ASU Exchange Zone provides safe space for online sales

October 4, 2015

This week, there have been more than 2,500 posts on Craigslist related to Arizona State University.

About 320 of those posts were regarding football tickets. There were 59 bicycles for sale. Six offers to design web pages. And at least one person looking to sell a Barbie doll dressed like an ASU cheerleader. ASU Police Department The ASU Police Department on the Tempe campus is providing an Online Exchange Zone in the lobby of the building at 325 E. Apache Blvd. Photo by: Arizona State University Download Full Image

Let’s say that you can’t live without the doll. You want to buy it, but don’t want to drive to a stranger’s house to complete the deal.

Now that transaction can be done in a safe place on the ASU campus.

The ASU Police Department has set up an “Online Exchange Zone” area in its lobby for students, faculty and others affiliated with the university to complete sales that are initiated through websites such as Craigslist. Either the buyer or the seller needs to be affiliated with ASU.

The zone, to the right of the lobby entrance to the ASU police station at 325 E. Apache Blvd. in Tempe, will be available while the lobby is under surveillance, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Police officers will not screen items or supervise trades. And university policy bans the exchange of weapons, drugs or stolen property.  

An “Online Exchange Zone” log is available at the front desk. Sellers and buyers are required to provide an ASU ID number, names and phone numbers for both buyer and seller, date, time and items being sold.

Four visitor-parking stalls on the east side of the building are available for people using the exchange zone, and are under video surveillance.

ASU Police urges buyers and sellers to skip the sale if one person does not want to conduct the trade at the “Online Exchange Zone.”

Chief Michael Thompson said that safety is the top priority of the department.

“The Online Exchange Zone is one more way to allow our community to conduct business in a safe environment for the seller and the buyer to ensure the transaction is legitimate and where all parties feel comfortable,” he said.

Even if you just want to get that Barbie doll.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter, ASU News


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ASU students focus on Latinos in fight against diabetes

Personal connections to diabetes inspire ASU students to fight obesity
October 4, 2015

According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all post-Millennial youth will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, with Latinos leading the way.

Although those numbers might startle some people, they don’t surprise Tatianna Alvarado and Jamie Karch, a pair of students enrolled in ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

“Many of my family members have diabetes, and my mother is a type 2 diabetic. The last year of high school I took care of her,” said Alvarado, a 19-year-old sophomore. “I’d interact with her, told her what diabetes was, took her to the gym and tried to discipline her sometimes … but there was only so much I could do as a daughter.”

Now that she’s a bit older and better educated, Alvarado feels she can do much more. So does Karch, which is why the two undergrads are playing key roles in a community-based diabetes prevention program and study for obese Latino youth called “Every Little Step Counts.”

The five-year, $1.2 million study funded by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities tests the effects and incremental cost-effectiveness of a culturally grounded community-based lifestyle intervention on obesity-related health outcomes among Latino adolescents.

To date, 160 obese Latino youth, ages 14-16 have been enrolled in the randomized control trial. Participants in the 12-week intervention and their families engage in weekly nutrition education sessions where they learn behavioral strategies to prevent chronic health conditions related to obesity and type 2 diabetes at the Lincoln Center Family YMCA in Phoenix. In addition to nutrition classes, youth participate in three, one-hour moderate-to-vigorous physical activity sessions led by certified trainers. At the end of the trial, youth in the control arm of the study receive a free, one-year membership to the YMCA, and participate in exercise sessions at the YMCA and nutrition classes at ASU’s Nutrition Kitchen at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

 Tatiana Alvarado, 19, and St. Vincent De Paul Family Wellness Program Health Education Coordinator Ricardo Reyes speak to community members

Arizona State University nursing and health innovation student Tatiana Alvarado, 19, and St. Vincent De Paul Family Wellness Program Health Education Coordinator Ricardo Reyes speak to community members as they examine their blood work during a nutrition course at the ASU state-of-the-art food lab at the downtown campus Wednesday afternoon, September 23rd 2015. According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of all post-Millennial Latino youth will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News

Gabriel Shaibi, an associate professor with the College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the principal investigator on the trial, said past community-embedded intervention programs have failed to reach its intended audience because it has been a “top down” approach from doctor/researcher to patients. And the reality is patients don’t always listen to their doctor.

That might be one reason why the past decade has seen Arizona experience the largest statewide increase in the number of children and adolescents who are obese. Shaibi said those numbers translate to a myriad of problems, including rising diabetes rates.

“Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, it becomes a management issue,” Shaibi said. “This is a relatively new phenomenon with kids, but it can ultimately lead to neuropathy, blindness, kidney disease and ultimately heart attacks. Those kids on average lose about 15 years on life.”

Latinos are genetically predisposed to having diabetes. But the problem is compounded by the fact that, culturally and historically, Latinos have often used food to express themselves, Alvarado said.

“Anything that happens in the Latino culture, be it positive or negative — birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, promotions, funerals — food plays a big part,” Alvarado said. “It’s interaction and eating, but you don’t really notice you’re overeating until after the fact. Moderation is the key, and that’s what we’re trying to teach the Latino community.”

Which is why Shaibi has pushed Alvarado and Karch to the forefront of the trial program, but at opposite ends of the spectrum — Alvarado interacting with the community and dispensing exercise and nutrition advice, and Karch in the lab gathering blood samples, data and reviewing medical information.

“I am closer in age to these kids and have gone what they’ve gone through,” Alvarado said. “Age is a big thing and they feel as if they can come to me for advice.”

Karch said she is content in her role in the lab because she understands her work is just as vital.

“I do more of the background work, but mine and Tatianna’s goals are the same in that we want to give back to the Latino community,” Karch said.

That is also the goal of the ASU Sun Devil Family Association, who awarded Alvarado and Karch with $5,000 scholarships each for the academic year. These scholarships are awarded to individuals who have demonstrated financial need, a record of community service and a commitment to their education despite challenging circumstances.

This semester Alvarado and Karch have plans to meet their donors, who are also in the nursing field.

“I cannot wait to meet her and hug her,” Alvarado said. “I cannot believe she gave money to someone she didn’t even know. She has made my life so much easier because of her help.”

And it’s not lost on Alvarado or Karch that the help they receive from the Sun Devil Family Association goes right back into the community.

“That’s what I love about nursing,” Alvarado said. “It’s the art of caring for people.”

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU alum and urban sociologist winner of MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’

ASU alum wins MacArthur 'Genius Grant'
ASU-trained sociologist one of 24 winners of MacArthur Foundation Fellowship
October 3, 2015

In the span of a dozen years, Matthew Desmond has made the academic leap from ASU undergrad to renowned researcher of entrenched poverty and social inequality.

On Monday, the Harvard sociology professor was announced as one of 24 winners of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly known as a “Genius Grant.” Each recipient of the grant earns $625,000 to further his or her work.

For Desmond, that means he can further his research on worldwide eviction and the impacts on the child-welfare system.

In 2009, he and a team of 10 scholars commenced research on the Milwaukee Area Renters Study, a groundbreaking work that culled court records, ethnographic fieldwork and collected questionnaires from approximately 1,000 households to design a portrait of the high rates of eviction and the ways in which it disrupts the lives of low-income families.

Desmond spoke to ASU News about his reaction to the award, his research and how ASU was the starting point for his life’s work.

Question: How did you react to the news of winning the Genius Grant?

Answer: I received a phone call from the MacArthur Foundation a few weeks ago and was sworn to secrecy. At first I was in disbelief and thought they were pulling my leg. Then I realized they were serious. The funny thing was I took my kids to lunch that day and I wanted to tell them about this great thing that happened. My daughter wanted to talk about “Star Wars,” and my son wanted to discuss Luke Skywalker. So that was the experience on the day we found out.

Q: How did Arizona State University prepare you for the work and research you conduct today?

A: I’m originally from Winslow, Arizona, and when I came to ASU I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I started taking these classes in justice studies and communication, and some of the narratives of the stories I heard haunted me. The family I grew up in, the money was always tight but there was always social mobility that could be gained through education. What I learned in the classes at ASU unsettled me so much that I wanted to figure something out. I worked all through college, but when I wasn’t working I was studying in the library, trying to figure out the contours of poverty. I also got involved in community service at ASU and worked with outreaches that dealt with poverty like Habitat for Humanity. At the end of my four years, I even started an outreach organization that dealt with the homeless population around the Mill Avenue area so I could get to know them on a more personal level. I see ASU as fundamental in introducing me to those issues and shaping my work.

Q: You once stated that eviction is a “cause rather than a symptom” of poverty. Can you explain that?

A: A lot of times when you think about eviction, you think of it as a consequence of poverty. “You lose your job, you get evicted.” Eviction is this harshness that you encounter, but we don’t think of it as something that actually drives poverty. That’s a big thing we’re running into when examining the data. Getting evicted is a very stressful event — it causes you to miss work, it directly affects job performance and it can also result in being fired. This is just one example of how the outcome of eviction can actually make people poorer. People end up moving to poorer neighborhoods, even more dangerous neighborhoods and in worse housing than they were before. The reason for that is because eviction often ends up in civil court and comes with a record. Landlords are now using eviction records as a screening technique, and because of that many families are excluded from opportunities to get better housing.

Q: One of your other findings was that poor families used to turn to kin for help, and now poverty-stricken families are turning to strangers to form brief and intense relationships for assistance, creating a network of “disposable ties” to meet pressing needs.

A: The disposable-ties theory is that a half-century ago you might turn to your family for help and swapping money and goods daily to help try and make ends meet. I loan you $25 today and you feed me tomorrow … that’s how it worked. It didn’t end their poverty, but it allowed them to survive. During the study period I saw people reaching out to virtual strangers to meet their fundamental basic needs. There could have been family around to help, but I didn’t see it. I saw how people need the help of strangers and when they were helped, it accelerated their friendships. Often these friendships did burn out because of the trying conditions. Maybe incarceration or federal policies on family play a role in this and why things have changed, but it’s a very interesting question to pursue.

Q: What are some of the emotional issues that eviction can cause in a person that the public might not know or understand?

A: One thing that I think everyone should understand is that eviction affects the entire community. In the African-American areas of Milwaukee, one out of 14 people are evicted every year. That’s a lot of people, and there’s a constant turning over in neighborhoods. It dwarfs the opportunity to build strong community ties and affects civic engagement. It also affects crime. We’re just now starting to realize all of these issues, and municipalities are starting to understand this as well. On a personal level, eviction is a very traumatic event. You lose all of your possessions and then you’re out on the street. You are literally starting over. Then there’s the toll that it takes on one’s spirit. One thing we’ve found is that eviction is tied to depression, and it seems to have a real effect on mental health. The moment itself seems to leave a really deep impression on happiness, so it has these consequences that are multi-dimensional and sticky.

Reporter , ASU News


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The pharmaceutical ethics of stunning drug-price increases

ASU prof weighs in on the dramatic increase in the price of the drug Daraprim
What is too high a price for life-saving medications?
October 2, 2015

Last week Turing Pharmaceuticals, a startup run by a former hedge-fund manager, raised the price of Daraprim — the standard treatment for toxoplasmosisAccording to the Mayo Clinic, toxoplasmosis (tok-so-plaz-MOE-sis) is a disease that results from infection with a certain parasite. Toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms in some people, and is most dangerous for people with compromised immune systems. — from $13.50 to $750 a tablet soon after acquiring the drug from another company.

After several days of public outcry, including from several presidential candidates, Turing’s owner announced he was cutting the price, although he refused to say by how much.

This is not an isolated case. Nor is it the only one likely to spur continuing debate about the ethics and responsibilities of pharmaceutical companies.

Just days after the Turing episode, U.S.-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals filed a lawsuit in Canada challenging Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board and its authority to order drug-price reductions. Alexion’s drug Soliris, used to treat rare blood and genetic disorders, is reportedly priced at $500,000 to $700,000 per patient annually. Alexion’s suit, if successful, could put an end to Canada’s ability to control the price of patented drugs.

Offering some perspective on the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies and the changes needed in the health-care system is Dr. Victor Trastek, a former vice president of Mayo Clinic and CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and now director of the School for the Science of Health Care Delivery within ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

Question: How common is this practice of dramatically (and instantly) raising prices when a drug is acquired?

Answer: This is hard to know. But in the case of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the size of the change was remarkable. That particular medication has been around for a while, so raising the drug price to such a high level is, I believe, unreasonable — and hopefully rare. However, drug prices are always changing and vary depending on patent expirations, what country you live in or the type of health-care system you have. 

Q: Is there a responsibility that a pharmaceutical company has to keep prices reasonable? 

A: Yes. You would hope that is true of any company in any health-care sector. We are in a service industry and our profession is one of healing and caring, so we want medications to be reasonable for those of us trying to help patients. There are obviously going to be different levels of costs depending on how much research is being done with regard to individual medications, but we want them to be reasonable. 

"It would be nice to have a system that is more transparent, consistent and standardized."

Q: How often is one drug used to finance other research and development work, particularly to improve its therapeutic benefit?

A: In the pharmaceutical industry, there has to be a certain amount of revenue and profit to invest in research for the next newest drug, which can be a variation or improvement of an existing drug. It is the constant circle and business model for the industry. All drug makers are trying to improve drugs so that they are more efficacious. And, if they are used more often, they will sell more. In my mind, it is a stretch to expect that profits made from the sudden and dramatic rise of any given drug would all be funneled into researcher funding for that same drug [as Turing’s owner suggested]. Whether that really happens is hard to say.

Q: Does there need to be a change in the system? 

A: Yes. Pharmaceutical medications are part of the whole health-care system. It would be nice to have a system that is more transparent, consistent and standardized since different hospitals, countries and health systems pay different amounts for drugs. Health care is different from any other business; for example, a car dealership tends to be based more on a want than an actual need. At ASU, we are investing in our future health-care decision makers through our Science of Health Care Delivery program. We are working to develop a broad knowledge base for designing a better delivery system for future leaders, including pharmaceutical leaders, who can then create a better system and better care. If we educate others with this broader frame of reference in the science of health-care delivery, we can help change the system. It’s one way to bring about positive changes in this industry.

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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