ASU to offer the world’s first astronomical and planetary sciences degree online

July 8, 2020

Beginning this fall 2020 semester, Arizona State University will be offering a new bachelor’s degree in astronomical and planetary sciences, 100% online. This is the world’s first online accredited undergraduate astronomy degree where students can explore planets, solar systems and galaxies.

Offered by the School of Earth and Space Exploration through ASU Online, this degree will prepare students for K-12 teaching careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It is also designed for students interested in careers in technology and science journalism and writing, science policy, statistical data analysis and computer programming. The world’s first online accredited undergraduate astronomy degree is being offered by Arizona State University. Image Credit: M. Alabado Download Full Image

“Our goal is to make the exploration of our solar system and universe accessible and inclusive,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, the school’s director. “This fully online degree will not only offer many more students the opportunity to learn about the latest discoveries in astronomy and planetary sciences from our leading faculty and researchers in this area, it will also help students develop skills in complex problem-solving, critical thinking and communication that will prepare them for a range of careers.”

The degree program includes courses in astronomy, planetary science, engineering systems and astrophysics with a range of electives, allowing students to customize this degree to their interests.

“We also expect that amateur astronomers, who often seek out lifelong learning opportunities, will be especially interested in this degree," said astronomer and astrophysicist Karen Knierman. “Courses like Introduction to Solar Systems Astronomy will cover popular topics including the exploration of constellations, phases of the moon, eclipses, our solar system and other solar systems in our galaxy.”

Among other faculty from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration who will be teaching courses for this degree is astrobiologist and President’s Professor Ariel Anbar. He will be teaching Habitable Worlds, a course that will focus on what makes life on Earth possible and how to look for life on other planets.

“I’m excited to share with students a transformational way to teach science online,” said Anbar. “Students will be formulating hypotheses based on data, testing those hypotheses, and applying what they learn in simulations and virtual field trips.”

Astrophysicist Nat Butler will be teaching a course called Engineering Systems and Experimental Problem Solving in the spring 2021 semester for this degree. This is an applied computer science course that will help students use Python, a high-level general-purpose programming language.

“We’ll use some very cool, highly interactive resources to teach students Python,” said Butler. “And we’ll work together to analyze and interpret astronomical data.”

Another interesting course offered for this degree is taught by astrophysicist Frank Timmes. He will be teaching Energy and Everyday Life, which will explore the different aspects that energy can take and will focus on practicing the art of estimation.

“Students will not only learn about energy, they’ll learn how to take a large-scale problem and break it down into plausible answers,” said Timmes. “When they have completed the course, students will have a polished and professional ability to estimate things that happen in everyday life.”

With these and other courses offered through this degree program, students will have the unique opportunity to acquire scientific knowledge, communication and problem-solving skills and the ability to tackle complex ideas using data analysis techniques taught by experts in their fields using the latest tools and technology.

“We’re excited to offer this degree that will provide students the scientific foundations required to understand and communicate the fundamentals of space exploration and ongoing advances in the field,” said the school’s undergraduate initiatives Associate Director Christopher Groppi.

ASU Online supports the university’s charter to make education available to anyone, anywhere. Through ASU Online, students can choose from more than 200 programs offered 100% online by the nation's most innovative university. ASU Online programs are designed using more than 125 state-of-the-art tools and technologies to provide the best learning experience possible. It empowers students to achieve their goals through a premier suite of services and support, including success coaching, time management tools and technical resources.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


Biodesign Institute appoints director for new Biodesign Europe

July 8, 2020

In 2013, Arizona State University and Dublin City University signed a Transatlantic Higher Education Partnership, building on this history of collaboration and leveraging our complementary skills and cultural differences. The partnership provides students and researchers with unique education and research experiences while making a positive impact on communities in Arizona and Ireland.

In the research sphere, the ASU Biodesign Institute is a world-renowned research center that develops and exploits nature-inspired solutions to address global health, sustainability and security challenges. The focus of this institute is well aligned with the DCU research strategic objective of translating scientific knowledge into economic and societal benefits. portrait of Nicholas Dunne Nicholas Dunne, the new director of Biodesign Europe. Download Full Image

In the context of this Transatlantic Partnership, Biodesign Europe is being established at DCU to develop collaborative applied research programs exploiting the complementary underpinning research strengths at both the ASU Biodesign Institute and DCU across the following research areas of healthcare technology, sustainable manufacturing, biotechnology, bioanalytical systems and sustainability for health.

Crucially, Biodesign Europe will work closely with Biodesign at ASU to help translate scientific discoveries into the market, where they can benefit society as a whole. DCU’s research activities have a long-established track record of enterprise engagement in terms of undertaking collaborative projects with industrial partners. In this context, Biodesign Europe will benefit from the excellent technology transfer expertise to leverage the commercial potential of the applied research activities.

Nicholas Dunne, a biomaterials engineer and full professor at DCU, is the newly appointed executive director of Biodesign Europe. He brings to this role his significant leadership and management experience as director of DCU’s Centre for Medical Engineering Research.

We sat down with Dunne to discuss the focus of Biodesign Europe, how it will work in tandem with Biodesign ASU and where he plans to take it in the future.

Question: What are some of Biodesign Europe’s goals, and how will you work with Biodesign ASU to accomplish them?

Answer: Biodesign Europe, in essence, will mirror the same principles and values as the ASU Biodesign Institute, which works in the space of high-level fundamental science at the lower technology readiness levels. DCU has a long-established record of developing fundamental-based research programs and progressing key technology up the technology readiness levels to a commercial endpoint. DCU is very well connected in the spaces of innovation, industrial engagement and entrepreneurial exportation.

Although the initial period will focus on creating Biodesign Europe around the complementary research expertise of ASU Biodesign Institute and DCU, our longer-term vision is to collaborate with other universities and research institutes that share our principles and values of developing and exploiting nature-inspired innovations at the intersection of engineering, biology and computing to address global health, sustainability and security challenges. For example, we need to leverage our strategic partnerships with the European Consortium of Innovative Universities and the Young European Research Universities Network, which are European networks of young universities that are innovative and entrepreneurial in their thinking concerning education and research.

We also need to be engaging with industry and end-users, and within Ireland, we have 20 of the top 25 multinationals globally working within the space of biopharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical device technology, and information and communications technology.

Q: Are there opportunities for students to get involved?

A: Yes, having undergraduate and postgraduate students involved is very much part of the model for Biodesign Europe. We are currently linking up with principal investigators that work at ASU and DCU and building research programs that work within the grand goals of Biodesign.Those projects will specifically involve postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate and undergraduate students. Over the next 12 to 24 months, we will explore the potential to have postgraduate student secondments between both universities and even potentially undergraduate students within the teaching pathways of biomedical engineering as well.

Q: Why are you excited about this new role?

A: I think it is a truly awesome opportunity to undertake really exciting research programs between two like-minded universities that are both innovative and entrepreneurial in their strategic thinking for research, teaching, enterprise engagement and social responsibility. I have only been at the ASU Biodesign Institute twice, but both times I have come away with my mind blown by the quality of research that is being conducted in the ASU Biodesign Institute and the enthusiasm of the ASU principal investigators when discussing potential opportunities for Biodesign Europe.

Although DCU and ASU are very different in terms of size and scale, I think there is significant added value in the two of us working together on large-scale research programs as we bring very different, but complementary research expertise, resources and industry contacts to the table.

Q: What is your initial vision for Biodesign Europe?

A: Following my visits to ASU, I have met with the leadership and principal investigators from the ASU Biodesign Institute, and I have an excellent understanding of the potential opportunities for research collaborations between the five faculties at DCU, in particular the faculties of engineering and computing and of science and health, and the ASU Biodesign Institute. Over the first 12-18 months, I have specific key objectives to build on the current academic relationships between ASU and DCU and bring them under the umbrella of Biodesign Europe.

In terms of building on current research activities, through consultation with the appropriate contacts at ASU Biodesign Institute and DCU, I will lead and direct several strategic seed-funding calls that will enable research teams from ASU Biodesign Institute and DCU to discuss potential research ideas and scope out research programs that will lead to the submission of joint proposals to strategic funding calls managed by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health and Science Foundation Ireland in the first instance.

To ensure that Biodesign Europe remains true to its principles and values to develop and exploit nature-inspired solutions at the intersection of engineering, biology and computing that can benefit society as a whole, we will set up a transatlantic academic-industrial strategic advisory group of key opinion leaders that represent the five areas of research that Biodesign Europe is built upon.

In parallel with building on current research activities, I will develop a shared vision for Biodesign Europe, which will be articulated through effective branding and a focused web and social media presence. The vision for Biodesign Europe will be used as a springboard to build on current research activities and develop new research collaboration within ASU and DCU and as a litmus test for discussions with long-standing industrial partners and potential funders.

Q: Why are partnerships like the one between ASU and DCU important?

A: At a time in which forming research partnerships has perhaps never been easier, it has also never been more important or necessary.

The rate of internationalization is growing rapidly, with unhindered communication channels and relatively inexpensive travel. Universities and research institutes across the world are already seeking to make the most of the possibilities this presents by forming global partnerships and fostering relationships with other institutions. And ASU and DCU are no different in this regard.

As a result of the expansion of communication methods and the ease of international travel, academics and researchers are finding it easier than ever to collaborate with their foreign counterparts, making the exchange of academic knowledge, research ideas and resources much simpler to organize. The ability to share ideas, develop and collaborate on research projects is essential for academic and scientific accomplishment, in addition to finding innovative solutions to address global challenges. Constructively challenging accepted principles and ideas is central to their development, and international research collaborations help to facilitate this.

I strongly believe that the strategic research partnership between the ASU Biodesign Institute and Biodesign Europe at DCU will contribute greatly to academic and scientific progress by developing collaborative applied research programs exploiting the complementary underpinning research strengths across the areas of healthcare technology, sustainable manufacturing, biotechnology, bioanalytical systems and sustainability for health.