ASU student represents her heritage in summer internship

October 20, 2017

Arizona State University student Andrea Smolsey went swimming with the frogs — or rather smelling with the frogs — this summer during a six-week internship at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois, in which she helped develop an odor library for frogs to investigate the decline in amphibian populations.

Smolsey, an undergraduate in American Indian Studies and the School of Life Sciences, has been interested in molecular biosciences and biotechnology since high school. Andrea Smolsey, an undergraduate in America Indian Studies and the School of Life Sciences Andrea Smolsey, an undergraduate in American Indian Studies and the School of Life Sciences. Download Full Image

After conducting a meticulous bacterial transformation experiment her junior year of high school, she expanded her research by relating her findings to diabetes. As an Apache, Smolsey was happy to personalize the project’s scope to her community because Native Americans have a greater chance of developing diabetes than any other U.S. racial group, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I was able to focus on a minority ethnic group, which was interesting,” said Smolsey. “The implications were profound and purposeful to give back to my people. I don’t know what else I would enjoy as much as this.”

Her passion for research followed her into college. Smolsey has conducted research in a few labs as an undergraduate at ASU. The skills she has gained came in handy when Laura Gonzales-Macias, associate director of the American Indian Student Support Services, recommended her to apply for an internship.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory has developed a student internship and mentoring program at their facility in Champaign, Illinois. The program gathers research to enhance the Army’s ability to design, build, operate and maintain its installations and contingency bases while ensuring environmental quality at the lowest life-cycle cost.

During her summer internship where she focused on developing the odor library for frogs, she worked toward figuring out what types of odors a frog can smell as a means of building a chemically-mediated conservation effort.

“They don’t know what kind of chemical binds to receptors and what outcome it produces,” Smolsey said. “Once they find out there is a reaction to a scent, they can test if certain smells attract or repel the frogs. And the idea behind that is, certain frog species are declining so they want to non-invasively facilitate movement of these species through chemically mediated conservation efforts.” 

group photo

Left to right: Kenro Kusumi, associate dean of research and graduate initiatives; Kirankumar Topudurti, deputy director of the Construction Engineer Research Lab; Andrea Smolsey; and Paul LePore, associate dean for student and academic programs.

During her time in Illinois, and as one of the youngest students in the lab, Smolsey ran into a few challenges that helped her grow.

“Most of the other interns were undergraduate seniors who were about to graduate or had just graduated, so they kept saying how young I was and how ahead I was. There was a disconnect there, but I got used to talking with them.”

Smolsey was also one of the only Native students involved in the research. When questions about her heritage were brought up, Smolsey said she was not surprised.

She grew up on a military base with people from many different backgrounds. She had to hurdle many instances when people would ask about her heritage without being culturally sensitive. Regardless, Smolsey would answer the questions as a proud Native American.

“We just expect it sometimes,” said Smolsey. “I’m all for educating people about my heritage so I don’t mind, but it was interesting that it still happened. It’s a weird thing. You feel uncomfortable being asked these questions, but at the same time you’re prepared.”

Despite having to overcome these hurdles, Smolsey persisted.

“We need native people in these environments. I don’t see a lot of representation of natives in lab coats and goggles, specifically in that research area,” she said. “It takes a lot of strength to do, as a native person. I was given the opportunity to do research and have pictures representing myself, my family and this community very respectfully.” 

She is thankful for her experience to not only participate in relevant and meaningful research, but to educate others and represent her community.

“I say only positive things came out of doing it,” she said. “I gave a presentation at the end, where I introduced myself in Apache, which I thought was amazing. You never hear about a research presentation starting in Apache, but it was done and I was the one who did it.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

O’Connor Justice Prize to honor Anson Chan, longtime champion of social justice in Hong Kong

ASU Law award recognizes those who advance rule of law, justice, human rights

October 20, 2017

Anson Chan, known as “Hong Kong’s conscience” for her decades of devotion to social justice and democracy, has been named the fourth recipient of the annual O’Connor Justice Prize.

The award, administered by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, was created to honor the legacy of the school’s namesake, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It recognizes those who have made extraordinary efforts to advance rule of law, justice and human rights. Anson Chan Anson Chan, 2018 O'Connor Justice Prize Honoree Download Full Image

Like O’Connor, Chan broke through significant demographic barriers in her remarkable career, rising through the governmental ranks to become chief secretary, the second-highest position in Hong Kong’s government. She was not only the first female but also the first Chinese chief secretary of Hong Kong.

Chan will be formally presented with the award at the annual O’Connor Justice Prize dinner, on Feb. 10 in Phoenix.

“I am deeply honored and delighted to accept this prestigious award in honor of a great lady whom I deeply admire,” Chan said.

She added that she is a great admirer of all that O’Connor has achieved in her illustrious career, and the values that she stands for. And Chan said she greatly looks forward to meeting O’Connor in February and discussing shared interests.

Born in Shanghai in 1940, Chan moved to Hong Kong as a child. She began a career in government in 1962, joining the civil service as an administrative service cadet. Her salary was reportedly three-fourth of her male equivalents. She would later chair the Association of Female Senior Government Officers, fighting for better rights for female civil servants — most notably wage parity.

In 1984, she became Hong Kong’s first female civil service director when she was appointed director of social welfare. She continued her historic ascent through the governmental ranks, becoming chief secretary in 1993. In the run-up to the British handing control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Chan was viewed as one of the most powerful women in Asia and the face of Hong Kong, assuring world leaders that the transition would go smoothly and civil liberties would be upheld.

Chan left office in 2001 after nearly 40 years working in government. A champion of transparent and accountable government, she has spent the past decade leading efforts for full universal suffrage for election of Hong Kong’s chief executive and all members of its legislature. She launched Hong Kong 2020, a small think tank concerned with democracy and governance issues, and is a founding director of Project Citizens Foundation. The foundation promotes civic awareness and participation and educates the public, particularly the younger generation, on the need to protect Hong Kong’s core values, rule of law and basic rights and freedoms under the “one country, two systems” government concept that applies to Hong Kong.

Previous recipients of the O’Connor Justice Prize were U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio of Spain and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law