Impacts of COVID-19 pandemic help shape College of Health Solutions grad’s future

April 28, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Among the many lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, one stood out for College of Health Solutions graduate Aryana Gonzales. College of Health Solutions graduate Aryana Gonzales Aryana Gonzales is graduating with a Master of Science in health care delivery from the College of Health Solutions. Download Full Image

Actually it just reinforced a fact that Gonzales already suspected to be true. Conditions such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have a disparate impact on marginalized groups.

Gonzales, from Nogales, Arizona, wanted to find out why, which helped her decide on pursuing a Master of Science in health care delivery.

“My program is an interdisciplinary field that addresses the complex needs of our current health care system in the U.S.,” Gonzales said. ”I became more curious about how our social determinants impact our overall health and future health outcomes.”

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: One lesson that changed my perspective is that our laws reflect our values. I find myself thinking about what constituents' values are when a legislator is proposing a bill and if these are true reflections. I used to believe that our states were united, but we all have our own beliefs and are incredibly individualistic, and this has helped me understand why there is currently a divide in our country.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU due to its contributions to research and curious minds who want to better understand and aid the world for the better. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The professor that taught me the most important lesson was my capstone faculty mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Kizer. She taught me that we need to connect with others and find our support system where we can, as well as — even though we might both be from a rural town — we can make it anywhere just like anyone else. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't be afraid to ask questions. The world is a very confusing place, and wanting to know more and the reasons why have helped me see the world differently. Continue thinking outside the box! We complete systematic change together.  

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot to study is the TA/graduate student workspace in Health South (on the Downtown Phoenix campus) on the fourth floor.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am currently researching accelerated nursing and physician assistant programs. I am ready to bring my lessons to care for the population that should be at the center of the health care system: the patients.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would do anything I can to ensure housing for all. The amount of heat-related deaths in Maricopa County is continuously increasing every year, along with housing prices. I would try to build as many cooling resilience hubs containing community gardens around the Valley as the first step.

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions

Medallion Scholarship Program made grad's dreams come true

April 28, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

If not for the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship, Sierra Lockett would not be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in psychology this spring — for her, the scholarship made college possible.  Headshot selfie of Sierra Lockett in graduation cap, in an outdoor setting. Sierra Lockett, departing president of the Medallion Scholarship Program’s Leadership Council, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Download Full Image

“Not only was I accepted into a program that could make my dreams a reality, but I was also accepted into a group where I felt I belonged,” said Lockett, who is graduating from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. “The Medallion Scholarship Program is a group full of service-driven, highly intelligent go-getters. They have inspired me to work harder, to be a better human being for myself and the community.” 

Medallion Scholars are chosen from incoming Arizona high school students who have received the New American University Scholar Award (which recognizes academic achievement) and who apply for the Medallion Scholarship Program selection process. More than 200 students apply to the program each year, and final recipients receive a four-year, renewable financial award of $4,000.

To renew the award, the scholar must actively participate in regular meetings and activities, community service and maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average. Students must successfully complete a minimum of 30 ASU credit hours for the academic year.

Through the program, Lockett said she not only grew into a leader but also a leader who can lead other leaders, which she did in her role as president of the Medallion Scholarship Program’s Leadership Council.

“The benefits of this program are endless,” Lockett said. “I have grown into a confident young woman who believes not only in her work but also in the work I can do for others. I have a circle of support from this program that provides friendly faces that want me to succeed. The program's advisor wants every member to succeed. 

“Really what this program is about is seeing not only yourself succeed but watching others grow and succeed, too. The friendly atmosphere helps when life and school are stressful, and the community of the Medallion Scholars is one of the reasons I can say that (I'm graduating) with a great GPA.” 

Lockett said her college experience would not have been possible without her parents, fellow Medallion Scholars and scholarship advisor James Randall, ‘09 BA, ‘11 MEd, ASU Alumni Association director of student engagement. 

Question: What was your "aha" moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My "aha" moment came after choosing my major (in psychology). I realized during the pandemic that isolation can be hard, and sometimes we need someone to talk to in such confusing times.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned much about myself through classes and my connections with such diverse people. I learned to accept myself and who I was.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because I wanted to follow in my mother's footsteps, as she was the first college graduate in her family. I wanted to start a legacy of Sun Devils.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Association Teaching Professor Kathleen Waldron (School of Social and Behavioral Sciences) taught me so much about life and how we choose to live it. Through the ups and downs, we can still achieve a life we can say we are proud of. We have to remember to take care of those around us and ourselves.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: You must remember to enjoy life — college goes by extremely fast, and we only get to be this age once. Of course, make sure to study and do well, but talk with classmates, take care of yourself and make sure that the life you live now is something you can be proud of!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be helping people's dreams come true as an engineer for a local sign company. I work with the machines that provide the designs for commercial signs that will be made for public display.

Laurie Merrill

Marketing Copy Writer , ASU Alumni Association

The legacy of ASU's 'ant man'

Renowned behavioral biologist, social insect researcher Bert Hölldobler retires after 19 years at ASU

April 28, 2023

Born in Germany, Bert Hölldobler received degrees in biology and chemistry at the University of Würzburg in 1962. His doctoral thesis was on the social behavior of the male carpenter ant and their role in the organization of carpenter ant societies — and the rest is history.

Hölldobler, university professor of life sciences and a Regents and Foundation Professor in the School of Life Sciences, will retire after 19 years of service at Arizona State University, and a lifetime of service and scholarship on the dynamics of social structures and the evolution of animal societies. Bert Hölldobler sits with hands folded and listens intently. Bert Hölldobler at his retirement celebration on Thursday, April 27. Photo courtesy Meghan Finnerty/ASU. Download Full Image

Friends and colleagues celebrated Hölldobler’s work and legacy at a retirement celebration on Thursday, April 27.

Along with over 300 peer-reviewed manuscripts and several books, his co-authored work “The Ants” won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. His research was the subject of the documentary film “Ants — Nature's Secret Power,” which won the 2005 Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Special Jury Prize. His recent co-authored work "The Guests of Ants: How Myrmecophiles Interact With Their Hosts" was named a finalist for the 2023 PROSE Awards

Hölldobler taught at the University of Frankfurt, Harvard and Cornell before joining the School of Life Sciences at ASU in 2004. 

During his time at ASU, he received the 2016 Lorenz Oken Medal, the highest recognition bestowed by the German Association for the Advancement of Science and Medicine, in recognition of his ability to talk about his life’s passion and foster a public dialogue around science.

“Without communication there is no cooperation or division of labor in any social system, be it a society of genes, organelles, cells or organisms,” Hölldobler said, commenting on the award. “My work is to disentangle the complex communication system in ant societies and through that discover and share much about ourselves.”

In 2019, Hölldobler earned the German Entomological Society’s most prestigious award, the Fabricius Medal. The award recognized his "outstanding scientific contributions in the field of behavioral physiology and sociobiology, in particular his pioneering work to our understanding of the behavioral ecology and social behavior of ants.”

Hölldobler and Provost Emeritus Robert E. Page founded ASU’s Social Insect Research Group, an internationally acclaimed research group that studies the evolution and organization of insect societies, and the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity. In 2021, he was appointed as the inaugural Robert A. Johnson Chair in Social Insect Research at ASU. 

“I have been lucky in my life and career to know Bert Hölldobler as a close friend and as a colleague,” Page said. “As a friend, he has been generous, committed and supportive. As a colleague, he has inspired me in so many ways as a model scientist, mentor, disciplinary pathfinder, academic program builder and a true celebrity scientist.”

Hölldobler is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, among several other prestigious academic associations. 

“ASU has been incredibly fortunate to have Bert Hölldobler as a part of our community for 19 years,” said Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “His research, teaching and public outreach will leave a lasting impact on our university, especially how studying the organization of insect societies can help us explore social evolution, superorganisms, behavioral ecology and much more.”

Lauren Whitby

Digital Marketing Manager, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Labriola National American Indian Data Center turns 30

How gift from Frank and Mary Labriola to establish ASU Indigenous library continues to make an impact

April 27, 2023

On April 1, 1993, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center was created within the Arizona State University Library to serve as a national repository of Native American documents and materials and to provide access to this information through computer databases. Now in its 30th year, the Indigenous library has become an essential resource for the ASU community. 

“From a collection of Indigenous books to an Indigenous knowledge zone within the library, the Labriola Center seeks to connect book smarts with Indigenous ways of knowing,” said Alexander Soto, director of the Labriola Center. “Through our physical spaces, research services, collections, programming and adherence to community stewardship and protocols, the Labriola Center is showing the impact that Indigenous libraries have for student success and community building.” A group of people standing and kneeling, smiling for the camera. Attendees pose at a Lo-Fi Study Session at Hayden Library in November 2022. Photo courtesy Labriola Center Download Full Image

The center was made possible by the vision and generosity of Frank and Mary Labriola. Frank Labiola served as founder and chief executive of Pimalco (Pima Aluminum Company), one of the first major companies located on the Gila River Indian Community. 

The Pimalco workforce consisted of members of the Gila River Indian Community. The Labriolas saw a need for an Indigenous library, and they proceeded to set aside funds and a scholarship for American Indian students at ASU.

“We owe gratitude to Frank and Mary Labriola for their generosity in underwriting the creation of the Labriola Center,” said Jacob Moore, associate vice president of tribal relations. “We recognize the Labriolas for giving back to tribal communities based on their personal longstanding relationship with the Gila River Indian Community.”

On the center’s dedication plaque, Frank and Mary Labriola wrote, “We would like to see the Labriola Center be an expression of our friendship and respect for the Indian people and a symbol of working together. It is our wish that the Labriola Center be a source of education and pride for all Native Americans."

“Thirty years later, that original vision came to fruition in ways that couldn’t have been imagined then,” Moore explained. “There were many people that came along to sustain this vision, including Joyce Martin, Peterson Zah, Simon J. Ortiz, and many other scholars and individuals who have contributed towards the rich collections that are respectfully curated by the center. With Jim O’Donnell’s guidance, Alex Soto and his team are poised to further expand the ways that the Labriola Center can serve American Indian students and tribal communities.”

Additional support for the center was later provided by the Alcoa Foundation and the National Education Association. As the only Indigenous-led library center within a doctoral research university in the United States, the Labriola Center celebrates and critically engages with American Indian and Indigenous scholarly works and creative writing.

Joyce Martin, associate librarian and head of the social sciences division team at the ASU Library, worked at the Labriola Center from 1999 until 2020 and experienced the impact of hosting Indigenous scholars and programs.

“I truly enjoyed working with the Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture and Community where I was able to meet many amazing scholars from across various disciplines, all of whom were friends with the remarkable Professor Simon Ortiz,” Martin said. “Professor Ortiz’s ideas tie so closely with the ASU Charter many years prior to the charter’s existence. The Labriola Center pushed the boundaries for public programming and student engagement, and this lecture series was just one of many examples.”

Newsletters displayed in a holder on a small table with bookshelves and stacks in the background

“Before I joined the Labriola, it was especially difficult to find community with other Native students in classes or around campus,” said ASU student and Labriola Center student archivist Lourdes Pereira. “As the Labriola has grown, it has also become a space where I can engage with other Indigenous students and receive that sense of community while being away from home.” Photo by Kyle Knox

The center in Hayden Library has hosted an array of events, from poetry readings to thesis defenses and student groups to film screenings. Highlights include hosting two Navajo Code Talkers with a traveling exhibit and establishing the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award in 2008. 

“Many amazing professionals worked in the Labriola Center as student employees. It is impossible for me to sum up how much I appreciate all the people I’ve met,” Martin said. “Thank you to all who allowed me to be a part of this amazing center, and I cannot wait to see what the next 30 years bring with Alex and his entire team.”

Building on this foundation, Soto was named the first Indigenous director in 2021 and expanded the center’s full-time personnel fourfold. This capacity has allowed the Labriola Center to enact Indigenous librarianship. The center has strengthened its success and engagement with students and the community, from events such as the Ribbon Skirt Workshops, Lo-Fi Study Sessions, Open Mic Nights and Knowledge from the Land series to a $1 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to support archival partnerships with tribal nations. 

“We have opened up our library to be a community resource,” Soto said. “Notable collaborations include our partnership with Arizona Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education and Arizona Humanities to host the Changing the Narrative: K–12 Indigenous Literature and Literacy Symposium. We also partnered with Professor Melissa K. Nelson and (the Julie Ann Wrigley) Global Futures Laboratory for the Intercultural Well-Being: Indigenous Innovations and Design gathering. Our program coordinators, Eric Hardy and Yitazba Largo-Anderson do an incredible job at communicating how the Labriola Center cultivates spaces of healing and possibility for the Indigenous community at large."

The center has a long history of being a critical resource and support for ASU faculty and instructors, especially Indigenous scholars

Myla Vicenti Carpio, director of graduate studies and associate professor of the American Indian Studies course, has seen enormous changes at the center throughout her time at ASU.

“When I first arrived at ASU, Labriola was a space primarily focused on archival collections and research,” Vicenti Carpio said. “Joyce moved the Labriola to a more welcoming, accessible and student-friendly library for all students, faculty and ASU Native events. I remember how Joyce generously opened up Labriola for various Indigenous poets, presentations and conference receptions.”

Vicenti Carpio recalled when Soto was an ASU student and how he worked to expand the possibilities of what a library could be.

“When Alex was a student in American Indian studies, I think we all saw his passion for Indigenous rights, sovereignty and culture,” Vicenti Carpio explained. “It is exciting to see how that passion and vision now gives rise to a true paradigm shift where a library center is built on a dynamic framework of Indigenous values and protocols, archival data sovereignty and Indigenous community partnerships.” 

As technology continues to advance, libraries must play a critical role in Indigenous data sovereignty. Adding archivist Vina Begay to the team last year provides dedicated expertise to safeguard and steward Indigenous knowledge within higher education institutions. 

“We need more Indigenous librarians and archivists — and allies — who will help our communities to navigate the increasingly complex world of data sovereignty and to better control and assert ownership over our own information,” said Michelle Hale, assistant professor of American Indian studies. “Alex has brought to the conversation important considerations about the ethical and responsible use of information by and about Indigenous communities; he works to foster awareness of the role of the university library as a good steward of Indigenous information, an important step in building and maintaining respectful relationships and trust between Indigenous communities and libraries. Labriola is a place where the Indigenous community can gather to share culture, and to be our Indigenous selves, through food, music, literature and art, and the exchange of ideas.”  

Hale notes how the center has been a leader in building trust with Indigenous communities and helping people teach, learn and access information.

“For the scholarly community, Labriola is on the cutting edge of Indigenizing search tools, terminology and research methodology by working closely with scholars, listening to Indigenous communities and applying lessons from disciplines like American Indian studies,” Hale said. “Labriola ensures that Indigenous communities are not left behind. Instead, Indigenous communities are included and empowered in the university library of tomorrow.”

The meaningful library services the center provides from its all-Indigenous staff support the next generation of Indigenous excellence at the center’s spaces on the Tempe campus in Hayden Library and on the West campus. 

Lourdes Pereira (Hia-Ced O'odham and Yoeme) was the first student archivist Soto hired when he joined the library and has worked in the Labriola Center for four years. 

“Before I joined the Labriola, it was especially difficult to find community with other Native students in classes or around campus,” said Pereira. “As the Labriola has grown, it has also become a space where I can engage with other Indigenous students and receive that sense of community while being away from home.”

Pereira, who will graduate this spring, has also worked with the Community-Driven Archives Initiative to help her tribe, the Hia-Ced O’odham, gain federation recognition.

Labriola has absolutely changed my life in unexpected ways and has given me a chance to help my community,” Pereira said. “I can’t imagine my life without ever getting the opportunity of working here, because I know for a fact I wouldn't be who I am today without it.”

With commencement approaching and another semester in the books, the team is ready to celebrate this milestone and envision the next 30 years. 

“I am excited for the next chapter of Labriola’s history since we now have foundational staff and space to support the growing ASU Indigenous community,” Soto said. “We hope to push the definition of what a library can be for Indigenous peoples. We look forward to sharing more about our role at ASU and may even have a few surprises for the community. Stay tuned!”

Marilyn Murphy

Communications Specialist, ASU Library


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Why Willie Bloomquist left relaxed life to become ASU's baseball coach

April 27, 2023

'The only place I’m passionate about doing something would be at ASU'

The daily ritual would occur as Willie Bloomquist made his way to his seats at Chase Field.

An alum from Arizona State University would ask him when he’s going to take over the Sun Devil baseball program. A fan would tell him how much he’d like to see Bloomquist back in maroon and gold.

Bloomquist spent five years as a special assistant to Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall, and rare was the night he didn’t hear about his baseball heritage or why he’d be such a great fit managing the Sun Devils.

“I hadn’t really given it much thought before that, but I’d be lying if I said after those several days in a row and several years in a row where people were talking that I didn’t think about it,” Bloomquist said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, the only place I would probably go would be where I’m passionate. I’m not going to be any good at anything unless I’m passionate about it. And the only place I’m passionate about doing something would be at ASU.

“I have a love for this program. It’s the only place I would pour my heart and soul into. I want to see it be successful. And I want to help.”

On June 11, 2021, the wishes of those Sun Devil fans came true. Bloomquist was named ASU’s manager. Less than two years later, he has ASU in first place in the Pac-12 and ranked 12th in the country by Baseball America.

But this story isn’t about records or rankings. It’s about a Sun Devil whose passion for the program runs so deep that he took a job he admittedly wasn’t prepared for and a job he wasn’t sure he could do well.

“He loves putting on that Sun Devil uniform,” Hall said. “His loyalty to the school, his loyalty to the brand, his affiliation with it, his success as a player, all of it just fits.”

Bloomquist’s love affair with ASU baseball – that’s what it is, a love affair – began early. As a high school player in Port Orchard, Washington, he admired the program. And when he arrived in Tempe in 1996 to play for Pat Murphy, now the Milwaukee Brewers’ bench coach, he found a comradery he still treasures today.

“Murph was a master at creating an environment to where the team was bigger than the individual,” Bloomquist said. “No truer words were spoken than when he said, ‘You’re never going to experience a team like this again unless you’re fortunate enough to make it to the postseason in the big leagues.’

“This was really the pinnacle of feeling a part of a team to where we all had one common goal. I think that’s what makes it so special. You’re not playing for personal accolades. You’re playing for one destination and one goal. When you have a group of guys that buy into that, there’s more power in that and there’s passion in it.”

Fast-forward … past Bloomquist being a first-team All American in 1999, a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic First Team selection with a degree in management from the W. P. Carey School of Business … past his 14-year major league career … past his time with the Diamondbacks … to the summer of 2021.

The ASU job is open. Bloomquist is intrigued. But he’s also anxious. He knows baseball, but he’s never coached or managed before. Plus, the college sports world is undergoing a seismic change, with the transfer portal and NIL (name, image, likeness).

He also has to think about his wife and four children. Taking the job means more travel, more headaches, more time away from them. He talked to Murphy, who told him he was a perfect fit, but that the job wasn’t easy.

“He was very worried about it,” said Murphy, who still talks to Bloomquist regularly and is a godfather to one of his children. “And I respected that.”

“I had to decide if I wanted to give up what I was doing,” Bloomquist said. “I had a relaxed life. Did I want to jump back into this? I don’t want to sound arrogant, but my name around here was pretty good. If I don’t do very well as a head coach, I’m going only to screw that up.

“I’m taking on a program with high expectations. But I think in life you have to do things that challenge you and scare you a little bit. The big nerves came from not knowing what I was really getting into. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no idea what recruiting was all about. I had no idea if I could really lead a group of young men. Am I going to relate to them? And all the administrative work, the rules, the compliance stuff. Am I going to figure this all out?”

Baseball coach walking on field

Bloomquist joined ASU Baseball in the 2021–22 season. Photo courtesy Sun Devil Athletics

Bloomquist said he “didn’t come up for air” his first season (2021–22), in which ASU finished 26-32. But his Sun Devil legacy gave him breathing room with fans.

“I will tell you for a number of years I had always hoped a Sun Devil would become the head coach,” said season-ticket holder Roger Detter, who played on ASU’s 1967 and 1969 national championship teams. “I just think someone who understands the rich heritage and the tradition, and the way Sun Devil baseball has been played for years and years, would be in great position to lead the program.”

Even as the team struggled last season, Bloomquist was passing along that heritage to his players. He held frequent team meetings in which he would talk about the program’s history. He had former Sun Devils like Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Burr speak to the team. He showed video of ASU teams at the College World Series.

He wanted them to know what he did: That putting on the Sun Devil uniform means something significant.

“Just getting us to understand what is expected here,” said sophomore catcher Ryan Campos. “Not that we got away from it, but it needs to get back there.”

The Sun Devils aren’t there yet. But they’ve already taken on Bloomquist’s personality. He never was an elite athlete or the most talented player on the five major league teams he played for. But he worked hard, he was tough, and he was unbowed. Already this season, ASU has 16 come-from-behind victories.

“I can’t think of a player more scrappy than him,” Hall said. “You heard the word gritty all the time, but he really was gritty and blue-collared and just the greatest teammate. That’s who he is. That’s how he coaches, too. He gets that out of his players. He gets the most out of them. I’m not surprised by the success he’s having, and I’m thrilled for him.”

It's a few hours before a mid-week game against Cal State Fullerton when Bloomquist sits down in the Omaha interview room at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the name of the room an homage to the site of the College World Series.

All around Bloomquist are reminders of the program’s excellence, from the world series trophies standing on two shelves to the 22 banners on a wall, heralding each of ASU’s appearances.

But a banner hasn’t been added since 2010, the last time the Sun Devils were in the College World Series.

“That’s why I came back,” Bloomquist said. “I played for the national title my sophomore year (1998), and we were one pitch away my freshman year from going to Omaha. Had we won in ’98, I don’t know if I’d be here.

“There’s a void left in me. I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do at this place. But my biggest desire now is to give these kids the experience that I had. I know how much it meant to me. Playing as a 19-year-old kid in front of 35,000 people for a national title, it’s the time of your life.

“But, again, I’m not doing this to put my name in a headline. I’m doing this for these kids and Arizona State.”

Top photo: ASU baseball coach Willie Bloomquist hugs catcher Will Rogers team after a game against San Diego State on Feb. 17 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Photo courtesy Sun Devil Athletics.

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

In memoriam: Professor Jack Farmer

April 26, 2023

The School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University is mourning the loss of Professor Jack Farmer, who died on Feb. 22. 

Farmer was a widely appreciated teacher, eminent astrobiologist and paleontologist, and beloved mentor in the school. He joined the geology department at ASU in 1998 as a professor of geological science.  Man standing on rocky terrain in an outdoor setting. Professor Jack Farmer in the field at the Trendall Reserve in Western Australia. Photo courtesy Professor Geoffrey Bruce Download Full Image

During his time at ASU, Farmer became director of the astrobiology program, and his research interests include biological mediation of sedimentary processes, the microbial fossil record of the Precambrian biosphere and the origin and early evolution of animals. 

“Jack inspired us with his deep fascination with the signatures of past life in the sedimentary record, his tireless efforts in teaching, mentoring and research, and the story of his successful professional and personal path in life,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “He was a kind man who left a positive impact in our lives and community — he was a great Dr. Rock at many of our outreach events — and will be deeply missed.” 

Farmer’s research also included being a participating scientist on the Mars Exploration Rover mission and a member of the CheMin instrument team on the Mars Science Laboratory mission. 

In addition to his key role in promoting the exploration for a Martian fossil record, Farmer was instrumental in the selection of the landing sites for Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers. He additionally served on the science definition teams for the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions.

“A highlight of my career was made possible through my collaboration with Jack in an effort to understand the discovery of hydrothermal silica on Mars by the Spirit rover. We traveled the world together in our quest, which culminated in a trip to Chile in 2015,” said Steve Ruff, associate research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “Jack’s keen eye in the field and then later back in the lab led to my most important science paper to date. I’ll be forever grateful to Jack for his efforts and proud to have his name forever next to mine on that paper.”

During his time at ASU, and at UCLA and UC Davis before that, Farmer taught courses in paleontology, physical and historical geology, sedimentology, planetary science and astrobiology. At ASU, Farmer also led educational activities as part of the Mars Education Program, which offered authentic science experiences to teachers and students. 

He was known as a conscientious and caring graduate student mentor. Informal public education was also an important focus for Farmer. At the school's annual Earth and Space Exploration Day, Farmer was a regular participant as Dr. Rock, sharing the wonders of geology with countless children and adults. 

"Jack was a generous and patient teacher. He loved to share his knowledge, especially in the field. He never talked down to anyone, as he was that rare scholar who could meet you where you were, whether novice or peer, wanting nothing more than to enlighten and inspire,” said Ariel Anbar, professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and School of Molecular Sciences. “It was a key secret to much of his success."

Farmer was Native American and enjoyed studying the history and culture of his tribes, the Cherokee and Chickasaw. He received the Recognition Award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society summer bridge program in 2002 for his community-outreach work with Native American communities. 

“Jack was an Indigenous geoscientist who took very personally and seriously the challenge to expand opportunities for Indigenous students in the geosciences, through organizations such as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, of which he was a lifetime Sequoyah Fellow, and the Geological Society of America, of which he was also a fellow, “ said Steve Semken, professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “As a mentor and teacher, Jack has a superb legacy to match that of his scientific work.”

In Farmer’s long scientific career, he contributed to several institutions before arriving at ASU. From 1986 to 1991, he taught at UCLA, and before that he was a research scientist in the Exobiology Branch of NASA's Ames Research Center from 1991 to 1998.

In 2001, he testified on Life in the Universe before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Farmer’s career highlights include being the leader of one of the founding teams in NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, a member of NASA’s Space Science Advisory Committee and a chair of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group. He contributed to the revision in 2004 of NASA’s Astrobiology Roadmap. Farmer substantially influenced the astrobiology strategy for Mars exploration. And he served as associate editor for several journals and as an officer for the Geological Society of America

“He was a geologist through and through. He appreciated the geologic record as a real measure of what had happened on Earth over time and as a constraint about how life interacts with the other spheres of the Earth,” said Ramon Arrowsmith, associate director of operations and research at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “He was a truly dedicated teacher: thorough in his preparation, a master of the material, a leader of field education and a curator of beautiful teaching collections. Most importantly, he made a connection with his students and cared deeply for them and their success.”

Media Relations and Marketing Manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


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Project Humanities director wins ASU award celebrating spirit of difference making

April 26, 2023

The annual Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award was established through the generous contributions of faculty, staff and friends of Arizona State University, to honor a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference making as demonstrated by Krahenbuhl, a former dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This year, the college recognized Neal A. Lester for his active involvement in community engagement and advocacy for social justice, along with his work in the award-winning Project Humanities university initiative.

Portrait of

Neal A. Lester

Lester is a Foundation Professor of English and founding director of Project Humanities at ASU. He came to ASU in 1997 after having taught previously at the University of Alabama and the University of Montevallo.

Lester is a prolific scholar, publishing numerous articles, chapters and books. His research and teaching interests include African-American literature and culture, race and representation, and diversity and inclusion. He is also a sought-after speaker and consultant on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, both within and outside of academia.

Lester brought a new way of thinking to ASU with the Project Humanities university initiative he founded 12 years ago. It aims to promote humanities study, research and humanistic thought by facilitating conversations across diverse communities.

Under the leadership of Lester, the program has gained recognition and become a leader in local, national and international conversations about shared humanity. The initiative has created Humanity 101, which is a toolbox of diverse programs and activities focused on proving that humanity is bound by shared experiences. This movement promotes local synergy, empowerment and awareness through seven principles: kindness, compassion, integrity, respect, empathy, forgiveness and self-reflection.

The Project Humanities programs highlight cross-communal outreach as multiprofessional, intergenerational and pedagogical through two signature programs. A 10-year-long homeless outreach effort engages diverse ASU undergraduate individuals and communities in collecting, sorting and distributing clothing, shoes and toiletries to 150–200 unsheltered adults in downtown Phoenix. Undergraduates, both credit- and noncredit bearing interns and volunteers, make this outreach a subject of class projects and fraternity/sorority service projects. Lester's Introduction to Literature course inspired one undergraduate student to volunteer in this program, who eventually created his own outreach initiative.

The other program is the annual Hacks for Humanity: Hackathon for the Social Good, which is now in its 10th year. This program introduces ASU undergraduates to humanities and humanistic thinking, as well as Humanity 101 principles through intergenerational and multidisciplinary technology innovation and collaboration. The competition engages ASU undergraduates in various roles, including mentors, volunteers, participants, workshop leaders and panelists. This event has gone global, attracting participants from four states and 14 countries and collaborating with the University of Texas at Dallas on a synchronized event.

Lester's faculty teaching, research and service profile demonstrates how the three can work together symbiotically, both inside and outside the classroom. His leadership in Project Humanities has helped create meaningful cross-communal outreach and multidisciplinary collaboration opportunities for ASU undergraduates. Under his guidance, students have been able to contribute to their own personal and academic growth, as well as to the betterment of society as a whole.

Lester said he is most proud of the convergence of his research, teaching and service in his campus office. Hundreds of figurines, dolls, games, posters and other objects reinforce and introduce what is taught in his courses as well as act as a staged teaching tool, inviting critical conversations about race, whether privately in visitors’ heads or publicly with the person.

“For 30 years, my office has been a living book, a ‘colored museum,’ for students, colleagues and other visitors who enter it,” he said.

When asked about what this award meant to him, he said, “While I have personally/professionally received accolades and acknowledgments from entities outside of ASU for various reasons … it is gratifying to know that those inside ASU broadly and within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences more specifically both acknowledge and value my work and its impact across ASU and beyond.”

Alek Bustamante Valdez

Marketing assistant , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

New course sheds light on safe, responsible arthropod research practices

ASU health and safety specialist partners with ABSA International

April 25, 2023

Catherine Mancini, a health and safety specialist in Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences, helps designs research labs that study ants, bees, mosquitos and other insects.

Alongside colleagues from ABSA International, she has released a new course titled "Arthropod Research, Containment, Biosafety and Beyond," which provides biosaftey professionals, engineers, academics and more with the tools to conduct their arthropod research safely.  Portrait of Catherine Mancini Catherine Mancini. Photo courtesy Catherine Mancini

“(Mancini’s) addition to the operations team here in the School of Life Sciences has only served to benefit us all as we continue down the path of keeping the School of Life Sciences a clean, healthy, safe, more secure place, to learn, work and do research,” said Judy Swartz, manager of facilities services in the school. “(Mancini's) passion for the health and safety of the people and the world around her is readily obvious in every conversation and interaction you have with her."

Mancini was also recently honored with the Hashimoto Service Award, which recognizes and thanks individuals for contributing to ABSA International through their committee service. Mancini currently serves as a member of the ABSA Distance Learning Committee, joining in 2016.

Over the years, Mancini has developed and implemented safety regulations at ASU as a member of ABSA International, which was founded in 1984 to promote biosafety as a scientific discipline. In the U.S., ABSA provides guidelines and recommendations for university researchers and other organizations. However, over the past few years, they have shared the guidelines worldwide. 

"It is so much fun because I get to develop and facilitate courses. This committee is comprised of about a dozen biosafety and biosecurity professionals across the United States,” Mancini said.   

During 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online courses became a critical tool for training biosafety and biosecurity professionals. To fill this need, Mancini proposed the development of the ABSA arthropod course.

Arthropods are a big group of animals with a hard outer covering and jointed legs. They come in many shapes and sizes, including animals like insects, spiders, crabs, and even millipedes and centipedes. The course will help anyone who is currently designing or renovating a space or involved in or planning arthropod research. 

“Researchers do not typically receive this type of training formally and usually learn on the job. ... Making this kind of training available, especially early in the research training process, could serve as an important complement to the biosafety trainings that researchers — including those working on arthropods — are required to complete prior to working in a research lab,” Professor Nsa Dada said.  

Some topics covered in the class include guidelines and regulations researchers must follow when studying arthropods to work safely and responsibly. It also talks about how to ensure that the arthropods don’t get out and spread to places where they’re not supposed to be.

“For arthropod researchers in training, this course could also inspire interest in regulatory affairs and/or biosafety as career options,” Dada said.   

The course had its first run in February with around 60 attendees, about one-third international and two-thirds U.S. students.

“We learned two things. One, that our courses are really desirable and needed to be out there in the world. Two, that more people from different walks of life are interested in attending these classes,” Mancini said.  

“We want to branch out and continue this momentum over the next several years. Next year, we might have a course on flying insects and then on crawling insects. The sky is the limit,” Mancini said.  

Anaissa Ruiz-Tejada

Graduate Science Writer, School of Life Sciences

Ultrafast Laser Facility director retires after stellar 32-year ASU career

April 25, 2023

Senior research professional Su Lin has spent 32 years in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences as director of the Ultrafast Laser Facility, now part of ASU’s Core Facilities. 

During her time at ASU, Lin has been a mentor and inspiration to many students and colleagues. She is an expert in the development and application of time-resolved laser spectroscopy for chemical, biological and materials research. Su Lin standing in a lab, looking at the camera. Senior research professional Su Lin. Photo courtesy Mary Zhu Download Full Image

Lin retires from ASU this year after a long and illustrious career. 

Lin joined ASU in 1991, at a time when the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis was really hitting its stride, and a great deal of interest was centered around the very early events of photosynthesis. 

One of the major investments made just prior to that was the creation of the ASU Ultrafast Laser Facility. Lin recalls starting in a laser bay shared with the Physics Department in the B-wing basement of the Bateman Physical Sciences building on the Tempe campus. On her first day, she was so excited she didn’t leave the lab till 9 p.m.

“I was so happy to work with this wonderful group of people; they were and still are very supportive,” Lin said.

“As an assistant professor, I was working to build the Ultrafast Laser Facility but desperately needed someone with extraordinary technical capability to work with me and to help other users from the center access the state of the art equipment,” said Neal Woodbury, professor and vice president and chief science and technology officer at ASU Knowledge Enterprise.

“... Ultrafast lasers in those days were very delicate and finicky devices that required tremendous patience and care to keep them running and deep understanding to know how that would reflect on the laboratory results obtained,” Woodbury said.

Consequently, the laser lab initially was not really a facility at all, but a collection of lasers and equipment that only a few people could access.

“Then Su came. Having her in the lab nearly 24/7 made the facility work," Woodbury said.

"Protocols were developed. More stable conditions were achieved. Students and postdocs were trained. Grants were written, and additional equipment was purchased. Quickly the facility became world class and probably the best of its kind for biological energy and electron transfer measurements in the U.S. Suddenly, instead of 70% downtime, there was 90% uptime, and many different groups were using the facility and writing papers,” Woodbury said.

But Lin did more than just make the equipment work. She created analysis tools and helped labs not as familiar with spectroscopy to design better and more informative experiments. She read the literature and came up with new ideas and hypotheses. She wrote many of the papers and grants. She literally became a vital scientific member of a half-dozen labs, deeply engaged in their research projects. This was how she remained throughout her time at ASU.

Lin received her Bachelor of Science in physics from Beijing Normal University in 1982 and her Master of Science and PhD in physics from the University of Rochester in 1985 and 1990, respectively. From 1990 to 1991, Lin performed postdoctoral research in physical chemistry at Iowa State University.

The other remarkable aspect of Lin’s leadership of the ultrafast facility is her ability to adapt as technology and science changed. She was always looking for ways to upgrade the facility and make it more accessible to a larger number of researchers. As ultrafast lasers became simpler, she streamlined the less complex systems and automated aspects of them, making room and time for new, cutting-edge equipment and capabilities.

“It is safe to say that Su’s presence at ASU shifted the direction of research of multiple labs and made complex spectroscopy accessible to almost anyone interested in what it could do for them," Woodbury said. "She is an incredible colleague, scientist and friend, and we deeply appreciate all that she has done.”

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences


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ASU honored for service to Hispanic students and families

April 25, 2023

HSF 'Education Partner of the Year' presented at awards dinner in LA

Helping more Hispanic students attend and graduate from college has long been a commitment of Arizona State University. On April 13, that commitment was recognized by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which presented ASU with its prestigious Education Partner of the Year award for 2023.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, an organization that assists Hispanic students with information, resources and scholarships to navigate and complete college, has been a crucial means of support for Hispanic families for nearly 50 years. The nonprofit has awarded more than $675 million in scholarships and held countless college preparation events.

As a partner of the Hispanic Scholarhip Fund since 2015, ASU has hosted several HSF programs, most notably College Camp, a free, bilingual event for sixth through 12th graders and their families to help them prepare, plan and pay for a college education.

“We always want to work with partners who share in our belief that supporting student success is paramount,” says Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services. “That’s why partnering with HSF makes complete sense for us.” 

Undergraduate Hispanic student enrollment has grown substantially at ASU over the past six years, increasing 29% from 11,895 students in fall 2016 to 15,385 students in fall 2022. Hispanic students now make up 25.7% of full-time undergraduates on campus. Meanwhile, Hispanic faculty at ASU grew by 70.2% from 2007 to 2021 and doubled for Hispanic female faculty members during that time period. 

Each year the Hispanic Scholarship Fund selects 10,000 students nationwide as HSF Scholars. Students receive services including mentorship, career support and leadership development. These students are also eligible to receive a scholarship ranging from $500 to $5,000. ASU is home to 225 HSF Scholars. 

ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Nancy Gonzales says family support and encouragement is a top factor in whether a Hispanic student will earn a college degree. And those families, while supporting their students, also need to be supported.

“Many families — especially those for whom college-going is new — can find it challenging to understand and navigate the admission process and college experience,” Gonzales said.

“Without significant guidance from universities and community organizations, many students and families assume college is not for them. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund provides critical support for such families, and we are proud to partner with them. It’s an honor to be named the 'Education Partner of the Year' and a reflection of the commitment of many faculty and staff who lead ASU programs that support Hispanic students and families.” 

ASU was also recognized for serving Hispanic students and families last year when it was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The achievement noted the university’s efforts to serve Hispanic students through financial and academic support programs, strengthening the academic pipeline for Hispanic students and providing resources for the community. Additionally in 2022, ASU earned its second Seal of Excelencia certification from the Washington, D.C.-based organization Excelencia in Education for its continuing support of Latino students.

“Two Seals of Excelencia, being named a Hispanic-Serving Institution and now the HSF Education Partner of the Year are all significant honors. But nothing compares to helping a family realize that college is attainable for their student when they never thought it possible,” says Melissa Pizzo, associate vice president for ASU Financial Aid and Scholarship Services. 

For more information about this award, watch ASU’s “Education Partner of the Year” award acceptance video from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s “Leaders in Education” awards dinner on April 13.

Top photo: Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, holds the “Education Partner of the Year” award from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund with the organization's president and CEO, Fidel A. Vargas, on April 13 in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund