Forensic science, bugs and all, fascinates ASU honors graduate Andrew Noblesse

April 28, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

You could say Andrew Noblesse had a buggy time at Arizona State University. photo of Andrew Noblesse Andrew Noblesse Download Full Image

Insects figured prominently into his undergraduate experience at the university.

Noblesse overcame his lifelong fear of bugs and completed a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. He is graduating ASU next week with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

“At ASU, I learned that I do not hate insects as much as I thought I did. In my third year I took a forensic entomology course, during which I went on a class camping trip to collect insects,” said Noblesse, whose hometown is Tucson, Arizona.

“While I screamed a few times during the trip, I have become more comfortable around most insects, the exception being cockroaches. I have also been in the forensic entomology research lab, where I completed my honors thesis, and spent the last week and a half going out every day to check on a decomposing pig and collect insects off of it!” he said.

Noblesse’s honors thesis is titled "Blow Flies and the American Diet: Effects of Fat Content on Blow Fly (Diptera: Calliphoridae) Development." For his thesis, Noblesse conducted an experiment to see how varying fat levels (10%, 20%, and 27% fat) affect the development of two species of blow flies, Lucilia sericata and Phormia regina. Data will help improve time of colonization (TOC) estimations made by forensic entomologists engaged in casework.

When not in the lab or immersed in coursework, Noblesse was active in the Barrett Honors College community at ASU West campus.

He counts representing Barrett at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in November 2019 as a highlight of his undergraduate experience.

“It was so fun getting to travel and make friends not only with other Barrett students who I hadn't known prior, but honors students from around the nation as well. The culture in New Orleans is very rich and I am honored to have been selected to attend,” he said.

As Noblesse prepares to move forward as an ASU grad, we asked him to reflect on his experiences as a student. Here’s what he had to say:

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Like many people, I watched some of the crime dramas that feature the forensic process, and found an interest in this unique realm of science. However, I learned very quickly that the field is not what is shown on TV, and I had my "aha" moment to continue in this field during my sophomore year, when I had my first forensics course and learned the true methods of the forensic scientist.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it was a place I could study forensics and not switch to a different science. It was also close enough to home so I could travel there if needed, but far enough to still maintain my independence.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Although I only had Dr. Sasha Billbe as an instructor for one honors elective course, she also was my supervisor over the last three years. One lesson she taught is how to advocate for myself effectively, which I will always value, as I sometimes struggle with being my own advocate. She has been an amazing supervisor, and among all the things she has taught me, self-advocacy will be the one I strive to act upon.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I'd give to those still in school would be to not give up. It's okay to switch your educational path, but don't give up on the journey because it will all be worth it in the end.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Prior to the (novel coronavirus) pandemic, my favorite spot was the Barrett Suite at West. I would spend nearly every day, Monday through Friday, in the suite with my friends playing games, doing homework, and occasionally napping. It also was fun to have conversations with Dr. Ramsey Eric Ramsey, associate dean of Barrett at the West campus, when he would step out of his office.

As the suite was not accessible for the safety of students, staff, and faculty during the pandemic, my favorite space became my research lab where I would spend many hours a week — sometimes late into the night — working on my thesis or my NCUIRE (New College Undergraduate Inquiry and Research Experiences) project, where I looked at more than 1,000 maggots under a microscope.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I plan on moving to the Phoenix metropolitan area, taking a gap year to work in a health care related position, and applying to medical school for the 2022 cycle.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I had $40 million to solve a problem, I would focus on LGBTQ+ related issues, especially fixing the disproportionate levels of homelessness amongst the community, which will in turn help reduce homelessness overall. Shelter is very much a basic human right, and should be regarded as such by more people, especially those in power.

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College


2021 nursing graduate Lauren Aldana driven by passion for health care

April 28, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Lauren Aldana knows the power of positive affirmation from someone she respects and admires. photo of Lauren Aldana Lauren Aldana is graduating ASU with a bachelor's degree in nursing with honors from Barrett, The Honors College. Download Full Image

As an undergraduate nursing major, Aldana received a letter from Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, praising her involvement in a course focusing on care for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“One of the most exciting accomplishments I had during my ASU career was receiving a personal letter of recognition from Michael Crow for my participation in an ASU introduction to dementia and Alzheimer’s course in partnership with Hospice of the Valley,” said Aldana, who is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation with honors from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU.

“The letter from President Crow highlighted my efforts to learn more about the disease and provide companionship to an Alzheimer’s patient each week where I would bring board games and other activities for us to bond over. It was such an enlightening class and it made me proud to have been part of that experience,” said Aldana, who came to ASU from Huntington Beach, California.

Another point of pride for Aldana was receiving the Ella Burkhart National Merit Scholarship for the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years. This prestigious scholarship is given to outstanding ASU nursing students who are National Merit Scholars.

Aldana capped off her undergraduate work at ASU with an honors thesis titled “Addressing Implicit Bias in Mental Healthcare: A Novel Health Promotion Tool for the Treatment of Minority Mental Health Patients.”

“The topic of implicit bias in mental health care became of interest to me when I was completing the psychiatric rotation in my nursing clinicals, where I noticed health care workers displaying bias during the treatment of these patients. I began to wonder if this bias was affecting parts of their assessment or treatment plans,” Aldana said.

Her thesis focused on the treatment of African American and Latino mental health patients and developing a tool called the Culturally Traumatic Events Questionnaire (CTEQ) that aims to assess for the specific life events that can be traumatic and impact a person’s mental health.

The CTEQ asks about exposure to specific traumatic experiences that African Americans and Latinos uniquely face that can negatively impact mental health and that are not currently being assessed for in other mental health assessment tools, Aldana explained.

For example, there are questions regarding discrimination, immigration experiences, documentation status and fearful encounters with law enforcement. It also gives patients the option to elaborate further on their responses rather than only giving patients the option to select "yes" or "no" for a question/experience. Additionally, it provides clear directions for next steps for the patient to take if they have been exposed to a significant amount of trauma and offers resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.

“The CTEQ is a preliminary step in research that I would like to continue potentially in graduate school. Ideally, I would like to perform a randomized trial where the CTEQ is put to use in the mental health setting with minority patients and where the efficacy of the questionnaire can be tested,” Aldana said.

“This would allow me to see if changes need to be made to the questionnaire to effectively evaluate the trauma that African Americans and Latinos face that can affect their mental health. Once the CTEQ has been evaluated through more research with its use in the mental health setting, I would love to have both providers and nurses use it in practice.”

We caught up with Aldana and asked her to look back on her time at ASU and let us know her plans for the future. Here is what she had to say:

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I always knew from a young age that I wanted to work in the medical field, but I didn’t quite know what type of health professional I wanted to be. I have always been a big believer in the healing that support can provide for people during times of hardship.

My mother was diagnosed with a chronic illness that impairs many parts of her daily activities. Growing up with this responsibility, I tried to be the biggest support system for my mom as I knew that even though I couldn’t help cure her illness, I could at least help her feel better and remind her that she is extremely loved and cared for.

I believe that nurses are able to do this in the clinical setting and be that support system for their patients, which I greatly admire and aspire to become.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: One thing I learned while at ASU is the importance and value of working as a team with others and utilizing others as resources.

I had a hard time accepting that sometimes in order to succeed you need to ask others for help and that you can’t do everything on your own.

I was lucky enough to have made a great support system of friends and classmates at ASU who all believed in me and were able to provide help when I needed it most. Without them, I don’t know how I would have done anything in college! This has definitely changed my perspective and has made me realize that it’s OK to ask for help.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU not only because of its exceptional nursing and honors programs, but for the sense of community that I instantly felt on my first campus tour back when I was a senior in high school.

I knew that I wanted to go to college outside of California, but I also knew that I could only do that if I knew I would feel welcomed on campus. I never had any doubts of feeling unwelcomed or uncomfortable with fitting in at ASU. My campus tour solidified to me that I would be able to learn and grow here at ASU with the help of so many talented and welcoming people.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was that lesson?

A: My thesis director Dr. Julie Sullivan taught me to never doubt myself or my abilities. When I asked her to be my thesis director and we began to work on my research, she saw something in me that inspired her to push me to succeed in my academics and personal life.

She could see that I was extremely motivated and had a lot to offer, but I had the tendency to doubt myself and my strengths. She truly taught me to embrace my strengths and my passion that I have for health care so that I can truly start to believe in myself and use my abilities to make a difference in the world.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I’d give to those still in school is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone.

I have always had a hard time with change, but coming to ASU has taught me that change can actually bring you a lot of growth. Now I can confidently say that being pushed out of my comfort zone has brought me so much happiness and success that I don’t know I would’ve gotten from just staying comfortable.

Always take advantage of new opportunities brought to you and seek out ways that you can make yourself grow while in school, whether that be academically, physically or mentally.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus to study and hang out with my friends were the library study rooms.

I loved the environment because it was my own personal study room with big whiteboards that I found super helpful to use to study. Since it was so private, I enjoyed inviting friends to come study with me and we would often play music and get a lot of work done there.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I hope to start in a new graduate nurse residency program in the ICU and to start my career as a bedside nurse. I completed my practice clinicals this last semester in the ICU and fell in love with the challenges it presented to me.

I would love to continue to work in the critical care field as a registered nurse. I am also inspired to eventually consider graduate school or a nurse practitioner program to further my education and practice.

Most of all, I would also love to come back to ASU and teach in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. I had the privilege of learning from excellent professors in my undergraduate program, and I would love to give back and teach future nursing students as well!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I were given $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, I would tackle access to health care for all.

My thesis really demonstrated to me how unfair our health care system is and how it can marginalize certain populations. I would love to be able to use this money to ensure that everyone has access to quality health care for both physical and mental health problems. Not everyone has the privilege of living free of illness, but it is so important that everyone has the resources available to them to help ease this challenge.

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College