ASU hosts international conference on biofuels, biotechnology

Easy-to-grow cyanobacteria needs only sunlight and carbon dioxide to survive, has potential as biofuel

May 25, 2016

As scientists explore the potential applications of biotechnology, some are focusing on cyanobacteria — an easy-to-grow bacterium that needs only sunlight and carbon dioxide to survive.

To help graduate students and faculty members stay abreast of the latest research in the field, Arizona State University hosted an international conference for hundreds of cyanobacteriologists from around the world. poster session Cyanobacteriologists gather at ASU to stay abreast of the latest research in the field at the 12th Workshop on Cyanobacteria. Photo courtesy of Sandy Leander. Download Full Image

The 12th Workshop on Cyanobacteria, held last weekend at ASU’s Tempe campus, benefits students and post-doctoral candidates in a number of ways. According to School of Life Sciences professor and organizing committee member Wim Vermaas, many of the research presentations featured throughout the four-day event are given by students so they can share their contributions to the field. Whether they are investigating ways to use cyanobacteria as a biofuel or for other feats of bioengineering, the opportunity to interact with others is key.

“There’s a ‘getting to know people in the field’ that is an important factor,” Vermaas said. “The other is to learn what’s going on in the field as a whole. They can get that by reading the literature, but seeing the people behind it and talking to them is a very different and useful experience.”

Ferran Garcia-Pichel, dean of natural sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, added that the workshop presents unique opportunities for students to meet their peers.  

“They’re great networking opportunities, because after spending three or four days with two or three hundred people, you end up meeting a lot of people. If you go to a large conference with thousands of people, you can feel like you haven’t met anyone and a little bit isolated. So, actually, these conferences are my favorite,” said Garcia-Pichel.

Group shot

Hundreds of cyanobacteriologists from around the world gathered at a conference to give students an opportunity to present their research and connect with the community. Photo courtesy of Samantha Lloyd.

School of Life Sciences microbiology doctoral candidate Wesley Swenson said he agrees. Swenson attended the conference hoping to meet other cyanobacteriologists and gain new ideas for research. He accomplished both goals during the conference’s numerous poster sessions, where he had opportunities to learn about and discuss multiple research projects.

“I found it to be a wonderful experience,” Swenson said. “Sometimes when you spend so long in the lab, you don’t know what direction the field is going. It’s nice to actually see where people are taking their projects and where you fit in the ecology of all that.”

ASU funded the four-day conference along with the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy-Office of Science, Algenol, the International Society of Photosynthesis Research and Reliance Industries Limited. The conference is held every three years at a different university in the United States. 

Jason Krell

Communication and events coordinator, Center for Evolution and Medicine


ASU alum awarded Ellis Island Medal of Honor

May 25, 2016

Arizona State University alumnus Andrew F. Ortiz is a recipient of the prestigious 2016 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor are awarded to individuals who assist the less fortunate while showing compassion and generosity all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage.

Ortiz has three degrees from Arizona State University including a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (1992), a Juris Doctorate of Law (1998) and a Masters in Public Administration (1999). Ortiz made his mark while at ASU as being one of the two original founders of Omega Delta Phi Fraternity, the first Hispanic-Founded fraternity at ASU. It has since been a perennial leader in service hours rendered on campus and in the Greater Phoenix community. Andrew F. Ortiz Download Full Image

Born and raised in Arizona, Ortiz has done tremendous works towards bettering his community.  Some of his various efforts include: mentoring and leadership training for children in Tempe and Guadalupe, passing eleven of the state’s current smoke-free clean indoor air ordinances, as well as helping needy families, the homeless and elderly. 

Ortiz is currently the President and CEO at Ortiz Leadership Systems, LLC, a leadership consulting and public speaking company.  He has served on numerous boards and commissions, including ASU’s Alumni Association and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Board of Directors.

“I hope to always be a strong representative of ASU, and of the School of Politics and Global Studies, in particular,” said Ortiz. “It is my mission to touch as many lives as I can through my life and leadership, and to motivate young people across America and around the globe to reach for their highest aspirations and to have the courage and passion to make their dreams reality.”

Ortiz’s passion for his work may best be exemplified by the slogan he created while at ASU: “Be a Leader, Be a Friend, Be of Service.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies