ASU geographer receives Presidential Early Career Award

December 19, 2008

ASU geographer Paul M. Torrens is among the newest recipients of the competitive Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

Torrens, an associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was recognized in a ceremony at the White House Dec. 19.

PECASE, established in 1996, is the highest award given to young scientists and engineers by the U.S. government. It was presented to Torrens in recognition of his innovative, immersive 3-D computational modeling, which is designed to help predict crowd behavior. The reusable and flexible modeling environment Torrens is constructing looks at putting behavioral geography into classic artificial intelligence and then applying it to a general kind of social behavior in crowds: riot situations, pedestrian behavior, behavior of shoppers and along retail streets.

“Most of this work is usually done by computer scientists. They’re usually most interested in the computational efficiencies – to try to get the most efficient or elegant algorithm– so they usually turn to physics in search of their algorithm,” says Torrens.

“Under certain conditions, crowds behave the same as particles behave in flowing in a conduit. So they use equations from physics for the motions of particles,” he says. “But human crowds are not very well known and they’re not well behaved. So there’s a small niche there for me to do some work.”

Torrens’ work is mostly in urban geography and behavioral geography – “classical social science stuff,” he says. “But I also build my own tools if there’s a question I want to answer and there are no tools.”

In addition to his work as an associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences, Torrens is director of the Geosimulation Laboratory at ASU and an affiliate faculty researcher in the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, as well as the GeoDa Center for Geospatial Analysis and Computation. His research is focused on Geographic Information Science (GIS).

“In the area I work in, GIS, geographers are playing a huge role in the next generation of cyber infrastructure,” Torrens says. “Geographers in the past have been peripheral to these initiatives, but are becoming more central to it.”

Luc Anselin, director of the School of Geographical Sciences and the GeoDa Center, says Torrens is a pioneer in the emerging field of geosimulation, “which tries to better understand complex spatial phenomena like urban sprawl and the development of megacities. This work attracts worldwide attention, including from some very promising future graduate students.

“Torrens directs the new geosimulation laboratory in the School of Geographical Sciences, which is establishing a cutting edge reputation. This not only helps the school attract new research funding, but also appeals to promising graduate student applicants,” Anselin says.

It’s this kind of work that earned Torrens a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award in early 2007 in the amount of $400,000 over five years. That award was the foundation for the PECASE honor. NSF and other federal agencies annually nominate scientists and engineers at the start of their independent research careers for the PECASE. Selection for this distinguished honor is based on innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology that is relevant to the mission of the sponsoring organization or agency, and community service.

Torrens was one of 20 PECASE recipients nominated by NSF. The other 2007 PECASE awardees were nominated by NASA; and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services (National Institutes of Health) and Veterans Affairs.

“It’s a huge honor; it really catapults your career to a whole new level of success,” says Torrens. “For me, it is a validation that what I’m working on is really important and well supported. When you receive a CAREER award, you become more of an NSF citizen; you’re folded more into the process and you become better aware of what’s going on.”

Torrens also cites the support he’s received at ASU. “I don’t think I would have been able to do this research if not at ASU. If you have an idea and you make a convincing argument for it, people here just support you,” he says. “They don’t really care about what discipline you’re in or who else is doing it or how senior you are.

“When I first came here I had the ear of the vice president for research, most of the chairs of departments; President (Michael) Crow came over to have a look at my research and gave me some ideas and put me in contact with some of the people he knows; just loads of support. It’s been really good,” Torrens says.

One of his early supporters was Anthony Brazel, ASU professor and associate director of the School of Geographical Sciences. “I was privileged to witness Paul's potential by recognizing his impact in the field a few years back when he applied for the NSF early CAREER grant. This is a wonderful accomplishment for him, for geography and for ASU.”

In the field of geography, not that many scientists receive CAREER awards, according to Torrens.

“For geography it’s part of a trend that geographers are now becoming more involved in big science questions,” Torrens says.

Torrens joined the ASU faculty in 2005 as an assistant professor. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he holds a doctorate from University College London, master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Indiana University, and a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College Dublin. He is a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Microsimulation and is a member of the scientific advisory board for Savannah Simulations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Accompanying Torrens to the White House ceremony was his wife, Betsy, and his 2-year-old son, Finley, who had a new suit for the occasion. And, if the White House ceremony wasn’t enough excitement this week, Torrens also celebrated his 35th birthday on Dec. 18. Download Full Image

Men's hoops meets undefeated BYU

December 20, 2008

#20/#17 SUN DEVILS PLAY UNSCATHED BYU: The No. 20/17 (Associated Press/ESPN Coaches' Poll) Arizona State's men's hoops team, 21-13 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 last year and 8-1 this season under third-year head coach Herb">">Herb Sendek, takes on the undefeated BYU Cougars (27-8 last year/10-0 this year) on Sat., Dec. 20, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in the Stadium Shootout, the first basketball games played at the Arizona Cardinals facility that hosted the Super Bowl last season. Louisville and Minnesota tip the twinbill at noon with ASU and BYU following. The Sun Devils are 8-1 for just the fourth time in 34 seasons. ASU was 11-1 in 2004-05, 9-1 in 1990-91 and 8-1 in 1980-81. The 1974-75 Sun Devil squad started 15-1 35 seasons ago. Four Sun Devils are averaging in double digits: James">">James Harden (23.7), Jeff"> Pendergraph (11.8), Ty Abbott (11.1) and Rihards">"... Kuksiks (10.9). ASU came back from a 16-point halftime deficit to top IUPUI on Sunday, as the Sun Devils are 2-0 when trailing at the half after going 10-29 in Herb">">Herb Sendek's first two seasons. BYU leads the ASU series 26-21 with the Cougars winning the last meeting 64-60 in Tempe on Dec. 4, 2003.

SUN DEVIL DATA: ASU has now won five straight overtime games under Herb Sendek after its 59-58 overtime win over IUPUI on Dec. 14. Last year ASU was 4-0 in overtime, beating LSU in Maui 87-84 (Nov. 21), topping Arizona at home 64-59 (Jan. 9), winning at Cal in double overtime 99-90 (Jan. 17) and beating seventh-ranked Stanford 72-68 in Tempe (Feb. 14)...after starting the season 2-of-14 (.143) from the three-point stripe in the first four games, James">">James Harden is 18-of-25 (.720) from the three-point stripe in the past five games. Harden is sixth in the nation in scoring entering play this week at 23.7 points per game...after going 8-22 (.267) in Coach Sendek's first year, the Sun Devils are 29-14 (.674) since...after losing its first 10 away from home (neutral or road games) in the Herb">">Herb Sendek era, ASU is 11-10 since...ASU is 9-5 in the past two seasons in 10 points or less games under Herb">">Herb Sendek after going 4-17 in his first the Dec. 8 64-44 victory over previously undefeated Nebraska, ASU held the Huskers to 18 first-half points, ASU's second-best first-half defensive effort in the past six years (187 games)...the Sun Devils are giving up 61.4 points per game in Coach Sendek's 73 games...ASU is shooting .768 (139-of-181) from the free throw line, the best mark in the league and 15th in the nation entering play this week. Last year ASU shot .739, the fifth-best mark in ASU history and second-best in past 21 seasons...Ty Abbott three eight-rebound games this year, he grabbed eight rebounds in two games all of last year...Derek Glasser is 110-of-134 (.821) from the free throw line in his career...ASU is averaging 11 three-pointers made in the past four games (44-of-105/.419) its last game against IUPUI in Phoenix on Sunday, Dec. 14, ASU was behind 34-18 at the half and fell behind by as many as 18 but came back to win 59-58 in overtime. ASU outscored the Jaguars 15-3 in the final 8:27 to tie the game, as it marked the largest halftime deficit overcome since ASU came back from 45-29 deficit against New Mexico State in Tempe (NIT) on March 15, 2000. Download Full Image

A NEW THREAT: Sophomore Rihards">"... Kuksiks had arguably the best game of his career on Dec. 14 against IUPUI. He matched his career high with 18 points (set previous game on Dec. 8 against Nebraska after setting then-career high with 16 vs. Jackson State on Dec. 4, so yes, that is three straight career-highs), made a career-high six three pointers, grabbed a career-best nine boards (after a then career-high six boards against Nebraska), matched a career-high with four assists and had a career-high three steals. In ASU's past three games, Kuksiks is the Sun Devil's leading scorer, averaging 17.3 points per game, including 14-of-28 from the three-point stripe, and is averaging 6.7 boards per game. Kuksiks averaged 26.6 minutes and 8.7 points in the final 12 games last year and made 25 three pointers. He has 202 points and 12 double-figure scoring games in his past 21 contests (9.6 ppg.) dating to last year after scoring 42 in the first 22 games of last year.

ASU TO HOST REGIONAL ACTION: ASU will again host NCAA West Regional action at the home of the Arizona Cardinals, University of Phoenix Stadium, on March 26-28. ASU hosted the 2008 West Regional at U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix. It marks the first time the same geographic area has hosted a regional in back-to-back years since St. Louis in 1998-99 and East Rutherford in 1986-91. First round sites for this year include Greensboro, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Portland, Boise, Dayton, Miami and Minneapolis, with other regionals taking place in Boston, Indianapolis and Memphis. The 2009 Final Four will be held April 4-6 at Ford Field in Detroit.

WAY TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT THIS, BUT SO WHAT: James">">James Harden entered play this week seventh in the nation in scoring at 23.7 points per game. Since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, six Pac-10 players (seven occasions) have finished in the national top ten in scoring, with the most recent being Sun Devils (Eddie">">Eddie House in 1999-2000 and Ike">">Ike Diogu in both 2003-2004 and 2004-2005).

T5. Ike">">Ike Diogu, ASU, 2004-2005 22.6
9. Ike">">Ike Diogu, , ASU, 2003-2004 22.8
4. Eddie">">Eddie House, ASU, 1999-2000 23.0
2. Ed Gray, California, 1996-1997 24.8
7. Harold Miner, USC, 1991-1992 26.3
10. Terrell Brandon, Oregon, 1990-1991 26.6
4. Reggie Miller, UCLA, 1985-86 25.9

BIG GAME JAMES: After starting the season 2-of-14 (.143) from the three-point stripe in the first four games, James">">James Harden is 18-of-25 (.720) from the three-point stripe in the past five averaging 24.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in the past seven games, while shooting 57.6 percent from the field (53-of-92), 57.6 percent from the three-point stripe (19-of-33) and 82.1 (46-of-56) percent from the free throw line in that time...the first player to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks (Nov. 24 and Dec. 1) since Washington's Brandon Roy notched the feat in February of 2006 in three straight weeks...the first Sun Devil to score 40 points in a game with 40 against UTEP on Sunday (Nov. 30) since Eddie House had 40 vs. UCLA on Feb. 17, 2000, and just the third Sun Devil to notch 40 points (six occasions). Through 43 career games, Harden has led ASU in scoring 32 times, led it in rebounding 15 times and led it in assists in 16 games...has 22 career 20-point games (ASU is 18-4)...has three 30 +point games this year (33 vs. Pepperdine, 32 vs. Baylor and 40 vs. UTEP)...11-of-11 from the foul line vs. Charlotte and is 61-of-76 (.893) from the free throw line on the year and 230-of-300 (.767) in his career.

61-Eddie House at California (2 OT), Jan. 8, 2000
46-Eddie House at San Diego State, Dec. 18, 1999
45-Paul Williams at USC, March 10, 1983
42-Eddie House vs. Penn State, Dec. 29, 1999
40-James Harden vs. UTEP (@Anaheim), Nov. 30, 2008
40-Eddie House vs. UCLA, Feb. 17, 2000

QUICK RECAP FROM LAST YEAR: ASU posted a 20-win season for just the fourth time in 27 years last year after being picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll. The Sun Devils return their top seven scorers and 94.6 percent of their scoring in 2008-2009 led by All-Pac-10 selections James Harden and Jeff"> Pendergraph. ASU notched wins over RPI top-60 teams Xavier (9), Stanford (14), USC (28), Arizona (twice, 37) and Oregon (58). Freshmen made a league-leading and school record 96 starts, played more than 47 percent of the minutes and scored more than 52 percent of the points.

STEADY JEFF: Jeff"> Pendergraph had 56 blocks last year (he had 45 in his first two seasons) and shot .593 from the field (third in the Pac-10) and .799 from the free throw line (tenth in Pac-10). He has 21 double-doubles in his career, including three this year. He is shooting .762 from the free throw line in his career (281-of-369). His 111 career blocks is sixth in ASU history. He became the 30th member of the ASU 1,000-point club against USC on March 1. He has 1,185 points in 100 career games (11.9 points per game) and 719 career rebounds (7.2 per game). He is averaging 8.5 boards in the past six games and has four double-figure rebounding games on the year.

HERE WE GO WITH JAMES NOTES: ASU is led in scoring by the most famous Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, James">">James Harden, who had an ASU freshman record 16 20-point games (tied for third-best in the Pac-10) last year and has 22 20-point games in his career (ASU is 18-4...the 19-year old Harden (born August of 1989) was the youngest player in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 and he led the Pac-10 with 73 ASU's five Pac-10 home wins he averaged 23.4 points, six boards, three assists and two steals as he led ASU to 5-4 Pac-10 home mark. In the prevous four years, ASU was 9-27 in Pac-10 home games...was second on the team in assists (110), including 63 (3.5 per game) in Pac-10 ASU's nine Pac-10 wins he shot 54.5 percent from the floor and was 13-27 from three-point stripe. He averaged 20.0 points and 5.6 boards in those games...shot 45.2 percent from three-point land in road games.

GLASSER AT THE POINT: Derek">">D... Glasser made 58-of-69 (.841) free throws in 2007-08 and is 110-of-134 (.821) in his 73-game career. Glasser had 69 assists and 32 turnovers in Pac-10 play last year, a 2.16 ratio that was second in the league. He also has 275 career asissts (3.77 per game), on pace to break the ASU career record of 454 set by Bobby Thompson from 1983-87.

DON'T COUNT THEM OUT: ASU has fallen behind early in two games this year but came back to notch the win. Against IUPUI on Dec. 14, ASU was behind 34-18 at the half and fell behind by as many as 18 but came back to win 59-58 in overtime. ASU outscored the Jaguars 15-3 in the final 8:27 to tie the game, as it marked the largest halftime deficit overcome since ASU came back from 45-29 deficit against New Mexico State in Tempe (NIT) on March 15, 2000...ASU also trailed San Diego State 15-2 at the 12:46 mark but outscored the Aztecs 57-37 to win. The comeback is nothing new. The Sun Devils came back from double-digit deficits in two big wins in 2007-08, as it put the brakes on a five-game losing skid in dramatic fashion on Feb. 10 in Tucson, falling behind 22-6 but coming back to take a 13-point second-half lead and winning 59-54 to sweep Arizona for the first time since 1994-95 (and notch first win in Tucson since March 11, 1995). On Feb. 14 against seventh-ranked Stanford, ASU was down by 14 in the second half and by seven with 1:49 left before a rally put the game into overtime as ASU won 72-68.

COMEBACK: ASU¹s 16-point comeback is tied for the second-largest halftime comeback in the past 20 seasons of Sun Devil basketball. ASU trailed Stanford by 17 in Palo Alto on Feb. 12, 1994 (46-29) but came back and won 71-69. ASU also came back from a 16-point deficit on March 15, 2000, as it trailed New Mexico State 45-29 in Tempe in the NIT before posting an 83-77 victory.

(17)-@Stanford 46, ASU 29 (Feb. 12, 1994/ASU 71, Stanford 69)
(16)-IUPUI 34, ASU 18 (@Phoenix) (Dec. 14, 2008/ASU 59, IUPUI 58, OT)
(16)-New Mexico St. 45, ASU 29 (March 15, 2000/ASU 83, NMSU 77, NIT)
(16)-Georgia 39, ASU 23 (Dec. 29, 1989/ASU 62, Georgia 61)
(16)-@Texas A&M 36, ASU 26 (Dec. 19, 1998/ASU 96, Texas A&M 91, 3OT)
(10)-@USC 41, ASU 31 (Jan. 20, 1994/ASU 87, USC 62)

TREE: Herb">">Herb Sendek has eight former assistants who are D-I coaches as 12-year sidekick Mark">">Mark Phelps earned the Drake spot after serving for 10 years on the staff at NC State and for two years at ASU. Former NC State sidekick John Groce also earned the Ohio University position. The others are Jim Christian, formerly at Kent State and now at TCU (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Charlie Coles at Miami of Ohio (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Larry Hunter at Western Carolina (NC State assistant from 2001-05), Ron Hunter of IUPUI (Miami assistant from 1993-94), Ohio State's Thad Matta (Miami assistant in 1994-95) and Xavier's Sean Miller (assistant at both Miami from 1994-96 and at NC State from 1996-2000). Coles, Miller and Matta led their teams to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, then last year Christian led Kent State to the NCAAs, Miller led Xavier to the Elite Eight and Matta's Buckeye squad won the NIT a year after going to the Final Four.

HITTING FREEBIES: ASU shot .739 from the free throw line last year, the fifth-best mark in ASU history and second-best in past 21 seasons. In his 10 seasons at NC State, Coach Sendek's teams led the ACC four times in FT percentage (including three straight seasons, 2002-04). In 2004 NC State led the nation and set the ACC record by shooting .799 from the charity stripe. While at NC State, his squads shot 71.3 percent. One good note on his 2003-04 NC State team is in the past nine seasons, that squad's .799 FT percentage is tied for the best in the NCAA with St. Joseph in 2005-06. ASU has led the league twice in free throw percentage, in 1997-98 and in 1986-87, shooting 74.6 percent both years. Two Sun Devils have led the league as Alex Austin was 69-of-80 (.863) in 1988-89 and Chris Beasley was 112-of-128 (.875) in 1983-84.

-- 2008-09 (7-1) (139-181) 76.8
1. 1977-78 (13-14/6-8 in WAC) 75.6
2. 1954-55 (10-14/8-4 in Border) 75.4
3. 1997-98 (18-14/8-10 in Pac-10) 74.6
3. 1986-87 (11-17/6-12 in Pac-10) 74.6
5. 2007-08 (21-14/9-9 in Pac-10) 73.9

THE HEAD COACH: Herb">">Herb Sendek is in his 16th season as a head coach and has averaged 18.7 wins per season. He led the NC State Wolfpack to five straight NCAA appearances from 2002-06 and is now 291-194 (.600) in 16 seasons and was 191-132 (.591) at NC State. The 45-year-old (born Feb. 22, 1963) Pittsburgh, Pa., native is the third-youngest coach in the Pac-10. Only Duke posted more ACC wins (regular season and ACC Tournament) than NC State's 53 victories from 2002-2006. Another overlooked note is his 10-year stay at NC State. To compare it to the Pac-10, since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, only five coaches have coached at their schools for at least 10 years: Lute Olson (24/Arizona), Ralph Miller (19/Oregon State), Mike Montgomery (18/Stanford), Ben Braun (12/California) and Ernie Kent (12/Oregon).

MANY WINS, MANY PLACES: Herb">">Herb Sendek has covered the map in wins. In his career, Coach Sendek has won 288 games in 24 states, plus two wins in Puerto Rico and one in Washington D.C. North Carolina (153), Ohio (51) and Arizona (27) lead the way as he has been head coach in each state, and he also has posted wins in Florida, (seven), California (six), Michigan (six), South Carolina and Virginia (five each), Georgia and Indiana (four each), Massachusetts (three), Hawaii, Texas and Maryland (two each). One-win states are Alabama, Utah, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, Illinois, Washington and Oregon. PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK: James">">James Harden has earned the Pac-10 Player of the Week honor on three occasions in his two seasons. His first first honor came on Jan. 7, 2008, and then he earned the honor in back-to-back weeks this season on Nov. 24 and Dec. 1. Eddie">">Eddie House has earned the award the most as a Sun Devil, notching the honor five times. Ike">">Ike Diogu earned it four times while Mario Bennett earned it three times. Gary Payton holds the Pac-10 record with nine Player of the Week honors.