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The road to Paris: 9 things you can do to influence the UN climate talks

Can you influence climate talks from half a globe away? Yes, says one expert.
October 2, 2015

A climate-change advocate visits ASU to talk about what interested observers can do to contribute to global conference

In December, thousands of delegates from 196 countries will meet in Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

As evidence grows of glaciers and ice caps melting, oceans warming and sea levels rising, current commitments to greenhouse-gas emissions are slated to expire in 2020. The goal of the summit is to produce an agreement that will last for a decade beyond that, hopefully longer.

Previous climate summits have failed, for a variety of reasons. Though it may seem fruitless to hope to affect the outcome of a global summit from thousands of miles away, at least one person disagrees. A climate-change advocate who has attended every international summit since 2012 visited Arizona State University on Thursday morning to talk about what interested observers can do to contribute.

Natalie Lucas is executive director of Care About Climate, an organization that works on climate education, mitigation and adaptation projects around the world. She will be attending the negotiations in Paris from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11.

The Paris talks are expected to end in a universal and legally binding agreement — not a treaty — for all major countries that produce the most greenhouse gases. 

Lucas discussed nine things you can do to influence the summit.

1) Get your city, campus, business or community to commit support, whether in the form of a statement or by acting in some of the ways described below. Convincing your mayor to send a letter to the State Department can be a coup.

2) Talk about it. Be vocal on social media, talk about it with friends and family, let people know this is an important issue. “Write to your local newspaper,” Lucas said. “The work we do here is most important.”

3) Write to the State Department. Share stories about how climate change affects you. “They respond more to stories because they hear facts and figures all the time,” Lucas said. “Tell them about the awful storms we get here.”

4) Talk to your congressional representatives, even if they are climate-change doubters. Though they might not act on your suggestions, a significant volume of people speaking up sends a signal to them. “Let them know people out there care about this, and that they’ll eventually be voted out of office if they don’t act,” Lucas said.

5) March. On Nov. 29, a global march is scheduled to send a visible signal of concern.

6) A climate strike is scheduled for Nov. 30. Skipping classes or work isn’t always a great idea; Lucas said spending an afternoon volunteering for a local group like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby might be a more viable option.

7) March again. A second global march is slated for the day after the summit.

8) Vote in next year’s presidential election. “Put someone in the White House who cares about these things,” Lucas said.

9) Join groups such as the Sierra Club or the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Next year the states will develop plans under President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Groups like those will play a role in influencing lawmakers.

Lucas' talk was sponsored by ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

ASU, national lab to develop solutions to global challenges

September 29, 2015

Arizona State University and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, will enter into an agreement to solidify the burgeoning collaboration between the two institutions on research projects related to energy security, climate science and sustainability, and other aspects of global security.  

The signing of the official memorandum of understanding took place at Sept. 29 in the Fulton Center on ASU's Tempe campus. Group photo after collaboration agreement Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan (left), senior vice president of research, entrepreneurship and economic development at ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, and Doug Ray, director of strategic partnerships at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, sign an agreement to collaborate on research projects related to energy security, climate science and sustainability, and other aspects of global security, Sept. 29 in Tempe. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

ASU and PNNL have collaborated successfully in the past on projects including power-grid resilience, climate change and environmental sustainability. The agreement paves the way for both ASU and PNNL to leverage their capabilities to achieve mutual objectives, which include attracting new funding in global security and complex systems science and developing immersive learning opportunities for students.

“ASU has already proven to be a great partner as both PNNL and the university strive to further solutions to global security and sustainability through better understanding of complex adaptive systems,” said Doug Ray, director of strategic partnerships at PNNL. “We are impressed with ASU’s commitment to innovation and are looking forward to creating opportunities to engage collaboratively on important research projects.”

Not only will the agreement foster innovative research between PNNL and ASU, but it will also open a pipeline for eventual joint appointments and extend national laboratory resources to students.

“PNNL and ASU share common goals for advancing research in key areas that will have an impact on our local and global communities,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of research, entrepreneurship and economic development at ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “We are delighted to build upon our existing collaborations that will further our efforts to create sustainable solutions to energy security, climate change, resiliency and more.”

Group photo after collaboration agreement

(From left) Betsy Cantwell, deputy vice president of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU; Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative at ASU; Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president of research, entrepreneurship and economic development at the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development; Doug Ray, director of strategic partnerships at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Jamie Winterton, director of the strategy global security initiative at ASU; and Jill Brandenberger, manager of sustainability and national security at PNNL, on Sept. 29 in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Nadya Bliss, director of ASU’s Global Security Initiative, agrees that the mutual interests of each organization will greatly benefit the collaborative research efforts of the newly signed agreement.  

"Given our existing ongoing efforts both in global security and sustainability as well as complimentary strength and expertise to address national and global wicked problems, it made sense to expand and formalize the collaboration between our two organizations,” Bliss said. “On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of working closely with PNNL’s Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) and have been thoroughly impressed by both the ongoing research at JGCRI and effectiveness of our two organizations working together.”

In announcing the agreement, both Ray and Panchanathan said PNNL and ASU are committed to discovery and innovation to address the complex problems facing the world today.

Made in the shade: ASU team crunches data on how best to cool urban areas

September 25, 2015

It’s debatable what can kill you faster in an Arizona summer: the sun or the electric bill.

Anyone owning a home can recite the litany of summer woes. The dawn patrol to cut the lawn before the really bad heat hits. The power bill the size of a BMW payment. The neighborhood stroll abbreviated by solar assault. Southern live oak on Katy Mall in Tempe It's common sense that the shade provided by trees — such as this Southern live oak on ASU's Tempe campus — and other structures help make an environment more comfortable. But how much shade is needed, and what surface materials can help? An ASU team has measured for the first time precisely how much cooler different elements can make an environment. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Anything that lives knows the answer to all of that is shade. From fish to people, getting out from under the solar blast is the key to comfort.

ASU studies on microclimates and urban climate have measured for the first time precisely how much cooler different elements can make an environment — information highly useful to architects and urban planners.

“The reason you would want those detailed numbers is if you’re doing design work in an urban area,” said Ben Ruddell, associate professor in the Polytechnic School, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Ruddell and his colleagues have worked on several studies on shade and urban climate. “In the past that design work has not been evidence-based, but now we can tell you exactly what the effect is going to be on that microclimate.”

Trees or sails? Grass, gravel or concrete?

“Name your materials and we can give you the numbers,” he said.  “We now have the data to tell them exactly what techniques to use. … We’ve got the data; we’re open for business. Give us a call.”

Shading helps cool the landscape underneath it. It also helps reduce home energy use and create beneficial microclimates for growing different types of plants. The type of shade doesn’t matter much: trees, shade sails, ramadas and pavilions all have roughly the same effect, according to researchers.

“The main effect is keeping all that solar energy from impacting you or your house,” Ruddell said. “Shade is very effective at cooling off what’s underneath.”

If homeowners have an environment where they can keep the sun from hitting the house, they can save significantly on their energy bill, said Nancy Selover, research professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and state climatologist.

Shade structures, awnings, vine-covered trellises will all work. Rooftop solar panels will intercept the sun while air flows beneath them to cool the attic.

“It doesn’t just have to be a tree,” Selover said. “Whatever you can do to keep the sun from hitting the surface.”

How much shade is enough shade?

“If I have a 1-acre plot of land, what percentage do I need shaded?” Selover said. “Unfortunately, you need a large percentage of shade. If you only have a little bit shaded, it’s not going to be helpful.”

Ariane Middel, assistant research professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, is working on studies of how much trees affect human comfort.

“It’s pretty hot here, and summers are pretty miserable,” she said. “In terms of thermal comfort what’s even more important than temperature is the radiated environment. It’s the solar radiation that determines how comfortable you feel. We looked at the impact of trees on thermal comfort.”

Middel, Ruddell and three colleagues measured temperatures and heat stress in the sun and under five trees through four seasons in three typical Phoenix area neighborhood types: mesic (lawns and lush trees), xeric (desert landscaping), and oasis (a mix; think putting greens in gravel beds found in master-planned communities).

They found that naturally mesic neighborhoods are cooler because of the grass and trees. There was little difference between the xeric and oasis neighborhoods.

“The little grass patches didn’t make a difference,” she said.

Researchers found during the mid-afternoon heat being under a tree means being 8 degrees more comfortable than standing in the sun.

Homeowners should plant trees by the front porch or around seating areas in the back yard.

“If you’re going to plant trees, you want to plant them in locations where they make a difference — where people are,” Middel said.

There needs to be more shade in places where people are outside, said Ruddell, like business districts, around mass transit and over playgrounds.

Ruddell has a paper in review with a colleague from Texas Tech. One of the clearest findings is that shade plays a huge role in keeping playgrounds safe. Kids are more vulnerable to heat than adults are, and many playgrounds aren’t shaded.

“It needs much more attention than it’s getting,” he said. “We have taken readings in excess of (194 degrees Fahrenheit) on surfaces kids would play on and touch. To put that in perspective, that temperature is far in excess of the standard for factory workers to touch anything. … That’s hot enough to burn you, and certainly hot enough to make your uncomfortable.”

Homeowners should be reminded that Salt River Project will give free shade trees to qualifying homeowners.

“Planting trees on the south side of your house and the southwest side of your house will lower your energy bill,” he said.

Scott Seckel

Reporter, ASU News

New ASU cybersecurity center to proactively look at protecting data

September 22, 2015

The Internet has dramatically changed our world. We can now perform our jobs, earn a degree, receive mail and more — entirely online. However, as we have become increasingly interconnected, we have also become more vulnerable to data breaches, cyber attacks and unauthorized network access.

Our military, governments, hospitals and financial institutions handle massive amounts of sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers, credit-card accounts, personal medical histories and more. This data is often shared across networks and computers. How do we consistently protect such information, especially when technology is constantly evolving? (From left) Todd Hardy, senior economic development adviser, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development; Stephen Yau, professor, School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, who set up several information assurance programs in computer science; Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development; Gail-Joon Ahn, director of Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics; Jamie Winterton, director of strategic research initiatives at Global Security Initiative, who leads cybersecurity strategy for the initiative; and Nadya Bliss, director of Global Security Initiative. Download Full Image

To address this question, the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University has launched the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics. The center will take a proactive, interdisciplinary approach to the issue of cybersecurity.

Gail-Joon Ahn, an expert in security analytics and big-data-driven security intelligence, will serve as the center’s director. Ahn is a professor in ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The center’s launch event included speakers from law, business and psychology, as well as Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED). OKED advances research, entrepreneurship and economic development activities at ASU.

“ASU’s strength in connecting public and private partners for research, education and innovation allows us to effectively address the most pressing global challenges,” said Panchanathan. “The new Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics brings an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to the emerging and constantly changing field of digital security. This positions ASU as the partner of choice for industry and government institutions working to create solutions in the U.S. and around the world.”

Cybersecurity is inherently interdisciplinary, which is why the center has engaged nearly 30 faculty members across eight academic units — from computer science and business to law, psychology and even the English Department.

Cybersecurity research tends to focus on software solutions, but there is a human element to every cyber attack. Researchers at the center will explore the economic, cultural, legal and policy issues surrounding cybersecurity as well as the technological challenges.

“As we are moving toward a very mobile and cyber-dependent society, it is critical to deal with diverse security challenges raised in dynamic and rapidly changing IT-centric environments. We desperately need to pursue a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach to cope with such challenges,” said Ahn. “In addition, it is imperative to focus on specific areas that can fully leverage ASU's capabilities in the cybersecurity area. This center will help prioritize areas that we should focus on, while expanding current security-related research activities and collaborating with diverse experts at ASU.”

Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics researchers will collaborate with other universities, government agencies and industry partners to advance cybersecurity and digital forensics research.

The center will focus on three pillars — education, research and innovation — to help produce an outstanding workforce in the area of national security; tackle short-term and long-term security challenges via top-notch research expertise and activities; and significantly contribute to economic growth in Arizona and the U.S. by transferring innovative and patented technologies to the marketplace.

“I am thrilled to have the Global Security Initiative’s first center address this challenge, bringing together expertise from across the campus, and connecting to both private and public partners,” said Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative. “In this age of interconnectedness and complexity, cybersecurity is at the forefront of our security as a human race.”

The Global Security Initiative is currently sponsoring the CSM Passcode podcast, which focuses on security and privacy in the digital age. The initiative's director, Nadya Bliss, and Jamie Winterton, director of Strategic Research Initiatives for GSI, will be featured in the upcoming podcast, to be released in late September. 

Written by Melissa Pagnozzi

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ASU biologist floats idea of whale-hunting compromise

September 18, 2015

Is it time to cut a deal with Japan on whaling?  

The three-decade international moratorium on commercial whaling isn’t working. Animal-rights activists insist the ban remain absolute, while the three rogue nations still pursuing the world’s largest mammals refuse to quit hunting.

Leah Gerber, a marine conservation biologist, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and founding director of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, floated the idea of a compromise in the September issue of scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.    

Rebounding whale populations, the predominance of other threats, and stubborn stakeholders make the moratorium a “failed management system,” Gerber said. The past 30 years of the International Whaling Commission’s conversation has been stalled by disagreement on the ethics of killing whales.

Leah Gerber, founding director of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes.

“It really boils down to an ethical argument: that it’s not right to kill a whale,” said Gerber (pictured left). “Personally I don’t like the idea of killing a whale, but that’s my value, and other people have other values. Insisting on our values in discussions about whaling has resulted in a global stalemate.”

Changing course and allowing Iceland, Japan and Norway to legally hunt under regulations and monitoring might break the current stalemate. Currently Japan whales under a loophole allowing for scientific research. The other two countries hunt whales commercially in protest of the ban.

“If our common goal is a healthy and sustainable population of whales, let’s find a way to develop strategies that achieve that,” Gerber said. “That may involve agreeing to a small level of take. That would certainly be a reduced take to what’s happening now.”

Since the moratorium was declared in 1982 and begun in 1985, whale populations have rebounded across the board, Gerber said.  

“Overall the whaling that’s happening is not threatening any population,” she said.

“With the exception of the J stock (a population that lives in the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea) of minke whales, current levels of take are fairly sustainable.”

The appetite for whale meat has been on the decline in Japan. An April 2014 poll by Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s newspaper of record, revealed that 14 percent of respondents occasionally or rarely ate whale meat. (Thirty-seven percent said they never ate it.) Consumption in Japan peaked in the 1960s and has steadily decreased; today, whale-meat consumption is about 1 percent of its peak, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The Japanese have argued that it’s part of their cultural heritage. They also call American protests hypocritical because Alaskan Inuit tribe members hunt whales every year.

Leah Gerber and student Yaiyr Astudillo-Scalia process a whale biopsy sample.

Leah Gerber (right) and one of her doctoral students, Yaiyr Astudillo-Scalia, process a biopsy sample from a humpback whale, collected last March off the west coast of Maui, Hawaii, for better understanding mating behavior of humpbacks based on hormone analyses of the samples. Photos courtesy Leah Gerber

Norwegians have eaten whale meat since medieval times, but that habit has slowed in more recent times. Whale was served in school cafeterias and as military rations during the 1970s and 1980s, making it the mystery meat for a generation who won’t touch it anymore. It’s seen as something your grandparents ate. (Oddly, it’s enjoying a renaissance among young Norwegian foodies.)

The 2015 catch netted about 700 tons of whale meat, while the Norwegian market won’t bear much more than 500 tons.

“Good catch is all very well, but we have challenges in the market,” Åge Eriksen, CEO of a seafood supply company, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK last year. “We’ve got more meat on land than we can sell, and it is not a desirable situation.”

Minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere have such a large population that taking a few wouldn’t be a big deal, Gerber said.

The media perception of whaling is often that it’s evil, but there are worse threats to the whales' livelihoods, Gerber said. For instance, she said that whale mortality numbers are also driven by the mammals being hit by ships. For instance, blue whales off the coast of Long Beach, California, simply didn’t know to get out of the way of ships, according to a Stanford University study released in April. Because they are the biggest creatures in the sea, they’ve never had to avoid threats.

Bycatch entanglement, where whales are snagged in nets, and contaminants in seawater are two other serious threats.

“For most populations, whaling actually makes up a pretty small fraction (of whale deaths),” she said, pointing out that International Whaling Commission members know this. “We don’t have to agree on everything, but let’s take some baby steps.”

Violent action by animal-rights groups has not had an effect, either.

“A lot of the (non-governmental organizations) like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd raise a lot of money in advocating for saving whales by chasing whaling vessels in the open ocean,” Gerber said. “What success has that had?”

Japanese whaling delegates have said they’re open to compromise arrangements, Gerber said.

“The animal-rights groups, on the other hand, are like, ‘Nope. My deal or nothing.’ To me, it’s not the best way to lead to change.”


Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

ASU chosen to lead national nanotechnology site

September 16, 2015

Arizona State University has been chosen to lead a new National Science Foundation site that will provide a Southwest regional infrastructure to advance nanoscale science, engineering and technology research.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide a total of $81 million over five years to support 16 user facility sites as part of a new National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI). ASU’s site is funded at $800,000 per year for five years. ASU NanoFab ASU NanoFab is a flexible nano-processing facility that offers state-of-the-art device processing and characterization tools for university research and for external company prototype development. Begun in 1981, this facility, serving the Southwest, was one of 10 nanofabs affiliated with the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure Initiative, the predecessor to the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program. It will now be part of the new Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest. Photo by: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

The ASU site, like the other hubs, will help researchers from universities, corporations and government to develop electrical, mechanical and biological systems whose components are smaller than the diameter of a human hair. This nanotechnology may be able to create new materials and devices with a vast range of applications: electronics, biomaterials energy production, or consumer goods.

The NNCI sites will provide researchers access to university facilities with leading-edge fabrication and characterization tools, instrumentation, and expertise within all disciplines of nanoscale science, engineering and technology.

Nanotechnology systems are built at the molecular level of less than 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. To put that scale in perspective, the diameter of a human hair is in the range 50,000 to 75,000 nanometers.

The Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest

The NNCI award has been granted to Trevor Thornton, professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He will be the principal investigator and director of the new Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest (NCI-SW).

The goals of the NCI-SW site are to build a Southwest regional infrastructure for nanotechnology discovery and innovation, to address societal needs through education and entrepreneurship and to serve as a model site of the NNCI.

Key partners include the Maricopa County Community College District and Science Foundation Arizona.

Co-principal investigators from ASU include Stuart Bowden, associate research professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering; Jenefer Husman, associate professor in the Sanford School; and Jameson Wetmore, associate professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, and School of Human Evolution & Social Change.

The NNCI framework builds on the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which enabled major discoveries, innovations and contributions to education and commerce for more than 10 years.

“NSF’s long-standing investments in nanotechnology infrastructure have helped the research community to make great progress by making research facilities available,” said Pramod Khargonekar, the NSF’s assistant director for engineering. “NNCI will serve as a nationwide backbone for nanoscale research, which will lead to continuing innovations and economic and societal benefits.”

According to Thornton, ASU has a well-established nanotechnology infrastructure, with faculty strengths that transcend disciplines.

“This gave us a competitive advantage in being chosen for this award,” he said. “We also successfully directed the NSF predecessor to the NNCI centers, a NNIN site — ASU NanoFab — that wrapped up 6 years of funding at the end of August. The NNCI allows us to expand our offerings and outreach in a big way.”

The NCI-SW site will encompass six collaborative research facilities: the ASU NanoFab, the LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science, the Flexible Electronics and Display Center, the Peptide Array Core Facility, the Solar Power Laboratory, and the User Facility for the Social and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology.

The NCI-SW site will open the Flexible Electronics and Display Center and the Solar Power Laboratory to the broader research community for the first time.

Societal impacts of nanotechnology

The site will provide particular intellectual and infrastructural strengths in the life sciences, flexible electronics, renewable energy and the societal impact of nanotechnology.

Wetmore will be leading the Social and Ethical Implications component of ASU's NNCI effort.

The Social and Ethical Implications component is made up of two parts: 1) building a social science "user facility" where scholars can come to ASU to learn to use tools to help them collaborate across disciplines and develop a better understanding of the past, present and future social implications of science and technology; and 2) offering programs that train scientists and engineers in how to identify and think about the social aspects and implications of their work.

"The NNCI effort at ASU is exciting because it is a blending of scientists, engineers and social scientists working together not just in name, but in practice,” Wetmore said. "Those involved have a long history of working together and look forward to continuing to develop an engineering workforce that can see the big picture and better work towards social goods."

Building an educated workforce

“What also is outstanding about this program is that it not only focuses on building a nanotech industry, it is equally concerned with creating an educated workforce. Our efforts will span from K-12 all the way to working professionals,” Thornton said.

ASU will collaborate with the Maricopa County Community College District and Science Foundation Arizona to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) materials with a nanotechnology focus for Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science students in communities throughout metropolitan Phoenix and rural Arizona.

ASU also will provide entrepreneurship training for users who wish to commercialize nanotechnology in order to benefit society. To facilitate the commercialization of research breakthroughs, the NCI-SW will support prototyping facilities and low-volume manufacturing pilot lines for solar cells, flexible electronics and biomolecular arrays.

The Science Outside the Lab summer program at the ASU Washington, D.C., campus will allow users across the NNCI to explore the policy issues associated with nanotechnology.

A web portal hosted and maintained by the Maricopa County Community College District will provide seamless access to all the resources of the NCI-SW.

Through a FY 2016 competition, one of the newly awarded sites will be chosen to coordinate the facilities.

This coordinating office will enhance the sites’ impact as a national nanotechnology infrastructure and establish a web portal to link the individual facilities’ websites to provide a unified entry point to the user community of overall capabilities, tools and instrumentation. The office also will help to coordinate and disseminate best practices for national-level education and outreach programs.

Funding for the NNCI program is provided by all NSF directorates and the Office of International Science and Engineering.

The 16 sites are in 15 states and involve 27 universities, including Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Pennsylvania, North Carolina State University and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Senior personnel for the NCI-SW site include:

Associate Director Neal Woodbury, co-director of the Center for Innovations in Medicine, The Biodesign Institute: Bio-Nanomedicine

Associate Director Thomas Sharp, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration: Geological Sciences

Flexible Electronics: Mark Strnad, associate director of the ASU Flexible Electronics & Display Center

Environmental Sciences: Paul Westerhoff, vice provost for academic research programming and professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment

Nanotechnology Modeling Tools: Dragica Vasileska, professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Entrepreneurial Programs: Audrey Iffert, executive director, ASU Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Web Portal: Michael Lesiecki, Maricopa County Community College District, executive director, Maricopa Advanced Technology Education Center

STEM Outreach: Caroline VanIngen-Dunn, senior manager, Science Foundation Arizona STEM Pathways

Sharon Keeler

White House announces ASU to lead National STEM Collaborative

September 15, 2015

The White House has announced that Arizona State University will lead the National STEM Collaborative, a consortium of 19 institutions of higher education and nonprofit partners committed to supporting minority girls and women in STEM fields.

The announcement by the White House Council for Women and Girls reflects the national recognition earned by ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology and the center’s executive director, Kimberly A. Scott, in encouraging greater access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for women and girls of color.  CompuGirls participant programs a robot. A girl learns to program a humanoid robot as part of CompuGirls, a program through ASU's Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology to introduce girls in under-resourced districts to technology. The ASU center will lead a national consortium aimed at committed to supporting minority girls and women in STEM fields. Photo by: Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology at ASU Download Full Image

“Too many African-American, Latina and Native American women are pushed out of the STEM experience in college,” said Scott, who also founded the nationally lauded CompuGirls program, which introduces young girls from under-resourced school districts to technology. “Today’s announcement will help empower young women.”

There are many reasons why women do not enter and persist in STEM fields. Members of the National STEM Collaborative are committed to exploring those reasons and implementing scalable solutions.

“We need to transform the way STEM is taught,” said Jo Handelsman, associate director of the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy. “By encouraging innovations in STEM teaching, addressing the issue of bias, and also awareness of the types of teaching we use, we are trying to promote positive images of scientists and engineers and promote new ways of teaching that will benefit a broad group of diverse students.”

ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (CGEST) sees a transformative mission for the collaborative: not simply filling the STEM pipeline with more girls and women of color, but creating an environment in which that happens naturally. 

Members of the collaborative will help assemble a tool kit and online workshops, train hiring managers and key personnel in addressing bias, track the experiences and support of women of color in STEM majors and build a database of programs that help them.

ASU senior Courtney Besaw, who is studying psychology, has seen firsthand the challenges for women in pursuing a degree in a STEM field.

“I think the biggest challenge is feeling the need to prove yourself,” Besaw said. “Most of my professors are male … Sometimes I feel the need to be the best in order to prove that I deserve to be there just as much as my other classmates.”

ASU will lead nine educational institutions and nine nonprofit groups in the collaborative. The educational institutions are: Amherst College, City College of New York, Diné College, Maricopa Community Colleges, Spelman College, University of Alabama, University of California–Riverside, University of Maryland–Baltimore County, and the Project on Race & Gender in Science & Medicine at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

The nonprofit institutions are: American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Arizona STEM Network, Iridescent, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, National Math + Science Initiative, National Society of Black Engineers, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, STEM4Us!, and the Surge Assembly.

ASU’s leadership role follows a July roundtable on inclusive STEM education, co-hosted by CGEST and the White House Council on Women and Girls. CGEST takes an active role in shaping the conversation surrounding gender equity in STEM, including through such initiatives as CompuGirls.

“Programs like CompuGirls are a good start,” said Besaw. “Getting girls interested, involved and motivated early may help push some students from the ‘want to do’ mentality to the ‘can do’ mentality.”

Media relations specialist, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Advocate for Native students honored at White House

September 14, 2015

Three weeks ago Amanda Tachine received a phone call from a blocked number.

“At first I thought it might have been a telemarketing call and so I hesitated for a second,” Tachine said. “But something inside told me, ‘Mandy, you’ve got to pick up this phone. It could be important.’” ASU postdoctoral scholar Amanda Tachine is a White House Champion of Change. Arizona State University postdoctoral scholar Amanda Tachine (pictured at the Center for Indian Education at the Tempe campus Sept. 8) is being recognized for her work with Native American students at a White House "Champions of Change" event this week in Washington, D.C. Photo by: Deanna Dent/ASU News Download Full Image

It most certainly was. The call was from the White House. They wanted Tachine and her family to come to Washington, D.C., and pick up a national award.

Tachine, a postdoctoral scholar at ASU’s Center for Indian Education, will be one of 11 young women honored Sept. 15 as “Champions of Change” by the White House in the Office of the First Lady. In addition to honoring the group for empowering their communities, the goal of the event is to inspire girls and young women to recognize their potential for leadership as educators, advocates, artists and entrepreneurs.

Among her other efforts with Native students, Tachine’s work on a two-tiered college-access mentoring program caught the eye of those organizing the Washington event.

The program will feature remarks by Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls; Tina Tchen, chief of staff to the first lady and executive director for the White House Council on Women and Girls; and NASA astronaut Serena Aunon. On hand will also be Tachine’s husband, her two children, her mother and her aunt.

“Amanda is a gift, and her work as a Champion of Change is fitting,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs.

“She is engaged in changing not only the ways that institutions engage first-year American Indian students but also the ways that we think about their challenges. Amanda is forcing us to engage these students as resources, trendsetters and those to whom we should listen to most closely.”

Listening to students is what Tachine’s academic career has been all about. With her dissertation, based on 10 interviews she conducted with Native American students, “Monsters and Weapons: Navajo Students’ Stories on Their Journeys Toward College,” Tachine is bringing the struggles of Native American students to light.

Before coming to ASU in August, Tachine was the former leader of Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access and Resiliency) in Tucson. It was there where she fostered relationships between Native American graduate students and staff to encourage and represent Native American undergraduates, who in turn provide mentorship to high school students.

“A lot of blame is put on Native Americans that they’re not strong enough, savvy enough, economically smart enough to get the resources to go to college,” said Tachine, who is from Ganado, Arizona, considered the heart of the Navajo Nation.

“I’ve found that there are structural barriers for Native American students that don’t exist for others. We have a myriad of issues, which include poverty, homes without electricity or running water, crime, and social conditions like diabetes. There is a constant fear in the back of their heads. ‘How am I going to pay for college? How am I going to pay for tuition? How am I going to pay for gas for my car? How can I run off to college when my family at home needs me and my financial support?’”

As the child of a single-parent household, Tachine said she can identify with many of the Native American students she encounters. Her mother was a teacher and hinted of tough financial times. Her grandparents and aunt pitched in to help whenever they could, and they stressed that education was the only solution to a better life.

“My passion has always been to help my community and my people. That teacher has always been tucked away inside of me,” Tachine said. “The feeling grows stronger as I get older now that I have two kids, nieces and nephews. I’m constantly asking, ‘What can we do to help our little ones?’ I don’t want them to have the hurdles that I went through because I know they still exist.”

When Tachine returns from the East Coast, she hopes to continue advancing ideas and strategies for Native American student success.

Another Sun Devil being honored at the "Champions of Change" event: Diali Avila, who graduated from ASU with a bachelor's in nonprofit leadership and management from the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, currently works as an Affordable Care Act organizer at Planned Parenthood, helping families understand and get enrolled. Diali is also a DREAM Act advocate and a founding member of the Isac Amaya Foundation, an organization that focuses on raising awareness for higher education and raising money to award scholarships to low-income students and undocumented students.

Reporter , ASU News


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Trying to shrink carbon footprint? Think small

September 14, 2015

For cities trying to shrink their carbon footprint, researchers at Arizona State University and a number of other institutions say one solution is to look at the emissions of individual buildings and communities, rather than cities as a whole.

In a recent commentary published in Nature, ASU researchers Kevin Gurney and Nancy Grimm, both with ASU School of Life Sciences, and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s Mikhail Chester, state that cutting carbon emissions by putting more electric cars on the road or generating more clean energy only fixes a small percentage of global urban CO2 emissions.

According to the scientists, if city managers handled emissions the same way they handled regional development, transport planning and waste disposal — at the scale of a house or road — it would be easier to see where a city’s “carbon hot spots” are located. From there, city officials could target their efforts to curb emissions in areas that are actually contributing most to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

The problem with this method, however, is that gathering such specific data is beyond the ability of most city planners. Despite this, the group of researchers suggests that city managers use data already being gathered by scientists from around the world. As long as the research community can translate the information into a form that is usable, the scientists say everyone will benefit.


Source: Nature 

Editor's Note: Links are included for informational purposes only. Due to varying editorial policies, news publications may remove or change a link for archival purposes at any time without notice.

Jason Krell

Communication and events coordinator , Center for Evolution and Medicine


ASU populating the world of 'data science cowboys'

September 11, 2015

In the 10-minute span that a student buys a cup of coffee, tweets a photo of her lunch and then logs onto her online course, she generates data.

Multiply that by millions of users every day, and companies like Twitter can harvest 10 terabytes of data — enough to hold the contents of the entire Library of Congress. Michael Goul Michael Goul talks with a supporter after a reception for the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at the W. P. Carey School of Business on Sept. 10. Goul, associate dean for research at the school, says the kind of insight involved in business analytics demands creativity, making analysts much more than number crunchers. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Businesses are eager to mine that data to maximize efficiency, customer satisfaction and profit. Which means they also need business analysts to swim through the oceans of information.

It’s one reason why the Harvard Business Review said that business analyst is the "sexiest job of the 21st century." The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will have a 22 percent increase in positions by 2020.

Arizona State University is feeding that boom. The program in the W. P. Carey School of Business has seen enrollment in its master’s of business analytics degree program triple in the three years it has been offered — from 54 in 2013 to 154 this year.

ASU added an undergraduate program in analytics in 2014 and an online master’s degree program this year.

The degrees provide corporations like Google and Netflix people who can create algorithms that smash the numbers and reveal the nuances of consumer behavior. The results can illustrate things like how to find the best match to an online search or recommend the best movies for specific customers to watch.

Companies like Google and Netflix provide some popular examples, but all businesses will need to excavate the information generated by their websites, social media, credit-card transactions — even security cameras — just to keep up with the competition.

“Looking at the data can give a company an insight into how their strategy might have shifted and how the reality is different from the folklore that the people who started the organization based it on,” said Michael Goul, associate dean of research at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

ASU’s analytics degree program was driven by the W. P. Carey School’s industry advisory board, which regularly provides feedback on trends and needs.

“They told us, ‘Why aren’t you teaching this? We need it!’ ” Goul said.

Neeraj Madan saw it too. He was working as a consultant with IBM in India when he realized that his approach to solving problems was changing.

“The clients can say a lot of things about the problems, but it’s always the data that has the real story,” he said.

Madan took a sabbatical from IBM and earned a master’s in business analytics at ASU earlier this year. He worked on a project analyzing five years’ worth of data about bicycle thefts on campus and made recommendations to the police about the best times to patrol.

“We told them the 20 hot spots where they could focus their energies,” he said.

Madan, who now works for IBM in Phoenix, said his degree work at ASU has changed his outlook.

“Everywhere around me now, I look for patterns,” he said.

That kind of insight demands creativity, Goul said, making analysts much more than number crunchers.

For example, one group of ASU students looked at sales of water and compared it with weather, finding that hurricanes and high temperatures correlated to higher sales.

“But then they found out that it’s not the actual temperature that does it. It’s the forecast,” Goul said. “Analytics is not pure ‘what are your sales’ and ‘what’s your inventory.’ It’s innovation.”

Goul said the field is changing so rapidly that ASU has already had to adjust, hiring faculty with experience in the health field, which is embracing big data fields like genomics, analyzing the functions and structure of genomes. Much of the data will be generated by things, not humans.

“Our next generation of products will have Internet capabilities like our phones do. Our glasses or pacemakers will be ‘phoning home’ with continuous, real-time information and adjusting on the fly,” Goul said.

Even though giant “data lakes” are being filled continuously, businesses are still trying to figure out what to do with all that information.

And these stakes are higher than choosing a good movie, like when “smart machines,” such as robots or driverless cars, are making the decisions.

Even though data is everywhere around us these days, the field of data analytics is still so new that accrediting bodies are just now determining how to make sure universities are offering the best curriculum, Goul said.

“I like to call it the world of data science cowboys.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter, ASU News