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

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 10:47

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

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

"As we know, STEM education has taken off mostly due to the fact that, as a nation, we want to be competitive in the global arena," said Karen Francis-Begay, UA assistant vice president for tribal relations, who wrote the initial proposal for the program in 2003.  "Knowing that we've had very little diversity in the STEM fields, it make sense to invest resources and dollars in targeting students who would be up-and-coming scholars in STEM."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Essay: UA Training the Next Generation of STEM Specialists

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contacts: Lisa Romero of the UA BIO5 Institute at 520-626-9598 or lisaromero@bio5.org; Karin Lorentzen of the UA College of Pharmacy at 520-626-3725 or lorentzen@pharmacy.arizona.edu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Apollo 11 – the UA’s Role in the First Manned Lunar Landing to Space Exploration Today

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 11:13

When the first humans stepped onto the moon on July 20, 1969, they knew they were venturing into the unknown. Some had feared their lander would be swallowed up by bottomless layers of dust as almost nothing was known about the moon surface at the time. But they knew it wouldn't, thanks in large part to groundbreaking research being performed at the University of Arizona's then fledging Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

When Gerard P. Kuiper founded the laboratory nine years earlier, in 1960, there was some skepticism that humans could visit the moon, let alone another planet.

Now, less than six decades later, and on the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 – the first manned mission to the moon – UA scientists celebrate the pioneering and pivotal role the UA has held in the explosion of space science research, helping to shape what we know about our universe today.

"The UA has been a part of every NASA planetary exploration mission, and with leadership roles on many of them," said Tim Swindle, director of the UA Department of Planetary Sciences and LPL. "Our graduates and alumni have also been involved in many missions. That is our goal."

William K. Hartmann, a UA alumnus who studied with Kuiper, was instrumental in helping to shape early theories around the origins of Earth's moon and has made other significant contributions to the field of lunar science.

Over the course of his scientific career, Hartmann discovered several impact basins on the moon. During the 1960s, he predicted the age of the lunar lava plains. His predictions were confirmed through samples returned by the Apollo mission.

The Apollo mission also influenced Kuiper while at the UA. He took his students on field trips to places on Earth that he felt were representative of what students might see on the moon or in the solar system, for example Meteor Crater in northern Arizona, dune fields or the extensive lava flows blanketing the Big Island of Hawaii. Those types of instructive field trips continue today.

"During our field trips, students visit planetary analog sites," Swindle said. "It's an important part of our department culture. We can send a robotic spacecraft to places in our solar system and beyond, but we'll never be able to see them as well as we can see places on Earth," he explained. "By comparing those sites using every scientific technique we can think of we can learn what those places out there in space might be like."

In preparation for the Phoenix Mars mission, the first planetary mission led by a university, a UA team traveled to Antarctica to study how the instruments they had developed would work in what is considered the most Marslike environment on Earth.

LPL's legacy of studying places close to home to understand places far away becomes more relevant as more powerful telescopes have begun discovering a growing list of planets orbiting stars other than the sun.

"Kuiper started with the right attitude and what was an unusual approach at the time," Swindle said, "namely turning astronomical objects into places. His guiding idea was to not just obtain higher and higher resolution images, but also figuring out what those images mean, and what those objects would look like if you were standing there. And that is really what we have been doing here at LPL ever since."

And it all began with taking "one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.”

A (Very) Brief History of Space Exploration Missions With UA Involvement

1961-1965: The Ranger probes made up an early NASA mission to get new close-up images of the Moon in preparation for the eventual manned missions to the Moon. Kuiper was the principal investigator for the program.

1966-1968: A series of spacecraft named Surveyor acted as first-wave scouts mostly for future Apollo landing sites. LPL's Ewen Whitaker was instrumental in comparing the probes' images of the lunar surface with telescopic images to determine their precise locations.

1972-1973: Pioneer 10 and 11 were launched as initial scouts for the later Voyager probes and the "Grand Tour" of the solar system. Both probes were equipped with UA imaging equipment built by LPL's Tom Gehrels.

1975: The Viking probes collected high-resolution images of the surface of Mars and carried out surface experiments to locate signs of life. LPL's Brad Smith was in charge of the imaging team.

1977: Voyager probes 1 and 2 were initially launched to take advantage of an ideal alignment of the planets, creating a "Grand Tour" of the solar system. Both Voyagers are now on course to exit the solar system, studying the Kuiper Belt, heliosphere and interstellar space.

1978: The Pioneer Venus mission was launched in two separate parts: an orbiter and a multiprobe that was inserted into Venus’ atmosphere.

1980: Using 1.8-meter and 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak, UA-based Spacewatch explores the various small objects in the solar system, like planetoids, asteroids and comets.

1989: Launch of Galileo, a spacecraft to study Jupiter and its moons.

1990: Launch of Ulysses, designed to examine and study the Sun at close range.

1996: Launch of the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, or NEAR, spacecraft to study an asteroid close to Earth.

1996: Mars Pathfinder was a two-part craft that, after the Viking probes, was the third NASA mission to successfully land on Mars. LPL's Peter Smith built the Imager for Marts Pathfinder instrument.

1998: In response to a congressional directive, the UA-based Catalina Sky Survey watches for potentially hazardous objects, which in the course of their orbits threaten to collide with Earth. Together, the Catalina Sky Survey and the Spacewatch program have discovered more than half of the known near-Earth asteroids.

1997: Cassini-Huygens was sent to Saturn to study the planet and its multiple satellites. The Huygens lander successfully impacted on Saturn's moon Titan, recording its entire entry and landing via its Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer, designed and operated by LPL's Marty Tomasko. LPL's Robert Brown leads the science team for the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer.

2001: Mars Odyssey, currently the longest-operating robotic spacecraft at Mars, discovered large quantities of frozen water on the red planet, using an instrument designed and built by LPL's Bill Boynton.

2004: Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging – or MESSENGER – is the first spacecraft orbiting the planet Mercury, studying the planet's chemical composition, geology, and magnetic field.

2005: Designed to study comet 9P/Tempel, Deep Impact revealed that the comet has a greater composition of dust than ice.

2005: High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, is operated by the UA under the leadership of LPL's Alfred McEwen. It's the largest camera to ever go into deep space to collect images of the Martian surface.

2007: The Phoenix Mars Lander mission, under the direction of LPL's Peter Smith, was the first mission to Mars ever led by a university. It was also the first spacecraft to visit one of Mars' enigmatic polar regions

2016: The UA-led Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer – or OSIRIS-REx – mission, under the direction of LPS's Dante Lauretta, will send a spacecraft to asteroid Bennu and return a sample by 2023.

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

To celebrate the numerous ways in which the University of Arizona helped pave the way for the "giant leap for mankind" made by NASA's Apollo 11 mission, LPL is hosting a free public event about lunar research – past, present and future – on Sunday. For a detailed program, visit the event website at http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/July20.

 

This feature is part of a UANews series on the UA's contributions to the planetary sciences. Also read:

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: For decades, UA scientists have contributed to the research that has shaped our understanding of our solar system and the universe – beginning with the Apollo 11 mission. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA Engineering Camp Introduces Girl Scouts to STEM

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 14:45

The University of Arizona College of Engineering, in partnership with Girls Scouts of Southern Arizona, held the first-ever Imagine IT, a summer engineering camp for girls that is designed around search and rescue scenarios. The idea behind the camp was to get girls interested in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, math and engineering. Read more about the camp in this UANews story.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Science and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  UA's Imagine IT Engineering Camp Introduces Girl Scouts to STEM Video of UA's Imagine IT Engineering Camp Introduces Girl Scouts to STEM Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: The University of Arizona College of Engineering, in partnership with Girls Scouts of Southern Arizona, held the first-ever Imagine IT, a summer engineering camp for girls that is designed around search and rescue scenarios. The idea behind the camp was to get girls interested in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, math and engineering.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, July 14, 2014

Apollo 11: Reaching for the Moon

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 10:35

This guest column is part of a two-part blog series on UA's involved in the Apollo 11 mission. Also read "Apollo 11: Remembering One of the Most Important Moments in Human History." The package is part of UANews coverage on the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory's historic involvement with NASA missions. Also view "A Photographic History of the UA's Role in NASA Missions" and "Next-Generation Researcher Helps Continue UA Space Legacy."

When I was in high school in 1950, my girlfriend and I were walking along the beach on a moonlit night. At that time there were no manmade objects in orbit, and television was in its infancy.  I looked up at the moon and said, "Someday we will land on the moon."

She said I was crazy and that such ideas were only science fiction. Not wanting to upset her and ruin a beautiful evening, I quickly said that I did not mean in the near future but maybe in the futures of my children or grandchildren. She still thought I was crazy, and that was the end of the relationship. In those days the moon was considered an impossible goal, and the phrase "Reaching for the Moon" meant trying to attain the impossible.

UA alumnus Dale Shellhorn, who earned his degree in physics, was responsible for the first Earthrise image from Lunar Orbiter. Shellhorn was working for Boeing at the time.

I participated in the Apollo 8, 10 and 11 missions as a member of the Lunar Operations Working Group. We were responsible for recommending landing sites, science experiments, surface features to photograph from orbit, and determining the exact spot where the astronauts landed. We also studied and analyzed the images of the moon taken from orbit and on the ground.

During the Apollo 11 mission we were assembled in a building at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas. We were in contact with Mission Operation during the orbital insertion and landing of the spacecraft. During the final approach the astronauts determined that the landing site was strewn with numerous boulders that would have damaged the spacecraft upon landing. They continued on trying to find a safe landing site although they were running out of fuel. On the final approach they only had 15 seconds of fuel left. Mission control was counting down the seconds before exhausting the fuel: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, etc. We were all very nervous and anxious listening to the countdown.

With a sigh of relief they landed safely with only 5 seconds to spare.

We then had to locate their landing site from images televised back to Earth. It took us about a day to find the exact spot. 

I studied the Apollo images from a geologic perspective and briefed the astronauts on the surface features that they should image from orbit. I received an American flag they carried to the moon with the astronauts' signatures and a note of thanks. I also received a NASA certificate of appreciation for participating in the lunar program. The result of my participation resulted in numerous scientific publications.

The Apollo mission that landed men on the moon was one of the greatest and most remarkable achievements in human history. For the first time, humans left their home planet and set foot on another body with a completely foreign and hostile environment. One of the largest television audiences in history watched as humans stepped onto the surface of the moon and began gathering scientific information. This achievement was accomplished with a technology that would be considered primitive by today's standards. Today's laptop computers are orders of magnitude more sophisticated than the computers flown on the Apollo missions.

The legacy of the Apollo missions can be divided into two broad categories; one is psychological and the other is scientific.

Although Lunar Orbiter photographed the moon from lunar orbit, it was not until it photographed it in color that it grabbed people's attention. When the Apollo 8 astronauts photographed the Earth above the lunar surface there was an almost immediate and correct perception by the public that we live on a fragile planet isolated in space. For the first time people could see and easily understand Earth as a small, delicate object surrounded by only a thin, transparent atmosphere that separated them from oblivion. From this time onward the environmental movement has grown and flourished because it is now much easier to perceive how delicate a world we live in, and how easily its environment can be destroyed.

The scientific legacy of Apollo is more tangible. The moon has become a sort of Rosetta Stone of planetary science. The data obtained by Apollo has allowed us to determine the moon's composition, age and history, and these data in turn are used to understand the history of other solid bodies in the solar system. The ages of various lunar surfaces, together with impact crater abundances, have allowed us to date other planetary surfaces.

The Apollo missions were not accomplished without sacrifice, setbacks and loss of life, but that should be expected of any exploration as ambitious and dangerous as Apollo. It is, in fact, remarkable that there were so few setbacks and so little loss of life in such a dangerous undertaking.

We have just begun planning to send humans back to the moon sometime in the next 10 to 15 years. The United States, China, Japan, the European Union and India are already sending unmanned spacecraft to the moon in order to better understand it, and in preparation for human landings. China has stated that they will land humans on the moon in the near future. After almost decades of inaction, humans are finally preparing to revisit the moon.

I believe that 100 years hence historians will look upon this event as the grandest human achievement up to that time, and almost certainly the greatest achievement in the history of the United States.

Robert Strom is a University of Arizona professor emeritus in the Department of Planetary Sciences. Strom has investigated the impact cratering record on the solid bodies in the solar system. Strom also has investigated the possibility of ancient oceans and ice sheets located on Mars using images captured by Viking, the surfacing history of Venus from radar images taken by Magellan and features on Mars that are similar to landforms on Earth.

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: ResearchScienceFacultyByline: Robert Strom, the UA Department of Planetary Sciences |Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Monday, July 14, 2014Medium Summary: UA scientist recalls the moon race on the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: UA scientist recalls the moon race on the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

UA South Students Headed for Fall Internships in DC

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 15:56

University of Arizona South students Beatriz Greeno and Juan Andres Espinoza have been selected for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Congressional Internship Program.

A total of 28 students from higher education institutions across the nation were selected for the prestigious internship and will spend much of the fall semester working in congressional offices in Washington, D.C. As part of the program, the students will receive leadership training and must engage in community service work. The 12-week internship begins in late August and provides a stipend of $3,730.

"The students will get a rare opportunity to experience our government in action from the inside," said James W. Shockey, dean of UA South. 

"That is invaluable, whatever the individual's chosen career path," Shockey said. "But knowing our students, I have little doubt that they will leave just as big an impression on those they work with in the Arizona delegation, and will represent well the University of Arizona South as well as the communities of Douglas and Nogales."

Another UA student, Karen Lara, a graduate student studying public administration, is currently serving as a summer intern in the office of U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva.

"It truly is a remarkable opportunity to work in the U.S. House of Representatives at Washington, D.C.," Lara said about her two-month placement this summer.

"I am exposed to the political system and the legislative process in the most valuable way possible," said Lara, who provides tours and interacts with members of Congress, their staff and constituents. She also had has the opportunity to network with legislators, ambassadors, lawyers, business executives, directors of organizations and others.

"This internship program has provided me with the necessary tools and skills to further my professional career in the government sector," she said. "I am thankful for the opportunity to work in such a prominent environment this summer, and I hope that my contributions to Grijalva's office are helpful to the constituents." 

Several other UA students have served with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute as fellows and interns. Alyssa Padilla was placed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, then Grijalva's office, in 2010; Tamara Castillon was placed in Grijalva's office in 2012; Jacquelyne Vega was placed in Grijalva's office in 2013.

Greeno aspires to work in law enforcement and would like to be involved in crafting immigration reform policies.

"I can be the person sitting across that desk making decisions. Like I told my husband, I could be the next one," said Greeno, a UA South psychology student in Douglas who transferred to the UA after receiving an associate's degree in criminal justice from Cochise College. 

"I know that this program will prepare me for what it is like in the real world, and that will help me in any kind of situation, personal or professional," Greeno said.

Espinoza, a UA South Santa Cruz student, said his long-term plans are to remain in the U.S.-Mexico border region improving access to education, especially for English language learners, and helping those new to higher education.

In April, he attended the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities meeting held in Washington, D.C., where he met government officials and observed legislative sessions in action on Capitol Hill.

Through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Espinoza said he looks forward to learning more about community-based research and improving his communication skills, especially in public speaking. He also would like to better understand the inner workings of the U.S. government.

Espinoza – a Cochise College transfer student now studying applied sciences and human services – said he intends to use that knowledge to inform his studies and future career as a social worker.

"There are people who need a lot of help in my community, so I want to start with the community that helped me to grow and gave me support."

Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Two UA South students will be spending much of the fall semester in Washington, D.C. serving as congressional interns. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Tips for Preventing Wildfires

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 11:19

As people are gearing up for Fourth of July celebrations, and Arizona remembers the Yarnell Hill Fire a year later, it's important to be reminded of the high fire risk throughout much of the state.

Photo credit: Sam Beebe

As of Thursday, Arizona wildland fires have burned 139,378 acres from 783 human-caused and 50 lightning-caused fires – excluding prescribed fires, said fire expert Gregg Garfin, an assistant professor in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

The amount of acres burned so far this season already exceeds median acres that generally burn in Arizona throughout the entire fire season, Garfin also noted.

Here are some tips for campers, hikers, homeowners and others.

Pay attention to laws and fire restrictions

Fire restrictions vary throughout the state. Regardless, always check the weather and plan before taking a trip. Always take plenty of water for cooking, drinking and putting out any fires you start. Also, never burn when it is windy out, and never leave a fire unattended. Always check that a fire is out before leaving the area.

To learn more about restrictions, you can call the U.S. Forest Service hotline at 877-864-6985 and find fire restrictions online

And a word of warning: Fireworks and incendiary devices, like exploding targets and ammunition, are not allowed on federal public lands at any time.

Homeowners: Take extra care

Homeowners can plant fire-resistant plants, place wood piles and wooden picnic tables well away from buildings and remove needles and leaves from roofs to help protect homes.

Avoid using high-resin, fire-prone plant materials. Succulent ground covers, flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and broadleaf trees are better choices. Also, be sure to prune branches back at least 15 feet away from structures and keep grasses and lawns short and at least five feet away.

The UA's Cooperative Extension provides more information and tips online.

Be aware of the dangers your vehicle can pose

Avoid pausing or parking vehicles in tall grass or over shrubs, and do not park in areas where vegetation is touching the underside of your vehicle. Also, prevent safety chains and other trailer equipment from dragging, which can create sparks. 

Be preventive when it comes to equipment use

Be aware that mowers, chainsaws, welding torches and other equipment can create sparks, creating a risk for starting a fire. Before grooming your yard, remove rocks – which also can create sparks. Also, use a string trimmer in areas with high grass and weeds, or where many rocks are present.   

Always report wildfires

If you see a wildfire, do not hesitate to call 911.

Sources: Gregg Garfin, UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment; the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention; and Firewise.

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: EducationOutreachResearchFacultyByline: University Relations - Communications |Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Monday, June 30, 2014Medium Summary: Due to prolonged drought, high temperatures and winds, Arizona's forests and desert areas are extremely dry this year. Given these conditions, people are reminded of how to prevent and prepare for wildfires. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: It's true: You can help prevent forest fires.

Arizona Facing High Fire Danger a Year After Yarnell

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 10:03

Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Health Services

It was one year ago that lightning struck and ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire, a devastating wildfire that resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters who were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. This year, a combination of drought conditions, high winds and high temperatures all call for an intense fire season. Predictions indicate above-normal fire potential, and indicators suggest the onset of the monsoon season will be delayed.

Since October, we've had very low precipitation – averaging less than half of average across large portions of the state – accompanied by low snowpack and temperatures that have been well above average.

The combination of these factors, along with bursts of dry winds that are typical for the spring, gives us conditions of above-normal fire potential, which is what the Southwest Coordination Center, the main fire prediction center for our region, predicted beginning in late January.

And the setup for this year's fire season is ongoing drought, which affects every part of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor characterizes drought in Arizona as severe across most of the state, and as extreme in Yavapai County and much of the southeastern quarter of the state.

As of June 24, Arizona wildland fire totals, not including prescribed fires, were 139,378 acres from 783 human-caused and 50 lightning-caused fires. The total acres burned thus far exceed the median acres burned for the state for the whole fire season.

In southern Arizona, we are just past the median date of peak seasonal fire danger, but the date can vary by two weeks in any given year. Peak seasonal fire danger for northwestern Arizona, including Yavapai County where the Yarnell Hill Fire occurred in 2013, is right now – June 30 through July 1 – according to maps provided by the Southwest Coordination Center. And, earlier this year, the Southwest Coordination Center predicted above normal fire potential for mid-May through mid-July, for the southeast quarter of Arizona, stretching northwest into Yavapai County.

The current "energy release component," which indicates how hot a fire could burn, is very high and is above 2013 levels across much of Arizona. This is just one measure of fire danger commonly used by fire analysts, expressing the potential intensity of a fire given the moisture content of fuels.

While it is not surprising at this time of year to see high short-term fire danger and above normal long-term potential for Arizona fires to require extra outside resources, such as air tankers and teams with highly specialized skills for fighting fires for putting out fires – this year's levels of fire danger are exceedingly high.

Any fire is devastating to the local community, and Arizona fires can have a lingering effect on the landscape, with post-fire effects such as flooding and debris flows. It is notable that we have not suffered an enormous Wallow or Rodeo-Chediski sized fire. The Slide Fire, which burned in Oak Creek Canyon in May and early June, was severe and it occurred in very steep terrain, which increases the chances of post-fire impacts. It is a testament to the fire-fighting community and its heightened preparedness for this year's fire season that the Slide Fire did not consume even greater acreage than the 21,227 acres burned by the fire.

Looking ahead, the arrival of summer monsoon precipitation is the key to putting a lid on Arizona's high fire potential.

However, the monsoon is notoriously difficult to predict. And predicting the arrival of the monsoon is even more difficult. Nevertheless, the Southwest Coordination Center predicts a delay to the start of the monsoon. Based on comparisons with previous years that had conditions similar to 2014, the Coordination Center predicts more reliable monsoon rains east of the Continental Divide, in New Mexico. Center specialists also note that less reliable moisture on the Arizona side of the divide can lead to the possibility of continued significant fire activity into July and possibly August.

See tips on how to prevent wildfires in this post.

Categories: Science and TechnologyThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: ScienceFacultyResearchByline: Gregg Garfin, School of Natural Resources and the Environment |UANow Image: Editor: La Monica Everett-HaynesInclude in UANow: yesDate of Publication: Monday, June 30, 2014Medium Summary: A combination of drought conditions, high winds and high temperatures means the potential for an intense fire season, UA fire expert Gregg Garfin says in this guest blog.Feature on Front: YesShort Summary: The summer 2014 fire forecast.

Documentary Explores How the UA Helped Land a Man on the Moon

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 14:33

A documentary premiering next week tells the fascinating and surprising stories behind the groundbreaking work that enabled NASA astronauts to successfully touch down on the moon 45 years ago and led to the birth of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the process.

"Desert Moon" is the brainchild of Jason Davis, who recently graduated from the UA School of Journalism. Together with co-producer Shipherd Reed of the UA's Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, he dug into the archives and found a surprisingly rich history of the University's involvement in the moon landings.

"I had heard about telescopes that UA scientists used to map the moon, but I didn't' know if there was even enough here to make this film," he said. "Once I started looking into it, I was just shocked to see how much the UA was involved, and it took off from there."

His exploration culminated with the completion of "Desert Moon," which premieres July 4 at the Flandrau Science Center, 1601 E. University Blvd. The film will be screened Mondays and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.

The film tells the surprising story of renowned astronomer Gerard Kuiper, who came to the UA to study the moon and, with his team of lunar researchers, helped the U.S. get ahead in the space race by landing a man on the moon. In the process, NASA funded the construction of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, now a world leader in planetary science, and began a golden age of solar system exploration.

The role that Kuiper and his team of UA researchers played in the moon landing has been obscured by time, but now their story of perseverance and ingenuity has been brought to the screen. Kuiper, the most famous among them, died in 1973, but the documentary features many of the men who worked alongside Kuiper during the heyday of the space race. Kuiper's name lives on, notably in the "Kuiper Belt," a swath of asteroids that orbit the sun farther out than the planets, and in the UA's Gerard P. Kuiper Space Sciences building, which houses the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.  

"Desert Moon" explain how the groundwork laid by Kuiper and his team helped clear the way for one of the biggest moments in human history.

In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy boldly declared that the United States would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, nobody knew if it would be possible. Surprisingly little was known about the moon at the time.

"We did not know what the composition of the moon was, we didn't know the physical state of the surface, whether you would sink into dust or whether it was rock," retired UA planetary scientist Robert Strom explains in the documentary.

Similarly, the maps that existed before Kuiper began to systematically map the surface of the moon were hand drawn and not adequate to send astronauts to the moon.

Long before the space race began, Kuiper was already looking for answers. At the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory, he published a groundbreaking photographic lunar atlas. To find the best telescope viewing, he looked to the Southwest. At the UA, he established the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, one of the first planetary science research institutions in the world.

"Kuiper made the decision to make the move from Chicago in 1960, because the Southwest was the new place to be for space scientists," Davis said. "The best telescopes were here, as well as tall mountain ranges, dark skies and dry air."

Kuiper's team created detailed maps of the moon that were used by NASA to search for places where astronauts could land. He became the principal experimenter for the Ranger program, a series of missions designed to send a spacecraft to the moon for the first time and take up-close photos before it crash-landed. In the process, he established one of the first research institutions dedicated to just the solar system.

"Kuiper was visionary in that regard, one of the first to study the moon and the planets," Davis said. "At the time, that just wasn't being done. Today, LPL still is one of the leaders and involved in pretty much every NASA mission to the planets in our solar system."

The young lunar researchers on Kuiper's team were learning geology in order to understand what they were seeing on moon.

"They were the first to make detailed maps of the moon, to chart its many craters, to analyze the first close-up photos and characterize the geology of the lunar surface – all the science we needed before we could land a man on the moon," Davis said.

The research taking place at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory provided the baseline science needed to land on the moon. Finally, on July 20, 1969 – after many missions to refine the capabilities of the U.S. space program – the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the moon, and hours later Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface.

Kuiper's most lasting contribution was institutional. The UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has trained generations of planetary scientists and has participated in every NASA spacecraft mission to explore our solar system. Thanks to the expertise built up by the lab, the UA has the distinction of being the only university to lead two NASA missions: the Phoenix Mars mission that found water at the Martian pole, and the OSIRIS-REx mission to take a pristine sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for the first time.

The making of the documentary was funded by a NASA Space Grant administered through the Arizona Space Grant Consortium. LPL and the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium provided additional support.

Watch the trailer:

 

 

Editor: Pila MartinezByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: "Desert Moon" tells the fascinating story of how tenacity and bold thinking led to the founding of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab and helped the U.S. win the race to the moon.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

NIH Awards UA $2M to Study Recovery of Language After Stroke

Wed, 06/11/2014 - 15:22

An interdisciplinary group of researchers at the University of Arizona has been awarded a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study language abilities in patients recovering from a stroke. The findings are expected to guide the development of treatments that would help patients regain as much of their language skills as possible.

"Speaking and comprehending language is something we take for granted. But when you think about the complexity of language, it's actually a very complicated process our brain has to carry out," said Stephen Wilson, an assistant professor in the UA Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and the principal investigator of the study. "There are several brain regions, mostly in the left hemisphere, that we know are important for speech and language. When one of these areas is damaged, you get aphasia."

One of the most common and debilitating consequences of a stroke is the loss of the ability to speak, read or write. Collectively referred to as aphasia, such acquired communication disorders affect about 1 million Americans.

Aphasia comes in many different forms. Depending on which part of the brain is affected, a patient may have difficulty producing spoken or written language, or a patient may speak rather fluently but have trouble retrieving the names for people and everyday objects, or in putting together sentences.

Unlike most previous studies on aphasia, which have looked at the effects of stroke on language six months to a year later, or have relied on a specific imaging technique to image the brain, the UA scientists are going to work with patients in the first three months after a stroke, and will combine language assessments with a comprehensive battery of brain imaging techniques.

"We know that a lot happens in those early days, weeks and months," Wilson said. "The greatest behavioral gains take place during this time – even when patients do not receive treatment – and by looking at the natural recovery process during that time, we can potentially understand more about what neural processes underlie successful recovery."

Depending on the severity of the stroke and the affected regions, the brain is able to restore some or nearly all language functions through rewiring of neural circuits or transferring language-processing tasks to regions unaffected by the stroke. The researchers hope to shed light on why some patients recover most or nearly all language functions, while others make few gains and remain chronically aphasic. A better understanding of the neural processes in successful recovery will improve the accuracy of prognoses. In other words, help doctors better predict the prognosis of stroke patients. This should lead to better medical treatments and behavioral interventions.

"It has been a challenge to study treatment before we understand the natural course of recovery," Wilson explained. "It's not really known whether it's a good idea to start treatment right away or whether it's better to wait."

The UA study will evaluate patients' language performance and simultaneously look at their brains with different imaging techniques to yield the best insight of the brain and how it functions in the wake of a stroke with regard to language tasks.

"If you want to know what is going on in the damaged brain, you have to look at it from all different angles," Wilson said. "We need to bring all of those imaging techniques to bear because any single one of them will show us only part of the picture."

The team will be analyzing the conditions under which patients improve and how quickly it happens, he said.

"In doing so, we hope to understand what is changing in their brain, what is changing in their language, and how those are related."

The five-year grant is administered through the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which is part of NIH.

Wilson noted the combination of the UA's interdisciplinary academic culture and its world-class medical imaging facility. His department – part of the School of Mind, Brain and Behavior in the UA College of Science – has been ranked among the best in the U.S. for more than 25 years and has long been a leader in the study of stroke and aphasia treatment. This new study complements several research projects being conducted through the department that involve patients later in their recovery.

"This new project will provide a much richer understanding of the early recovery process for individuals, and will inform the rehabilitation work that we implement at later stages," said Pélagie Beeson, one of the collaborators on the study and head of the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. Beeson is the lead investigator on a long-running research project focused on the development behavioral treatments to maximize the recovery from spoken and written language impairment after stroke.

Wilson said the UA study could lay the groundwork for clinical trials directed at new treatment strategies.

"Right now it would be hard to do a treatment trial of acute stroke, because we don't have a good sense of the natural course of recovery after stroke," Wilson said. "Things change very rapidly. If you were investigating a potential treatment strategy, and you tested someone one week after the stroke and again three weeks later, you would probably see substantial gains, but right now you wouldn't have any way of knowing whether those gains were due to the treatment or just represented the natural course of recovery."

The project brings together researchers on the language side and the neurology side, along with imaging experts. The co-investigators are Steven Rapcsak and Chelsea Kidwell, both professors in the UA Department of Neurology, and Kambiz Nael, assistant professor in the UA Department of Medical Imaging.

Undergraduates also have played a role, Wilson said.

"We couldn't have made this happen without the work of our outstanding undergraduate research students, who were instrumental in working with patients to gather the pilot data that helped us win this grant."

Writer: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: An interdisciplinary team of UA researchers has received a $2.098 million grant to study recovery of language in the early phase of recovery after a stroke.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Using Engineering to Help an Otter Tweet

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 13:15

Some high school students in the University of Arizona's Engineering 102 course, an adapted version of the required introductory college course, have created projects that are directly helping members of the community. They're participating in Engineering Projects in Community Service High – or EPICS – a program that originated at Purdue University.

With local engineers acting as their mentors, students design, test and build a project throughout their senior year. In the process, they can make a useful product for a local organization and its clients. Along the way, they also make a better-informed decision of whether they want to become engineers.

On April 30, Salpointe Catholic High School hosted an EPICS Showcase on campus for students, parents, mentors and partnering organizations. Four groups of Salpointe seniors demonstrated their creations for local organizations: Ben's Bells, the Physics Factory, AIRES and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The largest group, comprising four male and two female seniors, collaborated on a "tweeting otter" project for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Inspired by the "tweeting honey badger" on South Africa's Johannesburg Zoo website, staff members at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum wanted to be able to send tweets from their resident river otter to attract a younger crowd to the website and reach people who are unable to visit the museum. The project included researching and purchasing motion-sensor cameras for installation around the otter's living area; learning the Raspberry Pi system – a low-cost, credit card-sized computer – to enable transmission of the images to an email address; and setting up a Twitter site at the Desert Museum's website where staff could send otter tweets with photos out to the world.

Two students took on a project to help Ben's Bells, which encourages Tucsonans to paint ceramic bells and hang them from trees as a reminder to show kindness. The organization needed an attractive and portable display rack for its merchandise, so Salpointe seniors David Norris and Austin Parslow created a treelike display made of polished wood and rebar.

"I was attracted to EPICS because I wanted to get experience working with a real organization outside of school," Norris said.

Steven Spooner helped create a chaotic waterwheel for the Physics Factory, a nonprofit organization that brings science demonstrations into local schools.

"Our goal is simple," he said. "We want little kids to look at the waterwheel and get the idea that fluid dynamics is cool."

Another group of students was charged with building a strong, safe and portable wheelchair swing for the disabled residents of AIRES, an Arizona-based social service agency. The students received help from Creative Machines, a local art fabrication company. At the EPICS Showcase, students watched their creation in action, when a disabled client of AIRES rode the swing for the first time.

Presiding over the EPICS Showcase was Salpointe science teacher Sarah Streb.

"EPICS is the hardest but most important thing I do as a teacher," she said. "Many of the students develop real-world skills they would not have otherwise developed. They see what it means to work on a project with a real customer, with hard deadlines, and with real-life consequences. They realize they are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for."

The American Society for Engineering Education recently recognized UA’s Engineering 102 course with the 2014 Best Practices in K-12 and University Partnerships award. Read more here.

EPICS Slideshow

 

Editor: Daniel StolteWriter: Jill GoetzByline: Jill Goetz for the College of EngineeringAdditional Keywords: epics engr102 salointe, engineering high school tweeting otterHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: With teachers, professional engineers and college faculty to mentor them, high school students enrolled in the College of Engineering's introductory engineering course have created projects that are helping the Tucson community.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

UA Engineering Introductory Course for High School Students Wins National Award

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 12:45

Most children enter the world curious and imaginative, seemingly hard-wired to explore and influence their environment. Yet by the time they reach their teens, many lose their zest for making discoveries and testing their mettle – particularly in science, technology, engineering and math, and especially if they are female or members of minority groups.

It's a troubling trend that the University of Arizona is addressing by expanding STEM-related collaborations, curricula and funding opportunities.

One program that's making a big difference can be found at the UA College of Engineering, which for the last six years has offered Engineering 102 – an adapted version of its required introductory college course – to high school students.

The American Society for Engineering Education has recognized the program with the 2014 Best Practices in K-12 and University Partnerships Award. A team from the UA College of Engineering was set to receive the award at the ASEE annual conference, happening this week in Indianapolis.

College-Level Classes in High School

High school teachers teach the course over an academic year rather than one semester. Students who complete the course receive three units of college credit toward a UA engineering degree.

"It’s really valuable for our students to get a taste of the different areas of engineering in a familiar, comfortable setting," said Ben Davis, who has taught at several Arizona schools and on the Hopi and Navajo reservations and now teaches at Sahuaro High in Tucson.

"Activities that might seem dry or overwhelming can become enjoyable and second nature. After finishing a complicated coding project, my students can sit back and say, 'You know what? I can do this!'"

Students design, build, analyze and test a solar oven as their core project for the year. They also work on projects that cover wide-ranging fields of engineering and the sciences and require diverse skill sets. These projects have included solar go-karts and cellphone chargers, duct tape canoes and balsa wood bridges, computer games and software applications, Lego robotics and plastic foam airplanes, and prosthetic hands and artificial heart valves, to name a few.

Students learn that engineering affects many aspects of life and can give meaning to their own lives, whatever their circumstances and interests. 

Many high school students have no exposure to the engineering profession in their families or social circles, said the UA’s Jill Rogers, the course's program coordinator. "They may be daunted by the academic challenges of a university engineering degree and unaware of the opportunities such a degree can provide. A positive engineering experience with excellent instructors in a familiar environment can change that."

Above Average Diversity

The course is the brainchild of Jeff Goldberg, dean of the UA College of Engineering, and Fred DePrez, principal of Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, where the program started in 2008 with 21 students. Since then, it has enrolled more than 1,000 students from 28 high schools in Arizona and one in California. About 23 percent of the students are female. Nationally, women make up about 18.8 percent of students enrolled in university engineering programs, according to a study cited by ASEE.

Thanks to significant partner support, the University can offer the course to high school students at a deeply discounted rate. Among major funders are the Science Foundation Arizona, which has provided $500,000, the Salt River Project, which has given $100,000, and Intel, which provided seed money for the project and more than $125,000 over the last five years. Other funders include Texas Instruments, John Deere and Raytheon.

Strong instructors, supported by UA College of Engineering through workshops and training, are key to the program’s success, said Jim Baygents, the college's associate dean for academic affairs.

Students Rise to the Challenge

Instructors from Tucson-area schools include University High School’s Mike Schmidt, who received the 2013 Southern Arizona Engineering Educator of the Year Award from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers, and Palo Verde High Magnet School’s AnnMarie Condes, who received the same award in 2014.

The general consensus among instructors is that Engineering 102 high school students are exceeding expectations.

"The most surprising thing has been how much the students rise to the level of excellence that has been set for them," Schmidt said.

"They want to be engineers and attend the UA, and they see this as a wonderful opportunity. They come to each project and take it above and beyond anything I would expect," Condes added.

For some students, a highlight is touring the UA College of Engineering facilities and labs.

"They were polishing the mirrors during our tour, and they set up a station for us so we could watch," said Palo Verde student Emilio Martinez, who had never been on the UA campus before visiting the UA’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab.

For many teachers, the highlight is attending a five-day summer workshop run by the UA College of Engineering at a local resort. At these intensive but informal gatherings, teachers work on projects for possible use in their own classes and share course materials.

"I’ve been to a lot of workshops in my 20 years of teaching, and let me tell you: This is a good one," Condes said. “I love brainstorming with teachers from all over Arizona and even California and getting to experience what they are doing in their courses.”

The teachers' enthusiasm is not lost on their students. Most don't want the course to end.

"In this class, I've discovered I love mechanical engineering – especially making robots and clocks," said Palo Verde student Isaiah Dodds. "If I didn’t have such a long bus ride home, I'd still be here, working on the projects, long after school lets out."

To learn more about other student projects, read the related story on UANews here

Solar Oven Throwdown

What starts out as a flimsy contraption held together by duct tape on the UA campus lawn may one day revolutionize how people prepare meals in less fortunate, remote parts of the world. Watch the slideshow and the video below for more. 

 

Editor: Daniel StolteWriter: Jill GoetzByline: Jill Goetz for the College of EngineeringAdditional Keywords: solar oven throw down UA engineering 102hsExtra Info: 

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Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The UA College of Engineering’s introductory course for high schoolers is garnering national accolades for its success in getting young students fired up about engineering careers and education. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

In Step with the Pride of Arizona

Tue, 06/03/2014 - 12:56

What does it take to achieve excellence? According to Jay Rees, director of the Pride of Arizona Marching Band, it boils down to a willingness to make the sacrifices and do the hard work. Named one of the top five bands in the nation in 2009, the Pride of Arizona knows how to get it done, and they bring the fans to their feet every time.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsYouTube Video:  In Step with the Pride of Arizona Video of In Step with the Pride of Arizona Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: What does it take to achieve excellence? According to Jay Rees, director of the Pride of Arizona Marching Band, it boils down to a willingness to make the sacrifices and do the hard work. Named one of the top five bands in the nation in 2009, the Pride of Arizona knows how to get it done, and they bring the fans to their feet every time.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Med Students Learn From High-Tech 'Patients'

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 15:26

The Arizona Center for Simulation and Experiential Learning at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix gives students real-life experience with the help of mechanically controlled mannequins. The realistic "patients" can simulate everything from human sweat to lost limbs and childbirth and allow medical students to learn hospital care without fear they're going to hurt or harm a real patient.   

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): HealthYouTube Video:  Sim Lab Final Video of Sim Lab Final Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Students at UA College of Medicine – Phoenix are getting real-life experience with the help of mechanically controlled mannequins. The realistic "patients" can simulate everything from human sweat to lost limbs and childbirth.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, June 2, 2014

Students Learn Dirty Science at Mountaintop SkySchool

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 14:59

Operated out of the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter atop the unique sky island environment in the Santa Catalina Mountains, the SkySchool is an immersive, residential science program for K-12 students. UA graduate students from the College of Science share their knowledge, research and appreciation for the local environment during the program, while teaching the students how to conduct science and how to be good stewards of the world they live in.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Science and TechnologyRelated Story Link: White House Honors Founder of UA’s Sky School ProjectA School in the Sky: UA Science and Tucson StudentsYouTube Video:  Students Learn Dirty Science at Mountaintop SkySchool Video of Students Learn Dirty Science at Mountaintop SkySchool Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Operated out of the University of Arizona's SkyCenter on Mount Lemmon, SkySchool is an immersive, residential science program for K-12 students. UA graduate students teach the participants how to conduct science – and how to be good stewards of the world around them.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Teaching Students How to Think

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 11:11

How can we increase the critical thinking skills of our students? That's the question University of Arizona chemist John Pollard asked when he began developing his "Chemical Thinking" course. Now, with the help of a grant from the American Association of Universities, he's implementing the new curriculum throughout the UA Department of Chemistry and changing the way the UA teaches STEM courses.  

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Science and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  Teaching Students How to Think Video of Teaching Students How to Think Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: How can we increase the critical thinking skills of our students? That's the question UA chemist John Pollard asked when he began developing his "Chemical Thinking" course. He's now implementing the curriculum with a grant from the American Association of Universities, and changing how the UA teaches STEM courses. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Friday, May 23, 2014

UAMC Patients Say Thank You

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 15:35

Following March's Doctor's Day and April's National Nurses Week, UA Medical Center continues to honor its physicians, nurses and hospital staff with the slogan "Stronger Because of You." This month, former and current patients were invited to share their stories about the lifesaving care they received, and their positive experiences during their hospital stays. 

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): HealthYouTube Video:  UAMC Patients Say Thank You Video of UAMC Patients Say Thank You Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Following March's Doctor's Day and April's National Nurses Week, UAMC continues to honor its physicians, nurses and hospital staff with the slogan "Stronger Because of You." This month, patients were invited to share stories about the lifesaving care they received at UAMC.UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UA Students Gain Real-World Experience Through Legislative Internships

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 10:20

As state and federal elected officials debated issues such as K-12 and university funding, health insurance premiums and unemployment benefits, University of Arizona students involved in semester-long internships were documenting the process, writing summaries and meeting with constituent groups.

As a result of this real-world experience, a number of UA students are seriously considering government work.

"My experience has definitely opened my eyes to the type of work the government and public sector require," said Stephanie Romero, who worked with Arizona Capitol Television.

"It's really interesting and valuable to be in the loop of things happening within your state, especially knowing about possible bills or laws that could go into effect and impact your life or the lives of others," said Romero, who is studying journalism and Spanish. "I can definitely say that I'd like a job that would allow me to continue expanding my knowledge of state government and maybe even U.S. government in the future."

For many years, the UA has involved students in semester-long internships in Phoenix and Washington, D.C. These internships reflect the UA’s focus on 100 percent engagement for every student, a commitment that is outlined in the University's Never Settle strategic academic and business plan. To cultivate this real-world experience for all students, the University has established a centralized clearinghouse in the Career Services office that supports students and employees in identifying and securing real-world learning opportunities. In the future, internships and other applied experience will be notated on students' transcripts.

Jenna Goulder spent the semester interning for U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake in Washington, D.C.

"Because I am interested in policy reform for victims of child abuse, I wanted to learn more about the legislative process, and to be able to have a hands-on experience working in the senator's office," Goulder said. She spent the semester giving tours, attending briefings and hearings, writing memos and answering phone calls from constituents, among other things.

Such experiences carry a dual role. Students receive important work skills while also learning how to engage in the democratic process.

"There were a lot of times in this internship that things suddenly became very busy," said Kenna Nielson, a UA mathematics and pre-law major assigned to Gov. Jan Brewer's office. "What I found most valuable during those times was the relationships I had developed with the other interns. We were able to help each other out when work was stressful or overwhelming and had a lot of fun together."

Nielson, who also worked with the Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, said another lesson she learned was the importance of clear and open communication.

"This is important in all aspects of life, but especially the people with whom you work," she said. "I was able to observe a lot of examples of people with great ideas who weren't able to express them in a way that made sense to others. I also learned how important listening is when communicating with others. These are lessons that I will take with me into the future."

"I've always been interested in working with government, but for a long time I thought I wanted to work at the federal level," she said. "After spending this semester with the state Legislature, though, and seeing everything that goes on here, I've become much more interested in staying at the state level."

Dominique Cruz, who is majoring in Latin American Studies and Spanish, was especially interested in learning about public policy and health care. Cruz interned with the state House of Representatives, specifically with committees working on health and human services reform.

"The thing that was most valuable to me is the taste I got of how life will be after I finish school," Cruz said. "This internship was truly a real-world experience that I will never forget."

As a journalist, Romero found great value in learning more about state government and the process involved in moving a bill from concept to law.

"There were many aspects of the government that I did not understand prior to the internship program," Romero said. "It's completely different when you witness the process firsthand."

The experience also taught her what's it like to have a full-time job in a professional arena. "I can truly say that I have grown through this program because I started as a complete beginner."

Editor: Pila MartinezByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

To learn more, read From the "UA to the Arizona State Capitol" on the UA's official blog.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA students have just returned from spending their semester interning for government offices in Phoenix and Washington, D.C.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Pay Dirt: Demand Exceeds Supply for Compost Cats' Product

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 16:39

Demand for the product made by Compost Cats, a University of Arizona student-run organization that turns food and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil, has outstripped supply.

What makes this recycled dirt so special?

Arizona, like the rest of the desert Southwest, has a much lower amount of water and nutrients in its soils than less arid parts of the country – which is where compost comes in handy.

"Compost acts as a soil amendment by adding some of those lacking nutrients and raising the water retention abilities of the soil," said Madeline Ryder, a Compost Cats member and a UA senior double majoring in natural resources and environmental studies.

"It's much better for the environment and safer to use than chemical fertilizers," Ryder said.

Composting is a process of turning organic waste such as food scraps, manure and landscape clippings into high-nutrient soil that can be reused for agriculture and gardening. Nutrients in food waste and garden clippings remain in the waste after it is broken down during the composting process, and can be reabsorbed by plants when compost is added to the soil.

And if compost is being used as a substitute for chemical fertilizers, there are even more benefits, she said, "including the reduced emissions from producing those fertilizers and adding less chemicals into the environment, which could eventually end up in our groundwater supply or washes."

In addition, "food waste that would normally go in the landfills would create methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 or 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, from the process used to break it down," Ryder said.

Food waste in landfills is not turned regularly to let oxygen into the waste heaps, allowing for methane-producing bacteria to take over landfill garbage dumps.

Since compost heaps are turned over regularly, oxygen is allowed to mix with the waste material and encourages oxygen-loving bacteria to colonize the compost and break down the food scraps without releasing the vast quantities of harmful methane gas that are produced in landfills.

"One of the main goals that is unique to Compost Cats is to reduce as much organic material going into landfills as possible," Ryder said. "This reduces the amount of methane produced by landfills and the need for chemical fertilizers at the same time."

While digesting and breaking down the scraps, the activity of the bacteria produces enormous amounts of heat, making compost piles as hot as 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

"In the wintertime, compost piles steam," Ryder noted.

"We make sure that it stays at that temperature for four weeks," she added. "The process ensures that there are no pathogens in the compost that could be transferred to the next crop."

The group turns its compost regularly and "we don't add anything to it except water," Ryder said.

Although the students are collecting food and yard waste not just from campus, but also from Tucson businesses, there isn't enough for the home gardeners who visit the group's website to place their orders.

That should change soon thanks to a new partnership between Compost Cats – a program under the Associated Students of the University of Arizona – and the city of Tucson, which will enable to group to extend its composting service to many more Tucson businesses. By fall, Compost Cats hopes to boost its operations and get caught up on orders.

"We are confident that this fall we will be able to supply more compost than we've ever been able to in the past," Ryder said.

Lots of people around Tucson will be happy to hear that.

"Most of the comments we receive are about how wonderful our program is from a sustainability and student leadership perspective," Ryder said. "I feel like older generations, who are our main customers, are glad to see younger generations interested in bettering the community."

Editor: Pila MartinezWriter: Shelley LittinByline: Shelley LittinByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: NoNo Image: Subheading: Compost Cats prepares for a new season of high demand for its organic, high-nutrient compost.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Arizona Now Campaign Co-Chairs Prove Opposites Really Do Attract

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 13:07

It may not seem like a 6-foot-2-inch CEO and avid sports fan from Phoenix would have a whole lot in common with a Tucson philanthropist who stands just above 5 feet tall and loves attending dance performances (or Science lectures).

Yet Jeff Stevens and Sarah Smallhouse have a lot more in common than meets the eye – most notably a passion for promoting and advancing the University of Arizona through generous time and financial commitments.

Because of their dedication, Stevens and Smallhouse were asked to serve as co-chairs for the UA's Arizona Now fundraising campaign. The campaign, which aims to raise $1.5 billion in gifts and commitments, is the largest fundraising campaign in the University's history.

Arizona Now has three main areas of giving, which are enhancing the student experience, supporting innovative thinkers like faculty and researchers, and expanding the UA's reach, including improving the UA experience for community members in Arizona and around the world. Funds will go toward supporting the UA's Never Settle strategic plan initiatives, which aim to advance UA research, boost the state's economy and provide real-world experiences to all students. The UA has already raised $859 million through donations that came in before the campaign's public phase. (Read more about the Arizona Now campaign in this UANews article and see highlights from the launch in this video.)

In the days leading up to the April 11 launch of the Arizona Now campaign, Stevens and Smallhouse bonded over their belief that the UA has much to offer on a local, state and global scale.

"We are polar opposites in so many ways," Stevens said. "But I think that's what makes Sarah and I such a great team. I'm very excited about the role of co-chair. I feel like our goals are very achievable. It's going to take a lot of work, but I think we've got the right people in the right places to make it successful."

As co-chairs, Stevens and Smallhouse will serve as spokespeople for the UA during the course of the campaign and serve as the face of the campaign alongside UA President Ann Weaver Hart.

"We wanted co-chairs who could lead by example and be credible," said James H. Moore Jr., president and chief executive officer of the UA Foundation, a comprehensive development program that generated more than $151 million in private gift and grant support for the University last fiscal year.

Stevens is president and CEO of Western Refining and Western Refining Logistics, based in El Paso, Texas. In 2009, Stevens and his wife, Sharon, gifted $10 million to Arizona Athletics, which was the single largest gift in the history of UA athletics.

Stevens said he's motivated to give back to the UA to make a difference for future generations of Wildcats. The Arizona Now campaign is the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the outstanding people and programs that make the UA so unique, he said.

"My time and my wife's time at the UA was very special to us," Stevens said. "I think it's important for us to give back because we received so much when we were there." Stevens met his wife at the UA in the 1980s while he was pursuing his bachelor's degree in communication.

Moore said he feels Stevens was a perfect choice to help lead a campaign that will take the UA to another level of excellence.

"He's a hands-on guy, he loves to win and he wants to be successful," Moore said. "He is willing to go out and be an active champion to try to get others to follow. That is going to be important for us in this campaign, having somebody who is willing to really get in the trenches with us."

Smallhouse is no stranger to the philanthropic trenches, either. She is the daughter of Thomas Brown, who launched and sold the technology company Burr-Brown Corp. and established the family's commitment to philanthropy.

In addition to serving as the Arizona Now campaign co-chair, Smallhouse is also chair of the UA Foundation's board of trustees and is on the Thomas R. Brown Foundation's board of trustees. The Brown Foundation has supported multiple UA colleges and departments through endowments in areas including engineering, business and science, and in support of various aspects of campus life including scholarships, research, faculty and the new engineering innovation building.

"Sarah is extremely well-connected in this community," Moore said. "She also has a tremendous rapport with a number of deans and faculty members on campus. She, her sister Mary and several of her Brown Foundation board members have been actively involved with a variety of campus programs and colleges for years."

To be an innovation company at the very leading edge of technology is not an easy thing, and a lot of the engineers that worked in the company came out of the UA, Smallhouse said.

"The way I look at being co-chair of the campaign, this is all icing on the cake," Smallhouse said. "This is the really fun stuff. It's about digging into what's happening on campus, making new friends, learning about research and getting to explore with potential donors about where their interests might align. I'm a people person, and the whole proposition is exciting to me."

Byline: Amanda BallardByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA alumni Sarah Smallhouse and Jeff Stevens have united over their passion and support of UA initiatives by serving as co-chairs for the University's largest-ever fundraising campaign.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: