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ASU honors college grants access to global leaders

September 29, 2017

Europe’s first woman defense minister lunches with Barrett honors students

In the week marked by Angela Merkel’s historic re-election as chancellor of Germany, another woman of global political prominence called on more women to take their seat at the table.

Elisabeth Rehn, the first woman to hold the title of minister of defense in Finland and in Europe (1990-1995), has now also become the first guest speaker for the new Global Fellow Program through Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

Announced in May 2017 — along with a $2 million gift from the college's namesakes Ambassador Barbara Barrett and her husband, Craig Barrett — the Global Fellow Program offers honors students access to international leaders visiting the ASU campus, international study trips and a curriculum designed to expose students to major global issues.

Rehn met with honors students during a lunch meet-and-greet at the college's Tempe complex Wednesday, following enthusiastic introductions from Mark Jacobs, dean of the college, and Barbara Barrett.  

(From left) Ambassador Barbara Barrett; Barrett, The Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs; Former Minister of Defense for Finland Elisabeth Rehn.

Offering illustrations of Rehn’s character and recognition as a global leader, Barrett introduced the visiting foreign leader as fearless yet mild-spoken and self-deprecating — attributes Rehn herself said were key to the popularity and success she has experienced in the male-dominated world of international politics.

An anecdote offered testimony to Rehn’s sharp wit and resilience: She shared a story about deploying her sense of humor to deflect what she described as a “silly” question during one of her first press conferences as minister of defense.

“You know in Finland we have a culture of sauna. Men are sitting in the sauna and making the decisions,” Rehn said during her visit with the honors students.

So, when a journalist asked her how she was going to cope with the generals in the sauna in her new role, Rehn said she shot back with the response: “I normally like to make my decisions with all my clothes on.”

In the wide-ranging discussion that also touched on some of the more serious challenges she experienced in her simultaneous roles as Finland’s minister of defense and minister for gender equality, Rehn emphasized the need for more gender balance in matters of mediation and peacekeeping on the world stage.

Rehn, 82, also ran for the presidency of the Republic of Finland in 1994, narrowly losing to Martti Ahtisaari. She later went on to serve as the undersecretary general of the United Nations during Kofi Annan’s tenure as UN secretary general. Her work has taken her to some of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, East Timor, Namibia and Colombia.

Rehn is also the co-author of the UN report “Women, War, Peace” with Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Among other international affiliations, Rehn is currently a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, which is composed of former world ministers and heads of state including the organization's chair, former President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk.

Rehn's visit was the first of what is hoped to be many interactions between students and world leaders at Barrett, The Honors College through the Global Fellow Program and Barrett Global Initiatives.

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications

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What lies beneath Jupiter's clouds? Engineer is working to help us see

ASU engineer to build heat- and radiation-resistant space electronics.
September 29, 2017

♫ Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars ♫ — ASU prof wins NASA grant to build next-gen tech for space exploration

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviets put landers on the surface of Venus. One survived for 57 minutes (the planned design life was 32 minutes) in an environment with a temperature of 470 degrees Celsius and a pressure of 94 Earth atmospheres.

Another lasted for 127 minutes in similar conditions. Yet a third held on for 63 minutes. No spacecraft has yet laid our eyes on the surface of Jupiter because of the planet’s intense radiation.

Yuji Zhao is poised to open new worlds. Literally.

“That’s our dream,” said Zhao, an expert in electrical and computer engineering at Arizona State University. “That’s what we’re planning.”

Zhao recently won a grant from NASA to build a computer brain made from an exotic material being hailed as the new silicon with the ability to withstand intense heat and radiation. Electronics made from the material would enable NASA next-generation missions to planets seen only from great distances or for short periods.

The material, called gallium nitride, outstrips silicon in speed, temperature and power handling.

“This material has unique features,” said Zhao, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “It’s radiation-hardened material, so it can resist a very high-radiation environment.”

No one has ever made a CPU from gallium nitride.

“We will be one of the first ever to do that,” Zhao said. “It’s very exciting.”

NASA’s Hot Operating Temperature Technology program, HOTTech for short, awarded Zhao a three-year, $750,000 grant to develop a high-temperature gallium nitride microprocessor for space applications.

“This program is aimed at NASA missions that are close to the sun, or to planets that have very high-surface temperatures, like Mercury and Venus,” he said. “When they have electronic devices or systems on the surface, they need high-temperature electronics. That is what we are doing.”

Silicon does not do well at high temperatures.

“It sucks,” Zhao said.

“The material we are developing, we have results for the solar cells we have up to 500 degrees C, 300 degrees C, and don’t see a decrease at all,” he said. “In some cases if we design our device in a very unique way, their performance will be peak at 500 degrees C. This is very unique about this material; it’s designed for high temperatures.”

Gallium nitride actually performs better when it’s hot.

“For space it makes sense to use this material to develop a high-temperature CPU,” Zhao said. “There’s a lot we don’t know about this material.”

NASA is sitting up and taking notice of gallium nitride. Currently, Zhao is prototyping high-temperature resistant solar panels made from gallium nitride for another NASA grant project.

“Our progress on solar cells has started to give NASA notice and to really pay attention to this material,” he said. “On the comments I had for my review on other NASA projects they said, ‘I never believed in this material, but your stuff is starting to make me believe it.’ We are very happy about this comment, but we still have a very long time to go.”

Top photo: An image of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 3. Photo by NASA/ESA/A. Simon (NASA Goddard)

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502