Translating interventions: Psychology student works to improve treatment for diverse populations

May 7, 2020

Ahtziry Vasquez is a first-year student in Arizona State University's applied behavior analysis master’s degree program who helps children and adults with autism spectrum disorder learn how to be more successful in their home, school, and community. She always knew she wanted to help people through psychology and now has the chance to help those who need it the most.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a psychological field that relies heavily on the ability to analyze verbal and visual cues from clients or family members, such as looking up or raising an eyebrow, to identify what the client’s needs are, based on how they are responding to their surroundings. The behavior analyst then makes changes to the surroundings to help that individual learn to be more successful in their environment, while helping them reduce maladaptive behaviors such as withdrawal, outbursts or aggression. Ahtziry Vasquez, MS ABA student Ahtziry Vasquez always knew she wanted to help people through psychology and now has the chance to help those who need it the most. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

ABA is widely used in treating behavioral or learning challenges in students in special education that are suffering from autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, the practice is also used widely in health and exercise science and in organizational psychology.

The goal of an applied behavior analytic approach is to maximize behaviors of social significance to help the client improve their lives. This goal becomes more difficult when the ability to communicate what behavior is happening is compromised through a language barrier. 

Over 38% of the population of Phoenix speak a non-English language, and some have learned English as a second language; they often require the use of a translator in addition to the behavior analyst.

“One of the biggest difficulties in having a translator in an interview is that they may interpret what the client is saying differently than the analyst would and we can miss important cues,” said Vasquez. “It gets in the way of their treatment.”

Vasquez is fluent in Spanish and decided to take matters into her own hands. This fall, she became a licensed interpreter after passing the interpreter certification from ALTA, an internationally recognized translation and interpretation training company.

“There needs to be consistency across providers, clinicians and the parents in the home and in the schools,” Vasquez said. “If we can’t communicate those skills to the parents, how are they going to implement them consistently at home?”

This training wasn’t required as part of her program, but Vasquez chose to do it in order to help more people.

“This desire to improve and help more people is a hallmark of all our students in the program and it is a big reason why we have had a 100% placement rate for our graduates the last three years,” said Don Stenhoff, a clinical assistant professor and co-director of the MS ABA program. “We have some special students and we are excited to see all that they accomplish.”

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


ASU professor recognized nationally with Teacher-Scholar Award

May 7, 2020

Gary Moore, an assistant professor in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences and the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Applied Structural Discovery, has just been named one of 14 young faculty nationwide to be honored with a 2020 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards Program supports the research and teaching careers of talented young faculty in the chemical sciences. When choosing its teacher-scholars, the foundation seeks those who demonstrate leadership in both research and education. As a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, Moore will receive an unrestricted research grant of $100,000. Since its inception in 1970, the Teacher-Scholar program has awarded over $45 million to support emerging young leaders in the chemical sciences. Gary Moore Assistant Professor Gary Moore from the School of Molecular Sciences and the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Applied Structural Discovery. Photo by Mary Zhu Download Full Image

“Gary Moore and his group are doing truly innovative molecular science to address societally important problems in energy conversion and for the production of industrially important materials. They build multifunctional nanoscale materials that work at hard/soft matter interfaces to catalyze a wide range of useful chemical processes,” said Ian Gould, interim director of the School of Molecular Sciences, which is part of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “In recent years, the junior faculty members in the School of Molecular Sciences have had an extraordinary record of achievement, and Professor Moore is an exemplar in this regard.”

“I am honored to receive this support from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation and look forward to making continued contributions to advancing knowledge and education in the chemical sciences," Moore said.

Moore is also a Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute for Sustainability scholar and guest faculty at Berkeley Lab. He received his doctorate from ASU under Professor Ana L. Moore in 2009, then spent two years as a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Energy Fellow at Yale University working with Gary W. Brudvig and Robert H. Crabtree before starting an independent research career at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

Moore’s group uses chemistry to build nanoscale materials that are fundamentally interesting and address societal challenges. Research themes include the transduction of solar energy, the synthesis of new materials to catalyze a range of chemical transformations of industrial importance, the design and preparation of novel hard-to-soft matter interfaces, and development of a general improvement in our understanding of molecular structure and function relationships.

The materials and chemical assemblies developed in Moore’s laboratory resemble components of natural biological systems that carry out similar chemical processes. Thus, nature often provides inspiration and design considerations for the structures they build and the chemistries they develop. Conversely, the artificial constructs offer opportunities to better understand the detailed mechanisms of their biological counterparts.

Moore has a passion for chemistry that is evident from the very first classes students take with him. He lectures on technical concepts in a logical and effective manner, and also addresses scientific topics in a context that brings students a level of cultural relevance to the subject matter that is rarely found in chemistry classes.

Since joining ASU, Moore has developed and taught a new course titled Solar Energy Conversion. The course covers topics in photoelectrochemical processes and techniques. Integrating core chemistry concepts with societal applications provides motivation for active learning.

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation is a leading nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of the chemical sciences. It was established in 1946 by chemist, inventor and businessman Camille Dreyfus in honor of his brother, Henry. The foundation seeks to support the advancement of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances around the world.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences