Research fellows in religion and conflict win prestigious awards

August 26, 2014

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University is pleased to announce that four students from the center’s Undergraduate Research Fellows Program have received prestigious scholarships to help them continue their studies in the United States and abroad.

Alysha Green and Cristian Cirjan have both received national awards to extend their studies overseas. Green, a 2013-2014 undergraduate research fellow, has been awarded a Fulbright award to teach in Brazil, and Cirjan, a 2012-2013 fellow, has a received a Boren award for international study in Romania. Undergraduate Research Fellows at the Center for the Study of Religion and Confl Download Full Image

Additionally, Abbey Pellino and Emily Fritcke have been awarded elite fellowships that will offer mentorship and training as they pursue careers in public service. Pellino, a 2014-2015 fellow, has been selected as one of 20 undergraduates nationwide for the Undergraduate Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, and Fritcke, a 2012-2013 fellow, has been awarded ASU’s College of Public Programs Spirit of Service Scholarship.

The undergraduate fellows program accepts motivated students from diverse areas of study to participate in faculty-directed research projects that are relevant to the study of religion and conflict. Students also participate in a seminar facilitated by the center’s director, Linell Cady, where they have the opportunity to meet with scholars and experts who visit the center each year.

“It is a pleasure to work with the fellows as they move through the program and go on to pursue their own research and professional goals,” said Cady, also a professor of religious studies at ASU. “They are an immensely talented group, and we are grateful to our Friends of the Center for their support of the fellowship program.”

Green, a global studies student and recent graduate of ASU, will travel to Brazil in March to participate in the English Teaching Assistantship Program as part of her Fulbright award.

While in Brazil, Green will work at a college campus teaching English to university students. In addition to developing and leading language learning activities, Green plans to take Portuguese classes, learn to cook traditional Brazilian cuisine and volunteer for local non-profits.

Green says her experience as a fellow and the mentorship of the professor she worked with, Angelita Reyes, played a significant role in her achievement. “I didn’t know what a Fulbright was until Dr. Reyes encouraged me to go to an informational meeting and apply. Outside of introducing me to the program, the discussions I was able to participate in during the fellows’ seminars made me aware of how much more there is to learn and see around the world.”

Cristian Cirjan, a biomedical engineering student, was awarded David L. Boren funding to spend a year in Romania studying the Romanian language and seeking to understand the trends and problems in the Romanian health care system from the perspective of health care professionals.

Cirjan plans to use his background in biomedicine and his knowledge of the Romanian language to explore ways to improve conditions in Romania’s health care system. He hopes this experience will prepare him for a career either in the U.S. Department of Defense Public Health Service Commissioned Corps or as an international public health analyst in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to his research into Romania’s health care system, Cirjan will take advanced Romanian language classes, and will take advantage of the vibrant intellectual and cultural community of Cluj-Napoca – home to his academic institution abroad, Babes-Bolyai University.

Abbey Pellino, a senior majoring in global studies and sociology, will receive financial support for her senior year at ASU and her first year of graduate study from the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

The fellowship will cultivate her interest in pursuing a career in foreign service by offering her the opportunity to participate in relevant internships and receive mentoring from foreign service officers.

She believes her interest and involvement in the center’s programs played a significant role in having her stand out among other applicants. “Applying for the center’s programs was a great choice for me. It has allowed me to continue to work on my concurrent degrees while providing me the opportunity to pursue more specific interests through the center's certificate and research fellowship programs.”

Similarly, Emily Fritcke, a senior studying English literature and history, has also had the opportunity to investigate topics relevant to her career goals through her participation in the center’s fellows and certificate programs. Fritcke will further explore her interests in education and national security through the Spirit of Service Scholarship.

As part of the program, Fritcke will receive mentorship from high-profile leaders, and education on core topics for a career in public service. “The knowledge of world issues and the mentorship I gained as a fellow cultivated my desire to be a more active member in my local and global community,” says Fritcke. “I owe much of my success to the center and its staff for the support they have showed me throughout my undergraduate career.”

To learn more about the center’s undergraduate programs, please visit our education section.

To find out how you can support the Undergraduate Fellows Program, join the Friends of the Center.

ASU Biodesign Institute has $1.5 billion impact on Arizona economy

August 26, 2014

Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute has made an economic impact of $1.5 billion in its first decade of operation, according to a study by the Seidman Research Institute at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

The annual direct economic impact is the highest for any single bioscience research institute in the state, according to the report. Annually, Biodesign Institute operations have contributed an average of $135.5 million in direct impacts on Arizona’s economy, created and supported more than 1,600 high-paying jobs and generated $10.5 million in state and local tax revenues. Download Full Image

“This study demonstrates that we are making good on our commitment to provide a significant return on investment to our state,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “We’re pleased with the numbers, but ultimately, we measure Biodesign’s success by the impact our world-class researchers are having on improving the quality of life here and across the world – as well as ensuring future success in the training of our next generation of scientists.”

The real world impact of Biodesign was dramatically underscored by contributions from Charles Arntzen, an ASU Regents' Professor and founding director of the Biodesign Institute, who had a hand in the development of the first experimental treatment in people, in a desperate effort to fight the Ebola virus.
The treatment, called ZMapp, had its roots from a decade-long collaboration between Biodesign and Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, and recently made international headlines when, in an unprecedented move, it was used to treat two aid workers, Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who became infected during the current Ebola outbreak in Africa.  While the early results are promising, not everyone given the ZMapp treatment has survived. Arntzen cautions that it is much too early to talk of Ebola cures, since the drug had never been tested in humans before, and more scientific rigor and data are needed to ultimately prove the efficacy of ZMapp. 

This is just one of the scores of major initiatives currently undertaken by researchers at the Biodesign Institute. Among its top research achievements are new technologies in health care, security and sustainability, including:

• diagnostics for the early detection of diseases such as cancer and diabetes

• vaccines and therapeutics to fight a wide spectrum of infectious diseases

• novel nanomaterials for bioelectronics, drug design and delivery

• clean, renewable biofuels and bioremediation to mitigate environmental contamination

“The work being done at the ASU Biodesign Institute signals the great potential for innovation in the Greater Phoenix region, and the state of Arizona,” said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Since its inception, Biodesign has attracted more than $400 million in funding from competitive grant awards as well as support from philanthropic and industry sources. In FY2013, Biodesign researchers received $58 million in funding for its research activities.

“With more than $400 million in research dollars, the ASU Biodesign Institute builds excitement about positioning our region for future economic growth,” said Broome.

“As we celebrate the achievements and the remarkable impact and success that our faculty and talented staff have had, it’s important to note that the future will be even brighter for Biodesign,” said Raymond DuBois, executive director of the Biodesign Institute.

“With continued state support, we plan on significantly expanding the research infrastructure of Biodesign to attract top scientific talent, develop the high paying jobs and highly skilled workforce needed for the bioscience sector, and diversify our research portfolio to have an even greater societal impact.”

Biodesign has been a key component in ASU’s rapid expansion and ascension as a world-class research university under President Michael Crow's vision of A New American University. This investment has nearly tripled ASU’s research funding in the past decade, to more than $400 million in annual expenditures. Now, the goal is to reach $700 million by 2020.

“The Biodesign Institute is a key contributor to the rapid growth of ASU’s research enterprise, which now ranks 15th in the nation among institutions without a medical school,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “Biodesign research teams are rapidly advancing discoveries and technologies that have a significant impact on human health, the environment and national security."

The expansion of research infrastructure is critical to Biodesign meeting its future goals, including:

• doubling research expenditures to $100 million annually by 2020

• expanding research infrastructure with the addition of at least 150,000 sq. ft. of new space

• recruiting new talent and faculty, and forming five new research centers in emerging fields with high innovation potential and societal impact

• expanding its number of clinical and industrial partnerships

• expanding Biodesign’s research and innovation concept statewide and internationally through collaborations with scientists in Europe, Mexico and China

If this vision is fully realized, the coming decade’s economic forecast projects an even greater return on investment. The total cumulative projected impact of the Biodesign Institute on the economy of Arizona for fiscal years 2014 through 2023 is forecasted to almost double, with an estimated $2.9 billion in gross state product, 31,645 worker-years, total real disposable personal income of $1.6 billion, and $24.1 million in state and local tax revenues.

The projected average annual impacts during the next decade (fiscal years 2014-2023) will be even higher, estimated to contribute $291 million annually to Arizona’s economy, or $3 billion in total. The Biodesign Institute’s activities will provide, directly and indirectly, an average of 3,165 jobs in Arizona each year. The wages and salaries and other income produced by the economic activity of the Institute will provide an average of $160 million per year in additional real disposable personal income to area residents and $24.1 million per year in incremental revenues to state and local governments in Arizona. Attracting new scientific talent will enhance ASU’s ability to compete for millions of dollars in annual research funding, most of which is spent directly in the Arizona economy. Recently, the Institute won Arizona’s Excellence in Economic Development award for its innovative contributions to the state’s economic growth. 

Biodesign Institute scientists have disclosed more than 500 inventions since inception, resulting in more than 200 U.S. and international patent filings, 40 patents issued, and a dozen start-up ventures. In 2012, HealthTell Inc., a spinout company co-founded by Biodesign scientists Neal Woodbury and Stephen Albert Johnston focused on early disease detection, was selected as the Start-up of the Year at the 2012 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

Biodesign’s expansion will help steer the state Bioscience Roadmap’s overarching vision for Arizona – a young but rapidly growing state in the biosciences – to become a global competitor and national leader in select areas of the biosciences by 2025. 

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications