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What we did over your summer vacation

August 10, 2011

While Arizona made national weather news this summer with its massive dust storm that engulfed much of the Valley, Arizona State University made headlines too.

From international entrepreneurship competitions to improving universities' computer network technology to innovating a new era of disease research, ASU kept busy during the dog days of summer.


This summer, the world witnessed the last American space shuttle program launch, closing a 30-year chapter of NASA's history. However, as one era ends, a new one begins – thanks to the continued work of space-bound experiments conducted by ASU scientists Cheryl Nickerson and Roy Curtiss III, along with their colleagues at the Biodesign Institute. Nickerson, a microbiologist and authority on infectious pathogens, has been using spaceflight or spaceflight analogues since 1998 as an exploratory platform for investigating the processes of infection. For her innovative work, she was awarded NASA's most prestigious commendation for outstanding contributions to science – the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal.

Research out of the Biodesign Institute addressed another health concern: obesity, which is reaching ever more alarming proportions and posing a severe menace to public health worldwide. In collaboration with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, scientist Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown and colleagues began looking into what may be a leading driver in body weight regulation – the diverse zoo of microorganisms inhabiting the human gut. With the hope to gain new insight into how body weight is managed (or mismanaged) based on the demographics of these microorganisms, the research team will explore the contributions of so-called gut microflora to the success or failure of two popular treatments for obesity.


Health and health care took a backseat to the economy as policymakers struggled to fix a deepening U.S. economic crisis. In an effort to generate economic growth and maintain U.S. competitiveness, Arizona State University and 28 other universities across the country launched Gig.U: The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project – to improve computer network technology in their universities and surrounding communities. Improvements to these networks drive economic growth and stimulate a new generation of innovations addressing critical needs, such as health care and education.

Pursuing their own technological advances are student entrepreneurs David Hayden, Michael Astrauskas, Shashank Srinivas and Qian Yan who won the second-place prize at the Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finals in New York City for their portable custom-designed camera connected to a pen-and-multitouch Tablet PC that aids students with visual impairments in classroom note-taking. Upon returning from the world's premier student technology competition, Team Note-Taker began making plans to improve the technology and develop a product for commercialization.

Team Note-Taker was not the only ASU student team to dominate competition; three teams of start-up companies from ASU's Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative were among the five finalists in this year's Entrepreneur magazine's "College Entrepreneur of the Year" competition. The three ASU finalists are Boson Inc, Ellens Technologies LLC and G3Box. The winner will be decided by voting which already has begun and continues until September. To see the finalists and vote, click

ASU shined in other areas as well. The Princeton Review named ASU one of the nation's best and greenest universities in its newly released 2012 college guide. USA Today named ASU among the top 20 schools using social media effectively. Students, faculty and staff gained better access to the university through the launch of ASU Mobile – the official mobile app of Arizona State University – that aims to keep up with even the busiest of Sun Devils.


Temperatures well over 100 degrees did not prove to slow down ASU Athletics either. The Arizona State softball team became national champions after defeating Florida 7-2 in the Women's College World Series. The series also continued their sixth consecutive Pac-10 title.

Now the Pac-12, ASU welcomed the University of Colorado and the University of Utah to the new conference officially established July 1. With more than 120 Nobel Laureates across all of its campuses and the first ever to reach 400 NCAA Championships, the Conference is synonymous with both academic excellence and athletic success, having earned the nickname the “Conference of Champions”®.

Another ASU champion Anthony Robles, whose astonishing ASU wrestling career won him the NCAA title in his weight class and capped off a perfect 36-0 season, was honored this summer at the ESPY Awards. He accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the Los Angeles televised event. Born without a right leg, Robles is a living reminder of the infamous speech given by late Jim Valvano, American basketball coach, for whom the award is named, that encouraged the world to never give up in the face of adversity.

If that wasn't enough, the Sun Devils also made the list of most Academic All-Americans. Arizona State ranks among the best both in the nation and in the Pac-12 for total number of Academic All-Americans.

And to cap it off, the ASU golf team got a new head coach: Tim Mickelson, brother of legendary professional golfer Phil Mickelson. Mickelson comes to ASU after having led the University of San Diego to the school’s first three NCAA appearances in program history. “It’s an honor to be the next men’s golf coach at Arizona State,” Mickelson said. “Our goal will be to produce teams and individuals who are competing at the highest level."

For more information on what ASU was up to this summer, click on the headline links below and the "related" story, video and photo gallery links to the side.

Scientists list top 10 new species

SmartPHX app helps visitors navigate downtown Phoenix

Amanpour named 2011 Cronkite Award Winner

Wanted: women engineers to help change the world

ASU a leader in Fulbright awards; 17 students to study abroad

ASU's Academic Progress Rate ranks second in Pac-10 Conference

Supply chain programs at ASU rank among best in nation

Pulitzer-winning journalist leads Carnegie-Knight News 21

Aéro Montréal, ASU to partner to grow aerospace industry

A good cry: Researchers shed tears for diabetes

New breed of chickens helps raise Ugandans from poverty

Asteroid project creates unique opportunity for ASU

EarthScope makes 'Big Science' list