Undergraduate mathematical biologist earns recognition as School of Life Sciences Outstanding Graduating Senior

May 2, 2013

Imagine holding a shark in your hands while doing research in the Bahamas. Or, picture trekking along the Sierra Nevada mountain range to study the American pika. What would it be like to work with giraffes, monkeys and stingrays at the Phoenix Zoo?

Simply ask Easton White, a graduating senior who embraced many exciting research experiences as an undergraduate at Arizona State University, the only college to which he applied. Download Full Image

The School of Life Sciences is honoring White and his research contributions with its Outstanding Graduating Senior award. White, a biological sciences major with a minor in mathematics, studies animals in some surprising places. His research has taken him from Mexico, California and Arizona, to the Southeastern coast of the U.S. and the Bahamas.

His dream is to apply mathematical and statistical models to marine ecosystems and become a professor of mathematical biology.

“Easton is bright, motivated and incredibly committed to his research activities,” said Leah Gerber, associate professor with the School of Life Sciences and one of White’s research mentors. “He hopes to integrate biology into mathematical models used for the conservation of marine species.”

“I feel honored that School of Life Sciences would acknowledge my accomplishments with this award,” said White. “I certainly owe a lot to my professors, friends and family who helped me get this far in my career.”

White contributes much to the university through leadership, research and outreach. He has submitted three manuscripts to scientific journals and is preparing two more. He is a research fellow and peer mentor in the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research Program, a teaching assistant and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Ambassador. White also volunteers at the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife – an organization aimed at restoring open spaces to benefit native wildlife.

Recently, he co-founded an outreach program called “Mathematics Without Boundaries.” The program sends ASU undergraduates into K-12 classrooms to engage young learners in science and mathematics. The organization focuses specifically on teaching concepts that apply mathematics to important biological problems.

A Scottsdale native, he began taking classes at Scottsdale Community College where he learned about research from mentor John Nagy, a faculty associate in the School of Life Sciences and the School of Mathematical & Statistical Sciences. Nagy teaches math and biology at ASU. White and Nagy teamed up to focus on applying mathematical models to better understand the population and evolutionary dynamics of the American pika, as well as lemon sharks. 

White served as vice president of public relations for Phi Theta Kappa and was recognized as Distinguished Officer of 2010. He was nominated for the 2010 All-USA Academic Team and received a scholarship to finish his degree at ASU.

After graduation, White will spend nine months as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Victoria in Canada. From there, he will pursue a doctoral program in theoretical ecology at the University of California, Davis, as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. He will receive his award from the School of Life Sciences on May 10.

Music therapy program helps veterans heal

May 2, 2013

The Music Therapy Community Music and Wellness program in the ASU School of Music is partnering with the Tempe chapter of Guitars for Vets, Inc., a nonprofit organization with 30 chapters nationally, to enhance the lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and music instruction.

Music therapy faculty, graduate and veteran undergraduate students, and alumni are collaborating with the local chapter to provide a 10-week program that incorporates a board-certified music therapist from the School of Music faculty. Guitar player Download Full Image

In its inaugural semester, a group of six veterans meets each week on the ASU Tempe campus to practice their musical skills, talk about any problems they want to share and sing songs they are learning. As they build musical skills and relationships, they find new ways to cope with issues of stress and improve their quality of life following military service.

Objectives for participants include: relieving stress through interaction with the group and the musical experience; acquiring skills which lead to self-guided guitar-playing and improved ability to cope with emotional, physical and social issues related to deployment; and establishing and maintaining involvement with a growing supportive community that meets through interactive music and social events. At the end of the program, participants receive a certificate of completion and a guitar so that they may continue playing and learning.

“The group has just taken off! Everyone is learning and it’s a safe place for the group members to share concerns about any troubles they may be facing,” said Robin Rio, associate professor of music therapy and director of the Music Therapy Clinic in the ASU School of Music. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to bring students and veterans together right here at ASU. Music therapy helps people bond and share their love of music while increasing ability and confidence.”

This groundbreaking partnership between the ASU School of Music and Guitars for Vets is the first of its kind for the community organization. Leaders in the organization are hoping to expand the partnership into a year-long program, with the goal of starting an ASU student chapter.

ASU students and faculty actively involved in developing the Tempe Guitars for Vets Chapter include Anthony “Tony” Taddei, chapter coordinator, who holds master’s degrees in education and educational administration and is completing a certificate in Social Entrepreneurship and Community Development from the ASU College of Public Programs; Jessica Christensen, the group’s Music Therapy supervisor, who earned her Master in Music in Music Therapy from ASU in 2010; Scott Tonkinson, guitar instructor, who is a candidate for the Master in Music in Music Therapy at ASU; and, Tim McAlee, guitar instructor, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in music therapy at ASU. McAlee served in the US Army, 7th Infantry Division, Fort Ord, California, from 1989-1993, and was deployed to Egypt, Israel, Korea and Panama.

For more information about Guitars for Vets, visit guitars4vets.org. To learn more about the music therapy program in the ASU School of Music, visit music.asu.edu/musictherapy.

Join the golf tournament fundraiser hosted by the Phoenix chapter of Guitars for Vets and the music therapy program in the ASU School of Music June 14 to help raise funds and awareness for the new chapter. Learn more about the event at facebook.com/events/383693271743802.

Sarah J. Hough

Director of Communications and Strategy, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts