ASU researcher advances the science of protein sequencing with NIH Innovator Award


October 20, 2022

The first draft of the human genome took more than a decade of research and cost some $3 billion. Today, new techniques for high-speed DNA sequencing have radically reduced the time and cost to decrypt roughly 3 billion base pairs that form the blueprint for human life.

Yet the human genome is far from the whole story. To fully understand the biological underpinnings of health and disease, scientists must probe the world of proteins — large, complex molecules required for the structure, function and regulation of the body's tissues and organs. Graphic illustration of a close-up view of proteins' structure, represented as several blue coils with string-like strands of various colors wrapping around them. Chao Wang, a researcher with the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics at Arizona State University, and his colleagues are advancing an ambitious project: developing new methods for sequencing individual protein molecules using a rapid, accurate and inexpensive method. Download Full Image

Now, Chao Wang, a researcher with the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics at Arizona State University, and his colleagues are advancing an ambitious project: developing new methods for sequencing individual protein molecules using a rapid, accurate and inexpensive method.

Single-molecule protein sequencing of this kind holds the potential to revolutionize diagnostic medicine through the identification of protein biomarkers for cancer and other deadly diseases, provide earlier and more accurate diagnoses and deepen our understanding of how healthy cells function.

“Sequencing proteins and analyzing their post-translational modifications are particularly important for the studies of heart disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes,” says Wang, who is also an associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering at ASU. “One important future use of this technology is single-cell level proteomic analysis, which can have profound impact on both disease diagnostics and therapeutics.”

Wang’s work combines nanoscience with biotechnology and focuses on nanofabrication, nanoelectronics, nanofluidics, plasmonics and biosensing.

Multipurpose building blocks

In addition to maintaining proper biological functioning of cells and tissues throughout the body, protein interactions are implicated in many diseases. Ideally, researchers would like to read protein sequences with the ease of current DNA sequencing methods, investigating the complexities of protein behavior and finding new therapies for a broad range of protein-linked maladies, including cystic fibrosis, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Until now however, the goal has proved challenging and elusive.

Portrait of ASU Associate Professor Chao Wang.

Chao Wang is a researcher with the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics at Arizona State University and an associate professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.

Unlike DNA, which is composed of just four nucleotide letters, proteins are made up of some 20 different amino acids, which bind together to form sequences, before folding into complex 3D configurations. These 20 amino acids arrange themselves to form tens of thousands of proteins in the body.

To further this research, Wang has received the prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. In 2022, the NIH awarded over $200 million to support transformative biomedical research projects under four research categories. The NIH Director's New Innovator Award was established in 2007 as part of its High-Risk, High-Reward Research program to “accelerate the pace of biomedical, behavioral and social science discoveries by supporting exceptionally creative scientists with highly innovative research.”

“This award is indeed a great honor and surprise. The opportunities ASU provided to me during the past few years have really allowed me to work across disciplinary boundaries to pursue crazy but scientifically meaningful ideas,” Wang says. “This award certainly marks a new beginning for my journey ahead. It provides not only the funds that are otherwise difficult to obtain for this project, but also more confidence to continue my multidisciplinary path in both research and education.”

Stephen Phillips, director of the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, notes that electrical engineers don’t often earn this award.

“Chao Wang’s challenging work across several disciplines in engineering, biology and health reflects the impressive level of innovation and creativity that this award is intended to further,” Phillips says. “His ongoing efforts to leverage transdisciplinary ideas to accomplish new results is sure to inspire others to follow his lead.”

RELATED: ASU professor to study new genome editing tools with NIH Innovator Award

Sequence of innovations

Currently, the gold standard for sequencing proteins is mass spectrometry, but the method has a variety of limitations. For many applications, mass spectrometry is simply not sensitive enough. The technique, which requires bulky, expensive machinery and technological expertise, requires about a million protein copies in a sample to make an accurate detection.

Researchers would like to identify individual protein molecules, which would allow the ferreting out of details particular to each separate protein, including modifications that may affect the protein’s function.

To make single-molecule protein sequencing an affordable and practical tool, several difficulties plaguing current efforts must be overcome. These include sensing system reliability, slow readout, high noise and high cost.

The new project addresses these issues with the design of an on-chip integrated, electronic system. The proteins are read sequentially using a low noise nanopore composed of sapphire for greater accuracy.

The device is outfitted with additional photonic nanostructures, electronic device components, and circuit elements capable of translating single-molecule protein fingerprints into electronic signals. This synchronous recording will improve the accuracy, potentially enabling the identification of all 20 amino acids at a higher throughput than existing methods.

The researchers will further improve protein identification using deep-learning algorithms. The result is a portable device capable of rapid, accurate, inexpensive protein sequencing, poised to improve data throughput by two to three orders of magnitude.

Novel nanopores

The idea of using nanopores for sequencing has been around awhile, and several variants of the method have been used successfully for DNA sequencing. The technique feeds sequences of DNA nucleotides or, in the case of proteins, amino acids, through a very narrow pore, much like a length of thread passing through a needle’s eyelet. The nanopore must be fabricated a few billionths of a nanometer in diameter. A detector then scans each member of the DNA or protein sequence as it passes through the nanopore.

The new single-molecule protein sequencing technique makes use of a very low-noise, all-sapphire nanopore fluidic device, as well as two different sensing modes, which combined dramatically improve the accuracy of the amino acid identifications. The use of sapphire also provides improved structural stability over other materials, a crucial consideration for a device that must be engineered to exacting standards at nanoscale dimensions.

Although the amino acids in the protein sequence are fluorescently tagged, the method does not require expensive and labor-intensive fluorescent microscopy to read the signals, which are picked up by the optoelectronic channel of the circuit.

The use of advanced semiconductor chip design and manufacturing technologies has the potential to lower the costs, decrease the instrument size and directly digitize data for biology and health care use. Such advances can accelerate translation between bench and bedside.

“Chao’s research represents a deeply creative marriage of innovative nanotechnology with fresh insights in the life sciences,” said Hao Yan, director of the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, noting that Wang is now the 4th recipient from his center to land this prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator award. “I am thrilled at the announcement of this much-deserved award and believe this research holds the potential for transformative advances in medicine, particularly for the early and accurate detection of disease,” Yan said.

The single-molecule protein sequencing device is Wang’s latest nanobiotechnology creation. In earlier research, he demonstrated the power of combining semiconductor and nanophotonic technologies to design faster, more accurate, less expensive and more broadly accessible biosensing technologies, including portable devices for the detection of infectious agents, such as Ebola and SARS CoV-2, as well as for African swine fever.

Grant ID: DP2-GM149552

Richard Harth

Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU

480-727-0378

ASU professor appointed to first federal sustainable purchasing committee in the US


October 19, 2022

With discretionary spending totaling $1.6 trillion last fiscal year, the federal government has a lot of purchasing power. Spending those dollars sustainably may be key to helping the U.S. achieve its climate change goals. 

Nicole Darnall, a professor of management and public policy in Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability in the College of Global Futures, is pointing the way as a member of the nation’s first advisory committee focused on sustainable federal spending.  A graphic image of a green earth with the White House and sustainable energy and buildings. Image by Hannah Kalas Download Full Image

As the director and co-founder of the Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative, Darnall was primed for her new role. Six years ago, she led a pro bono project involving faculty in ASU’s School of Public Affairs, a team of graduate students and the city of Phoenix. The project’s goal was to advise the city about how to reduce its carbon footprint by making more eco-friendly purchasing decisions. Today, her influence has expanded as a member of the Biden administration’s new Acquisition Policy Federal Advisory Committee. 

Here, Darnall discusses her new role and how the federal government can achieve the most environmental bang for the taxpayer’s buck. 

Question: What is sustainable purchasing, and why is it important for the government to implement it?

Answer: Sustainable purchasing — known as SP for short — introduces environmental and social criteria into purchasing decisions. Government purchasing accounts for about 1 in every 4 dollars in the U.S. economy alone. By leveraging its enormous purchasing power, the federal government can deliver public services while providing significant sustainability benefits. SP creates incentives within the supply chain for companies to reduce their emissions and radically expand their global production of sustainable products and services. These are the reasons why the Biden administration is promoting SP in numerous executive orders, including one that requires agencies to consider a supplier’s greenhouse gas emissions when making procurement decisions and to give preference to bids from companies with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: What expertise is needed to effectively address this issue? How does your expertise fit into this picture? 

A: We need individuals who understand the existing procurement process and existing regulations and sustainability. This requires imagination and thinking creatively about where we need to go, not just where we are today. There’s a lot of inertia within government. Incentive structures need to shift, as do points of responsibility. We need individuals who understand how you create change within organizations so that we can realize the successful sustainability outcomes we're looking for.

I have been studying organizations’ decisions to be sustainable for more than 20 years at ASU and elsewhere. Most of my research examines organization change from a sustainability point of view.

A headshot of

Nicole Darnall

Q: You’re a co-founder and director of ASU’s Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative. Tell me about that. 

A: SPRI is an international initiative involving scholars, students, and government and community leaders. SPRI’s goals are to produce actionable knowledge about SP, apply rigorous assessment tools to determine the ways in which organizations can advance SP more successfully and partner with organizations seeking to advance SP.

Other SPRI leaders are Justin Stritch, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs, and Shirley-Ann Behravesh, assistant professor in the Thunderbird School of Global Management. We coordinate teams of 19 international University Research Fellows (in Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Republic of Korea and the U.S.). Fellows have contributed data on 4,500 local governments’ SP activities to a shared database. 

Our practitioner partnerships, public reports, academic publications, webinars/presentations, blogs and social media outreach assist practitioners in developing successful SP programs. SPRI has partnered with ASU’s University Sustainability Practices and Staff Council on sustainability to assess the barriers to and facilitators of SP at ASU. We have also collaborated with the cities of Tempe, Phoenix and Glendale to help them embed sustainability in their procurement decisions. Beyond Arizona, SPRI faculty have partnered with the states of Utah and New Mexico to provide advice on how to implement SP. 

Q: Who are the other members of the advisory committee, and what is their mission?

A: The 28 inaugural members were selected from more than 100 nominated experts in sustainable purchasing nationwide. They are a balanced mix of representatives from federal agencies, state and local governments, industry (including small business), associations and academia. We report directly to the General Services Administration to ensure that climate and sustainability considerations are at the forefront of federal acquisitions.

The committee is organized into three subcommittees. One will focus on the workforce: training, recruitment and retention needs — all related to pivoting the federal workforce in a way to successfully address sustainability goals. The second will focus on new policies and regulations that are needed to serve as a foundation for the shift across federal government purchasing. The third will focus on industry and industry partnerships, innovations needed to advance sustainability within the federal government’s purchasing process. 

Q: What does success look like for this committee? 

A: Success would mean helping the federal government meet its climate change goals. It's also about demonstrating leadership within the procurement space. We will be especially focused on quick wins. As someone who studies organizational change, I believe that's really smart because quick wins help fuel momentum. They help individuals who are a bit skeptical realize that sustainability change is possible. The committee has a real opportunity to develop a framework that other governments could follow if we land this right.

Q: Why is government involvement essential? 

A: Voluntary efforts only go so far because they're voluntary. For every volunteer organization, there will be dozens and dozens of other organizations that don't volunteer. Our climate goals are ambitious, and they're needed. Volunteerism is not sufficient.

Q: Why is it important for an ASU representative to serve on this committee?

A: Across the U.S. we see individual researchers who are studying aspects of this work. But the collective knowledge that we are advancing at ASU is unique. ASU’s Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative is collaborating with a suite of scholars within the School of Public Affairs, Thunderbird School of Global Management, W. P. Carey School of BusinessSchool for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Sustainability. We’ve been thinking through the purchasing issue from many different directions to advance cutting-edge research. I am very eager to bring forward our lessons learned to help inform the work of the committee.

Lori Baker

Communications Specialist, Knowledge Enterprise

 
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The heat is on

October 19, 2022

Researchers aim to find more effective ways of coping with overexposure to extreme high temperatures

"The heat is on” — a phrase used to figuratively express a high-pressure situation or even an imminent threat — describes what Konrad Rykaczewski says we, as the human inhabitants of Earth, are actually facing today in a world in which actual heat and its consequences are intensifying.

Increasing temperatures are already having dramatic impacts that are expected to accelerate until we find ways to better shield ourselves from the heat or adapt to live with it, says Rykaczewski, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

Due to climate change and poor working and living conditions in many places around the world, overexposure to heat is expected to remain a persistent threat to human well-being as a major cause of illness and death, an impediment to quality of life and a drag on economic activity and prosperity, says Rykaczewski, who is also a researcher in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.

report from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute confirm why rising temperatures are cause for serious concern.

Rykaczewski says a big roadblock to solutions is the lack of a comprehensive understanding of the progression of the physical dangers posed by extreme heat exposure, both indoors and outdoors, from simple physical discomfort to heat stress, physical strain, sickness and loss of life.

In the quest to find better ways to prevent heat overexposure and also adequately cope with it when it happens, Rykaczeswki is teaming with ASU colleagues he has been collaborating with for three years, Assistant Professor Ariane Middel and Associate Professor Jennifer Vanos.

Middel, who has joint faculty positions in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, is an urban climatologist focusing on the development of urban design and infrastructure to protect people from perils posed by extreme heat and climatic uncertainty.

Vanos, a faculty member in ASU’s School of Sustainability, works with Middel in ASU’s Urban Climate Research Center. Her expertise includes studies of sustainable and healthy urban spaces with an emphasis on extreme heat, air pollution and vulnerable populations.

Their work with Rykaczewski has been focusing on better ways to protect those populations from debilitating heat exposure. The results of their work have recently earned $2 million in funding over the next four years from the National Science Foundation's Leading Engineering for America’s Prosperity, Health, and Infrastructure program.

“This funding allows us to come at this big societal challenge of extreme heat impacts on health from multiple angles due to our diverse backgrounds,” Vanos says. “Because of this, our approaches are novel and will enable us to study the problem in new ways, helping us create new methods and solutions. It’s exactly what the NSF wants in convergence research.”

sensor-equipped manikin is a key tool in heat exposure research

A human-shaped thermal manikin named ANDI, equipped with sensors and other technologies to measure the effects of human exposure to different heat intensities, is helping researchers determine the human thermoregulatory system’s response to different heat exposure conditions. The manikin is attached to an apparatus that enables it to simulate walking, and its blue covering helps to simulate sweating on its surface. Photo courtesy of Thermetrics

With that support, they are developing next-generation experimental tools to measure heat exposure and complementary models to better predict the effects of human interaction with warm to extremely hot environments.

They’ll use the tools and models to provide extensive data about human exposure to heat and the potential effects on diverse populations in differing environmental scenarios, as well as ways to effectively deal with extreme heat in various circumstances.

Among the expected outcomes are new fieldwork methods to quantify the impacts of convective and radiative heat fluxes on 35 parts of the human body and the progression of the resulting heat stress and strain triggered by extreme heat conditions in different built environments.

Among the tools they are using is a mobile biometeorological sensing station named MaRTy, created and deployed by Middel for her work to help metropolitan areas confront urban heat-island effects that have been escalating rapidly in high-population regions in recent years.

There’s also ASU ANDI, a human-shaped and sensor-equipped manikin made by Thermetrics, a developer of thermal testing equipment technology, including thermal manikin systems. A manikin is a life-size anatomical model used to represent the human form for medical studies and other scientific experimentation, research and education.

Thermal manikins can be instrumented to measure the effects of human exposure to different heat intensities and mimic the human thermoregulatory system’s response to different thermal situations. ANDI, for example, generates "metabolic" heat, sweats, breathes and walks, Rykaczewski says.

For ASU’s purposes, the ANDI manikin, funded by a $413,000 NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program grant awarded to Rykaczewski, Vanos, Middel and others in 2021, has been modified to enable measurements in extremely hot indoor and outdoor settings.

“Our manikin can be exposed to extreme heat longer than what could be safely done with human subjects, so it enables unique measurements of current and future climate impacts on people,” Rykaczewski says.

When not being used in the field, ANDI will reside in a new environmental chamber that is part of the Human Biometrology Lab directed by Vanos in ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health.

The temperature, humidity, radiation and wind in the chamber can be adjusted to expose ANDI not only to simulations of the hottest summer day in Arizona, but also to the most humid summer heat in Florida — as well as even hotter climates expected in the future, Rykaczewski says.

Seed funding from Fulton Schools has been used to equip the chamber with a walk-in wind tunnel that can expose the manikin to airflow of up to 4.5 miles per hour.

The tunnel was built by Rykaczewski, Vanos and Middel, along with Fulton Schools senior mechanical engineering students Lyle Bartels and Daniel Martinez, mechanical engineering graduate student Shri Harri Viswanathan and aerospace engineering graduate student Sai Susmitha Guddanti.

MaRTy, a mobile biometeorological sensing station used in heat research

Assistant Professor Ariane Middel, an affiliate in ASU’s Urban Climate Research Center, adjusts instruments on MaRTy, a mobile biometeorological sensing station. MaRTy is among the tools that will be used to provide data for a new ASU research project aimed at developing ways to protect people, especially vulnerable populations, from overexposure to extreme environmental heat. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

Through ANDI’s capabilities and other advanced tools, the research team expects to develop more precise ways to quantify the impacts of heat on humans.

“ANDI and MaRTy will become best friends, conducting a lot of outdoor field work together,” Middel says. “MaRTy will measure the impact of the built environment on radiative fluxes, and ANDI can tell us how the human body will respond to those fluxes.”

The researchers will also develop compact environmental heat exposure models that link with computational manikins like ANDI. In addition, the team will compile a database of common indoor and outdoor “heatscapes.”

Those models will be used to develop personalized heat illness “riskscapes” to indicate the potential impacts of extreme heat across a range of physically diverse people in various segments of the U.S. population.

Rykaczewski says ANDI and the infrared thermography imaging that are important tools in this work should also be useful for producing visually striking multimedia demonstrations that the team can use to showcase the results of its research at public exhibits, including at the popular ASU Open Door.

In a related project also supported by the NSF, Rykaczewski and Professor Stavros Kavouras, assistant dean of ASU’s College of Health Solutions, are exploring various aspects of human sweat. Their goal is to measure the microscale dynamics of sweat evaporation in various contexts across a large set of environmental complexities and situational variants.

Considering the role sweat plays in the body’s thermoregulation process, Rykaczewski says there is still too little known about the underlying workings of thermofluidic mechanisms on a sweat gland-length scale.

He and Kavouras will combine physiological and engineering approaches in efforts to significantly expand quantitative information about the process of sweat evaporation.

That information should yield new data relevant to fields ranging from the development of new medical diagnostics and health care practices to the design of built environments in ways that provide protection from severe overheating.

ASU researchers built environmental chamber to do heat exposure research

An environmental chamber being used for heat exposure research is providing a range of adjustable temperatures, humidity levels, radiation and wind conditions to test the impacts of various thermal environments on people. Outside the chamber (from left) are two of the research leaders, Associate Professor Jennifer Vanos and Associate Professor Konrad Rykaczewski. Inside the chamber (from left) are mechanical engineering students Lyle Bartels and Daniel Martinez, aerospace engineering graduate student Sai Susmitha Guddanti and mechanical engineering student Shri Harri Viswanathan, who are assisting in the research and constructed the chamber. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

The researchers foresee results of the two projects improving methods and devices for assessing the heat exchange and transfer processes between our bodies and various surrounding environments.

“We want to provide new knowledge that can help guide the making of more intelligently designed public infrastructure, buildings, homes and even clothing that will shield people from overexposure to heat,” Rykaczewski says.

That knowledge could lead to advances in manufacturing clothing that better protects the body from heat, as well as optimizes air flow and air conditioning systems to provide more thermal comfort in workplaces, modes of transportation and structures of all sizes, shapes and building materials.

The scope of support for these projects will also allow ASU researchers to provide Thermetrics, which is the team’s industrial partner in the NSF-funded Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) sweat project, with the know-how to design a more realistic “sweating skin” that would boost the capabilities of the company’s thermal manikins.

Top photo: Infrared thermography is a tool ASU researchers are using to better understand the build-up and movement of environmental heat. Thermographic imagers detect how heat radiates from objects, producing images of temperature distribution. Some types of infrared cameras can quantify spatial temperature and sweat droplet distribution on the human body on a sweat gland-length scale. Understanding that process and similar biological and environmental processes can lead to solutions for mitigating and coping with the impacts of high temperatures. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Joe Kullman

Science writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

ASU faculty member gives financial planning tips for holiday inflation


October 17, 2022

As the holiday season approaches, the fear of inflation has some shoppers concerned about the cost of holiday shopping. 

A recent survey found that half of consumers are heading to stores early this year to get a head start on their holiday shopping, with nearly 20% starting their shopping as early as October.  Portrait of ASU Senior Lecturer Debra Radway. Debra Radway, senior lecturer at the W. P. Carey School of Business Download Full Image

RELATED: Holiday shopping deals in October?

Here, Debra Radway, senior lecturer at the W. P. Carey School of Business who teaches financial planning courses at Arizona State University and ASU Online, talks about how inflation will play a role in consumer spending, and how families can prepare for this holiday season and beyond.

Question: How will inflation impact middle- to low-income families this holiday season? 

Answer: The cost of goods and services that impact most middle and low-income families are up significantly this year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from August 2021 to August 2022, rent is up 6.7%, household energy costs are up 13%, food at home is up 13.4% and gasoline is up 24.6%. Although the increases are moderating recently and some costs like gasoline are falling, salary increases have not kept up with these rising costs. This will leave families with less money to spend on gifts and holiday entertaining.

Q: Is it too late or are there things people can do now to lessen the financial impact? 

A: Making a list of who you want to buy holiday gifts for and setting a budget for your total and per-person gift expenditures will help minimize overspending. For example, once you know you are budgeting $50 on a gift for your mom, you can start looking for items that would be a thoughtful gift and take advantage of pre-holiday sales. Many retailers are anticipated to have extra inventory this year, so you may be able to find deals earlier in the holiday season.

A way to save a substantial amount of time and money on holiday gifts while maintaining the joy of giving is by doing a family gift exchange. We have been doing this for years in my family. Instead of buying a gift for every sibling and parent, we draw names anonymously through drawnames.com. Each family member gets the name of another family member and their wish list. We then proceed to buy one special gift, based on the agreed-upon budget, for the chosen family member.  We all get together and exchange the secret Santa gifts. If you have a family of 10 people and have a $35 gift budget, you will buy one gift for $35 instead of 10 gifts for $350.

Q: Looking beyond the holiday season, what can people do to plan their finances better in the coming year?

A:  Here are my suggestions for healthy finances.

1. Financial health checkup.

A financial health checkup will tell you if you are spending more than you make. Have your credit card balances increased since a year ago? Has your total savings and checking increased or decreased since a year ago? Have you withdrawn money from investment accounts over the last year? If you are spending more than you make, you will see one or all of the following: credit card balances increasing, investment withdrawals or savings decreasing.  

2. Pay off credit card debt.  

If you aren’t able to pay off credit card debt on a regular basis, you probably shouldn’t have them. About half of Americans pay off their credit cards each month, and the other half pay costly interest rates of 18% to 22% or higher. Cut the cards up and start paying down the debt by eliminating high-interest cards first or low balances first. Once they are paid off, close the account, and if you need a card, keep only one card at home and not in your wallet going forward. 

3. Check your credit report and credit score.

You can check your credit report for free using a trusted site, such as AnnualCreditReport.com, to make sure that all credit transactions are being properly reported. Your credit history will determine how much you pay for future loans, so improving your credit can save you money.

4. Pay cash for purchases.

Individuals spend less when they have to depend on cash for a transaction. So after you cover your monthly bills for housing and cars, take the leftover money and split it into categories such as groceries, eating out and entertainment, clothing, etc., and pay with cash. When the cash is gone in that category, you need to wait until the next month or pick up more work. One thing we learned during the pandemic is that we spend a lot of money each month on things we can do without. 

5. Take advantage of a company match in your 401(k) or 403(b). 

Many employers will encourage you to save for retirement by matching what you put into your retirement accounts. This is free money that you should take advantage of. If you make $40,000 and your employer matches your first 6% of contributions, you can contribute $2,400 to your 401(k) and your employer will put an additional $2,400 into your account. It is worth it to get spending under control and take advantage of this “free money.”

Q: Anything else you'd like to add that people should be thinking about when it comes to their finances?

A: Take a look at your automobile costs. Many families spend a significant amount on their cars. Some families are spending close to their housing costs on the vehicles they drive. So extending the life of a car or purchasing a used car instead of a new car can substantially cut the costs of the car payment, auto insurance and licensing.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager, ASU Online

New gas separation method improves sustainability of product production

ASU researchers developing organic membranes with nanopores to improve industrial efficiency


October 17, 2022

Did you know that the synthetic fibers of your clothing or the plastic packaging of your snacks start as petroleum?

Getting petroleum to a point that it can be used in product production, petroleum refining or in the petrochemical industry all requires a labor-intensive process that uses gases. Photo illustration inspired by the structure of covalent organic frameworks, featuring several hexagonal forms stacked atop each other.. An illustration inspired by the structure of covalent organic frameworks that Arizona State University researchers Kailong Jin and Jerry Lin are working to develop into membranes. Image courtesy Erika Gronek, ASU/Midjourney Download Full Image

These industries need to separate ethylene, propane and xylene isomers, whose molecular sizes are usually less than one nanometer in diameter, which is incredibly small. A millimeter, for example, is made up of one million nanometers. These molecules are conventionally separated from each other by distillation or other energy-intensive thermal processes, but ASU researchers are developing a more energy-efficient, membrane-based molecular separation process.

Kailong Jin leads a research group as an assistant professor of chemical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He is the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation-funded research project to develop membranes with pores smaller than one nanometer, which would separate the molecular gas or vapor mixtures from each other.

Jin’s focus is on developing a nanoporous material for the membranes. The experimental material is a polymer base called a covalent organic framework, sometimes referred to as a COF.

The membranes will reduce thermal energy used and carbon emissions produced during molecular separation.

Covalent organic frameworks are a type of crosslinked polymers that exhibit a crystalline structure; this means they are uniform in their atomic arrangement and stable in their behavior. Crystalline materials often have regular structures that are predictable based on their building blocks, making them ideal for experimentation where other variables will change systematically, in this case the pore size of the membrane. A COF has a regular pore size structure that can be manipulated: tuned from 0.5 nanometers all the way up to 5 nanometers.

Using different pore sizes, one can separate materials by design. For example, to separate gas molecules that measure 0.5 nanometers from those that measure 0.6 nanometers, the pore size must be tuned to 0.55 nanometers. The molecule that is 0.5 nanometers will pass through the membrane, while the molecule that is 0.6 nanometers will be unable to. 

A graphic illustrating the gas separation process, in which gas molecules of the appropriate size pass through the covalent organic framework membrane and its polymer support.

Illustration of the gas separation process, in which gas molecules of the appropriate size pass through the stacked covalent organic framework membrane and its polymer support. Image courtesy Kailong Jin

The challenge of Jin’s work is that the covalent organic framework materials are not easily usable for manufacturing, as they typically come in the form of a powder. In order to separate molecules from each other, the membrane material must be in the form of a sheet that gases are forced through.

Jin’s research group has developed a new method to synthesize these COF membrane sheets. The powdered materials can be first exfoliated and then assembled into a membrane sheet by a scalable filtration coating method. The method disperses and suspends these exfoliated COF sheets in a solution, then uses another filtration process to deposit these COF sheets onto the support substrate, which creates an integrated membrane. Once this integrated membrane is complete, it can separate tiny gas molecules.

ASU Regents Professor Jerry Lin, co-primary investigator of the NSF grant project, will then test the gas separation performance of the synthesized COF membranes. Currently, the research is focused on separating gases ethylene, propane and xylene isomers used in industries such as petroleum refining. Products derived from petrochemicals are used in building materials, paint, packaging, clothing and medical equipment.

The gaseous mixture is separated for downstream chemical reactions or other applications. Once the process is fine-tuned, the membranes could be used in industries far beyond petroleum refining.

Two doctoral students, Richard Nile and Jose Cazares, are now working on a COF-related material for liquid and gas separation research, under the guidance of Jin and Lin. The NSF grant will allow them to add one or two additional student researchers. The added help will expedite the development of their COF membrane, improving the energy efficiency of manufacturing methods as quickly as possible in the race against climate change.

Hayley Hilborn

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

What started as a few women walking in safety is now a force of inclusion that attracts dozens

ASU students help lead group that today stages weekly walks throughout metro area


October 13, 2022

Nearly five months ago, six women started walking together at Phoenix parks to ensure a safe experience. Photos and descriptions of their first walk posted on social media were shared, and then shared some more.

Soon, more joined them on a second walk, even more on the third, and, well… Group photo of members of Phoenix Babes Who Walk at a park. Members of Phoenix Babes Who Walk gather at a recent outing. Photo courtesy Grace Juliet McWilliams Download Full Image

That first walk in mid-May today has become a schedule of mostly weekly walks, held along different routes throughout the greater Phoenix area. Phoenix Babes Who Walk typically attracts between 100 and 150 participants of different genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and physical abilities.

Participants make connections and build friendships while confidently making their way along those streets with safety in numbers, said one of the group’s leaders, Arizona State University sophomore Grace Juliet McWilliams.

McWilliams, a student in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development, is working toward a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit leadership management with a minor in recreational therapy.

She said she became part of the group early, joining it on that third walk, which attracted 200 participants. She applied and was appointed for one of its now 10 leader positions. McWilliams is one of two ASU students and one alum in the group’s leadership.

“We wanted to create a safe space for anybody and everybody who wanted to come,” she said. “Now we’re all over town. We know the Phoenix area is vast, so we strive to have different walking locations every week. This is to ensure that we can reach the people of our community wherever they are.”

Directing dozens of participants is “the best challenge anyone can ever have,” McWilliams said. “It can be stressful, but it’s a good thing to stress about.”

Five core values

The rules for participation are simple. The group adheres to five core values, she said: community, inclusivity, wellness, courage and honesty.

“So long as people uphold those values, we are open to having them,” McWilliams said.

The group originally was known as City Girls Who Walk Phoenix, taking its name from a similar gathering in New York City. Then the decision was made for the group to become more inclusive, including persons who are non-binary as well as LGBTQ, which prompted selecting a more inclusive name.

“We chose ‘babes’ because it is beyond ‘girls.’ We didn’t want the name to be a barrier,” said McWilliams, who said the term is not meant to be derogatory and instead, is intended to be empowering and endearing. “Anybody can be a babe,” she said.

She said some administrative tasks are still pending, such as learning how the group might set up more walks in the Tempe area to coincide with major events on the ASU Tempe campus, and registering the group as a nonprofit organization.

The group is planning to hold more free community events, such as an added hike during the month, and even a Halloween movie night in October.

Course lessons apply to managing group

McWilliams said she’s applied much of what she’s learned from her nonprofit leadership and special events management classes to running the group, and she often finds herself raising her hand to contribute in class discussions based on her experience as a group leader.

“Our leadership team divides the work equitably, with overlapping responsibilities and shared tasks and projects. We take inspiration from the nonprofit world when it comes to management, events and marketing. I have used many of the skills developed in my nonprofit major in co-leading this group,” McWilliams said.

One of her instructors is Erin Schneiderman, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“We take great pride in teaching our aspiring event professionals the foundational elements of planning so they have the tools and confidence to design their own initiatives in areas that they are passionate about,” Schneiderman said. “Grace is a wonderful example of a student pursuing a meaningful and inclusive project, implementing components learned in the classroom such as goal setting, marketing and programming.”

McWilliams said she and her fellow leaders are always trying to make the walks even more inclusive, including providing accommodations for those with barriers to participation.

“It’s a community for everyone, a community that found me,” McWilliams said.

Mark J. Scarp

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

602-496-0001

 
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ASU students come up with app idea to help caregivers

October 13, 2022

CareUp wins 1st-place prize at Hacks for Humanity event

The team positioned its chairs around the table and started to talk.

The Hacks for Humanity event, put on by Arizona State University’s Project Humanities, was just a couple of hours old and the team of Neha Balamurugan, Mihir Goyenka, Bhrugu Dave, Emma Williams and Sarah Tahir had to come up with a hack that, well, helped humanity.

They began discussing issues around aging and wellness, and Tahir, a paralegal, mentioned how difficult it was even for those in the legal profession to find their way through the maze of the health care industry.

“There was an issue with caregivers not being able to access resources easily,” said Balamurugan, a second-year junior at ASU majoring in computer science. “So that’s kind of what the basis for our project was.”

Thirty-six hours later, the team had invented CareUp, a prototype of an app that would allow caregivers to more easily find programs and resources in their local community.

The idea won the first-place prize at the event, which was held Oct. 7–9 at SkySong, ASU’s Scottsdale Innovation Center, and challenges participants to create solutions for local and global issues. The annual event draws some 150 to 200 participants, including students, faculty, staff, professionals and community members.

This year’s challenges were Civic Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Aging and Well-Being. Each first-place team member received $1,000.

The need for the app became obvious as the team began diving into the problem.

One example: Goyenka, who is pursuing his master’s degree at ASU in computer science, said caregivers tending to family members with Alzheimer’s can more easily find information and resources on the internet because Alzheimer’s research is highly funded and there are specific nonprofit organizations set up to support those who have the disease.

But it may not be as easy for the caregiver who is taking care of a family member who has, say, debilitating arthritis or a psychiatric disorder.

“If you look at it overall, this industry is pretty much fragmented,” Goyenka said. “There is no one-stop solution.”

“Everything that has to do with health care, whether you want to go into it from a professional standpoint or a patient standpoint is extremely, extremely difficult," added Williams, a second-year student who comes from a pre-med background but is now studying classical civilizations in ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures. “That’s just the aim of this app. If there’s one way that we can make it simpler, then we want to do that for anyone that’s involved.”

In addition to helping caregivers take the best care of their family members, the app would help reduce the inevitable stress that arises from tending 24/7 to a loved one.

“Caregiving does not happen in a vacuum,” Balamurugan said. “Caregiving happens in addition to the personal responsibilities of the caregiver. They’re still running their own lives but also trying to take care of someone that they love and care for.

“If you’re in a mentally stressed environment, and you’re trying to take care of yourself and your family, you’re probably not even thinking there might be something out there to help you. You’re not thinking, ‘Is there a resource that can assist me?’”

How would the app work?

A caregiver would open the CareUp app and type in a keyword, such as "Alzheimer’s," along with their zip code. The search would turn up a page for caregiver information, another page for patient information and two categories of resources: government programs and private programs.

In addition, the app would use artificial intelligence to help caregivers fill out forms, a practice that can be both exhausting and confusing.

“A lot of the government websites have long descriptions that are very unintuitive,” Balamurugan said. “Our app would find a way to summarize that information and give them (caregivers) keywords to fill out the application, because how applications are initially sorted is by seeing if certain keywords are in the responses. If we’re able to simplify the application process buy telling them exactly what keyword to use, their success rate would be significantly higher.”

Clearly, an app of this magnitude can’t be fully developed in 36 hours. Hundreds if not thousands of manpower hours would be needed to compile a database of the pertinent federal programs as well as services in all 50 states.

“What we focused on was proposing the idea and delivering a pitch that this could be a viable solution,” Goyenka said.

And while team members are going their separate ways, they say they are determined to follow through on CareUp’s premise. Balamurugan said she’d like to implement CareUp in a smaller town like Guadalupe, Arizona.

“We’re not stopping here,” Williams said. “We want to keep going and pushing.”

Top photo: (From left to right) Hacks for Humanity first-place team members Mihir Goyenka, Bhrugu Dave, Emma Williams, Sarah Tahir, Neha Balamurugan.

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

ASU to launch humanities-driven sustainability hub


October 13, 2022

Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory is now home to the UNESCO BRIDGES Sustainability Science Coalition Flagship Hub.

The Flagship Hub will launch on Oct. 19 at the Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health during a series of events featuring leadership from ASU and global humanities and sustainability organizations.  A gray suspension bridge is viewed from below with a blue sky behind it. Download Full Image

The events will not only serve as a celebration of the Flagship Hub, but also as a demonstration of BRIDGES’ capacity to connect and support individuals and organizations who are already working within the intersection of humanities and sustainability sciences. Providing the foundation and resources needed for successful collaborations between these fields is a priority for the coalition, which is why the BRIDGES Flagship Hub team has designed their launch events to bring together thought leaders from ASU and international entities.

Register to view the full schedule here.

”As a humanities-led sustainability science coalition that is not limited to the humanities, BRIDGES works to promote transformative collaborations across the academic domains of the humanities, the arts, the social sciences and the natural sciences in partnership with non-academic communities of knowledge and action,” says Steven Hartman, founding executive director of the BRIDGES Coalition. ”In our expanding efforts to build this global coalition, we have been particularly interested from the start to partner with communities of practice, interest and purpose that bring untapped wisdom to the table of sustainability science and action.”

After the official launch, the coalition will host a variety of panels and lectures. These events will feature speakers from ASU's Institute for Humanities Research and Humanities Lab, Future Earth, Humanities for the Environment, the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences, the Club of Rome and the Global Futures Laboratory. 

Gabriela Ramos, assistant director-general of UNESCO for social and human sciences, one of the day’s featured speakers, says that BRIDGES is both “timely and important.”

“UNESCO has a key role to play in making the coalition effective and impactful, and I wish to affirm our commitment in this regard,” Ramos says. “What we expect from BRIDGES intellectually is a rich understanding of sustainability as the organizing framework for a new kind of science.”

Former founding executive director of Future Earth and current professor at Penn State University Paul Shrivastava will also be featured at the launch events.

“Addressing the challenges of the Anthropocene requires solutions based on deep understanding of human sciences, humanities and arts in addition to the natural sciences,” says Shrivastava. “BRIDGES can be a platform that serves this unification of knowledge. It seems to me that BRIDGES serves a purpose in the humanities, human and social sciences and the arts akin to what Future Earth (another UNESCO supported initiative) did in the natural sciences.”

In April, ASU was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for work supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Leaders at the Global Futures Laboratory recognize that the humanities are an essential part of efforts to achieve the SDGs, both at ASU and globally. 

“The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory is delighted to be home to the BRIDGES Flagship Hub, which will serve as a space for spearheading new front-line, humanities-inclusive sustainability science internationally,” says Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of Global Futures. “The Global Futures Laboratory is placing humanities at the core of its transdisciplinary mission to shape a future of opportunity.”

The Global Futures Laboratory has displayed its commitment to the humanities by establishing 14 focal areas, including the environmental and human sciences; Indigenous knowledge systems; and narrative storytelling. The BRIDGES Flagship Hub aims to be an exemplar of how humanities-driven sustainability research and projects can produce outcomes that advance humanity closer to the SDGs.

“As a global coalition of high-impact networks and strong organizations, BRIDGES is project-oriented, seeking to integrate the humanities, arts and educational disciplines with mainstream scientific domains long at the center of the sustainability agenda,” says Joni Adamson, a President’s Professor of environmental humanities in the Department of English and founding director of ASU’s BRIDGES Flagship Hub. “When people look for expertise in the humanities — within the United Nations family of organizations, Future Earth or in science-policy contexts such as IPBES or the IPCC — they will look to BRIDGES, with the Flagship Hub at ASU as a critical point of contact.”

Register for the launch events here. Questions or comments regarding the BRIDGES Flagship Hub Launch can be directed to Adamson at Joni.Adamson@asu.edu. Questions or comments related to the international secretariat of BRIDGES can be directed to Hartman at Steven.Hartman@asu.edu.

UNESCO BRIDGES Hub Launch

11 a.m.–7 p.m., Oct. 19, at the Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health (WCPH), room 107

Register online.

Schedule of events:

11 a.m.–noon: "Introducing BRIDGES"

Noon–1:30 p.m.: Luncheon (seating limited; registration required), WCPH 310

1:30–2:30 p.m.: "Why the Sustainability and Global Futures Agendas Need the Humanities: The ASU Context" panel discussion with Sally Kitch, founding director of the Humanities Lab; Gary Dirks, senior director of Lightworks; Nicole Anderson, director of ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research; Iveta Silova, professor and associate dean of global engagement at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; David Navarrete-Manuel, professor in the School of Sustainability and director of the Humanities for the Environment Latin American Observatory.

2:30–3:30 p.m.: "Why the Sustainability and Global Futures Agendas Need the Humanities: The Global Context" panel discussion with Peter Schlosser, vice president, vice provost and professor in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory; Luiz Oosterbeek, president of the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences; Paul Shrivastava, chief sustainability officer at Penn State University and former founding executive director of Future Earth; Sandrine Paillard, Future Earth global hub director, Paris; Jorge Marcone, co-chair of the advisory board at the South American Resilience and Sustainability Studies Institute; Heide Hackmann, director of Future Africa and former CEO of the International Science Council.

3:30–4:30 p.m.: BRIDGES Flagship Hub open house and "Dear Mother Earth" exhibit

4:30–6 p.m.: EHI Distinguished Lecture – BRIDGES keynote, Jorge Marcone

6–7 p.m.: Reception

Communications Coordinator, Narrative Storytelling Initiative

 
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Holiday shopping deals in October?

October 12, 2022

ASU expert explains why online retailers are pushing holiday deals even earlier this year

Shoppers have become accustomed to seeing holiday-themed items in stores earlier than expected, like Christmas or Hanukkah decorations in October, before Halloween. But online, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have dominated the hype for the holiday shopping season — until now.

Already, online retailers, like Amazon, and companies with an e-commerce presence, like Target, have been sprinkling in deals this October. But why this early? And who benefits from this the most? 

ASU News talked to Hitendra Chaturvedi, a supply chain expert and professor of practice in the W. P. Carey School of Business about these earlier-than-early-bird deals.

High inflation is a big factor, but so is the supply chain and the way consumers plan to shop for the holidays in the future, he says. 

Man with gray hair and black shirt

Hitendra Chaturvedi

Question: Why are some online retailers starting holiday sales in October?

Answer: Most online retailers are starting holiday sales early as they are already seeing a slowing of demand from the consumers and they would like to take a share of the decreasing holiday shopping wallet as early as possible. Combine this with high retailer inventories, and you have a rush to sell as much as quickly as possible before buying winter sets in.

Q: How will inflation and challenged supply chains impact holiday sales this year?

A: Coming out of the pandemic, U.S. consumers spent on products like crazy. With supply chain challenges and shortages of products, this caused prices to skyrocket, but that did not stop the consumers from buying. Low interest rates, rising home prices, pandemic relief, low unemployment and high savings all led to buying like we have never seen before.

Many companies made huge profits in this buying frenzy through inflation and shrinkflation. Many retailers, anticipating the same demand, ordered huge quantities this summer, and by the end of summer, they had their warehouses stocked to the gills with warehouse vacancy (at its) lowest in 27 years, at 3.4%. But then reality set in.

As (the) Fed starts to raise interest rates to combat runaway inflation, it is causing the housing market to cool down significantly. With fuel prices stubbornly high, savings rates are the lowest since 2009, at 5.4%, and credit card debt is the highest in many years, at close to $900 billion; it is causing consumers to put the emergency brakes on spending. 

With consumer spending slowing down and retailers stuck with huge inventories — including Walmart, Nike, Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Amazon — the only remedy will be early and big discounts this holiday season.

Q: Will an earlier holiday shopping season benefit the retailer or the consumer more?

A: If there is a time to listen to your mom’s advice that “good things come to people who wait,” it is now. Retailers are starting holiday season early so they can sell at less discount, but as we approach holiday season, retailers will panic if they still have high inventory levels. That is when big discounts will come. Consumers will win if they exercise a little patience.

Q: Will the early holiday sales trend stick, and could we potentially see the end of Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the future?

A: In the past, with physical retail dominating sales, holiday shopping was concentrated to a few key days because it took a lot of preparation and cost to get stores ready. With online, it is much less expensive to launch a sale, so we will see holiday seasons start early, with many more Prime Days, Cyber Mondays and Black Fridays before the end of the year. We may even see new “named days” created by retailers just to sell more, and early.

Retailers prefer early start because that minimizes their risk of concentrated holiday shopping days, and they will do whatever it takes to get the largest share of the holiday sales wallet of the consumer as early as possible. Amazon launching a second Prime Day in October is an example of such a trend.

Q: Will we see a shift in consumer behavior and e-commerce trends with increased options to save money?

A: The anticipated huge holiday shopping season that we all looked forward to will be a thing of the past. Holiday shopping season will start early, particularly by large retailers. But buying early may not mean saving money. With comparison shopping available, the way consumers can save money will be to know early what they want, keep a lookout for the products on their list and buy when they see a deal. Impulse buying and last-minute buying will be reduced. In the long run, (a) longer holiday season gives more predictability to retailers, which they like. For consumers, it gives them more time to shop around, so the smart, patient shopper will certainly save money.

Top photo courtesy Pixabay

Jimena Garrison

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

 
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Creating the future cybersecurity workforce

October 10, 2022

Cyberspace was once a place that seemed far removed from everyday lives — an abstract world or an online realm we logged into.

Fast forward to today and the world lives in cyberspace — from light bulbs and locks in our homes to our cars and cellphones. Just as we need people to maintain the security of the physical spaces where we live, we also need humans to maintain the security of cyberspace.

While cybersecurity is critical to national security, the demand for professionals in the field exceeds the supply. Between 2013 and 2021, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs around the world grew 350%, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

What are the forces in play that are preventing organizations from preparing cyber professionals to fill the gaps?

Filling the cybersecurity expertise gap

 Headshot, Cyber Series ASU 2022

Yan Shoshitaishvili

One clear challenge is the level of expertise and training required to enter the field.

“As our society embraces the digital world more and more, we need more cybersecurity professionals. It is difficult to train them because they operate on a much deeper level than what is necessary for a software engineer,” says Yan Shoshitaishvili, assistant professor in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, and acting director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Trusted Foundations.

In many ways, defending ourselves and our nation starts with education, and filling some of those gaps in the field is not only conventionally achieved by the pros.

“It is crucial that we educate our workforce, not just cybersecurity professionals, but everyone, or the ‘end user’ as we refer to them in computer science,” says Carlos Rubio-Medrano, an ASU alumnus who is now an assistant professor at Texas A&M.

The end user is often more vulnerable when cybersecurity incidents occur, and they need to be able to protect themselves and their families online.

“Let’s say there is a data leak; your information is housed by the company, and they have an incident, losing their data to hackers. There's often nothing the end user can physically do about it,” Rubio-Medrano says. “Provide people with training — it does not need to be a lot — to help them understand and make informed security decisions.”

“The problem is that trillions of dollars flow across computers every day, as we have integrated them into every portion of our lives,” says Erik Trickel, a computer science doctoral student in SCAI, and a CTF affiliate. “Whether through ransomware, malware or hacking into servers, companies have to hire people who can also protect themselves. Although the gap continues to grow, I feel that we are taking appropriate steps to stem the tide.”

Expanding the reach of ASU’s cybersecurity training

portrait of

Erik Trickel

ASU continues to raise the bar of excellence higher each year and to be a great place to gain hands-on training through education that prepares students for complex fields such as cybersecurity.

Addressing effective cybersecurity education is a known challenge and one that increases in difficulty when scaled up to fit the demand for trained cybersecurity professionals. 

"The faculty at ASU spent a lot of time brainstorming how cybersecurity education should be done at scale, and we came up with this model which the university now provides as an open-source service to the world,” Shoshitaishvili says.

This open-to-the-world platform is pwn.college, preparing the next generation of cybersecurity experts with the moves to thwart cyberattacks.

“Pwn.college comes at it from the hacker’s perspective,” says Jamie Winterton, director of strategy at ASU’s Global Security Initiative. “To defend networks, it’s really essential to know how people think and what they may be doing offensively to your network. It’s impossible to do without that hands-on skill. You can play better defense when you know the offense.”

Pwn.college provides a series of training modules that build on each other, equipping students with theoretical approaches on how best to handle any given situation.

“Then, it just becomes rinse and repeat, over and over again, for each of the many skills to help them grow,” Trickel says.

ASU’s hands-on approach to cybersecurity education

 Headshot, Cyber Series 2022

Jackie LeFevers

This year, U.S. News & World Report once again ranked ASU as the No. 1 school for innovation, for the eighth consecutive year.

ASU’s DNA is infused with innovation, a universitywide goal to “spark, support and manifest new ideas,” ASU President Michael M. Crow says.

“With cybersecurity at ASU, there is this idea of innovation where if you have an idea, you can spin it into reality,” says Jackie LeFevers, assistant director of the Center for Cybersecurity and Trusted Foundations.

The center is designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in cyber defense and research by a joint National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security program.

“We are engaging and developing cybersecurity talent, and really instilling a passion for cybersecurity at the high school level,” Shoshitaishvili says. “At the undergraduate level, we have students participating in hacking conventions across the world at events such as DEF CON. We have positioned ASU as the place to go, both physically and digitally, to research, develop and learn about cybersecurity.”

The center's partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense made possible the practice-based cybersecurity education platform that teaches the world critical security concepts. By learning these concepts, students gain a strong foundation in cybersecurity.

“We need to be able to give people basic skills and the assurance that as a university, we are working on cybersecurity challenges at the student level and beyond,” says Trickel, who is nearing completion of his degree.

“As an ASU graduate, I was educated by very talented people who taught me transferable skills needed to tackle problems, provide solutions and also to provide evidence on the effectiveness of those solutions,” Rubio-Medrano says.

"With so much of our lives taking place online, cybersecurity is everyone’s concern."
– Sally C. Morton, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise at ASU

3 critical tactics for cybersecurity professionals

Portrait of Carlos Medrano

Carlos Rubio-Medrano

1. Think like a hacker.

One crucial skill that bodes well in the cybersecurity field is having a hacking mindset, or being able to think about a computer system and try to find ways to break in. 

“Stay up to date with developing technologies, continue to learn new things, report vulnerabilities as you come across them and most of all: think like a hacker,” Rubio-Medrano says.

2. Develop core competencies.

It is important to develop the core competencies and skills of basic programming languages and be able to demonstrate those abilities, a key requirement of a potential employer.

“You have to ask yourself: Am I interested in this position? Have I demonstrated that I am trainable? What intrinsic motivations make me hireable?” advises Trickel.

3. Become a lifelong learner.

“Cybersecurity is a constant journey of learning, ever more than computer science itself,” Shoshitaishvili says. “What you learn rapidly becomes outdated, so you have to continue learning as you will need to adapt quickly for the rest of your career as a cybersecurity professional.”

ASU’s cybersecurity resources 

ASU has a wide variety of resources designed to increase cybersecurity awareness and expertise. Here is a sampling:

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) lead a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise cybersecurity awareness nationally and internationally. ASU participates as a National Cybersecurity Awareness month champion. 

Pwn.college

The online educational platform provides training modules to aspiring cybersecurity professionals both within and outside ASU.

ASU’s Computer Science (Cybersecurity) Bachelor of Science degree

Through SCAI, the BS program in computer science with a concentration in cybersecurity provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to build dependable and secure information systems and networks and to ensure the integrity and quality of information being stored, processed and transmitted.

Get Protected 

ASU is committed to raising the bar when it comes to cybersecurity awareness. Get involved with events and campaigns this October.

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

Oliver Dean

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

480-727-4419

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