Pathways for the Future honors scholarship awardee during Salute to Service week

ASU transfer students, military service members find scholarship program provides more than just financial assistance

November 8, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of our Salute to Service coverage, Nov. 1–11. Learn about the schedule of events.

For Gil Ruiz, the path to a college degree was not always straightforward. But thanks to Arizona State University’s Pathways for the Future program, the single father and military veteran is now one semester away from graduating with a Bachelor of Science in engineering (robotics) from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. ASU student Gil Ruiz stands in front of a sign on ASU's Tempe campus that reads "Arizona State University." Pathways for the Future honors scholarship awardee Gil Ruiz. Download Full Image

Ruiz, an out-of-state transfer student, and other transfer students and former military service members like him are finding that ASU resources like the Pathways program and MyPath2ASU are helping them achieve academic success, not only by providing financial assistance, but also by allowing them to spend more time pursuing education and building professional networks.

“By helping me financially, that Pathways scholarship has allowed me to focus on my academics,” Ruiz said. “I'm a single father, and I work. Had it not been for the Pathways for the Future program, I’d probably have to get another part-time job. Now, I can just focus on hitting the books (and) on keeping my GPA up, which I'm super stoked about!”

Both Pathways for the Future and MyPath2ASU offer comprehensive support to students looking to transfer to ASU, wherever they may be in their academic journey. They also provide invaluable mentorship.

“Pathways is a resource for me not just financially, but for the mentorship they provide as well,” Ruiz said. “My current mentor has been very helpful with building my own professional network and helping me with building resumes the way that engineering companies want to see them.”

Pathways for the Future helps students develop connections between their peers, faculty, mentors and employers that enable lifelong learning and the skills needed to thrive in the workforce of the future. For qualified students, financial assistance is available while in the program, including help with any surprise costs or expenses.

“I even had a situation where I had to use emergency funding, and Pathways was right there to provide me with what I needed when I needed it,” Ruiz said. “I've never had any issues with anything that would keep me from continuing my education since day one, applying to ASU, until now, close to graduation.”

The Pathways for the Future scholarship and MyPath2ASU are designed to further ease the transition to ASU for transfer students like Ruiz.

“These days, people find it difficult to find the right resources for school, especially veterans,” said Ruiz. “At ASU, I've never had to struggle with that. That's made life so much easier.”

Adrian Mahlstede

Digital content specialist, ASU Academic Alliances

ASU professor receives federal funding for technology to grow domestic critical minerals supply chain

Funding is part of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program seeking to develop sustainable supply of minerals

November 8, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced $39 million in funding for 16 projects across 12 states to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition. The selected projects, led by universities, national laboratories and the private sector, aim to develop commercially scalable technologies that will enable greater domestic supplies of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earth and other critical elements.

One of these projects is “Mining Red Mud Waste for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and Critical Element Recovery," or RMCCS-CER. It is led by Xin Zhang, chemical engineer of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, and has ASU Professor Alexandra Navrotsky and Washington State University Assistant Professor Xiaofeng Guo, a PhD from Navrotsky’s group, as co-PIs. Portrait of ASU Regents Professor Alexandra Navrotsky. Alexandra Navrotsky is the director and mastermind of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe, professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, and affiliated faculty member at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Photo by Mary Zhu Download Full Image

The funding is part of the ARPA-E Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resource Recovery (MINER) program, which aims to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition.

Red mud is a common industrial waste rich in useful elements, including rare earth elements. Fundamental knowledge is essential to optimize the extraction and separation of rare earths from this potentially valuable resource.

The objective of this project is to use supercritical carbon dioxide to recover critical elements (CEs), especially rare earth elements, from aluminum production wastes (red mud) while also capturing some of the carbon dioxide in stable carbonates. Project success will help lower the carbon footprint of the future economy and will displace the highly toxic acid-leaching process that is currently state of the art.

“We will develop a database and measure thermodynamic properties of rare earth compounds and solutions needed to understand rare earth extraction from red mud,” explained Navrotsky.

The critical role of rare earth elements (REEs) in high-tech industries has created a surge in demand that is quickly outstripping known global supply and has triggered a worldwide scramble to discover new sources. The Biden-Harris administration has remained focused on strengthening the critical materials supply chain as rare earth elements are necessary to manufacture several clean energy technologies — from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbines and solar panels.

President Biden has underscored the importance of deploying energy sources that reduce carbon pollution, lower costs for families and businesses, and ultimately mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Professor Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences, said, “This is an important project that will directly impact development of scalable technologies for enhancing domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy and future decarbonization of the U.S. economy. These kinds of investment are precisely what we need to try to minimize impacts of climate change.”

Navrotsky is the director and mastermind of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe and professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy at Arizona State University. 

The Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe unites cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science and exploration, and mineralogy and petrology with materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics and biology to address grand questions of the complex chemistries and evolution of planets. The center strives to attract and inspire scientists across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to explore alien and extreme conditions and environments with the expectation of discovering new, useful materials and understanding the formation and evolution of planets.

The center also aims to contribute to materials solutions for decarbonization, sustainable and clean energy, and critical materials needed for technologically important applications.

Navrotsky’s many accolades include the Urey Medal from the European Association of Geochemistry, the Roebling Medal from the Mineralogical Society of America, the Harry H. Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth Science. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. She has served as vice president and president of the Mineralogical Society of America. In 2020, Navrotsky was ranked No. 25 globally in materials science in "Updated science-wide author database of standardized citation indicators," published in PLOS Biology. She was also made a Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society and won the European Materials Research Society Jan Czochralski Award in 2021.  

Her career has been remarkable, not only for its scholarship, but most significantly for the influence she has had on the earth sciences and the cross-disciplinary efforts she has made to bring together the approaches, tools and philosophy of research in geochemistry, mineralogy, materials sciences and chemistry. She is also known for her devotion to her students and coworkers, the positive research environment she nurtures and her generous spirit. Lastly, Navrotsky has made extremely significant contributions to the education and training of the next generations of scientists, with a special emphasis on underrepresented groups. Scholars that do this effectively are few and far between.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences