ASU's Inozemtseva honored with Outstanding Lecturer Award

July 7, 2020

Iuliia (Julia) Inozemtseva is the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Lecturer Award in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. She was also honored recently with the 2020 Outstanding Instruction and Service Award in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

She grew up on the beach of the Black Sea in Ukraine, in the city of Odessa. Inozemtseva says people from Odessa are well known for "being friendly and having a good sense of humor." Julia Inozemtseva ASU Lecturer Iuliia (Julia) Inozemtseva Download Full Image

Over the past 10 years, she has taught in three different countries: Ukraine, Hungary and the United States. Her extensive international experience has helped her build an open-minded, culturally sensitive and people-centered world view. This has resulted in a welcoming and supportive environment in her math classes at ASU.

She has served as a lecturer in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences since 2017, teaching a wide range of mathematics a the first and second year level, including college mathematics (MAT 142), pre-calculus (MAT 170), business math (MAT 210, 211) and engineering calculus (MAT 265, 266, 267).

As a trilingual speaker, she empathizes with students who learn mathematics through English as a Second Language (ESL). It is natural for her to predict which abbreviations, terminology, concepts and examples might cause confusion to ESL students. Using her knowledge of how math is taught in various cultures, she can explain the same material in several ways, mentioning different notations to connect with their previous math experience. She often spends extra time after class helping her ESL students with their lecture notes, improving their writing and understanding of the material.

To support all of her students, Inozemtseva created a series of friendly-environment study sessions.

"Several times per week we get together and do homework, while having some tea and snacks. This setting provides all types of students with a chance to reach out to me in a more quiet and relaxing atmosphere," Inozemtseva said.

"On the first day of class, I emphasize that students do not need to prepare any questions to come to these study sessions. They are not obligated to participate, but are welcome to enjoy tea and the company of other students. This little detail transformed my normal office hours into collective study-sessions with 10 to 15 people, exchanging their thoughts, ideas, fears and life experiences.

"Many students feel comfortable to work out homework problems on the board and to teach others, which is a huge success when it comes to gaining a deep understanding of the material. In my evaluations, my students have written that this was the first time they have ever felt so welcomed and safe in class or during office hours."

As an international instructor, she realized her main challenge was to understand and adjust to the demands of local students. After teaching her first lecture in the U.S., she recognized that she would need to constantly explore new ideas and work to improve her methods. She attended many workshops and trainings, including some focused on creating environments in the classroom for students of any community, gender or race.

She uses metacognition awareness development tools as a new method to increase undergraduate students' motivation to discover more effective ways to enhance exam performance.

"In every exam or quiz, I ask students to predict their grade. After students get their graded tests back, they use the table I’ve created for the class to answer questions about how long they studied for the exam, how much effort/time they put into studying, what resources they used, what was hard in the test and how they can improve for the next exam," Inozemtseva said.

"Students are able to monitor and make changes in their exam preparation strategies, because students realize the role they play in their own grades. This helps them to learn how to organize studying time, to not have illusion of knowing, and to have more control over the outcome of their efforts.

"One of the significant goals of my teaching philosophy is to teach students how to study. I believe that many undergraduate students fail in college because they were never taught how to consistently learn new material independently. In the age of modern technology and access to worldwide information, I think it is crucial to encourage students to try different learning strategies and to point them to appropriate technological resources (lecture videos, practice quizzes and interactive-learning tools available on the internet)."

Inozemtseva is also very keen on introducing applications of the math concepts she’s covering in class. This is especially helpful for nonmajors in order to motivate the mathematics. Her training is in math biology and this training helps her in emphasizing applications, either in life science or in other fields, when explaining mathematics.

"Since I moved to the U.S., I’ve learned so many amazing applications of math. Now I use every possible moment to show some cool math animations, simulations and world problems in biology, coding and artificial intelligence, physics, engineering and even medicine.

"I love how amazed students are by all the new worlds unfolding in front of them. I try to find topics that might touch their hearts, and this helps a lot to bring interest and excitement into math learning."

Inozemtseva's favorite course to teach is Calculus I, and the whole calculus sequence.

"Because my students — hundreds! — follow me from class to class and we become a large supportive community for one and a half years. And this experience is just amazing," she said.

"I strongly believe that we need inspiring and compassionate teachers for that very first introduction to calculus in college. Because this is the place when we lose minority students the most. On the other hand, this is the best time when we could recruit many new students to STEM majors. But if students’ first experience with calculus is boring, stressful, full of pressure and disappointments — they leave and don’t come back. Some might even drop out of college.

"I love seeing how inspired my students are after my classes. How they switch to STEM majors after my classes. How they tell me that nobody ever told them before that they are strong and capable. Isn’t that crazy? Infecting students with confidence and excitement is probably one of the best parts of my teaching experience."

The nomination process for the Outstanding Lecturer Award is driven by students and is extremely competitive. Inozemtseva was selected from a pool of nearly 240 teaching faculty in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

One of the students who nominated Inozemtseva described how she "goes above and beyond for her students in every way possible."

"I went into Calculus I being intimidated of how difficult it would be, but the method in which she taught was phenomenal and she presented the material in a digestible manner. I left that class having a new found love for mathematics, and I have no doubt this was due to the way she taught the material. She quite literally made calculus fun through her contagious enthusiasm towards it, which is something I never thought was possible," the student said.

Another student who nominated Inozemtseva described her as the "most caring, and loving university-level professor I have ever met."

"Professor Inozemtseva was such a great professor in the area of calculus, I took all three calculus courses with her, which gave me a deep and meaningful learning experience. I will apply the knowledge that I learned in all three courses to my major in electrical engineering. And I am confident I will do well in this future career because of the solid foundation Professor Inozemtseva set for me," the student said.

A third student also took Inozemtseva's calculus series for three consecutive semesters: "Every class we had she would have a new math meme on the projector, which always made my day. She makes learning so effortlessly fun, with the many math jokes during her lectures. She opened my eyes to so many amazing opportunities and made me appreciate math even more."

"I have received emails from students in recent years requesting that she teach a certain class so they can take the class with her. I rarely receive those kinds of emails," said Scott Surgent, principal lecturer and associate director for First Year Mathematics. "They clearly enjoy her teaching skills and her kindness and supportive nature."

Al Boggess, director for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, has seen the written comments on Inozemtseva's teaching evaluations and the student letters nominating her for this award.

"What comes across most prominently is her sense of empathy, which translates into an enthusiastic desire to help her students. Nearly all the students in the courses she teaches are in majors other than mathematics. Many of these students have deficient math backgrounds and some are math-phobic," he said. "Her friendly demeanor literally invites students to come talk to her about the difficulties they are having with math. Her keen knowledge about the subject matter, together with her sense of empathy, allows her to zero in on the right approach to explain the concepts needed to clear up the difficulty."

"Julia is more than just an outstanding instructor. Her sense of empathy comes through every time I talk to her about teaching and mentoring. She truly wants her students to succeed and finds the approach that works for each student she encounters in her classes," Boggess said.

"I can’t think of a more deserving recipient for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Outstanding Lecturer Award. I wish I could clone Julia many times over for the benefit of our students."

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


Low-cost sterilization units combat N95 shortage, help businesses

July 7, 2020

Students in the Arizona State University Luminosity Lab have created two versions of a low-cost, small-scale sterilization unit that is effective on general personal protective equipment, including increasingly scarce N95 masks.

They hope to help with the N95 mask shortage as well as help small businesses sterilize the masks and other equipment needed to keep their businesses running during the coronavirus pandemic. The project is just one part of Luminosity’s multifaceted response to the COVID-19 crisis. Team member John Patterson examines one of two sterilization systems invented by the ASU Luminosity Lab. Photo courtesy John Patterson Team member John Patterson examines one of two sterilization systems invented by the ASU Luminosity Lab. Photo courtesy of John Patterson Download Full Image

At the onset of the pandemic, the students in the lab collectively identified the ways that they could best leverage their diverse skills to positively impact the situation. This resulted in a series of projects, from developing novel devices to assisting small businesses in adapting to the lockdown, as well as producing and delivering over 10,000 pieces of personal protective equipment through Luminosity’s PPE Response Network

“During these efforts, it became clear that to alleviate the increased demand of personal protective equipment, production would need to be supported by an effective method to sterilize and reuse it. This is particularly relevant with N95 masks, which are in high demand, but more difficult to rapidly manufacture,” said Mark Naufel, executive director of Luminosity Lab. “The sterilization systems produced by our students are cost-effective, scalable solutions that can be produced and leveraged by schools, businesses and medical providers to help alleviate their personal protective equipment needs.”

The N95 problem

N95 masks, which filter out 95% of all airborne particles, are difficult to obtain during the pandemic, and not purely due to their high demand.

N95s are also a challenge to manufacture because they use a special material called melt-blown fabric, which is key to the masks’ filtration ability. Though factories can ramp up mask production, they reach a bottleneck when it comes to access to this material. Melt-blown fabric requires specialized machines to create it, and the machines themselves cost millions of dollars and take around six months to assemble.

These factors, combined with the increased necessity of N95 masks, mean that health care workers are forced to reuse the ones they have.

But to reuse these masks, they must be sterilized, and this too presents a challenge. Existing sterilization systems are extremely expensive and are only built for large-scale settings, like big hospitals. This leaves smaller hospitals, clinics and other small businesses without a way to easily or affordably sterilize their N95s and other personal protective equipment.

N95 masks are a challenge to sterilize because each sterilized mask must still meet the standard of filtering out 95% of airborne particles. It must also retain its unique fit to its user’s face, which ensures an airtight seal.

“It's been really cool to see how a team of five students is really all it takes to create innovative solutions to problems in society and also to push those solutions into actual, impactful products." — Nikhil Dave, ASU undergraduate student

“In designing these systems, we have to make sure that they not only eliminate any viral particles along with bacteria, but also that they don’t hurt these standards for the personal protective equipment,” said Katie Pascavis, a mechanical engineering undergraduate student who focused on those standards as part of the Luminosity team.

Testing how many viral particles are on a mask post-treatment, however, requires special labs and equipment that the student team didn’t have. So they put out a call to faculty across the university with the right tools and expertise.

“We were lucky to find amazing collaborators at ASU in the Biodesign Institute as well as a variety of schools. And those collaborators really helped push us forward in terms of actually testing the protocols,” said Nikhil Dave, a neuroscience and innovation in society undergraduate student and leader of the team.

The team also spent time testing how many times an N95 mask could go through their sterilization processes and emerge with those standards intact. It’s an important piece of data, because reusing an N95 mask at all is going against its original intent to be disposable, points out David Wallace, a PhD candidate in human systems engineering and member of the team.

“They were never designed in the first place to reuse. It’s essentially like asking someone to reuse a Kleenex, when it was not designed as a handkerchief,” Wallace said.

Sustainable sterilization

Rendering of the ozone sterilization system

Rendering of the ozone sterilization system. Courtesy of ASU Luminosity Lab

The team created two sterilization systems. The first uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide and is intended to combat the N95 mask shortage. The second relies on ozone, and was designed to provide small businesses with a way to sterilize a variety of items, including clothing and reusable face masks. The ozone system is simple enough to be run from a car battery if electricity isn’t available.

“What's particularly notable about the ozone system is that, unlike most common sterilization systems or even our own vaporized hydrogen peroxide system, we don't need to put anything in it to generate the sterilization agent,” Dave said. “Rather, all we need is a power source, and it will continuously generate ozone gas. So it's environmentally sustainable and also a lot more cost effective.”

Rendering of the vaporized hydrogen peroxide system

Rendering of the vaporized hydrogen peroxide system. Courtesy of ASU Luminosity Lab

“The cool thing about both these systems is that they are very easy to manufacture. They don't require specialized tools,” added John Patterson, an electrical engineering master’s degree student who leads prototyping and construction on the team. “These things don’t even need to be manufactured by professionals. These can be constructed by hobbyists. They can be constructed by teams of engineering students. Anyone who is interested in collaborating and contributing can do that.”

The team put new N95 masks through treatment cycles in both systems. After five cycles in the ozone system and 20 cycles in the vaporized hydrogen peroxide system, treated masks performed at the same level as new, untreated masks, suggesting that the systems were not weakening the masks’ filtration ability up to those amounts of cycling. However, the team pointed out that when the masks are being worn between each cycle, they will undergo more wear and tear and may degrade more quickly than they did in testing.

Portable, effective and affordable

The Luminosity team’s journey from drawing board to pending patents was one of incredible speed. In under three months, they designed, developed, scientifically validated and submitted invention disclosures for their two sterilization systems. Now, they hope to continue that momentum in order to deploy the systems anywhere they might be of help.

“It's been really cool to see how a team of five students is really all it takes to create innovative solutions to problems in society and also to push those solutions into actual, impactful products,” Dave said.

Key to their success, they note, is the fact that they were able to collaborate with many ASU departments as well as external health care partners.

“This was a great opportunity to see how collaboration can lead to prosperity for everyone involved, in terms of getting these systems built, getting them tested as quickly as possible, and hopefully to save as many lives as we can by getting the technology in the hands of those who need it,” Patterson said.

Part of their plan to make their technology accessible to the community was to intentionally create the systems with affordable materials. Vaporized hydrogen peroxide sterilization systems exist already, but they’re meant for large-scale settings like big hospitals and can cost up to $1 million.

The materials for the students’ vaporized hydrogen peroxide system, however, cost around $300. The ozone system is even cheaper, its materials costing around $60. The systems combine affordability with portability, and they sterilize just as effectively as the larger, pricier machines.

This makes them useful for a wide range of settings — not just hospitals and clinics, but also schools, businesses and locations with less resources.

“In developing nations or other places where maybe people can't afford personal protective equipment in large quantities, these would also be a great way for them to reuse equipment and cut some of those costs in a more sustainable fashion,” Pascavis added.

Luminosity student team photo

The team behind the sterilization systems. Clockwise from upper left: Katie Pascavis, Nikhil Dave, John Patterson and David Wallace. Not pictured: Abhik Chowdury. Photo courtesy Nikhil Dave

Ready for a new normal

Though the future of COVID-19 is unpredictable, it seems that face coverings and personal protective equipment will remain a part of society for the foreseeable future.

“Many large and small companies are requiring the use of face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. So I think, with personal protective equipment becoming a regular part of our daily lives, we're going to have to figure out creative and inventive ways to reuse the equipment that was built to be disposable,” Dave said.

The team is in conversations with the Arizona Commerce Authority and the Arizona governor’s office to determine how they can help get these systems out to businesses and schools around the state, allowing us to reopen stronger. They’ve also sent systems to a few health care facilities around the state, including Banner Health, that are providing the team with feedback.

However, those interested in using the team’s designs need not wait for a product rollout. They recently made the instructions for building and using the ozone system and the vaporized hydrogen peroxide system available by publishing them on the preprint server MedRxiv.

Businesses and other entities who want to obtain some of these units, as well as makers who are interested in helping produce more of these systems to meet the community’s needs, should contact Luminosity Lab Director Mark Naufel at

“The systems are ready,” Dave said. “We’d like to make them usable for anyone who feels like they can use them.”

Top photo: Team member John Patterson examines one of two sterilization systems invented by the ASU Luminosity Lab. Photo courtesy John Patterson

Mikala Kass

Communications Specialist, ASU Knowledge Enterprise