AZRfR Project schools recognized for successful educational recipe

January 29, 2016

The ASU School Partnership Grant Programs Advisory Council honored nine K-12 schools from five Arizona districts with its third annual Educational Excellence Impact Awards. But all 58 schools from the 10 districts participating in the Arizona Ready-for-Rigor (AZRfR) Project were highlighted as examples of success by the Governor’s Office.

“The governor (Doug Ducey) firmly supports programs that apply research-based standards and best practices to produce positive results. The Arizona Ready-for-Rigor Project does just that,” said Dawn Wallace, director of the Governor’s Education Office, to the more than 75 superintendents, principals, teachers, grant partners and ASU staff gathered together at the Jan. 26 awards program at ASU Skysong. “The results of these efforts have tremendous benefits for Arizona’s kids — as demonstrated by increased student achievement and the retention of high-performing educators. This is truly a recipe for success.” 2015 Educational Excellence Impact Awards State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, AZRfR Executive Director Virginia McElyea, and the 10 Arizona superintendents honored at the Jan. 26 awards program. Download Full Image

The Impact Awards celebrate the outstanding growth and accomplishments of the schools participating in the AZRfR Project, which is a federal Teacher Incentive Fund Grant awarded to the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to increase teacher and administrator effectiveness. Over the course of the five-year grant, educators were provided mentors and group support, individualized professional development, and data-based strategies based on observations and evaluations. Additionally, $20 million was distributed to the educators in performance-based payouts.

Schools were recognized in four categories for their school and student achievement scores, teacher effectiveness and implementation of TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. Grant superintendents were also honored for their leadership.

“These awards focus on which schools made the most progress in teacher excellence and student achievement in the 2014-2015 when compared with the previous school year,” said AZRfR Executive Director Virginia McElyea, who hosted the awards program. “These may not necessarily be the highest-ranked schools but the ones demonstrating the most improvement over the past year.”

The categories and recipients are:

Governor's Award

Wallace presented the Governor’s Award to schools with outstanding teachers based on value-added performance-based student growth. Scoring for each school was determined through the combined growth rankings from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years through two measurements: SKR scores, which are based on teachers’ classroom observations, teachers’ self-reflections, and the teachers’ responsibility in their school setting; and teacher value-added scores, which are compiled through individual student achievement results for the students the individual teachers instruct.

With a 37 percent increase in its teacher value-added score from the previous year, Deer Valley Middle School from Deer Valley Unified School District was the Governor’s Award. Finalists were: Copper Trails and Desert Thunder from Avondale Elementary School District and Isaac E. Imes Elementary from Glendale Elementary School District.

Superintendent's Award

Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas presented the Superintendent’s Award to schools that had the most significant increase from 2013-14 to 2014-15 in schoolwide value-added growth.  

Centerra Mirage STEM Academy in Avondale ESD increased its schoolwide value-added growth score by 54 percent to earn the Superintendent’s Award. The other finalists were: Deer Valley Middle School, Desert Thunder and Rice Elementary from San Carlos Unified School District.

“Thank you for your efforts towards improving education for students in Arizona,” Douglas said to the winners. She also had a message for all educators: “It’s vital we remember as we highlight these schools that we don’t lose sight that while winning is an admirable goal, it is not the only goal. Becoming better than we previously were, as people, as schools and as districts, is the most important thing we can do.”

ASU Teachers College Award

AZRfR Director of Leadership Pam Santesteban presented the ASU Teachers College Award. Winners were selected based upon school applications submitted utilizing data and narrative examples of how the school culture improved through the application of the TAP System.

A career teacher from the winning school, Copper Trails Elementary in Avondale ESD, described the impact of the AZRfR Project over the years: “Copper Trails is just a better place to work now. The teachers share their ideas, are encouraged to take risk, and work smarter — and not harder — to help students be successful. We’re just better teachers.”

The other finalists were: Cesar Chavez and Desert View Elementary from Gadsden Elementary School District, and Whitman Elementary from Mesa Public Schools.

TAP Directors Award

McElyea presented the TAP Director’s Award to Desert View Elementary School in Gadsden, a small community on the Mexico border, for its school’s dedication to the grant program, and the success its students produce annually.

“Desert View has consistently maintained high student growth score increases for the past four years,” McElyea said. “One of the goals of any grant, and what we do in schools every day, is to be able to sustain an innovation or a change once we institute it. Desert View serves a diverse population, and they really do an excellent job of bringing kids into the educational mainstream and really have them accomplish great things.”

Partner of Distinction Awards

While 2014-2015 was the final year of the AZRfR Project, all 10 superintendents were recognized for their district’s hard work and dedication over the past five years of implementation.

“Research shows that the single most important in-school influence on student achievement is the classroom teacher. The second most important influence is the school principal.  We also know that district leadership, and specifically the superintendent, has a major indirect influence on student achievement and culture,” McElyea said. “We want to present a Partner of Distinction Award to the superintendents who were vital to the success of this grant.”

The superintendents honored were: Dr. Betsey Hargrove, Avondale ESD; Quincy Natay, Chinle Unified School District; Charie Wallace, Coolidge USD; Dr. James Veitenheimer, Deer Valley USD; Dr. Ray Aguilera, Gadsden ESD; Joe Quintana, Glendale ESD; Dr. Roger Freeman, Littleton Elementary School District; Dr. Michael Cowan, Mesa Public Schools; Patricia Tate, Osborn Elementary School District; and Catherine Steele, San Carlos USD.

ASU lecture to discuss 'Undocumented Literature on the Mexican-US border'

Robert McKee Irwin lectures as part of Interactions and Interchanges series

January 29, 2016

How do we classify texts produced by undocumented authors who no longer identify as Mexican, yet have no officially recognized status in the United States?

For Mexican-born authors who are legal residents or citizens of the U.S., their writings are usually labelled as American or U.S. Latino literature. If they only temporarily reside in the U.S., their work may be considered Latin American (rather than U.S. Latino) “travel writing.” Robert Irwin Robert Irwin, professor of Spanish at the University of California, Davis. Download Full Image

Robert McKee Irwin will lecture on these issues at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 10, in West Hall Room 135 on the Tempe campus, as part of the Interactions & Interchanges lecture series. His presentation will deal with authors and texts caught in between these categories.

Irwin will focus on "No Documents, No Escape" by Roberto Rangel (in collaboration with Ana Luisa Calvillo), the testimonial narrative of an undocumented Mexican currently incarcerated in California, who was once deported and will undoubtedly be deported again if he is ever released from prison. His narrative suggests that the politics of border control have produced a multiplicity of borders that places the most vulnerable into an abyss located between two nations, shutting them out of both.

Irwin is professor of Spanish at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of  "Mexican Masculinities" (2003), and "Bandits, Captives, Heroines and Saints: Cultural Icons of Mexico’s Northwest Borderlands" (2007), which was awarded the Thomas J. Lyon award for Best Critical Book in Western American Cultural Studies by the Western Literary Association.

Irwin is principal investigator for the Sexualidades Campesinas digital storytelling project and co-principal investigator of UC Davis’s Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies: Rights, Containment, Protest. He is working on a project focused on the personal expressions and public images of Mexican emigrants to the United States who fail to become Mexican American.

The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are recommended. For more information, see the event webpage.

This event is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Department of English. The Interactions and Interchanges speaker series was developed in conjunction with a grant from the U.S. State Department for a project on “Globalizing Research and Teaching of American Literature,” a university partnership between Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan and ASU.
The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is an interdisciplinary research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that examines the role of religion as a driving force in human affairs.

Terry Williams

Communication and events coordinatior, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict


The life and career of Gerald Farin, geometric modeling pioneer, generous mentor

January 28, 2016

Gerald Farin, computer science professor and internationally renowned geometric modeling researcher, passed away Jan. 14. He pioneered the field of geometric modeling and helped elevate the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s computer science program to be one of the best during his 29 years at Arizona State University. He is survived by his wife and collaborator, Dianne Hansford, and left lasting impressions on those who knew him throughout his career.

Geometric modeling beginnings and early career

Farin’s introduction to geometric modeling was serendipitous. While working on his doctorate at Technical University Braunschweig under Professor Wolfgang Boehm, Farin was assigned to read and present a paper written in French, chosen because Farin could read French. It was a paper about 3-D modeling for car design by mathematician Paul de Casteljau of the French automaker Citroen. This simple assignment launched a lifelong career. In memorium: Gerald Farin Gerald Farin Download Full Image

Upon obtaining his doctorate in mathematics from Technical University Braunschweig, Farin set out on his geometric modeling path. He went where the action was for computer graphics in the 1970s: the University of Utah.

After joining the mathematics department as a teaching fellow in 1978, Farin began what would become a nearly 20-year collaboration on geometric design with Robert E. Barnhill, then professor at the University of Utah.

“Gerald developed his very important research on how to develop Bernstein-Bezier polynomial patches over arbitrarily shaped triangles,” Barnhill said. “Smooth sets of triangular patches are essential for interpolation and approximation of real-world data.”

With this work and in collaborating with others, Farin helped the field known as Computer Aided Geometric Design (CAGD) rise to prominence by the 1980s.

Farin’s skills were put to use in the automotive industry in 1980 when he went to work in the CAD/CAM development team at Mercedes Benz in Stuttgart, Germany. Mercedes had some of the most advanced tools in the automotive industry. Here Farin created complex mathematical tools for designers who had no mathematical training. Farin was able to study designers’ methods and translate them into mathematics and software tools — a skill that would help him bring geometric design to many scientific disciplines later in his career.

Though he worked in industry, Farin remained devoted to his research. He stayed up late to write papers, which led him to return to the University of Utah in 1984 as an assistant professor in the mathematics department. Here he rejoined Barnhill, who had become the head of the university’s Mathematics CAGD research group. This influential team moved to ASU in 1987.

Arrival at Arizona State University

Before Farin and Barnhill’s team arrived at ASU, CAGD wasn’t a topic researched or taught much at the university, said Anshuman Razdan, professor at the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, who was both a student and a colleague of Farin’s. But once the internationally recognized Farin arrived, the topic area took off as students flocked to take his classes.

“Gerald had a way to set the bar high for his expectations from the graduate students without conveying as much; we all knew we did not want to disappoint Dr. Farin with our results,” Razdan said. “At the same time he was compassionate and understanding, spending as much time on the whiteboard with his beautiful sketches to help explain away the complications and complexities of the topic of the day.”

His reputation as a leader in his field helped encourage more faculty to join and expand ASU’s computer science program. He was influential in growing and improving the academic quality of the graduate program as part of the graduate committee. Today the computer science program is ranked 22nd in the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities in the U.S. and 32nd internationally by the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Sharing his expertise with the CAGD community

His prominence in the CAGD field also was helped by his involvement in leading journals and groups. Farin’s journal-editing career began when he helped Barnhill and Boehm on the “Computer Aided Geometric Design Journal” the pair created in 1984, serving as what Boehm called “the undercover editor” — essentially managing it behind the scenes.

Later he became co-editor-in-chief of the CAGD Journal, a position he held for two decades and left a lasting impression on his partner, co-editor-in-chief Hartmut Prautzsch, who remarked, “Gerald, with his books and long service for the journal, has been a personification of the CAGD field. He had a unique ability to present things simply with a distinct sense of aesthetics, a clear opinion and a certain humor. His emails were beautifully minimalistic and to the point.”

In addition to CAGD Journal, he served on the editorial boards of the “Computer-Aided Design,” “The Visual Computer” and the Springer series “Mathematics and Visualization.” At the start of his ASU career, he was a key figure in starting a special interest group in Geometric Design within the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and served as secretary and later chair; he also was managing editor of SIAM’s book series, “Frontiers in Geometric Design.” He was a member of scientific boards including the Arizona Alzheimer’s Research Center and, most recently, the scientific board for mathematics research center MATHEON in Berlin.

His own publishing record is impressive, with Barnhill and his University of Utah colleagues commenting that Farin is probably the most published person in CAGD and related fields. He published more than 100 papers, and nearly 30 books, of which his “Curves and Surfaces for CAGD” is considered a seminal work.

Farin and Hansford, also a geometric modeling and CAD/CAM researcher, wrote other widely used books together, including “Practical Linear Algebra — A Geometry Toolbox,” “The Essentials of CAGD” and “Mathematical Principles for Scientific Computing and Visualization.”

Daniel Collins, professor at ASU’s School of Art whom Farin would work with later, saw firsthand how important and widespread Farin’s textbooks were to others in geometric modeling.

“When talking with one of the principal computer scientists at 3-D laser scanning company Cyberware in the 1990s, I asked them what texts were the important references in their field,” Collins recalled. “Without prompting and without hesitation, the scientist reached up above his desk and pulled down Gerald Farin’s early book from 1987 entitled ‘Geometric Modeling: Algorithms and New Trends.’ Gerald’s early insights at the intersection of computation and mathematics were appreciated by researchers across many fields.”

Farin even held a patent with Razdan and Liyan Zhang for 3-D face authentication based on bilateral symmetry analysis.

Farin was committed to passing along his knowledge of CAGD in person as well. He taught many geometric modeling tutorials and gave more than 100 lectures worldwide. At ASU he taught classes on introductory and advanced CAGD, theoretical computer science and informatics.

Hansford and many colleagues remember him as being a great educator who could simplify complex ideas.

“Gerald was a really good speaker,” Hansford said. “He had a good way of getting the essence of ideas and thinking about different ways to teach ideas.”

Bringing computer science to other disciplines

His ability to translate highly complicated ideas and create tools for designers without computer science or mathematical expertise made him a pioneer in bringing CAGD far beyond the computer science department. Through founding the Partnership for Research in Spatial Modeling (PRISM) research center at ASU with Collins, he brought geometric modeling to the arts, anthropology, and other scientific disciplines.

Barnhill assisted the PRISM effort in bringing together five deans for the initial funding while Farin thought of ways for others to use the tools of computer science to accomplish their goals.

“From the beginning, Gerald was central to PRISM’s research agenda and, along with myself, served as PRISM’s co-director for many years,” Collins said. “The lab, building on the significant work of the CAGD lab, continues to attract research from discipline specialists across campus and the private sector.”

Out of the PRISM research lab he was influential in creating the Decision Theater with ASU President Michael Crow. This center helps researchers and leaders to visualize solutions to complex problems.

“He was way ahead of what is taken for granted today — that computer sciences can play a great role in advancing research by making horizontal connections with other disciplines, thus lifting the level of computer science and other disciplines working collaboratively in an interdisciplinary manner,” Razdan said.

The interdisciplinary nature of PRISM allowed Farin to really use his skills as a theorist and idea person. This also helped in his work with Hansford as consultants. Here Farin worked to describe and understand shape in many application areas including prosthetic modeling, bifocal/trifocal lens design and tactile laser scanning software.

Farin’s research throughout his career and with PRISM was supported through more than $15 million across more than 40 grants.

Loved and remembered by faculty and students

Colleagues and students at ASU remember Farin fondly as a true visionary and role model who devoted his life to scientific research. He was a mentor who supported those who needed his help with generous advice and encouragement.

He not only taught and gave advice — and supervised around 60 student theses and dissertations — he also learned from his students, Hansford said.

“He was always inspired by working with his students,” Hansford said. “He designed well-crafted homework assignments that would stimulate research ideas. And a student’s mistake might spark a new way of thinking about a problem.”

It wasn’t all geometric modeling all the time for Farin either. He enjoyed running, which he did with Hansford wherever they went. And as with everything else, he helped others exercise. Barnhill recalls Farin setting soccer goalposts in concrete at a field in Salt Lake CIty.

He and Hansford also loved to cook and enjoyed gourmet dining, traveling and attending the Arizona Opera. He met up with friends from his college dorm in Germany every year and took the time to cook and enjoy good food and wine with colleagues. Collins remembered a time when visiting Farin in Germany for a talk that Farin took him on a “foodie” tour as well.

“In addition to our time exploring the intersection of art and computer science, we spent some memorable days driving around the German countryside, sampling the wines, pâtés and cheeses from some of his favorite outdoor restaurants,” Collins said.

And still as he took the time to meet with his students and colleagues for academics and for fun, he maintained an international reputation as a geometric modeling leader. People who design cars and many other things through computer-aided modeling in the future will depend on his work.

“Those of us who came to know him personally, studied under his guidance and worked with him as a colleague created a lasting bond with him,” Razdan said. “We hope that all of us, through that immense bond, continue to be inspired to make scholarly and personal advances as he would have motivated us to do.”

The “Gerald Farin Memorial Fellowship” has been created to assist deserving graduate students. Anyone who wishes to contribute to this fellowship can send gifts payable to the ASU Foundation to:

Margo Burdick, Development Officer, Sr.
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University
PO Box 879309
Tempe, AZ 85287-9309

When contacting Margo, please state if the gift is going to the Gerald Farin Memorial Fellowship.

Media contact:
Monique Clement,
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

ASU psychologists rise to the top of their field

3 professors named 'Rising Stars' by Association for Psychological Science

January 28, 2016

Three Arizona State University psychology professors have been named as “Rising Stars” by the largest international psychological association in the world. The trio of honors ranks first amongst the Pac-12 schools and is second worldwide to only Stony Brook University.

The Association for Psychological Science gives the Rising Star award to “outstanding psychological scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-PhD whose innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great potential for their continued contributions.” Download Full Image

The 2016 ASU honorees are Gene Brewer, for his research on cognitive processes and working memory; Frank Infurna, for his studies on the effects life stressors have on resiliency and healthy aging; and Madeline Meier, for her findings on long-term marijuana use and IQ decline, along with advancing discoveries of the pathology of schizophrenia.

Memory improvements

Working memory is the brain’s ability to represent goals, Brewer said, which can range from everyday menial tasks like remembering to attach a document to an email or snap decisions with large repercussions — a police officer responding to the scene of an ongoing crime, for example.

“If working memory capacity is the goal maintenance ability that people have, it’s so critical within all of these domains, then we need to find ways that we can improve it, to retrain it, and there’s a lot of research in that area and it’s a very controversial topic,” Brewer said.

For example, Lumosity, a popular brain-training app that advertised users could expect results including increased athletic performance and protections from Alzheimer’s disease and chemotherapy side effects, was recently hit with a $2 million fine from the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising earlier this month.

“I’m not a major proponent of the brain training method. Our work can’t speak directly to that, but the evidence is almost becoming overwhelming in terms of the inadequacies of current methods for training. Now that, that absolutely doesn’t mean it’s not possible … we may be asking the wrong questions,” Brewer said.  “So definitely a future direction is trying to figure out how can we improve that functionality and how within that functionality we can get it to translate to real world domains.“

Healthy aging

Infurna’s work also involves cognitive function, but narrows in on how mentally resilient an adult can be when encountered with aging and adverse life events, like the death of a spouse or loss of employment. His findings have shown that the more stressors an individual encounters, the harder it becomes for that individual to function normally.

“That’s what we’re currently focusing on: what are some of the factors that promote resilience and individuals being able to stay healthy? Some of the things we’re finding is having a strong social network or being able to have people to go to for help in time of need or stress, but also individuals who are able to stay engaged in one social network as well,” Infurna said.

Infurna’s close relationship with his grandparents during his childhood helped provide the impetus behind his study of healthy aging. He says he was working as a research assistant when “something clicked.”

“I think healthy aging is a combination of things: are people able to interact effectively day to day in terms of doing what they want to do, so they have control over their life circumstances, are they generally happy, and also how they’re doing health wise,” Infurna said. “Individuals may have chronic illness, but if they’re able to manage that chronic illness, that’s still considered healthy aging … so individuals who are able to maintain higher levels of physical functioning don’t show cognitive declines over time and they are able to live longer.”

Adolescents and marijuana

And while her colleagues are researching ways to improve and protect cognitive function, Madeline Meier’s research has shown that consistent marijuana use from adolescence to adulthood can lead to a significant reduction in IQ points.

“People who begin [to use] marijuana as a teenager and then continue to use for many, many years — they show an about eight point IQ decline,” Meier said. “We tried to rule out various alternative information … that could be explained by adolescent users coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds that could be explained by adolescent marijuana users who also use alcohol or other hard drugs, long term tobacco use — we ruled out all those explanations.”

Because marijuana decriminalization and legalization is more controversial than ever before, it’s not surprising that the research behind its use and long-term effects can be just as divisive. A recent study in the United Kingdom as well as a joint effort between UCLA and University of Minnesota scientists have claimed that marijuana does not cause a noticeable IQ decline in teens and twins, respectively.

However, the UK study only surveyed adolescents from the ages of 8 to 15, while the UCLA-UM study did not query subjects on current marijuana usage, but only focused on the time periods where subjects reported their highest amount of usage.

“We have received [pushback]. The media is constantly publishing reports that other studies have contradicted what we have found between marijuana and IQ,” Meier said.

Her second research area may have discovered a new way to discover schizophrenia using a process called renal imaging, but Meier is quick not to jump to any conclusions during the ongoing study.

“What we found was that people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia have wider veins. While we might say, ‘OK, we can detect this person has a wider blood vessel or blood vein in their eye, this leaves them at risk for schizophrenia,’ but that might put them at risk for a host of other things, like higher blood pressure,” Meier said.

Both Meier and Infurna were part of a class of nine new department hires in 2014.

“We have these new faculty who are really, really good, and contributing at a level that our prestigious department deserves,” said Brewer. “And that’s exciting to be a part of."

Reporter, ASU Now

ASU In the News

Arizona a hummingbird hot spot with most species in US

If you haven’t already noticed, Arizona is a popular hangout for hummingbirds.

In an interview with KJZZ radio in Phoenix, Arizona State University research professor David Pearson explained that habitats in Arizona attract the most hummingbird species in the U.S. Anna's hummingbird The most common hummingbird in Arizona is Anna's hummingbird, which is named after an Italian duchess.
Download Full Image

As an ornithologist with the School of Life Sciences, Pearson is familiar with more than 300 hummingbird species and where they call home. While most are found in more tropical regions, such as South America, Pearson said several species have moved north and settled in Arizona.

“If you go down to the Huachuca, the Chiricahua, the Santa Rita mountains in say, late July or early August, the canyons have feeders where they use up quarts and quarts of sugar water every day,” Pearson said. “There are hundreds of hummingbirds coming in.”

Pearson also said the most common species found in the Phoenix metropolitan area are Anna’s hummingbird, named after an Italian duchess. He added that putting up a feeder with water and sugar almost guarantees a visit by the tiny birds.

Article Source: KJZZ
Jason Krell

Communication and events coordinator, Center for Evolution and Medicine


Doomsday Clock remains at three minutes to midnight

ASU professor involved with Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: 'This is not good news'

January 27, 2016

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has left the “Doomsday Clock” at three minutes to midnight, the time it set it at last year.

“This is not good news,” said ASU professor Lawrence Krauss and the chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, a group first formed by Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer after World War II to advise the Bulletin. Even with the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate talks, the board sees this time as still precarious for humanity. Download Full Image

Krauss and other Board of Sponsor members unveiled the clock setting at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25.

The Doomsday Clock represents how close the group believes the world is to possible global catastrophe (represented by midnight on the symbolic clock face). Its remaining at three minutes till midnight is an expression of the grave concern about how the global situation remains largely the same as last year. The last time the clock was this close to midnight was in 1984, at the height of the Cold War.

Read more about the setting of the doomsday clock at: Read a guest article by Krauss in the New Yorker on why this is important to all of us:

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU physicist receives Fonda-Fasella Award

January 26, 2016

ASU physics professor Richard Kirian has been awarded the Fonda-Fasella prize, which is given to a young researcher who has obtained important results while working at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, an international research center located in Italy.

The award was given during an annual ceremony at the "Resonance 2015" workshop in Trieste, Italy. ASU physics professor Richard Kirian giving his talk on "Direct phasing of nanocrystals using coherent FEL pulses." Download Full Image

Kirian presented his work on solving the age-old "crystallographic phase problem" using the unique properties of a new breed of X-ray sources known as free-electron lasers (FELs). His experiments at the FERMI FEL provided the first proof-of-principle demonstration that the extremely high coherence of this laser-like X-ray source can provide sufficient information to form images from microcrystals without the need for prior information or resolution restrictions. 

The recent development of X-ray FEL-based "serial femtosecond crystallography" has allowed unprecedented views of biomolecules at physiological temperature and with time-resolved dynamics down to the sub-picosecond timescale. Kirian's results add to the appeal of this rapidly developing methodology.

Before joining Arizona State University's Department of Physics in 2014, Kirian held a position at the Center for Free-Electron Lasers at the Deutsches.

ASU to join consortium aimed at increasing number, diversity of STEM students

Selection paves way for unique research, development opportunities

January 26, 2016

Arizona State University has been chosen as a Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) site joining a multi-university consortium dedicated to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in STEM fields while also improving graduation rates.

Made possible by a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the VIP program takes a unique approach to involving students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies by teaming undergraduates with seasoned faculty researchers engaged in long-term projects.  This involvement, which extends over multiple semesters and provides academic credit, is intended to motivate the students to pursue STEM-based career fields. ASU’s participation in this program adds a new approach to the university’s portfolio of expanding research opportunities for undergraduate students, part of ASU’s continual innovation in delivering higher education and providing high-quality programs. Download Full Image

“This VIP award provides the kick-start for an initiative that we hope will be self-sustaining and integrated into many STEM majors at ASU,” says professor Carole Greenes, director of ASU’s PRIME Center.  “Such academic-research integration provides opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in ongoing research and development in the working labs and centers of scientists and engineers to solve real-world problems. We hope this engagement excites students about graduate study and career opportunities in their chosen fields.”

Originally established at Georgia Tech more than a decade ago, the VIP Consortium has since grown to 20 universities that now include ASU.  The ASU VIP program will be directed by Carole Greenes, ASU professor of mathematics and director of the Practice, Research, and Innovation in Mathematics Education (PRIME) Center, and co-directed by Robert Greenes, ASU professor of biomedical informatics and Carole's husband, and it will be based at ASU’s PRIME Center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The center seeks to expand the talents and interests of K-20 students in STEM and has formed alliances with colleges, schools and research centers throughout ASU. 

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust is thrilled to support the VIP Consortium’s transformative approach to active learning,” said Ryan Kelsey, program officer at the trust. “It is very compelling to see such a range of engineering schools across the country that are ready to adopt large-scale, effective practices that we expect will retain more students, particular more women and students of color.” 

Key benefits of the VIP Consortium include:

• Collaborative team-based research as an expanded education experience: As educational material is increasingly available online, the hands-on research experience of VIP provides a dimension to undergraduate education that is an ever-growing important part of the in-person learning environment that a university such as ASU can offer.

• Long-term research and development experiences: VIP selection extends the academic design, development and research experience for undergraduate students beyond a single semester, with opportunities to participate for up to three years.  VIP provides the time and context to learn and practice professional skills, to make substantial contributions, and to experience different roles in large multidisciplinary design/discovery/research teams.

• Academic credits: Undergraduate VIP students earn academic credit every year, beginning as sophomores, while faculty and graduate students benefit from the contributions of their team members.

• Leadership and mentoring: The long-term nature of VIP creates a village environment with faculty and graduate students leading teams, experienced undergraduates mentoring new members, and students moving into leadership roles as others graduate.

• Enhanced faculty research programs: VIP attracts students from many disciplines and enables their participation in large-scale design/discovery/research projects, strengthening and expanding faculty research portfolios.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Education Program aims to advance American economic competitiveness as well as individual social mobility. At the post-secondary level, it focuses on increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in STEM fields by improving persistence to graduation.

Written by Judy Keane

ASU top recipient of prestigious Air Force Young Investigator awards

January 25, 2016

Arizona State University’s innovation winning streak has continued among its next generation of talented faculty. Three ASU researchers — more than any other university in the nation — have been awarded part of $20.6 million in total grants funded through the U.S. Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program (YIP).

ASU assistant professors Ximin He, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Yu Yao will use the three-year YIP awards to pursue groundbreaking discoveries and develop new building blocks and high-performance devices for nanotechnology applications.

“Our faculty’s innovative approaches to grand challenges have placed them among the top tier of researchers nationally,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “The technologies and techniques they create could spark entirely new solutions in biomedicine and energy.”

Ximin He and Nick Stephanopoulos are new faculty under ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, directed by Hao Yan, a past Air Force YIP recipient and recognized leader in bio-nanotechnology. Yan uses DNA and other basic building blocks to build novel nanotechnology structures at a scale 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

“The goal of the Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics is to use nature’s design rules as an inspiration in advancing biomedical, energy and electronics innovation through self-assembling molecules to create intelligent materials for better component control and for synthesis into higher-order systems, said Yan, who also holds the Milton Glick Chair in Chemistry and Biochemistry. “The AFOSR (Air Force Office of Scientific Research) YIP award will facilitate both Ximin and Nick’s research agenda in this direction, and is a significant recognition of their creativity and track record at the early stage of their careers.” Head-and-shoulders photos of two women and a man. (From left) ASU assistant professors Ximin He, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Yu Yao have been awarded grants through the U.S. Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program to advance their research. Download Full Image

Yu Yao is a new faculty member in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, and also a member of the Center for Photonics Innovation. Her current research focuses on developing nanoscale devices with unprecedented performance and unique properties based in part on semiconductor technology and emerging materials.   

“Yu is very innovative and has many outstanding ideas,” said Yong-Hang Zhang, director of the Center for Photonics Innovation and the associate dean of research at the Fulton Schools of Engineering. “We are so pleased that we were able to recruit her to ASU. Should her proposed research in this particular program be successful, new infrared lasers will be available for chemical sensing, environmental monitoring and even medical applications.”

During her doctoral studies at Princeton, she developed novel designs for chemical sensing in the environment, a technology called mid-infrared quantum cascade lasers. More recently, she successfully demonstrated high-speed infrared detectors and modulators based on optical nano-antennas and graphene during her postdoctoral work at Harvard.

The individual project awards are:

  • Ximin He, Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, assistant professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, “Bioinspired Artificial Homeostatic Multifunctional Material Microsystems (AHM3) based on Self-sustaining Autonomic Adaptive Structures.”
  • Nicholas Stephanopoulos, Biodesign Institute’s Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, assistant professor, School of Molecular Sciences, “Peptide-DNA Tiles as Building Blocks for Complex Nanostructures.”
  • Yu Yao, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, “Mid-Infrared Laser Frequency Comb Generation Based on Ultrafast All-Optical Graphene-metasurface Modulators.”

The Air Force’s YIP program is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the United States who received PhD or equivalent degrees in the past five years and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research.

The YIP program fosters creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering.

ASU received three awards out of 56 scientists and engineers from 41 research institutions and small businesses. AFOSR received more than 265 proposals in response to the AFOSR YIP broad agency announcement solicitation in Engineering and Information Science and Physical and Biological Science research areas. These vital areas of research include: Engineering and Complex Systems, Information and Networks, Physical Sciences and Biological and Chemical Sciences.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Theologian and author Harvey Cox to lecture on 'The Future of Faith'

Lecture is part of a three-week residency at ASU

January 25, 2016

“For the last four decades, Harvey Cox has been the leading trend spotter in American religion."

This is how Stephen Prothero, author of "Religious Literacy," describes Harvey Cox, the theologian, scholar and preeminent face of American liberal Christianity. Harvey Cox Harvard scholar and preeminent theologian Harvey Cox will lecture at ASU on Jan. 28.

The Arizona State University Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is presenting a major public lecture by Cox at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, when he will discuss "The Future of Faith" at the Ventana Ballroom in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. The lecture is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A, book sale and signing.

This lecture is part of a three-week residency in January and February, during which Cox will work with undergraduate classes and meet with faculty and graduate students.

In his 2009 book "The Future of Faith," Cox explored Christianity's history and its trajectory, discussing the rise of fundamentalism in our ever-changing world and why he thinks it will ultimately fail. He examines three major periods in Christianity and argues that the world has entered "the era of the Spirit."  He discusses what it means to be "religious" today, revealing how doctrines and dogma are giving way to new grassroots movements based in community, social justice and spiritual experience.

“We are so fortunate to have Harvey Cox in residence at the center this semester,” said John Carlson, acting director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and associate professor of religious studies. “He is a beacon in the study of religion whose brilliance has illuminated the public’s understanding of religion — in addition to the many scholarly contributions he has made in his field. He will have an ambitious speaking schedule during his time here at ASU, and I expect he will take Tempe and the Valley by storm.”

Cox’s acclaim is by no means limited to scholars of religion, though. Other civic leaders and intellectuals offer up accolades when discussing Cox.

Author and public speaker Deepak Chopra has said: "Harvey Cox has been a voice of both reason and faith in our cynical times." The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. said Cox is "the most important liberal theologian of the last half century."

Cox is the author of fifteen books. "The Secular City," first published in 1965, is an international best seller and widely regarded as one of the most influential books of Protestant theology of the past 50 years. His 2015 book "How to Read the Bible" was hailed by author James Martin, S.J., as "an absolutely masterful book by one of the great theologians of our age."

Cox was ordained as an American Baptist minister in 1957 and started teaching as an assistant professor at the Andover Newton Theological School. In 1965, he began teaching at the Harvard Divinity School, where he taught for 44 years. His research and teaching interests focus on the interaction of religion, culture and politics. Among the issues he explores are urbanization, theological developments in world Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, and current spiritual movements in the global setting (particularly Pentecostalism).

For more information please see the event webpage.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is an interdisciplinary research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that examines the role of religion as a driving force in human affairs.

Terry Williams

Communication and events coordinatior, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict