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Video series makes the hard sciences easier to understand

April 7, 2023

Series showcases research done by ASU physics students

For every person who can easily comprehend high-level physics concepts like “diffraction-limited molecular cluster quantification with Bayesian nonparametrics,” countless others are baffled by them.

A student video series hopes to change that. 

The ASU American Physical Society Research Highlights Series features Arizona State University doctoral candidates presenting their work in a clear and concise manner, while also giving viewers a window into the research being done at ASU. 

The series was inspired by “iBiology,” a YouTube channel featuring talks by the world's leading scientists. 

“The original intention was to have something that would be accessible to everyone,” said Shep Bryan, a PhD student in ASU’s Department of Physics, who co-created the video series. 

That means communicating scientific discoveries without using jargon or technical language.

“Primarily, we hope to establish a successful avenue of science communication that extends from the frontier of active research to any interested person, regardless of accessibility constraints or educational background,” said William Munizzi, chair of the American Physical Society chapter at ASU. 

The series premiered in summer 2022 and since then, five more videos have been produced, including the most recent video on cell membranes, which was published in late March.

Showcasing studies by ASU students

The American Physical Society, a national organization with 50,000 members, works to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics. The American Physical Society talks provide a platform for viewers to learn about cutting-edge research from the next generation of scientific leaders in ASU’s physics department.

Doctoral candidates in physics can spend years researching topics such as quantum mechanics, cosmology (the study of subjects such as the Big Bang Theory) and protein dynamics. These talks take that research out of the lab, lift it off the pages of papers and bring it into the light where it can get the exposure it deserves. 

“We want to afford graduate students and other early-career scientists the opportunity to showcase their dedicated research efforts and notable discoveries to an audience beyond their local academic circles,” said Munizzi, a PhD candidate in physics at ASU. 

“I'd like to see the series become a platform to amplify research that might otherwise get overlooked and to make the scientific voice of ASU students louder than it was before the series,” said second-year PhD candidate Max Schweiger, who will become the media officer for the ASU chapter of the American Physical Society next semester.

“The research highlights series gives prospective graduate students a chance to see how we approach finding and investigating new scientific problems,” Schweiger said. “The videos can help students get an idea of the unique perspective each lab brings to the table before reaching out for research opportunities or applying for the graduate program.”

Success of the series

The talks already have a following and APS intends to feature them in an upcoming article. 

Looking ahead, the team plans to create distinct sets of videos, which will target different audiences at varying education levels. 

Schweiger hopes the videos inspire conversations with both the local community and beyond.

“The best thing about putting the videos online is that it gives the community the opportunity to respond,” Schweiger said. “So I'd love to see these videos become a starting point for online discussions between ASU student researchers and their colleagues around the world.”

Top photo by Jeswin Thomas via

Dolores Tropiano

Reporter , ASU News

ASU marks Holi with colorful celebration of 'joy of living life'

Indian Students Association hosts Hindu tradition at new venue

April 7, 2023

Clouds of colorful powder filled the air above the Sun Devil Fitness fields at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on March 18 as more than 2,500 students gathered to celebrate Holi, a centuries-old Hindu tradition that marks the arrival of spring and celebrates love and friendship.

While the Hindu festival of colors originated in South Asia, it has now spread worldwide, with Holi events taking place globally. Holi celebrations have also been embraced on college campuses, including ASU, where the event was presented by the Indian Students Association. A group of people covered in colorful splashes of powder pose outside. More than 2,500 students gathered March 18 on ASU's Tempe campus to celebrate Holi, a centuries-old Hindu festival of colors that marks the arrival of spring and celebrates love and friendship. Download Full Image

“We had a record attendance of 2,500-plus students at this year’s event, including students of varied backgrounds, ages and disciplines, as well as staff, faculty, family members and alumni,” said Yashaswini Karanth, association president and a graduate student studying materials science and engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “This number also includes 100 members of Team ISA (made up of the association's board members and dedicated volunteer group),” she added.

People all across the world celebrate Holi by throwing colorful powder into the air and splashing each other with it. There's significance behind every hue. Red is associated with passion and new life, and green represents growth and renewal. People also throw colorful water balloons at one another.

Karanth said Holi has long been one of India’s “fan-favorite” festivals, drawing large crowds each year, especially young people.

Poems as early as the fourth century CE describe Holi festivals in the Indian subcontinent. The celebrations herald the arrival of spring after a harsh winter, representing the eventual victory of virtue over evil. The festival is observed in the month of Phalguna in the Hindu lunar calendar, which corresponds to March. The observance of Holi began on March 8 this year.

“It marks the onset of an entire season of harvest festivals that India celebrates,” Karanth said. “I have always associated Holi with friendship, camaraderie and the innate joy in living as it celebrates these aspects through music, color play, dance, food and more,” she added.

Karanth, who grew up attending local community Holi festivals, said this year’s gathering enabled her and many other students to connect with peers from similar backgrounds while also showcasing their culture to fellow Sun Devils.

“Holi, to me, has always been about celebrating the joy of living life,” Karanth said. “As your white garment gets stained with colors fondly (and oftentimes aggressively) applied by your friends, there is no feeling to conquer the spirit of friendship, camaraderie and joy that fills the air as equally as the vibrant and rich colors of Holi. This is the moment when you can leave your worries behind and start something new," she added.

In recent years, the Holi celebration at ASU was presented on the lawn at the Palo Verde residence hall complex — also known as Palo Verde Beach. Karanth said a highlight of the 2023 event was the transition to a larger venue, which enabled event organizers to double the attendance this year.

“We have been able to bring this cultural extravaganza to 2,500-plus students as compared to 1,200 students at Holi 2022,” Karanth said. “With extensive support provided by Educational Outreach and Student Services and the International Students and Scholars Center at ASU, we hope and aim to increase our reach amongst the ASU community and continue bringing larger-scale events," she said.

Joanne Vogel, vice president of student services, said the event was not only a joyous and festive time for a large gathering of students, “it was also a great and colorful demonstration of culture at ASU.” 

 “This entirely student-led event provided Sun Devils a chance to learn about this facet of Hindu culture while making new connections with students across the university,” Vogel said.

The Indian Students Association at ASU is a nonprofit organization to promote service and leadership opportunities helping new students with the transition to the United States, including support pertaining to the educational and social issues that they may face during the transition to college life at ASU. Student-student and student-community interactions are also highly encouraged, and the members work to provide their peers a platform to express their creativity, especially in the performing arts.

Joan M. Sherwood

Executive Director, Strategic Marketing & Communication, Educational Outreach & Student Services