Highlight all of ASU's renewable energy research.

Research looks at water, energy impacts of climate change


November 30, 2009

Climate projections for the next 50 to 100 years forecast increasingly frequent severe droughts and heat waves across the American Southwest, sinking available water levels even as rising mercury drives up demand for it.

Declining water supply will affect more than just water flowing from taps and spraying from hoses and sprinklers. It will also strongly impinge on power generation, testing the capacity of sources like Hoover Dam, with its roughly 1.3 million customers in Nevada, Arizona and California, to generate adequate power with less water. Download Full Image

Now, Patricia Gober and David A. Sampson of the Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University are teaming with David J. Sailor of Portland State University on a $65,000 grant to wade into this deep problem.

Their research will focus initially on water and electricity supply and demand in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, and the effects of extreme heat and drought on them.

“Water and energy are inextricably linked,” says Sampson, a DCDC research scientist specializing in simulation and modeling. “Energy is required to transport and purify water, and water is used in energy production.

“Further reductions within the Colorado River Basin threaten not only water supplies but also energy production and tourism, with a potential economic impact amounting to billions of dollars in lost revenues.”

According to Sampson, Lake Powell currently stands at 62 percent capacity and Lake Mead, which provides the water that drives the Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric plants, is currently at 43 percent capacity and could drop as low as 40 percent.

Such levels raise questions about how providers will supply safe, affordable water to the 27 million residents relying on the Colorado River supply, especially in light of continued development and population growth.

The researchers will attack the complex problem from a number of angles.

The energy research will assess the current sensitivity of electricity supply and demand to weather fluctuations, while also projecting future scenarios of population demographics and climate. Researchers will also develop models that predict and gauge the vulnerability of the electricity generation infrastructure to changes in climate and population.

With respect to water, the researchers will use WaterSim (http://watersim.asu.edu/">http://watersim.asu.edu/">http://watersim.asu.edu/), DCDC’ s systems dynamics model and decision tool, to investigate how changing climate conditions will affect runoff, which provides the lion’s share of surface water used to supply Phoenix. Adapting WaterSim to a more localized scale, they will also perform a sensitivity analysis of climate change versus future population growth, to determine their relative impacts on water shortages, while also analyzing vulnerability at the water-provider level.

The researchers will feed their results into two different scenarios, a business-as-usual policy and one reflecting a groundwater-sustainability approach. These results, in turn, will provide a foundation for future study of implications of climate change and policy scenarios.

“This research is very much in line with the DCDC’s purpose and goals,” says Gober, co-director of DCDC and a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the School of Sustainability. “Figuring out how all the pieces fit together, identifying sensitivities, and making useful predictions and recommendations in the face of climatic uncertainty.”

The National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), a commission established by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation that takes a bipartisan approach to energy policy, balancing science and politics, funds the project. Energy infrastructure adequacy and siting is one of its three current focus areas, along with oil security and climate change.

Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City is one of five National Science Foundation-funded centers nationwide fostering better decision-making under climatic uncertainty. It was founded to apply this principle to water-management decisions in the urbanizing desert of Central Arizona.

Source:
David A. Sampson, dasamps1@mainex1.asu.edu" title="blocked::dasamps1@mainex1.asu.edu">dasamps1@mainex1.asu.edu
Decision Center for a Desert City Contact: 

Barrett Lecture Series presents former ASU President Lattie Coor


October 30, 2009

Former ASU President Lattie Coor will be appearing at the Downtown Phoenix campus as part of Barrett Honors Lecture Series, to drum up support for a new state initiative.

Open to the public, Coor’s presentation “The Arizona We Want”, starts at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 10 in the Cronkite Theater at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, 555 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.  Download Full Image

Initially implemented in 2004, the Barrett Honor Lecture Series brings a wide variety of intellectually stimulating scholarly work and issues to Barrett students and the ASU community. The series highlights both the faculty at ASU and scholars in all fields from across the nation.

Coor is heading up a new initiative “The Arizona We Want”, to help build a citizen’s agenda that reflects what Arizonans are thinking about and identifies a set of clear, measurable goals that describes what want the state to be and how they intend to get there.

“I welcome the opportunity to present this report as part of the Barrett Honors Lecture Series, and to share with those present the findings of the Gallup Arizona Poll from which the report has derived a citizen’s agenda for Arizona,” Coor said. “I will be asking all in attendance to personally take the poll at www.thearizonawewant.org">http://www.thearizonawewant.org/">www.thearizonawewant.org, and to learn how their views match up with those found by Gallup.”

The survey, released Oct. 2, 2009 by Gallup Inc., asked 3,600 residents statewide for their perceptions of Arizona’s economy and quality of life. Respondents said the most important issues facing Arizona include the economy, jobs, housing market, transportation, immigration, crime, water, environment, schools, drugs, growth and prejudice.

Reporter , ASU Now

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ASU exceeds $300 million in research expenditures


October 26, 2009

Arizona State University has topped $300 million in research expenditures for the first time in its school history. With a total of  $307 million in research expenditures for FY2009 (which ended June 30), a growth of nearly 9 percent compared to FY08, ASU has made a dramatic climb in the ranks of top research universities.

ASU’s $307 million total research dollars for FY09 comes from a variety of sources. It includes funds received from the federal government, industry, private sources, state funds (including Technology & Research Initiative Funds from state sales tax revenue) and local government, funds from the ASU Foundation specifically for research projects and funds from foreign sources. Download Full Image

This year’s total includes funds for non-science and engineering research. Next year, the National Science Foundation will begin counting non-science and engineering research funds for its official reports on university research expenditures.

R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., ASU’s vice president for research and economic affairs, said that including non-science and engineering research in its total provides a fuller, more accurate picture of the research enterprise at ASU.

“We support the National Science Foundation’s decision to include all research related expenditures regardless of discipline,” Shangraw said.  “ASU has strong programs in the humanities, social sciences and education research that should be represented in our research reporting and that of other institutions.”

“We are growing because we have differentiated our research and we have excelled at transdisciplinary projects that tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our nation,” Shangraw explained. “These and many other research projects are driven by the critical needs of society and aim to use the transformative power of research to make substantive changes to fill those needs.”

Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU’s deputy vice president for research said ASU’s rapid climb in research ranks is the result of tremendous efforts put forth by faculty in a highly competitive environment, the hiring of top researchers in key areas, and strategic investments in several new initiatives using resources such as the Technology & Research Initiative Funds (TRIF). 

Examples include the Biodesign Institute, which is focused on advancing biosciences, life sciences and health related research to provide a better quality of life; the Flexible Display Center, a U.S. government, industry, university collaboration to conceptualize, design and develop flexible displays that integrate seamlessly into everyday applications resulting in a significant economic impact; the Global Institute of Sustainability, which is focused on solving some of the greatest challenges faced by society in the areas of energy and climate change; and a number of research projects and programs in social sciences and humanities that benefit society.

“ASU built the world class Biodesign Institute by drawing upon the multifaceted expertise at the university and augmented that with new programs and projects that attracted top researchers and leaders from around the world,” said Panchanathan.  “The investments in infrastructure and people are already paying rich dividends from the perspectives of intellectual, societal and economic impact.”

Now, Biodesign is a $70 million a year institute that works on improving health care outcomes for all people through a focus on personalized medicine, outpacing the global threat of infectious diseases and improving our environment through renewable energy and bioremediation, Panchanathan said.

Another example is the Flexible Display Center (FDC) at ASU. It was established by the U.S. Army in February 2004 in order to revolutionize information displays. FDC researchers work side by side with industry and government scientists to usher in a new era of powerful real-time information sharing through a new generation of innovative displays that are flexible, lightweight, low power and rugged. It is expected that the advances at FDC will attract whole new industries in this rapidly growing field.

The U. S. Army renewed the FDC’s contract in February 2009 for an additional five years at $50 million.

Sustainable world

ASU’s expertise in environmental science grew over 30 years, but a significant contribution by Julie Ann Wrigley in 2004 led to the creation of the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) and eventually the formation of the School of Sustainability in 2007. GIOS today conducts research, education and problem solving related to sustainability, with a special focus on urban environments. Most of all, it involves students, tomorrow’s leaders, in its work and scientific advances.

Patricia Gober, director of ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City, which studies water management and climate adaptation in Phoenix, also teaches an interdisciplinary class in water sustainability. 

“Students come to my class with backgrounds in engineering, science, social science, law, journalism, business and education,” Gober said. “The blending of their perspectives breaks down the old boundaries that separated teaching, research and service in the university and creates settings in which students work on real-world problems in search of solutions to sustainability challenges.”

Today, GIOS is a cross-disciplinary research institute that includes the participation of more than 400 faculty working to solve important issues in climate adaptation, renewable energy and urban sustainability, tackling some of today’s primary problems. GIOS initiates and nurtures work on issues of sustainability across many departments on the four campuses of ASU, and collaborates with other academic institutions, governments, businesses and industries, and community groups locally, nationally and globally.

ASU has several significant research efforts in the humanities and social sciences.

Curtis Marean, a professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and associate director of the Institute of Human Origins, has done groundbreaking anthropological work pushing back by several thousands of years the dates of evidence of the earliest ‘human’ experiences, such as the expansion of diet to include shellfish and other marine resources, the use of pigment in symbolic behavior and the use of fire to help craft tools from stone. Marean and his students work on a coastal area of the Cape of South Africa called Pinnacle Point. The research is funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

This year, ASU received four grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, three of which were directly related to ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research. Daniel Shilling, a researcher, and Joan McGregor, a professor in the School of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, examined the role of literature, philosophy and history in developing the core principles and values that will directly influence today’s sustainability efforts. Another grant aided in the development of a research, teaching and outreach program on the cultural and environmental history of the Sky Islands borderlands region of Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico. The fourth project, Becoming Arizona, is the development of an online e-cyclopedia of Arizona history, culture, politics, economics and other topics as a tribute to Arizona’s centennial in 2012.

An interdisciplinary team, led by Steven Corman, a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Communication and director of ASU’s Consortium for Strategic Communication, has developed a text-analysis tool used to decode messages containing potential security threats to the U.S. Funded by the Office of Naval Research, the technology provides tools, methods and training programs to assess threats posed by terrorist narratives among contested populations.

Devens Gust, an ASU professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a leading researcher in its efforts in solar energy conversion, said the growth of ASU’s research relates to its ability to set up projects that cut across traditional disciplines.

“When I came to ASU, we had only a few research efforts that had high international visibility,” Gust said. “Today, our major research strengths span an impressive diversity of subjects. Much of this growth has been in interdisciplinary research areas, which is important because the solution of many of the intellectually fascinating and socially important research problems facing humanity today require expertise from a whole range of disciplines.”

“All of these projects are examples of how ASU is pushing knowledge in several new and exciting directions,” Shangraw said. “Our emphasis on interdisciplinary research, our ability to organize and engage larger projects and our ability to win larger, multi-year awards will allow ASU to play an increasingly formidable role in meeting the grand challenges of science and society.”

Research grants are restricted to use for specific research projects and cannot be used to fund general university expenses. However, they do add a significant amount of money to the state economy.

2007 research expenditureS PDF

Arizona State University has been building momentum in research expenditures in recent years. For example, in 2007 ASU ranked 19th in expenditures for universities that do not have a medical school. In 2009, ASU’s expenditures exceeded $307 million. View PDF.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

480-965-4823

ASU entities nominated for Innovator of the Year Award


October 13, 2009

Two ASU entities – the College of Technology and Innovation on the Polytechnic campus and the School of Life Sciences on the Tempe campus – are finalists for the 2009 Innovator of the Year Award for Academia, which is given out as part of the Arizona Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

Winner of the award, Arizona’s highest honor for technology innovation, will be named at a banquet on November 19. The award – given to a department or office within an accredited higher education institution that has achieved success through innovation in the past calendar year – is presented by the Arizona Technology Council and the Arizona Department of Commerce. Download Full Image

Two specific ASU projects were highlighted as examples of innovation for each ASU entity. For the College of Technology and Innovation, the process of converting algae into jet fuel is cited; and for the School of Life Sciences, the development of computer software that can compare the genomes of humans and pathogens was cited.

In ASU’s School of Life Sciences, Sudhir Kumar, an ASU professor of biology, recognized early on the importance and usefulness of computer analysis of genetic data. His research group pioneered development of methods and discovery tools for the analysis of DNA of humans and their pathogens. Over the past year, Kumar, who also is director of the Center for Evolutionary Functional Genomics at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, and his group have developed and refined tools for the computational analysis of DNA data (called MEGA software) and for mining scientific literature to build a tree of life scaled to time (TimeTree Web tool).

These two software tools have proven to be quite popular. The MEGA software for comparative genomics has been cited in more than 3,000 publications annually and the TimeTree of Life Web tool, launched this year, has been accessed 30,000 times in the past few months. Its widespread use includes a targeted educational component and is accessible to everyone.

“Around the world, thousands of scientists are studying the evolutionary diversification of life by taking advantage of rapidly expanding DNA genome databases,” said Robert Page, founding director of ASU’s School of Life Sciences. “The genomic software developed by Sudhir Kumar has improved not only the fundamental understanding of the process of evolution but also provided key insights into the evolution of beneficial (e.g. crops) and harmful (pathogens, pests) species.”

The work of Milton Sommerfeld and Qiang Hu, both professors of applied science and mathematics, was highlighted in the College of Technology and Innovation nomination. Sommerfeld and Hu have developed a process that can convert algae into aviation or jet fuel. Last year, Time magazine named the process one of the top innovations in 2008.

Sommerfeld and Hu have been working on algae as a source of renewable fuel for more than 25 years. The technology they developed uses sunlight, waste materials like carbon dioxide in flue gas, and nitrates and phosphates in waste waters as nutrients for growing a renewable algae feedstock that yields oil. The algae biomass residuals yield carbohydrates for ethanol production and proteins for animal feed or organic fertilizer.

“A significant aspect of Sommerfeld and Hu’s research is the holistic nature of their efforts,” said Douglas Green, interim chair of the applied science and mathematics department. “Not only are they interested in lipid production from algal cells, but they continually strive and have been successful in utilizing inputs and products to create a green, sustainable production chain.”

The researchers recently received significant funding for their algae projects and already two spin-off companies have been created from technologies developed in their laboratory.

The Governor’s Celebration of Innovation has become a premier community gathering in Arizona. The November 19 banquet will be held at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

480-965-4823

Heydt earns top electrical engineering honor


October 9, 2009

Gerald Heydt, a professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, has been selected to receive the 2010 Richard H. Kaufmann Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for exceptional achievements in electric power quality, and transmission and distribution engineering.

IEEE is among the largest engineer organizations in world. Its Kaufmann Award is an IEEE Technical Field Award, considered among the most prestigious honors in the engineering field. Download Full Image

It recognizes significant contributions to electrical engineering in the industrial environment through the design or application of systems technology, as well as apparatus, devices or materials for plant power distribution, drive systems, process control or other utilization systems.

Heydt is to receive the award given during the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting on July 27, 2010 in Minneapolis.

Heydt’s work focuses on electric power quality, transmission and distribution engineering, power systems modeling and computer control, and the dynamic response of electric power systems. He is the author of two books in this area – one being the first book on electric power quality.

He has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1997 and is an ASU Regents’ Professor, the highest recognition bestowed on faculty members at Arizona’s state universities.

Heydt came to ASU in 1995 after 25 years at Purdue University. He is the site director of the Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSerc), which is a nationwide power engineering center based at ASU. Researchers at 13 universities are part of PSerc, as well as close to 50 power industry-related companies. Heydt also is a part of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Distribution Management (FREEDM) National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. The center’s goal is to integrate renewable energy resources into power distribution systems.

Heydt’s work outside academia has included stints with Commonwealth Edison Company, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, EG&G and various positions around the world with the United Nations Development Program.

The Kaufmann Award was established by the IEEE in 1986 “for outstanding contributions in industrial systems engineering.” It may be presented annually to an individual, or team of up to three persons.

The Award honors Richard Harold Kaufmann in memory of his important contributions to industrial systems engineering and his service to the IEEE Industry Applications Society.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

ASU helps shape debate on energy and competitiveness


October 7, 2009

Jim Buizer, special adviser to ASU President Michael Crow, once had a brief encounter with Vice President Joe Biden. It came at a dinner, where Biden was speaking on U.S. competitiveness, a topic Buizer knew well because he was deeply involved in the recommendations for the future of U.S. competitiveness through his work with the Council on Competitiveness.

At the end of the speech, Biden and Buizer’s paths crossed and for a few moments they exchanged pleasantries, in which Buizer invited the vice president to Tempe for a campus visit. Download Full Image

“I fully intend to follow up and send a formal invitation,” Buizer says.

The fact that ASU was at the table helping to chart a course for the U.S. in terms of competitiveness and sustainability speaks to how far the university has come. The important work was not rubbing elbows, but in hashing out details of a report of the Council on Competitiveness, which was presented at the National Energy Summit and International Dialogue, Sept. 23 and 24, in Washington, D.C.

The Council on Competitiveness is a non-partisan and non-governmental organization of CEOs, university presidents and labor leaders working to ensure U.S. prosperity.

The summit – which Buizer, President Crow and Assistant Vice President for Policy Affairs Stuart Hadley attended – included the participation of several luminaries, including Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, Presidential Science Advisor John Holdren, and U. S. Sens. Mark Warner (R-Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

“ASU’s leadership in sustainability is evident by our engagement in national policy discussions like this one with the Council on Competitiveness,” says President Crow, who served on the CEO-level Steering Committee for the Council’s Energy Security, Innovation & Sustainability Initiative.

A major portion of the summit was to deliver the Council on Competitiveness’s report, “Drive. Private Sector Demand for Sustainable Energy Solutions.”

The report details what needs to be done to build the U.S. economy, but to do so in a manner that is sensitive to the environment and to make the economic recovery more sustainable. A copy of the report will be given to President Obama as a pathway for energy and sustainability policy. To see the report, go to: www.compete.org/.http://www.compete.org/">www.compete.org/. class="MsoNormal">“The Council on Competitiveness believes there is tremendous economic opportunity inherent in the shift to a low-carbon economy, but only if our nation takes immediate steps to create the right price signals to encourage business and consumers to pursue cleaner and more efficient energy practices, products and technologies,” says Susan Rochford, vice president of energy and sustainability initiatives at the Council on Competitiveness.

“This was a serious, high-level engagement of corporate CEOs, university presidents and civic leaders talking about what is needed to compete in energy and sustainability,” Buizer says. “It created the link between three key constituents – leaders in education, industry and government policy.”

For Buizer, the summit and the dinner were the culmination of two years of work that helped elevate ASU as a key player in the dialogue on our country’s future.

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

480-965-4823

Rittmann receives Arizona BioIndustry's top research award


October 5, 2009

Bruce Rittmann, a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has won the 2009 Award for Research Excellence from the Arizona BioIndustry Association.

Rittmann is director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute at ASU. Download Full Image

He is an international leader in using microbes found in nature in ways that can benefit the environment or human health. His research team tackles some of the world’s leading problems related to water, waste and energy.

Their research projects include pollution cleanup, treating water and wastewater, capturing renewable energy and understanding how microbes in the digestive system may be linked to obesity, as well as other efforts.

Rittmann also was honored this year with the Simon W. Freese Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Environmental Water and Resource Institute, for his innovative work on using microorganisms to improve water quality.

Especially noteworthy is the membrane biofilm reactor, a technology now being commercialized to destroy a wide range of pollutants found in waters and wastewaters. This technology can remove harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, nitrates and arsenate from water and soils – problems that are vital to the future of the Southwest, where the Colorado River water is used by seven states.

Rittmann is part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like biodiesel.

To improve human health, his research team’s collaboration with the Methuselah Foundation is exploring how to mitigate aging by identifying naturally occurring microbes to clean up the "junk" that accumulates in our bodies.

In addition, in an innovative study with partner Mayo Clinic Arizona, Rittmann’s group explored the causes of obesity by identifying microbial communities to offer new clues in the body weight differences in average, obese and gastric bypass subjects.

Writer: Joe Caspermeyer, Biodesign Institute at ASU

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

Federal stimulus grants give boost to ASU research


September 28, 2009

Arizona State University researchers to date have received more than $39 million in stimulus package research grants. For ASU, which has played a very active role in attracting this additional funding, much of these research funds have gone for projects that meet challenges currently confronting society.

Projects funded include work to unlock the secrets of photosynthesis for new sources of energy; research into a computational understanding of the skills required in surgical training; development of a new method for screening and diagnosing tuberculosis in children; a study on child development and immigrant adaptation; and development of a new type of robotic hand. Download Full Image

Funds for these projects come from the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, says Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU’s deputy vice president for research and economic affairs.

“Funding for these projects come at a critical time as we look to finding new sources of renewable energy, smarter ways of diagnosing and fighting diseases, and better ways to educate our next generation workforce,” Panchanathan says. “Now is the time to invest in bold new ideas that result in large scale innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The research funds are part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal economic stimulus package approved in February. Several federal agencies have been allocated a portion of this money for funding competitive research proposals from universities for work on basic and applied research in critical areas of national importance. 

These grants are restricted to use for specific research projects and cannot be used to fund general university expenses. However, they do add a significant amount of money to the state economy.

The ASU projects involve teams of researchers from across the university and across the country. This leverages ASU’s strength in interdisciplinary research, Panchanathan says. Highlights of ASU’s newly funded projects include:

Power from sunlight

One grant awarded ASU — $14 million for five years — has come from the Department of Energy to set up an Energy Frontier Research Center that will focus on research on solar energy conversion based on the principles of photosynthesis. The goal of ASU’s new center is to design and construct a synthetic system that uses sunlight to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen fuel and oxygen.

Society requires a renewable source of fuel that is widely distributed, abundant, inexpensive and environmentally clean. The use of solar energy to produce a clean fuel such as hydrogen is essentially the only process that can satisfy these criteria at a scale large enough to meet the world’s energy demands.

Plants and similar organisms use photosynthesis to oxidize water, producing oxygen and fuel compounds such as carbohydrate and hydrogen. The system to be developed in the ASU center will be designed using principles borrowed from these natural processes.

“This grant will allow us to put together a complete system that starts with the absorption of sunlight and ends with the creation of a clean fuel, such as hydrogen,” says Devens Gust, an ASU professor of chemistry and biochemistry who is director of the new center. 

“It also will provide resources to educate students at all levels about renewable energy, and it could lead to whole new industries,” Gust adds.

Easier diagnosis of pediatric TB 

A grant of $107,700 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Robert Husson at Children’s Hospital in Boston and Joshua LaBaer, director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Medicine at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, will improve methods for detecting tuberculosis (TB) in children.

An accelerating TB epidemic in settings where HIV is highly prevalent demands new tools for TB control. One area of great need, especially for pediatric TB, is improved diagnosis. The standard approach of sputum smear microscopy and culture are insensitive, especially in children and in HIV infected persons of all ages. They also require laboratory resources and skilled personnel.

LaBaer has been working with his colleague in Boston on new, high throughput technologies in the field of functional proteomics, which seeks to understand the roles proteins play in the human body. In this project, LaBaer will produce microscopic arrays of Mycobacterium tuberculosis proteins that can be screened with patient serum to identify antigens of that can be used to develop new anti-body based tests for TB in children. 

Helping children improve their oral language

A $130,527 grant from the NIH is helping ASU researcher Shelley Gray tackle the challenges that children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) face in trying to understand and use new words.

Children with SLI often have poor vocabularies. It is not that they cannot learn new words, but they require significantly more exposure to new words before they can store sufficient phonological and semantic information to recognize and produce them. This has a negative impact on their oral language and literacy development, especially reading comprehension.

This project is investigating whether phonological or semantic encoding or retrieval cues help children with SLI learn new words faster, says Gray, an ASU associate professor of speech and hearing science. 

“Faster word learning will result in a larger vocabulary,” Gray says. “This is crucial for preventing reading comprehension problems and for closing the academic gap between children with SLI and children with typical language development as they progress through school.”

Child development and immigrant adaptation

School can be tough on any child, but for children new to the U.S., it can become an ordeal as they try to acclimate to a new school and a new country. With a $221,575 NIH grant, Jennifer Glick, an ASU associate professor in the School of Social and Family Dynamics, will take an integrative approach to study child development and immigrant adaptation.

Children of newly arrived immigrants can find many ways to adapt in the U.S. depending on the resources of the family and the interactions they receive in the community. If society fails to support immigrant adaptation, it’s expected that the child’s school performance will suffer.

However, the child’s family and ethnic community may bring additional resources to the education sphere. Thus, the interaction of family background, parental involvement and community context all will influence developmental and educational outcomes for children in immigrant families. A key goal of this study is to go beyond using immigrant status as a proxy for other traits to determine how family migration context — including parent’s age and arrival, language background and use, national origins and ethnicity — are related to school readiness and early academic progress.

“This project is a multi-disciplinary approach, combining theoretical perspectives of immigrant adaptation and child development,” says Glick, who studies immigrant adaptation and family survival strategies. “We are looking for a better understanding of how the school performance of immigrants’ children is advanced by the family context in which they live.”

Training a surgeon’s hand

In any field, good training improves skills. This is as true for airplane pilots as it is for surgeons. The more you do, the better you become. But when it comes to training surgeons, there is an associated need to cut training costs that can compromise training quality.

An $874,484 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow Baoxin Li, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Computing Informatics & Decision Systems Engineering, to overcome this quandary by exploring simulation-based surgical training.

“Our goal is to come up with a system that can shorten the time involved in training a surgeon and improve the quality of the training,” Li says.

But to do this Li needs to come up with a system that can do several things, including monitoring and measuring a surgical resident as she performs a procedure and then being able to put value judgments on what the system sees during the exercise, and to associate skill ratings with correction procedures.

“We present a machine-learning based approach to computational understanding of surgical skills based on temporal inference of visual and motion capture data from surgical simulation,” he says. “This learning approach is enabled by our simulation and data acquisition design that ensures clinical meaningfulness of the data.”

A simpler grasp

Because the human hand is an evolutionary marvel, it is incredibly hard to replicate and employ on a machine, like a robot. For example, says Marco Santello, an ASU professor of kinesiology, robotic grasping has been around for 25 years and yet there are no successful devices for grasping in unstructured environments.

“The new generation of highly successful mobile and humanoid robots still lack basic ‘hands’ that can reliably grasp arbitrary objects,” Santello says. 

That may change as a three-year, $236,000 National Science Foundation grant to Santello and a team of researchers (Peter Allen, Columbia University, and Robert Howe, Harvard University) will let them explore new ways of developing simpler grasping devices for robots. The work is based on four basic principles: begin with robust grasping as the goal; learn from the human hand but do not replicate it; simplicity is essential; and put functionality in passive mechanics, not in elaborate sensing and control. Experimental work at ASU, involving graduate and undergraduate students, will aim to understand how the brain controls dexterous manipulation activities.

Using these ideas, “we propose to build a low-cost, low degree of freedom grasping device that is based on hard human grasping data,” Santello explains. “We will test the new tools in simulation and build hardware that is functionally proven for a given set of robotic grasping tasks.”

Panchanathan says that ASU faculty have responded rapidly and strategically to acquire stimulus research grants. To date, ASU researchers have sent in proposals totaling nearly $410 million in research funding.

“ASU faculty and researchers have put forth tremendous efforts to secure stimulus funding in a highly competitive environment,” he adds. “We are pleased with our success thus far and are looking forward to securing a number of new projects over the next year. This will allow us to not only contribute significantly towards solving challenging problems faced by society, but also result in a significant economic impact.”

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

480-965-4823

ASU praised for green efforts by national magazine


August 20, 2009

Sierra magazine has named the nation’s top 20 “coolest” schools for their efforts to stop global warming and operate sustainably.

The magazine’s September/October cover story spotlights schools that are making a true impact for the planet, and marks Sierra’s third annual listing of America’s greenest universities and colleges. The complete list is available online at www.sierraclub.org/coolschools. Download Full Image

ASU">http://www.sierraclub.org/coolschools">www.sierraclub.org/coolschools was No. 13 on the list. Sustainability initiatives at ASU include the only purchasing program to score a perfect "10" among Sierra's top 20, ramped-up recycling and waste-diversion efforts, energy-efficiency upgrades that have saved ASU an estimated 33 million kilowatt and 70 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually, and one of the largest university solar initiatives in the country. And ASU is home to the nation’s first School of Sustainability.

“We're thrilled to see Arizona State University making a real commitment to greening its campus,” says Carl Pope, the Sierra Club’s executive director. “The next generation of students cares deeply about stopping global warming, and schools such as Arizona State University that take the initiative to become environmentally responsible are doing the right thing for the planet and are better poised to attract the best students.”

“Universities are in a unique position to address the grand challenges of sustainability in the 21st century,” says Rob Melnick, the executive dean of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability. “ASU is committed to aligning its research, education, outreach and business practices with these increasingly urgent and complex challenges.”

“We have a great responsibility to advance sustainability in our daily operations – to consistently model best practices for our students and our community,” says Ray Jensen, the associate vice president for Business Services and ASU’s sustainability operations officer. "It's imperative for a university that is leading the way in sustainability education to also walk the talk. We're honored that Sierra has recognized our efforts with this distinction."

This year’s top 20 cool schools are taking dramatic steps to curb climate change. Whether it’s ASU, with 67,082 students, or College of the Atlantic with 321 students, Sierra’s list shows that schools of all sizes are taking action.

Sierra’s Top 20 coolest schools of 2009 are:
1. University of Colorado at Boulder (Boulder, Colorado)
2. University of Washington at Seattle (Seattle, Washington)
3. Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont)
4. University of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont)
5. College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine)
6. Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington)
7. University of California at Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, California)
8. University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
9. University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)
10. Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)
11. Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
12. University of New Hampshire (Durham, New Hampshire)
13. Arizona State University (Tempe, Arizona)
14. Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)
15. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
16. Bates College (Lewiston, Maine)
17. Willamette University (Salem, Oregon)
18. Warren Wilson College (Asheville, North Carolina)
19. Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)
20. New York University (Manhattan, New York)

Sierra magazine has 1.2 million readers and is a publication of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental group. For full descriptions of each winning school’s green efforts, visit www.sierraclub.org/coolschools.http://www.sierraclub.org/coolschools">www.sierraclub.org/coolschools />

Michelle Schwartz

Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

480-727-6302

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