ASU Law welcomes inaugural cohort of Advance Program students

Program builds next generation of diverse legal leaders

August 20, 2021

The new Advance Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University welcomes its first cohort this fall including 20 students representing diverse backgrounds with nearly half of the group the first in their families to attend college.

The yearlong program aims to foster an inclusive community, bringing together students who have overcome adversity and who can offer diverse perspectives from racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, socioeconomic and geographic diversity. Photo of first cohort of Advance Program students of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Students in the first cohort of ASU Law’s Advance Program are (back row from left) Brian Ridley, Kathryn Walker, Grant Navakuku, Andres Machado, Kaleb Lester, Erin Ferber, Alex Egber, Aidan Wright, Andrew Ford, Carrie Hoffelt and Mike Veguilla. Front row from left: Taylor Vasicek, Esther Suh, Joanna Rivers, Courtney Moore, Natalia Sells, Angie Vertti, Bego Contreras, Nyelah Mitchell and Hyunji Park. Download Full Image

The students who comprise the inaugural group – eight men, 11 women and one nonbinary person – range in ages from 21 to 61. They identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian and white/Caucasian. Four are military veterans.

“ASU Law is driven by our commitment to providing our students the best possible legal education, in an environment that is inclusive and cultivates a true sense of belonging. The Advance Program is the embodiment of that mission,” said Zachary Kramer, ASU Law co-interim dean.

Alyssa Dragnich, ASU Law clinical professor of law and faculty director of the Advance Program, kicked off the three-day workshop on Aug. 11. The students attended sessions taught by ASU Law faculty on topics such as reading and briefing cases; understanding issue, rule, application and conclusion; and preparing for class and the Socratic method. They also “climbed” Mount Everest in a simulation designed to encourage teamwork and heard from a panel of current law students.

“This is a phenomenal group of students. Their level of engagement, right from the start, is amazing,” Dragnich said. “We are going to see great things from them over the next three years.”

Paired with an attorney and 2L/3L student mentors, the Advance Program participants will continue to meet monthly throughout their first year of law school for a mix of academic and nonacademic programming.

Photo of ASU Law students breaking for lunch during the first day of the Advance Program workshop

From left: Courtney Moore, Erin Ferber, Carrie Hoffelt and Joanna Rivers break for lunch during the first day of the Advance Program workshop.

Some of the upcoming events include a session on preparing law school outlines; an interview skills session taught by Sharon Ng, an ASU Law alumna; lunch with local judges; and an end-of-the-semester Arizona Coyotes game organized by ASU Law alumna Marina Carpenter, general counsel, chief compliance officer and executive vice president of public affairs for the Coyotes.

“As someone who has known that a legal career was the path I was going to take for most my life, I often found it difficult to find and speak with people who have gone through the law school process,” said Andrés Machado, among the first program participants. “The Advance Program workshop helped give me a sense of what to expect in the coming three years of my life and prepare me for the various obstacles that I will have to face as a law student. I could not be more thankful for the program.”

“If the students with whom I shared this experience and the professors who generously shared their knowledge are representative of the others I will walk the path of ASU Law, I know I am about to enjoy the wonder of compassionate relationships and superior academic education," said Kathryn Walker, another participant who will also be part of the Indian Legal Program. "The Advance Program is a gift for which I am truly grateful.”

Brian Ridley, among the first Advance Program students, shared his story earlier with ASU News. An Army veteran who comes from Black and Japanese heritage, Ridley said he chose ASU Law because it incorporated things he had come to depend on: being part of a diverse team that felt like family, embeddedness in the community and mentorship.

“I was looking for a team,” said Ridley, who served nearly three decades in the Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel. “I needed a diverse place. I wanted to ensure that that team was ingrained in the community. I needed a microcosm of every military post that I've ever lived on, and that was ASU. And then to boot, it was well-respected. I mean, it was an easy, easy call.”

ASU Law professors, including Kaipo Matsumura, joined ASU Law students in teaching sessions during the August workshop.

“I was so impressed with these students’ active engagement, curiosity, and ability to bring different perspectives to our discussion about legal reasoning,” Matsumura said. “They participated confidently and engaged in deep discussions with each other. I also loved seeing them hanging out together after the day's sessions ended.”

For more information about the Advance Program or to make a contribution, contact

Photo of ASU Law Advance Program students listening to Professor Amy Langenfeld

Students in ASU Law’s Advance Program listen to Professor Amy Langenfeld as she teaches about reading and briefing legal opinions.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Biology in motion: ASU professor awarded 2 Scialog Awards to fund research on advanced biological imaging

August 20, 2021

Douglas Shepherd, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s Department of Physics, was recently awarded two Scialog Advanced Bioimaging awards that will fund two research projects using optics to visualize and quantify molecular biology in challenging settings.

Shepherd is among 10 multidisciplinary research teams selected as part of the first year of Scialog: Advancing BioImaging, a three-year initiative supported by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation, that aims to accelerate the development of the next generation of imaging technologies. Douglas Shepherd, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s Department of Physics, was recently awarded two Scialog Advanced Bioimaging awards that will fund two research projects using optics to visualize and quantify molecular biology in challenging settings. Download Full Image

“We are incredibly proud of Dr. Shepherd for being selected as a recipient of two Scialog Advanced Bioimaging awards,” said Patricia Rankin, chair of the Department of Physics in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“The high impact work of the Shepherd Lab on developing and applying new bioimaging tools to understand biological regulation at the single-molecule level is a prime example of the innovation taking place within the Department of Physics and Center for Biological Physics. These well-deserved awards will enable Dr. Shepherd and his team to continue driving transformation and to innovate new ways to visualize biology in action.”

Two additional ASU faculty from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Barbara Smith and Benjamin Bartelle, were also selected as recipients of the award.

Shepherd’s first project, “4D molecular tracking using kilohertz framerate multimodal microscopy,” is funded by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and will partner with Nick Galati, an assistant professor at Western Washington University in the Department of Biology and Shannon Quinn, an associate professor at the University of Georgia in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Cellular Biology. 

The interdisciplinary team will work to develop and benchmark a multimodal microscopy approach that enables single particle tracking within motile cilia. Motile cilia, or moving microscopic vibrating organelles found on the surface of certain cells, are found in human lungs, the respiratory tract and the middle ear. Among other functions, they work to clear our airways of mucus and dirt, allowing us to breathe more easily. 

Motile cilia have been imaged before, however the dynamic processes that take place within them have only been investigated in artificially immobilized cilia — giving an incomplete understanding of a fundamental subcellular process that shapes human development. To give a more complete picture of motile cilia, the team will blend rapid quantitative phase imaging, fluorescence microscopy of individual cilia, and predictive particle tracking within the ciliary waveform.

“We might be able to understand how diseases actually change the physical motion of these microscopic hairlike structures in a way that nobody has ever understood before,” Shepherd said. “We need to be able to connect the fact that we see dysfunction to what is actually physically occurring on the cell. That is a current focus area in biomedical sciences, because as disease treatments become more targeted, we have to have finer and finer grain information available about exactly what's going on.”

His second project, “Wide-field, single-pixel fluorescence imaging with on-chip nanophotonics,” is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and will partner with Lisa Poulikakos, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. 

Poulikakos and Shepherd aim to develop a unique approach to aberration and scatter-resistant microscopy that circumvents the limitations of traditional optics. Traditional fluorescence imaging methods are unable to form sharp images past 0.1 mm into tissue samples, because tissue scatters and absorbs light as it travels through the sample. 

Researchers continue to create new methods to create sharp images as deep as a few millimeters into tissue samples. These scatter-resistant imaging methods are often significantly slower and require specialized lasers when compared to traditional methods, limiting their portability and adaptability. The team aims to simplify the experimental approach for scatter-resistant imaging by harnessing the power of a nanometer level fabrication and computational optics.

Using nanophotonics, the process of controlling light using materials patterned at the nanoscale, the team will create a lensless system that is capable of illuminating tissue samples using thousands of specifically designed patterns. The team will then design a computational framework that can decode a sharp image by extracting unique information from each pattern.

“Both of these awards center around interdisciplinary ideas on how to visualize and quantify molecular and cellular biology in unique and challenging situations where traditional approaches fail,” Shepherd said. “I am excited about the new collaborations established through Scialog and looking forward to exploring the boundaries with bioimaging with my fellow awardees."

In Shepherd’s Quantitative Imaging and Inference Lab, or QI2 Lab, he and his team of researchers are broadly interested in developing methods to study, understand and predict how cells make decisions during development. Five people in the QI2 Lab will contribute to the Scialog projects including one postdoctoral student, one professional research scientist and three graduate students.

The $50,000 award per project will support Shepherd’s research for one year. Depending on the outcome, he and his collaborators plan on applying for additional grants.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences