ASU School of Life Sciences selects new director

July 19, 2019

Professor Kenro Kusumi, a genome biologist, has been selected as the new director for Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, effective immediately. Kusumi served as interim director for the school for the past six months.

He joined ASU in 2006 as an associate professor and has held additional leadership positions, including associate dean of research and digital initiatives and associate dean of graduate programs. His lab uses genomic approaches to address questions about animal evolution, with direct impact on biomedical and environmental challenges. Along with ASU colleagues, Kusumi is uncovering the molecular instructions required for regeneration in the lizard. By deciphering the genome of the desert tortoise, a hallmark animal of the American Southwest, his group is working with state and federal agencies to help conserve this threatened species. Professor Kenro Kusumi Professor Kenro Kusumi, a genome biologist, has been selected as the new director for Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

“Professor Kusumi brings an outstanding record of scientific research, teaching and strong leadership to his new role as director of the School of Life Sciences,” said Nancy Gonzales, dean of natural sciences with The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We are confident in his ability to help build even stronger collaborations of interdisciplinary research, as well as support top-notch degree programs in the life sciences. Also, we are grateful to Professor Bert Jacobs for his years of service and dedication to the success of the School of Life Sciences.” 

The school is the largest academic unit within The College, housing dozens of graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as thousands of students, both on campus and online. The school is known for innovation in education. It recently launched the country’s first completely online Bachelor of Science biological sciences degree program.

“The School of Life Sciences is an educational innovator, creating entirely new approaches for learning in the 21st century,” Kusumi said. “By breaking down barriers, we have been able to foster transformative and interdisciplinary research in the life sciences. This is an exciting and pivotal time for our school, and I am truly honored to have the opportunity to serve as director.”

He received his doctorate from MIT and completed his postdoctoral training at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. Before coming to ASU, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he served as director of pediatric orthopedic basic research. 

“In his leadership roles at The College, we’ve come to know Professor Kusumi’s complete dedication not only to the job at hand, but also to ASU’s charter for inclusion, advancing research and discovery, and assuming the fundamental responsibility for the communities we serve,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College. “With his leadership experience, as well as scientific and teaching expertise, we are confident he will lead the school to even greater success.” 

Along with his directorship, Kusumi will also assume a new role in The College as associate dean of strategic partnerships.

kenro kusumi

Professor Kenro Kusumi, the new director of the ASU School of Life Sciences, talks with Jennifer Cox, a senior business operations manager at the school. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

About the school

Established in 2003 as the first interdisciplinary school in President Michael Crow’s vision for a New American University, the School of Life Sciences serves as a hub for interdisciplinary centers, institutes and attracting research talent. Dynamic laboratories, state-of-the-art technologies and a vast expansion of research infrastructure now support more than 4,000 students and 100 faculty members. From Pulitzer Prize winners to young entrepreneurial thought leaders, life sciences faculty pursue discovery and translational research, providing an entrepreneurial climate to bring the best research ideas to fruition.

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences


ASU Environmental Health and Safety receives 2019 CSHEMA marketing award

July 17, 2019

The Arizona State University Environmental Health and Safety team has received the CSHEMA Marketing Award from the Campus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association.

The award recognizes the ASU Eye Promise safety campaign during the 2018–19 academic year which encouraged those who work in labs and shops as part of their work duties to wear safety glasses in areas where hazardous materials or hazardous operations are present. CSHEMA Marketing Awards From left: Robert Ott, Irene Mendoza and Suzanne Kennedy accept the CSHEMA Marketing Award. Photo courtesy Robert Ott Download Full Image

“The Eye Promise safety campaign is another example of an initiative that embeds the culture of safety concept into the institutional fabric,” said Nichol Luoma, ASU’s University Business Services associate vice president and sustainability operations officer. “I am proud of the creative ways the EHS team engages in our campus community to help keep Sun Devils safe.”

The award was presented at the 2019 CSHEMA annual conference in Indianapolis on July 15, 2019, and is the highest honor given by the organization for the promotion of safe practices and safety culture at a university.

“I am extremely proud of the team that developed the Eye Promise safety glass campaign,” said Leon Igras, ASU EHS executive director and chief safety officer.

"Many people from ASU Biodesign, Business and Finance, EHS, Knowledge Enterprise Development, Research and University Business Services worked together on this achievement. This campaign has been a milestone in our safety culture program.”  

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. workers suffer about 2,000 eye injuries each day with one-third resulting in a trip to the hospital and 100 resulting in at least one missed day of work. ASU EHS is committed to raising awareness of safety practices to prevent injuries on and off campus. 

ASU EHS also was recognized by CSHEMA last year for fostering a strong university safety culture. At last year’s conference, ASU EHS received the CSHEMA Innovation Award in recognition of the ASU EHS Compliance Officer Program.

image title

ASU makes top 10 list of ‘Best Buy’ public U.S. universities in 2020

July 15, 2019

One of the most authoritative college guides in the U.S. has placed Arizona State University in the top 10 list of “Best Buy” public universities in the nation, ASU officials confirmed Friday.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2020 selected universities based on the quality of their undergraduate academics in relation to cost of attendance and specifically identified ASU for having “low average” student debt compared with peer institutions.

“We are honored to be included among the top 10 public universities out of more than 300 assessed by Fiske,” said Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost. “It is a testament to the hard work of our faculty and staff that we have students from every state in the nation, and from more than 130 countries, who seek out ASU for its high-quality education at a great value. We focus intensely on efforts to be accessible to students from every background. The Fiske Guide’s evaluation is one acknowledgement of the success we are having.”

ASU is the only Arizona university selected for the top 10 Best Buy list this year. It shares the accolade with nine other powerhouse public schools, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Purdue University, University of Florida and Texas A&M. 

As ASU continues to make higher education more accessible to more students, the Fiske recognition confirms the university’s commitment to making a college degree as affordable as possible for Arizona residents. The average tuition that state residents pay after gifts, grants and financial aid — none of which is paid back — is $2,300 per year. And nearly 40% of ASU students graduate with no debt at all.   

Fiske’s selection is the latest in an impressive list of ASU achievements. In the past year, ASU earned recognition once again by U.S. News & World Report for being No. 1 in the U.S. for innovation. The latest innovation ranking was the fourth consecutive No. 1 for ASU.  ASU also earned kudos as the No. 1 choice for international students by the Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, a comprehensive information survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.  

The Fiske Guide evaluates more than 320 four-year private and public universities each year. It has been assessing universities for the past 30 years and is considered one of the most authoritative guides for prospective students and their families. This year’s guide named 20 Best Buys schools. Half of the universities selected were public and the rest private. 

Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

image title

ASU's naturalized citizens celebrate and reflect on the Fourth of July

July 2, 2019

Along with the fireworks, festivities and barbecues that celebrate the Fourth of July, one of the most moving events to witness is a naturalization ceremony. For those seeking U.S. citizenship, the effort can be years in the making and the culmination of a lifelong dream of opportunities and freedom.

To celebrate and commemorate, ASU Now asked some of its community to reflect on their unique journeys to citizenship.

Those who responded hail from across the globe. They came with their parents, sought new opportunities, wanted to vote and fled political turmoil and civil unrest. Here, we share some of the best of their responses.

Editor's note: Some answer edited for length and clarity.

Why did you want to become a U.S. citizen?

Maxim Sukharev, associate professor, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts (Russia): To be a part of the advanced society that treasures personal freedom and human rights, to be able to vote and have a say, to give back to the country that welcomed my family and provided us with opportunities. 

David Manuel-Navarrete, associate professor, School of Sustainability (Spain): To vote.

Tomás Bilbao, executive director, branding and communications, Thunderbird School of Global Management (Venezuela): I first became a citizen by derivative when both my parents became naturalized citizens and I was a legal resident under the age of 18.

Catalina Monsalve, program coordinator senior, Global Outreach and Extended Education (Colombia): I love this country and have been wanting to become a citizen since I came in 1999. Given the political turmoils and talks of changes to immigration policies and naturalization standards, I thought it was imperative to make sure I was a citizen of the country I've called home for the last 20 years of my life.

Stefanie Botner, manager, International Students and Scholars Center (Germany): I wanted to become a citizen so I could participate in elections and to obtain a government job someday.

Sara Sami Jamous, lecturer, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (Lebanon): To get the freedom that I have been waiting for.

Marco Mangone, associate professor, School of Life Sciences, Biodesign Institute (Italy): I came to the U.S. 20 years ago with $500 and the desire to learn how to become a scientist. America has given me a lot of opportunities that I am tremendously grateful for, and I wanted to continue to realize my American dream. It might sound like a cliché, but it's true.

Sandra Martinez, manager, Administrative Support Operations and Staff Success, College of Health Solutions (Mexico): For decades, my father, grandfather and other relatives had migrated back and forth to the U.S. when workers were needed under the Bracero program and the like. My father eventually wanted for us to be together, so when I was 5 he brought us to the U.S. for a better life and a good education. It wasn't an easy journey, though. We had many hardships, but my father worked hard for us to become permanent legal residents in 1994. 

Now, I was motivated to apply for naturalization because I wanted to be a voice for others with my vote. I'm very fortunate to be where I am today as an immigrant, but being an immigrant in this country with the current administration you don’t know what to expect. I did not want to risk the laws changing and not be able to become a citizen. 

What does the concept of U.S. independence and freedom mean to you?

Sukharev: To choose your own path in life and follow your dreams.

Manuel-Navarrete: It means that institutions should be designed to work so as to enhance people's well-being, happiness and personal development.

Bilbao: The U.S. is more than a country. It stands for hope and opportunity for millions of people around the world. My family was fortunate that we had the resources and know-how to immigrate legally, but millions of others are not. Their desire to come to the U.S., provide their children a better future and to contribute to our country are no less deserving of our embrace.

Monsalve:  Growing up in a predominantly Catholic and generally conservative family, I always had a feeling that I was different, that I didn't necessarily fit in. When I came to the U.S. I was able to just be me, be myself, speak my truth from a personal but educated point of view, without the fear that my words would be misinterpreted in any way. Being able to just travel, live by myself and not have to marry or have children if I didn't choose to because of societal pressures. 

Botner: U.S. freedom and independence means to be able to speak and act freely. 

Jamous: It means the ability to think, speak, work and make decisions loudly for myself and environment. 

Mangone: Freedom means that you can be whatever you want, free of judgment. The only limitation on realizing your potential should be you. This is a foundation that the United States was built on, and it is a privilege that we all need to prize and defend — because you cannot take freedom for granted.

Martinez: The concept of U.S. independence/freedom is very beautiful to me. We have the privilege to practice any religion, have freedom of speech, we have a democratic process where we can vote and have access to education, to name a few. I am very thankful for all the men and women who have served to give us this amazing way of life. America is the land of opportunity where dreams do come true if you work hard and do everything you can to be the best version of yourself. The American dream is real, and I am happy to live the dream my parents dreamed for me.  

What moved you or resonated with you the most during your naturalization ceremony?

Sukharev: One particular speech given by an old lady, in which she told everyone how proud she was that she became a citizen that day, how hard she worked to get there. I believe she was 70 years old on that day.

Manuel-Navarrete: Over the last six years I have developed a strong personal connection with the land: the warmth of the Sonoran desert, its endless skies, the scorpions and eagles. Above all the Native cultures and spirits, the presence of which can still be felt within meandering valleys, rising mountains, rolling prairies or storming rivers. At the ceremony I was struck by the realization that I was the last one in a long string of many million Europeans who have disembarked on this land for the last three centuries. At first I felt somehow guilty for not having asked permission more explicitly, then a deep sense of responsibility to keep appreciating and respecting the land and a commitment to love it as an extension of myself.

Bilbao: I accompanied my father to his naturalization ceremony at a basketball stadium in Houston. I remember his face full of pride. At the time I thought it was about how proud he was to become an American, and that was true, but I now understand that it was also about what it meant for his four sons.

Monsalve: For me, it was being given the opportunity to volunteer to speak about my experience that made it more meaningful, not for me particularly, but for the people that had helped me get there: my mother, my ex-husband, my friends, coworkers, previous ASU bosses. I think I had over 25 guests there just for me; it was truly special to feel all that love and support. Getting the naturalization certificate, registering to vote and sending off the paperwork for the blue passport was the cherry on top! Very special day indeed.

Botner: I got chills when it was time to take the oath of allegiance. I have heard the words many times but never swore to them. 

Jamous:  It resonated with my feelings, and it was amazing to share that moment with other immigrants and my family.

Mangone: After the pledge of allegiance, President Obama appeared on a screen and delivered a welcome speech to all of us. This really touched me, because he made me feel like I'm part of a big family — with all its rights and responsibilities.

Martinez: The sweetest thing during my speech was seeing my dad there and thanking him for everything he had done for our family. Everyone gave him a round of applause, and that was truly special for me. I was also very happy to have my family and my amazing ASU colleagues there who had followed my journey. David Garcia even made it to my ceremony, which was super sweet that he took the time to be there. Lastly, if felt so nice addressing everyone as "my fellow Americans" — I had been wanting to say that for years!  

How did you celebrate your citizenship milestone?

Sukharev: With the family and friends — we celebrate this day as our second birthday.

Manuel-Navarrete: By meditating.

Bilbao: My parents met as graduate students at ASU in 1971. My father was studying physics and my mother international relations. They got married at St. Mary's church across the street from Fulton (Center) the following year. Almost 50 years later, I accepted a job with ASU and moved my family to Phoenix. Now my son, only 2, gets to walk around the Tempe campus where his grandparents once did, and where he too may be a student in the future. Last month I celebrated my 20th anniversary of having become a U.S. citizen. I've been a public servant in the federal government, managed a charitable organization, volunteered in my community and now serve the people of Arizona at ASU. I celebrate the gift of U.S. citizenship every year by doing my best to give back to the community and to protect the values that make the U.S. such a special and unique country.

Monsalve: I had a lot of people there to support me and celebrate this accomplishment. Afterwards we went to a restaurant for lunch, and other friends who could not make the ceremony joined us for dinner and drinks. For myself, the celebration became meaningful when I got my U.S. passport and my naturalization certificate. I cried in private, celebrated by going to get a glass of wine by myself and really take in the changes that were taking place. I did not realize how much fear I had been carrying for 20 years. It had paralyzed me for so long, and feeling that weight being lifted off was the unexpected gift I received after becoming a U.S. citizen. I was really sad that my dad (stepfather) was not there to see me become a citizen, which is why I celebrated in private, by myself, later on.

Botner: My family took me out for a small breakfast, and my co-workers threw me a surprise pizza party. 

Jamous: We had a big party/dinner.

Mangone: We had a barbecue with friends — it was really nice.

Martinez: We celebrated twice. First with a lovely lunch after my ceremony and second with an American-themed party at our home with family and friends. I had lots of fun testing the knowledge of our guests with the online civics test that I used to study for my citizenship interview. Let's just say many did not pass — and they were citizens!

Top photo: Catalina Monsalve, with ASU's Global Outreach and Extended Education in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, celebrates after her naturalization ceremony on April 12, 2019. Photo courtesy of Catalina Monsalve

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences) , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


ASU Alumni Association receives No. 1 networking rank

July 1, 2019

For the sixth consecutive year, the Phoenix Business Journal has ranked the ASU Alumni Association the No. 1 networking association in the Valley of the Sun. The ASU Alumni Association, with nearly 500,000 alumni across the globe, boasts a membership of more than 246,000 Sun Devils in Maricopa County.

The ASU Alumni Association fosters a lifelong connection to the university and keeps Sun Devils connected. Alumni networking events, professional development seminars, special interest chapters and a program for Sun Devil-owned and -led businesses support ASU graduates in their professional careers. ASU Alumni Association Download Full Image

“We know it’s important for Sun Devils to grow and advance in their careers, and staying connected to their Alumni Association builds a powerful network,” said Christine K. Wilkinson, president and CEO of the ASU Alumni Association. “This ranking illustrates the strength of the Sun Devil alumni community and our commitment to fostering connections.”

The Phoenix Business Journal released its ranked list of networking associations in its June 7, 2019, edition of the publication, which compared the total membership for the networking associations.

You can get involved in the ASU Alumni Association’s upcoming networking events. The Alumni Association, dedicated to serving and uniting all ASU alumni, offers programs, hosts signature events and oversees numerous groups that enhance the alumni experience and help alumni engage with their alma mater.

image title

Meenakshi Wadhwa ready to lead Earth and space exploration at ASU

June 28, 2019

ASU Now talked with the new director at School of Earth and Space Exploration

Meenakshi Wadhwa has looked up her whole life.

At the Himalayas, looming over her hometown of Chandigarh in northern India, formed 40 to 50 million years ago by two massive continental plates. And to the vast gulf of space that sends chunks of planets and moons and asteroids streaking down through the atmosphere to be put into her hands, under her microscope and into her mind.

“They’re incredible,” the planetary geologist said. “I still get chills when I hold a piece of an asteroid formed 4½ billion years ago. The scale of that time period when you think about it, it’s hard to wrap your mind around it, but it’s so thrilling to think you actually can look back in time through these objects. It’s so fun to just imagine where they’ve been and what they’ve seen and what they’ve been witness to. For me that’s always been a thrill and I’ve never lost that excitement.”

Now Wadhwa is bringing her lifelong sense of wonder to Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration as its new director.

She plans to scale up the school’s explorations, offer more hands-on opportunities for students, add more engineers to the faculty, jointly build programs with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and add more partnerships with NewSpace companies, which can range from SpaceX to two guys in a garage.

As a child, Wadhwa gathered rocks in her backyard and stood entranced by the mountains, fascinated by the scale of the processes that created them. After she earned her BS in geology at Panjab University, her thoughts turned to other worlds.

“How cool would it be to do geology on other planets? What a wonderful thing to be trained in this field and be able to transfer your skills to do geology on other worlds?”

But planetary geology wasn’t being taught widely across India at the time. She applied to schools in the United States and ended up choosing Washington University in St. Louis, which had a very broad program in planetary science. However, she didn’t know what she wanted to focus on. Then one day a professor showed her a Martian meteorite.

“Would you be interested in studying this?” the professor said. “You’re trained in geology; you know what rocks are. This rock actually comes from Mars. Would you like to study it for your dissertation?”

Wadhwa had an epiphany.

“I realized at the time there were actually rocks from these other planets in our solar system that we had access to,” she said. “Strangely enough, I hadn’t had that realization before. I was hooked.”

Since then, like those rocks, she’s gone far. Asteroid 8356 has been named 8356 Wadhwa in recognition of her contributions to meteoritics and planetary science.

Wadhwa has been on two Antarctic expeditions hunting meteorites. (She calls them the highlights of her field geology career.)

Antarctica is the best place to find meteorites. Its dry, cold climate perfectly preserves the asteroid fragments that crash to Earth. Ice sheets corral them into areas where they’re relatively easy to collect and winds screaming across the surface expose buried specimens.

“It’s such a strange place,” Wadhwa said. “It doesn’t capture very well in photographs, for one thing. It looks white and bland. But when you’re there, the scale … you have these 360 views of these vast expanses of ice and snow and just a big sky. … It’s the most beautiful continent I’ve ever been to. Just the experience of being camped in a remote location with six of your best friends and colleagues and working there for two months at a time, living in a tent — sharing the tent you get to know them very well.”

Prior to her new appointment as school director, she was director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at ASU, the world’s largest university-based collection with about 2,000 different types of meteorites in its 40,000-specimen collection.

Few things intrigue people as much as meteorites. The meteorite identification program was suspended nine years ago because the center was swamped by requests. On the one day the school offers to identify meteorites — Earth and Space Exploration Day, held each fall — people come from across the country. At a recent event, one man and his son drove from Clearwater, Florida. (They didn’t have a meteorite. People rarely do.)

When Wadhwa was curator at the Field Museum in Chicago, a meteorite shower hit the city. People called the police, thinking vandals were throwing rocks at their houses. The police confiscated many of the meteorites. “At the police station they were lined up like suspects,” she said.

Wadhwa has roles on two missions currently in flight. She is a collaborating scientist on the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument on the Mars Curiosity Rover and a science team member on the Japanese Hayabusa2 sample return mission to asteroid Ryugu.

The School of Earth and Space Exploration was among the first interdisciplinary schools established at ASU, in 2006. The idea was to put scientists and engineers together in the same silo and have them work together. Wadhwa arrived from the Field Museum later that year.

“I’ve been here since the inception of the school and I’ve seen its evolution,” she said. “Outside of ASU there was a lot of skepticism about what we were doing here in terms of trying to bridge the cultures of science and engineering and furthering exploration of Earth, space and the solar system beyond. We’ve shown in the last 10 to 12 years that the school has been around that this is a model that works. Our trajectory has been tremendous.”

The school has 10 instruments or missions in flight. Eight instruments are in development and nine missions are in development.

“Every time I look at the list there’s new additions to that,” Wadhwa said. Her predecessor, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, is leading the Psyche mission to a metal asteroid (the second woman in history to lead a NASA deep space mission). “We’re well situated because of the great leadership we’ve had in the past.”

She discussed her plans for the school, which begin with scaling it beyond showing that it’s a model that works.

“When people hear the word ‘exploration,’ I want them to think about our school,” Wadhwa said. “I want this to be the global leader in exploration of Earth and the solar system and the universe. That’s a big, big mandate I guess, but we’re on a really good path already.”

She sees opportunities for cubesats not only in planetary science and astrophysics but in Earth observation. Students can expect more hands-on learning opportunities.

“Experiential learning is the way to go,” Wadhwa said. “In here, students can be involved from the ground floor and really being involved in the actual research. I want to put a focus on more opportunities for students to do that.”

More engineers will be added to the school faculty.

“We really need to show that part of our effort more significantly,” she said. “We need more faculty in that area. … That’s an area I feel strongly about we really need to build on.” 

Many engineering students take classes in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Building programs with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering will strengthen that.

“There are a lot of ways we could work effectively closely with the engineering school to make sure we’re serving all out students well,” Wadhwa said. “I think we could help engineering and they could help us. We need to figure out the pathways for that.”

Partnering with NewSpace companies can be expanded. Local companies can benefit from having ASU students work with them. 

“That’s another area of focus where the project-based learning aspect of education through these types of internships would be a real benefit,” she said. “Orbital ATK, of course. We’re already involved with them in many ways. It doesn’t even have to be local. Some of the connections we’ve built through Jim Bell’s NewSpace for example, and having connections with companies like Planet Labs and Planetary Resources and other NewSpace industry is going to be pretty interesting as well.”

Earth science won’t be forgotten in new developments, she said. Space will not be the school’s sole focus.

“Folks that are interested in the geosciences as well, we have to have opportunities for them to be able to work with various companies locally and outside of our local region,” Wadhwa said. “I would love to find ways to build collaborative internship programs with companies that can help our students gain skills on the job.”

The Grand Canyon and Arizona’s other natural resources will be used as educational tools more often.

“There is so much we can leverage from the place where we are,” she said. “Maybe we haven’t effectively used that as much as we could have. We have faculty here who are interested in promoting that — Steve Semken, for example; he’s interested in place-based research and being more effective in that area. He’s one voice among us and I think we need to be more intentional in our focus in these types of areas. Just the fact of our being where we are, we need to be able to sort of leverage the natural gifts we have available to us and really make more effective use of them.”

When not conducting research and running a school of 64 faculty who teach almost 4,000 students each semester, Wadhwa reads. Lately she’s been perusing autobiographies and memoirs of astronauts: "Carrying The Fire" by Michael Collins, "An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” by Chris Hadfield, and her husband Scott Parazynski’s memoir "The Sky Below". (Parazynski, a former University Explorer at ASU, is the only astronaut to have climbed Mount Everest and is the veteran of five space missions, including one where he pulled off the longest and most dangerous space walk in history.) She also enjoys reading accounts of the polar explorers and travel books by Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux.

Wadhwa enjoys the great outdoors: running, biking, hiking, scuba diving and occasionally flying.

“For vacations, my husband and I love to be in the mountains — Colorado is a favorite — or near the oceans,” she said. “We do absolutely love being in the desert Southwest though – so many places for good hiking near here, and such spectacular sunsets!”

Top photo: Meenakshi Wadhwa is the director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. She is a researcher and educator interested in the time scales and processes involved in the formation and evolution of the Solar System. Photo by Chad Musch/ASU

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


image title

ASU’s lunar orbiter camera marks decade of discovery

June 27, 2019

A decade ago, an Atlas V rocket blazed across a bright and clear Florida sky to mark the 21st century's first major lunar rendezvous. Onboard was a very special payload, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The mission would be one small step to return humans to the moon. 

"The LRO came out of the return to the moon initiative, which was a vision for space exploration announced by then President (George W.) Bush, said Mark Robinson, Arizona State University professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. "This was shortly after the Columbia accident, and NASA was reassessing — what are we doing, where are we going?" 

"At that point in time, around 2003 and 2004, the shuttles were approaching 25 years in age, and they knew they had to rethink what NASA was doing. The space station was under construction, the shuttles were getting old, and at the time, the Bush administration pushed NASA and Congress to return to the moon."

The main idea was to survey the moon with the instruments onboard the LRO, gathering critical data to support humans' first return to the moon since the 1970s. Each LRO instrument was manned by a team to scan the lunar surface for new insights on where to go first.

"It was very exciting," Robinson said. "It was kind of like going back to Apollo after doing the shuttle. And NASA was charged with making a new heavy launch vehicle that could put enough mass in lower Earth orbit to get astronauts to the moon. We had to do a new rocket and new spacecraft to get to the moon. But at this time, it wasn’t just to the moon. It was to the moon and then to Mars. That was called the Constellation Program."

Full-resolution detail from one of the first
LROC NAC images, published July 2, 2009.
At this scale and lighting, impact craters
dominate the landscape. Image width is
1,400 meters; north is down.


Tucked onboard the maiden 2009 voyage of the LRO, along with six other sophisticated science instruments, was the ASU-led eyes of the orbiter, called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

"The LRO is the spacecraft that LROC got a ride to the moon on," said Robinson, the lead LROC scientist whose proposal was chosen by NASA. Robinson thought part of the ASU proposal success was to give NASA more bang for the buck by including more than one kind of camera.

"LROC sounds like one camera, but it’s actually three cameras," Robinson said. "There are two identical narrow angle cameras which are very high resolution. We can actually see the tracks left behind by the astronauts, to give you a feel for what high resolution means. There another small camera, called the wide angle camera, and it images the moon, with each pixel about the size of a football field. It pictures the moon in seven different colors: two UV bands and then five visible bands. From that, we’ve mapped out mineral abundance and learned a lot about ages of the surface of the moon."

With a near and far-ranging view of the moon, once in its comfortable orbit (30 miles from the surface at 3,600 mph!), the LROC team could snap away to their heart's content. The very first images were published on July 2, 2009, marking its 10th anniversary this summer. It would be the first of more than a million images taken and carefully curated by the team, with a huge outreach effort to make them available for the public to explore on the LROC website. Among the site's many features are interactive maps of all of the Apollo landing sites

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

For Robinson and his LROC team, the mission has coalesced and culminated scientific career interests in lunar exploration, geology and remote sensing — and given them back far more than they may have first anticipated. 

He and his team have used LROC to retrace mankind's first steps on the moon and have seen grand vistas, huge impact craters, ancient lava flows and evidence of icy deposits across its pockmarked surface. They have seen thousands of georgeous, high-resolution images, mapped future human and robotic landing sites and revealed images so stunning that they’ve been displayed in museums across the nation, from local hipster First Friday art galleries to the Smithsonian Institute. 

Tom Watters, curator of a 2016 Smithsonian Museum exhibit that featured 61 LROC images at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., at the time called Robinson “the Rembrandt of capturing just the right kind of lighting.”

Fifty years ago, the world was stunned with images of "Earthrise" taken from Apollo 8 as it slingshotted itself around the dark side of the moon. Seeing our tiny blue dot from a new lunar perspective helped spawn the environmental movement. LROC sees 12 Earthrises every day. 

They have seen more features on the far side of the moon, which is a completely different world geologically from our daily view from Earth of the nearside. Unlike the nearside, on the far side there are no maria, the seas of smooth basaltic rock (such as the famous "Sea of Tranquility" where Apollo 11 landed) made from ancient lava flows. Instead, the far side is chock-full of battered, highlands crusts, marring jolts of huge impact craters and deep canyons from a mysterious impact long ago. 

Some of these areas remain permanently shadowed, which Robinson hopes to overcome with a next-generation instrument called Shadowcam. It is approximately 200 times more sensitive than the current narrow-angle LROC camera and will allow scientists to see these regions surrounding the moon's poles, which are hydrogen-rich regions thought to be covered with ice pockets tucked deep inside the craters.

With more than 60 space agencies worldwide now, they're also excited to join forces to aid each new lunar endeavor. More recently, they've been tracking the progress of the Chinese rover Yutu, as it tracks along the surface. But they've also seen their share of failure. They were the first to see images of the Israeli lander Beresheet, which was lost when it crashed into the moon.

"Yeah, we found its impact site," said Robinson. "That’s how good our resolution is, we can actually see spacecraft landing on the surface. But unfortunately, we imaged an impact scar.

"Along the sames lines of impact scars on the moon, since we have been in orbit for 10 years, we’re able to retake pictures. The reason is because impact craters are always forming on the moon. So far, we have discovered 500 new impact craters. The biggest one is about the size of a football field. We have also discovered tens of thousands of smaller ones. These are splotches from when bigger craters form because we find them in clusters and they are aligned pointing back to some of these newer craters we found."

Despite more than a million images taken, Robinson still revels in what his LROC team can reveal on a daily basis. And now, 10 years later, the discoveries made from LRO, and what ASU's LROC has seen, may very well pave the way to return again with the first 21st century human exploration of the moon, Mars and perhaps even further beyond before the century closes.

Recently, with NASA and commercial endeavors like Blue Origin revealing big plans to return to the moon as early as this coming decade, Robinson is hoping ASU will continue to play a major role being the watchful eyes from above to propel the next generation of human and robotic exploraton. 

"Your big constraint whenever you are on the moon, or if you are on Mars — it doesn’t really matter — is the amount of time you have. And it’s precious. Because you’ve got only so much oxygen, only so much power, and you can only stay for a certain amount of time, and so you want to be as efficient as possible. And that was really the goal of LROC, where can we go to do science, and also look for ore bodies.

"We are really trying to determine the best place to land. Then we can use the incredible, high-resolution of the narrow angle camera to actually pick where to land safely and how to get to a landing site from a rover to the more interesting areas both safely and using the least amount of fuel."

In the 20th century, it took 66 years to go from the first flight of the Wright brothers to the moon landing. And perhaps, this century, we will witness space tourism and human moon travel making that same giant leap.  

"It’s really amazing," Robinson said. "The original mission was only supposed to last for 3 years, and now we are in our 10th year, and we are still returning incredibly useful science data."

ASU Law recognized for commitment to diversity and accessibility

June 26, 2019

Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law recently received the 2019 Diversity Matters Award for its commitment to increasing diversity and accessibility to quality legal education.

Annually, the Law School Admission Council’s Diversity Committee awards this distinction to a law school offering programs that make a positive impact on the local community by connecting participants to criminal justice or social justice issues. ASU Law Pipeline Initiative program Students participate in high school moot court competitions through the ASU Law Pipeline Initiative program. Download Full Image

ASU Law received this year’s Diversity Matters Award specifically for its innovative Pipeline Initiative program. The program focuses on enhancing the diversity of the legal profession by developing and fostering a pathway for high school students that promotes the development of critical thinking and writing skills and fosters values necessary to succeed academically and professionally.

Law schools that receive this award often serve as exemplar models for other law schools around the country.

“The diversity impact award provides validation for the school and our sponsors that we are moving in the right direction,” said Ray English, assistant dean of ASU Law. “Programs like our Pipeline Initiative provide an invaluable contribution to our community and I am honored to be part of this initiative.”

This past year, the Pipeline Initiative served over 200 high school students, at eight Phoenix metropolitan-area high schools. The program also provided the opportunity for select high school students to attend a national moot court competition where two students competed in the final round.

The Pipeline Initiative programing also includes:

• Summer Writing Seminar that helps build writing skills, reading comprehension and critical thinking through legal writing exercises and oral presentations.

• Summer Law Internship Program (SLIP) where participants receive a paid internship at a corporation, local law firm or government agency to encourage their interest in higher education and the practice of law.

• High School Inns of Court (HIC) Program that is designed to improve the writing and critical thinking skills of diverse students who have an interest in pursuing a career in law. A HIC chapter is made up of high school students, law students and attorneys. The HIC chapters participate in the Law Conference and High School Moot Court Competition, hosted by ASU Law in the spring, and the Marshall-Brennan Project High School Moot Court Competition. The Marshall-Brennan competition includes a regional round hosted by ASU Law in November, and the national finals hosted in Washington, D.C., in April.

The Pipeline Initiative is made possible through the following program sponsors: U-Haul International Inc., APS, ON Semiconductor, Snell & Wilmer LLP, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP, Squire Patton Boggs, and the Association of Corporate Counsel – Arizona Chapter.

If your organization is interested in participating or becoming a sponsor, contact Ray English at

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


image title

ASU recognized for efforts to support Latino student success

June 20, 2019

University is one of nine institutions to earn Seal of Excelencia from DC organization

Young Latinos are one of the nation’s fastest-growing populations according to the Pew Research Center, and many Latino youth will be the first in their family to go to college.

ASU has committed to serving its communities and those individuals who wish to pursue a college degree regardless of their background or socioeconomic status and to provide the support resources required for all students to succeed.

For those efforts, ASU was one of nine institutions to earn the 2019 Seal of Excelencia, a prestigious, voluntary, and comprehensive certification granted by the Washington, D.C.-based organization, Excelencia in Education.

“ASU is committed to increasing educational access and degree attainment among LatinxsLatinx is a gender-neutral term sometimes used in lieu of Latino or Latina when referring to Latin American cultural or racial identity., our future new majority population, and our institutional mission will only be complete if the students we serve reflect our surrounding diversity,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Through ASU’s commitment to quality, inclusion and student success, one quarter of our first-year class are Latinx students and thousands of degrees are being earned by Latinx graduates, all of whom meaningfully enrich our ASU community through their personal drives, valuable perspectives, experiential insights and their dedication to giving back to the community, both now and in the future.”

Video by ASU Now

The seal recognizes an institution’s very high level of commitment and effort to serve Latino students successfully.

“Having a higher education is vital to succeed in today’s global economy,” said Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education. “If institutions aren’t effectively serving our Latino students, we lose a vital source of talent for our workforce and civic leadership. Institutions that strive for and most particularly those that earn the seal have demonstrated their capacity to grow our country’s highly skilled workforce and develop leaders — in other words, these institutions are ensuring America’s future.”

At an event in Washington, D.C., Santiago emphasized that the seal is not a ranking; it’s the credentialing of an institution that has strategically placed support programs to help Latino students succeed and where Latino students can thrive.

During the event, Stanlie James, ASU vice provost for inclusion and community engagement, accepted the recognition on behalf of ASU. Reminiscing on the spring 2019 Hispanic Convocation, she shared a moving moment she experienced at the event when first-generation students were asked to stand.

“Ninety percent of those students stood up, and I thought, 'This is what we’re here for,'” James said.

Video by ASU Now

ASU, recognizing the importance of a diverse student community and the impact it has on shaping ideas, advancing research and preparing students to engage with people unlike themselves, has become a majority-minority-serving institution.

In the last 12 years, Latino student enrollment at ASU has doubled, serving approximately 15,700 Latino students in fall 2018.

“The Seal of Exelencia that we’ve received is a great honor,” ASU Provost Mark Searle said. “It provides external validation for Arizona State University for the efforts we’ve made to build a truly inclusive institution. Our goals have been extensive to make sure that ASU is seen as a university for all students irrespective of their background, irrespective of where they came from, their socioeconomic status.”

Understanding the specific needs of the Latino community, how to best serve them and set them up to succeed is where ASU has thrived.

Access ASU is transforming Arizona's college-going culture through strategic programs and initiatives — supporting students, families and schools from underserved communities to have access to the tools, knowledge and experience needed to pursue and attain a university degree.

“At ASU we have found great success in working with families as early as kindergarten and continuing through 12th grade to start the conversation about preparing for college early,” said Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We have created a number of culturally relevant programs and initiatives that seek to provide guidance and support for students and families to realize their goal of higher education.”

The Hispanic Mother Daughter Program at ASU was founded in 1984 to address the shortage of women and women of color in higher education. The early-outreach middle and high school program aims to connect students with ASU mentors and resources. Originally designed to serve Hispanic mothers and their daughters, today the program seeks to accept all students who identify as being a future first-generation college student with an aspiration to attend ASU.

In addition, the American Dream Academy places the focus on the family as a whole. In the eight-week program, families learn how to best support their children and are given the tools and resources necessary to provide that support and ensure a college-going mentality. To date, American Dream Academy has served 40,000 families and students.

Once on campus, the First-Year Success Center provides peer coaching services to first-year students, sophomores and new transfer students. Under Latinx leadership, First-Year Success coaches mentor students, help students adjust to college life and connect them to resources.

“We have a large and growing Latino population here in the state of Arizona as does the United States, and we also have a wonderful charter that says we will be known by whom we include not by whom we exclude,” James said. “We are delighted to be able to serve our Latino population so that they are in turn prepared to go and be of service to their community.”

Top photo: Sonia Beltran holds up a pitchfork to her friends and family during the 2019 Hispanic Convocation at Wells Fargo Arena. Photo by ASU

ASU, edX and MIT announce innovative stackable online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management

Collaboration creates world’s first stacked master’s degree on from two top-ranked universities in the field

June 19, 2019

Arizona State University, edX and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the launch of an online master’s degree program in supply chain management. This unique credit pathway between MIT and ASU takes a MicroMasters program from one university, MIT, and stacks it up to a full master’s degree on edX from ASU.

Learners who complete and pass the Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program and then apply and gain admission to ASU are eligible to earn a top-ranked graduate degree from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and ASU Online. MIT and ASU are both currently ranked in the top 3 for graduate supply chain and logistics by U.S. News and World Report. Download Full Image

This new master’s degree is the latest program to launch following edX’s October 2018 announcement of 10 disruptively priced and top-ranked online master’s degree programs available on Master’s degrees on edX are unique because they are stacked, degree programs with a MicroMasters program component. A MicroMasters program is a series of graduate-level courses that provides learners with valuable standalone skills that translate into career-focused advancement, as well as the option to use the completed coursework as a stepping stone toward credit in a full master’s degree program.

“We are excited to strengthen our relationship with ASU to offer this innovative, top-ranked online master’s degree program in supply chain management,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT professor. “This announcement comes at a time when the workplace is changing more rapidly than ever before, and employers are in need of highly skilled talent, especially in the fields most impacted by advances in technology. This new offering truly transforms traditional graduate education by bringing together two top-ranked schools in supply chain management to create the world’s first stackable, hybrid graduate degree program. This approach to a stackable, flexible, top-quality online master’s degree is the latest milestone in addressing today’s global skills gap.”

ASU’s online master’s degree program will help prepare a highly technical and competent global workforce for advancement in supply chain management careers across a broad diversity of industries and functions. Students enrolled in the program will also gain an in-depth understanding of the role the supply chain manager can play in an enterprise supply chain and in determining overall strategy.

“We’re very excited to collaborate with MIT and edX to increase accessibility to a top-ranked degree in supply chain management,” said Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “We believe there will be many students who are eager to dive deeper after their MicroMasters program to earn a master's degree from ASU, and that more learners will be drawn to the MIT Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program as this new pathway to a graduate degree within the edX platform becomes available.”

With this new pathway, the MIT Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program now offers learners pathways to completing a master’s degree at 21 institutions. This new program with ASU for the supply chain management online master’s degree offers a seamless learner experience through an easy transition of credit and a timely completion of degree requirements without leaving the edX platform.

“Learners who complete the MITx MicroMasters program credential from the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics will now have the opportunity to transition seamlessly online to a full master’s degree from ASU,” said Krishna Rajagopal, dean for digital learning at MIT Open Learning. “We are delighted to add this program to MIT’s growing number of pathways that provide learners with increased access to higher education and career advancement opportunities in a flexible, affordable manner.”

The online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management from ASU will launch in January 2020. Students currently enrolled in, or who have already completed, the MITx Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program can apply now for the degree program, with an application deadline of Dec. 16, 2019.

Carrie Peterson

Media Relations Manager, EdPlus at Arizona State University