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UA, Opponents Rely on Data Analytics

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 5:52pm

When the UA and Xavier men's basketball teams discovered that they would face off in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, you can bet that each program already was focused on obtaining a competitive edge over the other.

Increasingly, that edge involves the tools of advanced data analytics and film analysis, which help coaches and players see the weaknesses of their opponent. One video service, Synergy Sports Technologies, boasts a client list that has every NBA and WNBA team and more than 650 college teams — including the UA and Xavier, who play Thursday night in the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles. 

According to Scott Mossman, one of Synergy's co-founders and its vice president of business development, only a few NCAA Division I basketball teams aren't clients of the company.

"There were around 5,200 NCAA Division I games played this past season, and we’re only missing fewer than 100 of those in our database," said Mossman, a Phoenix native and former college coach. 

With Synergy's services, teams are able to go back and watch footage of any game, and they are supplied with a plethora of statistics both basic and advanced. Coaches have the potential to view what their team did in every possible situation.

Here's how specific it can get: If the UA coaching staff wants to examine all of the team’s possessions with less than 4 seconds on the shot clock, or any of T.J. McConnell’s steals, or all of the times the team scored off of an inbound pass, it’s no problem. For most people, that would mean hours of tedious video editing, but Synergy clients can have matching video clips in a matter of seconds.

"Synergy probably has the biggest database of college basketball video anywhere," Mossman said. "The way it works is: We grab the video via satellite or we have the teams upload it if the game isn't televised, and then we take that video and we cut it, edit it, record the stats and then — most importantly — catalog and index it in an organized and efficient way.

"Let's do a basic example. Take your point guard, T.J. McConnell. He's had 71 turnovers over the course of the season. So in our system, you can go in and go to his cumulative stats page. If you click on his turnovers, it will compile a list of every one of those turnovers linked immediately with the live video clips."

Mossman said Synergy is unique in the way that it matches the data to film, compiling it in organized, easy-to-find databases.

"We have a whole host of advanced analytics that we provide," he said. "Clients can quickly look up any game situation they want, and our system will find it with only a few clicks of a mouse."

Another unique aspect involves scouting. The old model went like this: Team X played Team Y. Team Z wants to scout Team Y for an upcoming game, so it reaches out to Team X to obtain video in a trade.

With advances in technology, such an exchange has transformed into a much simpler process. There is no middle man, and there is fingertip availability with Synergy’s online databases.

"It is set up in a format where a coach can virtually see what any team or any player in the country has done in game situations with three clicks of a mouse," Mossman said. 

While teams in the Pac-12 Conference do not use this aspect of Synergy's services — the conference hosts its own video exchange — the vast majority of conferences in the country use it, Mossman said.

Additionally, Synergy’s services assist in player development, showing players game footage of their weaknesses so that they can make the adjustments necessary to improve. 

"So a coach can go in and watch those, take all of those clips and download them into an editor and select whichever ones he wants to use to show the player how he could better overcome those situations," Mossman said. 

The next time you hear a coach say that he or she is reserving comment until seeing the film, believe it. Today's technology has made it more important than ever.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Evan RosenfeldByline: Evan RosenfeldByline Affiliation: UA News Student Associate, University Relations – CommunicationsWhat: UA vs. XavierWhere: NCAA West Region semifinals, Staples Center, Los AngelesWhen: 7:17 p.m. (Arizona time) Thursday; telecast on TBS cableExtra Info: 

For more about Synergy Sports Technologies, go to

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: In today's basketball world, technology has taken over teams' preparation for upcoming games. The Arizona Wildcats are among hundreds of college teams who use a video service, Synergy Sports Technologies, in their quest to find an edge. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA Students, Faculty Among Migrahack Winners

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 5:32pm

University of Arizona students and School of Journalism faculty took top prizes at last weekend's Arizona Migrahack, which produced a variety of digital storytelling projects that focused on immigration through the use of public data.

Organized by the Center for Border & Global Journalism, which is based in the School of Journalism, and the Institute for Justice and Journalism, the three-day free event brought together more than 75 journalists, Web developers and designers, and members of community groups for a day of training and a two-day hackathon. Eleven teams were formed and competed.

UA journalism student Amanda Martinez was on the team No Timely Response, which took the $2,000 grand prize. The team used local traffic-stop data gathered by reporters from the Arizona Daily Star to create an interactive game that put the user "in the shoes" of local law enforcement, affording an opportunity to see how police deal with issues of immigration status during traffic stops.

Martinez, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists student chapter at the UA, said, "I’m really proud of the work that we all did. It was really great because the team I worked on came in with a different skill set and a different level of knowledge, but we really pulled together to make a project that was cohesive and relevant to Tucson."

Tucson journalists Luis Carrasco and Perla Trevizo and Sacramento journalist Dan Hill also were on the team.

The best data visualization project, worth $750, went to the Cactus Kings, a team that included UA journalism professor Jeannine Relly and Susan Swanberg, who will join the School of Journalism faculty in the fall. The team produced "No Lawyer, No Voice," which examined the issue of unaccompanied minors and the lack of legal support for them.

"I never realized how exciting this whole team project would be," Relly said. "It’s been a blast."

Other members of the Cactus Kings were Astrid Galvan, Kate Gunby, Lucio Villa and Brian White.

Maggie Melo, a doctoral student in English, and computer science undergraduate Michael Hejny were part of the Dream Weavers, which won the $750 "audience favorite" prize. The team produced "Arizona Dreamin’: The College Experience," a bilingual interactive project that contrasted traditional students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival-eligible students.

Melo, an ambassador for Tech Launch Arizona, said the hackathon was "super diverse" and praised its "great vibe." The team also included Tucson journalist Paula Diaz and Phoenix journalists Laura Gomez, Pita Juarez and Samuel Murillo.

Kevin Andrade, a reporter for the Yuma Sun and a UA Latin American studies alum, teamed up with Phoenix reporters Valeria Fernandez and Jude Joffe-Block to examine open data about asylum cases. Their project, "Who Gets Asylum?," won for best data insight and received a prize of $1,500.

Judges included UA computer science professor Carlos Scheidegger, associate librarians Mary Feeney and Veronica Reyes-Escudero, Arizona Daily Star journalist and Arizona Migrahack trainer Joe Ferguson, and Institute for Justice and Journalism executive director Phuong Ly.

Over the past three years, such events have been held in other parts of the country, but this one had more participants from Spanish-language news outlets than any of the others.

Reflecting on that turnout, Migrahack director Claudia Nuñez said, "The Latino demographic is growing and its education level along with it. Quality information is now a requirement and Hispanic journalists know this. That’s why they seek opportunities to improve their journalism by learning new tools that technology and data offer." 

This was the first time that the Center for Border & Global Journalism had teamed with the Institute for Justice and Journalism. Ly said, "The collaboration between IJJ and CBGJ was a terrific experience that strengthened the resources and networks of both groups. We're looking forward to continuing the partnership to improve journalism about immigration, one of the most critical issues of our time."

Organizer Celeste González de Bustamante, an associate professor in the School of Journalism, said, "The past three days have been so inspiring. I’m amazed by what the teams were able to produce in such a short amount of time. We hope that the results from this event will help to move the conversation about immigration forward."

Other sponsors of the event included the Border Journalism Network, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the School of Journalism and the Office of Student Engagement. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: UA School of JournalismHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Three-day event on campus brings together several dozen journalists, Web designers and community members on storytelling projects related to immigration.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

UA Program Targets Vets, First Responders

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 2:50pm

The rate at which veterans and members of the military and law enforcement commit suicide is higher than the general population, which has led to major nationwide initiatives and policy changes in recent years.

For that reason, the University of Arizona's Supportive Education for Returning Veterans, or SERV, was launched several years ago on the main campus in support of student veterans.

In addition to offering support for student veterans, a new workshop series was launched at UA South in March as an outgrowth of SERV. The workshop is tailored to student veterans, firefighters, police offers and other emergency personnel who experience heightened levels of stress and trauma.

"Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It is a set of attitudes, skills and behaviors that can be learned," said Michael Marks, a professor of practice in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "This is not about the elimination of stress, but about developing skills to help people deal with stress in optimal ways."

The March workshop, sponsored by the University South Foundation, was a compressed version of SERV and designed to teach individuals who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder or other forms of trauma to develop stronger emotional and mental capacities.

Marks developed the SERV courses and the workshop series in partnership with Phil Callahan, an associate professor emeritus in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Emergency personnel in the Sierra Vista region requested the training.

Both also have expanded SERV beyond its initial three-course block. In the fall, Marks will offer courses in resiliency and leadership, co-teaching with Cody Nicholls, the UA's assistant dean for veterans education and transition services.

The curriculum Marks and Callahan developed covers 12 skills related to gaining leadership competencies, improving memory and problem solving, increasing workplace and academic success, and developing ways to cultivate and maintain strong social networks. Both have been called to present for agencies elsewhere, including Colorado and Washington, D.C.

The curriculum also involves participants in a 13th step, which requires that they develop their own skill specific to their situation. Information from this portion of the workshop is being fed into a skills database that is meant to inform the curriculum in the future and aid other participants.

"Something that might work for a firefighter in an urban area may not work for someone working in a rural area," Marks said.

Marks said one of the most important goals of both SERV and the workshop is helping participants to not only strengthen their support network, but also to figure out ways they can contribute more readily to those around them. 

"Research shows that a good, healthy social support system is the best protective factor against developing PTSD," Marks said.

"We tell people that you need to develop a good support system, and it's always with the implication of what you can get from other people and not what you bring to the table," he said. "We're encouraging people to think about their strengths."

Marks noted that student veterans historically have had a lower retention and graduation rate than traditional students. But through SERV, he and his colleagues have been able to retain and graduate 90 percent of the students who enrolled.

Marks and his colleagues began offering a specialized version of the workshop to a group of student veterans who have experienced spinal cord injuries. The team also is planning on offering an more extensive orientation for this population later in the year.

"Student veterans experience culture shock coming from a regimented culture that does not question authority to a culture where most everything is challenged," Marks said, adding that many student veterans also are married, have children and generally do not engage in campus activities.

"They also do not reach out to the instructors as much as traditional students. They are usually studying, working or engaged in child care, so they don’t have time for these types of activities, which increase the likelihood of retention and graduation.   

"Resiliency scores are a better predictor of retention and graduation rates among all students," he said. "It is a better predictor of completing college than SAT scores, GPA in college or high school ranking."

Marks also emphasized that the nationwide need for such programs and initiatives remains strong, as evidenced by suicide rates among veterans and emergency personnel.

For example, a study published in February's Annals of Epidemiology detailed that 1,868 of the nearly 1.3 million active-duty veterans who served during a six-year period (2001-07) committed suicide. That represents a much higher suicide risk compared to the general population.

Much of what is discussed through the UA's resiliency offerings is about perspective changing.

"About perspective, there is a whole field in PTSD research called 'post-traumatic growth,'" Marks said, adding that the workshop addresses self-defeating behavior and self-talk.

"From traumatic experience, we can help people to confront their beliefs about the event and to develop empathy. These are survival skills. The point we make here is that bouncing back from stressful situations is where you have the most impactful life lessons, which can have a positive impact if you look at them the right way."

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

Student veterans interested in the UA's fall courses should contact Michael Marks at 520-621-1523 or

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A new workshop series being offered at UA South is modeled after Supportive Education for Returning Veterans, which was launched on the main campus for student veterans. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

And the Winner Is: Primary Care

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 10:17pm

During a skit spoofing ceremonies such as the Academy Awards, the sound of envelopes being opened to loud cheers was heard at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson last Friday as students in the Class of 2015 learned where they will spend the next several years as resident-physicians, a major step in building a medical career.

And this year’s "winner" is ... primary care, the most critical physician shortage faced in Arizona. A total of 43 graduates — more than one-third of the class — will pursue residencies in the primary-care fields of family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.

"I was so scared going up onstage, wondering ‘what if,’ but now I am more happy today than I think I will be at graduation," said future family medicine resident Jacqueline Huynh, who was excited to learn she had matched with the UA College of Medicine Graduate Medical Education Program in Tucson.

"To me, family medicine is the heart of medicine: caring for patients from the time they are in the womb through their old age, taking care of families and connecting with them. I love the diversity of family medicine. As a resident, I’ll be learning to practice in so many areas, from obstetrics to geriatrics, emergency medicine, sports medicine and more."

Dr. Charles B. Cairns, interim dean of the UA College of Medicine – Tucson and UA professor of emergency medicine, said the graduating class represents good news for the state and beyond.

"Not only are many of our graduates staying in Arizona, but several also have earned places in prestigious residency programs nationwide," Cairns said.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, 38.7 percent of medical and osteopathic students end up practicing in the same state where they received their undergraduate medical education. Notably, nearly half of Arizona medical school graduates practice in-state.

For four years, the nation’s medical students anticipate "Match Day," the annual event that matches graduating medical students with residency programs. National Resident Matching Program™ results are released nationwide at ceremonies coordinated to occur on the same date (the third Friday in March) at the same time (10 a.m. Arizona time) at hundreds of medical colleges throughout the country. Nearly 35,000 U.S. and international students applied to match on Friday with one of the more than 27,000 first-year residency positions offered in this year’s Main Residency Match, according to the AAMC.

The UA College of Medicine – Tucson held its 34th Match Day ceremony in DuVal Auditorium at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson, the college’s primary teaching hospital. An overflow crowd gathered for the event. The class consists of 118 students (57 women, 61 men) who will graduate in May. 

The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix threw a similarly festive bash for the 54 students (28 women, 26 men) in its fifth graduating class.


Of the 43 graduates who will go into primary care, nine will pursue residencies in family medicine, 24 in internal medicine and 10 in pediatrics.

Forty-eight of the 118 graduates will remain in Arizona for their residency training (28 in Tucson, 20 in Phoenix). Three will spend a year training in Tucson or Phoenix before embarking on specialty training elsewhere, while one will spend a preliminary year out of state before returning to Arizona to complete residency training.

Twenty-one students matched with the UA College of Medicine Graduate Medical Education Program, which oversees 52 residency and fellowship programs in all major specialties and subspecialties, all accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or ACGME. Five students matched with the UA College of Medicine at South Campus graduate medical education program, which has six ACGME-accredited residency programs.

Resident-physicians undergo in-depth training in their fields under the supervision of practicing faculty physicians. Residency programs vary in length from three years for general medicine/family practice specialties to eight years for the most specialized of surgeons. Most residencies will begin July 1.


Of the 54 graduating students, 20 will begin training in Phoenix or Tucson, including seven at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix and four at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix. Five students are completing a master's degree in public health in addition to the medical degree, and one is earning a Ph.D. in cancer biology as well as the medical degree.

The celebration at the downtown Phoenix campus featured a flash mob of student and faculty dancers and envelopes delivered by zip line to the floor of the Health Sciences Education Building.

"Arizona is my home," said Jordan Roberts, who grew up in the White Mountains of Arizona and was matched in family medicine at the Utah HealthCare Institute in Salt Lake City. "I've always seen myself practicing in the rural, northern part of the state. So that's where we're hoping in three years we will be back."

Ashley Carter was thrilled to learn that she will do her residency in emergency medicine at Maricopa Medical Center.

"The patient population, amazing faculty and the residents are the best," she said, adding that the resident-physicians "love the training they are receiving there."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Jean Spinelli and Al BravoByline Affiliation: AHSC Office of Public Affairs and UA College of Medicine — PhoenixHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA College of Medicine – Tucson students opened Match Day envelopes to reveal where they will go for residency training. More one-third will pursue primary care. A total of 172 students were "matched" at the UA's medical colleges in Tucson and Phoenix.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noIncludes video: 

Nobel Recipients to Celebrate UA Brain Science

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 5:19pm

Four pioneering scholars who are mentors and colleagues to prominent University of Arizona faculty will visit campus this week to talk about their scientific careers, help commemorate several UA brain science milestones and kick off the new Center for Innovation in Brain Science.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neural Systems, Memory and Aging, the 10th anniversary of the McKnight Brain Institute and the fifth anniversary of the School of Mind, Brain and Behavior at the UA.

The distinguished guests, who will visit on Thursday and Friday, include:

  • Eleanor Maguire, professor of cognitive neuroscience, University College London. Maguire received the Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003 for her study involving London taxi drivers.
  • John O’Keefe, professor, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Anatomy, University College London. O’Keefe received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014 for his discovery of place cells.
  • Edvard Moser, professor and director, Kavli Institute of Systems Neuroscience, and co-director, Centre of Neural Computation, University of Oslo, and May-Britt Moser, professor and founding director, Centre of Neural Computation, and co-director, Kavli Institute of Systems Neuroscience, University of Oslo. The Mosers received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014 for their discovery of grid cells.

The UA's close connection to Nobel Prize-winning research is not a coincidence.

O’Keefe and Lynn Nadel, chair of the UA faculty and Regents’ Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Sience at the UA, together wrote the book "The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map" in 1978 and also received the 2006 Grawemeyer Award for their work in identifying the brain's mapping system.

O’Keefe also was the post-doctorate mentor of the UA’s Carol Barnes, Regents' Professor of Psychology, Neurology and Neuroscience; director of the McKnight Brain Institute and Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neural Systems, Memory and Aging; and associate director of the BIO5 Institute at the UA.

"O'Keefe encouraged me to be bold and persistent," Barnes said. "And I discovered the joy of conducting research and the value of cross-disciplinary exposure to fields ranging from physiology to psychology, engineering, philosophy, music and art.

"He taught me about leadership and the skills that define a great researcher. He always made time for me, just as today I open my door to students. He also gave me the space to explore my ideas, even the wacky ones. Now as I work with students, I've learned to hold the reins loosely, too."

In December, O'Keefe invited Nadel and Barnes to be his guests at the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm. O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research that began in the laboratory Barnes shared with them more than 40 years ago.

Nadel and Barnes, along with Mary Peterson, professor of psychology and chair of the UA's School of Mind, Brain and Behavior, in turn invited O’Keefe, the Mosers and Maguire to Tucson.

UA researchers are at the forefront internationally for investigating the complexities of the brain and the factors involved in healthy aging. They have made important contributions to the fields of cognitive and systems neuroscience.

The scope and cost of the problems caused by brain dysfunction are staggering. Last year, President Barack Obama asked Congress for $100 million to begin a major research initiative (BRAIN) aimed at revolutionizing how we study the brain and accelerating the discovery of treatments for the more than 100 million people worldwide with brain diseases.

To make significant progress in the next century on this grand challenge, the BRAIN Initiative specifically calls for the invention of better ways to map the brain’s physical and functional components and connections.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart has named neuroscience as a research priority under Never Settle, the University's strategic plan. The BIO5 Institute and the UA Health Sciences Center have goals of supporting transdisciplinary neuroscience research in partnership with institutions across the state — from the molecular underpinnings of brain-cell health to the translation of this biological knowledge into treatments for neurological disease. The College of Science and the Office for Research and Discovery also are involved in supporting these efforts through the School of Mind, Brain and Behavior; the Division of Neural Systems, Memory and Aging; and the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

To further enhance efforts, the UA recently announced the launch of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science, which will unite campus-wide neuroscience efforts, serve as a hub for linking fundamental discoveries to solutions for important clinical problems, and provide training for the next generation of biomedical investigators. The new center is seen as an important introduction in a continuum of UA-affiliated research shaping global scholarship about the brain.

On the significance of having the four distinguished guests visit campus, Nadel noted, “It's exciting for our students to be able to see the people behind the prizes, and it is also an indication of the stature of the UA in this area.”

The UA has world-class scientists working together at the intersection of physics, nanotechnology, imaging, optical sciences, engineering, information technology, genomics and other rapidly emerging fields. Future steps will involve thinking critically about the human, scientific and technological strengths that already exist and about how to build faculty and infrastructure strategically to meet goals, improve brain health and ultimately save lives.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Lisa RomeroByline: Lisa RomeroByline Affiliation: BIO5 InstituteWhat: Brain Science Open ForumWhere: Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, 1737 E. University Blvd., UA campusWhen: 10 a.m. ThursdayHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Ties to University's faculty will bring internationally renowned brain scholars to campus this week for a public forum and a scientific workshop. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA Launches Online Campus

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 4:05pm

The University of Arizona is now registering students for 21 undergraduate degree programs offered under the newly launched UA Online campus.

The undergraduate degree programs join a robust slate of more than 40 online graduate school degrees and certificates the University has offered for several years. Scheduled to begin in August 2015, the new online degree programs reflect the University’s vision and commitment to meeting the evolving needs of today's students and working professionals of all ages.

"Online learning is an integral part of Never Settle, the UA academic and business plan which calls for rapidly expanding access to our award-winning faculty, research and educational programs," said Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and senior vice provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success.

"We are thrilled that prospective students — from busy professionals advancing their careers and parents returning to the workforce to active military and veterans, community-college transfer students and others — can now earn their undergraduate degree from one of the top 100 universities in the world," Vito said.

According to the 2015 Global Employability Survey, the UA also is ranked among the top public universities in the United States for producing the most-employable graduates. Prospective students now have access to numerous UA online degrees equally as rigorous as the traditional on-campus learning experience, leading to rewarding jobs of the future, such as:

  • Digital information and data science with a Bachelor of Arts in eSociety.
  • Data management and software development with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Informatics.
  • New green economy with a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments.
  • Health care and health-related sciences with a Bachelor of Science in Care, Health and Society.
  • Social services for all populations with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Services and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education.

"As the land-grant university for the state of Arizona, it is our responsibility to expand educational access for all Arizona citizens. The new UA Online undergraduate programs achieve this goal, and so much more, with innovations that enhance engagement for online students," said Vincent J. Del Casino Jr., vice provost of Digital Learning and Student Engagement.

"We are thrilled that students everywhere now have access to a life-changing University of Arizona education. Enrolling in a UA Online degree program not only positions future graduates for a rewarding career, it also provides an engaging student experience that fosters a sense of community and Wildcat pride for life," Del Casino said.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

To learn more about the new programs, visit UA Online.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Online learning is a component of the Never Settle plan, which calls for an expansion of access to faculty, research and educational programs.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Archaeologists Discover Maya 'Melting Pot'

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 10:32am

Archaeologists working in Guatemala have unearthed new information about the Maya civilization's transition from a mobile, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a sedentary way of life.

Led by University of Arizona archaeologists Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan, the team's excavations of the ancient Maya lowlands site of Ceibal suggest that as the society transitioned from a heavy reliance on foraging to farming, mobile communities and settled groups co-existed and may have come together to collaborate on construction projects and participate in public ceremonies.

The findings, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenge two common assumptions: that mobile and sedentary groups maintained separate communities, and that public buildings were constructed only after a society had fully put down roots.

"There has been the theory that sedentary and mobile groups co-existed in various parts of the world, but most people thought the sedentary and mobile communities were separate, even though they were in relatively close areas," said Inomata, a UA professor of anthropology and lead author of the PNAS study. "Our study presents the first relatively concrete evidence that mobile and sedentary people came together to build a ceremonial center."

A public plaza uncovered at Ceibal dates to about 950 B.C., with surrounding ceremonial buildings growing to monumental sizes by about 800 B.C. Yet, evidence of permanent residential dwellings in the area during that time is scarce. Most people were still living a traditional hunter-gatherer-like lifestyle, moving from place to place throughout the rainforest, as they would continue to do for five or six more centuries.

The area's few permanent residents could not have built the plaza alone, Inomata said.

"The construction of ceremonial buildings is pretty substantial, so there had to be more people working on that construction," he said.

Inomata and his colleagues theorize that groups with varying degrees of mobility came together to construct the buildings and to participate in public ceremonies over the next several hundred years. That process likely helped them to bond socially and eventually make the transition to a fully sedentary society.

"This tells us something about the importance of ritual and construction. People tend to think that you have a developed society and then building comes. I think in many cases it's the other way around," Inomata said.

"For those people living the traditional way of life, ceremony, ritual and construction became major forces for them to adapt a new way of life and build a new society. The process of gathering for ritual and gathering for construction helped bring together different people who were doing different things, and eventually that contributed to the later development of Mayan civilization."

The transition was gradual, with the Maya making the shift to a fully sedentary agrarian society, reliant on maize, by about 400 or 300 B.C., Inomata said. 

"The most fascinating finding is that different peoples with diverse ways of life co-existed in apparent harmony for generations before establishing a more uniform society," said Melissa Burham, a study co-author and a graduate student in the UA School of Anthropology. "Discovering an ancient 'melting pot' is definitely the unexpected highlight of this research."

Other UA co-authors on the paper include Jessica MacLellan, an anthropology graduate student, and Jessica Munson, a recent UA graduate.

Inomata and his colleagues from the UA have been working for 10 years at Ceibal, along with collaborators from the United States, Canada, Guatemala and Japan. Their work is funded by the Alphawood Foundation; the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology-Japan KAKENHI; and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science KAKENHI.

Inomata is one of four chairs of the UA's Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice, which supports scientific and cultural studies rooted in the environment and social justice.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Excavations of an ancient Maya site in Guatamala have provided new clues about the ways in which mobile and settled groups co-existed.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Debut Film by UA Alumnus Receives Accolades

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 10:35am

"Unsound," the feature-film directorial debut by University of Arizona alumnus Darious Britt, has received a number of accolades at national film festivals since its world premiere at the influential New Voices in Black Cinema in New York in March 2014.

Based on true events, "Unsound" tells the story of a mother's battle with schizophrenia and a son's struggle to get her the help she needs.

The film, which was produced independently by Britt after graduating from the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television, won Best Director - First Feature Narrative at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in March 2015.

"When I created 'Unsound,' I wanted to communicate the realities of what it's actually like to care for someone who deals with mental illness," Britt said. "I never see that struggle portrayed accurately in movies, so I wanted to do just that in painstaking detail. I felt that anyone who's gone through this or something similar will definitely connect with the film, and for those who haven't, this would be an educational experience."

The film has screened in 18 film festivals across the U.S. to date, including the San Francisco Black Film Festival; the American Black Film Festival in New York City; the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago; and the highly regarded Urban Work Film Festival in New York City.

Among its other accolades, "Unsound" was awarded Best Narrative Feature at the Roxbury International Film Festival in Boston; second place in feature film competition in the Capital City Black Film Festival in New York City in August 2014; and the Director's Choice Humanitarian Award at the Sedona International Film Festival in March 2015.

Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader wrote that the film is a "labor of love in more ways than one, as the story is based on Britt's real-life experience of caring for his mother, who suffers from schizo-affective disorder. The movie is as much about the sorry state of our public mental-health care system, which places far too many obstacles between mentally ill people and the treatment they need, as it is about the mother's condition.... He was less concerned with exposing social problems than with telling a good story, though Unsound succeeds entirely with regards to both."

"Unsound" marks Britt's debut as an actor as well. The film is scheduled to screen in the Phoenix Film Festival, which runs through April 2. It is slated to be released to a general audience later in the year.

"Personally, it's very fulfilling to know that the film we created is genuinely connecting with audiences," said Britt, who is currently working on several new scripts and pitches for producers in Los Angeles.

"Professionally, the awards help validate your work in the eyes of the industry and assist with marketing the film once we release it to the general audience," he said.

Britt, a North Carolina native, spent four years as a jet mechanic in the U.S. Air Force before deciding to pursue his passion for storytelling as a film director.  He graduated in 2012 from the UA with a degree in theatre, film and television.

He said he chose the UA because of the reputation of the program and the Hanson Film Institute, and he said his training has prepared him for his career as an independent filmmaker.

"I chose to pursue filmmaking because I've always had a passion for telling stories," Britt said. "When I was younger, I was the guy that would make up characters and worlds, flesh them out and tell my classmates. I am attracted to stories that have something to say about the human experience and the struggles we deal with."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsExtra Info: 

Follow Darious Britt on his YouTube channel, "D4Darious."

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: "Unsound," directed by UA alumnus Darious Britt, has been screened in 18 film festivals across the country. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA-Born Traffic App Launches in Tucson

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 1:12pm

An innovative app that incentivizes commuters to change their driving habits for improved regional traffic has officially hit the streets of Tucson.

Last year, the University of Arizona received a patent for the app created by civil engineering associate professor Yi-Chang Chiu. Chiu founded a startup company, Metropia Inc., and in November licensed the patent from the UA to commercialize the technology.

Metropia also worked with the Arizona Center for Innovation, or AzCI, to advance the business model and has successfully launched the company with help from other supporters within Tucson’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

AzCI is an incubator associated with Tech Parks Arizona, which is part of Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that is dedicated to commercializing inventions born of research.

The company also has released the app in Austin, Texas, and is in discussions to add more cities to its portfolio.

"Finally launching the app to the Tucson community, which has watched our app grow firsthand from that very first Startup Tucson weekend, is a particularly proud moment for myself and my team," Chiu says. "Tucson and the University of Arizona have provided pivotal support. It's been an excellent experience."

In a proactive effort to alleviate congestion in the Tucson metropolitan area and reduce its impact on air quality in the region, Metropia Inc. is partnering with the Pima Association of Governments, or PAG, the region’s metropolitan planning organization.

Research gathered by Metropia will benefit PAG’s travel-reduction program to promote ridesharing. Sun Rideshare, for example, is a regional travel assistance program at PAG. Metropia also intends to collect travel time and speeds for PAG’s Travel Demand Model, which is used for planning future road projects, forecasting pollution levels and ensuring compliance with air-quality regulations.

"Metropia is a prime example of a UA-derived company partnering with the community," says David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona. "The team has put in the hard work, shown great focus and cooperation, and brought all the right people into the process from both inside and outside the University to ensure success."

Metropia’s unique approach, first described in UANews last November, empowers motorists to make decisions that work for their schedules and incentivizes them to save time and earn rewards while reducing the strain on Tucson's roads. Rewards come in the form of points, which can be redeemed at local partnering businesses such as Fed by ThreadsRBar and Ear Effects. Motorists also can choose to exchange points for gift cards at the likes of Target, Amazon and Starbucks. Points even can be exchanged for the planting of trees.

Most navigation apps start working when the user gets into the vehicle, but by then it's often too late. By planning with Metropia, users get a clear picture of what their upcoming commute will look like, as well as updates when crashes and lane closures require an earlier departure or a detour.

The free Metropia app is available for IOS devices at the Apple App Store as well as for Android devices at Google Play.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Paul TumarkinByline Affiliation: Tech Launch ArizonaHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Metropia, the creation of civil engineering professor Yi-Chang Chiu, is designed to alleviate traffic congestion by encouraging motorists to modify their commuting habits.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA Meets Cybersecurity Needs

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 4:46pm

The management information systems department, or MIS, in the UA's Eller College of Management is ranked third among graduate information-systems programs by U.S. News & World Report and boasts a 100 percent placement rate for graduates of its master’s program.

"There’s an incredible need for people with cybersecurity expertise," says Paulo Goes, head of the MIS department and Salter Distinguished Professor of Technology and Management. "The big four consulting firms are all recruiting here."

Demand also is high from students for the master’s degree in MIS. 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.

The UA has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, or NCAEIAE, since 2009 and recently had that designation renewed through 2021.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Business and LawScience and TechnologyYouTube Video:  Eller Cyber Security Video of Eller Cyber Security Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Step inside the cutting-edge management information systems program at the Eller College of Management, which recently received a No. 3 national ranking. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Wednesday, March 18, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

Final Four or Bust: The Journey Begins

Wed, 03/18/2015 - 12:39pm

Nothing like a little pressure from Washington, D.C., for the Arizona Wildcats as they begin play in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The nation's chief bracket-filler, President Barack Obama, predicts that they will reach the promised land of college hoops, the Final Four, for the fifth time and their first since 2001.

The road to that Final Four, to be staged in Indianapolis on April 4 and 6, starts at 11:10 a.m. (Arizona time) Thursday in Portland, Oregon, for the UA. The Wildcats will play Texas Southern, and the game will be telecast by the TNT cable network.

If seedings hold, the tournament path would include subsequent matchups with Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday in Portland and with Baylor and Wisconsin in the West Region semifinals and finals on March 26 and 28 in Los Angeles. Wisconsin kept the Wildcats from reaching last year's Final Four, ending their season with a 64-63 overtime defeat in Anaheim, California.

Annette Tanori, who attended the recent Pac-12 Conference tournament in Las Vegas, won by the UA, said enthusiasm about the team is electric in Phoenix.

"It has been great to watch the team play this year. Our game-viewing events this time of year are wall-to-wall people," said Tanori, president of the EastValleyCats in Phoenix and a 1998 UA graduate who earned a degree in business administration.

"What I love best about our team is how it unifies everyone in Phoenix. It is an amazing opportunity to come together as alumni and fans to watch the team. Plus it's really fun to get to brag to all our ASU friends and co-workers. For Arizona basketball, this is our time of year, and in Phoenix there are a lot of people who are looking for opportunities to come together in a positive and fun-filled way."

Bettye Davis will be watching, as she has all season.

"The team is doing an awesome job of displaying sportsmanship," Davis said. "We have a great team."

Alumni Association chapters around the nation are hosting viewing parties and other events, including those sponsored by the RoseCityCats in Portland, the BeantownCats in Boston, the WindyCityCats in Chicago, the BeachCats in San Diego, the MetroplexCats in Dallas and the UA Alumni Association in Tucson and Phoenix.

"My pride in this team is out of this world," said Brad Rankin, a 2005 UA electrical and computer engineering graduate and a RoseCityCats member.

"Every morning I wake up and think about how grateful I am to be a graduate of the University of Arizona. The Arizona basketball team is a symbol of greatness that our alumni rally around," said Rankin, the chapter's former president.

Cory Erickson, a RoseCityCats member, plans on attending a viewing party Thursday.

"We had a great year and made a nice run at the end of the year to win our first (Pac-12) tournament championship in over 10 years," Erickson said.

"I think our defense and offense have improved tremendously and we are just hitting our stride to make a run to the Final Four. In order to do so, I think we need our bench and big men to continue to play well and beat opposing teams' zone defense — because I think we're going to see it a lot — as well as keep the tenacity on defense."

The Wildcats have 144 victories since the start of the 2010-11 season, the fourth-best total nationally. Also, they have won 30-plus games in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history, and they own four seasons of at least 25 victories under coach Sean Miller.

Erickson has hopes of seeing the Final Four in person this year.

"I've got us winning it all in a rematch with the Zags (Gonzaga)," he said, "and I've been planning a trip to Indy since last year."

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsWhat: Arizona Wildcats vs. Texas Southern TigersWhere: Moda Center at the Rose Quarter, Portland, OregonWhen: 11:10 a.m. ThursdayExtra Info: 

Cannot make it to Portland? Tune in: 

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Also, keep up with the Wildcats and fan events on Twitter via @UAAA, and Facebook.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Wildcat Nation will be watching as the UA opens play in the NCAA men's basketball tournament against Texas Southern in Portland, Oregon. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA to Host Hackathon on Immigration

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 4:57pm

The University of Arizona will host Arizona Migrahack from Friday through Sunday, bringing together computer programmers, Web designers, journalists, nonprofits and community members on the topic of immigration. The free event will be held at the UA Science and Engineering Library, where participants will work on Web-based projects that focus on the U.S.-Mexico border and migration issues in Arizona-Sonora. 

Arizona Migrahack, organized by the Institute for Justice and Journalism, the UA Center for Border & Global Journalism and the UA School of Journalism, will focus on improving public understanding about immigration. Previous Migrahacks have been held in Mexico City and Chicago.

The first day of the weekend event will include training sessions on a variety of production and online technologies, such as mapping, data animation, big-data analysis and interactive graphics. On days two and three, participants will split into teams to produce Web content using online open data. The teams will try to uncover the trends and stories hidden in immigration data.

Teams will pitch their final projects to a team of judges, and winners will receive cash awards. Projects will be shared online.

According to the organizers, the goal of the event is to put aside the heated rhetoric surrounding immigration and drill down to actual data, examining what the numbers show about the impact of immigration and laws such as SB1070 on Arizona and the border.

"Immigration is such an important topic in this region of the country," said Celeste González de Bustamante, associate professor at the UA School of Journalism. "This is an excellent opportunity to look at the open data that are out there and tell stories about migration in ways that improve public knowledge."

Community members are encouraged to participate in the hackathon; technical skills are not required.

Arizona Migrahack also is sponsored by the Border Journalism Network; the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; the UA Department of Mexican American Studies; and the UA Office of Student Engagement. Partners are UA Libraries, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Southwest Center, the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and the Graduate Program in Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Arizona Migrahack hopes that data analysis will reveal the impact of laws such as SB1070 on the state and the border.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

Why Pi? It's a History Lesson All Its Own

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 3:51pm

From the wheels that get you from Point A to Point B, to the GPS system that helps you find your way, there is a single number that makes these and countless other innovations possible.

Pi, an irrational number typically approximated as 3.14159, has proved itself as both a captivator of the imagination and an irreplaceably practical part of everyday life.

Last Saturday saw the observance of Super Pi Day, a once-in-a-century event on which the date (3/14/15) most closely corresponds to the mathematical representation of pi. Attendees at the Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus celebrated the occasion with the Science of Pi, a brand-new addition to Science City that featured a number of activities and demonstrations designed to showcase the importance of the vaunted number.

At the Science of Pi tent, visitors used pi to design their own bouncy balls, created colorful visual representations of pi, and participated in a Buffon's Needle experiment. In the experiment, participants tossed toothpicks across a board with parallel lines. At the end of the day, the ratio of the number of sticks thrown to the number of sticks that crossed the lines was approximately 3.14, or pi.

Science of Pi volunteers also hosted a pi digit recitation contest — which took place at 3:14 p.m., of course. Austin Troike, the contest winner, accurately recited 171 digits of pi from memory.

Science City's Science Café lecture series featured Rebecca Klemm, a statistician and renowned STEM educator known popularly as the "Numbers Lady." Her talk, "The Intriguing Story of Pi," attracted audience members young and old as she explained the long history and countless uses of pi alongside a giant stuffed pi doll. On campuses elsewhere, five-kilometer (3.1-mile) races were part of the fun, some of them billed as "The Pi Mile," starting at 9:26 a.m. (for 3.1415926) and serving pie afterward.

What is it about pi that calls for such a celebration? Put simply, pi is one of the oldest and most widely used mathematical constants known to mankind.

Nearly 4,000 years ago, ancient Babylonians and Egyptians made the observation that the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter (C/d) was the same constant for every circle. While early estimations of this constant were inaccurate, the Babylonians and Egyptians were among the first to show that pi could be used to calculate the area of a circle.

More accurate calculations of pi came from the famous Greek philosopher Archimedes in the 200s B.C. and the Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi in the fifth century. Mathematicians worldwide continued to delve more deeply into the meaning of pi for the next several centuries.

In the early 1700s, mathematicians William Jones and Leonhard Euler popularized the use of the Greek letter to represent the mysterious constant. In 1767, mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert was the first to realize that pi was irrational, meaning that it is not a terminating or repeating sequence of digits.

Not only did Lambert help to illuminate the nature of pi as we know it today, he also ensured that pi digit memorizers would always have their work cut out for them.

However, modern applications of pi extend far beyond Pi Day contests and calculating the area of circles in middle-school math class. Pi is fundamental to every science and engineering discipline in existence today.

Mechanical engineers use pi to design and build aircraft, cars and other heavy machinery. Pi is used in signal processing, which provides the basis for radio, telephones and TV. Statisticians use pi to make sense of large data sets of all kinds. And computer engineers frequently employ pi to write the programs behind the digital devices we all know and love.

Amazingly, pi also is readily found in the natural world. Pi can be used to accurately describe the geometry of the DNA double helix, found in every living being on the planet. Pi has helped astronomers accurately determine the shape of — and distances between — stars, planets and other celestial bodies. The behavior of naturally occurring waves, such as those of light or sound, can be predicted using pi. Using pi to study the shape of the eye has been invaluable in the fields of optometry and ophthalmology. Finally, pi is found in the shapes of rivers and the way they wind across a landscape.

The discovery of pi represents a monumental achievement in human history, and this year's Super Pi Day festivities provided festival participants with the perfect way to celebrate.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Raymond Sanchez, NASA Space Grant InternByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Last weekend marked a celebration of Super Pi Day, the single date per century that most closely resembles the legendary mathematical constant.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

The UA's Doctor of the Dance

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 5:56pm

St. Patrick's Day is here, and that means it has been a busy season for Dr. Rosemary Browne, an associate professor in the UA College of Medicine.

In addition to practicing and teaching medicine, Browne also is an Irish dance instructor, and her students are in high demand at this time of the year.

Browne co-directs the Tir Conaill Academy of Irish Dance, which provides lessons for dancers of all ages, who perform and compete locally, nationally and internationally. March is a busy month for the school, and several of Browne's students performed at the Tucson Festival of Books on Saturday and at the Tucson St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival downtown on Sunday.

Browne's passion for Irish dance began when she was just 4 years old, living in Connecticut. Her parents, who came to the United States from Ireland, enrolled all five of their children in Irish dance classes to help keep them connected with their heritage.

Browne says she fell in love with Irish dance from her very first lesson, and in the years that followed she performed and competed on stages around the nation and world, including Carnegie Hall in New York City when she was a teenager.

Although she took a break from dance to pursue her medical education at the University of Connecticut, she later came back to it and eventually became a dance instructor. She says dancing gives her an opportunity to use a different side of her brain than the one she uses in her medical career.

"It's great fun, it's great exercise and it's a great way to connect with my Irish heritage," says Browne, who serves as medical director for home-based primary care at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System, in addition to teaching medical students and residents as part of the UA College of Medicine.

When Browne moved to Tucson from Connecticut in 1992 with her three children, she worried that there might not be many Irish dance opportunities in the desert. However, she was pleased to discover a vibrant Irish community in Tucson and quickly became involved, taking part in dancing and also organizing local events centered on Irish culture.

"I love everything Irish. I identify with it very much, so I was very happy to find a wonderful Irish community here in Tucson," she says.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Arts and HumanitiesYouTube Video:  Doctor of the Dance Video of Doctor of the Dance Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: St. Patrick's Day is a very big occasion for Dr. Rosemary Browne, who teaches Irish dance on the side as co-director of the Tir Conail Academy of Irish Dance in Tucson. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, March 16, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

There's No Parting This Red Sea

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 3:34pm

In case you hadn’t heard, Las Vegas became Wildcat Country last weekend.

One thing that helped separate the Arizona men's basketball team from the rest of its competition was the dedication of fans who bleed red and blue, some of whom traveled great distances to support the Wildcats at the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.

"We're excited and proud to be the champions not only in the regular season but the tournament, and our fans had a lot to do with it," head coach Sean Miller said in his opening statement to the media after the Wildcats' 80-52 rout of the Oregon Ducks had sealed the first Pac-12 tournament title in his tenure at the UA — and Arizona's first since 2002. 

"We have one of the great home courts in the country, and they made Vegas our home court here for three days," Miller said. "So they have a part in this as well."

It was a sea of red for as far as the eye could see at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. "U-OF-A" chants constantly erupted from the crowd as Arizona dispatched California, UCLA and Oregon in succession, moving on to the NCAA Tournament and an opening game Thursday against Texas Southern in Portland, Oregon. The Wildcats are seeded No. 2 in the West Region and could face No. 1 seed Wisconsin in a rematch of last year's memorable regional final, with a Final Four berth on the line.

The crowd in Las Vegas felt like home to junior guard Gabe York.

"It’s pretty much like we’re at McKale, it just might be a little bit louder," York said. 

"Our crowd can be intimidating for an opponent," senior point guard T.J. McConnell added. "When we go on runs, the crowd is just so energetic and we get fired up. I've said this day-in and day-out, our fans are the best in the country. It's not even close, and they kind of showed why this weekend."

Amid the sold-out crowd were recognizable members of the Zona Zoo, including the Front Row Crew. Former head coach Lute Olson was on hand, as were former Wildcats Nick Johnson and Jason Terry, now members of the NBA's Houston Rockets.

"Coach Olson's involved in really everything we do, and he comes to every game," Miller said. "His support is felt not just from me but from these guys. Everybody recognizes what he and his coaching staff did many, many years ago. Part of why we had the turnout here today, and why we have the home court that we have, is because of his efforts. So him being able to share in those efforts is spectacular and something that I think makes us feel good." 

Last year, in his final season at the UA, Nick Johnson led the Wildcats to the Pac-12 finals, where they lost to UCLA. This year, he returned to watch and support. 

"I had the day off, so I got the chance to come check out a game," he said.  "I’ve been trying to (find time) all season (and) we’re in L.A. this weekend playing the Clippers, and I guess it was luck that all of the scheduling worked out." 

The UA players say the fan following gives them the ability to play with more confidence, especially when the team finds itself struggling.

"It was our sixth man," freshman Stanley Johnson said in the locker room Friday night after Arizona’s 70-64 win over UCLA, referring to a crowd made up predominantly of Wildcat supporters. Arizona trailed 47-40 midway through the second half before mounting a comeback with a 15-0 run. 

"We're down seven, we just missed a shot, they have the ball, and our fans still stand up and start making some noise and cheering, saying, 'Let's go, let's go' — that's like an extension of the bench off the court," Stanley Johnson said. "For us, it was amazing to have the fans here. They gave us life and we thank them." 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Evan RosenfeldByline: Evan Rosenfeld Byline Affiliation: UA News Student AssociateHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Solid support from fans, including former Wildcats Nick Johnson and Jason Terry, helped carry the UA men's basketball team to the Pac-12 Conference Tournament championship in Las Vegas and a No. 2 seed in this week's NCAA Tournament. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

NCAA Bear Down With Pride

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 1:49pm

Let’s continue to cheer and celebrate the success of our amazing Wildcats!  Celebrate responsibly and Bear Down With Pride!

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Campus NewsSportsYouTube Video:  NCAA Bear Down Safely Video of NCAA Bear Down Safely Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Let’s continue to cheer and celebrate the success of our amazing Wildcats! Celebrate responsibly and Bear Down With Pride!UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, March 16, 2015Send to Never Settle Site: 0Includes video: The story include video

UA Scientists Fly Kites on Earth to Study Mars

Sat, 03/14/2015 - 5:24pm

Scientists of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory have taken to kites that they fly above lava flows blanketing the Hawaiian landscape to unravel the past mysteries that shaped Mars.

A kite, equipped with off-the-shelf instruments such as a camera, a GPS, and orientation sensors, scans the terrain from high above. The team then employs parallel computing and powerful software algorithms to assemble tens of thousands of images into extremely detailed and accurate 3D digital terrain models.

In terms of studying volcanic landscapes, the project is unprecedented in its scope and in the quality of the data it produces, with a spatial resolution of approximately half an inch per pixel, according to the researchers. They will present their results and methodology at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, which is held March 16–20 in The Woodlands, Texas.

The insights gained from these terrain models are used to inform interpretations of images of the surface of Mars, taken with the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been examining Mars with six instruments since 2006. Led by the UA, HiRISE stands for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and has revealed never-before seen details of the Martian surface.

"The idea is to understand places we can't go by analyzing places we can go," said Christopher Hamilton, the principal investigator of the research team, who joined LPL in 2014 to establish a terrestrial analog research group. Hamilton studies volcanic surfaces on Mars to understand the thermal history of the red planet, in other words, how the planet's internal processes manifest on the surface.

"We can use geologically young and vegetation-free surface features here on Earth – such as Hawaiian lava flows – as terrestrial analogs that can provide us with insights into processes that shape other planets," he added. "Instead of just saying, 'this feature looks like X,' we try to develop diagnostics that help us recognize the actual processes that led to the formation of a certain feature."

Hamilton's team chose Kilauea Volcano on the Island of Hawaii as their study area, a "chemical desert" with several geologically very young lava flows, in particular the December 1974 flow, which poured out of the volcano on New Year's Eve 1974 in a short-lived eruption, which is currently accessible by foot.

When the researchers compared to images of the Martian surface taken by HiRISE, striking similarities appear.

"We think this is how the big lava flows formed on Mars, which strongly suggests they may not be what they seem," Hamilton said. For example, many features that have been interpreted as channels carved by running water in the red planet's past are more likely to be the result of volcanic process that Hamilton describes as a "fill-and-spill" lava emplacement, which developed when lava accumulated in enormous "perched ponds" that breached like an overtopped dam, giving way to catastrophic floods of lava.

"It is easy to draw conclusions based on our intuition of how water flows," Hamilton said, "so it is tempting to interpret similar features on Mars in the same way. But in fact these features formed by flowing lava, not water."

Pointing to the terrain model of the December 1974 flow, Hamilton said, "We see that in certain areas, the surface is broken up into plates and what superficially looks like channels carved by running water. However, these turn out to be not carved at all, but rather are the result of a complex pattern of lava movements within the flow."

Hamilton explained that first, liquid lava filled the area between the cliffs from older lava lows like a big bathtub, and when the perched lava pond breached, the lava surged forward causing plates of cooled lava on the surface to break apart and fresh lava to well up from underneath. As the plates were floating toward the drain, they became crumpled.

The digital terrain models even revealed a "bathtub ring" formed when lava filled the pool.

"The question that drives us is, 'how can we assemble this kind of data for Mars landscapes and decide whether a feature is volcanic or fluvial – shaped by water – and allow us to develop a story?'" Hamilton said, "A single surface texture doesn't tell you anything if you can't see the way in which the building blocks combine, such as the tiles that make up the pattern of a mosaic. The relationships between textures allow you where to look and what to look for." 

Stephen Scheidt, a postdoctoral fellow at LPL who studies dune-building processes, designed and built the terrain-mapping kite system that was used for the project in Hawaii. To acquire the images, he launched a robotic camera attached to a delta-wing kite with an 11-foot-wingspan into the wind and steered it by skillfully tugging on its tethering line. This involved spending days crisscrossing jagged lava formations on foot, trying not to be dragged around by the kite, all the while watching carefully to avoid toxic fumes wafting down from the volcanic vent.

"The kite is pretty stable in the air, and depending on the wind swings from side to side only by five to ten degrees or so," Scheidt explained. "That small motion gives us enough parallax, or difference in viewing angle, to allow the software to calculate a three-dimensional terrain model."

Although the technique, called Multi-View Stereo-Photogrammetry, produces images that appear like aerial photographs taken from an airplane, they are not actually photographs, they are image mosaics projected onto digital terrain models, Hamilton explained.

"The kite takes an image every two seconds, producing up to tens of thousands of photos of a site," Scheidt said. "The software then removes any distortion, and stitches those images together to create a virtual representation of the terrain that you would never have otherwise."

This process, called orthorectification, uses massive computing power and still takes weeks to render a terrain model. The end result boasts a resolution high enough to clearly show footprints in the sand blanketing the lava flow.

"Our approach shows how the combination of ground-based observations and an aerial perspective can help us to decipher the geologic history of Earth and Mars," Hamilton said. 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: An unconventional research method allows for a new look at geologic features on Earth, revealing that some of the things we see on Mars and other planets may not be what they seem.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

New Clues from the Dawn of the Solar System

Sat, 03/14/2015 - 4:33pm

A research group in the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has found evidence in meteorites that hint at the discovery of a previously unknown region within the swirling disk of dust and gas known as the protoplanetary disk – which gave rise to the planets in our solar system.

Led by Kelly Miller, a doctoral student in the lab of Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, the team has found evidence of minerals within meteorites that formed in an environment that was enhanced in oxygen and sulfur and date from a time before the particles stuck together, or "accreted," to form larger bodies such as asteroids and planets. 

Miller will present the data at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, which is held March 16–20 in The Woodlands, Texas. The results are in preparation for publication in a journal, but have not been peer-reviewed yet. 

The elements that later went on to constitute the major ingredients in life on Earth – such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen – originated as volatile gases in the protoplanetary disk when the solar system was less than 10 million years old, Miller said.

"If we want to understand how those elements contributed to life, we have to understand where they occurred at the time the solar system formed," she said.

Miller and her team study meteorites called chondrites, which are thought to be the most primitive leftovers from the birth and infancy of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.  They derive their name from their main component – chondrules, which formed as molten droplets floating in space.

"We think that chondrites represent the earliest building blocks of rocky planets such as Earth, Mars or Venus," Miller said.

Specifically, Miller and her co-workers studied sections about half as thin as a human hair that were cut from R chondrites, a rare type of meteorite so named after the location where the type specimen fell: Rumuruti in Kenya. R chondrites are thought to have formed somewhere between Earth and Jupiter. In one specimen, found in Antarctica, they discovered a new type of building block called sulfide chondrules. The samples were obtained from the U.S. collection of Antarctic meteorites – a cooperative effort among NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Smithsonian Institution.

"Generally, chondrules are made up of minerals rich in silicon, but the chondrules we found in this meteorite are completely different in that they are composed of sulfide minerals," she explained. "This suggests that they formed in a region that was rich in sulfur, and provides evidence for a previously unknown type of environment in the early solar system."

"Our discovery of the sulfide chondrules will help us put a quantifiable number on how much sulfide was enhanced in that region of the protoplanetary disk," Miller added.

Obtaining a better understanding of the distribution of gases in the early solar system has been identified by the Planetary Science Decadal Survey as a primary objective for the study of primitive bodies. Published by the National Research Council for NASA and other government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the document identifies key questions in planetary science and outlines plans for space- and ground-based exploration ten years into the future.

"What is exciting about this sample is that it has not been heated to high temperatures and thereby altered in its composition," Miller said. "We know it's a fragment of a larger asteroid, and some of that asteroid heated up to higher temperatures, erasing the signature of the original building blocks of the asteroid, but our piece retains the original building blocks."

"These sulfide chondrules help us pin down when and where that sulfur enhancement occurred and help us better understand the process," she added.

To learn more about the early stages of the solar system including the origin of the building blocks of life and water, the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission is getting ready to launch a robotic spacecraft to asteroid Bennu in 2016 and bring a sample of at least 60 grams of pristine material back to Earth for study. The mission will provide ample amounts of sample material and, most importantly, from a known context.

"Unlike with meteorites that came to us serendipitously and we're lacking the context of where the material formed, with OSIRIS-REx we will know exactly where that piece came from, and we will know the travel history of Bennu – where it has been in the past," Miller said.

To learn more about Bennu's past and the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission, visit the OSIRIS-REx Website and watch the short documentary, "History of Bennu." 

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Daniel StolteByline: Daniel StolteByline Affiliation: University Relations – CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Sulfide chondrules, a new type of building blocks discovered in meteorites left over from the solar system's infancy, provide evidence for a previously unknown region in the protoplanetary disk that gave rise to the planets including Earth. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA Research goes from Idea to Patent to Market

Fri, 03/13/2015 - 1:45pm

UA startup company GlycoSurf has finalized an exclusive license agreement for a new chemical synthesis technology, which was created at the University of Arizona. 

Prominent UA researchers Jeanne E. Pemberton and Robin Polt, both with the UA College of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, along with Raina M. Maier of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, and UA researcher Cliff Coss, originally developed the technology through the course of their research at the University, and it is now poised to enter the marketplace. Pemberton, Polt and Maier also are members of the UA's BIO5 Institute

The technology involves a unique chemical synthesis of families of environmentally-friendly surfactants - also known as biosurfactants - which are non-toxic and biodegradable and used as "green" replacements for petroleum-based surfactants. Surfactants and biosurfactants are used in numerous industries including cosmetics and personal care products, as well as in environmental applications such as oil spill cleanups. 

In addition to signing the exclusive license for the technology, GlycoSurf has hired Chett Boxley, Ph.D., MBA, as its CEO to lead the company forward. 

"Initially, we're going to focus on the cosmeceutical space," Boxley says. "That includes products like anti-aging creams and sunscreens."

Biosurfactants produced today are generally labor-intensive, very expensive, and low in purity, according to the GlycoSurf team. 

"We produce sugar-based, bio-inspired surfactants, which are more than 95 percent pure (often 99 percent pure), yet our process is significantly more cost-effective and scalable for large production volumes than current methods," he says.

The GlycoSurf team worked with the UA's Tech Launch Arizona to bring their product to market. TLA is dedicated to creating social and economic impact by bringing the inventions of UA researchers, students and scientists from the laboratory to the market. 

Beginning in 2013, the GlycoSurf researchers worked with TLA's technology transfer team on the disclosure and patenting of their invention. From there, the product strategy was developed using proof-of-concept funding to prepare the early-stage technology for market. Most recently, TLA has also provided business intelligence to GlycoSurf to help further hone the company's strategy.

Finally, GlycoSurf needed a lab for its 7-foot reactor to test and prove its manufacturing process. For that, the team brought their operations to the UA Tech Park, operated by Tech Parks Arizona, also a unit of TLA. There, they set up a space where they were not only able to use the UA Tech Park's customized laboratory space to develop their manufacturing process, but also take advantage of services at Arizona Center for Innovation, an incubator located at the UA Tech Park, to help develop their business strategy even further. The company has since graduated from the incubator program. 

GlycoSurf researcher and founder Pemberton's enthusiasm for the venture and for TLA is palpable: "Given the worldwide push for greener alternatives for the broad surfactant market, we are truly excited by the commercial potential of our platform technology for producing glycolipid surfactants. Although it probably goes without saying, TLA has been instrumental in helping us move this technology forward toward commercialization. They're a tremendous resource at the UA. We wouldn't be as far along as we are if it hadn't been for their help."

"GlycoSurf is a compelling new company with a strong team that will be commercializing an exciting technology," says David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona. "It has been a wonderful experience for TLA people and resources to work with this team and it is a shining example of value TLA provides to technologies created by UA's outstanding researchers."

In 2008, the world produced 13 million tons of surfactants. A recent research study indicates that by 2018, the global market is expected to generate revenues of more than $41 billion, then continue to grow by 4.5 percent each year. Biosurfactants represent a huge growth opportunity within the larger surfactants market, and GlycoSurf is poised to capitalize on this opportunity with the help of the UA and TLA.

Editor: Daniel StolteWriter: Paul TumarkinByline: Paul TumarkinByline Affiliation: Tech Launch ArizonaHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: GlycoSurf specializes in environmentally-friendly surfactants - also known as biosurfactants - which are non-toxic and biodegradeable and used as "green" replacements for petroleum-based surfactants.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 

UA Researchers Unlock the Mysteries of Wound Healing

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 11:51pm

Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered what causes and regulates collective cell migration, one of the most universal but least understood biological processes in all living organisms.

The findings, published in Nature Communications, shed light on the mechanisms of cell migration, particularly in the wound-healing process. The results represent a major advancement for regenerative medicine, in which biomedical engineers and other researchers manipulate cells’ form and function to create new tissues, and even organs, to repair, restore or replace those damaged by injury or disease.

"The results significantly increase our understanding of how tissue regeneration is regulated and advance our ability to guide these processes," said Pak Kin Wong, associate professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in the UA College of Engineering and lead investigator of the research.

"In recent years, researchers have gained a better understanding of the molecular machinery of cell migration, but not what directs it to happen in the first place," he said. "What, exactly, is orchestrating this system common to all living organisms?"

Leaders of the Pack

The answer, it turns out, involves delicate interactions between biomechanical stress, or force, which living cells exert on one another, and biochemical signaling.

The UA researchers discovered that when mechanical force disappears – for example at a wound site where cells have been destroyed, leaving empty, cell-free space – a protein molecule, known as DII4, coordinates nearby cells to migrate to a wound site and collectively cover it with new tissue. What's more, they found, this process causes identical cells to specialize into leader and follower cells. Researchers had previously assumed leader cells formed randomly.

Wong's team observed that when cells collectively migrate toward a wound, leader cells expressing a form of messenger RNA, or mRNA, genetic code specific to the DII4 protein emerge at the front of the pack, or migrating tip. The leader cells, in turn, send signals to follower cells, which do not express the genetic messenger. This elaborate autoregulatory system remains activated until new tissue has covered a wound.

The same migration processes for wound healing and tissue development also apply to cancer spreading, the researchers noted. The combination of mechanical force and genetic signaling stimulates cancer cells to collectively migrate and invade healthy tissue.

Biologists have known of the existence of leader cells and the DII4 protein for some years and have suspected they might be important in collective cell migration. But precisely how leader cells formed, what controlled their behavior, and their genetic makeup were all mysteries – until now.

Broad Medical Applications

"Knowing the genetic makeup of leader cells and understanding their formation and behavior gives us the ability to alter cell migration," Wong said.

With this new knowledge, researchers can re-create, at the cellular and molecular levels, the chain of events that brings about the formation of human tissue. Bioengineers now have the information they need to direct normal cells to heal damaged tissue, or prevent cancer cells from invading healthy tissue.

The UA team's findings have major implications for people with a variety of diseases and conditions.  For example, the discoveries may lead to better treatments for non-healing diabetic wounds, the No. 1 cause of lower limb amputations in the United States; for plaque buildup in arteries, a major cause of heart disease; and for slowing or even stopping the spread of cancer, which is what makes it so deadly.

The research also has the potential to speed up development of bioengineered tissues and organs that can be successfully transplanted in humans.

About the Study

In the UA Systematic Bioengineering Laboratory, which Wong directs, researchers used a combination of single-cell gene expression analysis, computational modeling and time-lapse microscopy to track leader cell formation and behavior in vitro in human breast cancer cells and in vivo in mice epithelial cells under a confocal microscope. 

Their work included manipulating leader cells through pharmacological, laser and other means to see how they would react.

"Amazingly, when we directed a laser at individual leader cells and destroyed them, new ones quickly emerged at the migrating tip to take their place," said Wong, who likened the mysteries of cell migration and leader cell formation to the processes in nature that cause geese to fly in V-formation or ants to build a colony.

Wong and his co-authors, UA College of Pharmacy professor Donna Zhang and four current and former UA Engineering graduate students, reported their findings in the Nature Communications article "Notch1-DII4 Signalling and Mechanical Force Regulate Leader Cell Formation During Collective Cell Migration." The study was supported by a $1.5-million National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Award and funding from the National Cancer Institute. Wong and Zhang are both members of the UA's BIO5 Institute.

Editor: Daniel StolteWriter: Jill GoetzByline: Jill GoetzByline Affiliation: College of EngineeringHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A multidisciplinary research team discovers how cells know to rush to a wound and heal it – opening the door to new treatments for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: Includes video: 


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