Year in Review: Top 10 stories of 2011

From winning a softball championship to marking a solar milestone, ASU has had a busy year. Here we take a look at the top 10 news stories from the university that have occurred over the past year.

Fossil found in Ethiopia reveals early human bipedalism

A fossilized foot bone recovered from Hadar, Ethiopia, showed that by 3.2 million years ago human ancestors walked bipedally with a modern human-like foot, according to a report that appeared in the Feb. 11 edition of the journal Science. The fossil, a fourth metatarsal, or midfoot bone, indicated that a permanently arched foot was present in the species Australopithecus afarensis. The report's authors included Carol Ward of the University of Missouri and William Kimbel and Donald Johanson of ASU’s Institute of Human Origins.

Entrepreneur beats odds to address disease, poverty

Tyler Eltringham is not what you would call a typical college student. From being homeless at 16 to becoming the leader of a new venture at 20, Eltringham has taken a different route than most. Despite the odds stacked against him, he has come out on top. Eltringham is the CEO of OneShot, a startup dedicated to providing meningococcal meningitis vaccinations to college students living in dormitories and university housing. “The funding model of OneShot emulates Tom’s Shoes,” Eltringham said. “In a one-for-one fashion, for every meningitis shot purchased on a university campus, we donate a vaccination to the meningitis belt of Africa.”

Scientists list top 10 new species

Glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, a batfish flat as a pancake that appears to hop in the water, Titanic-eating bacterium, and a T. rex leech with enormous teeth were among the new species from 2010 selected as the top 10 by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and a committee of taxonomists from around the world – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification.

ASU softball wins NCAA Championship

The ASU softball team won its second NCAA title in the past four years after they defeated the Florida Gators in two straight games, 14-4 and 7-2. It continued a run of six consecutive championships for the Pac-10, which has won 23 of the 29 titles all time. The Pac 10 also celebrated the title as its 400th national championship in any sport – more than any other league. Arizona State joined UCLA, Arizona and Texas A&M as the only teams to win multiple softball titles.

Atlantis carries next generation vaccine candidate on last space voyage

On July 8, the space shuttle Atlantis streaked skyward from the Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A, for one last mission. While the STS-135 flight markedd the end of the space shuttle’s glory days, its final trip may open a new era of research into infectious diseases, thanks to space bound experiments conducted by Cheryl Nickerson, and Roy Curtiss III, along with their colleagues at Arizona State University’s 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.

Pat Tillman Veterans Center opens at ASU

Arizona State University opened a new veterans center on campus, named after one of its most renowned student athletes, Pat Tillman, who died serving his country in Afghanistan. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is a 3,340 square foot facility located in the lower level of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. It provides a single point of contact for ASU veterans and their dependents, bringing together academic and student support services to promote a smooth transition from the military.

ASU's 10 megawatts mark solar milestone in higher ed

Arizona State University has exceeded 10 megawatts (MW) of solar-energy capacity, making it the only higher education institution in the United States to have a solar capacity of that size. According to Ameresco Southwest, Inc. – formerly APS Energy Services, Inc. – 10 MW is enough energy to power 2,500 Arizona homes. “Surpassing 10 megawatts of solar energy capacity is a tremendous accomplishment for ASU and our partners,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Over the years we have made several major commitments to sustainability, such as establishing the first school devoted to sustainability, raising awareness of how to live sustainable lives and finding ways to harness natural resources, like our abundance of sunshine. By doing these things, we are making a brighter future for ourselves and the place in which we live.”

ASU-Mayo Clinic initiative helps redefine medical education

Mayo Clinic announced the expansion of Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., to Arizona, creating a branch to be called Mayo Medical School – Arizona Campus. The campus includes a key collaboration with Arizona State University. At this new branch of Mayo Medical School, all students complete a specialized master’s degree in the Science of Health Care Delivery, granted by ASU, concurrently with their medical degree from Mayo Medical School. It is believed to be the first medical school to offer such a program.

Exploring new frontiers: ASU in space

Arizona State University is no stranger to space exploration missions. Whether to Mars or other solar system targets, its involvement with NASA planetary exploration began in the 1970s and at present, professors and researchers from ASU’s School of Earth and Space have instruments on board or play a significant role with six NASA missions and one European Space Agency (ESA) mission. Others are in the wings.

Obama awards mentoring honor to ASU math program for underrepresented students

President Obama named an Arizona State University program – the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute – as a recipient of the 2011 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The ASU institute was founded by Regents’ Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a mathematical epidemiologist, to increase the number of underrepresented U.S. populations in fields where mathematical, computational and modeling skills play a critical role. The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering – particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in these fields.