Peace Corps offers ASU students global opportunity

September 21, 2007

By establishing a global presence, ASU influences research, teaching and service worldwide – and acts as a catalyst for societal change, too.

Service, in particular, demonstrates ASU’s commitment to be a solution-focused university. Programs and practices with global application have been established at the university, but many students want to continue service beyond graduation. To meet this demand, ASU is one of the few universities that have a U.S. Peace Corps representative on site. Download Full Image

Torrey Cunningham, a 2002 ASU alumnus, is a Peace Corps recruiter for Central Arizona who had been housed at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, but he’s now located at the univerity’s Tempe Center. He has a passion for connecting ASU graduates with the federal governmental agency to provide them with meaningful volunteer opportunities in developing countries.

“In 2006, there were 47 ASU graduates serving as Peace Corps volunteers worldwide,” Cunningham says. “ASU alone has had 757 Peace Corps volunteers since 1961.”

ASU’s ranking for producing the most Peace Corps volunteers in 2006 moved up 16 spots to debut at No. 19 on the large schools list, and ASU leaders are taking steps to increase the number of Peace Corps volunteers.

It’s a goal Cunningham believes ASU easily can achieve, especially with the university’s focus on global engagement.

“We’re a knowledge-based institution that transcends borders,” says Anthony “Bud” Rock, ASU’s vice president for global engagement. “By serving in the Peace Corps, our alumni can cross the artificial lines that separate one nation from another in order to make a positive impact on human lives.”

“The Peace Corps experience makes graduates more confident in their abilities, regardless of their degree,” Cunningham adds. “By volunteering their time and talent in an underdeveloped country, they become more aware of global issues that we don’t see here in the United States.”

The mission of the Peace Corps includes:

• Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their needs for trained men and women.

• Promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

• Promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Jonathan Stall, a 2006 graduate of ASU majoring in supply chain management and economics, is serving in the Peace Corps in Ghana, a sub-Saharan nation in West Africa. It is considered the most impoverished region in the world.

“My work is to develop a small, community-based tourism site,” Stall says. “I work on a team of 14 community leaders and representatives that meet to manage any of the tourism issues in town. Through its growth, the town should benefit from preserving monuments and traditional culture, increased sales of crafts and tourism services, and new jobs, as well as a portion of the profits that go toward projects the town will choose and design.”

Stall says he can’t do research on the Internet or just stop by someone’s office.

“There are often indigenous rituals to go through, as well as a period of building trust between each other in intimate settings,” he says.

Even leaving things at home in Arizona has been a struggle. As a die-hard ASU Sun Devil season ticket holder, Stall says it hasn’t been easy waiting weeks just to get updates on final scores of the games.

But Stall says the experience of living and working in Ghana has been enriching.

“Most people show great appreciation that I’m trying to adopt aspects of their culture, which they are very proud of,” he says.

ASU senior Deanna Evans recently applied to the Peace Corps and is going through the interview process. The journalism and mass communication major says she doesn’t want to go right into a career after she graduates because she wants to get hands-on experience in development issues – things she cares deeply about.

“I hope that I can improve the quality of life for people at my service site and also improve myself – my interpersonal abilities and my cultural awareness,” Evans says. “I think a lot of people don’t understand what being a Peace Corps volunteer really entails. I’ve heard it said that it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. And extremely fulfilling.”

In partnership with the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, the Peace Corps offers a master’s international program (MIP) to provide an opportunity for students to combine academic course work with a practical field experience.

Students must meet the ASU admission requirements and the requirements established by the Peace Corps for volunteer service.

In-class presentations on Peace Corps volunteer opportunities can be scheduled by contacting Torrey Cunningham at (480) 727-8866 or The Peace Corps recruitment office is located at 951 S. Mill Ave. in the ASU Tempe Center, Suite 195-A.

Editor's note: Comments by Jonathan Stall are reprinted with permission from Rancher’s Roundup, Dobson Ranch, Mesa, Ariz.

By Diana Dunaj-Kullman, ddkullman">">

NIH award addresses common hospital infection

September 21, 2007

Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the Veterans Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare Center, GeneFluidics and ASU’s Biodesign Institute have received a five-year, $3.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help rapidly diagnose and treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) – the most common cause of hospital-associated infection in the United States.

The initiative brings together academic and industry leaders to further advance the groundbreaking technology – initially developed by UCLA/VA researchers and corporate partner GeneFluidics – which correctly identified the first ever species-specific, rapid detection of bacteria in human clinical fluid samples using a microfabricated electrochemical sensor array. Download Full Image

Joseph Wang, director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors, will join the collaboration to improve the performance of the test by dramatically enhancing its sensitivity and speed. Wang has more than 25 years of success in biomedical applications and a strong track record of bringing similar sensors to the market for glucose monitoring.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Joe Wang and the Biodesign Institute as partners in this endeavor,” says David Haake, a professor of medicine at UCLA, an infectious diseases specialist at the VA and the principal investigator on the project. “Biodesign’s expertise will make it possible to quickly bring the electrochemical sensor to clinical reality. Working together, we hope to fundamentally change the way antibiotics are selected for treatment of infectious diseases.”

“The goal of our collaborative effort is to develop all of the technical components to produce a biosensor that can rapidly and reliably identify a bacteria and its spectrum of antibiotic susceptibility to aid point-of-care diagnostics for the clinic,” adds Wang, who also serves a dual appointment as professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Industrial partner GeneFluidics will help deliver a custom-built, fully functional prototype called PATHOSENSE within the time frame of the grant. At the conclusion of the grant period, the collaboration hopes to work with GeneFluidics for near-term deployment of the PATHOSENSE instrument in multi-center clinical testing.

“By combining our expertise, we will be able to bring outstanding pathogen screening products to health care professionals,” says Vincent Gau, president of GeneFluidics. “Using GeneFluidics’ proprietary electrochemical platform as the backbone of our tests allows for very high sensitivity and for a streamlined system that delivers antibiotics resistance results in record time: two hours instead of two to three days.”

The basis of the technology relies on the ability to detect the genetic signature of a bacterial pathogen. The researchers will use 16S rRNA, a ribosomal molecule found in all bacteria to identify the bacteria species. The research team will focus on enhancing the performance and validation of the electrochemical biosensor assay and also develop an antimicrobial susceptibility test to rapidly select the best antibiotic for treatment.

“Our mission is to create a new technology to solve an old problem which is the diagnosis of urinary tract infections – the second-most-common bacterial infection – in a clinically relevant time frame,” says Bernard Churchill, chief of pediatric urology at the Clark-Morrison Children’s Urological Center at UCLA.

In current laboratory practice, pathogens in urine specimens are grown in culture dishes until they can be visually identified. The major drawback of this century-old technique is the two-day time lag between specimen collection and bacteria identification. As a result, physicians must decide whether to prescribe antibiotic therapy – and, if so, which antibiotic to use – all without knowing the actual cause of the infection, if any.

In contrast, the new biosensor technology would allow physicians to prescribe targeted treatment without the wait.

Urinary tract infection is the most common urological disease in the United States and the most common bacterial infection of any organ system. Urinary tract infection is a major cause of patient death and health care expenditure for all age groups, accounting for more than 7 million office visits and more than 1 million hospital admissions per year.

In the hospital, catheter‑associated urinary tract infection accounts for 40 percent of all in-hospital acquired infections – more than 1 million cases each year.

The total cost of urinary tract infections to the U.S health care system in 2000 was about $3.5 billion.

The grant is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications