Nontraditional student is first grad of transdisciplinary math program

January 18, 2011

As a child, Andrea Feiler’s favorite toys were her microscope and telescope. She dreamed of becoming a scientist. Then, as a college student at Glendale Community College, she took a calculus class and discovered a passion for mathematics.

Torn between the life sciences and math, Feiler found a way to combine them in Arizona State University’s applied mathematics for the life and social sciences track. Last month, she became the first graduate of the innovative undergraduate program.

The 44 year old excelled at the transdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on understanding mathematical theory and using techniques like computational methods and mathematical modeling to solve real-world problems in areas such as health and the environment.

“I think this degree reflects that I understand the interconnectedness of the natural world and can utilize a transdisciplinary approach through my research,” explained Feiler, who is a math tutor working primarily with special needs children and returning adult students.

Feiler also volunteers at Liberty Wildlife, an avian rescue and rehabilitation organization. Though she enjoys caring for orphaned nestlings, she is currently engaged with the medical services division, which allows her the opportunity to work first-hand with birds affected by endemic and emerging diseases, the area she pegs as her research specialization.

At ASU, Feiler did phylogenetic analysis regarding Trichomonas gallinae and performed a study of its infection rates in doves. Her capstone project was based on a previous study of hers on the release rates of rescued immature grackles. She examined the factors that might have contributed to the differences, such as availability of resources, exposure to disease, brood reduction and human intervention.

Jose Lobo, associate research professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Feiler’s capstone project advisor, was impressed by her abilities and character. “I found Andrea to be not only smart and diligent – which, after all, are expected characteristics of a college student – but also fearless in her willingness to tackle advanced results and engage in sophisticated mathematical reasoning,” he said.

Feiler advises students entering the undergraduate applied math program to discover their research niche as early as possible to make their educational path smoother. She added, “Also, as long as you have completed the first two years of the program, don’t be afraid to take classes that are cross-listed as graduate level. Yes, they are challenging but well worth the effort. They allow you to truly appreciate the transdisciplinary approach this program espouses.”

Feiler plans to do field work this summer and enter graduate school in the fall. This spring, she is taking an applied math course and continuing her research with Lobo on T. gallinae. She believes that further exploration of its role in avian parasite-prey-predator relationships may lead to a better understanding of food-borne diseases in general. Download Full Image

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


Tables turn: Students teach Native American artists

January 18, 2011

When the Heard Museum opens the doors to its annual Indian Market, Mary Hood is there. You also might see her at the Santa Fe market, in art galleries and at powwows, and any other festival where Native Americans display their art.

She’s not there to shop for turquoise, or enjoy some fry bread. She’s on the hunt for artists to invite to the biennial “Map(ing)” project she runs at ASU. Download Full Image

Hood selects approximately a half-dozen artists, who work in various media, to participate in “Map(ing),” a project that brings together graduate printmaking students and the Native American artists to produce new works of art.

She creates “teams” of students to work with each artist, and over a five-day period in January the teams collaborate to create a new work of art, with the student printmakers serving as instructors to the artists.

“Most of the Native American artists have never done printmaking,” said Hood, who teaches printmaking in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “The students get to be the experts, teaching the artists about printmaking, and the artists share their ideas with the students.”

The idea is to create community between the students and the artists, and to expand the artistic knowledge of both.

It’s a grueling schedule. The teams put in long hours during the five-day creation process, then the artists discuss their work at a public forum at ASU’s Night Gallery in the Tempe Marketplace.

“Map(ing)” concluded with a silent auction of the collaborative works. Two prints from each artist were auctioned off to benefit future “Map(ing)” events. The prints are on display at the Night Gallery, located in Tempe Marketplace, through Jan. 30.

When Hood selects Native American artists to invite, Hood looks for a diversity of ages, experience, and skills – a “good balance,” she said.

This year’s roster includes Ahkima Honyumptewa, Hopi, who creates drawings, weavings, Katchina Dolls, and carvings; Eliza Narajano Morse, Santa Clara Pueblo, who draws on canvas with micaceous clay and volcanic ash; Marilou Schultz, Navajo/Dine, a weaver; Hulleah Tsinhanhjinnie, Seminole/Muscogee/Dine, photography and video; Dallin Maybee, Northern Arapaho/Seneca, who is known for his beading and drawing; Wanesia Misquadace, Fond-du-Lac/Objibway, who practices the rare art of birch bark biting; and Randy Kemp, Choctaw/Cree/Euchee, who paints, draws, makes videos and performs music.

Students include Nicholas Dowgwillo, Caroline Battle, Karl Johnson, Lauren Kinney, Dana LeMine, Matthew McLaughlin, Kathleen Moore, Gabriela Munoz, Rachel Nore, Brett Schieszer, Nan Hutchinson-Vaughn, Nic Wiesinger, Patrick Vincent and Angela Young. Undergraduate students Tiffiney Yazzie, Tom Greyeyes, and Jelena Milesic also have been working with the artists.

It’s hard to say who benefits the most from the experience, or who works the hardest, the artists or the students

Dallin Maybee, who designed a 14-layer print, said that his team members, Caroline Battle and Kathleen Moore, have faced more challenges in the process than he has.

His print includes drawings of some of his favorite old cars, with running buffalos embossed between the cars, inspired by his family’s Plains culture. The first layer of the print is an inkjet image of an antique ledger page, followed by 12 layers of screen printing – one for each color – with embossing as the final step.

Battle said she was impressed that Maybee came in “knowing exactly what he wanted to do,” which helped their process along.

Student Kathleen Moore was part of a team for the first “Map(ing)” in 2009, and said she feels ”more technically savvy” this year as she works alongside the artist.

She also has learned “how much more you pay attention to the details when you’re printing someone else’s work.”

Moore agreed that there’s more pressure in printing someone else’s work. “Something you might let slide by in your work you can’t when it’s someone else’s,” she said.

Collaborating with the artists also helps the students broaden their horizons, Moore added. “It gets us out of our normal way of working.”

Some of the artists who hold jobs, take vacation time to come to “Map(ing),” and welcome the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time in the studio working on their art.

Randy Kemp, who graduated from ASU with a degree in art and now is an environmental graphic designer at ASU, and who was part of the first “Map(ing),” said he was thrilled to be in the studio in the School of Art with nothing to do but create his art.

His art is “of the moment,” he said as he daubed paint on a sheet of Plexiglas in preparation for making a monoprint. “I just paint something I’m feeling right now. There is no particular tribe or culture associated with it.”

Since the artists and students spend so much time together, they form bonds that will be long lasting, Hood said. “The connections last well beyond the project.“

Beyond artistic achievement, beyond the building of new relationships between artists and students “Map(ing),” is, above all, is another way of teaching, Hood said.

“Map(ing),” which grew out of a discussion between Hood and Joe Baker, former director of community engagement at the Herberger Institute, about “place,” is “another tool we have to educate students. It’s not just talking to them.”

For more information about the silent auction, complete biographies of the artists, and ways to get involved, visit">">