Year in Review: A look back at 2010
ASU takes a look at some of the news highlights from the university that have occurred over the past year.
A record 19 ASU students have won Fulbright awards to study and teach abroad next year, in 12 different countries. ASU leads the nation in student Fulbrights, coming in second last year only to the University of Michigan, among public colleges. Twelve of ASU’s student Fulbright winners will teach English in foreign countries, while the others will tackle sophisticated research projects, ranging from solar energy to cancer research.
The NCAA announced its annual Academic Progress Rates (APR) and ASU’s average APR score of 974 ranks second in the Pacific-10 Conference, behind Stanford. A total of 10 ASU sports out of 21 finished in the top three in the conference while 14 of the 21 finished in the top five in the league. “The release of the Academic Progress Rate data and the elevation of performance ASU has experienced over the past four years are remarkable illustrations of the power of collaboration,” said Jean Boyd, associate athletic director for the Office of Student-Athlete Development.
From antibiotics to decision-making to robotics, social insect research has practical applications that can benefit people, and ASU’s Bert Hölldobler has spent his career studying them. The scientific importance of ants – the bane of every picknicker and the victim of every 9-year-old’s magnifying glass – is helping drive the work being done in the labs of ASU’s Social Insect Research Group.
Websites developed recently at ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility, in collaboration with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Microsoft, make it easy for anyone to trek the craters, volcanoes and dusty plains of Earth's small red neighbor world. "We've assembled the best global map of Mars to date," said Philip Christensen, Regents' Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. "And we made it available via the Internet so everyone can help make it better."
Two ASU researchers’ discovery of animal bone markings pushes stone-tool use by early humans back 800,000 years. The discovery, reported in the Aug. 12 issue of Nature, was within walking distance of the discovery of the hominin skeleton “Lucy.” Using a standard binocular microscope in ASU’s zooarchaeology laboratory, Curtis Marean, paleoanthropologist at ASU’s Institute of Human Origins, was able to provide evidence that sharp-edged stones and a strong striking force were used to remove flesh and marrow from the bones of large-sized animal carcasses some 3.4 million years ago.
ASU ranks 5th on a list of the top universities favored by employers for job recruiting, according to a new survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal that aimed to identify “the majors and schools that best prepare students to land jobs that are satisfying, well-paid and have growth potential.” ASU ranks behind Penn State, Texas A&M, University of Illinois and Purdue. All five universities were noted for their well-rounded and talented student body, along with their partnerships with nearby business communities that result in work-savvy graduates. “The impact on students is significant," writes WSJ's Terri Evans. "Steve Canale, head of General Electric Co.’s recruiting efforts, said it is critical for prospective students to ask which companies recruit on campus before deciding where to matriculate.”
Scientists at ASU's Biodesign Institute have received a two-year, $5.3 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to protect warfighters in the event of exposure to infectious diseases during deployment. Stephen Albert Johnston and his colleagues at Biodesign have taken on a daunting test of skill: to develop a potential therapeutic that can protect soldiers against an unknown pathogen – and do it in a week. In addition to benefiting the warfighter, Johnson's team’s approach, involving the use of synthetic antibodies or synbodies, may ultimately find its way into a broad range of applications of benefit to the general public, including medical diagnostics and vaccine development and validation.
Gov. Jan Brewer has dedicated $2 million to support Science Foundation Arizona and ASU’s joint efforts in propelling the state into a green economy through algal research and development. Brewer made the announcement in front of more than 600 of the world’s leading energy scientists and industry representatives attending the Algal Biomass Organization’s national conference, taking place in Phoenix this week. “Our state has the potential to be a national and global leader in algae research and biotechnology, reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuel while increasing opportunities in a new industry that will create promising new jobs for Arizonans,” Brewer said.
ASU has reported that research awards in fiscal year 2010 (FY10) grew substantially, to more than to $347.4 million – a 33 percent increase and a record for the university. The significant growth in research awards at ASU follows years of focusing its scientific strengths, building its research infrastructure and attracting top researchers. Since July 1, 2002, ASU research awards have grown 136 percent, from $146.9 million in FY02 to $347.4 million in FY10. “As impressive as these overall numbers are, what really is important is what the investment in research makes possible – exciting new discoveries, new solutions, new economic growth and new directions for the future of Arizona and our nation,” said R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., ASU’s senior vice president in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.
Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has been awarded a $43.4-million Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will provide funding for comprehensive school reform in Arizona, including a performance-based compensation system for teachers. The Arizona Ready-for-Rigor Project, led by ASU in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Education and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, is a statewide network of schools in partner districts serving high-need students. The goals of the project include increasing student achievement, retaining highly effective educators and fostering exemplary school culture in the highest-need communities across Arizona.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has released the initial results from a large-scale clinical study of lung cancer screening methods that now provide confirmation of pioneering work led by ASU’s Biodesign Institute researchers Claudia Henschke and David Yankelevitz, who published the first major study on the benefits of CT scans for lung cancer survival rates in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006. The NCI study confirms that CT screening sharply reduces deaths from lung cancer by detecting cancers at relatively early stages. “I am thrilled and looking forward to working collaboratively with the NCI and other government agencies to implement this life-saving screening,” Henschke said.
ASU scientists have discovered evidence that the toxic element arsenic can replace the essential nutrient phosphorus in biomolecules of a naturally occurring bacterium. The findings, reported in the Dec. 2 issue of Science Express, expand the scope of the search for life beyond Earth. It is well established that all known life requires phosphorus, usually in the form of inorganic phosphate. In recent years, however, astrobiologists, including ASU professors Ariel Anbar and Paul Davies, the paper's coauthors, have stepped up conversations about alternative forms of life. The lead author is Felisa Wolfe-Simon, a former postdoctoral scientist in Anbar’s research group.