Relay For Life at ASU named No. 13 in nation for fundraising

June 8, 2012

The student-led Relay For Life committee and Arizona State University have placed thirteenth in nation among colleges and universities for highest fundraising dollars for Relay for Life 2012.

Held on ASU’s Tempe, West and Polytechnic campuses annually, Relay For Life is a community celebration that raises awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society, and honors those whose lives have been touched by the disease.   Relay For Life at ASU Download Full Image

A committee of 15 students and advisor at the Tempe campus, Meghan Remington, were responsible for putting this year’s festivities together – including working toward their ambitious fundraising goal of $175,000. With the help of their friends, family, and community members, the group was able to raise $167,000 in total.

Although they did not meet their personal goal, the team still managed to snag the lucky number thirteen spot on the top list of participating colleges for donations. ASU was one of just three Pac-12 schools to make the list along with the University of Washington and UCLA.

“I was so excited when I found out we came in at thirteen that I yelled it in my office. We know that we can shoot for the moon and so that was extra encouragement,” said Remington.

As a child, Remington was diagnosed with cancer and is now one of the lucky individuals who proudly take a survivor lap around track at Relay For Life. In addition, she has been touched by cancer through friends and family who have not been as fortunate to share her fate. It is for them that she first became involved with the organization as a freshman at ASU. She enjoyed the experience so much that she continued her participation throughout her college years. Now an event coordinator for the university, Remington advises the new leaders of the Relay for Life group.

One of those members is committee executive director and recent ASU graduate, Shannon Levante, who first became involved with Relay For Life in high school after her twin sister was diagnosed with cancer when the pair was just sixteen years old. With her sister now in remission, Levante says it is the community participation that keeps coming back each year.

“It is probably one of the most positive and passionate events I’ve been to at ASU. Everyone there has been touched by cancer so it brings us together as a community and a university,” she said.

But bringing everyone together doesn’t happening on it’s own. Levante and fellow Relay committee members spend months planning the event. They handle everything including donations, event volunteers, survivor participation, set up details, etc.

“It is a lot to do with just fifteen members, but they all really care and have a passion for the event. If something doesn’t work out we just keep reminding each other we are here and care about the cause,” said Levante.

Remington mentioned that the committee’s hard work also paid off in another aspect of the friendly competition that ASU has every year with Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona involving Relay For Life. Along with overall fundraising, the three colleges compete in funds raised per capita. ASU took first place again this year with roughly $60 in capita. Last year the Sun Devils claimed the top spot thanks to the contributions specifically from the Polytechnic campus.

Looking ahead, the committee is striving to make Relay For Life at ASU a signature event for student participation. They would also like to claim the number one spot for fundraising dollars to help the American Cancer Society. And, of course, continue to show those kitties down south why the Sun Devils should be feared both on the field and in the donations sphere.  

For more information on how you can get involved, contact Meghan Remington at

Geology grad students awarded prestigious NASA fellowships

June 8, 2012

Four Arizona State University graduate students have received NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowships (NESSF) for research work in the area of planetary science. The ASU recipients, all in the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), were awarded fellowships in the planetary science division. A total of 95 applications for planetary science were received, with 34 selected for award. The fact that 12 percent of the successful applications came from ASU is impressive and highlights the strong earth and space science research program on the campus.

The fellowships, given to support outstanding students pursuing graduate degrees in basic and applied research in Earth and space sciences, were awarded to: Cameron Mercer, Karen Rieck, Curtis Williams and Nathan Williams. All four students are pursuing doctorates in geological sciences. Karen Rieck Download Full Image

Three former recipients of this award, SESE students Melissa Bunte, Matt Sanborn and Lev Spivak-Birndorf, will be graduating from ASU this year. Another former SESE graduate student, Gregory Brennecka (Ph.D., 2011), was also a recipient of this award.

“These fellowships recognize several of the outstanding students that we have in SESE’s doctoral program,” says Kip Hodges, director of the school. “We are extremely proud of the accomplishments and exceptional work being carried out by these individuals recognized through this prestigious fellowship program.”

The fellowship program is a competitive award that speaks highly of each student’s work, as well as their advisors. Awards of $30,000 per year are made for up to three years, contingent upon satisfactory progress, as reflected in academic performance, research progress, and recommendation by the faculty advisor, and the availability of funds.

Cameron Mercer, who plans to continue studying planetary science as a professor or research scientist and would like to become an astronaut, will be analyzing Apollo 16 impact melts to better understand their complex thermal histories, and to clarify and expand upon previous impact chronologies of the Apollo 16 site. One of the highest priorities for NASA in lunar science is to establish an absolute chronology of lunar impact events, with significant implications for the bombardment history of the Earth and other planets of the inner Solar System.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work with Apollo samples, and to contribute to a project that is considered one of NASA’s top goals in lunar science,” says Mercer. “This research will provide me with invaluable experience as I pursue my career goals.”

Karen Rieck is working to place better constraints on the minor element composition of the solar wind through the analysis of collector wafers that flew on NASA’s Genesis spacecraft. To accomplish this, she will be interacting with analysts on the Genesis science team to obtain, prepare, and analyze samples using secondary ion mass spectrometry to measure solar wind elemental fluences in Genesis’s collector wafers.

“Through this project I can work directly with samples returned by Genesis,” says Rieck. “The research that NESSF will be supporting is perfectly in-line with my dream for a career centered on investigating planetary geology and cosmochemistry. I hope that the experience I gain studying solar wind prepares me for researching other materials collected in future sample-return missions.”

Curtis Williams applies geochemical techniques to understand the dynamics of the early Solar System. With recent analytical advances, scientists are now able to obtain essential chemical and isotopic measurements on extremely rare and valuable planetary materials while still preserving the majority of such samples for additional analyses. He will be developing and utilizing state-of-the-art isotope analysis techniques for in situ measurement of the Ti and Mg isotope compositions of refractory inclusions, with the goals of constraining the chronology and degree of isotopic heterogeneity in the Solar Nebula.

According to him, “This research is particularly exciting because it has the potential to answer outstanding science questions including, ‘How did the Solar System form and evolve to its current diverse state?’ which is highlighted in the NASA SMD Science Plan for 2007-2016.”

Nathan Williams’ work involves reconstructing the tectonic history of the Moon using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera data. Although the Moon does not have tectonic plates like Earth, it does have faults and earthquakes (or “moonquakes”) like the ones on our planet. This fellowship will enable him to study the sources and timing of tectonic activity on the Moon. He plans to continue conducting planetary science research through a career in academia.

“Receiving an NESSF fellowship is a national honor and tremendous opportunity to gain experience conducting cutting-edge scientific research,” he says. “It provides further fuel to propel my career and curiosity to explore the solar system and share this exciting research with our country.”

The fellowship program supports continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals. In addition to the ASU students, this year’s recipients hail from such institutions as Stanford University, Brown University, Washington University, California Institute of Technology, and University of California, Los Angeles.

Learn more about the NESSF program here:{1DC0EDEE-32A0-0EAE-ED78-B1F6B624B473}&path=open

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration