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Panel Discusses Journalists as Targets

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 09:49

U.S. hostage policy and journalism's crucial role in society were explored in depth during a panel discussion Thursday evening at the University of Arizona sponsored by the Center for Border & Global Journalism.

"Reporting in a More Dangerous World" brought attention to the growing dangers facing journalists. The discussion was moderated by UA journalism professor of practice Mort Rosenblum. Panel members included John and Diane Foley, the parents of freelance journalist James Foley, who was executed by ISIS militants last year; former Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson, who was held captive in Lebanon for nearly seven years; and New York Times lawyer David McCraw, who has provided counsel in times of crisis and hostage situations.

While the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech is fervently protected in the U.S., such is not the case worldwide. Journalists increasingly have become targets for what they write and the morals they represent.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 journalists were killed in the line of duty during 2014, and more than 1,100 journalists have been killed since 1992.

"A lot of people think that reporters are out there for the fun of it," said Rosenblum, a foreign correspondent and former bureau chief for the Associated Press. "Well, it ain't fun. ... If they're not there, we're not there. ... We need foreign correspondents out there, and the ones we have are some brave young people."

"We do not negotiate with terrorists."

Anderson was working as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, assigned to the Middle East and living in Lebanon in the 1980s. On March 16, 1985, he was abducted from the streets of Beirut.

He spent the next six years and nine months chained to a basement wall, held captive by Iranian terrorists protesting U.S. forces in Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.

"President Reagan ... said, 'We do not negotiate with terrorists,'" Anderson said. 

When he finally was released in 1991, Anderson met his 6-year-old daughter, Sulome, for the first time. Sulome was born less than three months after he was kidnapped.

Anderson's daughter is now a freelance reporter, currently based between New York and Lebanon.

"I tell her ... if this is really what you want to do, if you think this is important enough, then make sure you're ready for it," Anderson said. "I have, in fact, risked my life to cover stories I thought were important enough. ... It is a risky profession. I am passionate about the importance of journalists and journalism. ... You can't have a free society without a free press."

"Jim was very concerned about the people who had no voice."

Like Anderson, James Foley was an American journalist who was kidnapped in the Middle East.

Foley became the first known American hostage to be taken by the terrorist group ISIS in November 2012 while he was working as a war correspondent in Syria.

It was the second time Foley had been taken captive while working internationally. He was held hostage for 44 days in Libya with three other reporters in 2011, but the experience did not deter his passion for reporting.

His mother said he was dedicated to raising awareness of suppressed populations, including the struggles of the Syrian people.

"Jim was very concerned about the people who had no voice, as are most journalists," Diane Foley said. "Jim believed in a free press. He was passionate about it."

During the months that their son was held hostage by ISIS militants, the Foleys expressed their frustration in dealing with a lack of communication, information and answers from the U.S. government.

"We were frantic, really," Diane said. "We were not allowed to be part of the effort to get Jim out."

Foley's father, John, said government officials requested that the family not comment to the media during the ordeal.

"In hindsight, I think that's one of my biggest regrets," John said, explaining that the silence sacrificed the family's ability to put more pressure on government officials to provide information on Foley's status. "They could tell us nothing, because everything was classified."

Despite the risk of being prosecuted due to U.S. policy, the Foleys started the Free James Foley Campaign in an attempt to raise money in the event that they had a chance to free their son. However, they didn't get the chance to take further action. James Foley was executed on Aug. 19 of last year.

"When you're on your own ..."

All of the panelists agreed that better resources for foreign correspondents are needed, especially for independent or freelance journalists who do not have support from a specific organization in times of crisis, as was Foley's case when he was taken hostage.

"Jim was freelance, so he had no organization behind him to take charge," Diane said. "When you're on your own, you're on your own."

In addition, the Foleys expressed their desire to see a reform of U.S. hostage policy.

McCraw became involved in U.S. hostage policy when he helped with the kidnapping case of New York Times reporter David Rhode in 2008. McCraw worked with the government and Rhode's family on behalf of the publication until Rhode was able to escape in 2009 from Taliban captivity.

The Foleys said the lack of official communication and accountability made their ordeal even more challenging, and McCraw expressed similar frustration regarding a lack of information sharing during Rhode's kidnapping.

"The New York Times is a powerful institution ... and still the failure of the government to share information was extraordinary," McCraw said. "It's clear to me from those experiences that the government can and should do better."

"We just don't want Jim to have died in vain."

In honor of their son, John and Diane Foley established the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. The Foleys founded the organization to support American journalists reporting from conflict zones. The foundation strives to advocate for the "discussion, development and coordination of policies that are consistent, transparent and accountable to all American citizens held captive worldwide," according to its website.

The Foleys said an important aspect in furthering the foundation's mission is to raise awareness of the issues affecting foreign correspondents and U.S. hostage policy. Taking a stance, they said, is the first step.

"We just don't want Jim to have died in vain," Diane said. "Jim was a very optimistic person. He would have wanted something good to come out of this horrific experience. He just would."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The parents of journalist James Foley, who was executed last year by ISIS militants, took part in a panel discussion at the UA on the dangers facing reporters.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Dance Legend Coaches UA Students

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 19:37

George Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” — an eight-minute display of ballet bravura, physicality and technique — became one of dancer Edward Villella’s signature pieces more than 50 years ago. Now students at the UA School of Dance are learning it from Villella.

Villella, 78, arguably the most celebrated American-born male dancer in history, has performed for five U.S. presidents and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1997. He spent his career dancing for the legendary Balanchine and the internationally renowned New York City Ballet. Joining the company in 1957, he was promoted to soloist the next year and held the rank of principal dancer from 1960 until his retirement from the company in 1981. His explosive technique and charisma as a performer inspired Balanchine to create notable male leads for him. 

In 1986, with $1 million in seed money, 19 dancers and rehearsal space in an empty storefront, Villella founded one of the foremost Balanchine-based ballet companies in the country, the Miami City Ballet, serving as its director until 2012. Today the company has 45 dancers, a $14.5 million budget, a state-of-the-art facility and a thriving dance school.

Three couples will alternate performances of the famous pas de deux to open the concert “Color Wheel” at the UA’s Stevie Eller Theatre through Sunday, March 1. For tickets, go to tickets.arizona.edu. For more about the UA School of Dance, go to dance.arizona.edu.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  Villella Pas De Deux Video of Villella Pas De Deux Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: National Medal of Arts winner Edward Villella, one of the greatest American-born dancers in history, imparts a special touch in a campus visit ahead of the concert "Color Wheel."UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, February 25, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: 

UA Talent Pipeline Stopping Data Breaches

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 17:45

U.S. data breaches hit a record high in 2014, according to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center, and the trend is projected to continue. With recruiters actively seeking job candidates with expertise in information security, the University of Arizona is helping to fill the need.

The management information systems department, or MIS, at the Eller College of Management, ranked among the top five for 30 years, boasts a 100 percent placement rate for graduates of its master’s program.

"There’s an incredible need for people with cybersecurity expertise," said Paulo Goes, head of the MIS department and Salter Distinguished Professor of Technology and Management. "The big four consulting firms are all recruiting here. PricewaterhouseCoopers just hired 11 interns from our program."

Demand also is high from students for the master’s in MIS degree. The program was able to accommodate only 90 students from the 1,300 applications it received this year. An online version of the degree, which launched in 2013, serves an additional cohort of students, and the department also offers multiple certifications from the National Security Agency’s Committee on National Security Systems.

Now the UA, designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, or NCAEIAE, since 2009, has had that designation renewed through 2021. The rigorous approval process is governed by a set of nine criteria, including outreach, university-level support and multidisciplinary collaboration.

"The designation is particularly important for the UA because of our location and strong partnerships with the defense industry, border security and homeland security," Goes said. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security jointly sponsor the designation.

Although data encryption is a key element of information security, Goes said the MIS program emphasizes the human element. "We look at an organization holistically, including employee behavior," he said.

"One person clicking on a phishing link can set a chain reaction in motion," said Lance Hoopes, associate director of the Information Assurance and Security Education Center at Eller, who spearheaded the original effort to earn the NCAEIAE designation and was instrumental in securing its renewal. "Cybersecurity can have an impact at every level of an organization, including manufacturing and supply chain."

Hoopes teaches many of the classes in information assurance offered at Eller, and Goes also is a co-principal investigator on a $4.2 million National Science Foundation grant that established the Cybersecurity Scholarship-for-Service at the UA, known as AZSecure.

"AZSecure will support about 40 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students over five years," Goes said. "The students will be immersed in advanced cybersecurity analytics and information assurance education for placement in government agencies and industry."

Ten students currently are supported through the program.

A second, related project is led by Regents’ Professor Hsinchun Chen, who is also a principal investigator on AZSecure.

"We have built an interdisciplinary team around the Hacker Web project," Chen said. "We aim to answer important questions about hacker behaviors, markets, community structure, communication contents, artifacts and cultural differences using big-data analytics."

The Hacker Web project is funded by the NSF through 2016 in the amount of $1.2 million. Chen is joined on the project by fellow principal investigators Salim Hariri, director of the Autonomic Computing Laboratory at the UA; Ronald Breiger, professor of sociology at the UA; and Thomas Holt, associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.

In addition to programs focused on graduate students, the MIS department has several outreach programs in place. The most recent — an NSF-supported cybersecurity camp aimed at underserved high school students — launched last summer with close to 50 participants.

"Programs like these are essential to help build the pipeline of talent that will fill the complex and always-evolving information security needs of all organizations," Goes said.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Liz Warren-PedersonByline Affiliation: Eller College of ManagementHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Because the University is a leader in preparing graduates with information security expertise, demand is high by employers and by students seeking to enter the MIS master's program. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

'Slow Motion at the Speed of Light'

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 14:36

Streaming video over the Internet is the main source of network traffic congestion. Similar to motor vehicle traffic, making real-time traffic information available leads to better utilization of highways and a smoother flow.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Arizona have developed new and improved technology capable of monitoring streaming data traffic in real time and taking action before interruptions occur.

The rapid growth of streaming video and the varied nature of cloud-based applications place a burden on the optical networks that form the Internet. To provide a seamless user experience, these networks must be able to sense and monitor network conditions at any given time and be able to direct traffic in a nimble fashion to avoid traffic jams and gridlocks in data transmission. This, in turn, requires fast and accurate optical performance monitoring that can keep up with the rate of data transmission.

High-speed optical performance monitoring has several challenges. It requires analog-to-digital converters, or ADC, and digital processors that operate at the ultrahigh data rates of optical networks. Achieving high-speed, low-noise and low-power ADC is very difficult, and digital processors operating at such speeds are power hungry.

To overcome these challenges, the collaboration of research teams led by Bahram Jalali at UCLA and Nasser Peyghambarian at the UA has developed a system achieving real-time data acquisition and processing at a record 1.2 terabytes per second — about 10 times faster than currently available technology. The work was done as part of the Center for Integrated Access Network, or CIAN, an Engineering Research Center funded by the National Science Foundation.

The time-stretch accelerated processor, or TiSAP for short, employs photonic time-stretch enhanced recorder, or TiSER, technology to create an optical "slow motion" to slow down the fast data so it can be digitized and processed. TiSAP consists of the time-stretch front-end, a custom-developed electronic ADC, a powerful field programmable gate array, and an integrated clock and data recovery module. TiSAP looks at the quality of the transmitted video by checking for errors in the high-speed data. If the transmission is bad or if bits are corrupted, it can move the data stream to a different channel or a different frequency and fix the problem.

"The system takes in the data as it's coming in at high speed and slows it down while the information still is encoded in the form of laser light," explained Jalali, who holds the Northrop Grumman Endowed Opto-Electronic Chair in Electrical Engineering at UCLA's Department of Electrical Engineering. "Think of slow motion at the speed of light."

The UCLA group developed TiSAP before the technology was brought over to UA to undergo testing at CIAN, to see if it would perform as expected in the context of real-world data networks.

"The Internet is moving toward higher and higher bandwidth, and this is a step in that direction," said Peyghambarian, director of the ERC and professor in the UA's College of Optical Sciences.

The device was tested at the CIAN Testbed for Optical Aggregation Networking located at the UA's College of Optical Sciences in collaboration with CIAN's administrative director, Daniel Kilper, and John Wissinger, both research professors of optical sciences. The collaboration included UCLA graduate students Cejo K. Lonappan, Brandon Buckley and Daniel Lam.

The team demonstrated in-service optical performance monitoring of 10 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) streaming video packets transmitted through a commercial networking platform. Two Fujitsu Flashwave 9500 Optical Network Platform nodes, each having 10 Gbit/s On-Off keying modulation-based transponder line cards, were used to stream high-definition video packets. The optical network channel carrying the streaming video packets was analyzed by TiSAP to generate real-time eye diagrams of the data.

"This is a very important achievement by our CIAN research team," Peyghambarian said, "as it is the first demonstration of real-time optoelectronics performance network monitoring of high-bandwidth streaming video."

Real-time, in-service optical performance monitoring demonstrated here can be used to provide feedback to the software-defined networking controller to implement agile optical networks for automated network restoration, disaster recovery, efficient routing and bandwidth management.

The work, funded by the National Science Foundation through CIAN ERC grant EEC-0812072Y5001118, was presented at the 2014 IEEE Global Signal and Information Processing conference in December in Atlanta. 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: New technology developed by a collaboration between the UA and the University of California, Los Angeles, provides real-time monitoring of streaming video to optimize network traffic.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

UA Economists Focus on Oil Prices

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 07:38

Those who came to Tuesday night’s panel discussion at the Eller College of Management seeking a definitive answer to its central question went away enlightened and entertained — but perhaps not encouraged.

"Plummeting Oil Prices: Good News or Bad?" got the best shot of University of Arizona economists Price Fishback, Mike Staten and Dirk Mateer in a fast-moving, thoroughly engaging 90 minutes of ripped-from-the-headlines commentary that also had enough charts, graphs and bullet points to satisfy any geek.

Fishback led off by supplying some historical perspective on oil’s role in the American economy, then Staten talked about the impact of falling oil prices on the consumer. Mateer wrapped it up with a "predicaments and predictions" segment, joking that his listeners undoubtedly would return in a few years to remind him of how wrong he was. The panelists took a half-hour of questions from the audience afterward.

The answer to the good-or-bad question "depends on where you sit," said Staten, of the UA’s Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"We’re a complicated story," he said of the U.S., noting that the country is the largest consumer and producer of oil in the world but also its largest importer. Because the U.S. is a net importer, dropping prices represent a net savings to the economy, he said.

However, little payoff has been seen yet in consumer retail spending, except for gasoline — and even that hasn’t been too significant. Figuring that the average household buys 600 gallons of gas a year, paying $1 less per gallon than a year ago, Staten said this amounts to a savings of about $12 a week, hardly enough to help much with big-ticket purchases.

"The impact (of lower gas prices) takes time to be visible," Staten said. "Spending patterns won’t change until consumers are sure the lower prices will stick." And indeed, prices at the pump have been creeping upward of late.

Savings may be greater in the eastern U.S., Staten said, where fuel oil is still used for winter heat in many places. He said the lower oil prices can be attributed to three things: expanded U.S. production, particularly in shale oil ("the story that has crept up on most of us"); weakened demand elsewhere in the world; and political instability in places such as Greece, the Ukraine and the Middle East.

Staten said cheaper airfares aren’t likely in the near term, eliciting audible disappointment from the crowd. He said that’s because hedging on fuel costs has blunted the savings of the airlines. He said lower oil prices might justify finally raising the gas tax, which was originally intended for the road repairs now desperately needed in many parts of the country. Although vehicles have become more fuel efficient over the years, they impose the same wear and tear on highways and streets.

Fishback observed that oil was once an alternative fuel in the U.S., finally supplanting coal in the late 19th century. He recalled the gas lines of the 1970s, when OPEC doubled world oil prices twice, from $20 to $100 a barrel, and the American economy was sent reeling by the stagflation of high unemployment and high inflation.

"Inflation is your friend," he said tongue in cheek, quoting an old "Saturday Night Live" skit in which actor Dan Aykroyd played then-President Jimmy Carter.

Mateer, like Fishback a professor in the Eller College, said the question for the immediate future is whether OPEC or the U.S. "will blink first" in a stare-down. Prices will stay low if both maintain production, but they will go higher if both cut production. The economic advantage will go to the one that maintains production while the other reduces it.

On the one hand, OPEC has a production cost advantage and may be better equipped to play a waiting game. But on the other, the economies of OPEC countries are far more dependent on oil than the U.S. economy is, and lower prices can bring pressure to bear on them.

"I don’t know who’s going to blink first, but some countries will blink earlier than others," Mateer said, mentioning Venezuela and Russia as two that have particularly oil-centric economies.

Mateer did say that the lower oil prices won’t last, although he wasn’t willing to give them a shelf life.

"Two hundred dollars a barrel could come in three, 10 or 20 years," he said. "Oil is a scarce commodity and it’s perishable. There will be a tipping point, and we will make the switch to more sustainable forms of energy.

"We will encounter really high oil prices again at some point. It’s going to happen. The moment will come."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Doug CarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Historical perspective, consumer impact and even predictions (gas prices won't stay low) are covered by a panel of three experts at the Eller College of Management.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Monster Black Hole Discovered at Cosmic Dawn

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 23:28

Embargoed until 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern Time on 25 February 2015

Scientists have discovered the brightest quasar in the early universe, powered by the most massive black hole yet known at that time. The international team led by astronomers from Peking University in China and from the University of Arizona announce their findings in the scientific journal Nature on Feb. 26.

The discovery of this quasar, named SDSS J0100+2802, marks an important step in understanding how quasars, the most powerful objects in the universe, have evolved from the earliest epoch, only 900 million years after the Big Bang, which is thought to have happened 13.7 billion years ago. The quasar, with its central black hole mass of 12 billion solar masses and the luminosity of 420 trillion suns, is at a distance of 12.8 billion light-years from Earth.

The discovery of this ultraluminous quasar also presents a major puzzle to the theory of black hole growth at early universe, according to Xiaohui Fan, Regents' Professor of Astronomy at the UA's Steward Observatory, who co-authored the study.

"How can a quasar so luminous, and a black hole so massive, form so early in the history of the universe, at an era soon after the earliest stars and galaxies have just emerged?" Fan said. "And what is the relationship between this monster black hole and its surrounding environment, including its host galaxy?

"This ultraluminous quasar with its supermassive black hole provides a unique laboratory to the study of the mass assembly and galaxy formation around the most massive black holes in the early universe."

The quasar dates from a time close to the end of an important cosmic event that astronomers referred to as the "epoch of reionization”: the cosmic dawn when light from the earliest generations of galaxies and quasars is thought to have ended the "cosmic dark ages" and transformed the universe into how we see it today.

Discovered in 1963, quasars are the most powerful objects beyond our Milky Way galaxy, beaming vast amounts of energy across space as the supermassive black hole in their center sucks in matter from its surroundings. Thanks to the new generation of digital sky surveys, astronomers have discovered more than 200,000 quasars, with ages ranging from 0.7 billion years after the Big Bang to today.

Shining with the equivalent of 420 trillion suns, the new quasar is seven times brighter than the most distant quasar known (which is 13 billion years away). It harbors a black hole with mass of 12 billion solar masses, proving it to be the most luminous quasar with the most massive black hole among all the known high redshift (very distant) quasars.

"By comparison, our own Milky Way galaxy has a black hole with a mass of only 4 million solar masses at its center; the black hole that powers this new quasar is 3,000 time heavier," Fan said.

Feige Wang, a doctoral student from Peking University who is supervised jointly by Fan and Xue-Bing Wu at Peking University, the study's lead author, initially spotted this quasar for further study.

"This quasar was first discovered by our 2.4-meter Lijiang Telescope in Yunnan, China, making it the only quasar ever discovered by a 2-meter telescope at such distance, and we're very proud of it," Wang said. "The ultraluminous nature of this quasar will allow us to make unprecedented measurements of the temperature, ionization state and metal content of the intergalactic medium at the epoch of reionization."

Following the initial discovery, two telescopes in southern Arizona did the heavy lifting in determining the distance and mass of the black hole: the 8.4-meter Large Binocular Telescope, or LBT, on Mount Graham and the 6.5-meter Multiple Mirror Telescope, or MMT, on Mount Hopkins. Additional observations with the 6.5-meter Magellan Telescope in Las Campanas Observatory, Chile, and the 8.2-meter Gemini North Telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, confirmed the results.

"This quasar is very unique," said Xue-Bing Wu, a professor of the Department of Astronomy, School of Physics at Peking University and the associate director of the Kavli Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics. "Just like the brightest lighthouse in the distant universe, its glowing light will help us to probe more about the early universe."

Wu leads a team that has developed a method to effectively select quasars in the distant universe based on optical and near-infrared photometric data, in particular using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Explorer, or WISE, satellite.

"This is a great accomplishment for the LBT," said Fan, who chairs the LBT Scientific Advisory Committee and also discovered the previous record holders for the most massive black hole in the early universe, about a fourth of the size of the newly discovered object. "The especially sensitive optical and infrared spectrographs of the LBT provided the early assessment of both the distance of the quasars and the mass of the black hole at the quasar's center." 

For Christian Veillet, director of the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, or LBTO, this discovery demonstrates both the power of international collaborations and the benefit of using a variety of facilities spread throughout the world.

"This result is particularly gratifying for LBTO, which is well on its way to full nighttime operations," Veillet said. "While in this case the authors used two different instruments in series, one for visible light spectroscopy and one for near-infrared imaging, LBTO will soon offer a pair of instruments that can be used simultaneously, effectively doubling the number of observations possible in clear skies and ultimately creating even more exciting science."

To further unveil the nature of this remarkable quasar, and to shed light on the physical processes that led to the formation of the earliest supermassive black holes, the research team will carry out further investigations on this quasar with more international telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Telescope. 

Editor: Daniel StolteWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Christian Veillet/LBTO and Daniel Stolte/University Relations – Communications Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: In a paper in the journal Nature, researchers report the discovery of the brightest quasar in the early universe, powered by the most massive black hole yet known at that time.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Sea Level Spiked for Two Years Along NE North America

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 19:46

Sea levels from New York to Newfoundland jumped up about four inches in 2009 and 2010 because ocean circulation changed, a University of Arizona-led team reports in an upcoming issue of Nature Communications.

The team was the first to document that the extreme increase in sea level lasted two years, not just a few months.

"The thing that stands out is the time extent of this event as well as the spatial extent of the event," said first author Paul Goddard, a UA doctoral candidate in geosciences.

Independent of any hurricanes or winter storms, the event caused flooding along the northeast coast of North America. Some of the sea level rise and the resulting flooding extended as far south as Cape Hatteras.

The paper is also the first to show that the unusual spike in sea level was a result of changes in ocean circulation.

Co-author Jianjun Yin, UA assistant professor of geosciences, said, "We are the first to establish the extreme sea level rise event and its connection with ocean circulation."

Goddard detected the two-year-long spike in sea level by reviewing monthly tide-gauge records, some of which went back to the early 1900s, for the entire Eastern Seaboard. No other two-year period from those records showed such a marked increase.

The team linked the spike to a change in the ocean’s Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and also a change in part of the climate system known as the North Atlantic Oscillation.

The researchers then used computer climate models to project the probability of future spikes in sea level.

The team found that, at the current rate that atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, such extreme events are likely to occur more frequently, Goddard said.

Goddard’s and Yin’s research paper, "An Extreme Event of Sea Level Rise along the Northeast Coast of North America in 2009-10," is scheduled for online publication in Nature Communications today. Stephen Griffies and Shaoqing Zhang of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, are also co-authors. NOAA funded the research.

Yin’s previous work on climate models suggests that weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation could cause sea levels to rise faster along the northeast coast of North America.

Yin wondered whether such sea level rise had actually been observed, so he asked Goddard to compile the tide-gauge records for the east coast of North America. The 40 gauges, spanning the coast from Key West, Florida, north to Newfoundland, have been recording sea levels as far back as the 1920s. 

Goddard’s work revealed a surprise — that during 2009 and 2010, sea level between New York and Newfoundland rose an average of four inches. Sea level from Cape Hatteras to New York also had a notable spike, though not as dramatic.

"The sea level rise of 2009-10 sticks out like a sore thumb for the Northeast," Goddard said.

His research also confirmed that, as others have reported, sea level has been gradually rising since the 1920s and that there is some year-to-year variation.

About the time Goddard finished analyzing the tide-gauge records, another group of researchers reported that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, had a 30 percent decline in strength in 2009-10. Those researchers reported the decline started just two months before the tide gauges started recording the spike in sea level.

"To me, it was like putting together a puzzle," Goddard said.

The more he and his colleagues examined the timing of the AMOC downturn and the subsequent increase in sea level, the more it fit together, he said.

The AMOC brings warm water from the tropics and the southern Atlantic Ocean to the North Atlantic and the polar regions. The water then cools and sinks, eventually flowing south in the deep ocean. Yin’s climate model predicted that when the AMOC weakened, sea level in northeastern North America would rise. 

In addition to the weakening AMOC, during 2009-10 the region’s atmosphere was in a very negative phase of the climate mode called the North Atlantic Oscillation. The NAO flip-flops between negative and positive phases.

"The negative North Atlantic Oscillation changes the wind patterns along the northeast coast, so during the negative NAO the winds push water onto the northeast coast," Goddard said.

Although the NAO has resumed flipping between positive and negative states, observations show that the AMOC, while somewhat stronger, has still not recovered its previous strength.

Even now, sea level is still higher than before 2009, Yin said. He’s not surprised, because most of the climate models predict a weakening of the AMOC over the 21st century.

Yin said that at the current rate of increase in greenhouse gases, most climate models predict a weakening of the AMOC over the 21st century. Therefore, such extreme sea level rise events and coastal flooding are quite likely to occur along the densely populated northeast coast of North America more often. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Mari N. JensenByline Affiliation: UA College of ScienceHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A four-inch increase in sea levels from New York to Newfoundland occurred in 2009 and 2010 because ocean circulation changed, reports a UA-led team of geoscientists.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Classroom Innovator: Dirk Mateer

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 17:52

A class that meets in a 2,500-seat concert hall? Can any learning come of that?

"Large lecture classes can be better than small classes," says Dirk Mateer, Gerry Swanson Chair in Economic Education in the Department of Economics at the UA’s Eller College of Management. Mateer has built a national reputation as an economics teacher, lauded for his ability to expose how economic phenomena underpin daily life through use of pop culture and interactive class exercises.

Mateer, along with Steve Reff and other teachers in the Department of Economics, leads the large sections of Economics 200 that serve not only pre-business students but others across the University — a total of 2,000 students last fall. The classroom: Centennial Hall.

"Large lectures present amazing opportunities for crowd sourcing and can be a bonding experience for students with the people around them," Mateer says. "It’s like going to a movie and laughing at the same thing with the rest of the audience."

Mateer joined the UA last fall from the University of Kentucky and was at Penn State before that. He started as a high school teacher of math and science before going on to earn his doctorate in economics at Florida State.

"Big classes can be made small," Mateer says. "The old model is that you lecture, the students take in information, and then you repeat."

He turned the model on its head.

"Faculty can be reluctant to give up control of the classroom," he says. "But you can leverage things that make a large class great, like communication, demos, getting the students up onstage and participating, and group work."

Pop culture became a component of Mateer’s approach in the 1990s, when he began using clips from the TV show "Seinfeld" to demonstrate economic principles.

"The neat part about it is that there are certain pieces of pop culture that transcend eras," he says. "Like the bank-run scene in 'It’s a Wonderful Life.' Or  'I Love Lucy,' which is still amazing. Now I use the economics of 'The Office' and I have a project that looks at the economics of 'The Big Bang Theory.'

"There’s always something new and fun. Connecting the language of economics to phenomena that people intuitively understand — this is my research."

Mateer and fellow UA economics professors Price Fishback and Mike Staten will conduct a panel discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 24, on the topic of "Plummeting Oil Prices — Good News or Bad?" The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at McClelland Hall in Berger Auditorium (Room 207). Fishback will give a historical perspective, Staten will talk about the impact on consumers and Mateer will discuss how oil prices are determined. Admission is free.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Business and LawTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  Economics Professor Dirk Mateer commands Centennial Hall Video of Economics Professor Dirk Mateer commands Centennial Hall Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: See how UA economics professor Dirk Mateer gets creative, making a big room seem small, in the latest installment of a periodic series on classroom innovation.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, February 23, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: 

Eggs With Attitude: The Behavior of Bluebirds

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 17:13

Depending on the level of competition they experience during nesting season, female bluebirds allocate different amounts of hormones into their eggs, producing sons that are more or less competitive, which in turn influences the dispersal behavior of subsequent generations, a team led by University of Arizona biologists has discovered.

"Mothers are uniquely positioned to be a bridge between current environmental conditions and the traits of their offspring," said Renée Duckworth, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the UA College of Science. "This is one of those rare cases where we can see how these local behavioral interactions, which can be exceptionally variable, can lead to highly predictable ecological patterns on a large scale."

While scientists have long known that females of many animal species provide their offspring with much more than their genes — nutrients, hormones and other valuable ingredients for life — few examples have been documented in which the maternal contribution to offspring generation directly shapes their environment and interactions with other species on a large, landscape-wide level. 

The study, published in the journal Science, provides the first detailed understanding of how environmental conditions can directly influence behavioral patterns across generations, behaviors that in turn lead to one species replacing another in ecological communities.

Duckworth leads a research group that addresses how interactions among individuals scale up to affect broader ecological processes such as changes in species assemblages.

"We want to know how understanding the lower-level mechanisms help you make sense of higher-level patterns as you go from the small scale of individuals interacting to the large scale of entire populations and landscapes," she said.

To find answers, the team studied populations of western bluebirds and mountain bluebirds, two closely related species that compete for nesting cavities in patches of forest recently ravaged by wildfires. Because bluebirds depend on those habitats as their prime nesting grounds, members of both species are in intense competition with each other and also with birds of other species looking to colonize the same spaces.  

Mountain and western bluebirds compete for nest cavities in post-fire forests — a successional habitat that lasts for roughly 20 bluebird generations. Bluebirds must be able to continually recolonize newly available post-fire habitat to survive. This leads to cycles of species replacement: Mountain bluebirds are more dispersive and find new habitat first, whereas western bluebirds are more aggressive and can displace other species once they show up. Once western bluebirds displace mountain bluebirds, they go through a rapid decline in aggressive behavior until the cycle is reset by fire.

"We had some evidence there was a maternal effect that influenced variation in aggression of offspring that we observed," Duckworth said. "We knew that if a son develops in eggs laid earlier, he is more aggressive compared to sons hatching from later eggs. But we didn't know why birth order influences aggression, and why mothers produce sons early or late."

Duckworth and her colleagues suspected that the mothers' response to different resource environments was driving these cycles in the post-fire habitats, but they needed to collect data from the individual all the way up to the population level at multiple populations across different stages of species replacement.

To determine how nest cavity resources influenced the maternal effects, the researchers separated the territories into two groups: one that had only a single nest cavity up for grabs, and randomly selected other territories, which they provided with additional nest boxes. They then recorded how the females behaved, as they were beleaguered by other bluebirds, wrens or tree-swallows, the most dominant competitor. During such competitive interactions, the researchers also measured hormonal allocation of these females into their developing eggs and the effects such allocation had on behavior of resulting offspring.

"If the bluebird females had only one cavity, they had to continuously fend off the other competitive species," Duckworth said. "But if they have a lot of nest cavities on their territory, they don’t fight as often because other species don't try to steal their primary nest cavity as much."

Establishing these behavioral differences was key to understanding how information about changes in resource availability could be transmitted to offspring.

Duckworth and her team studied hundreds of nests across populations that were at different stages during the population cycle and studied what maternal effects were at work at each stage. The scientists then combined that data with a long-term study done over 11 years and measured hormone allocation in the naturally varying bluebird populations.

They discovered that when western bluebirds experienced a lot of competition, they allocated more androgens to their clutches. As a result, sons hatching from these eggs were more aggressive and more likely to disperse farther and colonize new areas. Once there, they establish large territories and drive out resident populations of mountain bluebirds.

On the other hand, if the females experienced very little competition, they allocated low levels of androgens to eggs, producing "stay-at-home" sons that were less aggressive and more likely to obtain a territory near their parents' nest.

"The older a population, the more crowded it gets," Duckworth said. "This translates to smaller territory size, and that's OK if you have your relatives next to you, but not if you're facing fierce competition from strangers."

In the greater scheme of things, Duckworth's research has implications that go far beyond the world of ecological interactions.

"There is mounting evidence from medical research that the environment to which a pregnant mother is exposed can determine the stress response of the offspring for rest of its life," said Duckworth, who recently received a $750,000 CAREER grant, the National Science Foundation's most prestigious award in support of faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

"We will use this support to follow up on results we obtained in this and in other studies," Duckworth said. "We are excited to start looking at eco-evolutionary dynamics in this system, which is how changes in behavior are driven by rapid evolutionary changes or demographic effects.

"There is a heritable variation in and natural selection on aggression in this system, and our goal is to see how maternal effects play into the mix and to tease apart the relative importance of all of these in long-term evolution."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Mother bluebirds influence their male chicks while they are still in the egg, thus shaping the ecological communities in which they will live, a UA-led research team reports in a paper published in the journal Science.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Helping Computers See Like People

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 10:10

If you've ever posted a photo on Facebook of yourself and a group of friends, you've probably seen a prompt asking if you'd like to tag yourself or specific friends in the image.

Using facial recognition technology, Facebook is able to identify who is in the photo and suggest which of your friends appear.

This is just one example of how computers "see." And while the science is still imperfect, researchers hope that, one day, computers may be able to see as well as humans.

University of Arizona cognitive scientist Mary Peterson is one researcher who is working to improve computer vision as part of a national, multidisciplinary team.  

Peterson, who studies human vision, is a professor and director of the UA's Cognitive Science Program and also a professor of psychology in the College of Science's School of Mind, Brain and Behavior.

She and five collaborators from four partner institutions — Stanford University, the University of Illinois, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley — have been awarded a three-year, $4.5 million grant from the Office of Naval Research for a project designed to improve computer vision. At the end of the three years, the project may be eligible for a two-year, $3 million extension.

The grant was awarded through the Office of Naval Research's Multi University Research Initiative, which aims to bring together scientists across institutions and disciplines to collaborate on scientific challenges.

Led by principal investigator and computer vision scientist Fei-Fei Li at Stanford, the research team includes two computer vision scientists and four researchers who study mammalian vision.

Peterson's portion of the research, funded at $750,000, will focus on better understanding the role of feedback connections in the way humans see, with hopes that those findings may be able to help improve computer vision.

"Computer vision scientists, for quite a number of years now, have been having competitions every year, and their goal is to have computer vision be as good as human vision," Peterson said. "Every year they come closer to that goal."

But there is still work to be done. While computers do well at reading things like faces, QR codes or satellite images, they struggle with deciphering very complex images or crowded scenes, Peterson explained. For example, if a person's face is partially obstructed by an object, like a wall, the computer may not be able to tell where the face ends and the wall begins.

"The idea is that if we understand more about how human vision does it, and in particular how human vision uses feedback connections, then one might be able to improve computer vision," Peterson said.

In human vision, when light enters the eye, it is absorbed by receptors on the back of the retina and then it's translated into neurosignals that follow a pathway from the back of the eye up into higher levels of the brain. For many years, scientists thought that conscious perception occurred when the signals hit a certain place in that pathway, making visual perception something of a "one-way street" — the result of a feed-forward connection, Peterson said.

Scientists later discovered that wherever a feed-forward connection occurs in the brain, there is also a feedback connection, with signals traveling in the other direction. There is some evidence that those feedback connections also may be critical to the vision process, yet it is unclear what their exact role is. That's what Peterson hopes to find out.

Peterson will work with undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students in her UA lab to conduct computer-based behavioral tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging with study participants. She also will work with her collaborator at the University of Illinois to use transcranial magnetic stimulation to better understand what happens in the brain during visual processing.

"What we're going to be testing in our studies are those places in particular where computer vision has a problem and/or those places where we think feedback connections might be really critically important," she said. "We're going to try to get really good evidence and then we'll be able to say to the computer vision scientists: 'Here's what the feedback seems to be doing, and if you implement this in your models we predict that you will come much closer to human vision.'"

Peterson, who plans to meet with collaborators several times throughout the project, said she is excited about the multidisciplinary nature of the research.

"By pulling together people who work on an issue or who are concerned about an issue but are not at the same institution, you can pull together different expertise, different methods, different approaches and maybe even different starting assumptions for a really wonderful multidisciplinary project," she said. "We're going to be challenging each other as we work together, and we'll ask the hard questions of each other and push each other to do even more research."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA cognitive scientist Mary Peterson, who studies human vision, will work with collaborators from four partner institutions, funded by an Office of Naval Research grant.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

School of Anthropology Celebrates Centennial

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 17:40

The University of Arizona School of Anthropology will celebrate its centennial throughout 2015 with a range of special events, including lectures and social occasions for alumni and the general public.

Diane Austin, the school’s director, says the centennial activities are intended to connect alumni and friends to the school and to illuminate the diversity and relevance of the work conducted by the school’s faculty and students.

"The centennial is a unique opportunity to celebrate and reflect on our past and look ahead to the future," Austin says.

Fittingly, the School of Anthropology's centennial kickoff was held at the Arizona State Museum in January. In 1915, Byron Cummings assumed the directorship of the museum and became the first professor of archaeology at the UA. At the time, the University had 70 faculty members and 463 students.

The Department of Archaeology expanded quickly. By 1932, the department included cultural, linguistic, biological and applied anthropologists. In 1937, Emil W. Haury became its head and changed its name to the Department of Anthropology to reflect its breadth. Today, the school has more than 120 graduate students and 300 undergraduates and is housed in the Emil W. Haury Building. (Read more about the school’s history here.)

The school's centennial will celebrate its rich and varied history and accomplishments with lectures, festivals, a community walk, field trips, an exhibit in the UA Libraries’ Special Collections and much more. Themes that will be highlighted during the year include “The Mediterranean: Bridging Old and New Worlds” (Feb. 27 and 28); “Anthropology of Food and Nutrition: Linking the Subfields” (April 23–25); and “Anthropology in Our Community: Celebrating Diversity” (Oct. 8–11).

Several of the events will be held in partnership with organizations such as the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the Pima County Public Library, the Southwest Folklife Alliance, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Native Seeds/SEARCH. The year culminates with a gala in December.

As part of its celebration, the school is constructing a social network model showing the many links of its faculty and graduates with organizations and universities around the world. The project, called Centennial Connections, explores the global impact of UA anthropology.

A History of Excellence

From its humble beginning in 1915, the School of Anthropology has grown into one of the top anthropology programs in the country and is consistently ranked in the top five. One of the oldest and most prestigious units on campus, the school has over the years given birth to the University of Arizona Press, the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, the Department of Geosciences, the Department of American Indian Studies, the Southwest Center and more.

The school’s faculty is recognized internationally and includes four Regents’ Professors (Mark Nichter, John Olsen, David Soren and Mary Stiner), a Distinguished Outreach Professor (Austin) and a MacArthur Fellow (Brackette Williams). Several faculty members hold endowed chairs: the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Professor of Greek Archaeology is David Romano; the Fred A. Reicker Professor of Anthropology is Steven Kuhn; the Agnese Nelms Haury Professor is Takeshi Inomata; and the Agnese Nelms Haury Fellow is Maribel Alvarez.

"The School of Anthropology is helping our community, Arizona and the world better understand humanity," Austin says. "Our practical application of anthropology to problems of human health and medicine, language and cultural preservation and revitalization, and migration and settlement in the face of environmental change are making a difference in the lives of people around the world."

Current research being conducted by faculty in the School of Anthropology includes:

  • Bridging archaeological science and Native American traditional knowledge (T.J. Ferguson)
  • Landscapes and environments as they were when they were first populated and how they evolved under human influence (Vance Holliday)
  • Regional identities in Italy following the collapse of Roman rule (Emma Blake)
  • Treatment for tobacco dependence (Mark and Mimi Nichter)
  • Impact of environmental degradation on prehistoric societies (John Olsen)
  • Women’s reproductive and psychosocial health (Ivy Pike)
  • The rising Chinese middle class (Qing Zhang)
  • Adoption of agriculture and its consequences in the U.S. Southwest and northwest Mexico (Barbara Mills)
  • Infant care among primates (Stacey Tecot)
  • Improving livelihood assistance in sub-Saharan Africa (Mamadou Baro)
  • Land use politics in Arizona and the Southwest (Tom Sheridan)
Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsWhat: "The Mediterranean: Bridging Old & New Worlds"Where: UA School of AnthropologyWhen: Feb. 27Extra Info: 

10 a.m.-noon — Tours of the Arizona State Museum, Emil W. Haury Laboratories, the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research and the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory. Sign up here.

2-4 p.m. — Panel discussion, "From Dispersal to Diaspora: 50,000 Years of Mobility Around the Mediterranean." Emil W. Haury Building, Room 216.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Several events are planned throughout the year, with the Arizona State Museum serving as a hub of festivities. The school's faculty includes four Regents' Professors, a Distinguished Outreach Professor and a MacArthur Fellow.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Best View Yet of a Young Planet's Dusty Home

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 13:02

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team led by UA astronomers Daniel Apai and Glenn Schneider has obtained the most detailed picture to date of a large, edge-on, gas-and-dust disk encircling the 20-million-years-old star Beta Pictoris. This gigantic disk extends more than 20 times the diameter of the planetary orbits in our solar system and has been known for its complex structure, possibly shaped by one or more massive planets.

The new images show a complex disk structure in the inner disk, previously unexplored in visible light. The images allow astronomers to study the structure of the dust disk down to the close-in orbit of the planet, which is important to test whether the planet has shaped the disk. The UA astronomers find that the inner disk structure is similar to the predictions of numerical models, in which a single planet deforms the disk.

Beta Pictoris remains the only directly imaged debris disk that has a giant planet, discovered in 2009. Because the planet's orbital period is comparatively short — estimated to be between 18 and 22 years — astronomers can see large motion in just a few years. This allows scientists to study how the Beta Pictoris disk is distorted by the presence of a massive planet embedded within the disk.

The new visible-light Hubble image traces the disk closer to the star to within about 650 million miles of the star (which is inside the radius of Saturn's orbit about the sun).

"Some computer simulations predicted a complicated structure for the inner disk due to the gravitational pull by the short-period giant planet," said Apai, an assistant professor with joint appointments in the UA Department of Astronomy/Steward Observatory and UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. "The new images reveal the inner disk and confirm the predicted structures. This finding validates models, which will help us to deduce the presence of other exoplanets in other disks."

The gas-giant planet in the Beta Pictoris system was directly imaged in infrared light by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope six years ago.

When comparing the latest Hubble images to Hubble images taken in 1997, astronomers find that the disk's dust distribution has barely changed over 15 years despite the fact that the entire structure is orbiting the star like a carousel. This means the disk's structure is smoothly continuous in the direction of its rotation on the timescale, roughly, of the accompanying planet's orbital period.

In 1984, Beta Pictoris was the very first star discovered to host a bright disk of light-scattering circumstellar dust and debris. Since then, Beta Pictoris has been an object of intensive scrutiny with Hubble and with ground-based telescopes. Hubble spectroscopic observations in 1991 found evidence for extrasolar comets frequently falling into the star.

The disk is easily seen because it is tilted edge-on and is especially bright because of a very large amount of starlight-scattering dust. What's more, at 63 light-years, Beta Pictoris is closer to Earth than most of the other known disk systems.

Although nearly all of the approximately two dozen known light-scattering circumstellar disks have been viewed by Hubble to date, Beta Pictoris is the first and best example of what a young planetary system looks like, according to the researchers.

One thing astronomers recently have learned about circumstellar debris disks is that their structure, and amount of dust, is incredibly diverse and may be related to the locations and masses of planets in those systems.

"The Beta Pictoris disk is the prototype for circumstellar debris systems, but it may not be a good archetype," said co-author Schneider.

For one thing, the Beta Pictoris disk is exceptionally dusty. This may be due to recent major collisions among unseen planetary-size and asteroid-size bodies embedded within it. In particular, a bright lobe of dust and gas on the southwestern side of the disk may be the result of the pulverization of a Mars-size body in a giant collision.

Both the 1997 and 2012 images were taken in visible light with Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph in its coronagraphic imaging mode. A coronagraph blocks out the glare of the central star so that the disk can be seen.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Ray Villard and Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: Space Telescope Science Institute and University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: New images show a complex structure in the inner disk, previously unexplored in visible light, and even hint at the possible aftermath of the pulverization of a Mars-size body in a giant collision.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Nasal Spray Could Help in Understanding Grief

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 12:05

Most of us know what it's like to lose a loved one. With loss comes a veritable smorgasbord of emotional turmoil and a long period of grieving as we struggle to come to terms with the drastic change. 

While most grieving adults gradually adjust to their loss, about 10-15 percent of people develop what is known as complicated grief. Sufferers experience persistent intense yearning, emotional pain and an inability to carry out the normal functions of daily life long after their loved one has passed. 

The key to understanding the biological mechanism underlying complicated grief may lie in the neuropeptide hormone oxytocin, commonly implicated in facilitating social bonding and maternal behavior. University of Arizona psychologist Mary-Frances O'Connor has received a $200,000 grant from the Dana Foundation to study oxytocin's role in complicated grief and its potential to reverse associated symptoms.

"We are very interested in the way emotion and physiology interact," said O'Connor, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. "In complicated grief, people become more vulnerable to illness. We want to know what's going on physiologically that is preventing a normal healing process from occurring."

Adults who recently have lost a spouse or a child represent the majority of people who develop complicated grief. O'Connor and her team plan to use functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to study the brains of 40 such adults and determine whether intranasally administered oxytocin changes their experience of grief and their neural responses.

In previous neuroimaging studies, O'Connor found that people who were experiencing signs of complicated grief exhibited higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also showed greater activity in a brain region called the nucleus accumbens when looking at a picture of their recently deceased spouse, compared to those who were experiencing a typical grieving process.  

The nucleus accumbens is typically associated with motivation and reward, both of which are relevant to symptoms of complicated grief. O'Connor thinks that abnormally low levels of oxytocin bound to receptors in the nucleus accumbens during bereavement may be responsible.

"Neurons in the nucleus accumbens express oxytocin receptors, and oxytocin has also been shown to inhibit the action of cortisol," O'Connor explained. "These facts and our findings suggest complicated grief may in fact be a state of oxytocin dysregulation."

Participants in the study will receive an oxytocin or saline intranasal spray before one fMRI scan, and get the other spray as a control when they come back for a second scan. O'Connor and her team then will use the neuroimaging data to determine if there are any differences in the levels of nucleus accumbens activity after oxytocin administration. The team also will ask participants to detail their emotional experiences when viewing a picture of their deceased spouse under both conditions. 

Previous experiments have shown that the positive psychological effects resulting from intranasal oxytocin, which generally include reports of increased calm and contentment, are short-term, lasting only about 20 to 30 minutes. For this reason, O'Connor emphasized that nasal oxytocin is meant to elucidate the biological mechanisms underlying complicated grief, not serve as long-term therapy. 

If oxytocin does reduce signs of complicated grief and O'Connor's hypothesis is confirmed, she and her team will next try to understand why oxytocin is deficient in people who develop complicated grief. O'Connor hopes that her findings may eventually lead to potential therapies for those in need. 

"If we can confirm and understand the relationship between the action of oxytocin and symptoms of complicated grief, we might be able to develop methods of stimulating natural oxytocin production and release in individuals who are suffering," O'Connor said.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Raymond SanchezByline: Raymond Sanchez, NASA Space Grant internByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The hormone oxytocin, to be used in a study, is thought to play a role in the experience of complicated grief, according to Arizona psychologist Mary-Frances O'Connor. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

It's Official: Fred Fox School of Music

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 18:47

Fred Fox, still teaching students to play brass instruments at the age of 100, visited the University of Arizona campus this week for two days of festivities related to the renaming of the UA School of Music in his honor. Fox’s son, Alan, and Alan’s wife, Daveen, donated $20 million to the music school, which is part of the College of Fine Arts, in January.

Fox played solo French horn with the National Symphony, the Minneapolis Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic before retiring from performing in 1969. He also has taught music at several schools, including the UA. On Wednesday, he conducted a master class for horn players before being presented with an honorary doctorate from the University at a concert in Centennial Hall.

To read more about the Foxes and the gift, click here.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesCampus NewsYouTube Video:  Fred Fox School of Music Video of Fred Fox School of Music Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Step inside the classroom with legendary musician Fred Fox, still teaching at the age of 100, and hear why the UA is such a special place to his son, Alan.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, February 18, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: 

Wildcat Review: A Tale of Two Coaches

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 15:29

Since following in his father's footsteps, University of Arizona alumnus Michael Lopez has seen his relationship grow stronger with his dad, UA head baseball coach Andy Lopez.

"When I played for him, I didn't really see him as my father, but rather more of a coach," said Michael, a volunteer assistant coach with the baseball team. "The first couple years when I started coaching with him, I could see more of a father-son type of relationship between us. I see him more as a father on the field now than I ever have before."

Initially, Michael didn't want to settle on coaching as a career. 

During high school, he had dreams of someday getting drafted by a Major League Baseball team. Growing up under the wing of his father, a three-time national Coach of the Year, baseball came naturally to him, and he quickly developed into a promising right-handed pitcher with an above-average fastball. 

Everything seemed to be going as planned until Michael suffered an injury to his shoulder. He underwent physical therapy, but when his shoulder wasn't responding to rehab, his father called Dr. Keith Meister, the current team physician for the Texas Rangers. Meister was one of Andy's former associates; the two worked together at the University of Florida.

Michael and his father flew to Arlington, Texas, and spent a few days with the Rangers before Meister performed surgery to get a better look at the condition of the shoulder and see if there was anything that could be done to repair it.

Not much could be done.

"He came out of the operating room and in a joking way said, 'Hey, I hope (Michael) can play another sport.' I remember saying, 'You’re kidding me,' and he said, 'No, that shoulder is a mess — it’s absolutely mangled,'" Andy recalled. "At that point in time, when his shoulder never bounced back and he never regained his velocity, I remember him mentioning to me a few times that he might like to get into the coaching profession and see what it’s like."

While his professional aspirations were cut short, Michael's passion for the sport continued to grow.

As a UA student-athlete, even though seeing limited action, Michael was known as one of the most tireless workers on the team. His final season with the Wildcats culminated in a national championship at the 2012 College World Series. Soon thereafter, he became serious about coaching as a career, and over the past two years he has served in his current capacity as a volunteer assistant for the UA.

Michael said coaching alongside his father has been a much more enjoyable experience than playing for him. Over the past two years, they have spent hours together working with pitchers and making sure they have similar of expectations of players.

"It's real easy for me to walk away from a bullpen session and know that he knows exactly what we're trying to do in the next 20 minutes if I get pulled away," Andy said. "Since he and I have talked about pitching since he was 13 years old and he's been working alongside me with the pitchers, he has a pretty good idea of how I want things to be done."

Andy said that his son's contribution to a national championship is valuable for the current Wildcats to see.

"He was in the program for three years before seeing what it took for a championship caliber team to take form," Andy said. "He wasn't a guy who walked in his freshman year and just suddenly won a national title. I don’t think you really understand what it takes when you do something like that. He was able to look back and remember all of the tireless effort it took to win a national championship."

Photos courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The Wildcats will host Rice University Feb. 20-22, then Oakland on Feb. 24 and 25.

Categories: Campus NewsSportsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: AthleticsAlumniByline: Evan Rosenfeld, University Relations - Communications |UANow Image: Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Friday, February 20, 2015Medium Summary: UA head baseball coach Andy Lopez and his son Michael, a volunteer assistant coach, talk about what it's like to share a love for the sport and for coaching. Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: A father and son draw closer on the baseball field. Send to Never Settle Site: 0UA in the News Spotlight: Includes video: 

National Science Foundation Director Visits UA

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 15:23

The head of one of the federal government’s most important research funding arms visited the University of Arizona last week in an effort to learn more about the University's dynamic research and to get a firsthand look at some of its groundbreaking projects.

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

As head of the NSF, Córdova oversees a federal agency with an annual budget of $7.3 billion and is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by U.S. colleges and universities.

Since 2013, NSF has awarded more than $159 million of funding to the UA, with a large part going to the iPlant Collaborative administered by the BIO5 Institute. iPlant merges evolving computational technology and complex data analyses with collaborative human brainpower, essentially changing the approach to life science research and discovery while tackling some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as how to feed a world population expected to reach 10 billion by the year 2100.

Córdova said part of her purpose in touring the UA was to take stories and examples of research back to Washington for the occasions when she is asked to testify before Congress or other legislative bodies. Her visit supplied her with a number of highlights, from hearing about ongoing study at Biosphere 2 to seeing the Giant Magellan Telescope mirrors at the Steward Observatory.

"We are very excited that Dr. Córdova decided to come to the UA to see the outstanding research that our researchers conduct every day," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, the University's senior vice president for research and head of the Office for Research & Discovery. "Her visit to our campus gives us the opportunity to showcase our work, promote our facilities and show the commitment we have to not only tackling the grand challenges, but also to solving them."

The UA's competitiveness for increased research funding is an integral part of its Never Settle strategic plan. Innovation is one of the four major pillars of Never Settle.

Córdova spent time talking directly with researchers. Part of her visit included a roundtable discussion with nearly a dozen NSF Early Career Award winners. The award is one of NSF's most prestigious in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research.

The Office for Research & Discovery, through its Research Development Services unit, recently began a new program to increase the number of Early Career Awards by providing customized guidance, mentorship and review opportunities to early career faculty at the UA. The goal is to not only increase the number of Career winners but to also create a community of faculty committed to the success of their peers.

Córdova also spoke with a group of female faculty during a roundtable discussion about issues facing those in the STEM disciplines. The group talked about the positive impact of the recently completed NSF-funded ADVANCE grant and about lingering barriers to success.

"It was an honor and delight to meet Director Córdova and have a chance to brief her on a small part of the fantastic science we do here at the UA," said Joellen Russell, associate professor of geoscience and planetary science. "I have to admit that I had to try not to act like a fangirl at Comic-Con. Dr. Córdova has been NASA chief scientist, president of Purdue and now NSF director. She's an amazing role model, particularly for women in science."

Córdova’s visit was part of a continuing effort by the Office for Research & Discovery to promote UA research.

"By every measure, our faculty are on the cutting edge of research and are making measurable public impacts that benefit Arizona, our nation and the world," Espy said. "I am proud to have the opportunity to represent some of our accomplishments directly to Dr. Córdova. Connecting with government, business and nonprofit leaders to showcase our research excellence not only increases the visibility of our achievements but it also fosters growth that is the platform for new discoveries."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Lucio GuerreroByline Affiliation: UA Office for Research & DiscoveryHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: France Córdova receives an up-close look at the University's research, visiting several facilities and speaking with faculty members over two days. The occasion was hosted by the UA's Office for Research & Discovery.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Panel to Discuss Dangers Facing Journalists

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 13:47

John and Diane Foley, the parents of James Foley, the journalist who was slain last year by the Islamic State, will take part in a panel discussion Feb. 26 on the University of Arizona campus about the perils facing journalists who cover an increasingly dangerous world.

The panel, sponsored by the Center for Border and Global Journalism, also will include Terry Anderson, the former Associated Press correspondent who was held hostage for nearly seven years in Lebanon, and David McCraw, a First Amendment lawyer for The New York Times who specializes in global threats to the press.

The program is scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Auditorium 120 of the Integrated Learning Center, near the University’s Main Library. It will be moderated by Mort Rosenblum, a former foreign correspondent and bureau chief with the Associated Press. Rosenblum is now a professor of practice in the UA School of Journalism and co-director of the Center for Border and Global Journalism.

James Foley, 40, was among 61 correspondents and reporters who were killed during 2014, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The organization says that more than 1,100 journalists and media workers from Mexico to Afghanistan have been killed in the line of duty since 1992, and the figure does not include others who have been kidnapped, imprisoned, threatened or forced to flee their homes.

Foley, a freelance correspondent who was covering the Syrian civil war, was abducted in late 2012 and killed last August.

"He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people," Diane Foley said shortly after her son's death had been reported.

The Foleys have created a fund, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation, to honor their son’s passion for journalism and help support other American journalists reporting from conflict zones.

Anderson, now 67, is a Vietnam War veteran who was abducted from the streets of Beirut in March 1985 during the Lebanese civil war. He was released from captivity in December 1991. Since then, he has taught journalism classes at Columbia University, Ohio University, the University of Kentucky, Syracuse University and the University of Florida. He authored a best-selling book, "Den of Lions," about his experiences as a hostage.

The Center for Border and Global Journalism was launched last fall by the School of Journalism to help students and professionals engage the challenges — and growing peril — of reporting across frontiers.   

The center is led by Rosenblum and William Schmidt, who is a professor of practice in the School of Journalism and a former deputy managing editor of The New York Times.

The program is co-sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and it has received the assistance of the Arizona Inn and The New York Times.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Elena StaufferByline Affiliation: UA School of JournalismHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The parents of slain correspondent James Foley will be part of a discussion sponsored by the UA's Center for Border and Global Journalism on Feb. 26.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Fulbright Week Coming to UA

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:59

What if you could spend a year in Asia teaching English? Or be part of a research project in India? Or be immersed in the daily life of Latin America?

Spin a globe. Stop it with your finger. Whichever country you land on, chances are you could have the option of visiting it as a Fulbrighter.

Founded in 1946, the Fulbright program is a national initiative to promote international educational exchanges. The program provides grants for Fulbrighters to work and study in more than 125 countries.

Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education named the UA among the nation's top 10 producers of Fulbright scholars and students. Fulbright grants are available for undergraduates, graduate students, faculty members, administrators, employees and alumni.

Many Fulbright opportunities will be highlighted during Fulbright Week (PDF), Feb. 20-27 on the UA campus. The event is a collaborate effort of the Honors College, the Graduate College, the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute, and the Office of Global Initiatives.

"Fulbright Week provides an opportunity for students, scholars and administrators to learn more about the various types of Fulbright programs that are available to them and how to go about choosing and applying for an award," said Dale Lafleur, director of institutional relations and Fulbright Scholar campus representative in the UA Office of Global Initiatives.

Events include general information sessions, panels highlighting previous UA Fulbright recipients, individual advising sessions, and a session for students on creating a strong application.

Lafleur said that international exchange programs such as Fulbright allow participants to become immersed in a new environment, helping them to better understand other cultures.

"This altered environment often has a deep impact on their understanding, research or approach to teaching, which advances their own learning and cross-cultural understanding," she said. "The global networks that are developed provide opportunities for future collaboration. Time and again, people who live abroad express how it changed their lives. It is a very powerful experience."

Emily Kotay, an Honors College scholarship adviser, will be hosting information sessions throughout Fulbright Week. She says the opportunity to study, work and live abroad is an extremely beneficial experience for UA students and their future careers.

"The Fulbright U.S. Student Program has many wonderful opportunities for American students to gain invaluable experience either teaching English or studying and conducting research abroad," Kotay said. "Students who go abroad on a Fulbright gain skills and knowledge they apply in their later studies or work."

In addition to numerous information sessions and individual advising sessions, some highlights of Fulbright Week include:

  • A panel discussion with former Fulbright students on Tuesday, 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Slonaker House, 1027 E. Second St.
  • A brown-bag lunch with International Education Administrators in the University Services Building, Room 301E on Feb. 25, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
  • A Fulbright information table at the UA Peace Corps Fair on Feb. 27, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Student Union Memorial Center North Ballroom.

For a complete schedule of Fulbright Week events, click here. To learn more about Fulbright opportunities at the UA, visit fulbright.arizona.edu.

You can read about the experiences of former Fulbright students and faculty on the Office of Global Initiatives website.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Fulbright opportunities will be highlighted Feb. 20-27 on the UA campus.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Hundreds of Students Get Leadership Training

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 11:34
Date of Publication: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

UA Receives $2.9M Grant From Templeton Foundation

Mon, 02/16/2015 - 17:18

The University of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, which offers students and researchers an opportunity to examine political philosophy in a variety of contexts, has received a $2.9 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

The gift to the center, part of the UA’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, will be used to help the center to collaborate with the college's new undergraduate degree program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law in hiring a postdoctoral fellow and in building a network of philosophy, politics and economics — or PPE — programs spanning several universities and four continents. In the process, it will help create new hybrid online and traditional PPE degree programs, including a program in ethics, economy and entrepreneurship — designed for high school teachers — and six online courses geared toward undergraduates.

In addition, the gift from the Templeton Foundation will enable the center to expand its publishing program, including scholarly articles and books, and support its editorship of Social Philosophy and Policy, which has the highest circulation among Anglo-American philosophy journals in the Western world.

"The UA’s political philosophy program has been ranked No. 1 in the world for several years running, which is due in no small part to the strength of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom," said John Paul Jones, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "This generous gift will not only benefit the center, it will also facilitate the exciting collaboration between the center and the UA’s top-ranked Eller College of Management and McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. These researchers’ efforts to reinvent their fields illustrate the UA’s continued leadership in interdisciplinary scholarship."

"The philosophy program at the University of Arizona has a long history of excellence," said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. "The gift from the Templeton Foundation will help us to advance this program even further by providing the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom with resources directed at the vital and timely endeavor of examining political philosophy. We very much appreciate this gift and are thankful for the Templeton Foundation’s generosity."

 "Our aim is to recover a sense of what political philosophy and economics were before the two fields went their separate ways," said David Schmidtz, the director of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. "Accordingly, we don’t treat philosophical theorizing about fairness and justice as a question of how to divide a pie whose size is given. We start with the fact that we live in a world where the pie is not a given, and serious questions of fairness are first of all questions about how to respect the contributions of those who produce the pie. That is a question of classical political economy rather than of philosophy more narrowly conceived."

In addition to his role as director of the center, Schmidtz holds an appointment at the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. Robert F. Lusch, the McGuire Center’s director and professor of marketing, has a reciprocal affiliation with the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. The two are collaborating to fulfill the grant requirements.

"This is an exciting opportunity for cross-campus partnership," Lusch said. "David and I are already prototyping the K-12 program this spring with a group of teachers from South Sudan. We believe our program has the potential to expand beyond Arizona and North America."

James H. Moore Jr., president and CEO of the UA Foundation, called the Templeton Foundation's support of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom "a tremendous expression of confidence in the University of Arizona."

"Private foundation support is essential to the UA and its commitment to stay at the leading edge of innovative and cross-disciplinary research," Moore said. "This gift will also help expand the UA’s reach, a priority of the $1.5 billion Arizona NOW campaign. Research conducted by the center will not only impact UA students but educators, academics and students worldwide through online courses, conferences and networks."

Launched publicly in April 2014, Arizona NOW will conclude in June 2018. The comprehensive fundraising campaign is distinguished by its unprecedented scope as well as its ties to Never Settle, the UA’s strategic plan. To date, the campaign is ahead of pace, with more than 70 percent of the goal already met. The vast majority of gifts are restricted, meaning that they can be used only for a specific purpose or project.

Based in Pennsylvania, the John Templeton Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians and between such experts and the public at large. As a pioneer in both financial investment and philanthropy, the late Sir John Templeton spent a lifetime encouraging open-mindedness. The motto for his foundation – "How little we know, how eager to learn" – exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: UA Foundation and College of Social and Behavioral SciencesHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Gift to the University will benefit the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, which is part of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

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