Dubai study abroad program helps students connect communities

March 5, 2010

For many students, spending winter break overseas may sound like the perfect getaway from academia. However, some students study abroad during the winter break – continuing their education about themselves and their coursework, in and out of the classroom.

Jamil AlShraiky heads up the Herberger Institute Winter"> Study abroad in Dubai program, and is an assistant professor and director of the Healthcare Design Initiatives in the ASU Herberger Institute School">">School of Design Innovation. During the 2009 winter session, 11 students with different academic and personal pursuits set off with AlShraiky to the Persian Gulf to study in Dubai. There, they focused on how a culture can influence a city’s infrastructure and conducted a comparative analysis between Phoenix and Dubai, since both cities share many goals and circumstances related to rapid urban growth associated with the built environment. Download Full Image

“Growing populations are placing increasing demands on limited resources while at the same time, individuals are striving to secure the necessary tools in education, health, economic prosperity and peaceful coexistence, which will ensure a constantly improving quality of life for current and future generations,” AlShraiky">">AlShraiky said.

During their time abroad last winter, students focused on three program tracks: climatic responses and sustainability; the delivery and design of health care systems; and built environment growth.

“In all of these areas, the potential exists to jointly assess current knowledge and collaborate on developing and implementing new capabilities,” AlShraiky said. “At the same time, it’s important to ensure the appropriate policy environment to guarantee success in these new ventures.”

The built environment growth track is what appealed to graduate student Joseph Herbst, who literally made it to the top of the manmade world. Herbst accompanied the press to the opening ceremony of the world’s tallest building, the Burj">">Burj Khalifa, which scrapes the sky at more than 2,600 feet, and boasts more than 160 stories. Documenting the building’s opening with videos, Herbst interviewed the building’s general manager and twice visited the top of the towering skyscraper – once during the day and once at night.

“I was able to see and experience different architecture, both ancient and modern, than what I have here in the Western Hemisphere,” said Herbst, who is pursuing a master’s in architecture and a master’s of science in the built environment. “I have a much broader view of the world in general and have gained a better understanding of the Middle Eastern culture.”

The overseas experience really moved Herbst and changed his perspective about his current course of study.

“I came away from Dubai with a better direction I want to go with my architecture, and I'm moving more toward health care design,” he said. “I’m more convinced than ever that architecture needs to not only fulfill the vision of the client, but should also respond to its environment, and grow with the rest of the city. Small is not always a bad way to begin.”

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group


ASU scientists narrow down origins of malaria

March 5, 2010

From King Tut to Alexander the Great to Mother Theresa, the mosquito-borne illness malaria has long been a menace to human civilization. Now, an international team of scientists, including Arizona State University School of Life Sciences professor Ananias Escalante, has attempted to better understand this scourge by tracing it back to its earliest origins.

In the largest study of its kind, Escalante, a researcher in the Biodesign Institute’s new Center for Evolutionary Medicine and Informatics, along with colleagues from 15 leading international institutions, looked at the origins of Plasmodium falciparum, the protozoa species that causes the majority of human malaria cases. The team examined the root cause of malaria amongst populations of chimpanzees, our closest primate relative, because infectious agents often become opportunistic, and over time, can leap from from one species to another, with devastating consequences. Download Full Image

"This research is an example of our long-term goal: establishing bridges among the anthropological, epidemiological, ecological, and evolutionary biology perspectives to address the origin and dynamic of infectious diseases," said Escalante.

By comparing the genetic sequences of the malaria culprit that infected two closely related wild chimpanzee species and bonobos, the team hoped to uncover the genetic origins of malaria. They found high levels of infection in the wild chimps. Their data has also reshaped the current thinking on the animal origins of human malaria. Results suggest that P. falciparum did not originate from chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), but rather evolved in bonobos (Pan paniscus), from which it jumped to humans. The malaria infections found in bonobos do not seem cause any harm or illness to the animals.

“This is a very important study, because species origins of human diseases are critical to deciphering factors, genetic and social, that make such transfers possible,” said Sudhir Kumar, director of the Center for Evolutionary Medicine and Informatics.  Disease origins is a major research theme in this Biodesign center, and professor Escalante leads research and development efforts in this area.

"The finding of a number of “falciparum”-like species raises important and addressable questions about the mechanisms involved in the success of P. falciparum as a human parasite that may well be applicable to disease control," Escalante said.

Armed with new information, the team hopes to use this knowledge in the current battle to control malaria. With a detailed knowledge of the genetic underpinnings of this illness, that team may help to identify the genes responsible for eluding the human immune system or guide the development of new treatment strategies for this global threat to human health.

The study appears in the journal" target="_blank">PLoS Pathogens.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications