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From the classroom to the big screen: ASU professor shares success

August 2, 2013

Bambi Haggins, associate professor in the Department of English at Arizona State University, has taken her work from the classroom to the big screen with an HBO documentary titled, "Why We Laugh: Funny Women."

Haggins worked directly with "Why We Laugh" series producer Quincy Newell to develop a treatment for the project, which features several well-known women in the comedic industry, including Kathy Griffin, Tig Notaro, Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg. Her goal was to delve into the experience of being a woman in the male-dominated field of comedy, and how that is impacted by social, political and cultural change. The series premiered on Showtime on March 21 to rave reviews. Download Full Image

“It was a great feeling and, more importantly than the work I did, was that these female comics were finally getting their due,” she said.

Sept. 18, Project Humanities will provide a free screening of "Why We Laugh: Funny Women," with a discussion afterward, starring Haggins. The event will start at 6 p.m. on the Tempe campus.

The comedy aficionado also served as a historical consultant in Whoopi Goldberg’s documentary titled, “I Got Somethin’ to Tell You,” a story about the life of actress Moms Mabley. Haggins says the process reinforced her passion for filmmaking and desire to one day create her own masterpiece. She is currently working on an idea for a web series and for a feature-length film.

In the classroom, she instills the same themes she deems important in comedic documentaries. Her course, Comedy as Social Discourse, examines how comic conventions, sensibilities and personae in standup respond to social and political sensibilities at specific historical moments.

“My goal is to get students thinking critically about the media they are consuming. Standup is a great platform to get people talking and thinking about a variety of human experiences in a different way,” she said.

ASU-Mayo research project targets carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis

August 5, 2013

Improved diagnosis for people afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome – one of the most common disorders of the hand – is the goal of a research collaboration led by an Arizona State University biomedical engineering faculty member and a Mayo Clinic physician.

Marco Santello and Mark Ross were recently awarded a grant of $93,000 from Mayo’s Center for Regenerative Medicine to advance their effort to quantify the effects of carpal tunnel release surgery on patients’ recovery of sensorimotor hand function. Santello Neural Control Lab Download Full Image

Santello is a professor and director of the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Ross is a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic Arizona.

They hope results of the project will lead to continued funding of their research by the National Institutes of Health. Their collaboration, supported for the past five years by the institute, has revealed new knowledge about the effects of sensorimotor deficits caused by carpal tunnel syndrome on grasp control.

The new project focuses on a gap in the understanding of the effects of carpal tunnel release surgery, specifically the interaction of various factors that determine the extent of recovery of sensorimotor hand function after surgery.

Also known as carpal tunnel decompression surgery, the procedure involves dividing the transverse carpal ligament that runs across the hand so that the ligament no longer presses down on the nerves inside the hand, thus relieving debilitating pressure.

Findings by Santello and Ross to date have shown that carpal tunnel syndrome affects a variety of complex and subtle aspects of sensorimotor function. In the new project they will use a novel application of grasp testing they have developed to closely measure recovery of the function following surgery.

It is hoped the grasp tests can be used to help provide a way to more precisely measure functional recovery and enable early detection if a patient is not recovering as expected, the researchers say.

Beyond that advance, Santello and Ross intend to use the grasp tests to provide quick, simple, noninvasive and inexpensive quantification of patients’ progress in recovery from pre-operative nerve injury after carpal tunnel release surgery.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering