The University of Arizona

Campus News

Subscribe to Campus News feed
Updated: 1 hour 39 min ago

UA Engineering Turns Smartphones Into Eye-Screening Tools

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 16:37

University of Arizona researchers are developing technology that converts smartphones into powerful eye-examining instruments that could prevent millions of people from going blind.

Wolfgang Fink, professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, is principal investigator of a new project funded by the National Science Foundation Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program to create "smart ophthalmoscopes," specialized instruments for examining various parts of the eye’s interior. The devices, which can be attached to any smartphone, and accompanying software will enable health care providers, particularly in remote areas, to quickly and easily determine if patients are at risk of losing their vision. 

The need is great. The World Health Organization has estimated that of the 285 million people worldwide who are visually impaired, 39 million are blind. Tragically, nearly 80 percent of this blindness is caused by treatable conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Available treatments can slow and even stop the progression of vision loss when these conditions are caught early enough. 

But for those in remote areas — rural populations, boat crews and military service personnel, for example — eye exams are not readily available, and patients who do reach medical centers often arrive too late. 

Equal-Opportunity Screening

"Our hand-held ophthalmoscopes will permit eye exams in places they would otherwise be impossible," said Fink, the Edward and Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair and director of the UA Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Lab. "These are not passive recording instruments but investigational tools with sophisticated data-processing and analytical capabilities." 

Fink said they would be comparable to typical eye-exam equipment used in an eye doctor’s office, yet they would be affordable, highly portable and mobile, and easy to use.

"All that’s needed is a person on a bicycle with a smart ophthalmoscope," he said. "They can visit and examine clients of any age, in any language — anywhere, anytime. No trucks, heavy equipment or extensive training required. I believe this portable vision-screening capability will revolutionize the availability and economy of rural health care, and the field of ophthalmology at large."

Here’s how it works: The user (who might be a health care provider, aid worker, nurse, paramedic or caregiver) attaches the ophthalmoscope to a smartphone, points it at the eye and takes a picture. Taking advantage of the smartphone’s ability to take high-resolution pictures, the ophthalmoscope captures detailed images of the interior segments and surfaces of the patient’s eye, with no need for dilating eye drops, chin rests or other gear typically used for an eye exam.

Next, the user runs a custom app on the smartphone that relays these images to a remote "expert system" — which uses intelligent software to suggest diagnoses much like a human medical expert — for processing and analysis. In seconds, the results are relayed back to the user and displayed on the smartphone’s screen.

A single health care provider could conduct as many as 100 initial assessments in one day and immediately put patients on the fast track to accurate diagnosis and treatment for potentially vision-robbing ailments.

Fink stressed that smart ophthalmoscopes are no substitute for examinations and diagnoses by a trained eye specialist. However, in the absence of a trained specialist, he said, people in the field can make initial assessments, such as suspicion of cataracts or glaucoma, and refer patients for follow-up.

Engineering Vision

The National Science Foundation has awarded $800,000 for this three-year research project. The trans-disciplinary research study has three main parts to be tackled in parallel:

•  In collaboration with an optical engineering design firm, Fink is designing and building prototype smartphone attachments that soon will be tested on patients in the UA College of Medicine, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Miller, the project’s co-investigator and head of the department of ophthalmology and vision science.

•  Senior research scientist Mark Tarbell and Fink will create a framework for a central expert system that can extract, process and analyze the data from smartphones and relay information back to the smartphones.

•  Fink and Tarbell will implement image analysis algorithms to provide medical reports that will help ophthalmologists and other eye-care specialists make diagnoses and recommendations for patients.

In 2012, Fink was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He holds more than a dozen issued patents and several pending patent applications — many for vision-related products, some of which constitute the background intellectual property for this project. 

Fink has brought several partners on board for the new NSF project. They include Breault Research Organization, an optical engineering design firm; the Center for Military Medicine Research at the University of Pittsburgh; Tech Launch Arizona; and Caltech, where he holds an appointment as visiting associate in physics.

The Vanguard of Telemedicine

Fink is a pioneer of teleophthalmology, a fast-growing branch of telemedicine that merges mobile technology and medical services. Smartphones already are being used to monitor blood pressure, blood glucose levels and heart rate. Soon they may be widely used to assess eye health not only on Earth but also on long-duration space missions and even on the International Space Station. Fink has made presentations to NASA proposing his visual field test for use on the station. 

Fink’s work in telemedicine recently led to an invitation to participate in a panel, Telemedicine Pioneers, at the Western Pennsylvania Healthcare Summit outside Pittsburgh and to present at an invitation-only MIT-NSF workshop, Smarter Service Systems, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Biomedical engineering major Jerri-Lynn Kincade is participating in the UA research project for her senior design project.

"Dr. Fink has had a huge impact in helping me pursue my career goal of applying biomedical engineering to improve people’s lives," said Kincade, a Black Alumni Scholar and vice president of the UA chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, which Fink advises. "I’m getting valuable hands-on experience. Not only am I learning about the functional requirements for developing a biomedical device, I am also learning about software and hardware development and different systems processes."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Jill GoetzByline Affiliation: UA College of EngineeringHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Professor Wolfgang Fink, whose innovations have helped restore partial sight to the blind, takes on a new challenge: creating telemedical devices that can prevent blindness. Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

The problem with prostate screening

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 13:03
Date of Publication: Tuesday, November 25, 2014 Organization : The New York TimesCategory(s): HealthOther Story Image: Short Summary: Richard J. Ablin, a professor of pathology at the UA College of Medicine, worries that the public trust regarding prostate cancer is now at risk.Include in Olympic coverage: noFeature on olympic page: noMedium Summary: Richard J. Ablin, a professor of pathology at the UA College of Medicine, worries that the public trust regarding prostate cancer is now at risk.

'Dynamic Earth' Goes Inside the Weather Machine

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 13:26

Set to premiere the day after Thanksgiving, "Dynamic Earth," a new FullDome show at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium, will take audiences inside the hidden machinery that shapes the earth's climate.

With visualizations based on satellite monitoring data and advanced supercomputer simulations, the production follows a trail of energy that flows from the sun into the interlocking systems that create our climate: the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere. Actor Liam Neeson narrates the award-winning show.

"You’ll float around the planet on swirling ocean and wind currents, plunge into the heart of a monster hurricane, dive underwater to swim with sharks and gigantic whales, and swoop into roiling volcanoes — it's a wild ride and fascinating science all in one great show," said Bill Plant, Flandrau's exhibits director. "And soon you begin to understand the incredible combination of natural systems that make life on Earth possible."

The Flandrau FullDome is a state-of-the-art digital projection system that covers the entire planetarium dome with high-resolution imagery. It uses two ultra-high-resolution digital projectors driven by powerful computers that digitally "stitch" the images together to deliver crisp, detailed pictures that cover the planetarium dome and surround the audience.

A leap beyond old projection systems, the Flandrau FullDome software makes it possible to "fly through" real three-dimensional scientific data. Installed at Flandrau during the summer, the system captivates visitors as they tour the Earth, the universe, the human body and virtually any other part of the natural world as never before.


Dynamic Earth Trailer from Spitz Inc on Vimeo.


"Dynamic Earth" explores concepts and terms essential to understanding the climate — for example, the relationship of Earth and sun. The Earth is close enough to the sun to bask in its warmth, yet able to ward off the solar wind thanks to its magnetic field. The solar wind would otherwise make life impossible and strip away the atmosphere. A comparison with our sister planet, Venus, shows just how unique Earth is in its ability to regulate atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures.

Audiences will learn about plate tectonics and its role in the carbon cycle. Volcanoes produce carbon dioxide, and they occur along the boundaries of tectonic plates, yet carbon dioxide emissions from human activities now outpace volcanoes 200-fold. Traveling into the microscopic world of plankton, the show explains how Earth's climate-control system depends on the ability of living organisms to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it long term. Providing a scientific perspective on climate, the program fills in major gaps in the public's understanding of climate change by placing it in a broader context of the systems that shape Earth's climate.

"Dynamic Earth" is the result of a two-year collaboration among Spitz Creative Media, the Advanced Visualization Lab at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio and Thomas Lucas Productions Inc. The 24-minute show was produced in association with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and NASA Earth Science.

Along with "Dynamic Earth," Flandrau's annual family show, "Seasons of Light," will debut as an updated FullDome production. The holiday classic explores the science of the seasons and traces the many festivals of light, across times and cultures, that celebrate the spirit of renewal around the winter solstice. The show illuminates the history of our own Christmas stories, songs and traditions.

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

Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium is open to the public and school groups Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday for Family Night from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Dynamic Earth" showtimes: 4 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Season of Light" showtimes: 7 p.m. Thursday for Family Night, 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Additional times starting Dec. 12: 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Header image: YesNo Image: Subheading: In time for the holidays, a new Flandrau FullDome show hits the screen at the UA's science center and planetarium. "Dynamic Earth" takes viewers on a wild ride from Earth-orbiting satellites to submarines, revealing the hidden machinery that drives the Earth's climate. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Researchers connect insomnia, higher death risk

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 16:03
Date of Publication: Monday, November 24, 2014 Organization : Medical XpressCategory(s): HealthOther Story Image: Short Summary: Data from a long-running UA respiratory study shows that chronic insomnia was associated with higher levels of inflammation in the blood and an increase in risk of death. Include in Olympic coverage: noFeature on olympic page: noMedium Summary: Data from a long-running UA respiratory study shows that chronic insomnia was associated with higher levels of inflammation in the blood and an increase in risk of death.

Researchers find ASU-UA most intense football rivalry

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 15:59
Date of Publication: Monday, November 24, 2014 Organization : The Arizona RepublicCategory(s): SportsOther Story Image: Short Summary: Arizona and Arizona State fans have always claimed that the Territorial Cup is the most intense rivalry in major-college football, and now a study backs them up.Include in Olympic coverage: noFeature on olympic page: noMedium Summary: Arizona and Arizona State fans have always claimed that the Territorial Cup is the most intense rivalry in major-college football, and now a study backs them up.

Delimitations: Rethinking the U.S.-Mexican border

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 15:53
Date of Publication: Thursday, November 20, 2014 Organization : TimeCategory(s): Arts and HumanitiesOther Story Image: Short Summary: David Taylor, a multimedia artist and professor at the UA, and Mexican visual artist Marcos Ramirez set out to mark the U.S.-Mexico border in a multidisciplinary project.Include in Olympic coverage: noFeature on olympic page: noMedium Summary: David Taylor, a multimedia artist and professor at the UA, and Mexican visual artist Marcos Ramirez set out to mark the U.S.-Mexico border in a multidisciplinary project.

Help Beat Alzheimer's With the Click of a Mouse

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:07

If you've got 10 minutes and an Internet connection, you may be able to help researchers answer pressing questions about Alzheimer's disease. 

As many as 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, and while scientists are learning more about the disease every day, its exact cause remains unknown.

Researchers, including two neuropsychologists from the University of Arizona, are now leveraging the power of the Internet to collect information they hope will help them to better understand the human memory and possible risk factors for Alzheimer's.

The ambitious project, called MindCrowd, aims in its first phase to engage an unprecedented 1 million people across the globe in online memory testing. Anyone can take the test, which takes about 10 minutes to complete on the MindCrowd website.

Those who meet certain criteria in the first phase of testing may later be invited to participate in the project's second phase, which will include additional online memory tests, as well as genetic testing of participants' saliva.

Researchers ultimately hope to be able to identify genetic markers that are linked to learning and memory, which could be a major step toward understanding and treating Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

A global reach

MindCrowd is a collaborative effort among the Translational Genomics Institute in Phoenix (also known as TGen), the UA and the Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative.

Professors Elizabeth Glisky, head of the UA psychology department, and Lee Ryan, associate head of the UA psychology department and associate director of the UA's Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, developed the online test.

More than 50,000 people have taken the test as of this month, which is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.

"We're pretty excited about this. We don’t know of anybody else who's done anything like this or been able to get this many people participating in a research study," said Glisky, also a member of the UA's Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

The MindCrowd website was created with the average Internet user in mind. Anyone can take the test from the comfort of home, and they will instantly see their results and how they stack up against others.

"We designed our study site from a marketing and user experience perspective, very much as if we were a business asking our customers to 'do something,' instead of designing it to look and feel like what it really is, a scientific study run by scientists who work in academia," said MindCrowd principal investigator Matt Huentelman, an associate professor in TGen's Neurogenomics Division. "That really is part of our success, I believe — the user experience was foremost in our mind because that would drive participation."

The MindCrowd test is now being translated into as many as 10 different languages to make it more accessible to people across the globe.

"Most studies are done in a confined area, but this is an opportunity to get data from all over the world," Glisky said. "Using the Internet, we have an opportunity to see across really large numbers of people with really different ages, different backgrounds, different histories, different everything. It really gives us an opportunity to look at a lot of variables that we can't look at as easily with a population that's confined to one region."

The study's cross-cultural findings could be a significant contribution to the Alzheimer's literature, Ryan said. "The majority of the studies out there focus on Caucasian individuals, so we don’t really know as much about cognitive functioning in other groups."

Initial findings on gender, education, family history

The MindCrowd team already has some initial findings, which Huentelman presented last week during the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Among those findings: Women performed better on the memory test than men across all age groups, from 18 to 85. Individuals who reported having a higher level of education also tended to have higher scores. And people who reported having a family history of Alzheimer's disease scored consistently lower than those who did not report a family history of the disease.

"When you control for all other factors, you see that individuals with a family history of Alzheimer's disease do more poorly on the test, even in the youngest ages, and we're very interested in that," Ryan said.

The first-phase testing focuses only on verbal memory, asking participants to memorize word pairings. Phase-two tests, which also are being developed by Glisky and Ryan, will look at verbal, visual and spatial memory, for a broader scope.

Also during phase two, which is expected to launch sometime in the spring, TGen will conduct genetic testing of saliva samples mailed in by selected participants. Additional data will be collected through brain scans of certain participants, done at the UA.

"The ultimate goal is to figure out to what extent there is a genetic component here," Glisky said. "We know there are some genetic components but not one that’s absolute."

The gene variant ApoE4 is a known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. However, not everyone with the gene variant will develop the disease, and not everyone who develops the disease has the gene variant.

"A significant number of people — about half — with a family history of Alzheimer's are not E4 positive, so it's a mystery," Ryan said. "Maybe there's another specific gene that nobody's found yet, or it's a cluster of genes or some combination or profile of genes. You would need really large numbers of people to find those kinds of patterns, so we're pretty excited about exploring that."

By evaluating the memory test results alongside genetic data, the researchers also will be able to look at possible relationships between genetics and demographic or environmental factors, Glisky said.

"The answers to the questions about Alzheimer's disease are going to be very complicated," she said. "So far, we haven’t been wildly successful at coming up with treatments, and that is at least partly because we don’t fully understand the disease and the factors that are involved."

Using the Internet to crowdsource such a large and diverse number of study participants hopefully will give researchers enough data to start answering some of the many questions that remain about Alzheimer's, Glisky said.

"I think this study could lead towards improved genetic treatments, drug treatments, environmental treatments, cognitive treatments, behavioral interventions down the road," she said. "It could be the first step to be able to think about prevention and treatment."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Alexis BlueByline: Alexis BlueByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The ambitious MindCrowd project, which includes two UA researchers, aims to gather data from 1 million people across the globe. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

In Red and Blue, They're the Front Row Crew

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 10:30

Some people live to Bear Down. Others, such as Ben Berger and Ben Rosenfield of the University of Arizona's Front Row Crew, take Wildcat fanaticism to a whole new level.

They Bear Down to live.

From the popular football and men's basketball games to the less-hyped volleyball, softball and baseball contests, it's likely that members of the Crew will occupy seats in the front row. And that's not by accident.

"I try to get to at least one game of every sport once a season," said Rosenfield, a senior studying economics and sports management.

Asked to estimate how many games he has attended over his time at the UA, Berger, a senior religious studies major, nonchalantly replied: "Probably in the range of a few hundred."

In fact, Berger said that the only Wildcat sports he hasn't seen are cross country and track and field (because the teams rarely have home events during the season) and the golf team (because the home course is nearly a half-hour drive from campus).

While the average fan may arrive an hour or two before the start of a midafternoon sporting event, that's considered tardy for members of the Crew, who will wait in line in the early morning hours to secure the prime seats in which they have become constant fixtures at nearly every McKale Center and Arizona Stadium event.

When ESPN's "College GameDay" came to Tucson for the UA-Washington men's basketball game in January 2012, Rosenfield, Berger and the rest of the Crew sat in line for 44 hours just to be the first ones in the bleachers in front of the cameras.

Who are these people, and when did this thing start?

"None of us can really remember 100 percent when we all started attending games together," said Rosenfield, one of the six core students who make up the Crew. "What I can tell you is that we've been going to games together basically our whole college careers."

Rosenfield recalled how he met Sam McGrath and Corey Benjamin — two other Crew members — during his freshman year on a ZonaZoo trip to USC. On the bus, the conversation about the upcoming game became so heated and passionate that Rosenfield knew he needed to introduce them to Berger, a friend he had met while in line for a football game a few weeks earlier. With that introduction, the Crew's core was born. 

In 2013, seniors Eric Eisner and Derek Graybill joined the foursome.

"In a large way, our friendship was kind of cultivated from the time we spent in line together waiting to get in and watch the games," Rosenfield said. "Not only with Ben, but with Sam, Corey and the other guys I've been going to games with. A lot of our memories together are of specific moments in all of these different sports events."

Berger said that he and Rosenfield have grown to become best friends through their mutual interest in Wildcat sports.

"We shared a room in Vegas when we went up to watch the Pac-12 Tournament," Berger said. "He stayed at my house when we went to Anaheim for the Sweet 16 last year and again this year when we went to the UCLA-UA football game at the Rose Bowl. If I ever go to New Jersey, I know I have a place to stay with him there. And if he's ever in L.A., he knows he has a place at my house."

One particularly eventful experience on the road remains a favorite memory among Crew members to this day. One week in the spring of 2012, Berger, Rosenfield, Benjamin and McGrath took two cars up to Tempe to watch the ASU-UA baseball game. The Wildcats, who went on to win the College World Series that year, had a considerable lead but ultimately blew it and lost the game.

As the Crew began to make its way back from Phoenix, Rosenfield noticed a truck tire lying in the middle of the lane. With no time to swerve around it, his car lurched up on its two back wheels and slammed down hard. No one was hurt, but now Rosenfield and Berger had to wait for a tow truck to get them back to Tucson.

"Waiting on the side of the highway with Berger and the rest of the Crew in the pitch black at 3 o'clock in the morning on the deserted I-10 was definitely a big-time memory and a true bonding experience for all of us," Rosenfield said. "Sitting in the tow truck in between Berger and the driver, with his shotgun separating us for the rest of the trip back to Tucson, is something the Front Row Crew will never forget."

The good news: This week's big football game against ASU is in Tucson, so the tow truck's services will not be required.

Rosenfield and Berger said there's nothing like being a Wildcat.

"It makes me feel like I'm part of a community that's a lot bigger than myself, and it’s allowed me to meet some really interesting alumni," Rosenfield said. "I've always been proud to be a Wildcat. There's never been a situation where I've haven't wanted to wear that block 'A' on my chest."

Said Berger: "I was on a flight a little while ago and randomly sat next to this person who saw my UofA shirt on. He said, 'Oh, you're in Tucson, you're at the UofA. Bear Down, my man, I graduated from there in '92,' and that was the year I was born. From there, we just started talking about the UofA and it was a great thing. You can have that (connection) with people all over the world for life just by being associated with the UA."

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Evan Rosenfeld Byline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: These UA student fans literally will go the extra mile to support the Wildcats, and not just for the marquee sports of football and men's basketball.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Encouraging the Practice of Being a Scientist

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 10:20

Some of the most pervasive contemporary grand challenges projected to remain future concerns include water shortages and lack of access to clean water, the need for more resilient and reliable food systems, wildly fluctuating climate conditions, cybersecurity threats and the demand for improved personalized medicine. 

In each case, specialists in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, are being called upon for solutions.

Attentive to such concerns, and under the charge of the campuswide "Never Settle" strategic plan, the University of Arizona has introduced new initiatives and programs to reform STEM education at the K-12 and higher-education level and to drive more students to the STEM fields.

"We are working on STEM education reform," said Gail Burd, UA senior vice provost for academic affairs. "This is a movement."

The enhanced investment is aligned with statewide and national priorities to expand STEM education for the benefit of improving U.S. economic growth and international competitiveness.

A boon to the UA's efforts came early last year when the University was named among a small group of U.S. institutions to be funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust under a major, nationwide Association of American Universities initiative designed to redefine STEM education. 

Since the grant announcement, the University established the UA AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Project, a comprehensive, interdisciplinary effort to significantly expand STEM-related collaborative enterprises, curricula and funding opportunities.

Under the project, UA faculty have redesigned foundational STEM courses, introduced new methods of teaching, expanded professional development and introduced more active-learning opportunities for students.

Instead of memorization, UA faculty are focusing on experiences that encourage analytical thinking and collaborative learning.

"It is easy to say, 'Read this book,' and put together a PowerPoint, then blather on. But we know that the student learns better when actively engaged," Burd said. "Thousands of studies have shown that, so we are trying to increase the coalition of the willing — those who are more involved in active engagement in the classroom."

In this way, students more readily practice thinking as scientists, which makes a STEM career appear all the more viable, Burd said.

"UA faculty have been working in STEM education reform for quite some time and are very much involved in pushing the envelope in the ways that we engage our students," said Burd, also the principal investigator on the UA's AAU grant. "There is a significant amount of data indicating that reformed courses with active-learning pedagogies benefit all students."

To further enhance the classroom environment, the UA this fall launched the Science-Engineering Library Collaborative Learning Space, an experimental pilot project.

The space, which faculty members are testing with plans to develop in other areas across campus, encourages a learner-centered orientation and interactivity, such as project-based learning, research and analysis, knowledge sharing, presentations and peer-to-peer interaction.

"One of the things we know is that pedagogy will change often, so space has to be adaptable to allow for changes in pedagogy, in methods and in learning," said architect Andrew Labov of CO Architects, a partner involved in the development of learning spaces at the UA. "The space needs to be flexible to accommodate different types of teaching and learning."

In that regard, the UA is taking a multilevel approach to improving STEM education, improving the way faculty teach, how students are engaged, and how classrooms are oriented to encourage interactivity.

Also, through the STEM Center directed by Bruce Johnson and Chris Impey, the UA is advancing K-16 STEM education in a divergent range of domains: at the national, state and local levels, and in partnership with schools, organizations, and business and industry.

For example, the UA is a member of 100Kin10, a nationwide initiative launched by the Obama administration to train 100,000 STEM teachers over a decade. The STEM Learning Center, which is working to align institutional initiatives with regional and national priorities, is directly involved with the initiative.

Statewide, the UA is a key member of the Arizona STEM Network, a strategic collaboration led by Science Foundation Arizona that involves schools, government agencies, organizations, businesses, donors and others in building a STEM education infrastructure.

Recently, the UA hosted the Active Learning Workshop, which was facilitated by Edward Prather, executive director for the Center for Astronomy Education and an associate professor of astronomy. The workshop taught instructors ways to employ interactive teaching techniques to encourage student engagement, motivation and critical thinking.

And on campus, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Consortium, the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, the Undergraduate Biology Research Program, the Women in Science and Engineering program and Maximizing Access to Research Careers Program are among those training students toward STEM careers. Collectively, such programs prepare students through mentoring, networking, original research, internships, professional development and other opportunities.

"Young children are naturally scientific — children want to see how things work," Burd said. "We need to think about what students need, and we need to maintain their interests in STEM all the way through."

With programs that support K-12 students through higher education, and working in tandem with industry partners, the UA is not only building a pipeline for STEM careers but also energizing a community of STEM advocates, Burd said.

Camille Runge, who toured 15 universities before deciding to studying chemical engineering at the UA, makes an astute observation: The mere presence of STEM-focused programs is not enough. At the UA, there exists a long-standing and growing culture of support around undergraduate research, especially in the STEM fields, which is complemented by an institutional priority to engage the entire student population in at least one active, career-minded experience.

In fact, it was the UA's active-learning environment and the institutional emphasis on student engagement, along with the stature of the UA faculty, is what landed her in Tucson, Runge said. That is reflective of the "movement" Burd mentioned.

"The faculty, professors and advisers at UA were by far the most invested in the future of their students," said Runge, a UA Honors College student who plans to work in the pharmaceutical field.

"They all truly care about each student on an individual level, and it was clear they would go out of their way to make sure each student is successful. I loved the environment on campus. And being part of the Honors College, I feel as though I have more opportunities to push my boundaries."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline: La Monica Everett-HaynesByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Indicative of the STEM education focus at the UA, new initiatives and programs at the University are aligned with statewide and national priorities to expand the numbers of students choosing such careers. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Growing Their Own School Lunch

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:30
Date of Publication: Friday, November 21, 2014

UA Researchers Connect Insomnia, Higher Death Risk

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 20:43

An association among persistent insomnia, inflammation and mortality has been found by a University of Arizona research team led by Arizona Respiratory Center faculty members Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy and Dr. Stefano Guerra.

The team analyzed data from a long-running UA respiratory study, the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Airway Obstructive Disease, which began in 1972 and has followed participants for decades. The data showed that chronic insomnia was associated with higher levels of inflammation in the blood and a 58 percent increase in risk of death.

Insomnia — difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking too early — is a common medical complaint that affects about 20 percent of U.S. adults. Chronic insomnia is estimated to occur in about half of those individuals.

The UA researchers found that, unlike intermittent insomnia, chronic or persistent insomnia that lasted for at least six years was associated with mortality. Moreover, they found that greater levels of inflammation (measured by a biomarker in blood called C-reactive protein) and a steeper rise in such biomarkers of inflammation were associated with the persistence of insomnia and death.

Although other researchers previously have found an association of insomnia with death, whether this association holds true for both chronic and intermittent insomnia remains unknown. Moreover, many underlying mechanisms for why chronic insomnia may lead to death have been suggested but not been shown.

"An enhanced understanding of the association between persistence of insomnia and death would inform treatment of the at-risk population," said Parthasarathy, lead author of the study. "We found that participants with persistent insomnia were at increased risk of dying due to heart and lung conditions independent of the effects of hypnotics, opportunity for sleep (as distinguished from sleep deprivation), sex, age and other known confounding factors."

Said Guerra, the senior author for the study: "Although there were higher levels of inflammation and steeper rises in inflammation in individuals with persistent insomnia when compared to those with intermittent or no insomnia, more research into other pathways by which persistent insomnia may lead to increased mortality needs to be explored. Such biomarker-based research could potentially help advance precision science in predicting future clinical outcomes in patients with insomnia.” 

The study, “Persistent Insomnia Is Associated With Mortality Risk,” has been published online in the American Journal of Medicine (

Parthasarathy is associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine of the Department of Medicine, UA College of Medicine – Tucson; medical director of the Center for Sleep Disorders at the UA Medical Center-University Campus; associate director of Sleep and Circadian Sciences at the Arizona Respiratory Center; and program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship Program.

Guerra is research associate professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine of the Department of Medicine, UA College of Medicine – Tucson. He also holds appointments in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the UA College of Pharmacy’s Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center, is an associate member of the UA Cancer Center, and is affiliated with the CREAL Centre and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain.

In addition to Parthasarathy and Guerra, researchers who contributed to the study included Dr. Fernando Martinez, director of the Arizona Respiratory Center and director of the UA BIO5 Institute, Regents’ Professor, and Swift-McNear Professor of Pediatrics; and Arizona Respiratory Center members Monica Vasquez, biostatistician; Marilyn Halonen, UA professor emerita of pharmacology; Dr. Stuart Quan, UA professor emeritus of medicine and Gerald E. McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston; and Richard Bootzin, UA professor of psychology and psychiatry, and member of the UA Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Jean SpinelliByline: Jean SpinelliByline Affiliation: AHSC Office of Public AffairsHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A respiratory study spanning more than 40 years shows that chronic insomnia is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the blood and mortality.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

2 Couples Make Major Donations to Precision Health

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 17:18

Two couples have taken a serious interest in a priority of University of Arizona medical research and practice, making major gifts to support the precision health program of the Arizona Health Sciences Center.

Longtime UA donors Bruce and Patricia Bartlett gave $1 million to the UA Foundation to support precision health, indicating an expanded portfolio of philanthropic interests for the California couple. Shortly after that, Grant and Michelle Senner made their first major gift of $280,000 to the foundation, establishing the Senner Endowment for Precision Health.

Precision health, also referred to as personalized medicine, is one of the priorities outlined in the UA's “Never Settle” strategic plan. Precision health uses genetic profiles to guide decisions about diagnosis, prediction, treatment and prevention of disease. By combining the power of individual genetic information with large clinical data sets, UA researchers and clinicians can gain a deeper understanding of a person's health and better recognize and classify nuanced aspects of disease.

Arizona’s unique demographics present opportunities for research involving elderly, Hispanic and Native American populations, as well as the impact of living in an arid environment. These aspects are complemented by the UA’s nationally regarded programs in bioengineering, optical sciences, environmental science, speech and hearing, and cognitive and behavioral sciences.

The Bartletts grew to love and support the UA when their son, Ben, was a student, eventually contributing $2 million to the SALT Center, which resulted in the naming of the Patricia A. Bartlett Building that houses it. The center inspires students with learning and attention challenges to succeed. As former educators, the Bartletts said they were impressed with the UA from the start and always intended to remain involved.

Their commitment to precision health sciences developed after meeting Dr. Joe G.N. "Skip" Garcia, UA senior vice president for health sciences, and hearing his vision for what could be achieved.

"It really, truly is the medicine of the future," said Patricia Bartlett, who has had friends affected by breast cancer, one of many diseases that can be diagnosed and treated by precision health.

The Senners say they always planned to support the UA one day — but neither envisioned making a major gift before age 40, as they have done.

"Precision health can revolutionize the practice of medicine and population health management," Grant Senner said. "The challenge remains to help ensure it fulfills its promise."

Grant Senner graduated with honors from the UA in molecular and cellular biology in 1997 and went on to earn his medical degree from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson in 2004. He originally intended to pursue a career as a clinician but decided to become a medical administrator and to advocate on behalf of his physician colleagues. He is the director of special projects and strategic initiatives for the Arizona Health Sciences Center and the Center for Population Science and Discovery.

Michelle Senner, a Tucson native, works for her family’s company, Truly Nolen of America Inc., as director of marketing and advertising. In her office, she keeps a framed picture of herself as a toddler standing next to a miniature version of the signature yellow-and-black Truly Nolen “mouse car.” She graduated with an M.B.A. from the UA's Eller College of Management in 2001 and was awarded the Eller Spirit Award for outstanding contributions to the business school community.

"Grant and I always planned to give back to our alma mater," she said. "The Senner Endowment for Precision Health supports one of the most innovative initiatives within the University that we’ll see in our lifetime."

In March, Dr. Kenneth S. Ramos was appointed associate vice president for precision health sciences at AHSC. Internationally recognized in genomics and predictive biology, environmental and molecular medicine, and toxicology, Ramos is responsible for developing precision health strategies and approaches to health outcomes and health-care delivery. He also leads the development of personal diagnostics and therapeutics for complex diseases, including cancer, cardiopulmonary disorders and diabetes.

"We thank the Bartlett and Senner families for their tremendous generosity and unwavering support of the precision health initiative at the University of Arizona," Ramos said. "Under Dr. Garcia’s outstanding leadership, we seek to push the boundaries of medicine to find new cures for disease, build infrastructure needed for the future practice of health care, and, most importantly, provide our patients the best possible care known to contemporary science."

The Bartletts and the Senners share a vision for seeing the precision health program thrive and touch lives.

"I’d like to see the UA recognized for its precision health work on a national scale," Bruce Bartlett said.

"The talent and drive are here," Grant Senner said. "We knew the time was right to support this groundbreaking program, which is vital for the University’s trajectory and the future of precision care."

Both gifts are part of Arizona NOW, the UA’s $1.5 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, with priorities to support students, research and innovation, as well as the UA’s public reach.

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Stephanie BalzerByline Affiliation: UA FoundationHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The cutting-edge field is one of the priorities of 'Never Settle,' using genetic profiles to guide decisions about diagnosis, prediction, treatment and prevention of disease.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Creating Space for Education

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 13:23

Tech Launch Arizona has helped UA Lunar and Planetary Lab professor Dante Lauretta rescue the OSIRIS-REx public education initiative. Lauretta, along with business partner Michael Lyon, spun off the XTRONAUT educational program.

Video Thumbnail: Category(s): Science and TechnologyTeaching and StudentsYouTube Video:  XTRONAUT Video of XTRONAUT Feature Sticky: OffFeature on Front: NoMedium Summary: Tech Launch Arizona helps the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory save its OSIRIS-REx public education initiative, XTRONAUT. UANow Image: Date of Publication: Monday, November 24, 2014Send to Never Settle Site: 0

New Platform Takes Science to the Clouds

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:56

Scientists and engineers in all disciplines can now store, share and analyze data through Jetstream, the first all-science cyber-computing platform, a $6.5 million project funded by the National Science Foundation. The iPlant Collaborative based at the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute will play an important role in development and operation of Jetstream.

"iPlant has more than five years' experience providing cloud-based analyses," said Nirav Merchant, co-principal investigator of the iPlant Collaborative, director of Bio Computing at Arizona Research Laboratories and a member of the BIO5 Institute. "We will bring our expertise to run and manage the underlying cloud infrastructure, making it accessible and easy to use for researchers in all science disciplines."

Cloud computing, in which individuals can use an integrated network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, process and analyze data, has provided a much-needed capability for highly-customized, scalable analysis platforms that make possible large-scale and integrated data processing for science and engineering research today.

Jetstream will be a new, interactive cloud-based system designed to provide a usable interface with the scalability and flexibility to serve an expanded community of researchers benefiting from resources in the NSF’s eXtreme Digital, or XD, program. XD’s mission is to explore new approaches to deliver computational infrastructure resources to a diverse community of scientific researchers and education professionals.

Atmosphere, a platform of the iPlant Collaborative at the UA, will manage the cloud resources and provision projects between the remote servers at Indiana University and at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas, Austin.

Atmosphere is a multicloud orchestration platform that provides an easy-to-use web interface for researchers to manage their cloud-based data sets and analyses, and has driven wide adoption of cloud-based capabilities through the iPlant Collaborative.

"Atmosphere allows users to effectively manage their analyses using cloud resources," Merchant explained. "With its web-based interface, users can launch new analyses, share data and collaborate using a reproducible and scalable computing environment. This capability is unique to Atmosphere and is directed toward domain users, who typically are not well-versed with cloud platform capabilities."

By providing a software platform that allows scientists to easily use and manage cloud resources, Atmosphere has greatly increased the adoption of cloud computing in research applications by researchers less accustomed to interacting with a cloud-computing environment, but for whom the computational capacities of cloud environments are essential.

In addition to managing project provisioning and user interface with cloud environments for the nearly 46,000 early adopters expected to use Jetstream, Atmosphere will host the test and development facilities for the new NSF project.

"As one of the largest public science clouds, Jetstream will provide new opportunities to test and scale Atmosphere across large, geographically distributed deployments of open-source clouds,” said Edwin Skidmore, assistant director of infrastructure for the iPlant Collaborative. "We expect to discover more efficient ways to do science within the cloud, given the diversity of the scientific and engineering community that will rely on Jetstream for their computational needs."

The iPlant Collaborative is an NSF-funded project based at BIO5 that includes partners at TACC, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Originally funded as a cyber-infrastructure project for plant sciences research, the collaborative has expanded its capacities to provide computing platforms for all life sciences research.

Since January 2011, iPlant Atmosphere has managed production cloud services for iPlant.

"We have seen overwhelming demand for our cloud platform from researchers and educators alike," Merchant said. "With Jetstream, we now have an avenue for our users needing more capacity. Jetstream provides the opportunity to take best practices from our experience customizing cloud infrastructure for life sciences to a broader national community."

Editor: dougcarrollWriter: Shelley LittinByline: Shelley LittinByline Affiliation: iPlant CollaborativeHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: The iPlant Collaborative headquartered at the UA's BIO5 Institute will manage the interface for Jetstream, the NSF’s first all-science computational facility allowing researchers to store, manage, share and analyze their data on virtual computing machines in a cloud-based environment.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

UA's Rice Symposium Tackles 'People Question'

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:38

Among the most pressing issues facing the world today is how to grow enough food to feed a human population that will expand by more than two billion in the next 35 years without exhausting resources and destroying the environment.

Rice will play an essential role in the quest to solve this "9 Billion People Question." Rice is, and will continue to be, the primary source of food/calories for half the world and many rapidly growing regions.

The University of Arizona is home to innovative research and scientists committed to forging new paths to make sure that a crisis is averted and the situation is improved for future generations.

Several hundred of the world’s top scientists spent this week at the UA participating in the 12th International Symposium on Rice Functional Genomics, or ISRFG.

This year’s symposium marked a significant milestone. It was at the ISRFG meeting held at the UA 10 years ago that the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project celebrated the completion of the rice genome. This was the first genome completed for any crop plant, and to date it remains the highest-quality reference genome, impacting the fields of plant biology and agriculture.

The UA’s Rod Wing, director of the Arizona Genomics Institute, and Bud Antle, Endowed Chair Professor in the School of Plant Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, served as co-chairs of this year’s symposium.

The implications of the 2004 landmark were scientifically complex but applicable to other genome sequencing projects.

"We learned how many genes rice have and their order across its 12 chromosomes," Wing said. "The rice genome provided an unlimited set of genetic markers that could be used to map agriculturally important genes related to yield, grain quality, biotic (diseases) and abiotic (drought, heat, salt) stresses, for example."

The genome opened the door for the cloning of hundreds of important genes for understanding plant biology, evolution, and domestication that informed the sequencing of other cereal genomes, such as maize, sorghum, barley and wheat.

The goal was to ensure that further work could be translated into practical solutions that rice breeders could use to improve and stabilize the world food supply for generations to come.

This year’s symposium focused on recent breakthroughs in structural, functional and evolutionary rice genome biology and breeding — pushing current scientific knowledge to address the need of sustainably increasing crop yields and global food security.

A series of sessions was aimed at capitalizing on biological resources and new discoveries to design a new age of crop plants that have less of on environmental footprint (plants that use less water, fertilizer, pesticides) but are higher yielding and more nutritious. There also was discussion on promoting collaborative research opportunities across the world.

In addition, collaborators devised a set of strategic plans to promote a campaign for $9 billion to help solve the 9 billion people question. This effort will focus on raising funds to create and staff  a half-dozen collaborative, green science and technology centers across the globe to perform coordinated research aimed at creating the next generation of crops that will feed the world's population in a sustainable way.

The Arizona Genomics Institute, housed in the UA’s BIO5 Institute, specializes in building a physical map of a genome, which will allow scientists to locate and identify genes that can improve and strengthen crops and increase yield, creating strains of crops that make up 60 percent of a person's diet. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Lisa RomeroByline Affiliation: BIO5 InstituteHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Rice will remain the primary source of food for half of the world, but the world's population is expected to grow by more than two billion in the next 35 years.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no

App Could Be Your Map for Solving Traffic

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 12:09

An invention by a University of Arizona professor to increase the efficiency of transportation systems while easing traffic congestion has received a patent with the assistance of Tech Launch Arizona, the UA's commercialization arm.

Yi-Chang Chiu, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University, received the patent for the "active traffic and demand management system" he created. Chiu also is the founder of Metropia Inc., a Tucson-based startup with roots in the UA and an exclusive license to the patent.

The technology involves a citywide "ecosystem" connecting commuters, businesses, employers and governmental agencies to help drive improvements in metro mobility.

An essential element is Metropia’s mobile app, which gives commuters advanced traffic prediction and vehicle-routing technology so that they can make choices to help alleviate traffic by changing their traditional travel routes and times. Those who make smarter and safer travel decisions earn rewards that are provided by community and business partners in participating cities.

Chiu began as a professor at the UA in 2006. The idea for incentivizing commuters to travel at different times to help balance traffic load moved from definition of the initial problem and idea in 2011 to what is quickly becoming a key platform for an advanced urban traffic solution. Tech Launch Arizona was instrumental in helping to protect the intellectual property and guide the patent application to completion.

Chiu said that the UA was "the seed that was able to jumpstart the whole thing," as his journey from associate professor to company founder and tech entrepreneur has all taken place during his time at the University.

He originally pitched his idea in May 2011 at Startup Tucson’s incubator event, Startup Weekend, winning second place. Building on this momentum and initial seed funding from various sponsors, the concept has evolved into a thriving, innovative company with more than a dozen employees and offices in New York City and Austin, Texas.

Chiu explains the mission of Metropia as "a new way of thinking of how we manage our urban transportation in the future," one that calls for all community stakeholders to contribute to tackling traffic congestion.

Doug Hockstad, director of technology transfer at the UA, says that this is the kind of impactful technology that has the potential to bring about change.

"Dealing with traffic is a huge pain point for our modern world," Hockstad says. "Helping a great UA faculty member like Dr. Chiu to develop and commercialize this kind of technology is another example of how UA research is making its way out into the world and improving lives."

The patent itself can be found at

The latest news on Metropia's technology is posted on a blog at

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Paul TumarkinByline Affiliation: Tech Launch ArizonaHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: A UA-developed technology that gives commuters incentives to help improve traffic flow has received a patent with the aid of Tech Launch Arizona.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Eller College's Dean Named President of UNLV

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 18:38

Len Jessup, dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, has been selected as the 10th president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents announced today following a special meeting.

"I am honored to accept the presidency of UNLV and am excited about the goals the regents have set for the university going forward," Jessup said.

Jessup, an alumnus of the UA, joined the Eller College as dean in 2011 from Washington State University, where he served for a decade in leadership positions including dean of the business school and president of the university’s foundation. Before joining WSU, Jessup was a faculty member in management information systems at Indiana University.

During his time at the Eller College, Jessup led the development and implementation of an ambitious strategic plan aimed at improving the business school’s quality, impact, rankings and reach.

"We are very proud of and excited for Dr. Jessup. This is a wonderful opportunity for an incredibly competent and innovative leader," said Andrew Comrie, UA senior vice president of academic affairs and provost. "We will, of course, miss his expert leadership of Eller that led to many important and impactful advances for the college and the University. We wish him well and look forward to witnessing the many expected successes he will achieve at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas."

Jessup’s tenure marked growth and innovation for the Eller College. The college’s operating budget increased from $48.8 million to $60.6 million over the fiscal years 2011-2014, due to increased enrollment, student fees, philanthropy and new initiatives such as Eller Executive Education. Over the period of 2010-2014, Eller undergraduate enrollment increased 12 percent and graduate enrollment increased 32 percent. Graduate enrollment growth is due in part to the launch of new Online M.B.A. and Online Master’s in MIS programs.

In October, the Eller College announced $6 million in new commitments from the Eller and McClelland families of Phoenix and the Diamond family of Tucson. These gifts join 11 other commitments of $1 million-plus toward the $65 million Eller College goal for Arizona NOW: The Campaign for the University of Arizona. The college has raised $45 million of that goal to date. 

In 2013, Eller hired a team of career coaches and launched one-credit courses for freshman and sophomore students designed to prepare them to understand how their skills fit into the context of business. The coaches help students develop career plans so that they are better positioned to secure internships, particularly in competitive industries. These activities and more, offered through the college’s Professional Development Center, were funded by a student-approved fee and support the 100% Engagement pillar of UA President Ann Weaver Hart’s “Never Settle” strategic plan.

Jessup also was instrumental in the creation of Tech Launch Arizona, a new UA entity focused on moving inventions and intellectual property from the lab to the marketplace. In addition to serving on the TLA board from the beginning, he recruited its leader, David Allen.

Jessup serves on the board of the UA Health Network, which is set to merge with Banner Health in January 2015, and as a member of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council. At SALC, Jessup has been a champion of the MAP Dashboard Project, a collaboration involving the organization, Eller’s Economic and Business Research Center, and the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. The goal of the project is to measurably improve southern Arizona through data-driven collective civic action and education. The MAP Dashboard Project is set to launch at year’s end.

During Jessup’s tenure, the Eller College also launched Eller Economic Development, a Chase-supported initiative that offers classes and workshops in English and Spanish to South Tucson small-business owners. The program also engages students with small-business clients to work on consulting projects such as accounting best-practice recommendations.

The college also has seen significant increases in rankings during Jessup’s leadership. In the most recent U.S. News & World Report surveys, Eller undergraduate programs moved up to No. 22 overall and No. 11 among public business schools. The Eller Evening M.B.A. program shot up 21 spots to No. 25, and the Full-Time M.B.A. program ranked No. 23 among public programs and No. 48 overall.

Jessup is active in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the industry’s accreditation body. In addition to serving on accreditation review panels for peer schools, Jessup is one of 17 leaders worldwide to serve on its Continuous Improvement Review Committee. He is a member of the advisory council for the AACSB industry magazine, BizEd, and has presented on the changing business model for higher education at multiple AACSB-hosted conferences.

"I am a passionate alum of the UA at the Eller College," Jessup said. "My time here serving as dean has been among the most rewarding in my professional career, and so the prospect of moving on is bittersweet."

His transition to the UNLV presidency will begin after the holidays. Over the coming weeks, Comrie will be meeting with Eller leadership and faculty on a transition plan.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: Eller College of ManagementHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: UA alumnus Len Jessup joined the college as its leader in 2011 and oversaw an ambitious strategic plan aimed at improving its quality, impact, rankings and reach.Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Computer Training Becomes Family Affair

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 14:30

Most of us take emailing and surfing the Internet for granted. But for some Tucsonans, working on a computer is about as familiar as walking on the moon. 

The University of Arizona student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or SHPE, has been working for 15 years to change that through La Familia, its annual free computer training workshops. The 2014 daylong event, designed primarily for older members of the community whose first language is not English, was held Oct. 25 on the UA campus.

"La Familia is about helping members of our community overcome their fear of technology and discover how computers can enrich their lives," said Michelle Gutierrez, La Familia vice president and a junior engineering student. "Many attendees are middle-aged moms whose children have grown and now have time to pursue personal and professional interests. Increasingly, that means having to use a computer."

La Familia is one reason the UA SHPE chapter recently won two awards at the national SHPE conference. The chapter beat more than 300 other chapters nationally to receive the 2014 SHPE Outstanding Community Outreach Award. The Wildcats also won the Regional Outstanding Chapter Award for Region 2, which includes 37 student chapters in Arizona, southern California, southern Nevada and Hawaii.

The La Familia attendees, nearly all Spanish-speaking, ranged in age from 30 to 80. For many, it was their first time on the UA campus. SHPE volunteer Dana Cordova, who earned his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 2014 and works for Northrup Grumman, traveled from Sierra Vista with his mother, Debra Cordova-Paul, attending to learn Microsoft Excel. Several SHPE members’ aunts and a grandmother also were at the workshops.

Many of their questions were about basic things: how to turn on a computer, use a mouse or save a file. But this year, attendees’ questions reflected increased awareness of the power, and the risks, of the Internet.

"We received many more inquiries about firewalls, computer viruses and the safety of online banking," Gutierrez said.

In opening remarks, James Valenzuela, who received his bachelor’s degree in systems and industrial engineering from the College of Engineering in 1992 and is now an operations senior industrial engineer at Raytheon, emphasized that technology should be embraced, not feared. When he told his listeners that their smartphones were actually computers, many expressed surprise. His primary message: "Technology is your friend. Take advantage of it to improve your life."

Valenzuela expressed his deep and personal connection to UA/SHPE, explaining that his late brother, John, had founded the chapter 30 years ago and was its first president. John left the College of Engineering to join the Tucson Police Department and was killed in the line of duty a year later. James subsequently enrolled in the college and became the chapter’s second president.

"Until I die, I feel it is my responsibility to carry on my brother’s legacy of increasing educational and professional opportunities for people in our community," said Valenzuela, a motivational speaker and student mentor whose awards include the 2014 President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama.

"SHPE students are part of my family," he said. "I am extremely proud to support this organization."

After hearing from Gladys Amaya, who earned her bachelor’s degree in systems and industrial engiuneering in 2013 and is a construction manager at Intel, the attendees broke out for computer workshops in labs around campus. 

Student volunteers led workshops in English and Spanish on such topics as the basics of typing, how to use office software, how to set up an email account in Gmail and how to use Google’s search engine to browse the Internet. This year’s program also included a professional workshop on how to prepare and post a resumé and search and apply for jobs online.

“La Familia is a wonderful example of our students’ dedication to community service,” said College of Engineering Dean Jeff Goldberg. “SHPE has led programs to inspire and educate the public on STEM topics for years. With La Familia, it empowers people at a more basic level, by teaching them the fundamentals of computers and the Internet —and potentially transforming their lives.”

IBM has been a core supporter of La Familia and other UA/SHPE programs for years. Volunteers from the company included Michael Hernandez, who leads IBM community outreach at the UA Science and Technology Park; Wanda Ronquillo; Marilynn Franco, who received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2005 and master’s degree in business administration from the UA Eller College of Management in 2012; and Carlo Saba, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration/management information systems from the Eller College in 2007.

Other La Familia supporters include the UA College of Engineering; Associated Students of the University of Arizona; the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers; RISE Equipment and Recycling Center, which donated some computers that were raffled; and El Paso, Texas-based All Trades Electrical.

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers is the nation’s top organization motivating Hispanics to pursue careers in the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math. The UA chapter also presents several STEM-related programs for local youth and teens. Its next one is Science Day for middle-school students on Nov. 21. 

Editor: dougcarrollByline: Jill GoetzByline Affiliation: UA College of EngineeringHeader image: YesNo Image: Subheading: Some Tucson residents on the UA campus one recent Saturday were not attending a Wildcats game or arts performance. They were learning how to use a computer, from a student group recently honored for its outreach efforts. Include in UANow: yesInclude in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: noUANow Image: 

Wildcat Review: Arizona Wildcats Make Us Proud

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 09:11

Arizona student-athletes had a momentous week with major feats of athleticism and national awards.

But did you know that kicker Casey Skowron's family came down from Phoenix for the football game against Washington, or that junior forward Brandon Ashley is recovering well from his injury?

Here's a review of some of the week's highlights and more information about your Arizona student-athletes.

Skowron's Redemption

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

In Arizona football's game against USC earlier in the season, all eyes were fixated on redshirt junior kicker Skowron as he missed what was then the biggest field goal of his career.

Fast-forward five weeks and it all comes down to Skowron again. This time, Arizona is attempting to cap off a comeback against Washington. The Wildcats are down by two points going into the final minutes of play, and ultimately Skowron kicks a field goal to bring the Wildcats ahead by one point as time expires.

On Monday, the league office announced that Skowron was named the Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance against the Huskies, which included two field goals and his first career touchdown, scored on a fake field goal.    

Skowron's family came down from Phoenix, and one of his cousins from back east flew in to visit and was in attendance.

"Saturday was awesome for me. I was able to spend some quality family time, which was really nice," Skowron said.

After the game-winning field goal, he said, "My phone was blowing up. It was fantastic, but more importantly we got the win. Everyone on the team played hard for 60 minutes and we never gave up."

Skowron, who didn't originally begin as a football player, burst onto the scene this season and has provided the UA with a reliable kicker. He initially began as a member of Arizona’s club soccer team before helping out the women's soccer team as a practice player and eventually becoming the team's student manager. A few weeks into the soccer season, however, Skowron decided he wanted to give football a try. He tried out for the team and made it.

The Phoenix-area native has converted 17 of 24 field-goal attempts and is 41-for-41 on point-after-touchdown opportunities. Additionally, his 98 points scored this season leads all Pac-12 kickers. 

Women's Soccer Wins in NCAA Tournament

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The Wildcats, participating in their first NCAA Tournament since 2005, defeated Oklahoma State, 1-0, to earn their third NCAA Tournament victory in the program's history.

Senior forward Alexandra Doller received a pass close to the goal from a teammate in the 78th minute and shot the ball past the Cowgirls' goalkeeper.

"The thing I'm happiest with is that Doller had some chances and wasn't able to finish them off," Amato said. "But she stuck with it. She wasn't discouraged, she kept putting herself in good positions and she stuck with it. It paid off for her, and that’s what it takes to be a striker at a high level. She's tough."

Doller, a junior-college transfer, joined the program last year and finished the season as the second-ranked goal scorer on the team in her first year as a Wildcat.

Arizona Volleyball Setter Earns Pac-12 Honors

Sophomore setter Penina Snuka was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Monday after leading the 14th-ranked Wildcats to wins against then-No. 10 Oregon and Oregon State. Snuka, the niece of professional wrestler and actor Dwayne Johnson, provided Arizona with the defense necessary to secure its biggest win of the season against the Ducks.

Over the two games, Snuka totaled 51 digs and 80 assists.

"I can't say enough about Penina and her willingness to sacrifice her body," Rubio said. "The team is a reflection of her. She dictates the flow and the attitude of the team, so we are fortunate to have her leading us."

Snuka is the third Arizona student-athlete to receive the weekly award this year.

Trio From Men's Basketball Named in Wooden Preseason Top 50

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Junior forward Ashley, sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and freshman forward Stanley Johnson were chosen from the UA in the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced this week. The list denotes the 50 frontrunners in competition for the prestigious award, which will not be announced until April. 

Ashley, instrumental in the Wildcats' historic 21-0 start last season, brought tears to fans' eyes when he collapsed on his left foot in Berkeley last February – marking an end to his season and sidelining him for eight months. He said being forced to sit out has made him a hungrier player.

"Having to sit out that long made me realize that nothing in life is guaranteed," Ashley said at Arizona Basketball's Media Day last month. "I was that close to having my career over. For so many years, I've taken basketball for granted. It made me realize that I can’t take this for granted anymore. I’ve returned hungry, and I need to seize all of the opportunities that I have."

In the UA's first two nonconference wins this season, against Mount Saint Mary's and Cal State University-Northridge, Ashley sprang back to action and contributed heavily to Arizona's dominance, averaging 17 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting with 81.3 percent accuracy.

Last year, Hollis-Jefferson earned Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honors and put up 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He also led the team with an average of 1.1 blocks per game.

So far this year, the 6-foot-7 native of Chester, Pennsylavania, has impressed, coming in as a sixth man off the bench. He has averaged 14.5 points and six rebounds.  

Johnson is one of seven freshmen on the Wooden list and comes into Arizona's program highly touted and decorated, boasting three gold medals with USA Basketball. In the UA's opening weekend, he lived up to expectations, providing the Wildcats with an average of 12.5 points per game. Against CSUN on Sunday, the native of Fullerton, California, scored 17 points off 7-for-10 shooting while adding three rebounds and a block.

Notable Mentions

Junior backstroker Bonnie Brandon was a critical component in the Arizona women's swimming team's victorious effort against UCLA in Los Angeles. Brandon helped the Wildcats remain undefeated as the UA topped the Bruins 155-145. In addition to being part of a decisive 400-yard medley relay team, the nutritional sciences major also picked up first-place finishes in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle.

Categories: SportsThis is a Wildcat Corner feature: Images: Tags: StudentsStudent LifeAthleticsByline: Evan Rosenfeld, University Relations, Communications |Editor: dougcarrollInclude in UANow: 0Date of Publication: Wednesday, November 19, 2014Medium Summary: Arizona's Wildcats piled up the victories in the last week, and some were recognized nationally. Feature on Front: NoShort Summary: Arizona's Wildcats piled up the victories in the last week, and some were recognized nationally. Send to Never Settle Site: 0

UA Investigates Fraternity for Conduct Violations

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 10:29

University of Arizona officials have placed Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity under an interim suspension of recognition and launched an investigation into reported violations of the University’s student code of conduct.

Effective immediately, the fraternity, more commonly known as SAE, must cease all activity on the UA campus, pending the outcome of the investigation. An interim suspension of recognition is initiated when an organization is deemed to potentially present a substantial risk to the members of the University community.

The investigation concerns allegations that chapter members engaged in acts of discrimination and assault against members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. SAE members have been directed to have no contact with AEPi members pending the outcome of the investigation.

The SAE chapter will have the opportunity to respond to any findings of conduct violations. The chapter’s national office is aware of the allegations, Kendal Washington White, dean of students, said.

The UA maintains an online listing of Greek organizations under judicial review to help students and families evaluate fraternities and sororities. It can be found at and is updated each semester.

Editor: dougcarrollByline Affiliation: University Relations - CommunicationsHeader image: NoNo Image: Subheading: Sigma Alpha Epsilon is placed under interim suspension after reported violations of University's student code of conduct.Include in UANow: 0Include in Olympic Coverage: noFeature on Olympic Page: no