Carlson’s outreach, research transforms CRESMET

June 5, 2008

Marilyn Carlson, who has brought national prominence to the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (CRESMET) in her five years as director, will return to the ASU mathematics faculty July 1.

Carlson has been a dynamic force for change since joining ASU in 1995, almost single-handedly building the First Year Mathematics program before joining CRESMET in 2003. At CRESMET, she has advanced research, particularly in the area of math education, and has taken the center to a level of national renown. Download Full Image

“In a major accomplishment, she has racheted up the reputation of CRESMET across the campus and nationally, and has done a marvelous job of increasing the amount of funding,” says George Hynd, senior vice provost for education and innovation and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education. “I knew about CRESMET when I was dean of education at Purdue. It has served as a model for developing centers at major universities that help faculty connect across disciplines.”

CRESMET is an interdisciplinary research center that produces new knowledge to improve the education of all students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology (STEM). Teams from across campus develop, refine and share products that support better instruction in the four fields.

Carlson is the recipient and principal investigator for CRESMET’s largest current initiative, Project Pathways, a $12.5 million, five-year research effort funded by the National Science Foundation to produce and test a new model for enhancing instruction of precalculus math and science in grades 9-12.

Her work has focused on how students learn central concepts of mathematics, particularly functions. She has received an NSF CAREER Award and an NSF Teacher Professional Continuum Grant, and has been on the Governor’s Council on Innovation and Technology.

James Middleton, who recently was appointed associate senior vice provost for STEM education improvement, will serve as interim director until a new director is appointed.

Middleton, who is a longtime colleague of Carlson, praised her work in the community, as well as her transformative research.

“At CRESMET, Dr. Carlson has focused attention on relationships with our local school partners and has worked tirelessly to create opportunities for teachers to benefit from the expertise of ASU faculty,” he says. “In addition, she has continued to work extensively in the reform of undergraduate mathematics.

“She is one of our top faculty working in education in terms of external funding and national reputation. I am grateful for her support and collegiality over the years and, in my interim role, will work just as hard to keep CRESMET moving in a positive direction as we search for a scholar of national repute to take over where Dr. Carlson has left off.”

Hynd says Middleton will continue to encourage the collaboration of ASU faculty across the four campuses to increase the ability to respond to the nation’s needs for more math and science teachers.

Biodesign Institute recruits environmental expert

June 5, 2008

To help advance one of the Biodesign Institute’s core research themes of improving the environmental health of the planet, the institute’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology counts among its faculty newly appointed associate professor, Rolf Halden.

Halden plans to further his already extensive research on the environmental fate of mass-produced chemicals, associated health risks, toxic body burdens effects in humans, and biotechnologies helpful in reclaiming contaminated drinking water and agricultural soils. Download Full Image

“Our goal is to uncover environmental health problems and deliver solutions to our society,” says Halden, who in addition to leading and expanding research at the center, will also coordinate the specialty areas of Environmental Engineering and Water Resources in the expanding Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

Halden’s research is right in line with the Biodesign Institute’s mission to solve pressing issues concerning renewable energy, sustainability and human health. He notes that “most of our environmental and human health issues are self-inflicted” and that “opportunities abound to improve quality of life by learning our lessons from past mistakes.”

For example, by monitoring human cord blood and breast milk, his research group has discovered problematic chemicals – exposure to which begins in the womb and continues on from birth for a lifetime.

“Putting more thought into chemical design and usage potentially could save millions of lives and save billions of dollars in health care,” Halden says. “To avoid environmental and human health problems, we need to develop alternative products made from chemicals that are safe, and that will break down much more rapidly than we can introduce them into the biosphere.”

Halden comes to ASU from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, where he was an adjunct associate professor of Environment Health Sciences and held a joint appointment in Geography and Environmental Engineering.

“Rolf Halden tremendously expands our center’s ability to do multidisciplinary research on the fate of environmental chemicals, and also on the microbial communities that we use to improve the quality of water and soil,” says Bruce Rittmann, director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology.

Halden says the Biodesign Institute’s interdisciplinary approach to research makes the center’s opportunities so promising.

“Stepping out of our academic silos is fun and increases research productivity,” he says. “Biodesign has the ability to provide an umbrella, a roof, where people from different disciplines can jointly find solutions to problems that appear insurmountable when viewed through the lens of a single discipline, be it medicine or engineering. When you put it all together, it’s very exciting.”

Before joining academia, Halden was project engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he directed the construction and operation of physical and biological groundwater treatment systems. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Minnesota, and earned a master’s in microbiology from the Technical University of Brunswick, Germany. 

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications