Study advocates for improved restitution, compensation process for crime victims

ASU researchers recommend 5 systemwide changes to improve process

December 4, 2023

Being the victim of a crime is a difficult experience that comes with physical, mental, emotional and financial consequences ranging from moderately inconvenient to traumatic. Frequently, as part of dealing with the aftermath, victims seek restitutionA process in which the courts order a person convicted of a crime to pay for financial losses directly caused by the crime. and compensation from a state-run program for victims.

Although there is a process in place to facilitate this resolution, it is not perfect. In fact, victims often find themselves facing challenging roadblocks along the way. A statue of blindfolded Lady Justice holding scales. Photo courtesy Adobe Stock

In a recent report led by Professor Leslie Paik of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University, researchers delved into the experiences of 94 crime victims in Arizona to shed light on how restitution and compensation are handled, and find ways to improve processes. The insights gathered from victims’ personal stories and experiences unveiled several key points of frustration within the system.

A chance to enhance processes

Though there were some positive aspects to share, like compassionate caseworkers and successful outcomes, the researchers heard several difficulties that illuminated opportunities for improvement. The most common pain points centered on unclear communication, a lack of voice in the court process, complex bureaucratic procedures and inadequate or delayed funds.

Some victims, for example, had trouble reaching the right people to help them. They spent countless hours calling various departments but were transferred elsewhere or had their calls go unreturned.

Others shared how the outcome itself wasn’t always ideal. A few recounted the frustrations of finally receiving the payment they needed, but not receiving enough money to cover necessary costs. Ultimately, they were too exhausted from navigating the court process to push for the amount they felt entitled to.

Victims also talked about the tedious and confusing paperwork, with one person being asked to fill out the same form multiple times on separate occasions — which delayed progress with the case.

Drawing from these insights and many others, the researchers compiled responses and came up with five recommendations specifically aimed at addressing the most challenging aspects of this system:

  1. Streamline communication between victims and the legal system to ensure that victims are well-informed about the progress of their cases and the status of their restitution.
  2. Offer versatile restitution options, including both financial and nonfinancial means of restitution and compensation. That way, victims get the specific help they need.
  3. Reevaluate the timing for outreach, deadlines and the disbursement of funds to expedite the process and alleviate victims' financial burdens faster.
  4. Simplify the eligibility and application process to reduce bureaucratic barriers and the resulting confusion.
  5. Invest in a centralized electronic notification/tracking system so victims can access their case details directly and transparently. This idea stemmed from the interviews with the victims. Many agreed it would help simplify the process and reduce unnecessary phone calls.

Not only does this approach address the pain points victims described, but it’s also more comprehensive and does not solely rely on the ability of the person convicted of the crime to pay restitution — a difficult feat for those who are jobless, too young to work or facing other case-related financial obligations. It is instead meant to better recognize and address the nuances of each unique situation in a scalable way.

"We offer these recommendations, knowing they are ambitious in scope but also are grounded in the individual victims' experiences and desires,” the researchers say.

“It is our hope that they will inspire and inform jurisdictions’ possible steps forward to make the legal system more responsive to the victims, while also not exacerbating the excessive legal debt imposed on people charged with the crimes who cannot afford to pay it back. In doing so, there is greater opportunity not just for the individuals charged with the crime to take accountability, but also for the legal system to take accountability … in administering fair and equitable justice.”

Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

New research explores future limits of survival, livability in extreme heat conditions

ASU Associate Professor Jennifer Vanos models variables that shape livability under extreme heat conditions

November 30, 2023

Commonly associated with longer days and slower paces, this summer’s record-smashing heat demonstrated a concerning future for our warmest season. From power outages endangering entire neighborhoods and heat-related deaths rising among some of Arizona’s most vulnerable populations, the city of Phoenix found itself in national headlines. As national attention grew, the emerging question became clear: How does anyone live here?

The consequences of extreme heat do not affect Arizona residents alone. Heat made worldwide news this year, including in November when a 23-year-old woman died of cardiorespiratory arrest at a Taylor Swift concert in Brazil where heat indexes that day exceeded 120 degrees. Person drinking water in the sun Photo by Arizona State University Download Full Image

Jennifer Vanos, a senior Global Futures scientist and associate professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, studies extreme heat and its health impacts. She is the lead author of a paper recently published in Nature Communications: “A physiological approach for assessing human survivability and liveability to heat in a changing climate,” which explores the temperatures at which humans can survive. The paper demonstrates that the current upper-temperature and humidity limits estimates used for human survivability might not paint the most accurate picture of human health impacts on a warming planet.

“For the past decade or so, we have been using what we call a ‘wet-bulb temperature’ of 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 degrees Fahrenheit, as the limit for human survivability,” Vanos, also a Senior Global Futures Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, said.

The wet-bulb temperature limit for human survival indicates the maximum combinations of temperature and humidity that humans can tolerate without suffering inevitable heat stroke over a fixed duration of exposure.

“The idea is that you could survive for up to six hours at that level of heat exposure,” Vanos said. “That number really oversimplifies what happens physiologically in the body when your body is exposed to that temperature, and it doesn’t account for other important variables like age or other vulnerability factors.”

Vanos said the commonly used wet-bulb temperature for human survivability assumes the person is indoors or shaded, unclothed, completely sedentary, fully heat acclimatized and of an “average size.” These assumptions do not align, in most cases, with how humanity navigates the summer season. The paper models scenarios that adjust for factors such as humidity, age, activity level and sun exposure, and provides a range of safe temperatures based on a series of characteristics.

Infographic shows difference between young and older adults exposed to different temperatures and wet-bulb temperatures.

Air temperature survival limits are greatly reduced in humid heat, and more so for older adults. The corresponding wet-bulb temperatures in dry weather are dramatically lower than the previously assumed limit of 95 F or 35 C. A wet-bulb temperature of only 78 F on a dry Phoenix summer day would be considered unsurvivable, yet it would take air temperatures of 128 F under 10% relative humidity to reach that limit. Graphic courtesy the Global Futures Laboratory

“We didn’t only want to better understand the conditions that people could survive in,” Vanos said. “We wanted to understand the conditions that allowed people to live their lives. If the only safe way to live in an area is to be completely sedentary, people won’t want to live there. Being able to spend time outdoors and live your life without seeing a sustained rise in core temperature is a really important metric to understand today and as we move into the future.”

Vanos said Gisel Guzman Echavarria, an ASU student, was instrumental in creating the figures used throughout the paper to demonstrate the research findings.

The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, was conducted by a combination of climate scientists and physiologists, a collaboration that Vanos said was crucial in understanding the intertwined nature of heat and human health. Ollie Jay, professor and director of the Heat and Health Research Incubator at the University of Sydney, said the combined perspectives allow for a cohesive understanding of exactly how climate outcomes can impact people on the physiological and biophysical level.

“The existing wet-bulb temperature estimate of 35 degrees Celsius is used very commonly, with one example being the IPCC report,” Jay, who was also the senior author of the paper, said. “These kinds of reports can shape policy efforts, but they are using a model for heat that is a very conservative estimate of what the impacts are going to be on humans. If we start using a more realistic, human-based model, the impacts are going to be more severe. They're going to be more widespread, and they're going to happen sooner than we are projecting.”

Vanos and Jay agree that the survivability ranges provided in the paper can give an important glimpse into the future: one that includes an increased need for cooling infrastructure, a personalized approach to heat protection and possible heat-driven migration.

“One of the most important things I hope people understand from these findings is that conditions that are survivable for one person who is a very healthy young adult may be experienced much differently by someone who has a comorbidity or is taking prescription medication,” Vanos said. “As we move forward in extreme heat conditions, we need to give people the tools they need to make the unsurvivable days survivable.”

Katelyn Reinhart

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

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ASU ranks 2nd in undergraduate students committing to Teach for America

November 30, 2023

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College contributed 43 students, second-most among large universities across US

Arizona State University contributed 43 graduates to Teach For America in 2023, the second-highest number among universities with at least 10,000 undergraduate students.

Teach For America's leaders — called corps members — sign up for at least two years of teaching in an underresourced public school. The organization works in partnership with communities across the country to expand educational opportunities for children.

Among large universities, only UCLA had more graduates (47) commit to Teach For America. ASU ranked ahead of universities such as the University of Texas, Austin (29); the University of Virginia (27); and the University of California, Berkeley (19). See the full list on the Teach For America website.

“At ASU, we believe there should be multiple pathways for committed people to become teachers and educators,” said Carole Basile, dean of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “We’ve long shared that commitment with Teach For America, as well as a belief that people who spend time as educators can go on to leadership roles in a variety of organizations and in society as a whole.”

Krishnaa Pradhan, director of recruitment at ASU for Teach For America, said ASU is a model university when it comes to promoting her organization to students.

She said ASU President Michael Crow sends a letter to top-performing seniors every year encouraging them to consider Teach For America, and that Teach For America has productive partnerships with university organizations like Changemaker Central.

"So, we've been able to have a lot of buy-in from these strong influencers at ASU," Pradhan said. "That really strong partnership sets ASU apart from other universities in reaching students."

Pradhan said ASU is a natural fit for Teach For America because the university's charter, which includes these words — "assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves" — aligns with Teach For America's goal of educational equity.

She said 60% of the recruits from ASU in 2022 identified as being from low-income communities, and many of the students who joined Teach For America are serving in schools in those communities.

"I think that's a really big part of it," Pradhan said. "We also have a lot of students at ASU who understand the value of networking and building leadership, and Teach For America provides them an opportunity to do that with like-minded individuals who also care very deeply about equity. So, there's a balance there with leadership development and personal growth as well as being able to give back to your community."

According to a Teach For America press release, the newest corps grows the organization's network to 70,000 leaders committed to working in rural and urban communities across the country.

“We’re inspired by the leaders who are stepping up to address the challenges in our public education system. They're diverse in their backgrounds and experiences, but united in their commitment to educational equity,” Darin Lim Yankowitz, senior vice president for recruitment at Teach For America, said in the release.

“For over 30 years, Teach For America has been finding, developing and supporting some of our nation's most talented early-career leaders to expand opportunities for kids in education and every other sector of society. It's exciting to welcome these new teachers from these incredible colleges and universities across the country to the Teach For America community."

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

First-year students pitch ideas to improve patient safety

November 27, 2023

How would you tackle patient safety issues in health care?

That was the question asked of nearly 700 first-year students at Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation this fall. Their responses would serve as the catalyst for a semester-long project that culminated in mid-November at the Health Innovation Exhibition. Edson College first-year student wearing a red blouse stands next to a poster presenting Edson College first-year students present their ideas to improve patient safety at the Health Innovation Exhibition on Friday, Nov. 17. Photo courtesy the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Download Full Image

Falepaini Otukolo and her teammates Cecilia Ortiz and Abigale Fajardo landed on an idea to tackle alarm fatigue.

“We learned that in the ICU, alarms can go off as many as 700 times a day. Imagine your iPhone alarm going off 700 times. That’s a lot for nurses,” she said.

Their solution was to program a smartwatch to receive the alarms via a color-coded system with only some auditory alarms so nurses wouldn’t get overwhelmed.

It was one of five ideas to win the top poster prize in its category.

“I had an enjoyable time through the process. They were good teammates,” Fajardo said.

This was the first year that the exhibition had students focus their innovative efforts on a singular issue in health care. The decision was made thanks to a partnership with the Patient Safety Technology Challenge and ASU's Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab (HEALab).

"This is our seventh year doing the competition, but the first partnering with the Patient Safety Technology Challenge," said Michael Collins, director of Health Innovation Programs at Edson. "The five categories they provided were broad enough to allow students to identify a unique problem within the category, and then use technology in an innovative way to create a solution. All of the groups I visited had some really well-thought-out solutions."

This partnership also provided funding to award the grand prize-winning team $1,000 and the other four top teams $500 each. 

With these incentives and parameters in place, students then narrowed their ideas even further to align with one of these five categories:

  • Surgical procedure error.

  • Diagnostic error.

  • Medication error.

  • Patient care.

  • Infection.

During the exhibition, students presented their posters to judges who picked the top team from each category. Each of the top teams then pitched their poster, and a grand prize winner was selected.

A team stands on either side of their winning poster. They are all wearing purple sweaters that say telegaming doc on them

The student team "Telegaming Doc" won the top prize at the Health Innovation Exhibition. Photo courtesy the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Sara Peermohammed, Margo Johnson, Elena Zazueta and Karla Camarillo made up the grand prize-winning team. Their idea, “Telegaming Doc,” seeks to address the miscommunication between patient and provider that can lead to poor care through a game-like, online self-evaluation.

“I was always super passionate about health care and I’ve had bad experiences with it. Like, I’ve been on the wrong medications. So this is just something that I was passionate about,” Johnson said.

As the grand prize winners, the group will split the $1,000 prize.

No one was more surprised than the Telegaming Doc creators that they won the whole thing.

“We started out with this idea, and it was really small, and now to expand it and win, it’s just surreal,” Peermohammed said.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


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The secret web of life in our soil

November 21, 2023

Nurturing biocrust could be key to reducing Arizona dust

Many people, when they first visit Arizona, expect to find sand on the floor of its famous Sonoran Desert. What they find, instead, is dust.

Fine as flour, this dust sits atop hardened soil, where it is easily carried off by the wind. When the winds are strong, the results can be severe: irritated lungs, blinded drivers and felled trees beneath dust clouds that swallow cities.

The compacted earth from which this dust is born looks barren. But there is a secret web of dynamic life woven through this dirt. Nurturing this life may well be the key to reducing Arizona’s airborne dust.

 on left, showing green biocrust growing; on right, showing holes from air bubbles in abiotic crust

Biocrust (pictured above) is a mesh of bacteria that, like plants, get their energy from sunlight. They can be found in nearly any place in the world that has a dry climate and little vegetation. In Arizona’s desert, biocrust holds down dust like a sticky net.

Scott stands on a ladder to install equipment on a pole above a barren field while two researchers study laptop

“They grow in these long filaments and they kind of weave themselves together like a tapestry. It’s basically like throwing a carpet over the surface,” says Brian Scott, shown above installing a dust monitor. Scott is a postdoctoral researcher at the Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics, which is directed by Regents Professor Ferran Garcia-Pichel.

RELATED: ASU Regents Professor awarded for pioneering approach to soil restoration

Scott in blurred foreground and dirt field and mountains in focus in background

Human activity, including farming and construction, disturbs the native layer of biocrust on top of the desert soil. When the biocrust is gone, it leaves behind a surface layer of exposed, loose dust that can feed dust storms.

It can take decades for biocrust to grow back on its own and gain enough ground to suppress that dust once more. But Scott is working in Garcia-Pichel’s lab (as shown below) to hone that regrowth process down to just a year or two.

The team is cultivating biocrust in the lab with the goal of planting it in biocrust-depleted areas like abandoned farm fields, which are the biggest sources of dust.

 on left, showing fliaments of biocrust through a microscope lens; on right, showing Scott looking through a microscope in the lab

Biocrust grows readily enough in the lab’s controlled settings, but when it’s moved to the wild, it dies. The challenge is to grow heartier biocrust that can thrive and grow in harsh desert conditions. Scott and the team are testing how biocrust growth responds to factors like soil type and bacterial composition.

“Biocrust is a colony of different microorganisms, and when we grow it, we have to be careful that we maintain the integrity of the community,” Scott says. “There are many organisms involved, and if you take a few of them out, the whole thing falls apart.”

To make sure all the right bacteria are present in the right amounts, the researchers sequence the DNA of the biocrusts they cultivate. Once a biocrust is successfully transplanted to the wild, it will become more complex by adding organisms like fungi and algae to its community.

Scott leans over round enclosure outside where the lab cultivates biocrust

Not all land areas have the same uses or needs, so reducing dust effectively means developing and field-testing a combination of solutions. (Above, Scott examines one of the biocrust test beds at the Polytechnic campus.)

Planting biocrust is a long-term solution to control dust from abandoned land and restore the native ecosystem. But farmers also need a short-term solution for fields that they leave fallow for just a season.

Researchers from the center worked with local Casa Grande farmer Patrick Dugan, owner of Du-Brook Dairy Inc., who provided plots of land where they could test their solutions. (Below, Assistant Professor Emmanuel Salifu and graduate student Thuong Cao install a dust monitor at the dairy.) 

“Being environmentally friendly was important to me,” Dugan says. “The farmers — we want to be a part of the solution, too.”

student researchers help set up equipment on a pole above a dirt farm field

While Scott focuses on biocrust treatment, another group from the center is working on creating a treatment that uses chemistry to temporarily harden the topsoil. It works by forming a layer of calcium carbonate, a compound found in materials like limestone and eggshell.

This technique mimics a natural process called abiotic crusting, through which the soil’s properties allow it to harden on its own. Scott believes that adjusting the timing of weeding and field plowing could be a simple solution that allows this type of soil to crust before monsoon storms begin.

tractor driving over a field with mountains in the distance

Much is known about dust storms, biocrusts, soils and land-use practices, but this research is unique for bringing all these puzzle pieces together to examine the system as a whole.

However, it’s a complicated issue, Scott acknowledges. Addressing dust storms will require updates to policy, including water allocation, as well as buy-in from more farmers and rural communities. The center is currently working on creating an integrated plan. As they do so, they seek input from farmers and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

“Part of our job is to help sort all that out and put it into something that's actionable,” Scott says. “I think we have a good chance, if we could implement those measures, that the severity of dust storms would go down.”

Watch video

This research is supported by the Arizona Board of Regents. Photography and content direction by Andy DeLisle

Mikala Kass

Communications Specialist , ASU Knowledge Enterprise


ASU professors discuss gun safety that may appeal to broad spectrum of citizens

Hundreds of academics gather at research conference about harm from firearms

November 20, 2023

Recent gun safety proposals — including requiring gun locks and community beautification efforts that can help quell violence — could possibly earn support from those on both sides of the firearms debate, according to two Arizona State University criminology and criminal justice professors.

Professors Jesenia Pizarro and Beth Huebner recently returned from the second annual conference of the Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms, held Nov. 1–3 in Chicago, where they were panelists at a workshop on how researchers can better collaborate with criminologists. Side-by-side portraits of Jesenia Pizarro and Beth Huebner, professors at ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Professor Jesenia Pizarro (left) and Professor Beth Huebner, ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Courtesy photos Download Full Image

Huebner is the Watts Endowed Professor of Public Safety and director of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Pizarro, a full professor, is secretary of the society, a national organization of mostly academics in health fields who conduct research but do not engage in advocacy. As a criminologist, Pizarro said she is a rare exception among the society’s membership.

More than 700 mostly academics attended the conference to hear 333 presentations by 299 unique presenters representing 34 states and five countries. More than 18 research disciplines were represented in the presentations, including medicine, public health, anthropology, business, economics, criminology/criminal justice, sociology, social work and engineering. 

The society organized the conference with support from the University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, the Columbia Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun Violence (SURGE) and ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Here is a complete list of the conference’s sponsors.

Read on to learn Pizarro’s and Huebner’s insights from the event.

Editor's note: Answers may have been edited for length or clarity.

Question: Professor Pizarro, you are the national secretary of the Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms. Tell us about its history and goals, as well as some examples of its current research.

Pizarro: The society, and by extension the conference, is rooted in a journey of overcoming obstacles. In 1996, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, which prohibited the use of federal funds to advocate or promote gun control, which discouraged the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies from awarding research money targeted for firearm injury prevention.

In 2018, after multiple mass-shooting tragedies and increasing public demand, Congress clarified that the amendment does not prohibit federal funding of research on the causes of gun violence. Subsequently, the Firearm Injury Among Children and Teens Consortium (FACTS) was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. I was one of 25 scientists in the original consortium — and the only criminologist.

Our efforts flourished and led to the 2022 national conference, which was a collaboration between FACTS, the University of Michigan and the RAND Corporation. The society was born from that effort. The society’s goal is to sustain the annual conference, nurture researchers and contribute to evidence-based policies. It is poised to shape the future of firearm injury prevention by offering a robust platform for research, publications and global initiatives combating firearm-related harms.

Q: On Nov. 7, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in United States v. Rahimi, a Texas case about whether the government can restrict the Second Amendment right to bear arms of a person who is subject to domestic violence restraining orders. What might such a decision say about how our legal system treats firearm-related harm?

Pizarro: U.S. vs. RahimiAn amici curiae brief presented to the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Rahimi was signed by Pizarro and 110 other public health researchers and lawyers. View it at: focuses on whether the restriction of the Second Amendment rights of individuals under a domestic violence protection order is constitutional. Earlier this year, the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it is not. ... The Supreme Court decision will shape the legal stance on the Second Amendment and will have crucial implications for public safety. 

Acknowledging that I am not a legal scholar or constitutional lawyer, in my opinion, if the Supreme Court sides with the appellate court, it will signal to the country that individual rights supersede public safety and health. If the Supreme Court does not side with the circuit judges and decides to keep the federal statute as is, it will signal that they are committed to a nuanced understanding of the role of firearms in societal harms in light of the constitutional framework.

Q: You are a criminologist in an organization primarily made up of researchers from health fields such as public health, medicine, epidemiology and so on. Why do you think a wider, multidisciplinary approach is needed to help policymakers on issues related to the harms caused by firearms?

Pizarro: Firearm harms is one of those problems that are just too large to be understood and solved by a single discipline. Single-discipline approaches, while offering ease and simplicity for the professionals utilizing them, are insufficient to address the complexity and scale of firearm harms. For example, employing only a criminal-justice-centered approach would not consider trauma-informed services to survivors and primary and tertiary prevention efforts that are so necessary. ... We need everyone at the table so that the problem can be targeted via multiple angles and considering the diverse factors that contribute to these harms. 

Q: Professor Huebner, ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is one of the most highly ranked schools in the nation. What role can the school play in shaping the research agenda regarding firearms-related harms? What expertise can it bring?

Huebner: Effective interventions to reduce firearm harm require a nuanced understanding of individuals who perpetuate harm and victims of crime, as well as in-depth knowledge of crime data and the criminal justice and social services agencies that work in the community. The multidisciplinary nature of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, specifically, and that of ASU as a whole, makes the school well poised to lead in this field.

We have experts, like Professor Pizarro, who have centered their research program on the multifaceted nature of gun crime, which includes in-depth knowledge of victims of violence and the nationwide landscape of gun crime, particularly homicide trends. Professor William Terrill, who also attended the conference, works with police agencies in the Phoenix area and across the country to better understand police officer perceptions of firearm danger and ways to de-escalate violence among citizens and law enforcement.

Just as important, our faculty partners with other experts at ASU and elsewhere in the fields of public health, medicine, sociology and social work to develop interventions.

Q: Now that you’ve attended this conference, what impressions did you take with you? What opportunities do you see coming out of it for the society as an impartial voice?

Huebner: This was my first time attending the conference, and I found it to be one of the best convenings I have attended. What impressed me most was the diversity of individuals who attended. I was asked to participate in a mentoring session for early-career scholars, and I connected with some of the brightest minds in the field. I also appreciate that the group takes a public health approach and allows those who work on the front lines with victims to have a strong voice in policy change.

Individuals who work in academia often operate in silos, but it will take true collaboration to begin to address the public health emergency that is gun violence in the United States. 

Q: The Washington Post editorialized Nov. 3 that the society has made some novel suggestions for policy changes that, in part because they are new, might have a chance to be implemented. Do you agree?

Pizarro: Yes. A lot of the interventions discussed are already in place in some cities throughout the country. Take, for example, greening and beautification in communities. Cities like Flint, Michigan, and Philadelphia have implemented it, and there is documented success. In fact, The Watts College’s Design Studio for Community Solutions is currently funding a beautification effort in Maryvale (in Phoenix). I am currently working on that initiative with criminal justice (Associate) Professor Cody Telep, and we are excited about the possibilities in that community.

Huebner: Agreed. Interventions, like gun safety locks, are supported by science and are often less controversial than other programs. Yet, many gun owners don’t use them. It is important to have conferences like these to learn more about how to best communicate the science of gun safety to the broader community. Science is only beneficial if it can be translated into community action.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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Stunned by devastation of coral reefs in Hawaii, ASU students design solutions

Shocked by dying coral, ASU design students work on tourist-based solutions.
November 17, 2023

Studio course emphasizes collaboration, life-inspired design thinking

How can you harness the money and good will of tourists to save coral reefs in Hawaii?

Thirty students in The Design School at Arizona State University traveled to the state this semester in a unique studio course to create new ways of saving the islands’ dying coral.

The master’s degree students spent a week in O‘ahu as part of a Global Engagement Studio, a semester-long course led by Michelle Fehler, a clinical associate professor in The Design School and affiliate in The Biomimicry Center; Darren Petrucci, the Suncor Professor of Architecture in The Design School, and Hazal Gumus-Ciftci, an assistant professor of industrial design.The course is a partnership between The Design School and the College of Global Futures, and the transdisciplinaryBesides Fehler, Petrucci and Gumus-Ciftci, the other core faculty were Luis Angarita, program head and associate professor of industrial design; Adelheid Fischer, affiliate faculty and former assistant director of the Biomimicry Center; Wil Heywood, a clinical psychologist and professor in The Design School; and Judith Klein-Seetharaman, a professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and the College of Health Solutions. project includes not just the various design specialties but also sustainability and biology.

The group snorkeled in two locations off of O‘ahu, including Hanauma Bay, a marine preserve.

What they saw was shocking.

“We saw a lot of coral that was damaged or not healthy or with algae overgrowth,” said Naomi Chandran, who is pursuing a master’s degree in visual communication design.

“It’s one thing to read about it and another to actually experience it and see it. You’re forced to take it personally and you can’t look away.”

The coral, which should have been vibrantly multicolored with a defined shape, instead looked like gray rocks and was covered in algae — a symptom of poor health.

The students were devastated, and that was the point.

“Seeing the coral is the reason we're doing this work,” Fehler said. “So they connect that with the importance of the design solution.”

Higher water temperatures is one reason the coral is dying but another cause is human development. As the rain falls on the islands' hilltops, the water rushes down through the neighborhoods, becoming contaminated, and out into the bay.

Besides the coral reefs, the students also visited a fish pond that was built by Indigenous people 800 years ago to farm fish. There are hundreds of fish ponds across the Pacific islands, although many are now abandoned. Because the ponds contribute to a healthy ecosystem, the students spent time working to restore the pond by removing litter, weeds and invasive mangrove.

They also visited a nursery where scientists are raising corals for replantation on reefs, and interviewed marine biologists, engineers and nonprofit environmental groups involved in reef-restoration initiatives.

“So it was a full week of really being exposed to the local condition,” Petrucci said.

While snorkeling off of O‘ahu, the ASU Design School students saw coral reefs that were unhealthy and covered in algae. They saw healthy coral during a visit to a coral nursery. Photo courtesy The Design School

Leveraging tourism

When they returned, the six teams of students started designing solutions to regenerate the coral, with each focusing on one segment of the rim-to-reef watershed.

One team is working on an elaborate model of the watershed with overlays showing ocean temperatures and other data that affect the coral.

Another is designing a way to filter the water that rushes through the hillside neighborhoods. They’ve proposed using people-pleasing amenities, such as park-like retention ponds and pontoon boats that produce cleansing nanobubbles.

Another group is thinking of a way to shade the coral for a few hours each day, which will lower the water temperature.

Chandran’s team started with a straightforward idea and realized it needed to be much bigger.

“We’ve developed a motorized brush with the idea of cleaning the coral,” she said.

“But we realized over time that these problems are multi-faceted. We’re cleaning the coral, but what happens after? Are we waiting for the algae to grow back and to keep doing the same thing over and over with what is seemingly a net zero gain?

“You need a multifaceted solution,” she said.

So the team decided to leverage the huge influx of visitors who come to Hawaii every year in a kind of eco-tourism solution of encouraging them to clean the coral.

“How can we get people involved in these conservation efforts? After cleaning, how can we introduce larvae to bring health back to the reef?” she said.

“When you go there, you see how interconnected everything is, so you have to look at the picture as a whole.”

Allen Chou, an industrial design student, said the studio was challenging because typically in his major, students are asked to design a tangible product such as a piece of furniture or electronic device.

“This is more complex and more science related. A lot of times I feel like a scientist doing research on this very multifaceted problem, but it encourages me to think differently,” he said.

“We’re trying to develop a better way to communicate with tourists about coral reefs — from the airport to the hotels. How can we reach them in an effective but low-cost way to increase the impact?”

Gina Fagliarone, an architecture graduate student, said her group is designing an infrastructure project to shade the reefs and provide a no-contact way for tourists to see the coral.

“How do we avoid snorkeling? How do we create an observation experience where people aren’t able to physically kick and grab and harm the coral?” she said.

“It will also serve as a gathering space for researchers and tourists to create a long-term emotional connection.

“What we experienced in Hawaii is that you’re snorkeling and it’s kind of all dead and it’s depressing. You want to flip that experience to celebrating restoration and regrowth.”

During the mid-semester presentation on Zoom, the team developing the interactive model got great feedback from Doug Harper, executive director of the Malama Maunalua nonprofit.

“This is just the type of display we’re looking for to convey what is taking place,” he said. “We tried doing something like this but this is several levels above what we had envisioned.”

New ways of thinking

The studio also is teaching new ways to collaborate. The students have been meeting weekly with Wil Heywood, a clinical psychologist and professor in The Design School, who has worked with them on team building and also went on the Hawaii trip.

Petrucci said, “So much of what we're trying to teach the students is, ‘How do you develop an emotional intelligence as a designer so that you can actually have impact?’

“Everything we do is collaboration. Nobody works in a vacuum.”

Fagliarone said the collaboration has been valuable.

“As an architect, I know my job and practice will be collaborating with a bunch of people. You have to do construction management, you have to talk to clients and all these different people,” she said.

“And so far in my coursework, I haven’t quite gotten that. I talk a lot to different designers and architects, but I’ve never spoken to an industrial designer before this class.

“It’s super inspiring for my own work to collaborate with people who don’t think exactly the way I do.”

Fehler and Petrucci hope the concept of their design studio course, which they call COLĪD, for “center of life-inspired design,” can expand into a degree program or even a center.

“We want to allow the problem to define what we need to do. So it's really part of practicing life-centered design, which is our focus,” Fehler said.

“It's in the name to allow nature strategies and the problem itself to define what it needs.”

And that wide-ranging, flexible, evidence-based design thinking can lead to a whole new model, Petrucci said. He served as director of The Design School from 2005 to 2012 and worked during that time to foster collaboration among the design disciplines based on wide-ranging problems, like food.

“We just had a whole conversation with the students because they're at the mid-review and they could have continued what they were doing and made a bunch of amazing graphics and portfolio pieces. Or they could take the harder way, which is to rethink the definition of what they're doing,” he said.

“When you sit down with an employer, they've seen a thousand portfolios. Now they can say, ‘This is a transdisciplinary studio I took on coral in Hawaii. We developed this whole integrated system of infiltrating all aspects of tourism in Hawaii and figuring out how every moment could be part of coral in some capacity. And here are the examples of how that could go.’

“So they're creating a whole new market type that hasn’t existed.”

Petrucci said the studio is trying to shift the focus of design from being human centered to nature centered.

“Our client is coral, not humans,” Petrucci said.

The class will hold a presentation of their projects on Friday, Dec. 1, that is free and open to the public.

Top image: A bay off O‘ahu, Hawaii, visited by ASU graduate students from The Design School in September 2023. Photo courtesy The Design School

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


Making eco-friendly microelectronics

ASU researcher Vidya Chhabria leads research to measure VLSI electronics’ carbon footprint

November 16, 2023

Air travel contributes a significant percentage of the world’s carbon output, with the industry’s activities resulting in 2.1% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021, according to the World Resources Institute.

Yet the smartphones ubiquitous in pockets worldwide, along with billions of other electronic devices, are on par with or surpassing jet fuel-burning air travel when it comes to contributing to climate change. Researchers at the U.K.’s Lancaster University estimate that computing technology contributes between 2.1% and 3.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. A semiconductor chip glows in a forest. Vidya Chhabria, an assistant professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is leading research to calculate the carbon footprint of very large-scale integration computing systems to make chip manufacturing more eco-friendly. Graphic by Erika Gronek/ASU/Adobe Firefly Download Full Image

As energy-hungry artificial intelligence systems increase in prominence and humanity becomes more dependent on technology, the need for sustainable computing has become more urgent than ever. Vidya Chhabria, an assistant professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is working to meet that need with her project that measures the lifetime carbon footprint of very large-scale integration, or VLSI, computing systems and design techniques that can make the field more sustainable.

Protecting the future with an eye on VLSI

VLSI systems are electronic chips built using billions of smaller components consisting of wires and transistors, which regulate electricity flow and voltage. VLSI chips are used in electronic devices people use every day, including laptops, smartphones and cameras.

The high number of transistors provides a considerable amount of computing power in a device using VLSI systems. Emerging frontiers in VLSI include 3D and 2.5D systems using heterogeneous integration of chiplets, which refers to combining smaller chips together in one package to form a larger system stacked vertically or horizontally closer than traditional, or monolithic, chips, reducing the area taken up versus one larger chip and enabling the use of even more computing power.

VLSI system development is often aided by electronic design automation, or EDA, which leverages algorithms to enable design and analysis of these systems. While they do boost modern electronics’ capabilities, today’s VLSI systems require sizable amounts of energy to be designed, manufactured and run.

VLSI-powered electronics contribute large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions throughout their lives, from when they’re designed and manufactured to their eventual disposal. Chhabria and her collaborators, who include Sarma Vrudhula, a Fulton Schools professor of computer science and engineering in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, and Chetan Choppali Sudarshan, a doctoral student in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, part of the Fulton Schools, seek to measure the carbon footprint of all aspects of a VLSI system.

“To sustain our current use of technology in our daily lives, it’s essential to assess its environmental impact,” Chhabria says. “The idea is to make the semiconductor industry cognizant of the carbon price tag that comes with computing and realize the importance of considering carbon footprint as a first-order metric of optimization in addition to the traditional power, performance, area and cost metrics.”

Estimating environmental impact

Chhabria and her colleagues have designed tools to estimate the carbon footprint of specific VLSI systems using their individual specifications. After system architecture parameters are entered, the tools can calculate the carbon footprint of a VLSI system at the architectural level across its entire lifetime by considering various factors such as system design time, manufacturing process, scaling and yields of chips or chiplets and packaging.

With the information entered, the tools estimate how the combination of parts, system life cycles and manufacturing processes’ individual carbon footprints add up to form a total number.

The tools estimate a carbon footprint number that will enable chip designers and architects to be aware of a VLSI system’s carbon footprint across its lifetime and compare it to other design alternatives. Chhabria and her cohorts have developed one tool already and submitted their findings in a paper accepted for presentation at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture 2024.

The researchers analyzed different VLSI systems using the tool and found that heterogeneous 2.5D and 3D systems leveraging a predesigned library of chiplets had a lower carbon footprint compared with traditional monolithic chips. Chiplet-based 2.5D and 3D systems have a lower environmental impact by enabling larger yields, enabling mix-and-match design combinations of chiplets in different manufacturing process technologies and allowing the reuse of existing chip designs.

“This is the key time to look at the environmental impact of 2.5D and 3D systems,” Chhabria says. “EDA tools that are used to design these new 2.5D and 3D systems are not yet fully developed to support heterogeneous systems. Because they’re still in their nascent stage, now is the right time to make EDA tools also consider carbon footprint as a metric of optimization.”

The researchers are continuing to develop additional tools that consider more metrics such as chips’ lifespans, power required for operation, number of manufactured parts, the time it takes from design to commercialization and more.

“The hope is for the public and chip design community to take notice of the impact the information and computing technology industry has on the environment and increase the lifetime of their electronic devices,” Chhabria says. “It might involve a straightforward act, such as retaining a fully functional smartphone instead of discarding it simply because a newer model has been launched.”

A potential wide-ranging impact and future applications

For Sudarshan, a newer member of the VLSI research community, the paper represents the first research work he has had published.

“Our work is open source and available on GitHub, contributing to the community’s efforts to advance this field and demonstrate the significance of sustainable architecture designs in reducing VLSI’s overall carbon footprint,” he says.

Chhabria is working with Aman Arora, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering in the Fulton Schools, to apply the carbon footprint measurement tools to field-programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs, a type of chip with flexible capabilities that can be reprogrammed for a variety of applications.

If successful, the programmability of FPGAs and their potential to serve as sustainable computing alternatives would provide another solution to improve computing’s carbon footprint. The researchers are working on a proposal to gain funding for the work, and Arora is looking for more students interested in sustainable computing.

“If you look at projections of the carbon footprint from computing, it’s going to increase rapidly in the future,” he says. “In one home today, there are probably 50 devices that are running AI workloads. If we can make computing more sustainable by reducing the carbon footprint of the chips we use, that will have a big impact on the ecology of Earth.”

TJ Triolo

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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ASU experts share mindfulness tips for the holiday season

November 16, 2023

Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience to launch new course in spring

We all know the holidays can be hectic — and even science backs this up. A 2020 study by the American Psychological Association found that a quarter of all Americans consider themselves "extremely stressed" during the holiday season. 

Triggering that stress? According to the study: things like not having enough time, money and the incessant pressure to give or receive gifts. Then of course there are family dynamics to consider, the potential for uncivil political discourse, travel meltdowns and the list goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Nika Gueci says while you may not be able to control what happens, you can control your reaction with a few purposeful practices that can lessen the worry sparked by what’s marketed as the most wonderful time of the year.

“We can do this by being mindful, by not losing sight of our values and what really matters about the season, by being realistic and flexible, by taking care of ourselves, and by practicing gratitude and compassion,” she said.

Gueci is the executive director of Arizona State University's Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. The center provides mindfulness expertise and resources, much of it free, year-round to the university and wider community. 

Gueci and her center colleague Zachary Reeves-Blurton spoke to ASU News about how to mindfully navigate the holidays and shared the details of a new mindfulness course launching this spring that can help build up these skills all year long.

Question: How can mindfulness help people have a more enjoyable holiday season?

Gueci: Mindfulness can dial down holiday stress by promoting awareness and presence, allowing you to savor joyful moments rather than rushing through them. It teaches you to respond, not react, to family dynamics or unexpected issues, providing emotional stability. Plus, mindfulness techniques can help you make more intentional choices about holiday spending, eating and commitments.

Q: Where should someone start if they’ve never dedicated time to mindfulness before, to keep from getting overwhelmed?

Gueci: To weave mindfulness into your daily life, begin with activities you already do, like eating or walking. Start small. During meals, focus solely on the food — its texture, flavor and aroma — rather than eating while watching TV or scrolling on your phone. For walking, be aware of each step, how your feet lift off, move through the air and make contact with the ground. The aim is to fully engage in the current moment, shutting out distractions or drifting thoughts. This anchors you, making daily activities not just routine, but a form of mental training. 

Reeves-Blurton: Apps can help mindfulness novices get started, or provide structure to those who know what to do but just never find the time. A five-minute daily meditation focusing on your breath can initiate the mindfulness journey. Use an app like Insight Timer, Headspace or Calm for guided sessions. They have free content, simple navigation and brief guided meditations for several purposes, such as sleep or anxiety, allowing you to practice without getting overwhelmed by the underlying science or philosophy. 

Q: How can people incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives so they’re not “cramming” during stressful times? 

Reeves-Blurton: To fully harness the benefits of mindfulness, consistency is as crucial as it is in physical activity. Much like a muscle, your "mindfulness muscle" grows stronger with regular activity — making practices like stress relief increasingly effective and reflexive over time. Initially, the calming effects are felt, but with continued commitment, they'll start to permeate your entire day. To build this habit, it's helpful to schedule mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. Partnering up with someone or joining a group can further reinforce the practice until it becomes second nature.

Gueci: For ASU students and employees interested in learning more, you can take a new course we’re starting this spring called Foundations of Mindfulness and Resilience: Science and Practice. This transformative seven-week class promises a comprehensive exploration into the realm of mindfulness. It's not just about learning the theories or understanding the scientific framework behind mindfulness; it’s a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical skills. 

Assignments are designed to stimulate self-reflection, encouraging students to critically assess their own experiences and growth in mindfulness and resilience. In essence, this course aims to cultivate a habit of mindfulness that deeply ingrains the practice into the daily lives of participants. And, it aligns perfectly with broader societal calls for enhanced mental health support, making it more than just an educational experience — it's a life-changing initiative.

Q: What are some other accessible mindfulness practices?

Reeves-Blurton: The simplest, most accessible mindfulness practice is simply to pay attention to our breath. Without going too deeply into the science of it, the biofeedback of our breath and how we breathe has a great deal to do with how we feel. When we are upset or anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly or quickly, which triggers the physiological stress response within our bodies. When we allow ourselves to breathe deeply, slowly and regularly, our brain interprets the ease of our breath with safety or ease, which leads to emotional, mental and physical relaxation. When we notice we need calmness, we can do simple breathing exercises like box breathing, diaphragmatic breathing or just counting our breaths

Q: Do you have a favorite practice? If so, what is it and why?

Gueci: My favorite mindfulness practice is the guided body scan meditation, many of which can be found and downloaded from Insight Timer and other apps. I like the body scan because it guides you to focus your attention within the body itself — sensations we feel along our skin, feelings of ease or dis-ease, and notice any areas we are holding physical tension. I try to spend between 10 and 15 minutes on a body scan every morning, but we can do them any time — when we are waking up and becoming alert for the day, as we are winding down for sleep or when we feel our minds racing and simply need to re-ground ourselves in the present moment or let go of emotions, anxiety or stress.

Reeves-Blurton: As brief mindfulness breaks throughout my day — maybe when I realize I’ve been sitting at my desk too long or catch myself dwelling on a thought or simply need to hit the "refresh" button on my brain — I do what is called a five-senses meditation. I live on the edge of a forest, so I love to walk out onto my patio to do this, but we can do it anywhere. Just sitting or standing there, I breathe deeply and methodically work through my senses. I first notice what I can see — focusing on objects, but also shapes, light, color and patterns. Next, I tune into what I can hear, noticing specific sounds or even the quiet space between sounds. Then I turn to what I can feel on my skin: the feeling of the ground under my feet, the temperature of the air or sun on my face and body, the breeze. Finally, I bring my attention to what I can smell or taste: the scents in the air, the cup of coffee in my hand. I stand or sit doing this for as long as I need until I feel refreshed. Maybe a few minutes, maybe longer, my eyes open or closed, all the while breathing deeply but gently.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist , Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


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ASU center brings faculty together to research human-robot solutions

November 15, 2023

Redefining how robots and humans work together — from developing and deploying technologies, to the management and evaluation of human, AI and robot teams — is what Arizona State University's Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming (CHART) is all about.

Their researchers are leveraging the science of teaming to determine how we can make this new technology human centered, and how it can be applied to our work, play, education and daily lives. CHART has been expanding its impact in many fields, including looking to the future of space exploration and empowering the U.S. Space Force.

The unspoken heroes of this multidisciplinary center play an active role in furthering the mission and goals of the center, and it’s the range and diversity of their work that underpin the foundational science of CHART.

“We focus on bringing together a wide range of affiliates from different disciplines, ​​opening people's eyes to the fact that this kind of research exists,” says Professor Nancy Cooke, director of CHART. “Our affiliates bring all of the necessary pieces of the problem to the table, working as a team to try to understand how to design these new technologies in the best way possible that takes into account not just what humans want and need, but what the technology's capable of.”

We spoke with some of CHART’s valued affiliates and learned how their research brings critical impact to the university.

Wenlong Zhang: Cross-disciplinary research drives real-world impact

Portrait of man with short dark hair and glasses wearing button up shirt

ASU’s General Human Operation of Systems as Teams (GHOST) Lab is a state-of-the-art scientific test bed that is also an art installation. Researchers in the lab examine people’s ability to work with robots and AI in scenarios such as a life-threatening meteor strike on a lunar colony. 

Among those researchers is CHART affiliate Wenlong Zhang, an associate professor in the School of Manufacturing Systems and Networks at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Zhang's research interests lie in the design, modeling and control of cyber-physical systems, with applications to health care, robotics and manufacturing.

“When we started discussions of the lab, we wanted to be able to create a space that could help us prepare for future space exploration and simultaneously be a space to simulate a group of soldiers working with next-generation army combat vehicles,”  Zhang said.

Zhang contributed to two of the strategic decision-making efforts at the GHOST Lab.

“First and foremost is the importance of interdisciplinary research that encourages our students to think outside their field and talk to others with different expertise, making the end result more impactful. Secondly, mission-driven agencies care about the application of our research. We have to make sure we incorporate the end user in our research, and the GHOST Lab quite literally enables us to achieve this.”

RELATED: Learn more about the GHOST Lab

Joining CHART’s multi-talented team of affiliates, Zhang was thrilled to work alongside Cooke and Associate Professor Erin Chou as they explored subjects such as trust in human-robot interaction. The challenges Zhang and the researchers at CHART face are so complex that it requires more than one discipline to ensure that their research has a successful impact.

“We are asking the question: How can you really design the robots to be trustworthy? And this requires a multidisciplinary approach.”

Rakibul Hasan: Data privacy is just as important as security

Portrait of man with short dark hair and a beard wearing collared shirt under sweater

Moving from Bangladesh to the United States was a big step for Rakibul Hasan, and the big leaps in his exciting career did not stop there. Working as a software engineer, he began his PhD at Indiana University Bloomington, where he discovered he could make a positive impact on usable security and privacy. 

During his PhD, Hasan worked on a visual data privacy project involving protecting the identities of bystanders in shared images or videos on social media. Using the findings of their research, he is now working on creating an app that will enable users to protect other people’s privacy when posting content online. The next stop on his career path led him to Arizona State University — known for its security research and wide range of related courses — where he serves as an assistant professor in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence.

As a privacy researcher, Hasan believes that data privacy is just as important as security. 

“I try to understand the problem space from the user, from the actual people who will be using the system, to know their perspectives, and then identify usable fixes and implement them,” Hasan said. “Joining CHART appealed to me because we use so many techniques — from psychological and internet measurement methods to machine learning and artificial intelligence — to create real-world solutions.”

Hasan is currently working on an exciting project on the intersection of privacy and disinformation. The project is looking into how we can truly understand what drives people to believe or not believe misinformation and how consumption habits can affect their belief interest bases.

“One finding we had was that people who follow online sources had different results compared to those who use more traditional sources, like print or television. The first group are more likely to believe misleading misinformation,” he said.

“We also found that the more surprised people are once they have read an article of news, the less likely they are to believe it, but more likely to share with others, which was very surprising.”

Naturally, joining CHART’s multidisciplinary team made sense, and Hasan was able to fill the data privacy gap, learning from his colleagues as they collaborate on impactful projects together.

Pooyan Fazli: 'We are stronger under CHART’s umbrella'

Pooyan Fazli

Despite impressive advances to date, one of CHART’s main focus areas, human-robot teaming, has yet to achieve the goal of general-purpose robots that act alongside humans in the real world. Introducing algorithms that will accelerate the transition of robots out of the research lab and into long-term deployment is the focus of affiliate Pooyan Fazli.

“My long-term goal is to facilitate the coordination, communication, coexistence, and mutual adaptation between robots and humans in dynamic, uncertain, adversarial and multigoal environments,” Fazli said.

Fazli received his PhD in computer science from the University of British Columbia and now serves as an assistant professor at ASU in the School of Arts Media and Engineering. 

“The chance to collaborate with other fellow affiliates who share these same interests is an exciting opportunity for me. I believe that together, we are stronger under CHART’s umbrella,” he said.

Building the next generation of computer scientists and engineers has been the biggest source of pride in Fazli’s career. 

“Mentoring my students in their research and career development gives me such joy. Seeing them progress and create fantastic research in my lab — nothing gives me greater satisfaction.”

Another avenue of Fazli’s research is applying artificial intelligence for good by collaborating with other disciplines to tackle critical social, environmental and health challenges. Fazli is currently leading a project that has brought together a team of interdisciplinary researchers with the goal of developing AI-driven systems to enhance video accessibility for blind and low-vision (BLV) individuals. With vast portions of critical information living in video format, accessing it can be a challenge to the approximately 12 million Americans who are diagnosed with visual impairment.

“Our ultimate vision is a future in which BLV individuals can access the information in virtually any online video. Long term, we want to develop an automated system capable of understanding the content of online videos and communicating this information easily.”

Heather Lum: Applying human-dog communication to teaming research

Portrait of Heather Lum

For many years, humans have been relying on dogs for their special capabilities, such as their ability to smell and hear things beyond human perception. However, while they may outperform humans at some things, there is the inevitable complication of interaction without natural language-based communication.

This fascinating challenge is one area of research for affiliate Heather Lum, assistant professor in human systems engineering at ASU’s Polytechnic School.

“You have to be aware of what the dog is telling you. If not, you cannot be an effective teammate,” Lum said. “We teach the dogs to have purposeful disobedience when it has information we do not yet know. This comes back to human-robot teaming — what are we going to do when a robot is disobedient for a beneficial purpose to the team?” 

Lum has a personal stake in this subject in addition to the research she conducts, as she is a canine handler for two search-and-rescue dogs trained to find missing deceased people.

“I see the challenges in the way that we have to understand each other and what I have to do to be an effective team member, while my dogs have to understand the cues I am telling them.”

This summer, Lum participated in a three-month summer faculty fellowship at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, researching and interviewing about the idea of teaming and how we can do this more effectively.

Lum also explores human factors psychology with an emphasis on human-technology interactions. She joined ASU CHART from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with high hopes of connecting her exciting research interests to the work of the other affiliates who are doing similar work in the field of human-robot teaming.

“Being at such a prestigious university that has other faculty in similar fields is amazing. … Bouncing ideas off each other and interacting with others who share similar areas of focus is wonderful.”

ASU’s Global Security Initiative is partially supported by Arizona’s Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF). TRIF investment has enabled hands-on training for tens of thousands of students across Arizona’s universities, thousands of scientific discoveries and patented technologies, and hundreds of new startup companies. Publicly supported through voter approval, TRIF is an essential resource for growing Arizona’s economy and providing opportunities for Arizona residents to work, learn and thrive.

Top photo courtesy Shutterstock

Oliver Dean

Manager of Marketing and Communications, Knowledge Enterprise , Global Security Initiative