This year showed us the power of resilience.
With a new virus changing life as we know it, social justice protests and a big election — not to mention ASU's first (and second) virtual commencement and the launch of distance-and-in-person learning via ASU Sync — there was no shortage of news in 2020. Sun Devils have stepped up, showing their compassion, their smarts and their grit in the face of a very tough year.
COVID-19 dominated many of the top ASU Now stories, but there are also compelling research findings, stories of inspiring entrepreneurship and helping others, creative performances and even a presidential pet feature. Click through the months below for a fast-forward review of 2020.
And remember: Forks up, masks up. We are all — still — in this together.
We broke new ground in more ways than one, as construction projects began and finished, and a new viral threat began to make headlines.
A bright idea
Marine biologist Jesse Senko’s solar-powered lights are doing more than rescuing sea turtles from fishing nets — they’re helping to transform the future of sustainable fishing. On a tiny island lost in time, all the strands of Senko’s work — conservation, resilience and reducing plastic trash — come together.Photo by Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock
New doors open to Hayden Library
Capping off a $90 million renovation, ASU’s Hayden Library, built in 1966, was reinvented and reopened for the 21st century, with an eye toward maximum accessibility, engagement and support for the university’s growing student population.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
ASU at Mesa City Center breaks ground
The state-of-the-art project will jump-start the revitalization of downtown Mesa and train students in one of the biggest industries in the U.S.: media production. It will also feature spaces for entrepreneurship and community collaboration.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Wentz named vice provost, dean of Graduate College
Elizabeth "Libby" Wentz, a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and dean of social sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was appointed to a new leadership role. Wentz is recognized for her global leadership in the social sciences.Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU
China dealing with a new and deadly virus
At the start of 2020, we were learning of a new coronavirus that had emerged the previous month in China. At that point, it had killed 17 and infected about 540 others. We had so many questions, and coronavirus expert Brenda Hogue helped us understand more about virus outbreaks.Illustration courtesy of Pixabay
Sun Devils were feeling the love this month, winning innovation prizes, sharing their meet-cute stories and learning more about our state.
Innovation Open winners tackle large-scale industrial problems
Two teams of entrepreneurs, one that tackled a critical recycling problem and one that’s trying to disrupt the oil and gas industry, each won $100,000 as the top winners in the fourth ASU Innovation Open pitch competition at ASU.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
State Farm, ASU announce partnership
ASU will prepare learners of all ages to succeed in a transformed workplace thanks to a $30 million gift from State Farm that will fund the State Farm Pathways for the Future program, targeting high school and community college students as well as adults who need to update their skills.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
5 facts about Arizona's birthday you didn't know
Feb. 14, 2020, marks the 108th birthday for our state. The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's Sean Beienburg, an expert on Arizona’s founding, constitution and history, has identified five little known facts about the state’s origins and early years.Photo by Gage Skidmore
Love is in the air with these Sun Devil stories
Love finds us all at different times and takes us to different places — just ask these Sun Devil faculty and alumni. ASU Now picked the brains — and hearts — of three couples for advice on how to keep the fire burning through life's ups and downs.
To toss or not? Knowing when ‘expired’ really means expired
Carelessness, confusion over labels and food spoilage are three main reasons food is wasted. Devin Bowes, a nutritional epidemiologist passionate about food policy and sustainability, and Rolf Halden were featured in a Discover story, "Is ‘Expired’ Milk Safe to Drink?"Photo courtesy of pexels.com
The month everything changed: On March 11, midway through spring break, ASU made the decision to transition in-person classes to remote instruction. Employees pivoted to working from home wherever possible, and life on campus looked very different.
2nd downtown residence hall to focus on entrepreneurship, the arts
ASU broke ground on a 16-floor building at Fillmore Street and First Avenue that will house more than 500 students, as well as academic space for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and coworking and event spaces for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
ASU for You gathers resources so learning doesn’t stop
ASU assembled a collection of online resources onto a single platform called ASU for You. It offers a wide array of content, much of it at no cost, for all learners — from elementary school to adults — as well as resources for teachers and parents navigating learning at home.
COVID-19 may alter the future of how we navigate work and leisure
According to Ram Pendyala, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Phoenix traffic may have reduced by 30% or more since schools closed and businesses encouraged workers to stay home to help control the spread of the virus.Photo by Erik Wirtanen/ASU
$2M donation to boost COVID-19 rapid response
Emergency grants from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust aimed to increase efforts at ASU to coordinate responses to the pandemic, supporting the university’s work in three areas: testing of critical workforce, assembling test kits for health care providers, and manufacturing PPE.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
ASU, Crash Course partner for series of educational videos
ASU expanded access to its academic content to a vast new audience through a partnership with Crash Course, a YouTube channel of educational videos with 10 million subscribers. The first topics to be tackled were English comp, college algebra, data literacy and chemistry.Illustration by Complexly
We began to adjust to our new reality, looking to new ideas for food and PPE supply chains. And "A" Mountain sported a new look in salute to those frontline medical workers caring for communities facing an unprecedented crisis.
Welcome to vertical farming
Forget farm to table. An ASU instructor has skipped the farm entirely. In a time when grocery stores are struggling to keep shelves full, this new system could sit in the corner of a parking lot, sending lettuce grown from a completely organic closed system to the shelves in as little as three weeks.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Why older adults should drink to their health
Recent survey data found that over 65% of U.S. adults ages 51 to 70 are not properly hydrated. Concerned by what it could mean for the health of that group, College of Health Solutions Professor Stavros Kavouras and colleagues analyzed data to investigate potential health outcomes.Photo courtesy of Pixabay
'A' Mountain goes blue for a good cause
ASU and the city of Tempe saluted health care workers and first responders by painting the “A” on “A” Mountain blue as part of the Light AZ Blue initiative, in which structures around the state were lit blue as a symbol of support for frontline medical workers during the COVID-19 crisis.Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
ASU supplies health care providers with protective gear
ASU ramped up a massive initiative to design, produce and distribute critically needed personal protective equipment and other supplies and, in mid-April, unveiled a website that links university and community resources to hospitals that need gear.Photo courtesy of Clinton Ewell
ASU ranked top in US, 5th in world pursuit of UN sustainability goals
In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 objectives aimed at achieving a better world by 2030, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This year, ASU was ranked fifth in the world in achieving those goals, an impressive jump from last year’s 35th place.Photo by Rich Martello/Courtesy of Unsplash
A very big month: ASU's first-ever virtual commencement took place in May, and ASU's Biodesign Institute developed the state's first saliva-based COVID-19 test — which continues to be available to the public at no charge. The university kicked off its summer concert series with multiplatinum singer, songwriter and dancer Jason Derulo. And yes, two of our top stories that month involved the efficacyA topic that some in the wider community debated throughout the rest of the year. of face coverings in fighting COVID-19.
To mask or not to mask? Going out in public during a pandemic
Many people were staying at home as much as possible in April. The question on many people's minds: If they weren't showing symptoms, should they wear a mask when they make that quick trip to the grocery store? According to an ASU research study, the answer is yes.Photo courtesy of Enahoro Iboi
An uncommon commencement
ASU's May 11 commencement celebrated many milestones: the university's first virtual ceremony because of COVID-19, the first graduating cohort of ASU's partnership with ride-share company Uber, and the first time thousands of Sun Devils turned their tassels from the air-conditioned comfort of their homes.
Team finds new coronavirus mutation
Using a pool of samples from possible COVID-19 cases in Arizona, Efrem Lim’s team identified a SARS-CoV-2 mutation that had never been found before — where 81 of the chemical letters vanished. The mutation gained interest from the WHO because it mirrored a deletion during the '03 SARS outbreak.
Cloth masks a worthy line of defense to mitigate COVID-19
N95 masks are the gold standard for catching tiny particles but needed to be reserved for COVID-19 health care workers. So, School of Molecular Sciences Professor Pierre Herckes began testing materials he found at home to see what would be effective for public use.Illustration by Christine Lewis
ASU develops state’s first saliva-based COVID-19 test
In an effort to make diagnostic testing easier and more readily available to Arizonans, ASU researchers developed the state’s first saliva-based test. Biodesign Institute Executive Director Joshua LaBaer, who leads ASU COVID-19 research efforts, called it a real game-changer.Photo by ASU
After George Floyd's death at the end of May, protests and discussions about social justice and equity began to dominate discourse across the country — and the university.
A statement co-signed by deans and other leaders supported #ShutDownSTEM, an effort to transition “to a lifelong commitment of actions to eradicate anti-Black racism in academia and STEM.” Since 2008–09, the number of students receiving STEM degrees at ASU has increased 166%. But more must be done.Photo by iStock
Study finds correlation between vaccination rates, disease immunity
An ASU alumna and College of Health Solutions faculty member studied trends in vaccination rates among schoolchildren in Arizona, finding a decreased herd immunity statewide and an increased rate of personal belief exemptions during the years 2015 to 2018.Photo by iStock/Getty Images
Living with a disability during a pandemic
ASU sociologists agree: The pandemic has exposed a number of inequalities in our society related to race, gender, class, legal status and age. However, conspicuously missing from much of the coverage on these issues are the stories of how the crisis is affecting the disabled community.Photo by iStock
'To Be Welcoming' curriculum offers tools to counteract bias
Two years ago, Starbucks asked ASU to develop an online curriculum for all Starbucks employees that is intended to drive reflection and conversation on the topic of bias. This summer, Starbucks made those courses available to the public at no cost.
Panchanathan confirmed as NSF director
ASU Executive Vice President and Chief Research and Innovation Officer Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan was named the 15th director of the National Science Foundation, unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 18 after his December 2019 nomination by President Donald Trump.Photo by ASU
As summer heated up, so did preparations for the fall semester and the need for COVID-19 testing in high-need communities across the state. ASU's staff and faculty stepped up for both — including several First Peoples' COVID-19 Resource Drive events. And to further help the community, ASU Prep Digital rolled out a full-time K–8 virtual school option.
Syncing up ASU classrooms for live-hosted digital classes
The University Technology Office prepared classrooms for ASU Sync, which provides students with technology-enhanced, fully interactive remote learning, using live lectures via Zoom. Our primer further explains ASU Sync.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Your body has built-in indicators of how much you should be drinking
Summer in Arizona means it's more important than ever to keep an eye on keeping hydrated with some high-quality H2O. Hydration Science Lab Director Stavros Kavouras shares insights about how to listen to your body's water needs.Infographic by Chad Musch/ASU
State partnership to increase COVID-19 testing in Arizona
The Arizona Department of Health Services and ASU announced a partnership to increase COVID-19 diagnostic testing in Arizona. ASU launched several testing sites that provide free saliva diagnostic testing for COVID-19 in high-need underserved communities around the state.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
ASU's top academic programs keep climbing in world rankings
Shanghai Ranking released its annual Global Ranking, rating more than 4,000 universities across 54 subjects. ASU made some notable achievements, ranking significantly higher in at least five subjects and ranking in the top 20 nationally in at least eight.Photo by ASU
ASU engineers offer insight on Tempe railway bridge collapse
In the wake of the July 29 train derailment over the Tempe Town Lake, expert faculty members from ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment provide insights on the history, structure and future of the Union Pacific Salt River Bridge.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
A semester unlike any other began with students in classrooms and on Zoom screens around the world. Learning continued, as did research on everything from ice to heat.
ASU launches fall with multiple ways to learn
Sun Devils aren't letting the pandemic slow down their journey: ASU welcomed its largest community to date — more than 127,500 students, a 7.6% increase over fall 2019 — with multiple learning modalities. ASU Online had its largest fall enrollment, with more than 53,000 students.Photo by ASU
Early Mars covered in ice sheets, not flowing rivers
A large number of the valley networks scarring Mars' surface were carved by water melting beneath glacial ice, not by free-flowing rivers as previously thought, new research shows. The findings effectively throw cold water on the dominant “warm and wet ancient Mars” hypothesis.Photo by Grau Galofre/ASU
Study looks at humans’ exposure to future extreme temperatures
School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning faculty Ashley Broadbent and Matei Georgescu used state-of-the-art modeling tools to analyze how three key variables would affect human exposure to extreme temperatures from the beginning of this century to its end.Photo by iStock
Indian Legal Program alumni make a difference
The Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has grown to become one of the best of its kind — and alumni's meaningful work is a key reason. With roles in law firms, tribal governments, public agencies and more, grads are making a difference for Indian Country.
Nimble events crew supports dozens of COVID-19 testing sites
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to make a stronghold in Arizona, ASU employees began fighting back — by answering urgent calls for help and, often, by taking on completely new roles.
Big headlines dominated the month, including the launch of the Global Futures Laboratory and ASU's sixth straight No. 1 innovation ranking. September was also the month when — to accelerate meaningful change at ASU and to contribute to a national agenda for social justice — President Michael M. Crow announced the university's commitment to 25 actions to support Black students, faculty and staff.
Entrepreneur's legacy honored with establishment of institute
J. Orin Edson's legacy was honored with the establishment of the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute. The naming recognizes Edson and his wife's longstanding commitment to further entrepreneurship support at ASU, which includes an additional gift.Photo courtesy of the J. Orin Edson family
Carbon-rich exoplanets may be made of diamonds
Researchers from ASU and the University of Chicago have determined that some carbon-rich exoplanets, given the right circumstances, could be made of diamonds and silica. “These exoplanets are unlike anything in our solar system,” said lead author Harrison Allen-Sutter of ASU.Illustration by Shim/ASU/Vecteezy
ASU launches Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory
In response to current crises and driven by the belief in making positive, substantive advances, ASU announced the launch of a laboratory dedicated to keeping our planet habitable and enhancing the options for future generations to thrive.Photo by Pixabay
ASU ranked No. 1 in innovation for 6th year
As the world's challenges grow more complex, new ideas are needed more than ever — and ASU's researchers and students are finding creative solutions across a range of fields. In recognition, U.S. News & World Report named ASU the most innovative university in the nation, again.
Partnership to bring cutting-edge virtual reality to learners worldwide
Leading virtual reality company Dreamscape Immersive and ASU have teamed up, merging the emotional power of the best Hollywood storytelling with the nation’s leader in online and digitally enhanced education to deliver fully immersive VR learning systems.Image from Dreamscape Learn
ASU continued to work with its communities, whether that was expanded COVID-19 testing or building a student-centered learning approach for Arizona's K–12 schools. And at the end of the month, early voting began on or near all four campuses as the nation headed toward a momentous Election Day.
ASU receives $4.7M to deploy COVID-19 tests to underserved communities in Arizona
ASU’s Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center won the grant for an intensive project to provide education, saliva-based COVID-19 tests and follow-up care to 10 communities around Arizona.
Collection of rare, historically significant books made accessible to the public online
A first-edition printing of “The Federalist,” along with 23 other rare books and manuscripts related to significant figures, moments, ideas, debates and movements from American history, can be explored through ASU's Civic Classics Collection.
Collaboration seeks to transform the way teaching and learning is done in Arizona schools
The Center for the Future of Arizona, ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and KnowledgeWorks team up with Mesa Public Schools to build and scale a student-centered learning approach for Arizona schools.
Gin Blossoms concert to anchor Salute to Service 2020
Salute to Service moved forward with two weeks of virtual events, including a concert by multiplatinum-selling rock band the Gin Blossoms. Sun Devils around the world were able to take part. Read the concert coverage here.Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Voting early across ASU's campuses
The 2020 election drew record numbers of voters — and at ASU, students, employees and members of the public had the opportunity to cast ballots with plenty of time to spare, with early voting locations on or near all four campuses. Lecturer James Hrdlicka also shared some youth voting history.Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
The ASU community blazed new trails, with a new residence hall, two new schools, a new head of Knowledge Enterprise and new best practices for learning in a pandemic.
Outdoor music classes a high note for students, faculty
As ASU enters that golden time of year when the weather cools — and with the risk of coronavirus transmission lower outdoors — ASU's outdoor spaces are a great option for holding class. See how two Herberger Institute performance classes made it work.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Polytechnic's Lantana Hall celebrates grand opening
The four-story state-of-the-art facility not only provides 374 beds for the campus’s growing student population, it also contains about 8,500 square feet of academic space and will be home to Barrett, The Honors College at the Polytechnic campus.Photo Courtesy
Innovating education during a pandemic with ASU Sync
With the rise of COVID-19, everything we thought we knew about traditional notions of teaching and learning were suddenly and necessarily challenged. At ASU, faculty have risen to the occasion, finding a variety of ways to engage students virtually.Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU
Herberger Institute launches two new schools
The Arizona Board of Regents approved a plan to create two new schools in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and The New American Film School. They take the place of the former School of Film, Dance and Theatre and School of Music.Photo by Tim Trumble
Morton to lead Knowledge Enterprise
Sally C. Morton's love of numbers led her to an internationally acclaimed career as a data statistician, solving health care problems with math. Now she will bring her expertise to lead ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, an organization with annual research expenditures of $640 million.Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech
The changes continued in key positions, with leaders of Academic and Learning enterprises announced, as well as ASU's first-ever Innovation Quarter over winter break.
Gonzales named university provost
Nancy Gonzales, whose career has focused on research and outreach to communities underrepresented in higher education, is the next executive vice president and university provost. She'll work with Mark Searle until June 30, when he steps down.Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now
Cold storage crucial to COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Supplying the current vaccines require a feat of logistical precision known as a “cold chain,” requiring temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Associate Professor Kristen Parrish discusses practical aspects of ensuring that vaccine doses stay cold and effective.Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Anguiano to helm Learning Enterprise
Maria Anguiano, who joined ASU as senior vice president of enterprise strategy and planning in 2018, has been named executive vice president of Learning Enterprise, an initiative for which she developed the initial design and now will have responsibility for implementing and evolving.Photo by Jarrod Opperman/ASU
The link between power and a pooch
Does having a dog help a president? Can it hurt a presidency? ASU Now talked with political scientist Kim Fridkin and dog behavior expert Clive Wynne about the relationship between power and pooches.Archive image
Innovation Quarter kicks off
Over winter break, ASU offered five weeks of free virtual programs to engage students and the public in learning activities on topics from social justice to the zombie apocalypse. ASU Now attended four sessions on the first day to get a sampling.Photo by ASU
Top photo: Ashley Tabar snaps a selfie as she celebrates receiving her bachelor's degree in marketing. ASU and portrait agency GradImages offer fall 2020 graduates in-person photo sessions in front of the iconic Old Main in mid-November. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now