image title

Writers envision the next 75 years of science policy

November 10, 2022

A new book of essays provides inspiring science, technology ideas that can transform society

Featured writers in a new book were given a major mission — to envision future science policies and share them with the world. 

Book cover for "The Next 75 Years of Science Policy"

“The Next 75 Years of Science Policy” presents a wide range of visions for how science might serve society in the coming years. Released in September, the book showcases a collection of nearly 50 powerful essays that authors hope will provide inspiring ideas that can transform society.

“The essays presented a kind of a kaleidoscope of how to use the resources of science over the coming century,” said Lisa Margonelli, editor-in-chief for Issues in Science and Technology, which originally published the essays. “Some writers wanted to change a basically successful system by giving it a few tweaks. Others had really revolutionary ideas.”

The volume has a forward-looking theme, with everyone from scientists and government officials to up-and-coming researchers and business leaders contributing their public policy ideas for the future. 

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative, contributed the essay "Time to Say Goodbye to Our Heroes?" It makes the case for replacing the principal investigator research model with a more interdisciplinary approach. 

ASU President Michael Crow penned the foreword and introduction to the book, along with Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academies of Sciences, and Cynthia Friend, president of the Kavli Foundation. The foundation supported the book’s editing and publication. 

All of the essays were original published during the past two years in the journal Issues in Science and Technology, an engaging, intellectual platform where researchers, policymakers and business leaders share their ideas related to science and technology, creating a dialogue that has impacted U.S. and global public policy. The publication is a partnership between ASU and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

ASU News spoke with Margonelli about the new book.

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Where did the idea for the book come from? 

Answer: In 2020, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and ASU were approached by the Kavli Foundation to look back at the last 75 years of science policy and get engaged thinkers to contemplate how we should set science policy for the next 75 years. 

The way we invest in science in this country all comes from a very influential report titled "Science, The Endless Frontier." It was written about 75 years ago — in 1945 — by the late Vannevar Bush, director of what was then the Office of Scientific Research and Development and sent to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The ideas in that memo set the pattern for how we invest in science and technology in this country. So with the book, we tried to imagine how the next 75 years could look. 

Q: How were contributors to the book selected?

A: Some are people who've been big players in science policy for a really long time — people like Norman R. Augustine and Neal Lane, who have put out highly influential white papers and really changed the focus of policy and competitiveness over the years — as well as leaders at the National Science Board such as astronaut Ellen Ochoa. And some thinkers who were influential scientists but hadn’t written much about science policy before — like ASU’s Lindy Elkins Tanton.

And then, some of the contributors are up-and-coming people with fresh ideas. We were looking for a diversity of thoughts and perspectives. We tried to build a really big tent to have the biggest possible discussion about what kind of future we want and how we might get there.

Q: What were some of the urgent or important issues that the book brought to light?

A: There is a really insightful piece called "Stuck in 1955, Engineering Education Needs a Revolution" by Sheryl Sorby, Norman L. Fortenberry and Gary Bertoline. They questioned the way engineers are educated, which is still based on a template developed in 1955 — a philosophy of winnowing out students through certain foundational classes. And so, the people who become engineers have to make it through that particular maze.

What that means is that you only have a certain kind of problem-solver and you won't have a diverse crowd there — and they may not be able to solve some of today’s complex socio-technical problems. That article generated a lot of conversation and led to a virtual conversation with hundreds of participants. 

And then we had an inspiring piece, "Creating a New Moral Imagination for Engineering," from ASU’s Darshan Karwat, a young scholar at ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, who wants engineering to develop a sense of moral imagination, which is really important for connecting the discipline with younger scientists and people who are interested in changing the world

Q: The essays in the book come from the publication Issues in Science and Technology. How and why was Issues created?

A: Issues was created by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 1984. It was started as a way of bringing new perspectives and conversations to democratic decision-making. ASU became a full partner in the magazine in 2013.

The difference between us and an academic journal is pretty straightforward — academic journals really speak from one academic to another. They are a closed discussion within experts. We are having a wider, broader discussion. We bring lots and lots of different people to the discussion. We try to make our discussions interdisciplinary and very accessible. We also invite decision makers and business people into the conversation.

And we're not peer reviewed. This is a journal of opinion and we work with every author to make their argument as strong as possible.

We are not like other technology magazines, which are likely to have articles like "Six Technologies that are Going to Change the World." Instead we have something like seven big questions we should ask about virtual reality. Tech magazines tend to see technology as an inevitable force, whereas we see it as something that is continually shaped by policies and human values. 

And one of the things that's really key to our vision, which animates me and the whole incredible Issues team, is that we really believe that policies for science and technology need to be designed for the betterment of society. 

Q: The book is forward-looking. How do you hope it will direct the course of science and technology related policies over the next 75 years?

A: My big hope is that we stop talking about science and technology policies purely in the sense of where the money goes and start talking about the world we intend to create. We know that we can really help young scientists by supporting them better  and we can work with interdisciplinary teams to solve big problems, so we can build on some of the policies that were incredibly successful over the last 75 years and adopt new methods for even greater success in the future. 

And finally, we hope to inspire more conversation and vision about how to use the tools of science and technology to really create better lives for more people.

Top photo courtesy iStock

Reporter , ASU News

Psychology student wins prestigious travel research award

Kieran Andrew to present at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C.

November 10, 2022

For one undergraduate student, major life decisions serendipitously happen around the dinner table. 

Kieran Andrew, a student at Arizona State University’s Barrett, The Honors College double majoring in psychology and neuroscience, began his research journey as a high school junior who happened to be sitting with his future mentor, President’s Professor Heather Bimonte-Nelson, at a graduation dinner gathering with mutual family friends. Kieran Andrew Kieran Andrew, a Barrett, The Honors College student double majoring in psychology and neuroscience. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

He began to talk with her about the research in her lab, Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory & Aging lab, and was offered a chance to participate as a volunteer researcher as a senior in high school. Four years later, while Andrew was once again seated at Bimonte-Nelson’s dinner table during a laboratory gathering, he completed an application for a travel scholarship right before the deadline. His mentor and peers from the lab pushed him to finish and offered support while celebrating.

He recently was announced as the recipient of one of the travel awards for the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in Washington, D.C. The ERN Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Inclusive STEM Ecosystems for Equity & Diversity Programs and the National Science Foundation Division of Human Resource Development within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources.

At this conference, Andrew will present research that he has been working on since high school in the Bimonte-Nelson lab on sex differences in Alzheimer's disease in a transgenic animal model. 

“Being hands-on with the projects in the lab has been incredibly helpful, as well as the large breadth of experience I've been able to get from not just people in my life, but the people I've been able to meet through lab connections,” Andrew said.

The Bimonte-Nelson lab aims to characterize the cognitive and brain changes that occur during aging, as well as develop behavioral and pharmacological strategies to attenuate mnemonic and neurobiological age-related alterations. Andrew assists with conducting the memory tests in the lab, as well as performs complex data processing, scoring and analyses.

“I first met Kieran when he was a high school student, in a casual environment — even in this atmosphere, just from chatting with him informally about what our lab does, he showed an innate curiosity and asked insightful questions,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “Over the years working with him on a weekly basis, it has become clear to me that he has a deeply critical and intellectual mind — he is a born scientist. He has had valued contributions in the lab spanning performing experimental physiological procedures to cognitive testing, and he has also done an excellent job teaching other lab students, mentoring with both knowledge and patience. He especially excels at deciphering and analyzing complex data patterns.”

“I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Kieran. He has worked so hard. This is just the beginning of a wonderful journey for him,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “Whichever of his dreams he pursues — becoming a neurosurgeon or continuing his research in a doctoral program — he will excel and make the world a better place.”

Bimonte-Nelson also hosts brain fairs for the community and aims to expand access to neuroscience for all levels of learners.

“For me, it has been super helpful to have a mentor like Heather. I don’t think I would be able to receive awards without her — I'm generally the guy who's just quiet and gets the work done and then just waits until the next thing is ready to pop up. But with Heather, she’s a very proactive mentor and she definitely wants the best for her students, and that is more than I could ask for,” said Andrew.

Through a project with Bimonte-Nelson, he is also part of ASU’s NSF-funded Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation – Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities program, which aims to support undergraduate researchers that have been historically underrepresented in STEM. Andrew recently presented research at the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium as well, where he was an author on three posters, including one in collaboration with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

“I was able to create a regression tree from the MRI data to see how well people performed in our tasks and what brain areas were associated with performance. This project analyzed the executive function of the brain. While it was an introductory study, I presented data on possible ways we can analyze this type of research,” Andrew said.

In addition to his presentations at AAC and in Washington, D.C., for ERN, Andrew is conducting an honors thesis.

“I’m leaning toward experimentally testing learning and memory interference as we age,” Andrew said. “A related study was done in our lab before I was in it, but there are many questions left. I am interested in revisiting that topic.”

In the future, he is deciding between pursuing an MD in neurosurgery or a PhD in computational neuroscience. 

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


ASU professor's work could help World Cup athletes stay on top of their game

November 9, 2022

When Floris Wardenaar tunes in to the upcoming World Cup soccer matches starting Nov. 20 in Qatar, his focus might be a little different than the average viewer, especially during the breaks in play.

Wardenaar, an assistant professor in the College of Health Solutions, will have an eye out for what goes on during stoppages when the matches get underway. Wardenaar is one of the authors of a new paper on hydration opportunities during the FIFA World Cup. College of Health Solutions assistant professor Floris Wardenaar in lab College of Health Solutions Assistant Professor Floris Wardenaar is one of the authors of a new paper looking at how players are staying hydrated during World Cup soccer matches. Download Full Image

The idea for the paper came from conversations with Josh Beaumont, a former athletic trainer with the ASU women's soccer team.

The researchers looked at recordings of the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia to get an idea of what kind of opportunities players had to stay hydrated during games.

Wardenaar noted that the climate in Qatar is considerably warmer than Russia — which is why the tournament that is normally held in summer had been moved to late fall — but the difference in seasons could provide for similar conditions even as a result of this change.

“Even though that sounds nice, here in the Phoenix area we all know that even winter can be quite warm, especially when the sun shines,” Wardenaar said. “Looking at the situation with Qatar and this upcoming world championship, I figured out that the conditions could be pretty similar to the last World Cup.”

Wardenaar credits Jennifer Vanos, assistant professor in the School of Sustainability at the College of Global Futures, with help in pulling those calculations together.

Players don't take advantage of most breaks during World Cup play

Wardenaar and Vanos found that players took the opportunity to take a drink during roughly only a third of the stoppages in play due to substitutions, injury or video reviews by the officials. That behavior didn’t seem to increase much under hotter conditions.

What was somewhat encouraging, however, was that players sometimes took opportunities to take a drink without waiting for the play to stop.

Wardenaar said he hoped teams and officials would use the data from this study to develop strategies to keep players better hydrated during matches.

“What we, as the authors, suggested is that during the VAR (video assistant referee) breaks, for example, that they allow the medical staffs on the field,” Wardenaar said. “Those breaks normally take the longest. While the referees are going to watch the screens, allow the medical staffs on the field so everyone has the opportunity to take a drink.”

He said the limitations to that plan is that those VAR breaks only happen during some games. To offer more breaks in other games, officials could also stop play in matches held in hot weather to allow another opportunity to take in fluids.

He said the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 championship in England was a good example of referees working in hydration breaks.

Teams could also make sure that water or other fluids were available along the sidelines or in the goals to allow players to get a quick drink during informal stops.

Recreational soccer players can benefit too

Adopting a hydration strategy isn’t just beneficial for World Cup teams.

Soccer is a popular sport in the Phoenix area, and players could encounter warm weather at almost any time of year, not just extreme conditions expected in the notoriously hot summer months.

“Especially recreational players in tournaments where you could play multiple games in one day,” Wardenaar said. “Starting out well hydrated is the important thing. Make sure to drink enough during the day before the actual tournament starts.”

Wardenaar said being well hydrated wasn’t the same as over-drinking, or chugging a gallon of water at a time.

“Try to be mindful,” he said. “Look at the color of urine, preferably at the start of the day. It should be light. And make sure to maintain a good fluid intake (during matches).”

Wardenaar and the other authors of the study hope their findings inspire the development of a strategy to stay better hydrated during physical activities such as soccer. And with the eyes of the world on the matches taking place in Qatar, it would be great to see some of the top athletes on the planet modeling that behavior.

“I shared this with one of the national team dietitians who will play at the (World Cup) championships, and she said she really liked this because it shows the importance of targeting drinking moments,” Wardenaar said. “She said she would bring it to the attention of the coaching staff so they could strategize better. That’s the reason I do this kind of work: to help colleagues in the field to gain more insight or new tools to do their work in a better way.”

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions

Experts urge universal use of wastewater surveillance

ASU researchers advocate a new approach to protect public health

November 9, 2022

Wastewater epidemiology isn’t a profession a scriptwriter would likely give to a lead character in an action-adventure film.

In real life, however, experts in the emerging field may someday help protect and save more lives than a typical movie hero. What’s in wastewater can point the way to better protecting public health, What’s in wastewater can point the way to better protecting public health, say environmental engineers and scientists who have been advancing the field of wastewater epidemiology. Photo from Pixabay Download Full Image

The Rockefeller Foundation, a supporter of ambitious efforts to promote “the well-being of humanity throughout the world,” is already convinced of the potential for wastewater research, monitoring and analysis to make our future healthier and safer.

The philanthropic organization has kicked off a major advocacy campaign to help trumpet a recent call from top researchers to bring the growing benefits of wastewater surveillance to all of the planet’s population.

In a recently published commentary in the research journal Nature Medicine, the researchers explain how wastewater surveillance can aid the cause of public health. They describe how it can reveal the presence and track the accumulation and spread of pathogens — microorganisms like bacteria and viruses that can cause disease.

Among the authors are three Arizona State University researchers — Professor Rolf Halden and Assistant Professor Otakuye Conroy-Ben, both members of the faculty at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, and Assistant Research Scientist Erin Driver with the Center for Environmental Heath Engineering, directed by Halden, in ASU’s Biodesign Institute. Driver earned a doctoral degree in civil, environmental and sustainable engineering from the Fulton Schools.

Events leading up to the commentary and the advocacy push are reported in a news release from the Rockefeller Foundation emphasizing how wastewater surveillance has advanced as a science and can “provide a powerful early warning system for outbreaks” of diseases by detecting a range of viral and bacterial threats. That information can then enable public health officials to formulate effective responses to help quell those outbreaks.

Tempe public service workers collect wastewater samples

City of Tempe public service workers are pictured collecting wastewater samples from the municipal sewer system. The city has been sharing samples with Arizona State University researchers in recent years for wastewater surveillance that has helped to track the spread of COVID-19 and other public health threats in local communities. Photo by Erin Driver/ASU

Putting emphasis on preventative health care

In the release, a co-lead author of the Nature Medicine commentary, along with the director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute, says wastewater surveillance has proven its value during the COVID-19 pandemic and needs to be elevated to “a fully effective part of our public health arsenal.”

"If we can implement this more robustly and in more places around the world, we can do much better at protecting public health and avoiding the worst possible impacts of pandemics,” says Halden, who has been recognized for pioneering contributions to detecting the early warning signs of disease outbreaks and other dangers to the health of local communities in wastewater.

“By making wastewater monitoring a priority, we could discover the emergence of disease outbreaks faster than they become evident through the diagnosis of new patients going into hospitals and clinics,” Halden says. “This has been demonstrated recently in the outbreaks of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.”

Beyond early disease detection, Halden and his colleagues see the possibility of broadening our approach to health care by promoting a stronger focus on prevention — in other words, taking steps to make the public aware of what to do to prevent sickness and disease, rather than relying heavily on treating people after they become ill or contract diseases.

“Much of what we do in health care now is to play catch up, trying to heal people who are already in advanced stages of health problems,” Halden says.

He sees hope for reversing that trend as researchers continue to add to the hundreds of already discovered biomarkers — indicators of the condition of the body’s various biological functions.

“This is allowing us to detect and measure more kinds of potential and existing chemical, biological and physical threats to people’s health,” Halden says. “So this presents significant opportunities for the ability of wastewater analysis to reveal problems in the very early stages.”

Accuracy in assessing health challenges

Driver’s work in Halden’s research center includes exploring applications of new tools and methodologies in health care and health science.

“One thing we are looking at doing even more is moving water monitoring beyond only wastewater treatment plants and into other places in communities,” Driver says. “That way we can make visible and track the success of interventions geared to particular health challenges among more specific and localized segments of a city’s population.”

Another of Driver’s goals is to learn from wastewater research what other kinds of technologies could be adapted or developed to provide environmental engineers with more accurate data relevant to their work.

“We’re looking for things that are easier to deploy and that provide the data and information we need more accurately and faster,” Driver says. “We need to make sure that all the various sampling and testing processes we use are giving us accurate pictures of the things we need to know.”

Removing threats to community well-being

Conroy-Ben, who teaches soil and groundwater remediation, and contaminant fate and transport, among other related courses, concentrates her research efforts on water pollution and its biological effects.

“I’ve been studying wastewater for over 20 years, mainly focused on pollutant removal through various wastewater treatment processes,” Conroy-Ben says. “I look at the efficiency of removal of pollutants in wastewater treatment plants, including the removal of organic pollutants, endocrine disrupting chemicals, microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, and antibiotic resistant genes.”

With support from the National Institutes of Health, Conroy-Ben and collaborators Halden and Driver are bringing the scientific advances resulting from work in Halden’s lab in wastewater epidemiology to Native American tribal communities.

“Each tribe is different in various ways. So I think what we learn from working with the tribes will lead to valuable insights into how to conduct health research in these diverse communities,” Conroy-Ben says. “I see a lot of progress being made as the tribes and other communities understand how discovering early signs of diseases and other health problems in wastewater can protect people’s lives by reducing harmful exposures.”

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Pathways for the Future honors scholarship awardee during Salute to Service week

ASU transfer students, military service members find scholarship program provides more than just financial assistance

November 8, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of our Salute to Service coverage, Nov. 1–11. Learn about the schedule of events.

For Gil Ruiz, the path to a college degree was not always straightforward. But thanks to Arizona State University’s Pathways for the Future program, the single father and military veteran is now one semester away from graduating with a Bachelor of Science in engineering (robotics) from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. ASU student Gil Ruiz stands in front of a sign on ASU's Tempe campus that reads "Arizona State University." Pathways for the Future honors scholarship awardee Gil Ruiz. Download Full Image

Ruiz, an out-of-state transfer student, and other transfer students and former military service members like him are finding that ASU resources like the Pathways program and MyPath2ASU are helping them achieve academic success, not only by providing financial assistance, but also by allowing them to spend more time pursuing education and building professional networks.

“By helping me financially, that Pathways scholarship has allowed me to focus on my academics,” Ruiz said. “I'm a single father, and I work. Had it not been for the Pathways for the Future program, I’d probably have to get another part-time job. Now, I can just focus on hitting the books (and) on keeping my GPA up, which I'm super stoked about!”

Both Pathways for the Future and MyPath2ASU offer comprehensive support to students looking to transfer to ASU, wherever they may be in their academic journey. They also provide invaluable mentorship.

“Pathways is a resource for me not just financially, but for the mentorship they provide as well,” Ruiz said. “My current mentor has been very helpful with building my own professional network and helping me with building resumes the way that engineering companies want to see them.”

Pathways for the Future helps students develop connections between their peers, faculty, mentors and employers that enable lifelong learning and the skills needed to thrive in the workforce of the future. For qualified students, financial assistance is available while in the program, including help with any surprise costs or expenses.

“I even had a situation where I had to use emergency funding, and Pathways was right there to provide me with what I needed when I needed it,” Ruiz said. “I've never had any issues with anything that would keep me from continuing my education since day one, applying to ASU, until now, close to graduation.”

The Pathways for the Future scholarship and MyPath2ASU are designed to further ease the transition to ASU for transfer students like Ruiz.

“These days, people find it difficult to find the right resources for school, especially veterans,” said Ruiz. “At ASU, I've never had to struggle with that. That's made life so much easier.”

Adrian Mahlstede

Digital content specialist, ASU Academic Alliances

image title

ASU teams up with Phoenix Children’s and Valleywise Health to study vaccine effectiveness vs. influenza, COVID-19

November 8, 2022

Modern vaccines against infectious disease have saved hundreds of millions of lives around the world. Although they are the subject of enormous research, many puzzles remain.

Why do vaccines prevent illness in one individual while failing to provide the same level of protection in another? Which features of an individual’s medical history, immunological makeup, geographical location, age, gender and socioeconomic status contribute to vaccine effectiveness? What causes vaccine aversion in certain communities? How does post-vaccination protection evolve over time?

These are among the vital questions to be addressed in an ambitious, five-year, $12.5 million project undertaken by Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, in close collaboration with Phoenix Children’s, Valleywise Health and ASU Health Services.

The project builds on the ongoing, year-to-year efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to evaluate how well influenza vaccines perform across populations and under a range of conditions. The new study will also include the evaluation of vaccine effectiveness against the SARS CoV-2 virus. 

“Phoenix is a very fast-growing area with a diverse population, which is changing economically and demographically every day,” says Vel Murugan, principal investigator on the new CDC project and associate director of research and associate research professor with the Biodesign Institute at ASU. “So, this is probably the perfect time and location to do the kinds of studies we are going to do.” 

A volunteer administers the COVID-19 vaccine at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex in Tempe on Feb. 2, 2021. Photo by Alex Gould for the State Press

Charting vaccine effectiveness

Researchers measure vaccine effectiveness to evaluate how well a particular vaccine protects a population against infection, symptomatic illness, hospitalization and death under real-world conditions. The current research project aims to accurately estimate the effectiveness of both influenza and COVID-19 vaccines against respiratory virus-associated illness in the context of varying social determinants and observed disparities in health outcome.

In the case of flu vaccines, effectiveness can vary considerably from season to season based on two critical factors: how closely the vaccine matches a circulating seasonal strain of the influenza virus and the characteristics of those vaccinated, including age and health status.

Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against four main groups of flu viruses.

“When the Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee makes the final decision about vaccine viruses for domestic flu vaccines, the committee uses a different combination of criteria, such as which flu viruses are making people sick prior to the upcoming season, which flu viruses are spreading prior to the upcoming season, ability of vaccine viruses to confer cross-species protection and how well the viruses in the previous season’s vaccines may protect. That means every year, we need to study how well the current year’s flu vaccine is doing,” says Murugan, who is also the technical and program director of the Biodesign Clinical Testing Laboratory

The CDC’s efforts are aimed at untangling the skein of data gathered to evaluate vaccine effectiveness over time and across populations of differing age, ethnicity, gender and other factors. To this end, Arizona has been selected as one of seven nationwide CDC-approved Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network Centers. 

“Biodesign’s strategic partnership with Phoenix Children’s and Valleywise Health will allow us to compile one of the most detailed and comprehensive portraits of vaccine effectiveness ever undertaken,” says Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “With this data in hand, we can better protect diverse communities at risk, design more effective vaccines and distribution strategies, and ultimately save many lives from the threat of infectious disease.”

A comprehensive approach

The new study has two primary components. The first is designed to measure the effectiveness of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines during the flu season in the U.S. More than 1,000 participants seeking care in ambulatory settings will be enrolled. This component will identify laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza and COVID-19 and estimate vaccine effectiveness.

The project will also collect social data on determinants. Here, the aim is to identify communities disproportionately affected by influenza and COVID-19 infections and plan for the implementation and evaluation of programs to monitor vaccine effectiveness.

Next, the researchers will identify and characterize influenza and SARS-CoV-2 genomic subtypes and variants. The project continues with the ongoing monitoring of annual SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness outside of the influenza season, collecting and verifying vaccination data, and reporting the relative effectiveness of different COVID-19 vaccines to the CDC.

Another component of the project will investigate vaccine-induced immune responses over time. Some 250 participants will be enrolled for collection of longitudinal serum specimens, the first on or before vaccination, then months after receipt of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines.

Multiple COVID-19 vaccines and annual flu shots are recommended to mitigate waning immunity over time, though the impact of repeated vaccination on vaccine effectiveness is not yet well understood. To address this, researchers will collect paired blood samples before and after vaccination.

Power in numbers

Children and adults with acute respiratory infection seeking care in outpatient clinics managed by Phoenix Children’s, Valleywise Health Medical Center and ASU Student Health Services will be evaluated. The researchers will collect specimens along with relevant demographic and clinical data for laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza and COVID-19.

Both project components draw heavily on ASU’s close alliance with Phoenix Children’s and Valleywise Health, as well as ASU’s Health Services and the Mirabella on-campus retirement community, allowing for across-the-board testing of vaccine effectiveness on adults, pediatric and elderly patients, and underserved communities who have received influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations.

“This collaboration is an invaluable opportunity to get much-needed clarity on the presence of respiratory viruses circulating within our communities and the effectiveness of currently available vaccines against these viruses,” said Dr. Joanna Kramer, a Phoenix Children’s pediatrician and site principal investigator. “I look forward to sharing study findings with the medical community at large, so children and communities can be as protected as possible.”

Serological studies of collected blood from confirmed influenza and COVID-19 patients will be shared with network laboratories and used to estimate vaccine effectiveness against both diseases and evaluate the public health impact of vaccine programs.

Prior vaccination, infection and other medical health data will be gathered through interviews and electronic health records (EHR) extraction. To ensure reliable and timely monitoring, patients will be able to schedule follow-up testing at home and can even request a bilingual health care provider, as needed. 

“The close partnership involving ASU's leadership and technical expertise, and the experienced clinical partners at Valleywise Health and Phoenix Children’s, will make this ambitious project possible,” says Dr. Jeffrey Curtis of Valleywise Health. “We expect to learn more about biological and social factors that make some people respond better to vaccines and about defenses viruses can use to evade vaccine-mediated immunity. I believe this study will lead to better ways to prevent and respond to future epidemics.”

The CDC’s multidisciplinary program provides a comprehensive approach to study vaccine effectiveness and better understand social determinates that may account for health disparities. In addition to safeguarding human health, the findings will have important, long-lasting policy implications for future vaccination efforts.

“The new CDC project plays to many of ASU’s greatest strengths in the health care domain, from our broad expertise in vaccine science to our exceptional clinical testing capacities and the university’s passion for creativity, innovation and service to our communities,” says Sally C. Morton, executive vice president and professor of ASU Knowledge Enterprise. 

Multidisciplinary team

The scale and breadth of this project requires a multidisciplinary team of researchers. The team’s clinical experts include Drs. Joanna Kramer with Phoenix Children’s; Jeffrey Curtis with Valleywise Health; and Mario Islas with ASU Health Services. Additional team members include Primary Investigator Vel Murugan; Yunro (Roy) Chung, a biostatistician with ASU College of Health Solutions; Efrem Lim, a virologist with ASU School of Life Sciences; Matthew Scotch, a molecular epidemiologist with ASU College of Health Solutions; Leah Doane and Rick Cruz, health disparity experts from ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Mitch Magee, an expert in clinical research from ASU School of Life Sciences; and Craig Woods, an expert in clinical site management from the Institute for Future Health. 

Top image: Researchers measure vaccine effectiveness to evaluate how well a particular vaccine protects a population against infection, symptomatic illness, hospitalization and death under real-world conditions. The current research project aims to accurately estimate the effectiveness of both influenza and COVID-19 vaccines against respiratory virus-associated illness in the context of varying social determinants and observed disparities in health outcome. Graphic by Shireen Dooling

Richard Harth

Science writer , Biodesign Institute at ASU


NIH grant allows comparison of midlife experiences across the world

ASU professor to study mechanisms contributing to poorer mental, physical health of middle-aged Americans

November 7, 2022

Many American adults aged 40 to 65 are struggling. 

The life expectancy of this group is declining, driven by disease and “deaths of despair” like drug overdoses and suicide. Research from Arizona State University has shown they are also less healthy, mentally and physically, than previous generations of Americans were in midlife. Portrait of Frank Infurna, ASU associate professor of psychology. Associate Professor of psychology Frank Infurna. Photo by Rob Ewing Download Full Image

Frank Infurna, associate professor of psychology at ASU, is determined to find out why this is happening and what can be done to mitigate or even prevent these phenomena.

“Our previous work has shown that middle-aged adults in Germany, Mexico and South Korea are thriving. People born in the 1960s in those countries are doing better than people born in the 1940s and 1950s. But in the U.S., the opposite is true. Middle-aged Americans are doing worse than their same-age peers in other countries and compared to other birth cohorts of Americans,” Infurna said. “We want to know if these trends exist in other high-income countries like the U.S. and quantify any differences.”

Infurna was recently awarded five years of funding from the National Institute of Aging to dig into how the experience of middle-aged Americans directly compares to middle-aged adults in other wealthy, industrialized nations across the world.

The power of harmonized data

To study middle-aged Americans, Infurna relies on large datasets that include information about mental and physical health, years of education and finances. 

These data sets are made up of nationally representative samples, which means that demographic characteristics like age, race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, income, education and employment of the participant group are matched to the country as a whole. Such data sets give researchers like Infurna a broad picture of what middle-aged adults experience.

When the information that makes up these data sets is collected in different ways — for example cognitive health might be measured using two distinct questionnaires — researchers can only make indirect comparisons based on general trends. Previous work from Infurna’s lab has compared middle-aged Americans to peers in other countries, such as Mexico, South Korea, Australia and Germany, in this way.

Infurna’s current work will leverage harmonized data, which means the contents of one large-scale data set can be directly compared to another. This project will use nationally representative data sets from the U.S., EnglandSouth KoreaChinaMexico and parts of Europe, including Germany, Spain, France, Greece and Italy. In summary, the researchers will compare middle-aged Americans to their peers located in 16 other countries.

“These data sets are big, which is important for the questions we want to answer. The U.S. data set — The (University of Michigan) Health and Retirement Study — includes over 30,000 Americans older than 50 years,” Infurna said. “We expect that in total, we will be analyzing data from over 100,000 people across the world.”

The harmonized data will let the research team trace the life trajectories that lead to mental and physical health differences between middle-aged Americans and the rest of the world. They will be able to examine finances (like the impact of overall household wealth, income and debt), including specifics about out-of-pocket health care expenses. Comparison of physical activity levels and how middle-aged adults across the world balance caring of aging parents with having children are also possible topics of study.

“This work is the first step in studying the extent to which differences exist and uncovering reasons why differences exist across countries,” Infurna said. “Any findings could also contribute to identifying factors that can promote resilience among adults in midlife and inform prevention and intervention efforts.”

Science writer, Psychology Department


Krystal Tsosie to be ASU's first Indigenous human geneticist

November 4, 2022

Krystal Tsosie (Diné/Navajo Nation) is an advocate for Indigenous genomic and data sovereignty. She is a co-founder of the first U.S. Indigenous-led biobank, a 501(c)3 nonprofit research institution called the Native BioData Consortium. Her current research at Arizona State University centers on ethical engagement with Indigenous communities to ensure Indigenous peoples equitably benefit from precision health and genomic medicine. 

Tsosie’s research and educational endeavors have received international media attention in such outlets as The New York Times, PBS NOVA, Washington Post, NPR, The Atlantic, Forbes and The Boston Globe, among others.  Portrait of ASU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow Krystal Tsosie. Krystal Tsosie, an ASU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at ASU, will become an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences on Jan. 1, 2023. Photo by Samantha Lloyd Download Full Image

She is a current ASU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, and starting Jan. 1, 2023, she will be an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the first Indigenous human geneticist at ASU.

“I'm excited to come back to ASU and serve as an advocate for Indigenous communities. I want to bring all of these skill sets related to health inequities and genetic epidemiology back to the communities that I grew up with,” said Tsosie.

She is also one of two scholars selected as a 2022–2023 ENRICH Global Chair. The ENRICH (Equity for Indigenous Research and Innovation Coordinating Hub) program is a four-year initiative to create an international network of Indigenous and allied scholars working to advance Indigenous data sovereignty across law, public health, policy, and genomics and data sciences.

As of 2016, 80% of participants in genetics studies are of European descent, although the group makes up only about 16% of the world’s population. This can limit clinical utility of genomics technologies for members of communities who are underrepresented in data sets and health research. However, inclusion and equitable engagement of, particularly, Indigenous communities must be done carefully in order to not create further ethical harm.

“The goal of the ENRICH chair position is to advance digitally enabled futures for Indigenous peoples and communities,” said Tsosie. 

“We’re already working on a number of projects related to artificial intelligence and machine learning to try to see what that would look like in terms of protecting genomic information and data for Indigenous peoples. It’s a huge task but one that can revolutionize how Indigenous peoples exercise control over their own data.”

“Tsosie’s work aligns perfectly with our values at ASU and in the communities that we serve,” said Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences at The College. “She is leading genetics and bioethics research of value for Indigenous communities, and she is already a transformational addition to the university.” 

Her research focus is on Indigenous populations having data sovereignty and the agency to self-direct the decisions about their data. 

“If it's our data, we should be able to have at least some say about who accesses it, how it's used and also how it benefits us. There's a huge problem with the collection of data in that many times that data is a unilateral extraction. It comes out of communities into the hands of largely non-Indigenous researchers. And then how are the benefits of that research being directed back to those communities? It's a big question mark,” says Tsosie.

“We need to ensure that, if we make promises to communities that this research and innovations are going to benefit their health, we fulfill those promises sooner than waiting decades. Because people need access to therapeutics and technologies now.”

“When you’re talking about Indigenous peoples and genetic research, it’s important to acknowledge those times in the past when missteps were made — such as the Havasupai Tribe v. the Arizona Board of Regents lawsuit, which involved ASU. Remembrance of that process should continually call on all of us to better protect, engage and ultimately make way for Indigenous peoples to steward and govern research themselves,” Tsosie added, referencing the 2004 court case that addressed use of the tribe’s DNA samples, which were initially collected for genetic studies on Type 2 diabetes but were also used in other genetic studies.

Tsosie first came to ASU as an undergraduate majoring in microbiology. She was focused on studying cancer biology but really wanted to do work that would benefit her people. 

“I grew up using the Indian Health Services, and my father worked at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center for 42 years before retiring. It’s a system that I, my family members and community relies on for our care. As much as I am grateful for those services, we know that Indigenous peoples do not have the same equitable access to health care," Tsosie said.

“I left cancer biology because I wasn’t sure that my research, if it contributed to a therapeutic, would actually benefit my people. As an Indigenous person in science, ensuring that my work benefited them was of utmost importance to me."

She later pursued her PhD in genomics and health disparities at Vanderbilt University, which involved the engagement of Indigenous communities in the Dakotas. It was there that she co-founded the Native BioData Consortium with other Indigenous community members and scientists to think through the questions around data and genomic health equity and ensure that research decisions were really focused on these communities. 

“Who better to protect our data and improve research about us than Indigenous people themselves?” Tsosie said.

image title

Defense under secretary visits ASU MacroTechnology Works

November 4, 2022

Shyu, others at roundtable discuss pressing national security needs of research and fabrication, supply chain and workforce development

Heidi Shyu, under secretary of defense for research and engineering at the U.S. Department of Defense, visited Arizona State University on Tuesday to see how ASU has positioned itself to help bridge the critical gap between technology created in a lab and solutions that are applied in real life.

Shyu serves as the chief technology officer for the DOD, mandated with ensuring the technological superiority of the U.S. military, and is responsible for the research, development and prototyping activities across the DOD enterprise.

During her visit, she said that a “valley of death” lies between lab research and large-scale fabrication.

“What I’m looking for is to leverage as much innovation as possible across the U.S. and figure out how to bridge the ‘valley of death’ and get that innovation into the hands of our war fightersThis term covers soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen and -women.,” she said.

She visited the ASU MacroTechnology Works facility in Tempe, a unique lab and fabrication space that is open to both university researchers and community partners, from tiny ventures to big corporations.

“The fact we can tap into an incredible ecosystem right here is so impressive,” Shyu said after the tour. “The facility I just walked through, which allows small startups as well as faculty to tap into it, will be a major benefit.”

Shyu’s visit was important because the CHIPS and Science Act, passed with bipartisan support and signed into law this past summer, will distribute $52 billion to accelerate U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, an important step for economic competitiveness and national security. 

“From the DOD’s perspective, we need a secure supply chain, from within the U.S. – that’s No. 1,” Shyu said during a roundtable discussion.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the supply chain disruptions during the pandemic were a warning.

“We learned that we are very much dependent on overseas for our chips. Our overreliance on China is a scary situation,” he said.

“Right now, Russia is struggling to find any kinds of chips to put into their weapons systems. They’re taking them out of old washing machines.

“The defense system they had built over 100 years is now entirely moot because we have shut them out of the chips and they don’t have the capacity to produce them. We’re not far from that situation.”

Shyu said another priority is workforce development.

“The other thing, which is part of my responsibility, is STEM. We need to build a workforce to supply a talent base that not only the DOD needs but also our entire defense industry,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton agreed that workforce development is critical not only for national security but also for Arizona’s future.

“The long-term economic challenges from China will be the challenge of our lifetime, not just investing in manufacturing but in proper export control,” he said.

“Taiwan Semiconductor (Manufacturing Company) is the largest investment from a foreign entity in the U.S., and it’s happening right in our community. They won’t be a direct beneficiary of the CHIP and Science Act, but they’ll be able to take advantage of the workforce development. We want that to be a Taiwanese entity for decades to come.”

ASU President Michael Crow described how, as part of Arizona’s state-funded New Economy Initiative, the university is boosting the number of engineering graduates, growth that will serve the national objectives outlined in the CHIPS and Science Act.

“We’ve decided to use every means humanly available to go from 6,000 engineering students 10 years ago to 30,000 engineering students this year, and we believe we can build a 45,000-student, degree-granting college of engineering.

“Quality has accelerated in every case. Diversity has accelerated in every case. And intellectual fusion has accelerated in every case,” he said, noting that many students are working on defense-related projects.

ASU also is developing a program to upskill workers for the microelectronics industry – an urgent need voiced by Lisa Napolitano, vice president at Honeywell.

“Our products are very critical to the nuclear safety of our country, and we are on almost every mission that goes into space,” she said.

“When I’m trying to find new talent, it’s hard. We need people with four-year degrees, but two-year degrees are also important. We need those people in our fabrication labs.”

On Tuesday morning, Shyu heard about ASU’s work with the National Security Innovation Network to connect entrepreneurs to the defense industry and the DOD. Drew Trojanowski, assistant vice president for strategic initiatives at ASU, described how faculty were taught how to succinctly describe their technology and then received feedback on how to better meet the needs of the department.

This includes work ASU is doing in developing the Mission Acceleration Center, which provides DOD personnel, industry and an cademia mechanism to collaborate in a secure space so that industry — including startups — can better understand war fighter needs to then apply new technologies in field-deployable solutions.

Shyu praised the network for taking the initiative.

“How do we scale that?” she said. “I’m looking to scale this up across the nation.”

Top photo: Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu meets Associate Professor Zachary Holman to begin a tour of MacroTechology Works in the ASU Research Park on Tuesday. Shyu’s visit also included a microelectronics roundtable with President Michael Crow, Arizona congressional representatives and executives from Intel, Sandia National Laboratory, Honeywell and Advent Diamond. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


image title

ASU works to address nursing shortage through innovation, accessibility

November 4, 2022

Enrollment has increased 64% since 2019 at Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that enrollment in the college's prelicensure programs had increased 71% from 2020–22.

The fear has been building in the nursing industry for years. There would be a nursing shortage. A “silver tsunamiThe "silver tsunami" metaphor refers to the demographic phenomenon of baby boomer retirements.,” it was called.

No one could predict exactly when it would happen or how encompassing it would be.

Well, the time has come, and the numbers are stark.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nursing shortage could reach more than 1 million by the end of 2022. And that’s just the immediate crisis.

  • More than 50% of nurses in the United States are over the age of 55.
  • One in five health care workers quit their jobs during the pandemic.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the U.S. will need more than 203,000 new registered nurses every year through 2026 to offset the losses in a retiring workforce, but the number of nursing graduates has stabilized at approximately 155,000 annually.

“I think we’re in a dire situation,” said Judith Karshmer, dean of Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

That’s the problem. ASU is working on the solution.

How we got here

Why the nursing shortage? Several factors:

Start with the fact there are more opportunities for women — traditionally the majority of nurses — in the workplace.

“Back in the dark ages, when I went to school it was, ‘You want to be a teacher or a nurse?’” Karshmer said. “There are many more options now for women.”

Heidi Sanborn, clinical assistant professor and director of the RN-BSN and Concurrent Enrollment Program in the nursing college, said the growth and popularity of the nurse practitioner position also has triggered the shortage.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the number of nurse practitioner graduates more than tripled from 2007 to 2017.

“Nurse practitioners serve a really important role. A lot of times they’re utilized in areas where there is a shortage of providers, like rural or medically underserved populations,” Sanborn said. “We’re trying to grow that workforce as well. But, of course, you have to be a nurse typically before you become a nurse practitioner, so that siphons off nursing staff. It’s for a good reason, but it’s just exacerbating the shortage.”

The timing couldn’t be worse. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2030, 21% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older and, in all likelihood, needing more medical care than they did in their 30s or 40s.

“Every one of us, when we get older, is going to probably have some sort of chronic condition, unless we’re incredibly lucky,” Sanborn said. “That requires a medical touchpoint, whether that’s at a doctor’s office, a cardiac clinic, a heart clinic, all of which need nurses. That’s the downside of living older. We fall apart.”

Finally, the nursing shortage has been accelerated by the pandemic. Not only did one in five health care workers quit their jobs but another one in five nurses age 52 or older indicated they would retire within another five years, according to the 2020 National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

“So, we’ve known that our nursing workforce has been aging and we’re not bringing in enough students to replace the baby boomer generation who’s getting ready to retire,” Sanborn said. “We’ve known for a very long time that projections said we were really going to go off the cliff and get into big trouble around 2024. Then you add COVID to the mix.

“Now you have younger nurses who are moving away from bedside for a variety of reasons. Life choices. Life balance. Nursing is hard. It’s just a very physically and mentally demanding job.”

The good news? (Yes, there’s good news).

Where ASU comes in

ASU’s focus on innovation and accessibility is helping to negate the shortage. Karshmer said enrollment in the nursing college’s prelicensure programs has increased 64% from 2019 to 2022.

How is ASU doing it?

For one, the university has created five different pathways for students to earn nursing degrees.

  • The traditional prelicensure clinical nursing program.
  • The accelerated BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) in which a bachelor’s graduate in a different field can help complete a 50-credit-hour accelerated BSN program.
  • The concurrent enrollment program (CEP), where a student enrolled in a community college's associate degree nursing program can simultaneously enroll in the online CEP with ASU.
  • The RN to BSN program, in which a student with a community college or diploma-school nursing degree can graduate with a BSN.
  • The Entry to Nursing pathway, where a student with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing can complete a 53-credit-hour Master of Science nursing program.

“That is really the bread and butter of what our industry needs: more nurses,” Sanborn said. “ASU has put an incredible amount of work into growing those programs.”

Karshmer added, “We’ve really worked hard to say it’s not a one-size-fits-all profession. You can be a nurse in an acute-care setting, like an ICU or emergency room. You could be a school nurse, or you could work in a clinic or you could do video visits. I think that’s another reason (our program) has become attractive.”

Marialena Murphy, chief nursing officer at Mayo Clinic, which works in partner with ASU, said she has been impressed by the Edson College’s desire to think outside the box.

“The openness and willingness to try different models and different ways has made it a fantastic partnership,” Murphy said.

ASU isn’t just creating opportunities at its Downtown Phoenix campus, though. To go where there’s need, the nursing college has expanded to the ASU West campus and ASU at Lake Havasu (the first cohort of 32 students will graduate this year), and there are plans to build programs at the Polytechnic campus and the ASU California Center.

In addition, ASU is contemplating a strategy in which it would partner with a rural hospital and clinic, deliver to students the didactic coursework over Zoom and have that hospital or clinic hire part-time faculty to be clinical instructors.

“I like to describe it as a rapid strike force where there are pockets of need,” Karshmer said. “Our goal is to provide opportunities where the people live so they can work where they live.”

The final step: Secure funds for a mobile simulation center. Currently, students from Lake Havasu have to come to the Downtown Phoenix campus at least twice each semester for two to three days to work in the simulation lab, which is run by registered nurses and provides students clinical decision-making skills.

But if ASU could take a mobile lab to the students, it would create a complete locally based degree program and, hopefully, lessen the nursing shortage in those communities.

“What we want to do is bring the program to them so that they can apply their knowledge in those health care institutions, in their own community and then be a fully prepared workforce the minute they graduate,” Karshmer said.

“That’s really the intent of what we’re trying to do.”

Top photo: Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Instructor Dawn Bedwell goes over an infusion pump with a group of nursing students at the Mercado building in downtown Phoenix in March. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News