Fan said. "These data confirm that what we observe is still consistent with our current model — that the universe is expanding and that it is expanding faster and faster."

Working with Steward Observatory assistant astronomer Ian McGreer, Fan is especially interested in the evolution of quasars and their connection to supermassive black holes. Quasars are the brightest objects in the distant universe, and their spectra reveal intricate patterns imprinted by the intergalactic gas and underlying dark matter that lie between each quasar and the Earth. Quasars provide another way to measure the distribution of matter in the universe.

"Because quasars are powered by the largest black holes in the cosmos, we can see them from very far away and use them to study the evolution of black holes and galaxies," Fan explained. "Most galaxies have a black hole in the center, but most of them are dormant. Only about one out of a hundred galaxies has a quasar at its center, which makes them shine very bright. It's an interesting question why some of them are bright and some of them aren't."



SDSS-III has devoted most of its 2,000 nights of observing to measuring spectra: passing light from individual stars and galaxies through a fiber-optic spectrograph, which divides light into component wavelengths much like a prism separates light into the colors of the rainbow.

"For each object that we observe, we're actually measuring several thousand light intensities at different wavelengths," said Jon Holtzman of New Mexico State University, which operates the observatory on behalf of the consortium. "We can then pick out the light produced by particular kinds atoms and molecules, which lets us measure the motions and chemical compositions of stars and galaxies."

"Mapping out the elements in a star is like reading its DNA," said Steve Majewski of the University of Virginia. "We're using those DNA readings to decode the history of the Milky Way from the stars that we can observe today."

Majewski is the principal investigator of APOGEE, or the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment, one of the four surveys that comprise SDSS-III. APOGEE uses a dedicated near-infrared spectrograph consisting of 300-fiber-optical cables to survey giant stars across the Milky Way. The light sensors for the instrument were provided by a group led by Marcia Rieke, a Regents' Professor in the UA Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory, as part of developing imaging sensors for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

"We repurposed three detectors that could not be used for JWST and built them into a package that is used as the light sensing portion of APOGEE," Rieke explained. "We are really pleased that these detectors are yielding great results."

By looking in near-infrared wavelengths to see through obscuring dust clouds, APOGEE has mapped the distribution of 15 separate chemical elements in more than 100,000 stars, probing all regions of the Milky Way.

"That's a huge amount of information," Majewski said, "and each element reveals a different subplot in this galactic screenplay. Sometimes the interactions between the characters are quite surprising!"

In addition to these elemental measurements from APOGEE, SDSS DR12 provides the first public release of data from MARVELS (the Multi-Object APO Radial Velocity Exoplanet Large-Area Survey). MARVELS uses repeated measurements of 3,000 stars to detect the back-and-forth motions that could reveal unseen orbiting planets.

DR12 also presents three-dimensional maps of cosmic structure traced by galaxies and intergalactic hydrogen from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, or BOSS.

"With these maps we've detected the fossil imprints of sound waves that filled the universe during the first half-million years after the Big Bang," explained BOSS principal investigator David Schlegel of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The BOSS team is using those imprints to trace the expansion of the universe across nine billion years of cosmic history, with unprecedented precision. Their final analysis, expected later this year, "will provide the sharpest test yet for theories of dark energy and the accelerating universe," according to Schlegel.

The Sloan Extension for Galactic Understanding and Exploration, or SEGUE, begun in SDSS-II and completed in SDSS-III, measured visible-light spectra of a quarter-million Milky Way stars.

"With so many stars, SEGUE gives us a great map of structure in the outer galaxy," said Constance Rockosi of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the SDSS-III component of SEGUE. "In combination with the much more detailed view of the inner galaxy from APOGEE, we're getting a truly holistic picture of the Milky Way."

Data Release 12 will fuel science analyses for years to come and makes all data available to the public.

"Crossing the DR12 finish line is a huge accomplishment by hundreds of people," Eisenstein said. "But it's a big universe out there, so there is plenty more to observe."

The Sloan Survey is continuing at full speed with SDSS-IV, which began in July 2014 on its six-year mission to study cosmology, galaxies and the Milky Way. Rieke's group provides near-infrared detectors for SDSS-IV, which will be used in a telescope at Las Campanas in Chile, the future site of the Giant Magellan Telescope, for which the UA is producing the primary mirrors.

"From the Southern Hemisphere, SDSS-IV will have a much better view of the center of our galaxy because it is right overhead instead of just barely above the horizon when viewed from New Mexico," Fan said. "In addition, we can observe the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the two largest satellite galaxies of our Milky Way, and learn a lot about the formation of our home galaxy and its neighboring galaxies."

Funding for SDSS-III has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel Stolte, University Relations - Communications and Jordan RaddickByline Affiliation:  SDSSExtra Info: 

How does the Sloan Digital Sky Survey work? Find out on the SDSS education website.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: For the first time, scientists and the public are beginning to see the large-scale structure of the universe, thanks to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. UA scientists provide scientific expertise and crucial technology to the largest project ever undertaken to map the cosmos. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

What a Year! Remembering the Best of 2014

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 12:15

1. Old Main Reopens After Most Significant Renovation in Its History

Old Main, arguably the most beloved UA building with the longest-standing and fondest memories, officially was reintroduced during a formal ceremony held during the fall semester. In restoring Old Main, which had fallen into extreme disrepair and was at risk of being lost, the University preserved a visible symbol of its heritage and strength, said UA President Ann Weaver Hart.

2. New Veterinary Degree Program Seen as Critical for State

Photo courtesy of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The UA will be able to launch Arizona's first public program to train doctors of veterinary medicine thanks to a foundational gift from the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation. The UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been actively developing the program, which is targeting a fall 2015 launch, to address Arizona's critical veterinary needs. The initiative is an example of the important progress made under Never Settle, the University's strategic plan.

3. Arizona NOW Has Successful Year, UA Receives Several Major Gifts

Photo: Patrick McArdle/UANews

Arizona NOW, the largest fundraising campaign in the University's history, has reached more than 70 percent of its goal of $1.5 billion. In 2014, the University received a number of significant gifts, including major contributions from Agnese Nelms Haury, Richard F. Caris, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation, the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, Steve and Margot KerrGeorge Kalil and Cole and Jeannie Davis.

4. Fall Enrollment Sets Record for Diversity, Number of Freshmen

Photo: FJ Gaylor

The UA had a record number of incoming freshmen, its highest overall enrollment and greater student diversity. Enrollment data showed that the UA welcomed more than 10,000 new undergraduate students — including more than 7,800 freshmen — when classes began in the fall of 2014. Also, an estimated 41 percent of freshmen were ethnically or racially diverse. The UA also saw significant minority student enrollment at the graduate level.

5. UA to Offer Nation's First Bachelor of Arts in Law

Undergraduate degrees in law already are offered in countries such as England, Australia, Canada, Mexico and China. The UA became the first institution in the U.S. to offer a Bachelor of Arts in law.  The James E. Rogers College of Law degree is seen as a way to prepare individuals for a number of professions in which a strong knowledge of law is advantageous, such as corporate compliance, city planning, water resources management, business management, health care administration, human resources, policy analysis and legal technology consulting.

6. UA Breaks Ground on Downtown Phoenix Project

In October, President Ann Weaver Hart and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton were on hand to mark the start of the two-year design and construction of a 245,000-square-foot research building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. The Biosciences Partnership Building will add to the UA's growing presence in downtown Phoenix and serve the next generation of health professionals.

7. Record Year for Technology Commercialization

Fiscal year 2014 marked the best year to date for technology commercialization at the UA, the UA's Tech Launch Arizona office reported. Notable accomplishments for TLA between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, included 39 exclusive licenses and options executed, 72 total licenses executed, 167 patents filed, 188 invention disclosures received from faculty inventors, 19 proof-of-concept projects funded, 11 startup companies created and 24 patents issued.

8. Meteorite That Doomed Dinosaurs Remade Forests

Photo: Donna Braginetz; courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The meteorite impact that spelled doom for the dinosaurs 66 million years ago decimated the evergreens among the flowering plants to a much greater extent than their deciduous peers, according to a study led by UA researchers and published in the journal PLoS Biology. Applying biomechanical formulas to thousands of fossilized leaves of angiosperms — flowering plants excluding conifers — the team was able to reconstruct the ecology of a diverse plant community thriving during a 2.2-million-year period spanning the cataclysmic impact event.

9. UA Celebrates 100 Years of Community Partnership Via Cooperative Extension

Photo: Lynn Ketchum

The UA's Cooperative Extension has not only translated research into community solutions, it has helped shape the Arizona of today. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act, creating the Cooperative Extension on May 8, 1914. A program of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Cooperative Extension is an explicit component of land-grant institutions across the country with a mission to bridge the gap between higher education and community, respond to societal needs and bring science to bear on practical problems.

10. Happy Birthday, Homecoming!

Photo: Jacob Chinn, UA Alumni Association

The UA already was nearly three decades old when it held its first homecoming, which drew about 1,500 people. The University's signature annual event has since grown into a major community event with the parade, tailgates, reunions, receptions, tours and lectures. During the 100-year anniversary, tens of thousands of students, employees, alumni and other friends of the UA attended Homecoming 100. The Wildcats won the big game, too, en route to only the third 10-victory football season in school history.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The University's big stories included record enrollment, milestone anniversaries and research findings carrying international impact. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Center Focuses on Compassion to Improve Ethics, Health

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:47

Whether coping with physical ailments, contentious home lives or arduous semesters, we all have techniques to offset the hardships in our lives. But can we expand those methods and become better people in the process?

Through a generous gift from the Arizona Friends of Tibet, the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is positioned to explore this question through the newly launched Center for Compassion Studies — the nation's first formalized collegiate center for compassion studies.

Housed within the UA college and involving faculty from across the University, the center represents a breakthrough in higher education, bringing the UA to the forefront of the dialogue on how the application of mindfulness and compassion can impact important aspects of daily life such as consumer behavior, health and school climate.

"Humans have innate capacities for mindfulness and compassion that can be enhanced through training," said Dr. Charles Raison, the director of the center. Raison also is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the UA's John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"The center will explore multiple ways in which these capacities provide the basis for a system of ethical behavior that can provide much-needed 'common ground' in today's politically and socially fractured world," Raison said, adding that the center presents unprecedented opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration on issues, from philosophical to biological, that can enhance efforts to live ethical lives.

The cornerstone of the center's work draws on Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, or CBCT. This secular meditation practice, derived from the ancient Indo-Tibetan lojong tradition, was developed by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi and initially researched by Raison at Emory University in 2005. Raison was clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory University before joining the UA.

The new UA center maintains a collaboration with Emory University through the Emory-Tibet Partnership, where CBCT facilitators are trained directly by Negi, who is an affiliated faculty member with the UA's Norton School and psychiatry department. 

The center will advocate for the expansion of compassion education; support research that examines the impact of cultivating compassion among individuals and groups; adapt CBCT to diverse audiences; and join numerous other UA programs, departments and individuals advocating for and advancing holistic practices.

"Through the center, we are really excited to have a role, along with many other programs and centers on campus," said Leslie Langbert, executive director of the new center. Langbert, a clinical social worker with more than 15 years of experience and one of two certified facilitators of CBCT in the Southwest, has been hired by the UA college to be the executive director of the center.

In addition to shepherding the strategic efforts of the center, Langbert is directly facilitating many of the center's offerings, including CBCT classes, undergraduate courses, and partnerships on campus and in the community. Additional CBCT offerings are delivered by certified CBCT facilitator Sally Dodds, UA research associate professor of psychiatry and medicine, in support of research and outreach with cancer patients.

While many of the center's goals — including partnering with the College of Medicine to analyze data concerning CBCT practice among breast cancer survivors — are centered on research, it also intends to enhance the living experience of the University community.

Efforts include designing innovative, CBCT-based training programs for UA students and faculty, including an undergraduate class giving students interested in careers in helping professions the tools to prevent the burnout that often accompanies emotionally draining work in fields such as health care and child welfare. This spring, the center also will offer a six-week course at Campus Recreation titled "Intro to Mindfulness."

The center's work also extends far beyond campus borders.

The center is dedicated to supporting the community through partnerships to expand the availability of CBCT for children and adults. The center is currently working with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe to teach compassion training to elementary school students on the reservation, and with La Frontera to bring CBCT techniques to adolescents living in state foster care. The center's work with foster care youth is supported by the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona.

"Our goal is to be a resource for the Tucson and campus communities," Langbert said. "We are thrilled to have that role, and to be able to support contemplative pedagogy and effective management of stress to help contribute to a culture of compassion."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Candice Childress and Lori HarwoodByline: Candice Childress and Lori HarwoodByline Affiliation: UA College of Social and Behavioral SciencesExtra Info: 

To learn more about the importance of compassion, read "Want Results? Make Compassion Your New Year's Resolution" on the UA blog.


The newly launched Center for Compassion Studies is intentionally interdisciplinary, and affiliate faculty include:

  • Charles Raison, the director of the center
  • Albert Bergesen, the School of Sociology director
  • Michael B. Gill, head of the Department of Philosophy
  • Gregg Garfin, assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • Sabrina Helm, associate professor of family and consumer sciences
  • Alfred W. Kaszniak, professor of psychology, psychiatry, neurology, and professor in the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute
  • Matthias Mehl, associate professor of psychology, adjunct associate professor of communication and associate professor in the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute
  • Thaddeus W. Pace, assistant professor of nursing
Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The UA has launched the nation’s first formalized collegiate center for compassion studies to produce interdisciplinary collaboration on issues that can enhance efforts to live ethical lives. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Colorado River Delta Greener After Engineered Pulse of Water

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:45

The engineered spring flood that brought water to previously dry reaches of the lower Colorado River and its delta resulted in greener vegetation, the germination of new vegetation along the river and a temporary rise in the water table, according to new results from the binational team of scientists studying the water’s effects.

The experimental pulse flow of water was the result of a U.S.-Mexico agreement called Minute 319.

“The pulse flow worked,” said Karl W. Flessa, a University of Arizona professor of geosciences and co-chief scientist for the Minute 319 Science Team. “A small amount of water can have a big effect on the delta’s ecosystem.”

Starting March 23, 2014, and ending May 18, approximately 105,392 acre-feet (130 million cubic meters) of water was released into the dry river bed below Morelos Dam, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border just west of Yuma. 

"The groundwater was recharged, vegetation got greener than previous years and the water helped germinate new native vegetation," Flessa said. "As a bonus, the river reached the sea."

In addition, people living along the river benefited, he said.

"People in the communities along the river were just overjoyed to see their river again," he said. "When the surface water was there, people celebrated. Kids who’d never seen water in the river before got to splash in it."

The science team includes more than 21 scientists from universities, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations from both Mexico and the U.S., including the UA, the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Nature Conservancy, the Tucson-based Sonoran Institute and the Ensenada-based Pronatura Noroeste.

Flessa presented the team’s findings at his talk, "The Science and Policy of the First Environmental Flows to the Colorado River Delta," on Dec. 18 as part of the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Although most of the water soaked into the ground in the 37 miles below the dam, the river's surface flow reached areas farther downstream that had been targeted for restoration. The increase in groundwater revived vegetation along the entire 83-mile route to the sea.

By comparing Landsat 8 satellite images from August 2013 with those from August 2014, team members calculated a 23 percent increase in the greenness of riparian zone vegetation. 

Although the groundwater did eventually recede, the surface water caused the germination of new willows and cottonwoods. Those plants germinate after natural spring floods, and their roots can grow fast enough to keep up with the receding water table.

The surface water reached the restoration sites prepared by the Sonoran Institute and Pronatura Noroeste and helped establish native vegetation.

"So long as the roots get down into the permanent water table, then you have established a new bunch of trees that will then live for 20, 30, 40 years," Flessa said. "Those trees will attract birds."

The scientists already observed an increase in the numbers of birds, he said.

Learning where the newly germinated plants survived past the first summer will help the researchers figure out where ecosystem restoration will do the most good using the least amount of water, he said.

"The water that soaked into the ground is also good for the farmers," Flessa said. "It raises the water table and they pump that water — so this isn’t just about trees and birds."

The team will continue to monitor the lower Colorado River Delta's vegetation and hydrological response to the pulse flow, including the long-term effect on groundwater. It also will study how the new vegetation affects both resident birds and those migrating along the Pacific Flyway.

The five-year program to monitor the environmental results of the pulse flow is being supported by government agencies and environmental groups in both countries, under the auspices of the International Boundary and Water Commission.

The Minute 319 pulse flow is part of a five-year agreement (2012-17) adopted by the International Boundary and Water Commission, under the framework of a 1944 U.S.-Mexico treaty that governs water allocations on the Colorado River between the two countries.

The agreement provides multiple benefits for Colorado River water users in both countries, including environmental flows to the delta. Minute 319 identifies criteria for sharing of future water shortages and surpluses between the two countries, allows storage of Mexican water in Lake Mead and supports improvements to Mexican irrigation infrastructure.

"Another pulse flow would require a new agreement, because Minute 319 calls for only one pulse flow within the five-year term of the minute," Flessa said. "We hope the results of this pulse flow encourage the negotiators to make this happen again." 

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Mari N. JensenByline Affiliation: College of ScienceExtra Info: 

Karl Flessa’s homepage


Sonoran Institute


Minute 319 Monitoring Progress Report

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Communities were "overjoyed to see their river again," says the UA's Karl Flessa, co-chief scientist for the team that observed new and greener vegetation and a temporary rise in the water table.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

TLA Commercialization Partners Take On UA Startups

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 18:57

What are the ingredients for a successful university startup? When starting a new company like those based on research at the University of Arizona, Tech Launch Arizona — the unit of the UA that commercializes inventions emanating from University research — understands that startups require a number of elements for success, such as marketable ideas and great leadership.

At more than $630 million last year, UA faculty research represents a rich source of those ideas and inventions that have the potential to impact society and the economy.

Now, with the addition of a new roster of commercialization partners, or CPs, TLA adds business management into the mix of ingredients for success.

To fulfill the leadership needs of new UA-born companies, TLA recruited experienced entrepreneurs and leaders. From an original pool of 44 applicants, 12 individuals were selected to serve in one of three distinct CP roles:

  • Entrepreneur-in-residence: EIRs are interested in starting companies based on UA technologies. They work in residence at TLA for defined periods, during which they help to identify technologies with promise, with the goal of selecting one to lead into a startup. EIRs work with TLA, inventors and potential startup team members. This cohort of EIRs includes Dan Janes, Aaron Call, Kelvin Ning, Ron Hahn, Doug McFetters and John Zipp.
  • Executive-in-residence: XIRs work directly with TLA and UA inventors to identify the commercial potential of technologies and insert an "entrepreneurial perspective" into planning and discussions.  Although an XIR may opt to participate in a startup, the position is designed to be "in-house entrepreneurial adviser" and is stipend-based. The group includes five XIRs: Brian Ellerman, Ted Kraus, John Buttery, Patrick Marcus and Bruce Burgess.
  • Investor-in-residence: IIRs work with TLA to assess how ready companies are for investment by Cat Corp. Dennis Merens is TLA’s IIR.

These 12 seasoned CPs provide high-level entrepreneurial input and perspective in the commercialization of UA technologies. They help the TLA team to determine the most viable and productive commercialization pathways for new technologies, and take on leadership roles to bring UA inventions to the marketplace. 

One of the strengths of the group is that a large percentage are UA alumni, which opens the door to the connections and resources of a worldwide alumni network. All experienced entrepreneurs, CPs provide powerful business acumen that complements academic leadership, plus the potential for stronger industry and investment relationships. 

Similar programs have seen success in commercialization communities across the country, with examples in the technology transfer, business school and venture capital sectors. 

TLA began exploring a program design for the commercialization partners program in early 2014, when Dan Janes joined TLA as the inaugural Entrepreneur-in-Residence.  In this role, he has been working with TLA on entrepreneurial aspects of individual technologies, interacting with researchers and investigating other executive-in-residence programs. By fall 2014, with Janes’ insight and TLA’s knowledge of UA-specific needs, the unit initiated the broader commercialization partners program and began recruiting.

TLA held its first meeting of the complete CP cohort on Dec. 5, providing them with a chance to meet one another and become better acquainted with the TLA team. At the meeting, TLA presented 14 projects from its startup pipeline. As a result, each technology presented now has two or three partners engaged for an early assessment to help identify opportunities and next steps.

TLA Vice President David Allen is excited about the prospects for the future of the program.

"This is just a starting point for what TLA targets to become an extensive effort to grow the commercialization ecosystem," he says. "As we bring on more commercialization partners, these top entrepreneurs and executives will participate in technology pathway discussions across the whole of TLA and make great contributions to the success of these ventures."

The CPs themselves expressed enthusiasm, as well.

"Over the past two years, Tech Launch Arizona has created a clear path for U of A faculty to commercialize their research and patents into products, services and licenses," says Executive-in-Residence John Buttery.  "I look forward to working with this talented group of professionals to facilitate the startup process, add value for the stakeholders and create world-class companies."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Paul TumarkinByline Affiliation: Tech Launch ArizonaHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Team of a dozen leaders supplies high-level entrepreneurial input and perspective on new technologies and the marketplace.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Meet the 2014 University Distinguished Professors

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:57

The UA's University Distinguished Professor Award, begun in 1995, honors those who have made a difference in students' lives through personal commitment, mentoring a broad range of undergraduate students and fostering an attitude of critical inquiry, encouraging students to question assumptions, challenge conventional wisdom and scrutinize evidence carefully.

The award's recipients for 2014 are geoscientist Andrew Cohen and Shakespearean scholar Fred Kiefer. Cohen has led teams of researchers into the East African Rift Valley of Kenya and Ethiopia, where he has taken samples from dry lakebeds near fossil and archaeological sites of ancient hominins. Kiefer is an expert in the literature and visual culture of the early and modern Renaissance period who joined the UA faculty in 1973.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesScience and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  2014 Distinguished Professors Video of 2014 Distinguished Professors Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Go behind the scenes at the UA with this year's honorees, geoscientist Andrew Cohen and Shakespearean scholar Fred Kiefer.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, December 17, 2014Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Want Results? Make Compassion Your New Year's Resolution

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:33

It's the season for the sometimes-dreaded conversation starter we hear every year: What's your new year's resolution?

Even if you've rolled your eyes already, read along.

Seeing more of the world tends to be a popular resolution for the new year. (Cinemagraph coutesy of

Some of the most popular new year's resolutions, as reported by the Corporation for National and Community Service and other agencies, are pledges to get into a regular workout routine, take on a more healthful diet, save more money, and spend more time with family and other loved ones. Yet, other research indicates that these self-made promises often fizzle before the start of spring.

When people commit to a resolution, or change at any other point in the year, it is not always an absence of motivation that derails the plan. Often, it is a lack of self-kindness and compassion, said Leslie Langbert, executive director of the University of Arizona's newly launched Center for Compassion Studies and a certified instructor in Cognitively-Based Compassion Training. Read "Center Focuses on Compassion to Improve Ethics, Health" to learn more about the new center.

And whether you are focused on a new resolution, or are just involved in major change, this advice can apply to you, says Melanie Fleck, an outreach specialist for the UA's Campus Health Service.

As we enter 2015, Langbert and Fleck offer several things to consider, and the UA offers a number of resources to help:

Winter is not going to be your workout buddy

Ready to get fit? Cut out the negative self-talk.

Winter, with its cooler temperatures and reduced daylight hours, is not the best time of the year to introduce change, Langbert says. Most often, people want to hunker down and not leap into action. 

"Everything in nature gives us signals, and the winter is about drawing in energies and conserving, not about expanding," she says. "With resolutions, we are talking about changes, we are taking about expanding, making changes, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones — and it is literally during a season that doesn't produce readiness for that."

The better season? Spring. "The spring time is all about newness and growth," she says.

Negative self-talk is not a source of motivation

"How do we generate self-talk and self-judgment? It's not just how we externally react, but how we treat ourselves," Langbert says.

For example, if you find yourself saying something like, "Why have I taken on too much debt? I never should have taken out that loan years ago. I need to get a handle on this and start paying off some bills or I will never have the freedom I want," this is not helping you to resolve your financial issues. 

What can happen, instead, is that the desire to save can turn into an internal fight and eventually lead a person to abandon the goal. "It's feeding this sense of suffering," Langbert says. 

In effect, the goal becomes a threat — and, interestingly, this process occurs naturally.

"Some evolutionary theorists talk about how our brains are designed to respond more to threat than to a sense of comfortable, ease or nurturance," Langbert says.

"This self-critic we've developed is protective, and we can see that as a source of motivation. But there comes a point when the balance is tipped and it no longer serves us well," she says. "We have to recognize these habits of being and reacting are not permanent. We have the capacity to transform them. And we can soften that inner self-critic."

Build your support network

Supportive relationships are important for resolutions and change.

No matter what you have planned, whether you are working to build a stronger connection with your partner or trying to save up for a major vacation, Fleck suggests connecting with others who have comparable goals. 

And you need not only connect in person.

Fleck said people might find it useful to connect via social media, or to use mobile apps. These connections and resources help to build in accountability, whether a person is talking about their goal, sharing updates or tracking progress, she says.

Hit a milestone? Write it down and share it with others. Face a setback? Chat with someone to get over the frustration. Journaling also can be a huge help.

Notice the little changes

Spending more time with the family is one of the top resolutions people set at the start of a new year.

It can be easy to get to the point of deep frustration without noticing the little changes, which could be positive or negative, along the way.

"We are a culture where finding ourselves in a level of distress or suffering is unbearable, and I think that stems from this lack of prior awareness," Langbert says. "What happens is that you have not had this lower-level awareness that something is occurring over time until a crisis occurs."

Consider health. Preventative health care researchers and practitioners have found that people can live longer, healthier lives by eating well, exercising and taking other necessary health precautions early and often. Yet some people still wait until a health problem or medical emergency to change their habits. 

"Making a resolve to change is an absolutely beneficial part of self-development," Langbert says, urging people to be more attentive to mind and body.

And just as you notice the disappointments, Fleck said it is important to both notice and document the successes.

Be present in the moment and future-oriented

Langbert says it is important to recognize one's internal dialogue, and to bring more kindness and compassion to the conversations we have with ourselves.

So, instead of being frustrated that you have allowed yourself to get too get too far from your ideal weight or to be dismissive of your family, let go of that frustration and self-judgment — and act.

People often pledge to move toward a more healthful and nutritious diet in the new year. (Cinemagraph courtesy of

"When we push ourselves to do something from this place of criticism and judgment rather than seeing the success of something, it's harder to complete," Langbert says. "If we can begin to acknowledge the judgment, let go of it, and practice how we can be and care for ourselves in the present moment, we can make better choices in the moment."

Consider experiences, not just changes

Fleck also urges people to set reasonable goals.

Spending more time volunteering is another popular resolution. (Photo: Patrick McArdle/UANews)

"Accept realistic expectations and understand that if things do not work out, it doesn't meant they can't," she says. "If it is something that you are excited about and want to do, don't worry if it takes a little big longer than you planned."

Fleck says people also should consider resolutions or changes that can introduce new experiences. For students, that may be choosing to study abroad, taking on a new leadership role or engaging in more service.

Need a boost? Consider contemplation

Langbert says that when one is choosing change, it is important to have sustainability in mind. Contemplative practices, such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, T'ai chi and visualization can ensure that chosen changes do not become one-off movements but lifelong practices.

"For many people, mindful awareness is a wonderful place to begin with a contemplative or meditative practice," she says. 

"Our mind has a role in how successful we are with transferring our thought patterns and behaviors to be more compassionate, but it is through the sustained contemplative practice that allows those patterns to slowly transform to create lasting change."


Need help with a new year's resolution? The UA is offering support:

  • Rec Resolutions will be held Jan. 21 from 4-6:30 p.m. at the Campus Recreation Center. Open to students and employees, and involving local businesses and organizations, the event provides a space for learning about health and wellness programs, services and products.
  • The UA Campus Health Service is hosting its New Year + New You event for students and employees on Jan. 28. More information is available online.
  • Langbert will be leading a six-week series, "Intro to Mindfulness," at the Campus Recreation Center beginning in March. The series will be held every Tuesday from 3-4 p.m. and is open to students and employees.
  • The UA-run ASHLine helps those who need assistance quitting tobacco. Call the hotline at 1-800-556-6222, or visit online.
  • In addition to standard exercise equipment, Campus Recreation offers classes that include swimming, aikido, hiking excursions, Pilates and a range of dance classes.
  • Life & Work Connections is hosting 10-week Weight Watchers meetings in Tucson and Phoenix for University employees. Check it out online. Other classes also are being offered, including those for T'ai chi and resistance-band training.
  • The Stressbusters program at the UA supports stress-reduction activities. Students are welcome to apply to serve in the program.

Contacts: Leslie Langbert, executive program director of the UA Center for Compassion Studies, at 520-621-6473 or; Melanie Fleck, outreach specialist for the UA's Campus Health Service, at 520-621-3941 or

Categories: Social Sciences and EducationThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: FacultyEducationResearchByline: La Monica Everett-Haynes |UANow Image: Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Monday, January 5, 2015Medium Summary: Have a new year's resolution in mind? Consider bringing more compassion and kindness into what you do if you want to see benefits. Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: Did you set a resolution for 2015? Then read this. Send to Never Settle Site: 0

Website Shines Light on Renewable Energy Resources

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:32

University of Arizona researchers and a group of partners have developed a tool that will help utility companies better understand the long-term impact of renewable energy on the power grid and provide insight on how to integrate these resources in the future in the most cost-efficient and reliable way for consumers.

The tool — a web portal — gathers, analyzes and displays real-time data from eight Southwestern utility companies, painting a broad picture of energy sources and use across the region. The information will help companies determine what actions to take for backup power planning over the next several years as the percentage of renewable energy usage grows.

By 2025, Arizona utility companies are required to generate 15 percent of their energy from the sun, wind, biogas, biomass, geothermal and other renewable resources. But the power generated by some of these renewable resources is variable. For instance, a cloudy day will change the amount of power generated by a solar array, a stormy day could generate more wind power, and solar generation drops completely at night —right about the time when customers turn on their lights, increasing energy demand.

By using this tool to obtain a deeper understanding of these opportunities and challenges, utility companies will be able to provide customers with a more reliable and efficient power grid, even as variable resources become a larger percentage of the overall power generated.

"Integrating solar and wind resources onto the grid while maintaining the total load and resource balance is the challenge for balancing authorities such as TEP," said Sam Rugel, Tucson Electric Power’s director of systems control and reliability. "This tool will help quantify and communicate that challenge in a more efficient and effective way for us and our customers as we move forward."

Part of the portal is accessible to the general public, marking the first time in the Southwest that so many utility companies have coordinated their efforts to allow this amount of near real-time data to be publicly available.

"The data are available for anyone to download and analyze, and people from all over the world have accessed the site," said Will Holmgren, the UA physics post-doctoral researcher who led the development of the website. "We’re using the data to understand the challenges and opportunities inherent in expanding renewable energy usage in the existing power grid in the Southwest."

The project began in 2012, when the UA Renewable Energy Network, or UAREN, a University-wide initiative designed to support the expanded use of abundant, clean and economical renewable energy, brought together UA researchers and regional utility companies to provide a more complete picture of the challenges that affect energy production and demand. The companies — Arizona Public Service, Arizona’s Generation & Transmission Cooperatives, El Paso Electric, Imperial Irrigation District, Power New Mexico, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and Western Area Power Administration — are part of the Southwest Variable Energy Resource Initiative, or SVERI, which was formed in 2012 to study the impact of variable energy resources on the grid in the Southwest.

Funding for the project is provided by SVERI and managed by UAREN.

"The UA Renewable Energy Network has helped link important leading research in renewable energy power production forecasts at the University of Arizona to real-world applications by the Southwest regional electric utility companies," said Ardeth Barnhart, UAREN program director. "The models of near real-time data in the UAREN SVERI portal will support planning decisions for the increased use and integration of renewable energy into a complex electrical grid."

The SVERI Public Access Data Portal displays a variety of graphs designed to provide a better understanding of the mix of renewable and traditional energy generation in the Southwest: how much energy is being generated overall, how much of that energy generation is from renewable or variable resources, such as solar and wind, and what the total load, or energy demand, is for the utility companies. The data are gathered from more than 150 power facilities across the region, including 75 variable energy resources.  

The website offers a date range selection and an interactive map of renewable energy power stations across the region, as well as an option to download the data. It also includes a glossary to help visitors understand technical or scientific terminology.

In addition to Holmgren and Barnhart, the UA team that worked on the project includes Alex Cronin, associate professor of physics and optical sciences; web developer J.D. Gibbs and web designer Craig Boesewetter, both of the Communications and Cyber Technologies — Web Development Unit within the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Tony Lorenzo, a graduate student in the College of Optical Sciences; and Rey Granillo, development and IT manager at the Institute of the Environment.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Angie BrownByline: Angie BrownByline Affiliation: UA Institute of the EnvironmentHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the region’s electricity grid. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

$20 Million Gift Pushes UA Closer to the Stars

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 18:44

On Oct. 19, 1916, all classes were canceled at the University of Arizona and a huge bonfire was staged to celebrate the two largest donations in the University's history at the time: $75,000 for a new mining building and $60,000 to build an observatory.

"Money to Be Used to Buy Telescope of Huge Size," read the headline of the day in the Arizona Daily Star. While the telescope, an ironclad tube with a 36-inch mirror, would be considered modest at best in today's world, the gift — worth about $1.26 million today — did put the UA on track to becoming one of the world leaders in astronomical endeavors.

Now, almost a century later, UA astronomers have a reason to celebrate an equally impactful gift supporting the UA's partnership in the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope, a telescope with an effective mirror diameter of 80 feet (25 meters). Thanks to a donation of $20 million from Richard F. Caris, the University is poised to take its next giant leap into the future of space science.

The UA is one of 11 institutions that have joined forces to build the GMT. Located in Chile's Atacama Desert, the GMT will have more than six times the light-gathering area of the largest telescopes in existence today, and 10 times the resolution of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

"We are grateful that Richard F. Caris has provided this generous gift to the UA, which will support our participation in the GMT, a critically important effort in the space sciences," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "Mr. Caris has been an ardent supporter of the University for more than a decade and his contributions have helped establish the UA’s international prominence in astronomical research."

The gift of 1916, made by amateur astronomer Lavinia Steward of Oracle, Arizona, created the UA's Steward Observatory and, in the words of UA astronomer Tom Fleming, "was the first spark of the excellence in space research that the UA would be known for."

"This gift is transformational in that it not only moves the GMT project forward, but also UA's astronomy endeavor as a whole," said Buell Jannuzi, head of the UA Department of Astronomy and director of Steward Observatory. "Through the technology developed at our mirror lab, the UA enables the GMT to happen in the first place. This gift enables the UA to continue at the forefront of astronomical research through access to the telescope's unprecedented capabilities."

Dennis Zaritsky, professor of astronomy and deputy director of Steward Observatory, said astronomy "has come a long way" since those early days. 

"To a large degree, our future progress depends on philanthropy," he said. "Back then, people were observing galaxies, but they didn't know what they were. Nobody knew about exotic objects such as black holes, and no planets were known to exist outside our own solar system."

Progress in astronomy over the last 100 years has been driven by technology, especially bigger and better telescopes. For the most part, these large facilities have been funded by private individuals or foundations, according to Philip Pinto, associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory.

"By going to a bigger telescope, you can see fainter things and see more detail," he said, "and today we are in a situation where the desire of ground-based astronomers to see deeper and more sharply is outstripping the government's willingness ability to support such large projects. The Giant Magellan Telescope is the continuation of this long tradition of privately funded large facilities in astronomy, and Mr. Caris is helping us to meet our share of the obligation."

The Caris gift is in support of the UA's $60 million commitment to the GMT project, which will ensure that UA astronomers will have access to valuable observing time on the landmark telescope, scheduled to be completed in 2021.

"It is extremely important to be one of the partners in one of these big telescope projects," Zaritsky said. "Our goal of a 12 percent share in the telescope will provide as much access to UA faculty and students as any institution partnered in any of the next generation of giant telescopes, making us extremely attractive as the home institution of leading researchers and students in the future."

Richard Caris is the founder and chairman of Interface Inc. A high-tech company in Scottsdale, Arizona, Interface is a world leader in load cell force measurement applications, including the custom mirror-cell support systems in telescopes that the UA has helped construct, such as the Large Binocular Telescope on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona.

For more than 10 years, Caris has been involved with the Arizona Astronomy Board, an advisory and philanthropic support panel for the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory. He previously gave more than $2 million to fund the primary/tertiary mirror for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope that also will be built in Chile, and through the UA Foundation he has given to the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter and the UA Sky School.

"Higher education and the advancement of science are deeply important to Richard," said Sid Leach, a personal friend of Caris' and chairman of the Arizona Astronomy Board. "When Richard was young, he was inspired by the philanthropy of people who had gone before. He would be very pleased if he in turn inspires someone else in the future to likewise pursue philanthropy in support of science and higher education."

The GMT is designed to observe for more than 50 years and will help answer some of humanity’s most fundamental questions, including whether life exists on other planets and how the universe began. Astronomers also will use it to better understand how planets and galaxies form and to help find answers to the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

Through its Arizona NOW campaign, the University of Arizona Foundation has raised more than $1 billion toward a $1.5 billion goal. Caris’ gift for the GMT supports all of the campaign’s key initiatives, including academic research, student engagement and expansion of the UA’s global impact.

"It takes a special person to build a global company and then apply that same scale to his philanthropy," said James H. Moore Jr., president and CEO of the foundation. "Mr. Caris may be supporting the Department of Astronomy at the UA, but his influence on big science, and the exploration of our universe, stretches well beyond our University’s boundaries."

In recognition of the gift, the UA’s mirror lab, which provides all of the GMT's primary mirrors, will be renamed the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab. The mirror lab was founded and grown during 37 years of leadership by the former director of Steward Observatory, Peter Strittmatter.

Under the leadership of its director, UA Regents' Professor Roger P. Angel, the mirror lab has earned worldwide recognition for producing giant, lightweight mirrors of unprecedented power for a new generation of optical and infrared telescopes. Without the continued advancements made through the mirror lab, groundbreaking projects such as the Large Binocular Telescope, the largest ground telescope currently in existence, would not have been possible.

Students have played an integral role in the accomplishments of the mirror lab, often pushing the envelope of what was deemed possible.

"Our graduate students, especially from the College of Optical Sciences, have been essential to us," said Buddy Martin, project scientist at the mirror lab. "Working with us gives them real-world manufacturing experience, and it gives us the novel measuring techniques that we need to test and evaluate those mirrors that we make that nobody has designed or made before."

Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the UA College of Science, said: "The mirror lab is unquestionably one of the innovation jewels of our University. The lab is known around the world for creating the largest mirrors for astronomical use. It is fitting that it will now have the name of Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, as Mr. Caris is also an innovator with a very successful company in our state."

Said Pinto: "There still is huge space for discovery in the universe. Personally, I expect some big surprises when we finally have GMT operational. I'm excited and can't wait to get it on the sky."

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

These organizations and institutions are participating with the UA in the GMT project: Astronomy Australia Ltd.; the Australian National University; the Carnegie Institution for Science; Harvard University; the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute; the Smithsonian Institution; Texas A&M University; the University of Chicago; the University of Texas, Austin; and Universidade de São Paulo.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A donation from Richard F. Caris in support of the UA's commitment to the Giant Magellan Telescope project will ensure valuable access for University astronomers.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Ancient Wisdom Boosts Sustainability of Biotech Cotton

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 18:22

Advocates of biotech crops and those who favor traditional farming practices such as crop diversity often seem worlds apart, but a new study shows that these two approaches can be compatible.

An international team led by Chinese scientists and Bruce Tabashnik at the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences discovered that the diverse patchwork of crops in northern China slowed adaptation to genetically engineered cotton by a wide-ranging insect pest. The results are published in the advance online edition of Nature Biotechnology.

Genetically engineered cotton, corn and soybean produce proteins from the widespread soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, that kill certain insect pests but are harmless to most other creatures including people. These environmentally friendly toxins have been used by organic growers in sprays for decades and by mainstream farmers in engineered Bt crops since 1996.

Planted on a cumulative total of more than half a billion hectares worldwide during the past two decades, Bt crops can reduce use of broadly toxic insecticides and increase farmers' profits. However, rapid evolution of resistance to Bt toxins by some pests has reduced the benefits of this approach.

To delay resistance, farmers plant refuges of insect host plants that do not make Bt toxins, which allows survival of insects that are susceptible to the toxins. When refuges near Bt crops produce many susceptible insects, it reduces the chances that two resistant insects will mate and produce resistant offspring. In the United States, Australia and most other countries, farmers were required to plant refuges of non-Bt cotton near the first type of Bt cotton that was commercialized, which produces one Bt toxin named Cry1Ac. Planting such non-Bt cotton refuges is credited with preventing evolution of resistance to Bt cotton by pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) in Arizona for more than a decade.

Yet in China, the world's number one cotton producer, refuges of non-Bt cotton have not been required. The Chinese approach relies on the previously untested idea that refuges of non-Bt cotton are not needed there because the most damaging pest, the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), feeds on many crops other than cotton that do not make Bt toxins, such as corn, soybean and peanuts. The results reported in the new study provide the first strong evidence that these "natural refuges" of non-Bt crops other than cotton delay evolution of pest resistance to Bt cotton.

Tabashnik used computer simulations to project the consequences of different assumptions about the effects of natural refuges in northern China. The simulations mimic the biology of the cotton bollworm and the planting patterns of the 10 million farmers in northern China from 2010 to 2013, where Bt cotton accounts for 98 percent of all cotton, but cotton represents only 10 percent of the area planted with crops eaten by the cotton bollworm.

"Because nearly all of the cotton is Bt cotton, the simulations without natural refuges predicted that resistant insects would increase from one percent of the population in 2010 to more than 98 percent by 2013," said Tabashnik, who heads the UA's Department of Entomology and also is a member of the UA's BIO5 Institute. "Conversely, resistance barely increased under the most optimistic scenario modeled, where each hectare of the 90 percent natural refuge was equivalent to a hectare of non-Bt cotton refuge."

In a third scenario, the researchers used field data on emerging cotton bollworms from different crops to adjust the contribution of each hectare of natural refuge relative to non-Bt cotton. These data were provided by co-author Kongming Wu of the Institute of Plant Protection in Beijing. By this method, the total natural refuge area was equivalent to a 56 percent non-Bt cotton refuge, and 4.9 percent of the insects were predicted to be resistant by 2013.

To distinguish between these possibilities, a team led by co-author Yidong Wu of China's Nanjing Agricultural University tracked resistance from 2010 to 2013 at 17 sites in six provinces of northern China. Insects were collected from the field and more than 70,000 larvae were tested in laboratory feeding experiments to determine if they were resistant. This extensive monitoring showed that the percentage of resistant insects increased from one percent of the population in 2010 to 5.5 percent in 2013.

The field data imply that the natural refuges of non-Bt crops other than cotton delayed resistance with an effect similar to that of a 56 percent non-Bt cotton refuge, just as the model predicted.

"Our results mean we are getting a better understanding of what is going on," Tabashnik said. "We'd like to encourage further documentation work to track these trends. The same kind of analysis could be applied in areas in the U.S. where the natural refuge strategy is used.

"Natural refuges help, but are not a permanent solution," he added. "The paper indicates that if the current trajectory continues, more than half of the cotton bollworm population in northern China will be resistant to Bt cotton in a few years."

To avoid this, the authors recommend switching to cotton that produces two or more Bt toxins and integrating Bt cotton with other control tactics, such as biological control by predators and parasites.

"The most important lesson is that we don't need to choose between biotechnology and traditional agriculture," Tabashnik said. "Instead, we can use the best practices from both approaches to maximize agricultural productivity and sustainability."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Combining computer modeling and field research on cotton pests, a UA-led study suggests that biotechnology and traditional agriculture can be compatible approaches toward sustainable agriculture.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Pucker Up: Five Fast Facts About Mistletoe

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 18:18

It's the holiday symbol for romance that has sparked countless smooches.

But did you know that mistletoe is actually a parasite? Or that some species of this plant so often associated with winter actually thrive in the desert Southwest? Where did the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originate, anyway?

In the spirit of the holiday season, Rick Gibson, director of Cooperative Extension in Pinal County for the University of Arizona, shares some interesting facts about this iconic plant.

1. Mistletoe steals water and nutrients from other plants.

Although it's known for its romantic associations, mistletoe is anything but loving. In fact, it's actually a parasite.

Mistletoe attaches itself to other plants and shrubs, stealing away its host's food and water. This can lead to the host plant's weakening, disfigurement and eventual death.

"When you get a heavy infestation, it keeps sucking strength away from the plant," Gibson said. "It's almost like a cancerous type of growth."

Unlike many other parasitic plants, mistletoe has chlorophyll, so it can also produce food from the sun's energy through photosynthesis.

2. There are about a dozen species of mistletoe in the Southwest.

Mistletoe is found all over the world. While it's often associated with winter, mistletoe has several species that thrive in the desert Southwest's warm and dry climate.

"There are different types of mistletoe worldwide," Gibson said. "The ones here in the desert are specific to our desert trees. We aren't immune to them."

Palo verde, mesquite, ironwood, pine, juniper and other types of desert trees often are infested with mistletoe.

3. Not all mistletoe is pretty.

Do you picture a sprig of bright-green leaves when you think of mistletoe? That's not always the case.

"There's so many different types," Gibson said. "The type we use at Christmas time has the nice, broad leaves. It looks attractive, and it has a nice place in our culture, but it's still a parasite."

The kind of mistletoe that's picked and sold during the holidays typically is plucked from trees such as cottonwood, sycamore, willow and ash. While some species of mistletoe have large leaves, others are leafless.

Here in the desert, you've probably seen mistletoe without even realizing it. If you've ever seen a palo verde tree with a dense bundle of woody twigs attached, that bundle is probably mistletoe.

4. Mistletoe spreads its love thanks to birds.

Most species of mistletoe produce small berries that are white, pinkish or green-tinged. Gibson says that these berries are delicious to birds.

When the berries are eaten, they stick to the birds' beaks and feet. The birds then carry the berries to other plants and trees, where the mistletoe can attach and sprout.

After birds eat mistletoe berries, the parasite also can spread through the birds' droppings.

5. Mistletoe is very, very hard to get rid of.

Gibson likens mistletoe to a weed that's extremely difficult and time consuming to get rid of.

First, it tends to grow up high in the canopy where the sunlight hits, making it hard to access. Secondly, even if you prune it, buds embedded in the host plant's branches mean it's likely to grow back.

"What we have to do with mistletoe, if you're going to do it right, is cut down into the branch just a little bit — not too deep, because then we'll weaken the branch — and try to get out those buds that are right at the surface," Gibson says.

Gibson says another technique is to trim the mistletoe back, then wrap the area in dark, light-excluding plastic sheeting to deprive the buds of sunlight, eventually killing the parasite. It can take up to two years for the mistletoe buds to completely die.

Another option? Remove the infected branch entirely. However, this method can leave the plant vulnerable to other diseases and wood-destroying insects.

So how exactly did a parasitic plant become associated with locking lips during the holidays?

While reports vary, some say the tradition originated from the Roman pagans' festival of Saturnalia, a weeklong celebration to honor the deity Saturn that occurred around our present-day observance of Christmas and New Year's.

Others say it started in the late 18th century with the English concept of the "kissing ball," a bundle of mistletoe and evergreens. It was said that a kiss under the kissing ball signified lasting romance, friendship and goodwill.

Whatever the tradition's origins, and despite its parasitic properties, mistletoe has been associated with love, fertility, peace and life-giving power in various cultures around the world for centuries.

Categories: Arts and HumanitiesThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: ResearchStaffByline: Amanda Ballard, University Relations - CommunicationsUANow Image: Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Wednesday, December 17, 2014Medium Summary: It's the holiday symbol for romance, but did you know it's a parasite? UA Cooperative Extension agent Rick Gibson shares some of his knowledge about the iconic plant.Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: Did you know that mistletoe is actually a parasite?Send to Never Settle Site: 0

SBS Advisory Council Delivers Holiday Cheer

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 15:36

Last week, Margaret Yrun had a tough time working in her office amid all the Hello Kitty dolls, hula hoops, Nerf footballs and canned goods.

It was all for a good cause. Yrun, academic program coordinator for the Department of Mexican American Studies and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Shayna Walker, program coordinator for the Department of Linguistics, spearheaded the second annual adopt-a-school holiday program run by the SBS Staff Advisory Council.

Each SBS department has a council representative and collected donations to the drive. Last year, gifts were distributed to 10 families at Nash Elementary in Tucson's Amphitheater School District. This year, about $3,000 in food, toys and gift cards was collected for families at Peter Howell Elementary in the Tucson Unified School District.

On Monday, representatives from the council delivered the goods and the good cheer.

"It was amazing," Walker said. "While delivering all of the donations to a small classroom, we passed some children in the hallway. Their eyes lit up and they were so excited, even though they had no idea these items were for them and their families." 

Tina Schivone, a community representative and volunteer coordinator for the school, thanked SBS for its "incredibly generous" donation.

"We distribute the donations to as many families as possible: single parents, grandparents who have stepped up to raise their grandkids, families in transition and other hardship circumstances such as evictions," Schivone said.

"We do our best to help those with the greatest need. This is truly what the holiday season is all about."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: College of Social and Behavioral SciencesHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Students and families at Peter Howell Elementary School in Tucson receive an estimated $3,000 in food, toys and gift cards.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

Meet the UA's 2014 Regents' Professors

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 16:56

The designation of Regents' Professor, voted on by the Arizona Board of Regents, is an honored position reserved for faculty scholars of exceptional ability who have achieved national and international distinction.

The highest honor for faculty in the Arizona state university system, it was bestowed on climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck and anthropologist Mary C. Stiner for 2014. They were honored last week on campus, and their selection brought to 97 the University of Arizona's number of Regents' Professors since the designation was created in 1987. 

Overpeck, a professor of geosciences, has a joint appointment in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and holds the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair. He is an internationally recognized authority on the science and policy of climate and environmental change.

Stiner studies the evidence of Mediterranean cultures spanning the Middle Paleolithic period and the Stone Age. Her seminal book on Neanderthals, "Honor Among Thieves," is recommended reading for students of prehistoric anthropology all over the world. 

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsScience and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  2014 Regents' Professors Video of 2014 Regents' Professors Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: YesMedium Summary: They're Mary C. Stiner and Jonathan Overpeck, and a pair of video profiles take you into their respective worlds of anthropology and climate science. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, December 15, 2014Send to Never Settle Site: 0

AHSC Report Outlines Achievements, Plans

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 14:38

A just-published annual report from the Arizona Health Sciences Center highlights many of its programs, major accomplishments and plans for growth, as AHSC seeks to deliver on the goals outlined in the University of Arizona’s "Never Settle" strategic plan.

Dr. Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia, who became UA senior vice president for health sciences a little more than a year ago, worked closely with the five UA health sciences colleges, as well as with centers and units across campus and beyond, to identify four areas of biomedical research excellence on which AHSC will focus its efforts:

  • Health disparities
  • Population health and health outcomes
  • Precision health
  • Neuroscience

These targeted areas of excellence will help accelerate AHSC’s efforts to positively impact health care in our state and nation, expand its sponsored research portfolio, and improve the quality and diversity of Arizona’s health professions workforce.

"This is a very exciting time at the University of Arizona," Garcia said. "I continue to be impressed by the pioneering spirit of our institution and the willingness of people here to reach out and work across disciplines and geography. The talent, creativity and breadth of activities among our faculty, students and staff are something to showcase to the state and nation."

To view an electronic version of the AHSC Annual Report, please go to:

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: Arizona Health Sciences CenterHeader image: NoNo Image: Subheading: Four areas of biomedical research are identified as targeted areas of excellence for the center.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

How Does a Museum Travel the Country?

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:06

Most people know the Arizona State Museum for its vast anthropological collections and Southwestern exhibits.

Within its brick walls on the University of Arizona campus, curators and conservators care for more than 3 million objects, including Southwest Indian pottery, photographic records and other historical artifacts.

However, some people may not realize that the ASM is much more than a brick-and-mortar institution.

In addition to conducting research and ongoing excavations across the Southwest, and providing public programs to the local community, the ASM partners with other institutions across the country to borrow and lend rare items.

Borrowing between museums happens frequently. For example, organizers for a pottery exhibit may call the ASM requesting a specific vessel from its collections. The length of time for the loan can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.

These swaps help museums fuse partnerships and share knowledge.

ASM director Patrick Lyons says that as a leading anthropological museum, the ASM's duties not only include serving the local region but educating others about the region as well.

"The Arizona State Museum is the preeminent institution engaged in the anthropology and history of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico," Lyons said.

"My stated priorities for ASM are continued excellence and increasing relevance," he said. "I believe how well ASM communicates and collaborates with its many constituencies, including — and perhaps most importantly — Arizona's tribal communities, is in large part what makes it both excellent and relevant."

Between 2011 and 2014, the ASM loaned objects to 17 institutions, including the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, the Tucson International Airport, the New Mexico Museum of History and the U.S. Army.

Most recently, numerous Southwest artifacts were returned to their home at the ASM from the University of Alaska Museum of the North. The ASM also returned around 100 objects to the UAMN, which it had borrowed back in the 1940s and '50s.

During the mid-20th century, most museums desired to have a varied collection of items representing cultures from around the world. Decades later, re-swaps like the one between the ASM and UAMN means more items are coming home to their communities of origin.

Curators at ASM already have begun reintegrating the returned items — pottery, stone tools, textiles and blankets — into the museum's collection. Information about the returned items also will be shared with tribal representatives.

Beyond providing objects on loan, ASM curators and conservators provide training for new and emerging tribal cultural centers, museums, libraries and archives around Arizona. They also help colleagues at other museums with analyzing objects and solving difficult conservation issues.

Previously, the ASM has partnered with the Old Pascua Museum and Yaqui Culture Center in Tucson, the Tohono O'odham Cultural Center and Museum in Topawa, and the Huhugam Heritage Center in Chandler.

Established in 1893 by the Arizona Territorial Legislature, the ASM is the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest. The museum houses the world's largest collection of whole-vessel Southwest Indian pottery.

For more information about the ASM, visit

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: In the past three years, the Arizona State Museum loaned historical objects to 17 institutions around the country.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: