Ajay Vinzé named associate vice provost for graduate education

June 27, 2013

Global engagement is imperative for Arizona State University’s success as an educational leader, says Ajay Vinzé, who recently was appointed associate vice provost to coordinate international graduate student initiatives.

Vinzé divides his time equally between his new role in graduate education and the W. P. Carey School of Business, where he is a business professor and associate dean of international programs. Ajay Vinzé, associate vice provost for graduate education Download Full Image

“We want to expand on ASU’s wonderful reputation and engage institutions with similar reputations around the world,” he says. “There is much to gain from global partnerships, including exchanges of research and innovative approaches to addressing broader challenges.”

An extensive list of accomplishments during Vinzé’s 15 years at ASU have created a unique opportunity for him to enlarge global exchanges with world institutions as well as attract international students to ASU’s highly-ranked graduate programs.

Vinzé was the founder and inaugural director of the Center for Advancing Business through Information Technology (CABIT) from 2002 to 2007, a research center that builds public, private and academic alliances through collaborative projects. He subsequently led the highly-ranked W.P. Carey Executive MBA program from 2007-2010.

As a Fulbright senior specialist (2008-2013), Vinzé has engaged with global business and academic communities, lectured at numerous universities in Asia, Europe and Lain America, and more recently spawned research projects in the Balkans and Latin America.

Vinzé’s research projects have been conducted in partnerships with leading U.S. organizations such as the Arizona Department of Health Services, Avnet, Cisco, IBM and Intel. He has also led international collaborations in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“The world is getting smaller and young people globally have similar aspirations,” Vinzé says. “They have the same gadgets, the same technologies, the same hunger to succeed. This serves ASU well, as academic units are spawning innovative academic programs, like the accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s degrees, to help domestic and international students succeed.

“My role as associate vice provost will take a university-wide focus,” says Vinzé. “I plan to be a support person and conduit for different academic units across ASU. We have to build our capabilities synergistically. As with most global goals, relationship building takes time and sustained effort. I hope to leverage relationships that ASU has built over many years.”

“The most surprising thing I find when I travel is that ASU is all too often a well-kept secret. When I meet folks internationally and describe who we are as an institution - one of the largest universities in the U.S., with an award-winning faculty, a cadre of excellent students and highly-ranked programs – it is an eye-opener. We need to further publicize our excellence at ASU.”

Vinzé was recognized for his work at ASU with a 2012 Faculty Excellence Award for his research. He is presently the Earl and Gladys Davis Distinguished Professor of Business.

“Professor Vinzé has an outstanding record of developing international partnerships both for his own research and in his role as associate dean in the W.P. Carey School of Business,” says Andrew Webber, vice provost for graduate education. “He will be a great asset as we continue to build graduate education initiatives with our international partners.”

Editor Associate, University Provost

Biomedical research reveals secrets of cell behavior

June 28, 2013

Findings a step toward engineering advanced medical treatments

Knowing virtually everything about how the body’s cells make transitions from one state to another – for instance, precisely how particular cells develop into multi-cellular organisms – would be a major jump forward in understanding the basics of what drives biological processes. Xiao Wang PNAS paper Download Full Image

Such a leap could open doors to far-reaching advances in medical science, bioengineering and related areas.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Arizona State University, with a partner at Imperial College London, report on taking at least a step toward better comprehension of the fundamentals of “cell fate determination” in the prominent research journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Cell fate determination relates to the mechanisms by which a cell “decides” in what direction it will go in moving through transitional phases into a final state.

Using mathematical modeling and synthetic biology techniques the team is manufacturing artificial gene networks (a collection of DNA segments in a cell that interact with each other) and introducing them into cells in the laboratory.

From there, the researchers are able to closely observe through microscopic imaging what is happening with particular cells at their “tipping point,” a stage of rest right before they transition into other states.

By learning what takes place at that point, “We can get closer to a fundamental insight about all biology,” says biomedical engineer and synthetic biologist Xiao Wang.

Once the mechanisms determining the fate of cells are better understood, Wang says, “We could make gene networks or devices that do what we want them to do,” such as create cells that produce medicinal drugs or that kill diseased cells, or create cells that act as sensors to detect environmental hazards.

Wang is an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is the senior author of the PNAS paper.

Wang’s fellow authors are: biomedical engineering research scientists Min Wu and Xiaohui Li, who work in Wang’s lab; electrical engineering graduate student Ri-Qi Su; Ying-Cheng Lai, a professor in ASU’s School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering; and synthetic biologist Tom Ellis from Imperial College London.

Their article, “Engineering of regulated stochastic cell fate determination,” is available online.

The research team is studying the molecular-level interactions within the DNA sequences of cells, through which the products of one gene affect those of other genes. This helps to trace the lineages of cell development and reveal what drives them in the direction of what kinds of cells they will be in their final states.

Within deeper knowledge of the workings of such processes lays the key to more effectively engineering cells and gene networks.

Wang’s team is focused on investigating the intricate properties of gene networks with the goal of learning new ways of regulating the mechanisms behind cell fate determination.

“Our research could be built upon to look at more complicated gene networks and more complex cellular behavior,” paving the way for expanding the capabilities of bioengineering to protect and maintain human health, Wang says.

Support for the team’s research has come from the National Science Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Learn more about the work of Wang’s research team on his Systems and Synthetic Biology lab website.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering