ASU to host Mandela Washington Fellows from Africa

June 5, 2015

For the second year, Arizona State University has been selected as one of 20 leading U.S. universities to serve as an academic Institute for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

Led by the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, ASU will host 25 accomplished young professionals for a six-week civic leadership institute starting later in June. The program is oriented to young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa who serve the public through non-governmental organizations, community-based nonprofits or volunteerism. Washington Fellows 2014 The 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows meet with Flagstaff-based Terra BIRDS to plant a community garden together. Download Full Image

“We are pleased to again be a part of this exciting initiative. Through our strengths in civic leadership and social entrepreneurship, we are not only helping to spur creative problem-solving, but are making the connections that will result in real solutions on a global scale,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Fellows will meet with faculty from across the university, as well as community advocates and practitioners. The College has partnered with dozens of institutions to provide this group a comprehensive experience: City of Phoenix, Local First Arizona, International Rescue Committee, the Navajo and Hopi tribal communities, Grand Canyon Trust, Terra BIRDS, City of Tucson, City of Flagstaff, National Parks Service and more.

Participants will travel to Tucson to meet with city government, visit Kartchner Caverns and work on a community service project in conjunction with ASU’s School of Social Work, Tucson, and a local domestic-violence facility. They will spend two weeks in Flagstaff meeting with local agencies and visiting the Grand Canyon. Additional visits include local American Indian reservations, Sedona and Clarkdale.

“The practitioner approach from which the program was taught and willingness of lecturers to adapt presentations to the needs of Africa was simply awesome,” said Benjamin Freeman Jr., executive director of the Liberia Institute for the Promotion of Academic Excellence (LIPACE) and 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow.

Through LIPACE, Freeman hopes to turn around an 82 percent 12th-grade dropout rate in his country.

Freeman says the inspirational mentors and contacts made during the program helped him achieve his goal of “producing the first post-war study guide for secondary students sitting annual exams.”

John Taylor, executive director of Terra BIRDS, says the Washington Fellows who joined Terra BIRDS at Ponderosa High School last summer were "a truly amazing and inspiring group of leaders. I expect the same this summer.”

“I wholeheartedly believe that humans have the ability to successfully address the many social and environmental challenges that face us today; and we have the potential to thrive and co-exist with each other and the amazing diversity of other life on our planet far into the future," Taylor said.

"But we need to make the choice to do so, adjust our daily habits, and take collaborative action with fellow humans who share this vision.  The Washington Fellows are shining examples of people we want to partner with as leaders in this movement to support health, happiness and a bright future for all life.”

President Obama launched YALI in 2010. Through this initiative, emerging leaders are gaining the skills and connections they need to accelerate their own career trajectories and contribute more robustly to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth and enhancing the peace and security in Africa.

Working closely with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and its implementing partner, IREX, host institutions have designed academic programs that will challenge, inspire and empower these inspiring young leaders from Africa.

The Fellowship serves as the beginning of their training. The U.S. government has a long-term investment in YALI, planning to work with institutions and the next generation of African entrepreneurs, educators, activists and innovators to create meaningful opportunities in Africa.

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Science foundation supports ASU community members' promising research

June 5, 2015

Five members of the Arizona State University community were recently signified as Bisgrove Scholars, a program which helps keep outstanding academics and researchers in the Grand Canyon State.

Presented by Science Foundation Arizona, the Bisgrove awards are targeted at people with “the potential to transform ideas into great value for society.” ASU engineer Heather Emady Heather Emady, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. Download Full Image

Three of ASU’s Bisgrove recipients come from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering: Heather Emady, Owen Hildreth and Yuji Zhao.

The other two are Candace Lewis, from the ASU Psychology Department, and Sara Parker, an ASU alum who graduated in 2007.

Pursuing innovations in particle technology

Emady, a chemical engineer, is doing research on granular materials to make more effective use of them in a variety of industries – including mining, agricultural chemicals, consumer products, pharmaceuticals and chemical catalysts.

More than half of the sales in the world involve products for which granular materials are used in processing or are contained in the products.

“Despite their extensive use and their economic and environmental impacts, few engineering and design principles exist for these particulates,” says Emady, an assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

She will focus on advancing knowledge of the fundamental nature and properties of particulate materials, with the aim of developing methods to tailor the properties of these materials.

“If we can develop ways to control the properties of particulate materials, then we could actually predict these properties,” Emady explains. “That would lead to more efficient product and process design. Processing would require less money and energy, and less time and material would be wasted doing a lot of experiments.”

She will concentrate her efforts on particulate materials relevant to industries in Arizona.

Originally from the Phoenix area, Emady earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Arizona and a doctoral degree in the field at Purdue University.

She did postdoctoral industrial research with Procter & Gamble, and later at Rutgers University as part of consortiums and centers focused on particle technology research in the catalyst and pharmaceutical areas.

Tools for printing electronic devices

Hildreth is developing new chemistries and techniques for microscale and nanoscale fabrication of complete microelectronic devices using simple inkjet-types printers – including microfluidic and microelectromechanical systems.

“Micro and nanoscale fabrication lacks these tools, and the facilities required to produce the devices cost millions or even billions of dollars. As a result, the number of companies participating in these areas is steadily shrinking as innovation becomes more expensive,” explains Hildreth, an assistant professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

His research into nano-inkjet printing and reactive inks seeks to radically simplify fabrication of functional devices to enable small businesses to develop their own products at significantly less cost than those that must now be made by laboratory cleanroom-based techniques.

The reactive inks will enable an inkjet-style printer to print the layers of plastic, copper, silver, glass and other materials that make up the parts of electronic devices.

His Bisgrove Award will support his work to develop and improve reactive inks for printing copper, glass and nickel for applications in electronics manufacturing, photovoltaic technology and medical sensors.

Hildreth earned a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology after getting a bachelor’s degree in the field at the University of California, San Diego.  He spent five years working as a mechanical engineer designing consumer products.

Seeking breakthroughs in lighting

Zhao, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is working on advances in solid-state lighting based on light-emitting diode (LED) technology.

“With innovative engineering, LED lighting will provide significant energy savings, important environmental benefits and dramatic new ways to utilize and control light,” Zhao says.

His team is developing “smart” LEDs for wireless communications and medical applications.

The goal presents challenges, particularly technological limitations that cause LED devices to experience drop-offs in efficiency (called “efficiency droops”). Zhao’s team is creating lighting structures using new types of materials to produce “droop-free” LEDs.

Zhao is also leading efforts to develop LED-based “Li-Fi” communications technology to replace Wi-Fi technology that would provide faster, safer and more reliable wireless network connection.

In addition, he is exploring the potential of “smart” lighting to control the wavelength of LED-based lighting in a way that would enable it to aid the healing of wounds.

At certain wavelengths light has been shown to penetrate body tissue to a depth of about 10 millimeters, which is beneficial in treating problems close to the skin’s surface such as wounds, cuts, scars, trigger and acupuncture points, as well as infections.

A joint research venture between an ASU team and Mayo Clinic is being launched to develop safe concentrated LED sources that would be therapeutically effective without adverse side effects, Zhao says.

Zhao earned a bachelor’s degree in microelectronics at Fudan University in China and a doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He won a record four consecutive Outstanding Research Awards from the university’s Solid State Lighting & Energy Electronics Center.

His research on the semiconductor compound gallium nitride was recognized with a Most Cited Article of the Year Award from the research journal APEX (2012), an Editor’s Pick of the Year Award from the journal APL (2012), and was featured in more than 100 international news outlets.

Studying experience’s effect on development

Lewis is a post-doctoral scholar with a focus on the complex interplay between early life environment, genetic regulation and expression, and behavioral outcomes.

She begins her fellowship this summer at Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the ASU Psychology Department.

Under the mentorship of Matt Huentelman, Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant and Leah Doane, Lewis will work to unravel the molecular mechanisms by which experiences can shape neurobiology and behavior.

Looking at neural circuity

Parker is a post-doctoral scholar with a focus on enhancing understanding of the neuronal synapse in health and disease, with an emphasis on complex disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and intellectual disability.

She will begin conducting research this winter at the university of Arizona under the guidance of her mentors, Konrad Zinsmaier and Ghassan Mouneimne. 

Parker will research genes suspected of being able to remodel or re-wire neural circuitry, and work towards targeted therapies for healing the brain. She graduated from ASU summa cum laude with a B.S. in biology in 2007.

Supporting transformative endeavors

Science Foundation Arizona seeks to diversify Arizona’s economy by linking industry needs with university research and ensuring the state’s education system produces a workforce trained to face the challenges of the 21st century.

“Arizona’s future is dependent on the ability to attract and retain the best minds in science and engineering,” said Bill Harris, the foundation’s president and CEO. “Bisgrove Scholars are synonymous with top-tier science and engineering research talent. This program and these select individuals have the ability to transform their fields of research into direct value not only for Arizona, but for all of society.”

The foundation’s Bisgrove Award provides winners $100,000 per year for two years to support their research endeavors.

To date the Bisgrove Scholar program has supported the work of 19 academic researchers, including seven at ASU. Read more about the Bisgrove Scholars.

Science Foundation Arizona has also supported other ASU research and K-12 education outreach, as well as graduate research fellowships for students pursuing advanced college degrees.

Joe Kullman,
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Pamela S. Garrett ,
Graduate Education
Senior Manager Graduate Programs
Graduate Academic Initiatives

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering