New members elected to ASU Young Alumni Council

July 21, 2014

The Arizona State University Alumni Association recently elected its officers and newest members for the 2014-2015 Young Alumni Council. The council was formed in 2009 to direct the development of the association’s Young Alumni group for ASU graduates ages 35 and younger.

The following ASU alumni will be part of this year’s Young Alumni Council. Maja Aurora Download Full Image


President: Maja Aurora '03 B.A. has a degree from ASU in studio art with an emphasis in ceramics. She manages public art, art in private development and arts grants for the city of Tempe. During her time at ASU, she served as the president of Muralcles ASU, a student organization dedicated to brightening the lives of children through arts and music. Aurora currently serves the community by volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona and serving on the board of directors for Tempe Leadership.

Vice President: Nicole Almond Anderson '04 B.A., '09 M.Np.S. is the manager of marketing, communications and stakeholder relations for ASU's Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation. Previously, she worked in alumni relations programs for ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and the ASU Alumni Association. As a student, she was president of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and was involved with the Leadership Scholarship Program, Devils’ Advocates, and the American Marketing Association.

Anderson was recently selected for Valley Leadership's Leadership Institute Class 36 (2014-2015) and is a member of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Phoenix. As a passionate supporter of Sun Devil Athletics, she is a member of the Sun Devil Club Young Professionals organization and was selected by the Pac-12 Network as Arizona State’s “Super Fan” in 2012. She is a proud gold life member of the ASU Alumni Association and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication, and a master’s degree in nonprofit studies.

Secretary: Jessica Aguilar '10 B.A. works as an enrollment adviser for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University. She is also a volunteer with the Center for Civic Education and works with East Valley high school students to better prepare them for competitive government competitions. At ASU, she was the vice president of the Devils’ Advocates organization and a member of the Student Admissions and Relations Team (START). She has interned for several congressional campaigns and participated in several "get out the vote" efforts.

Special Initiative Coordinator: Alexander Benezra '03 B.S. is the principal attorney at Alexander S. Benezra, PLLC, where his practice focuses on DUI, criminal defense and litigation. As an ASU student, Benezra was a resident assistant at Manzanita Hall for two years and active in Hillel. Since graduating from ASU, Benezra earned his law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law in 2007. Outside of work, Benezra volunteers for the Valley of the Sun YMCA Youth and Government program and for the Mountain Region B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, and is a member of the City of Phoenix License Appeals Board. Benezra lives in Phoenix with his wife, Allison, who is also an ASU alum.

New Members

Jonathan Brooks ’06 B.A., ’06 B.A.
Brooks has degrees from ASU in history and political science. He is an associate attorney at Donaldson Stewart, P.C., in Chandler, where he practices in the areas of family law and estate planning. Brooks is a fourth-generation Arizonan and a third-generation Sun Devil. He and his wife, Laura, met as undergraduates at ASU and were married on campus. He has volunteered as an attorney with the Volunteer Lawyers Program, the Modest Means Project and the Paiute Neighborhood Center's free legal clinic. Brooks lives in Scottsdale and is a die-hard Sun Devil Athletics fan.

Regina Duran ’12 B.A.
Duran majored in business at ASU, with a concentration in global politics and a minor in nonprofit management. Duran is the research coordinator at the ASU Office of University Initiatives. In her role, she orchestrates background research to guide strategic projects and partnerships that advance the mission and vision of ASU as a New American University. Duran serves on the alumni board of the ASU Leadership Scholarship Program.

Jennifer Dwosh ’12 B.A.
Dwosh earned her degree in elementary education and is a graduate of Barrett, the Honors College at ASU. She currently teaches sixth-grade mathematics at Madison Number One Middle School in central Phoenix while pursuing a certification in gifted education. While at ASU, Dwosh served on the executive board for multiple organizations, including the Teachers College Council and the ASU Swing Devils. Dwosh was also a member of the Tillman Scholars-ASU program, and continues to actively participate as an alumna in program events.

Gonzalo Gonzalez ‘06 B.S.
Gonzalez earned his degree in construction management at ASU and is a project manager for Ryan Companies US, Inc., a commercial real estate firm providing design-build construction, real estate development and real estate management services. Gonzalez is currently serving on the board of directors for the Arizona chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and enjoys giving back to his community, including ASU. While at ASU, he was involved with the Doran Community Scholars program and many of the Phoenix Union High School District partnership programs. He also serves on the board for the newly approved Doran Scholars Club at ASU. He met his wife, Aubrey, while attending ASU and they are both die-hard Sun Devils.

Valerie Keim '10 B.S., ’10 B.S.
Keim has degrees from ASU in political science and family and human development. She works for the Maricopa County Education Service Agency as a research data analyst/grants development manager. While at ASU, Keim was an undergraduate research assistant in an on-campus preschool, and vice president of the political science honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha. After graduation, she went to see what winter was like in the Midwest and earned her master's in child development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago. She came back to Arizona to thaw out, and is now a member of the Infant Toddler Mental Health Coalition of Arizona and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She is also very excited to be a season ticket holder for ASU football.

Becca Myers ’04 B.S., ’04 B.S., ’07 M.S.
Myers earned dual bachelors’ degrees in psychology, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in family resource and human development from ASU. She is a full-time faculty member at University of Phoenix, focusing on delivering critical thinking and human services courses. Previously, she worked as a family therapist working with families participating in state programs. As a student at ASU, she was secretary and president of ASU Student Foundation, a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, and student member of Arizona Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She lives in Gilbert with her husband Allan and daughter Emma.

Steven Slugocki ’07 B.S.
Steven Slugocki, who holds a degree in political science with a minor in history from ASU, is a business sales consultant for Wells Fargo, where he assists small business owners nationwide. As a student, Slugocki was a member of the Young Democrats and worked with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to improve student life and community involvement through local projects. He is currently involved with the Pat Tillman Foundation and helps organize Pat's Run in Tempe. Slugocki is proud to serve as the youngest elected vice chair in Maricopa County Democratic Party history. He is a passionate supporter of Sun Devil Athletics and has been going to football games since he was 14 years old.

Janelle Tassart ’06 B.S., ’09 M.Np.S.
Janelle Tassart is the director of community relations for the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, where she oversees the chamber’s special events and professional development programs. Tassart moved to Arizona from Illinois to become a Sun Devil in 2002, and has loved every minute of living in the Valley. While at ASU, she was involved with the Sports Business Association and was the vice president of public relations for the American Marketing Association. Since graduating, she has had the opportunity to work and volunteer for several Valley nonprofits, and has a passion for organizations that support individuals with disabilities. Tassart is an avid sports fan who also enjoys hiking, Zumba dancing, reading and volunteering in the community. She is honored to be a part of the Young Alumni Council and loves helping fellow Sun Devils connect.

The new council members and officers join continuing council members: Tim Agne ’04 B.A.; Ashley Brand ’07 B.A., ’09 M.Ed.; Alexander Clark ’10 B.A.; Meghan Dorn ’02 B.I.S.; Matt Gervin ’01 B.S.; Sarah Hipolito ’03 B.A.; Sharvil Kapadia ’10 B.S.E.; Christopher Lee ’10 B.A.; and Sean O’Hara ’03 B.A.

For additional information on the Alumni Association’s Young Alumni group, visit:

Cancerous tumors may spread by pure chance

July 21, 2014

Study could spur new ways of thinking about metastatic disease

The spreading of a cancerous tumor from one part of the body to another may occur through pure chance instead of key genetic mutations, a new study has shown. Download Full Image

Physicists from Arizona State University and the University of Dundee in Scotland have used a statistical model to show that the formation of a new secondary tumor – commonly known as a metastasis – could just as likely derive from “common” cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream as from “specialist” cancer cells.

Their results, published in the July 18 IOP Publishing’s journal Physical Biology, could spur new ways of thinking about cancer research, demonstrating that statistical physics may be as fundamental as complex genetics when studying the occurrence and treatment of metastatic disease.

In the conventional view of metastasis, only certain “specialist” cancer cells from the primary tumor can successfully metastasise. These cells have been compared to decathletes due to their ability to perform a number of different tasks, such as invade local tissue, enter, survive in and leave the bloodstream, and colonise new tissue environments.

This view explains the inefficiency of metastasis and why it often takes years to cause death in most patients – it is highly improbable that a cell would possess all of the genetic mutations required to carry out all of the above functions.

In their study, Luis Cisneros, post-doctoral research associate in ASU’s BEYOND Center, and Timothy Newman, professor of biophysics at the University of Dundee, also considered the possibility that a large number of “common” cancer cells that are free flowing in the bloodstream may, on very rare occasions, cause metastasis by pure chance.

“If we use a military metaphor, a key mission can be accomplished using either a handful of highly trained special forces – in this case the specialist cells – or a huge number of untrained infantry – the common cancer cells – in which case, a handful of ordinary soldiers will, by sheer luck, be successful,” Newman said. “If one could magically observe the early growth of a metastasis, we show there would be no way of telling from the growth dynamics whether the tumor was seeded by a special forces cell or a lucky infantryman.”

The researchers used methods from statistical physics and probability theory to calculate the probability of such rare events caused by common cancer cells and the timescales of how fast these events could occur. They found that successful metastatic growth from common cells, although rare, would proceed extremely rapidly, and appear deterministic.

In particular, their results showed that in the early stages of metastatic growth, the growth of a new colony of cancer cells formed by a specialist cell with just the right amount of mutations was statistically indistinguishable from a colony that formed from a common cell which happened to "get lucky."

“If we allow ourselves to consider the role of randomness, then we open the door to perceiving surprising effects of the statistical fluctuations that may not be expected by naïve reasoning,” Cisneros said.

The researchers also used very crude physiological data to estimate that the rare events caused by common cells would lead to semi-stable metastases in the size range of about 50 cells, which was striking as metastases of this size have been previously observed in experiments on mice and zebrafish.

Such tiny metastases would be too small to observe using medical imaging in human patients, but could possibly be found through fine examination of biopsied tissue, which the researchers are looking to investigate in future studies.

The published version of the paper ‘Quantifying metastatic inefficiency: rare genotypes versus rare dynamics’ (Cisneros L H and Newman T J 2014 Phys. Biol 11 046003) is available online at

Sharon Keeler