Boosting seismic resilience

ASU biogeotechnical engineers seek to limit damage from earthquakes with new method to constrain soil liquefaction

February 27, 2023

Still considered one of the most destructive natural disasters in U.S. history after more than a century, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 lasted less than a minute. Despite the brief duration, its powerful shockwaves set off a chain reaction producing widespread and severe destruction for several days.

Several large fires ignited and blazed throughout the city. Some burned for three days. In all, the fires destroyed almost 500 city blocks. It’s been estimated that the fires and other impacts triggered by the intensity of the seismic jolt caused the death of approximately 3,000 people and left half of the city’s 400,000 residents homeless. Photo showing liquefaction in a neighborhood setting with houses and cars around and an orange cone on a damaged street. Liquefaction, which causes soils to act more like a liquid than a solid material, was the major cause of damage by the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes in New Zealand, which led to billions of dollars in damage and left more than 10,000 single family homes damaged beyond repair. ASU researchers have developed a new technique called microbially-induced desaturation to help limit damage from earthquake-induced liquefaction. Photo by Mark Lincoln/CC BY 2.0. Download Full Image

It wasn’t simply the sheer force of the ground shaking that led to catastrophic aftereffects, says Edward Kavazanjian, a Regents Professor of geotechnical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

“The initial cause of much of the damage done by the San Francisco earthquake was due to extraordinarily extensive liquefaction that ruptured the city’s water lines,” Kavazanjian says. “So when the fires broke out around the city because of the quake, they didn’t have water to put the fires out.”

Liquefaction, as Kavazanjian explains it, happens when the ground turns into a viscous fluid. It can cause buildings to sink below the surface of the land they sit on, make buried water tanks pop up to the surface, and cause the ground to shift laterally and crack open.

“Liquefaction is the most damaging phenomenon that occurs in many earthquakes,” he says.

Kavazanjian notes that San Francisco’s public service facilities now include pumping systems that, in the event of an earthquake and the disruption of the city’s water supply systems, can pump water from the San Francisco Bay. Some neighborhoods also have large underground cisterns with reserve water supplies to be used in case of emergencies.

But more fully effective, sustainable and economically feasible solutions to protecting lives and property from earthquake-induced liquefaction are yet to be developed. And the need for such solutions is critical. That’s why Kavazanjian and fellow researchers have developed a new technique to lower the risk of soil liquefaction.

“Trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure around the world is at serious risk from even moderate earthquakes if substantial liquefaction occurs,” Kavazanjian says.

Illustration of the the 1964 earthquake in Niigata showing damaged buildings.

The 1964 earthquake in Niigata, a port city on Japan’s Honshu island, illustrates the extent of damage that can be done to buildings situated on soil saturated by liquefaction due to strong seismic shocks. Public domain image courtesy Joseph Penzien and the Japan National Committee on Earthquake Engineering

A ground treatment to hinder soil saturation

That risk is why the National Science Foundation is a major supporter of the kind of work being done by researchers like those at ASU’s Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics, directed by Kavazanjian, and the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, directed by ASU Regents Professor of environmental engineering Bruce Rittmann. Kavazanjian and Rittmann are faculty members in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Fulton Schools, and members of the National Academy of Engineering.

Together, and at other times separately, Kavazanjian’s and Rittmann’s research teams have been involved in collaborations with other universities, industry partners, and local and regional government agencies to explore use of advances in engineering and science that might significantly reduce the harm that can be caused by liquefaction.

Leon van Paassen is pictured installing a solar-powered wireless data logger into the ground.

ASU Associate Research Professor Leon van Paassen is pictured installing a solar-powered wireless data logger that collects information provided by embedded sensors that measure hydraulic conductivity and water content of soil. The data is important for research aimed at developing methods of mitigating damage that can result from earthquakes. Photo courtesy the Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics

Soil liquefaction occurs when a fully water-saturated soil is subject to strong shaking and liquefies, causing the soil to lose strength and resulting in especially hazardous ground failure.

Current efforts to hinder liquefaction focus predominantly on boosting what the experts call seismic resilience, which involves strengthening the ground and structurally reinforcing buildings, infrastructure and their surroundings to withstand the often violently forceful onslaught of shaking produced by earthquakes. Those protective processes can also help reduce damage from other kinds of environmental perils often triggered by strong seismic events.

One recent demonstration of the effectiveness of the processes involved work by Kavazanjian’s research group and Fulton Schools Associate Research Professor Leon van Paassen, along with Portland State University and University of Texas at Austin researchers, funded by the NSF’s Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure program.

The project explored an innovative ground treatment method developed by Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics researchers to specifically reduce the potential for soil liquefaction without disturbing the ground. The treatment was applied at two testing sites in Oregon underlain by liquefiable soil, one in the vicinity of the Portland International Airport and one at the Port of Portland.

Work directed by van Paassen included the installation and interpretation of data derived by sensors that monitored the effects of the ground treatment process. He was aided by Fulton Schools graduate students Elizabeth Stallings Young and Caitlyn Hall. Two Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics industry partners, Geosyntec Consultants and ConeTec, provided assistance in designing the treatment system and installation of the monitoring system.

Findings from the project led to further development of the ground treatment technique, with a focus on reducing the potential for liquefaction of soils under and around existing infrastructure.

The geotechnical engineering aspects of the project helped it earn a Western States Seismic Policy Council Award in Excellence for contributions to advances in preparing for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from earthquakes.

A crushed car is shown underneath a damaged building surrounded by debris.

The 1989 earthquake in Loma Prieta, about 56 miles south of San Francisco, led to more than 60 deaths and injured almost 4,000 people, was felt in places hundreds of miles away from its epicenter and resulted in many scenes of shocking destruction. Photo by J.K. Nakata/U.S. Geological Survey

Microbes and bacteria can help lower risk of damage

The technique developed by the ASU team is called microbially-induced desaturation, or MID. It involves denitrification by naturally occurring microbes using a solution containing acetate and nitrate. The chemical reactions in the denitrification process yield nitrogen gas that displaces water in the soil’s pores.

Rittmann explains that when soils are injected with nitrate and acetate, naturally occurring bacteria in the soil consume those compounds and produce relatively large volumes of nitrogen gas in the soil, a process called biological denitrification. The gas forms tiny bubbles that lower the risk of soil liquefaction.

“This keeps the soil from losing its strength, so an earthquake will result in a lot less damage than would otherwise be done,” Rittmann says.

A recent news release from the American Geophysical Union provides more technical details on the process. Field trials and modeling of the method have shown it could help stabilize ground for at least two decades or longer before the treatment would need to be reapplied.

Researchers envision future implementation of the process involving the injection of the bubble-generating solution into soil beneath and around buildings and infrastructure systems, thereby stimulating the denitrifying microbes to fortify the ground against even some of the strongest seismic shocks.

The microbial aspects of this multifaceted biogeotechnical engineering venture, especially the denitrification process, are a focus of Rittmann’s environmental engineering work, particularly his center’s development of novel wastewater treatment methods.

Rittmann and his students, including Hall, developed mathematical biogeochemical models to understand in detail how MID generates the bubbles and to refine the recipe for adding nitrate and acetate to the soil to maximize effectiveness.

Kavazanjian and members of his team, chiefly then-graduate student Sean O’Donnell, took on the important task of modeling how the bubbles make the soil resistant to seismic force.

Stallings Young, Hall and O’Donnell applied the experience they gained on these projects to their work to later earn doctoral degrees through the Fulton Schools civil, environmental and sustainable engineering program.

Student researchers pictured doing work in a field, wearing hard hats and orange vests.

In research supported by the National Science Foundation, Elizabeth Stallings Young (second from right) was among ASU graduate students who worked with Portland State University engineering faculty members and graduate students in recent years on extensive on-site studies of liquefaction. Photo by Leon van Paassen/ASU

A steep uphill path to full-scale operations

“Now the challenges are to validate our models, design the systems based on the models, take our technology out into the field and scale up MID for full-scale implementation,” Rittmann says.

It won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, he adds, because not all soils have the same properties. The system will need to be adaptable to various ground conditions.

“We’ve shown in the laboratory that our mechanisms and processes can work, and we know how to implement them,” Rittmann says. “But we have to make it happen on a large scale, which is expensive research and will take a lot of work.”

But Kavazanjian and Rittmann say a look at the physical devastation, tragic loss of life and dire economic consequences resulting from events like the San Francisco earthquake — and even from less powerful quakes — should convince many that mounting technological defenses against such threatening seismic disruptions will ultimately be worth the labor and expense.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Deciphering the mysterious relationship between coral and algae

February 27, 2023

New ASU lab to grow corals, shed light on underpinnings of coral bleaching

Across the world, once beautifully vibrant corals are turning ghostly white. 

In 2022, the Great Barrier Reef — the largest reef system in the world — was hit by its sixth mass bleaching event, severely bleaching 60% of the corals along hundreds of miles off the Australian coast. 

Over the last decade, as sea surface temperatures continue to rise, triggering physiological stress in corals, bleaching events have increased in frequency and intensity. Scientists are urgently working to find solutions to save this vulnerable resource, which is critical for preserving marine biodiversity, protecting coastlines and providing food for millions of people. 

Liza Roger, assistant professor in Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences and an affiliate faculty in ASU’s School of Ocean Futures, is leading research to better understand coral bleaching and the phenomenon’s effect on the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae.

“With coral (research), one of the major things at the moment is their sensitivity to temperature,” said Roger, a marine scientist and geochemist. “We need to understand the dynamics of oxidative stressOxidative stress is part of the physiological stress response on corals better. We need to better understand the symbiosis with the algae that lives in their tissue.” 

Liza Roger

Coral and algae: A perfect match 

Corals and algae live in a mutually beneficial relationship with each other. Healthy corals are home to algae that photosynthesize, giving the coral energy and their bright color hues, while coral provide algae with shelter; both rely on each other for important nutrient exchanges for survival.

But as seawater temperatures rise, corals are hit with an onslaught of oxidative stress, causing algae to be expelled from coral tissue, leaving it transparent, showing the white underlying skeleton. 

It’s clear that the coral-algae symbiosis breaks down under these stressed conditions, but critical questions remain: How and why do these partners part ways, and who — the coral or algae — initiates the breakup? 

“We don’t know whether it's the host coral, or whether it's the algae partner, or whether it's both,” Roger said. “Is one poisoning the other? Are they poisoning each other? Is it just a mutual understanding that they've had enough of each other? You go your way, I go my way. We haven't figured that out yet.”

Roger is creating a new research lab at ASU that aims to bring together an interdisciplinary team of marine biologists, computer scientists, physicists and chemical engineers to better understand oxidative stress on corals and formulate conservation solutions. The one-of-a-kind lab will grow corals, in vitro and in vivo, and other marine organisms.

We’re trying to look at how they are handling this stress and understand it at the molecular level,” Roger said.

Hidden clues from other marine life 

Some clues about the breakdown of coral-algae symbiosis may already exist in other marine species. 

The upside down jellyfish Cassiopea, sea anemones and giant clams all have similar types of symbiotic relationships with algae as coral do, yet have different temperature thresholds.

Cassiopea live in tropical mangroves under warmer sea temperatures with low seawater flow and lower oxygen; sea anemones live in rocky pools with varying tides and drastic temperature and oxygen level fluctuations; and giant clams can live right beside a coral under the same stressful conditions, yet each in their own unique way manage to keep its symbiosis with algae. 

“These organisms are doing something that the coral is not managing to do,” Roger said. “So the idea is to look at those organisms and learn how they do it. Is it a pathway? Is it an enzyme? What is it? How can they do it? Then we can package that to give it to coral.”

For Roger, her work today examining oxidative stress on corals is the product of a lifelong fascination with the ocean and the organisms that live within it. 

“I knew how to pick up a crab without getting nipped before I knew how to tie my shoelaces,” said Roger, who grew up along the coastline of Normandy, France, playing in shallow rock pools at low tide with her family. 

From producing academic work in marine biology, coastal management and geochemistry, to a stint educating tourists on whale species and migration as a guide in Iceland, to introducing people to the vast life and world beneath the waves in Greece and Thailand as a scuba diving instructor, Roger’s affinity for the ocean only continued to grow with time.  

Today, Roger stays focused on the ocean and is driven to save the underwater spaces and its breath of biodiversity in which she is so intimately tied.  

“This is not just about spoiling your tourist destination. It's about the whole ocean and the whole ecosystem,” she said. “I always try to be very solution-oriented. I think that's something I've always had; finding the right type of problem is always the thing. This is a big deal.”

Roger is currently recruiting graduate students and postdocs for her new marine biochem research lab. To learn more, contact her at

Top photo: Coral colony on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Courtesy Liza Roger

David Rozul

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU aging center celebrates 4th anniversary, looks ahead

February 27, 2023

Communities across Arizona, the nation and the world all face both similar challenges and unique opportunities regarding aging populations. Around 2030, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 18 in the U.S., a historical first.

“We’re living longer. There is a whole third of life that many people may experience after retirement and we need to find ways to maximize that quality of life for them and their families so they can enjoy it for as long as possible,” said David W. Coon, director of Arizona State University's Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging Overhead view of a group of people mingling in the lobby below at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation The Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging recently celebrated its fourth anniversary with researchers and community members. Photo by Brandon Nazari Download Full Image

Researchers in the center, as it’s known, are doing exactly that — and recently they celebrated how far they’ve come since its launch in 2019 with an event hosted at ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, where Coon is also the associate dean for research and a professor.

“We’re quite new, and a lot of our activities happened during COVID, but we still managed to grow from just a small number of us who are really focused on doing research in aging to over 15 active researchers in aging conducting all types of dynamic work,” Coon said.

Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer kicked off the event, welcoming attendees who joined both in person and online. She emphasized the critical need for this research and applauded all those involved with the center.

“The faculty and students' work in CIHRA is nothing short of remarkable, and this is really only the beginning. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without our wonderful partners and the community who have embraced these efforts by sharing best practices and volunteering for studies and the leadership of center Director David Coon,” said Karshmer.

Several current faculty funded by the National Institute on Aging explore resilience factors associated with cognitive aging among Black midlife and older adults, the role of the environment on cognitive aging among Mexican American and Mexican older adults, and the role of exercise as well as care values in enhancing the quality of life for people in the early stages of cognitive decline. A cooperative agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts brings together community partners and faculty to investigate the impact of the arts on family caregiving populations.

David Coon stands at a microphone in front of a powerpoint presentation. He's wearing a dark suit jacket and glasses.

Center Director David Coon speaks to the audience about the ongoing projects happening at the center during the anniversary celebration. Photo by Brandon Nazari

The center's faculty also just published an article in the Journal of Aging and Environment in partnership with Lindsey Beagley, director of Lifelong University Engagement, about partnering with residents living in Mirabella at ASU.

“These aging experts and scholars have a really valuable role for us as we start to unpack what it means to get older. What does an 80-year-old look like now that we’re living to be 100 years old? That’s why CIHRA is really on the forefront of this, because they’re the ones investigating what the future looks like for the life span,” Beagley said.

The center's faculty and its community partners are doing it from an interdisciplinary, interprofessional perspective, pulling together researchers of all different backgrounds to examine various aspects of aging — from promoting emotional well-being and quality of life among a variety of populations and actively engaging underserved communities to also addressing the needs of family caregivers of older adults that are often experiencing stress and distress.

The center is leveraging the full research capabilities of ASU toward this unprecedented challenge and opportunity. 

So what’s next? Coon says they have a rare opportunity to address a key area that is missing from the literature by tying interventions across multiple levels.

“Many people work with individuals, or they work with a couple or a family; some people work with communities or a health system while others work in policymaking. So how do we take our best learnings from all of those different levels and maximize success by weaving those together for greater impact and better outcomes? That is an important direction we’re moving toward.”

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


Interplanetary Initiative pilot project to host inaugural hackathon

Event urges participants to address climate challenges tied to UN Sustainable Development Goals

February 24, 2023

The Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative pilot project SpaceHACK for Sustainability will host its first hackathon March 24–25 to bring social justice-conscious teams together to address social inequities, sustainable development and environmental justice issues.

The event builds on current research exploring the impact of the space industry on our achievement of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. ASU Interplanetary Initiative event poster, reading "How does space exploration and development impact progress toward achieving the UN SDGs?" Download Full Image

“Satellite data is having a tremendous impact on global efforts to address both climate change and social problems, such as poverty or access to clean water," said Eric Stribling, project lead for SpaceHACK for Sustainability. "This hackathon has been designed to make these seemingly complex technologies accessible to students and to involve them in real-world issues, where they can make an actual contribution."

During the event, participants will work in multidisciplinary teams to explore how satellite Earth observations and remote sensing technology from space can be used to better understand and address social inequities, sustainable development and environmental justice issues here on Earth. With guidance from top industry and academic leaders, participants will have the opportunity to focus on one of three engaging tracks with the chance to compete for prizes:

  • Climate Impacts on Brazilian Favelas: Leveraging space to assess worsening natural disasters disproportionately impacting the most marginalized in Brazil.

  • Sustainable Groundwater Usage in Nepal: Using space to see and govern groundwater.

  • Wildfire Risk and Social Disparity at the Wildland Urban Interface: Monitoring wildfires from space to help us to understand fire risk inequities and social disparity on Earth.

The Interplanetary Initiative is partnering with Planet, a provider of global daily Earth data, for the event. Planet will provide access to their visual data, which will allow participants to create maps and spatial correlations between the visual data and other data important for addressing the aforementioned three challenges. For example, if a team working on the Nepal track notices that certain crops are planted when the water table measurements are low, that finding can help inform forecasting efforts.

All participants will learn the basics of Google Earth Engine and use real satellite data from multiple sources to pull together insights around one of the above problem statements.

The event runs from 2 to 11:30 p.m. on March 24 and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 25 on the third floor of Hayden Library on ASU’s Tempe campus and virtually. It is hosted by the ASU Interplanetary Initiative, Hayden Library and Planet in collaboration with faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Registration is now open. Sign up to join a team today.

Sally Young

Senior Communications Specialist, Interplanetary Initiative

Recent innovations set accounting master's program and its alumni apart

February 23, 2023

Bethany Lares isn't afraid to give credit where credit is due.

“In my job, I’ve become notorious — the good version of notorious — for knowing Alteryx,” says Lares, an audit associate in her first year at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who created a time-saving workflow with the data analytics program during this busy tax season. W. P. Carey MACC program convocation picturing a group of graduates posing in their graduation gowns, stoles and caps. The 2023 MACC program cohort. Bethany Lares ('20 BA in accountancy, '22 MACC) is pictured in the front row (center). Photo courtesy ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business Download Full Image

“My seniors are coming to me asking for help on Alteryx, which is crazy because they have more experience than me. But guess what I have? Knowledge of this program. ... People ask me, ‘How do you know how to do all this?’ And I'm like, ‘ASU master’s program.’”

Lares, who earned her BA in accountancy from Arizona State University in 2020, is also a 2022 graduate of the university's Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics (MACC) program.

The MACC program has incorporated data analytics into its curriculum since 2018, thanks in part to its partnership with KPMG, a global professional services firm, and a recent doubling down on technology in the curriculum gives graduates valuable expertise in data analytics.

“The profession is moving more toward data analytics — working with big data and being able to communicate what that means and how to work with it,” says Philip Drake, clinical professor of accountancy. “We’re focusing on helping accountants be able to work in the world that is coming.”

ASU's School of Accountancy recently performed a comprehensive review, surveying alumni, students, member firms and its professional advisory board. A key finding was that data analytics is integral to the future of accounting. As a result, the MACC program’s core courses were updated to integrate data analytics training and hands-on projects that help students fine-tune their skills. 

The move has paid off for alumni like Lares, who was formally recognized by her employer in a recent performance evaluation for her data analytics expertise, and for the more than 90% of MACC program graduates who have secured relevant employment after graduation.  

CPA exam preparation

Another recent update to the MACC program incorporated CPA exam preparation into the curriculum. A new, three-credit course provides exam preparation through a partnership with Becker, a provider of CPA review courses. According to Drake, giving students access to study materials and the time to use them helps ensure they pass the CPA by the time they graduate or shortly afterward.

“We work with students to make sure that they are in a position to be able to take time to study for the CPA while doing their coursework,” Drake says. “It's very beneficial for the students and the firms. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Andy Call, school director and Accountancy Professional Advisory Board Professor, says making the exam preparation part of the program helps graduates feel prepared to enter the workforce when they leave campus. 

“The feedback from the students has been very positive on this,” Call says. “The professionals also love it because now they're hiring CPA-eligible or CPA-ready students. It has been a very good thing.”  

Course variety and relevance

The program recently added electives for the first time, giving students the flexibility to tailor their studies to their interests. These include courses on up-and-coming issues in accounting, such as sustainability. A course on environmental, social and governance (ESG) was added, with the possibility of more to come through a collaboration with the School of Sustainability.

And how does sustainability tie into accounting? According to Drake, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed rules to require companies to disclose their ESG plans. The accounting profession, he says, is a natural fit to ensure firms are meeting these standards.

“It’s easy to make a statement, and then just kind of say we did this or that, and no one ever comes by and says, ‘Hey, what are the reporting requirements? What are the standards by which we could do this?'” Drake says. “The accounting profession says, ‘We're good at evaluating financial statements. We have a set of rules; we have your financial statements. We can see whether indeed you are meeting the rules that are in place.’”

Creating pathways for access and diversity

To help draw diverse talent to the accounting profession, scholarships are available through the Deloitte Foundation and KPMG. The W. P. Carey Deloitte Foundation Accounting Scholars Program and KPMG MADA Scholars programs provide competitive scholarships to individuals who demonstrate support for diversity, equity and inclusion issues within the accounting field.

“(The scholarships) create access pathways to many individuals who haven't traditionally taken this pathway into accountancy professions,” says Rebecca Mallen-Churchill, director of W. P. Carey Graduate Programs Admissions. “I don't know if a lot of people think about accountancy programs when they're thinking about programs where there's a lot of funding available from corporate partners. These are innovative partnerships that ultimately are designed to improve our local and global communities.”  

Mallen-Churchill says the scholarship programs are currently accepting applications and seeking applicants “who have that passion and that tie it to improving representation, equity and inclusion across accounting.”

Learning to collaborate with others with different experiences and opinions was a valuable component of the MACC program for Lares. She says sharpening her communication and problem-solving skills during group work with other MACC students helped prepare her to enter the workforce. 

“Working in the group projects helped me understand how to collaborate with other people who are different from me and people who are like me," she said. "Because, at work, I don't get to choose my coworkers, and that's how it was with the projects. You learn to work through it, and communication is a big part. So that was very helpful.”

Ellen Grady

Copy writer, W. P. Carey School of Business

New study to help bereaved caregivers

February 22, 2023

A new grant from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, will fund research at Arizona State University to collect the largest quantitative sample of bereaved dementia caregivers to date, in order to provide tools and resources to improve their lives.

Assistant Professor Zachary Baker with ASU's Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging is the principal investigator of the study. He says former caregivers are a growing, diverse group that often feels "ultra-invisible" as most currently available support is focused on those actively providing care. Stock image of an older man with his head in his hands. A wedding ring is visible Within 10 years, it's estimated there will be 9 million new bereaved caregivers. Photo courtesy Canva Download Full Image

“The reality is they lost their mom or their husband, or somebody really important to them, and as many as 25% of these former caregivers are getting clinical symptoms, and what I mean by that is not just normal grief or sadness but something that is stopping their life,” Baker said.

Even those whose symptoms don’t rise to the clinical level still suffer from higher rates of depression and loneliness. And their numbers are increasing. According to Baker, within 10 years, most people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will die, creating 9 million-plus new bereaved caregivers.

“So aside from a lot of sadness and subclinical depression and less quality of life, we’re talking about millions of people who can’t function, but nobody is talking about them or thinking about their needs,” he said.

With $726,711 in funding, this three-year study is looking to change that.

The research aims to understand first, who is going to do better or worse after the person in their care has passed away, and then try to figure out the things that people who are coping well are already doing that work for them and share those solutions with others who are struggling.

“I would love for that 'ultra-invisibility' term to be completely irrelevant,” Baker said.

Researchers are actively recruiting former dementia caregivers to join the study and working on an initiative to try to expand the study to Spanish speakers in order to reach more communities.

If you are interested in participating or know someone who might be interested, please call 602-543-4492 (x34492) or email to learn more.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


ASU Global Education Office sponsors over 200 passports to first-time recipient students

February 20, 2023

On Feb. 15 and 16, the Arizona State University Global Education Office partnered with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) to hold a pop-up Passport Caravan event in the Student Pavilion Multicultural Communities of Excellence space on the Tempe campus, breaking down a barrier for students hoping to pursue a global education program before graduation: getting their passport.

Over 200 first- and second-year students who never had a passport before were selected to receive one. These students self-identified as being a part of an underrepresented group in study abroad, such as being a first-generation college student, Pell Grant recipients, racially or ethnically diverse, or part of the LGBTQ community. ASU Passport Caravan sign shown in a hallway with ASU-branded signage and balloons. The ASU Passport Caravan was held on Feb. 15 and 16, giving away over 200 passports to students who have never received a passport before. Photo courtesy ASU Global Education Office Download Full Image

During the event, students sat down with an agent from the ASU Passport Office to complete their paperwork and mail their passport application off to the U.S. Department of State. 

Getting a passport can often be a barrier for those hoping to pursue a global education program before graduation. The process of applying for a passport can be tricky and it can take up to 11 weeks for the passport book to arrive. The Passport Caravan aims to soften this barrier through accessible resources and guidance that will empower students to complete the prelimary processes necessary for international opportunities.

The students selected for the event often experience other barriers to these opportunities, such as having immigrant parents who have not gone through the process of getting a U.S. passport or are experiencing financial challenges. U.S. passports in total cost $165. During the Passport Caravan event, the passports awarded to students totaled over $32,000.

Students are advised to start planning for a study abroad program a year in advance, and the Passport Caravan got the ball rolling with the first step to traveling internationally checked off. Global Education Office professional staff, as well as study abroad alumni, were present to help students find a global education program that would fit their academic plan and personal goals. 

Brittany Spears, a student who came with her children to the Passport Caravan, never owned a U.S. passport before but has dreams of studying abroad in Japan for a semester to fulfill her Japanese language minor. Other students hope to use their new passport to visit family across the globe.

Students traveled from all four of ASU’s campuses to participate in the Passport Caravan, but their passport will take them much further than Tempe. Students cited hoping to use their passport to take them to countries like Argentina, Korea, Sweden, Morocco, England, Germany and Thailand, to name a few.

Due to the success of the event, the Global Education Office plans to host another Passport Caravan with CIEE at the start of the fall semester to give away 150 more passports.

 Lindsay Lohr

Marketing Coordinator, Global Education Office


From campus to community: 3 ways digital twins can enhance experiences

February 20, 2023

Digital twins, virtual replicas of real-life physical systems, processes or products, were first introduced by former University of Michigan faculty member Michael Grieves in 2002. NASA’s John Vickers later coined the term in the organization’s 2010 Roadmap Report.

Since then, digital twin technology has made its way into various industries — such as manufacturing, engineering and health care — that are growing due to advancements in virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). This uptick across sectors has allowed researchers and practitioners to test and collect data from physical and virtual worlds to inform strategic decisions. Student with backpack sits at a desk with a computer monitor showing an avatar in a digital twin of the campus. "Students are already using virtual environments like this. So by creating the ASUniverse, we’re actually meeting the students where they already are and where they prefer to be," said Toby Vaughn Kidd, director of studios at ASU Learning Futures. Photo by Mike Sanchez Download Full Image

Not to mention emerging VR and AI technology allows digital twins to accelerate the data-collection process to be more interactive than ever before, with markets anticipating the technology to grow from $6.9 billion in 2022 to $73.5 billion by 2027

It is this interactivity that makes digital twins especially exciting in the field of higher education, allowing students, faculty and staff to expand the campus experience virtually.

Related: Digital twins made the edtech top 10 trends for 2023

Curious how digital twins are being created and used on the Arizona State University campus and in the community? Explore three ways in which digital twins are changing the campus experience for those in the Phoenix area and across the globe.

1. Immersive experiences in the ASUniverse

If you visit Learning Futures, part of ASU’s Enterprise Technology, you will find teams of students designing and exploring experiences in extended reality (XR). One such team is creating a digital twin of the ASU Tempe campus they’re calling the ASUniverse.

For nearly two years, students have gathered data about the exteriors and interiors of campus buildings, uploaded it into a game development engine (the team uses Unreal Engine) and determined the amount of detail needed to create interactive virtual learning spaces.

Explore the ASUniverse, a digital twin of ASU's Tempe campus that brings the university into the metaverse. Video by Alisha Mendez/ASU

But when it comes to exploring how digital twins can be leveraged to improve the student experience, Toby Vaughn Kidd, director of studios at Learning Futures, explains that it’s important to think about the digital twin as an asset, and the ASUniverse as the experiences being built from the digital twin.

Digital twins can enhance learning experiences by providing a virtual space for ASU students, represented as avatars, to meet up for class in the ASUniverse. “Nearly anything that you do in the real world can be recreated for a virtual environment,” Kidd said. That’s why the ASUniverse is ideal for both in-person and fully online students. For example, students can study ASU's architecture (like Old Main), research ways to improve traffic patterns on campus and learn about the biodiversity on campus.

“The way that ASU has taken to solving certain problems like providing shade from the sun or examining iconic historic buildings — these are features that we have on campus and that we should be able to highlight in the ASUniverse,” Kidd said.

2. Engagement and entertainment on campus and in the community

For remote learners across the world, joining in person to meet other students or take campus tours may not be possible. For those students, digital twins give virtual access to campus to interact with colleagues and campus events with an in-person feel.

“We can recreate virtually anything from the real world in a digital twin. That’s one of the powers that we have with the immersive environment,” Kidd said.

“It allows people to visit places they can’t otherwise go and give them objects that they couldn’t otherwise hold — it really transports you."

While recreating performances in virtual worlds is possible, it’s important to design experiences that are intentionally and specifically created for virtual spaces. “Live events and performances in virtual spaces are already happening,” said Kidd. “We’re just finding a way to bring this experience to students who want to engage on campus in this way.”

Outside of campus tours and live performances, there is a lot of work happening in the creation of digital twins for sporting events and stadium experiences. 

In fall 2022, Learning Futures tested a VR “on-the-field experience” to enhance what game day at Sun Devil Stadium could be like, virtually. With cameras positioned on the sidelines during a football game, spectators could put on a headset that would allow them to move their head around to explore an on-the-field view of the action taking place.

Kidd also explained that someone could easily virtually attend a game — pick an avatar, sit in the stands wherever you want and watch the game in real time. A few ways in which a 3D, digital twin experience might differ from an in-person experience might include watching virtual presentations play the game with a 3D view, having detailed shots or highlights displayed right next to you or being able to chat virtually with other fans in real time.

Even if users aren’t big sports fans, participating in a virtual setting allows them to enjoy the energy and engage in the experience in a variety of ways that actually help increase their engagement overall.

3. Urban planning and development in the community and beyond

From the campus to the community, other teams at ASU Enterprise Technology are exploring how digital twins can improve experiences for all Arizonans.

Beyond campus grounds, digital twins can offer robust, real-time data and visual representations to help inform community action. 

Sensors collect valuable building information management (BIM) data to make this possible. “What digital twins allow us to do is offer the promise of having that data in real time, making decisions for the best interest of the city and its residents,” said Ryan Hendrix, general manager at ASU’s Smart City Cloud Innovation Center, powered by AWS.

With rapid growth, new buildings, the light rail and ASU’s continuous expansion, downtown Phoenix is transitioning from a work hub to a thriving city where the community can live, work and play. Hendrix and ASU’s Smart City Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) recently partnered with DTPHX Inc. and Siradel to build a better downtown. 

Together, the ASU CIC, DTPHX and Siradel are partnering to explore the challenge: How might government, real estate, companies, community-based organizations, nonprofits, citizens, neighborhoods and academics find, access and share data and analytics for urban and strategic planning and infrastructure and systems management in the DTPHX service area? A digital twin that’s in the works will help explore the answer to this challenge.

Virtual campuses in 2023 and beyond

While there’s nothing quite like experiencing the ASU campus, Sun Devils will be able to experience the campus in a new way with the many benefits of digital twins and the immersive environments that they create. 

Technology is now advanced enough that students, staff and faculty can complement on-campus experiences with additional opportunities to connect virtually with the physical location and other students. “Students are already using virtual environments like this,” said Kidd. “So by creating the ASUniverse, we’re actually meeting the students where they already are and where they prefer to be.”

Written by Stephanie King.

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CHIPS and changemakers

February 17, 2023

ASU scholars weigh in on STEM and inclusion advocate Eddie Bernice Johnson in honor of Black History Month

Katherine Johnson, the "human computer" whose mathematical prowess helped launch humans into space.

Frank Greene, a tech innovator who developed high-speed computer systems in the 1960s.

Alan Emtage, the inventor behind ARCHIE — the world's first Internet search engine implemented nearly a decade before Google. 

These names are not heard as often as other notable changemakers during Black History Month but their contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics remain incalculable.

It’s why, at a time when the pace of innovation appears to be moving second only to the velocity of the high-speed semiconductors innovation is producing, Black History Month continues to hold space to reflect and celebrate changemakers; past changemakers like the aforementioned STEM pioneers and present ones, like just-retired U.S Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a champion of science and underserved communities who, in one of her final acts as a lawmaker, helped to craft the landmark CHIPS and Science Act.

In January 2023, Issues in Science and Technology, a policy journal published by Arizona State University, introduced an interview with Johnson this way:

"It’s hard to name a single person who has had a greater impact on U.S. science legislation in the 21st century than U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who recently retired after more than 50 years in public service. … Johnson is the outgoing chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. …. In her leadership roles in crafting not just the recent CHIPS and Science Act but many other pieces of legislation, big and small — such as the America COMPETES Act of 2010 — she has worked to make science more inclusive, expanding opportunities for women, people of color, and Americans from every part of the country."

Today is the first day since 1993 that Eddie Bernice Johnson hasn’t been on @HouseScience.

For the Winter ISSUES, @RepEBJ sat down with us to share stories from her 50 years of public service and her hopes for the future of science. 1/

— Issues in Science and Technology (@ISSUESinST) January 3, 2023

Brooke Coley and Michel Kinsy, both scholars in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, say they owe a debt of gratitude to Johnson for opening doors for other underrepresented and hidden figures in STEM. The two recently shared their thoughts on the pioneering policymaker and the impact of her work in separate interviews with ASU News.

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

Question: Why is it important to recognize someone like Eddie Bernice Johnson during Black History Month?

 - Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Brooke Coley

Coley: As a nurse, as a mother, as someone who was economically disadvantaged at some points in her life, Eddie Bernice Johnson saw a need and had the determination to step in and become one of the first Black women politicians in the state of Texas. I also think there is significance in (Johnson) being one of the only women and people of color to be on a science committee and forge a legacy in moving bills through Congress. … That created equity and the distribution of resources for those marginalized in STEM — even up to the present with the CHIPS and Science Act. I think that shows how her life has in fact been a legacy.

My only caveat would be that perhaps while it's important to recognize such achievements and contributions to the greater landscape of the country, I don't think it should just be during Black History Month. I think these celebrations and recognition should be all year, every day, and as pervasive as the accomplishments and contributions of others. 

Kinsy: To fully understand the history of this country is to understand the role that access to education opportunities has played in it. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has been one of the strongest advocates of creating and expanding access to education to all Americans. She has consistently championed investing in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and has made it her core legislative pursuit.

In her remarkable public service that spans more than four decades, Rep. Johnson had many firsts. She was the first Black woman to serve as chief psychiatric nurse at Dallas VA Hospital; be elected a Texas state senator since Reconstruction; lead a major Texas House committee; serve as regional director for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; and serve as chair of the U.S. House science committee. It was under her leadership that the historic CHIPS and Science Act was passed in 2022. We owe her a sincere debt of gratitude for her tireless efforts to make the country more inclusive, educated and prosperous. It is important and befitting that we recognize and celebrate her.   

Q: How have Johnson’s contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics as a policymaker empowered and informed your work as a STEM educator?

Coley: In my work I push to elevate the lived experience and the purpose of elevating the lived experience because the demographics associated with the people whose stories I amplify in my work — these are people that have been marginalized in engineering specifically. So I think it's good to have these reminders of people like Eddie Bernice Johnson, who have exemplified the sacrifice in their own lives to be committed and what that commitment looks like. Having these types of role models for me as a Black faculty in engineering — that in 2023 would still be amongst the first in my own achievements — serve as examples of what is possible, examples of what can be done. That's real grit to have the cards stacked against you from your identity and still persist in being able to accomplish major deliverables such as the CHIPS Act and other things that she has accomplished in her lifetime. It's an inspiration to keep at it.

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Michel Kinsy

Kinsy: My own research lies in the general area of microelectronics security. I conduct my research through the Secure, Trusted, and Assured Microelectronics (STAM) Center that I direct. A central component of the STAM Center's mission is to develop measurable impactful outreach and education in hardware and microelectronics security programs targeting domestic students, traditionally underserved communities, underrepresented minorities and U.S. veterans.

Eddie Bernice Johnson’s legacy is one of working tirelessly to increase the number of women and underrepresented/underserved students seeking STEM degrees and careers. Her impact on the advancement of science and technology is best demonstrated by the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act — a once-in-a-generation investment in America.

Q: What gains are we seeing in getting more students engaged with STEM, especially those who, historically, have been underrepresented in STEM education and careers? And to what or who should we attribute these gains?

Coley: Anecdotally, I would say that we are probably in the worst position in terms of diversifying STEM that we have been in a long time. My research in the last two years has primarily involved Black students in engineering, and I'm talking to Black graduate students and learning that they are having similar experiences that I had in my PhD in 2010.

There are some people who still adopt the grin-and-bear-it philosophy. But what I would say is the students that are current and up-and-coming students — they are not about to grin and bear it. They are very much agentic and advocates for their own right, and they are not going to continue to accept navigating in these spaces with racism going unaddressed. (For these reasons) it's going to be harder to convince people to pursue STEM interests, and for those that do pursue it, it's going to be harder to keep people in an environment that doesn't change to accommodate what should be basic rights for everyone. So I would say the numbers are stagnant and dwindling rapidly or stagnant, and on a potential decline if change doesn't happen, quickly.

Kinsy: Sadly, we are seeing very little gains. The picture is actually fairly bleak. Despite all the hard work done by Rep. Johnson and others, over many decades, the actual numbers are heartbreaking. Per this year's NSF report on Diversity and STEM (NSF 23-315), bachelor's degrees awarded to Black or African American students in the science and engineering fields went from 4.5% in 2011 to 4.6% in 2020, a decade later.

For example, the 2017 National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NSF 19-301) report shows that, out of 419 doctorate degrees awarded in computer engineering, only four went to students identified as Black or African American, six as Hispanic or Latino and one as American Indian or Alaska Native. In all, less than 27% of these degrees went to domestic students. The ramifications are multigenerational and impair our long-term national security and prosperity.

Q: There has been some discussion about the CHIPS and Science Act’s potential to address issues of diversity and inclusion. Can you expand on this?

Coley: I think the importance of the legislation (the CHIPS and Science Act) may not be as visible to people removed from STEM, but in fact it is extremely impactful because ultimately one of the things that it's targeted to do is to bring more perspectives, more representation, more lived experiences to give weight in deciding the future of STEM and science and these technologies that impact our everyday lives.

This type of legislation has potential, through the establishment of such a large source of funds, to think about what institutions are currently active in the semiconductor industry and what institutions aren't. So when we think about representation, we think about how these new funds can be intentionally distributed so that minority-serving institutions — historically Black colleges and universities, or even Hispanic-Serving Institutions — can be positioned as leaders in these industries where large numbers of underrepresented students are being trained at the undergraduate level, perhaps as a pathway for research pursuit at the graduate level. So if used for good, I see this being an opportunity to balance the playing field and bring other leaders into the realm that have the potential to train future leaders with greater diversity.

Kinsy: The CHIPS and Science Act has the potential to address some of the issues related to diversity and inclusion in STEM and the associated workforce. The concrete long-term effects will be based on how well it gets implemented.

The most succinct way I can put it comes from a recent World Economic Forum report: “Increasing the diversity in science opens up the possibility of stable, high-paying jobs in STEM fields to more Americans. Pulling from the entire population, including traditionally underrepresented communities, provides a more robust base for economic innovation and the knowledge-intensive jobs of the future.”

Our country's strength is our diversity. Let us take full advantage of it for our collective prosperity. Am I hopeful that the CHIPS and Science Act implementation will foster a concerted effort to pull in all sections of our country both at the local and regional levels, including underserved technological areas, rural entrepreneurs, historically black colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, community and tribal colleges? I choose to be hopeful, especially during this month, where many of us tend to reflect a bit deeper on our place and participation in this American experience.

Brooke Coley is the founding executive director of the Center for Research Advancing Racial Equity, Justice and Sociotechnical Innovation Centered in Engineering and an assistant professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Michel Kinsy is the director of Secure, Trusted, and Assured Microelectronics (STAM) Center and associate professor in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence (SCAI) in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Top photo courtesy NASA/Carla Cioffi via Flickr

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Academic integrity takes the spotlight in the era of ChatGPT

ASU graduate education course reinforces the importance of honest research

February 17, 2023

In academia, the constant stream of project proposals, papers and dissertations can sometimes be overwhelming for scholars. When the stakes are high — and content-generating tools like ChatGPT exist — it is an unfortunate truth that some may be tempted to cut corners. However, academic and research integrity is crucial to maintaining the quality, thoroughness and factuality of academic work.

At Arizona State University, Graduate Education 591: Research Integrity offers a deep dive into honest reporting and research.
Close-up photo of words on paper, with the word "Integrity" being highlighted in pink. Download Full Image

“Research misconduct includes a variety of acts such as plagiarism, data falsification and data fabrication,” said Kristy Holtfreter, who teaches the course and has been a professor at ASU since 2008.

Holtfreter became increasingly intrigued by academic integrity through an initial interest in workplace misbehavior, commonly referred to as white-collar crime (typically occurring in organizations, governmental entities, corporations and nonprofits), and sought to explore the impacts of it. Although this type of crime is often overlooked next to blue-collar crime, the ramifications are still significant.

Inspired to look deeper and bridge gaps between white-collar crime and scholastic dishonesty, Holtfreter immersed herself in local community efforts to bring awareness to the issue by participating in ASU's Peer Leadership Academy and later developing GRD 591 as part of her work serving as a fellow in the Graduate College.

“My research shows that there is a good amount of consensus across scientific fields that stress and pressure cause research misconduct among faculty members. This finding suggests that academic units should ensure their faculty, staff and students have access to resources promoting prosocial coping strategies," Holtfreter said.

"Policies and practices based on fraudulent research can threaten public health and safety, and can also decrease public confidence in the scientific enterprise. With this research in mind, it is clear that anyone in the education space — teacher, learner or community member — can benefit from this coursework."

GRD 591 reintroduces topics in the required ASU IRB CITI 1 & 2 and Human Subjects training for students and faculty conducting research projects. These topics include authorship roles and responsibilities, ethics codes, mentoring, research collaborations, conflicts of interest, data management, peer review, replication, causes and consequences, reporting, whistleblowing and prevention.

The class is taught in a seminar format and includes several interactive and applied activities. These include a workshop on the peer review process, an assessment of the codes of ethics in a professional society and the evaluation of real-life cases sanctioned by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Research Integrity.

The class takes a broad, interdisciplinary approach to research integrity and has relevance across majors and degree programs. However, it mainly focuses on the importance of peer review, mentorship, authorship, avoiding and reporting plagiarism, falsification, and data fabrication and replication, among other topics that apply to any research field, said Stephanie Geoghan, a first-year PhD student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Geoghan described the most impactful takeaways of the seminar: "I would rather take time to conduct quality research and report my findings truthfully — even if they are insignificant or do not support my hypotheses — than succumb to pressure to publish or expand my CV. When research is thoroughly complete and done with integrity, it serves the purpose of providing answers. Insignificant findings still provide answers."

Bridget Mac Donald, a current master’s student in criminology, mirrors Geoghan’s sentiments about how integrity in research can have far-reaching impacts on the trajectory of an academic career, saying that choosing to skip steps, falsify reports and bend the truth to earn a degree will have ripple effects and dire consequences throughout one's career.

“Learning about the causes and effects of research integrity is extremely important because it shows the negatives of committing research misconduct and how to prevent a researcher from being put in a position where they commit research misconduct. It has terrible impacts on the research community. Therefore, it is a must that research is expected, encouraged and facilitated within research,” Mac Donald said.

While this information is valuable beyond academia and can inform the way we set laws and practices, the terminology has to be understandable for the general public for this to happen. Geoghan explains the importance of generalizing the subject of academic integrity: “One of the most important things I have learned is the value of producing research with integrity — research that should benefit practitioners and the general public. Researchers are working diligently to provide answers to questions related to crime, but research outcomes should translate into simple terms,” she explained.

Understanding what is happening in academic research can help define and implement best practices. It is imperative to maintain a culture of fairness and thoroughness when publishing research because the effects on the community are hard to ignore. Students, faculty and others in the education space have a special responsibility to support each other’s work by practicing integrity in every phase of their academic track. ASU students are encouraged to learn more and self-enroll in the Graduate College academic integrity training module on Canvas.

Marketing Content Specialist, Graduate College