A passion for environmental chemistry and oceanography


April 29, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

At the recent School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) Awards Ceremony, , Professor Ariel Anbar described for all in attendance a phone conversation from two years ago he had, sitting in his driveway with Logan Tegler (current SMS Dean’s Medalist), who was extremely keen to do summer research in his lab. Tegler described herself as majoring in English and chemistry, which initially made Anbar a little nervous — but he was struck by Tegler’s intelligence, persistence and politeness, so he welcomed her into his lab and has never regretted it. Logan Tegler School of Molecular Sciences Dean's Medalist Logan Tegler from Flagstaff, Arizona. Download Full Image

“Logan’s been an exceptional member of my research team since the start of her sophomore year," Anbar said. "It has been a pleasure to see her develop a passion for isotope geochemistry and chemical oceanography. This interest ultimately led her to a summer internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), where she forged a new research partnership between my lab and one of their research groups that is breaking important new ground in understanding the chemistry of ancient oceans. Logan has a very bright future ahead of her!”

Tegler described some of her work.

“After my sophomore year, the graduate student I was working with (Alyssa Sherry) spent the summer as a student of BIOS program in Bermuda,” Tegler said. “While she was gone, I took over the project and characterized the iron isotopic composition in ponderosa pine trees in an effort to understand the importance of biomass burnings' influence on the budget of iron to the open ocean.

“At the end of the summer, I generated enough data to present my results at the 2017 Fall American Geophysical Meeting. At this meeting, I met Dr. Tristan Horner, who I subsequently wrote an NSF GRFP with, and who will serve as one of my PhD advisers at the MIT/WHOI Joint Program. This accomplishment was particularly meaningful because it not only allowed me to refine my laboratory and presentation skills, but also set me on the path toward my doctoral degree!”

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

Answer: As a college freshman, I started as a dual major in chemistry and journalism with the goal of becoming a science writer. However, while I loved taking classes in both fields, I started to really enjoy the lab components of my classes. So, as a sophomore, Dr. Ariel Anbar and his lab manager, Steve Romaniello, took me on a tour of the Anbar lab, where I had the opportunity to talk with several graduate students and learn about the research questions they were trying to answer. After I left the lab, I very clearly remember calling my parents and saying, “I’m going to be a scientist.”

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

A: One of the best parts of my undergraduate career was that I had the chance to expand my horizons by taking classes in science and the liberal arts. During my junior year I was fortunate enough to take two courses taught by Dr. Lee Bebout: Whiteness and Critical Race Theory and Transborder Chicano Literature. This class not only helped me to expand my understanding on race and inequality, but also informed me about the lack of diversity in STEM fields. As I move forward in chemistry, I hope to take what I learned in these classes and fight to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to excel in science.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: During the spring break of my senior year of high school, my dad and I went on a Devil’s Advocates tour of the campus. The tour gave me a chance to see the opportunities I would have as a Sun Devil. After the tour ended, my dad and I decided to walk through the chemistry building. Almost by luck (or maybe by fate) we ran into the associate chair of the department. He spent over an hour telling us about the academics, the professors and the research opportunities I would have if I enrolled in the School of Molecular Sciences. I enrolled in the freshman class as soon as I got home.    

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

A: Take chances and believe in yourself! While in college, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to apply for internships, take challenging classes and answer exciting questions. These opportunities will often seem scary at first — the first time I was left alone in the lab, I was terrified that I would destroy the samples with one wrong move. However, oftentimes you are much smarter and more qualified than you will give yourself credit for. If you ever find yourself wondering if you can take on a challenge that seems insurmountable — do it! You might be surprised at how well you do.

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 at the Starbucks at the Memorial Union. In addition to close proximity to caffeine, I particularly enjoy studying here because I never know who I’ll run into. During my four years, I’ve met many classmates and friends who are always willing to take a break from studying and talk about their passion for their chosen field (be it in science, literature, history or others)!    

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I’ll be attending the MIT/WHOI Joint Program with the assistance of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. I’ll be working with Drs. Tristan Horner and Sune Nielsen to understand the sources and cycling in iron in the southern ocean in an effort to understand irons relationship to global climate change over the last 90 million years. After my PhD, I hope to continue on to a faculty position where I can inspire young scientists and continue working on exciting research questions.  

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

A: One of the most important problems facing academia is the inaccessibility of research and careers to underprivileged communities. Currently, there are many brilliant young minds that are dissuaded from entering into higher education because of their race, gender or socioeconomic status. Therefore, I would use the $40 million to create youth programs to give students the tools (such as tutors, coursework, academic counselors and scholarship information) they need to excel academically. If these students are encouraged and given the resources they need, they could help solve the challenges facing our planet.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences

480-965-1430

History grad takes learning to Sonoran Desert


April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Judith Perera is ready to finish her 26th consecutive year of school. In those 26 years, she has done a lot, from an undergraduate degree in history to a law degree from Pepperdine University and now a PhD in history from ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. History Phd Grad Judith Perera "How can you learn about immigration living in Arizona without hearing your footsteps on the Sonoran Desert floor?" said Judith Perera, who new courses for history students that linked the past to the present and connected the topic to current events and took her students on field trips to the desert. Download Full Image

During her time at ASU, the Sri Lankan-born Perera has had an influence on both ASU and the surrounding deserts of Arizona. After the impact of one religious studies professor, she changed her dissertation topic and focused on the past, present and future of immigrant detention, deportation and mass incarceration.

She developed new courses for history students that linked the past to the present and connected the topic to current events. She designed the Constitutional Rights of Criminal Defendants course to address how the Bill of Rights evolved and where things stand today. She also designed the History of Deportation course and took students out to witness deportation in real life.   

“I wanted to take advantage of the amazing place we live in and incorporate the landscape of Arizona into the classroom while at SHPRS,” Perera said. “I mean, how can you learn about immigration living in Arizona without hearing your footsteps on the Sonoran Desert floor? I did some field trips to the desert during my Citizens, Immigrants and the Undocumented class I developed. The students walked the desert, filled water tanks for migrants at the border, and took a field trip to a detention center where they grilled an ICE agent. It was a proud instructor moment when he politely asked us to leave.”

Perera answered a few questions about her time at ASU and her future, including her upcoming documentary.

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

Answer: As an undergraduate, I switched from political science to history because I missed reading books and I saw that one of my roommates (who was a history major) was always reading. After law school, it was easy to return to history because I had enjoyed it so much as an undergrad.

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

A: I was introduced to noncitizen detention while taking Dr. Leah Sarat's course in the fall of 2015, and that fundamentally changed everything for me. I changed my dissertation topic and began researching how such an insane system existed and its history. I think I can divide my life into two parts based on that: before that class, and after. Completing the dissertation, with the help of faculty and my peers, has made things a lot clearer for me. I don't know that I completely understand it all but at least I tried to!

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

A: Read as many history books as possible.

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

A: The rooftop of Coor Hall on the sixth floor. You can see much of the campus from there, and I liked spending time reflecting there.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: This summer I will be working on a documentary that will premiere this September as part of the States of Incarceration national exhibit when it comes to Phoenix. The trailer for the documentary is available here. I'm still trying to figure out what I'd like to do after that. I've been in school so long, and I'm thinking I might take a break for a while and figure out what comes next. I'm excited about the openness of it all and looking forward to whatever the next step might be.

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

A: I’m not sure whether a fixed amount of money can solve or attempt to solve any of the numerous systematic problems that are due to our current economic structure. However, if there is a sum on the table, I would use the money to pay off people’s bonds and bail across the United States so they can return home to their communities and not be held in cages.

Erica May

Communications specialist, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

480-727-3203