ASU grant supports 'biomimicry' as a way to solve human challenges

May 6, 2015

The emerging field of biomimicry – in which researchers emulate the natural world to develop products – may help make life better for people with visual and mobility impairments, thanks to a grant from Women & Philanthropy, a philanthropic program of the ASU Foundation for A New American University.

Women & Philanthropy will give its largest annual award, $99,072, to the project "Life in Motion: Exploring Biomimicry-based Mobility for People with Visual and Mobility Impairments." Download Full Image

The funding will enable researchers working out of the InnovationSpace Biomimicry Center, within The Design School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, to study models from the natural world in order to engineer new technologies that improve the lives of those with disabilities.

The grant was one of five announced by Women & Philanthropy. In total, the group awarded five grants totaling $324,301. Since 2003, Women & Philanthropy has awarded almost $3 million to 79 programs and initiatives in four categories: education innovation, community outreach, student scholarships and health care at ASU.

Women & Philanthropy is one of three engagement programs housed within the ASU Foundation for A New American University. Its grants are generated from the individual contributions of investors, who now number 255. Each member's annual contribution – a minimum of $1,000 – is pooled with others to allow the group to have a greater investment impact on ASU programs and scholarships.

Grant proposals are solicited and reviewed each year by the Women & Philanthropy investment committee and narrowed to a handful of finalists. The entire membership then votes on those that they believe best demonstrate ASU’s leadership and national standing in academic excellence, research and discovery, and local and societal impact. This structure empowers each investor to steward her gift and witness its impact.

The remaining 2014-2015 Women & Philanthropy grant recipients are:

Development of Next Generation Therapeutics to Combat Alzheimer's Dementia and Neurodegenerative Disorders

New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

Development of Next Generation Therapeutics seeks to eradicate diseases associated with neurodegenerative disorders, including the widely prevalent Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s diseases. Researchers aim to re-engineer an FDA-approved drug for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma that is currently being evaluated in two human clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease. They also will explore potential collaborations with other groups at ASU who possess expertise that could benefit the project’s goal of designing and identifying a potential drug compound to treat Alzheimer’s disease. 

Scholarships for Needy Students to Pursue Research in Mathematics and Statistics

College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Academically-qualified students with financial need will receive the scholarship support they need to pursue research under the guidance of mentors from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. This grant will support ten mathematical science majors who have a GPA that exceeds 3.0 and who have financial need of at least $5,000 – the approximate cost of in-state tuition and fees for the fall 2014 semester. An additional $5,000 will fund student travel to professional conferences so recipients can present their work.

Optimized Prenatal Supplement for Preventing Autism

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
School for Engineering of Matter, Transport & Energy (SEMTE)

New research has demonstrated that the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorders can be reduced by 40 percent by folic acid supplementation within one month of conception. Folic acid is known to be important for preventing other birth defects, and now the evidence is strong that it also helps prevent autism. This study will examine the effectiveness of folinic acid, an active form of folate, in reducing the risk of autism.

Bridging Success Early-Start Program for Former Foster Youth Entering ASU

Office of the University Provost
University Academic Success Programs

Arizona now offers a tuition waiver to former foster youth up to 23 years old. To enable their success at ASU, the Bridging Success Early-Start program will offer former foster youth the opportunity to begin their experience in a welcoming community with peers who have had similar challenges and to gain access to support that will ease their transition to the university. Bridging Success will bring together services from across the university and government spectrums, including academic workshops, tutoring, and specialized activities to support former foster youths’ unique needs.

ASU's 1st Pueblo Indian doctoral cohort ready to make a difference in their communities

May 7, 2015

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2015, click here.

Fighting violence against women and girls in her Pueblo is a key driving force for Corrine Sanchez, one of 10 members of ASU’s inaugural Native American doctorate program. Corrine and Kathy Sanchez Download Full Image

But she doesn’t want to just be part of the conversation – Sanchez wants to set her Pueblo’s agenda on the topic.

That goal comes closer to reality after Sanchez collects her doctoral degree this month with the rest of the program’s cohort. Empowering the students to become leaders in their communities’ policymaking and effecting positive change is the goal of the ASU Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program, which will see its inaugural class graduate May 11.

"We’re all at different levels at having a seat at the table, and getting our doctorate affirms our seat at the table," said Sanchez, who will receive a doctorate from ASU’s School of Transformation after three years of hard work, research and sacrifice.

The ultimate goal, program leaders hope, is for the doctoral students to set the menu with policymakers through their research agendas so that their Pueblos are enriched and well-represented. 

"I hope these steps are opening the doorway for others who will come after us just as the trail had been blazed by those before us," said Sanchez, executive director of Tewa Women United – a Native-run organization in northern New Mexico – who had spent her career watching others make policy for her people. 

“My dissertation is a give-back to the women who helped get me here and to the next generation so they can continue in this path with power, strength, power and wisdom.”

Conducted in partnership with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, which is under the leadership of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, the program facilitates the training of practitioner-researcher-scholars within Pueblo communities.

The members of the cohort conducted their studies both in Arizona and New Mexico, creating a unique set of logistical challenges. Coursework was conducted through a mixture of video-conferencing, online and in-person courses focusing on issues of Pueblo governance. They included Native language, land and cultural resource protection, environment, health, art, community and economic development, families and communities, and law. Their coursework also included international indigenous-community visits, training in critical indigenous research methodology, and learning to write for publication.

The program launched in 2012 and is led by School of Transformation faculty members Elizabeth Sumida Huaman, assistant professor of Indigenous education and a senior researcher with the Leadership Institute; and Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs.

"There's been a long-standing issue of, if you don’t have the right letters after your name or if you don’t have the right degree, then you can’t lead research projects and studies even if you’re from that community,” Huaman said.

“Historically policymakers have largely been outsiders to the Pueblo community, and this is a national, statewide and local trend. This program strengthens the portfolios of our doctorate students and allows them to have the potential to literally change their communities.”

Brayboy pointed out that only one out of 7,000 Alaskan and Native Americans who reach the ninth grade will go on obtain a doctorate degree. He believes obtaining their doctorate will help the cohort members address the complex issues facing their communities.

"This accomplishment is big stuff,” Brayboy said. “Framing the graduation and successful completion of the program in those stark terms, this is no joke.”

Carnell Chosa, who successfully defended his thesis earlier this month, is focused on engagement through innovative community programs for youth.

"My research looks at what do we need to do to through programming to keep our young people engaged and find a way to look at all of our Pueblo communities and bring them together," Chosa said.

“One of the things we did was to create a newsletter, which was to bring the voices of the youth back into the communities by sharing their viewpoints to the elders. As the world changes and our Pueblo changes, our form of engagement has to evolve.”

Richard Luarkie, who is studying transformation through an economic lens, said his doctorate is focused on federal policy regarding the Federal Trust Doctrine of 1831, a guideline for how the government helps tribal nations.

Luarkie said rather than looking at what the government can provide, Native Americans should be looking at ways to change policies to help them build infrastructure so their economies can innovate and thrive.

"While these policies are supposed to be safeguards, sometimes they are not advantageous to the tribes," Luarkie said. “ … Basically we have worn the White man’s moccasins – their policies – all these years, and we’re at a point where we need to take off those moccasins and put on our own.”

Luarkie said the PhD at the end of his name isn’t going to be the answer or solution, but it will be another tool in his educational arsenal.

"The credential of the PhD is really for the outside world, not for my local community because they always remind me, ‘It’s not about you,’ ” Luarkie said. “The degree is not a solution or a way for us to create a utopia. It’s simply another tool that allows us to say our position and argument are valid and here’s why.”

The cohort capped off the program with a visit to New Zealand in early May for an academic exchange with scholars at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, and will spend a few days in three indigenous communities in order to learn more about their communities.

In addition to Sanchez, Chosa and Luarkie, the cohort included June L. Lorenzo, Anthony Dorame, Kenneth Lucero, Mark Ericson, Michele Suina, Shawn Abeita and Vince Lujan. The next cohort of Native American doctoral students will begin in the fall.

The Pueblo Indian doctorate cohort receives support from ASU’s School of Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation, Chamiza Foundation, and the McCune Foundation.ASU 2015 commencement bannerASU 2015 commencement banner

Reporter , ASU Now