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August 23, 2019

Parenting will be one focus of the award-winning initiative's 2019 fall rollout

Arizona State University’s Project Humanities has developed a reputation for its provocative and engaging programming. This year is no exception.

In the past eight years, Project Humanities has tackled a wide variety of hard-hitting issues. Past topics have included romance and autism; death and dying; rape culture; menstrual equity; environmental justice and sustainability; suicide prevention; drag kings and queens; arranged marriages in India; beauty queens; body positivity; toxic masculinity; identity and intersectionality; and homelessness.

Thanks to a generous gift by Valley business leaders Michelle Mace and Jim Tuton and their Come Rain or Shine Foundation who believe in and participate in Project Humanities’ mission, this fall’s lineup will see a big emphasis on "conscious parenting."

“Our Project Humanities team is always looking for ways to facilitate critical conversations that strive to make us better thinkers, better citizens and better humans,” said Neal A. Lester, the founding director of Project Humanities and an ASU Foundation Professor of English. “That our programming appeals to diverse individuals and groups across and beyond Arizona speaks to our solid track record of having our finger on the pulse of what matters to people every day. This fall continues our commitment to challenging ourselves and our supporters as individuals and communities to be better and to do better.”

The multiple award-winning initiative brings together individuals and communities across Arizona to instill knowledge in and demonstrate the vitality of humanities study and research and humanist thought and engagement. Project Humanities facilitates conversations across diverse communities to build understanding through talking, listening and connecting.

The 2019 fall lineup will examine religious and theological stereotypes, parenting after a child’s suicide, food and identity, the ethics of sex work and how to be an effective ally.

Parenting — broadly conceived and multidirectional — will take top billing this year, with programming beginning this fall and into the spring semester. According to Lester, “Parenting is not relegated to biology or legality. Plus, parents are also parented even as some parents parent. With ASU researchers and community members coming together for these conversations, the expectation is that attendees will see effective parenting as directly connected with our individual and shared humanity.”

And that’s why the Come Rain or Shine FoundationThe name Come Rain or Shine was chosen by Mace and Tuton based on their belief in the importance of unconditional forever love. gifted $25,000 to Project Humanities — the largest single donation in its eight-year history — to host four parenting programs this semester.

“We have all experienced life from at least one side of the parenting relationship — we were all kids once,” Mace said. "As adults, we can proceed unconsciously to be busy with life, often hurting others obliviously due to our own unmet needs from the past. I believe that parenting is where all of our behavior started — the good and the bad. I want to see a better society and be an agent for social change through raising awareness for conscious parenting."

Mace added that "conscious parenting" is about being a better human, which sometimes involves re-parenting ourselves and then our children.

"The decisions we regret most in life are the ones made out of reaction versus with reflection," Mace said. "In order to live more peacefully with the past, we can know better by learning the Humanity 101 principles, inspire people to improve their own lives and their relationships with their children."

Project Humanities will host these events and activities at different community venues around the Valley, bringing together students, staff, faculty, alumni, emeriti and members of the public to engage critically with Project Humanities’ Humanity 101 core principles: compassion, empathy, forgiveness, integrity, kindness, respect and self-reflection.

Male and female standing in front of a banner

Valley business leaders Jim Tuton and Michelle Mace at Hacks for Humanity 2018, a 36-hour entrepreneurial marathon hosted annually by ASU's Project Humanities. This year Tuton and Mace have gifted the award-winning initiative to host four programs on parenting. Photo courtesy of Warren Chu

All events are free and open to the public.

Humanity 101 on the Homefront: ‘Conscious Parenting’ and Social Change 

6 p.m.,  Aug. 27. Westside Multi-Generational Center, 715 W. Fifth St., Tempe

This community conversation critically engages a parenting philosophy that prescribes tools such and mindfulness and self-care rather than power and control. 

Humanity 101 on the Homefront: Parenting Across Cultures

Noon, Sept. 4. ASU West campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Ave., La Sala Ballroom A, Phoenix

This discussion explores how “culture” determines more than just the ethics and values adults pass on to their children. Culture also shapes how adults educate, nurture and discipline children. 

Dispelling the Myths: Heretics, Pagans, Atheists and Polytheists

6 p.m., Sept. 18. Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, 627 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa

Atheists, pagans and polytheists face a slew of stereotypes and discrimination for their beliefs. This program is an opportunity to dispel common myths about these worldviews while highlighting their humanistic beliefs. 

Humanity 101 on the Homefront: Parenting and Suicide

6 p.m., Sept. 24. ASU Preparatory Academy, Phoenix Elementary School Auditorium, 735 E. Fillmore St., Phoenix

Many consider suicide a silent epidemic in the United States. This program explores methods to prevent suicide, promote suicide literacy, and navigate grief in the aftermath of suicide — all through the lens of parenting. 

Vital Voices: Food, Identity, and Politics

6 p.m. Oct. 3. Sema Foundation, 325 N. Austin Drive, Chandler

Food is not only a staple of life, but a staple of one’s own identity. It can also highlight social disparities. Attendees are asked to bring a favorite dish, passage, song, photograph, story, performance, poem or artifact that embodies a personal or communal relationship with food to this community discussion.

Ethics and Intersectionality of the Sex Trade

6 p.m. Oct. 28. UMOM New Day Centers, 3333 E. Van Buren St., Phoenix

Sex trafficking is a form of enslavement that involves force, coercion or deceit. Sex work — such as escort services, pornography and webcam modeling — entails voluntary engagement in sex services. This discussion parses out these complexities by local experts, professionals and activists. 

Humanity 101 on the Homefront: Talking to Children about the Bad, the Ugly and the Inevitable

6 p.m. Nov. 7. ASU Polytechnic Campus, 7001 E. Williams Field Road, Cooley Ballroom, Mesa

Understanding societal ills such as intersecting systems of oppression, illness, violence, war and death can be difficult for everyone. It becomes even more challenging when adults have to explain to children these common life occurrences. This community conversation explores strategies for these difficult conversations. 

Evolving Allyship Workshop

6 p.m. Nov. 12. City Square Church, 701 S. First St., Phoenix

In an era when so many opt to combat injustices through safety pins and hashtags, what constitutes an authentic, substantive allyship? Is simply being a “good person” enough? This interactive workshop offers strategies for allies to combat such issues. 

The First Rainbow Coalition

6 p.m. Nov. 21. Tempe History Museum, 809 E. Southern Ave., Tempe

This PBS Indy Lens Pop-Up event features a screening of Ray Santisteban’s documentary that charts the history and legacy of a groundbreaking multiethnic alliance of community groups that changed the face of 1960s Chicago politics. A facilitated discussion immediately follows the screening. 

More information on Project Humanities’ 2019 fall events.

Top photo: Neal Lester, director of ASU's Project Humanities, speaks with attendees at a 2018 discussion called "The Bell that Tolls: A Conversation on Death and Dying." Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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Two ASU professors elected American Geophysical Union Fellows

August 20, 2019

Cosmochemistry expert and new ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) Director Meenakshi Wadhwa and drylands researcher Osvaldo Sala, a Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences, have been elected to the 2019 class of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fellows, recognized for their exceptional scientific contributions and gained prominence in their respective fields of earth and space sciences.

This honor is bestowed on only 0.1% of AGU membership in any given year. AGU Fellows are recognized for their scientific eminence in the earth and space sciences. Their breadth of interests and the scope of their contributions are remarkable and often groundbreaking.

Each year since 1962, AGU has elected as fellows members whose visionary leadership and scientific excellence have fundamentally advanced research in their respective fields. This year, Wadhwa and Sala are two of the 62 members chosen to join the 2019 class of fellows.

“AGU Fellows are recognized for their outstanding contributions to scholarship and discovery in the earth and space sciences," said Eric Davidson, AGU president. "Their work pushes the limits of human knowledge by helping to understand better the complex world and universe around us and to build the knowledge base for a more sustainable future. The rich diversity of disciplines and career backgrounds of this year’s fellows is evidence of the great scholarship, depth and breadth of knowledge, and profound scientific curiosity of AGU’s global membership of more than 60,000. We are pleased to recognize and honor the newest class of fellows for their significant and lasting contributions to the earth and space sciences.”

The evolution of the solar system

headshot of ASU Professor Meenakshi Wadhwa

New ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration Director Meenakshi Wadhwa has been elected to the 2019 class of the American Geophysical Union Fellows. Photo courtesy Knowledge Enterprise Development.

“I am incredibly honored, but this really is a recognition of the wonderful students, lab personnel, colleagues and collaborators that I have been fortunate to work with,” said Wadhwa, who, for more than a decade, also directed ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies prior to her appointment as SESE's director.

Wadhwa is a planetary scientist and educator who studies the formation and evolution of the solar system through the analysis of planetary materials including meteorites, moon rocks and other extraterrestrial samples returned by spacecraft missions. Her research group is known for developing and applying novel methodologies for high precision isotope analyses to these materials for understanding the formation and evolution of the solar system and planetary bodies.

Wadhwa has roles on two missions currently in flight. She is a collaborating scientist on the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument on the Mars Curiosity Rover and a science team member on the Japanese Hayabusa2 sample return mission to asteroid Ryugu.

Besides the robotic explorations, back on Earth, Wadhwa has been on two Antarctic expeditions hunting meteorites. (She calls them the highlights of her field geology career.) Antarctica is the best place to find meteorites. Its dry, cold climate perfectly preserves the asteroid fragments that crash to Earth. Ice sheets corral them into areas where they’re relatively easy to collect, and winds screaming across the surface expose buried specimens.

Asteroid 8356 has been named 8356 Wadhwa in recognition of her contributions to meteoritics and planetary science.

Drylands and global changes

headshot of ASU Professor Osvaldo Sala

Arid ecosystem researcher Osvaldo Sala, a Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences, has been elected to the 2019 class of the American Geophysical Union Fellows.

Drylands account for 40% of the Earth’s surface. They are home to 30% of the people, including some of the most vulnerable, and half of the world’s livestock. About 35% of terrestrial carbon is fixed in drylands.

"I feel honored and humbled to be among AGU Fellows who encompass excellence in so many fields of study," said Sala, who serves as the Julie A. Wrigley Chair, Regents and Foundation Professor and founding director of the Global Drylands Center at ASU.

Sala has spent more than 35 years studying the driest places on Earth: the Patagonian steppe, the annual grasslands of California, the Kalahari in southern Africa, the Loess Plateau in China and the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico. His publications are among the most cited in the fields of ecology, sustainability and biology. He has more than 200 publications and 40,000 citations. Sala's day-to-day work focuses on drylands that range from deserts to grasslands and savannas. He uses field experimentation together with mathematical models in his quest to provide the necessary knowledge to achieve drylands sustainability, which is essential to achieve global sustainability.

“Professor Sala is an international expert in the ecology of global drylands, and his knowledge is invaluable as at this critical time where these natural habitats face threats from changes in climate and increased development,” said Kenro Kusumi, director and professor at the School of Life Sciences. “We are proud that his achievements and service to the scientific community have been recognized with this highest honor from the American Geophysical Union.”

Sala’s research interests include several topics, from the functioning of arid ecosystems to ecosystem services and biodiversity, and encompass several scales from local to global. Climate change will affect arid ecosystems primarily through changes in water availability.

At the global scale, he has developed scenarios of biodiversity change for the next 50 to 100 years. He is particularly interested in working with scenarios as a way of simplifying, understanding and communicating the complex relationships that emerge from the study of social-ecological systems.

Honor and celebration at fall AGU meeting

The fellows were chosen by the AGU’s Honors and Recognition Committee and the Union Fellows Committee. At this year’s Honors Tribute, to be held Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Fall Meeting 2019 in San Francisco, AGU will celebrate and honor the exceptional achievements, visionary leadership, talents and dedication of 62 new AGU Fellows.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences) , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


ASU school director named 'Bike Hero' by city of Tempe

August 20, 2019

Each year, the city of Tempe recognizes one individual or organization as a “Bike Hero” — highlighting the work being done in the community to increase awareness and promoting bicycling as a viable mode of transportation. This year’s honoree is Trisalyn Nelson, director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University.

“Dr. (Nelson) is a Tempe treasure, with so many facets to her bike heroism," said Lauren Kuby, vice mayor for the city of Tempe. "Her bike advocacy, her passion for bike safety and her scholarly contributions are a shining example to us all. She walks — or bikes! — the talk and is a role model for her students, neighbors and the larger community.” woman and man smiling and holding a plaque Trisalyn Nelson is presented with the "Bike Hero" award by Mayor Mark Mitchell during the Tempe City Council meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 15. Download Full Image

Nelson is frequently seen around campus on her bike — her favorite mode of transportation around Tempe’s campus – and is also a strong advocate for creating safer spaces for bicyclists. Following an almost crash she experienced while riding her bike, Nelson decided to take action. Combining her GIS expertise and enthusiasm for biking, bikemaps.org is a platform to collect crowdsourced data to identify where crashes, near misses, hazards and bike thefts were taking place. Today, data is submitted from more than 40 countries.  

“Bikemaps.org can help make biking safer, and safe biking means more people can ride,” said Nelson. 

Safety is a huge concern for Nelson, as well as for city planners and governments — including those who selected her for the “Bike Hero” award she received during a Tempe City Council meeting on Aug. 15.

“Just this week I noticed a hot spot of reporting on bikemaps.org and was able to alert the city to an intersection that they may want to investigate to improve bike safety,” said Nelson. “The city of Tempe has amazing staff that are great to work with.”

Nelson’s work can also be seen around the ASU Tempe campus, including two bike counters that were installed in 2018. This joint effort with ASU Parking and Transit Services marked the first effort by the university to obtain continuous data on the number of bicyclists on the Tempe campus.

Whether the work is happening locally on the ASU campus or through data collection happening worldwide, Nelson serves as a strong advocate for bicyclists.

“Being on my bike just makes me happy. I love the freedom, exercise and cost savings, plus it’s sustainable and clean,” she said. “To me, bikes are a solution to so many things that getting more people on bikes is my passion.”

Nelson was also recognized for her work research on bicycling safety in 2018 when she was named the “Research Professional of the Year” by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


Gain insights from top leaders into successful business strategies

The Economic Club of Phoenix, hosted by ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business, announces its 2019–20 speaker lineup

August 19, 2019

The Economic Club of Phoenix speaker series — hosted by Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business — is celebrating its 35th anniversary and has become the preeminent Arizona forum for the exchange of ideas about business and the economy. 

Every year, Phoenix-area audiences are invited to attend the club’s luncheons to hear from some major names in the business world and have a chance to network and engage.   Download Full Image

Senior executives of adidas, PetSmart and Cox are among those slated to speak during the new Economic Club of Phoenix season. 

“It’s an honor to host leaders from some of the most recognized, influential companies in the world,” said Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business. “As a university, we are always excited to bring this event to the local community because it creates such a wonderful avenue for business professionals to connect and learn from one another.”

ECP 2019–20 speaker lineup

Friday, Sept. 27, 2019
First ECP luncheon of the season featuring adidas North America President Zion Armstrong
Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019
Spirit of Enterprise Award Luncheon honoring State Forty Eight
Camelback Golf Club

Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019
Economic Forecast Luncheon featuring:

• Robert J. Barro, Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University
• Bart Hobijn, applied macroeconomist, W. P. Carey School of Business
• Lee McPheters, research professor of economics, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center, W. P. Carey School of Business

Phoenix Convention Center, West Ballroom

Thursday, Jan.16, 2020
ECP luncheon featuring PetSmart CEO J.K. Symancyk 
Camelback Golf Club

Thursday, March 12, 2020
ECP luncheon featuring Cox President and CEO Alex Taylor
Camelback Golf Club

Thursday, April 9, 2020
Executive of the Year Award Luncheon honoring: 
The Carlisle Companies President and CEO Christian Koch
JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa

Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Annual Economic Outlook Luncheon featuring W. P. Carey economists:

• Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute
• Lee McPheters, research professor of economics, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center
• Mark Stapp, executive director, Master of Real Estate Development program

Camelback Golf Club

Each luncheon runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with the exception of December's economic forecast, which is scheduled from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Tickets for nonmembers are available for $85. Funds in excess of the cost of lunch are used to support scholarships and faculty research at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Guests are subject to change.

For more information about the club or to reserve seats, visit econclubphx.org or call 480-727-0596. Journalists interested in covering an event are asked to RSVP in advance.

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


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New ASU online program will train adults to help foster youths prep for college

ASU offers free online program for adults to help foster kids prep for college.
August 16, 2019

Empower helps with navigating special challenges like documents, waivers

The path to college can be challenging for many people, but youths who have been in foster care can face extra obstacles.

Six years ago, Arizona passed a law that allows former foster youth to attend the state’s community colleges and public universities tuition-free. But it turns out that making the leap to college includes difficulties beyond tuition, according to experts at Arizona State University who work with foster youth.

“I was surprised that after SB1208 passed there weren’t more students coming and I learned a lot more about the complexities of that,” said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach for University College at ASU.

Many foster youths change schools frequently, making record-keeping difficult, and even when they’re in a stable environment, they don’t always have an adult who can help them choose the right high school courses and think about higher education.

Now, ASU has created a free, online training program for people who want to help foster youth become ready for college. Empower, a self-paced, six-module course, launched this week. The training is targeted to foster parents, relatives, case managers, school counselors, teachers, mentors, court-appointed advocates or anyone else who has a supportive relationship with foster youth.

The 35-minute modules include videos, downloadable guides, case studies, assessments, surveys and learning exercises that cover not only practical tips on how to help foster youth plan for college but also how to understand their trauma and resilience.

“One of the challenges that our students have shared with us is how adults have low expectations for them and their futures,” Hanrahan said.

Jeanne Hanrahan (left) director of community outreach for University College, listens as ASU student Aroe Talbot describes how a supportive adult helped her create a path to college at a launch event for the Empower online program. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Empower teaches users about “growth mindset,” a way of reframing experiences and using strategies to see what can be learned from challenges and failures and how a path can be changed.

Hanrahan created ASU’s Bridging Success Early Start program for foster youth in 2015, and said that over the years, she’s seen the power of supportive adults in the lives of these young people.

“That has been the seed of what we’re doing with Empower,” she said.

“We know that without one supportive adult, most of these young people will not come to college.”

Earlier this summer, ASU gathered community partners and allies in the foster system to introduce them to Empower and show some of the videos that are included in the course work. Some of the former foster youth who are now ASU students appear in the videos and they described their experiences.

Aroe Talbot, a senior majoring in Spanish and social work, talked about the difference her high school social worker made in her life.

“She met me in the lowest parts of my life and proved to me that love, support and belief can change a life forever,” Talbot said.

“She gave me her time and dedication and open ears and big heart.”

Talbot was separated from her mother and four siblings as a child. She described the shame, trauma and fear she experienced.

“I had to witness and face some of the toughest challenges I wasn’t sure I could overcome, and in some way I thought this was because I had failed as a child and was deemed unworthy,” she said.

The social worker supported Talbot while she finished high school in three years, attended basketball games where Talbot was a cheerleader and gave her rides to scholarship interviews.

“To look her in the eyes with my high school diploma and acceptance to ASU was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Talbot said.

Hanrahan said that even professionals like high school counselors need help with the unique situation of foster youths, which is why Empower is important.

“It’s complicated because there’s a lot of specialized information for these youths, in particular because of the fact that they can have transcripts from four or five schools, so chasing down records is extremely challenging,” she said.

“They have a lot of different kinds of documentation required to access aid and the state voucher, and high school counselors want this information but it’s super confusing.”

Hanrahan first began working with foster youth about 12 years ago when she joined the advisory board of the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program, which provides support for students who have special challenges, such as being in foster care.

“I got to know a lot about their stories, and I really saw the need for ASU to respond to that,” she said.

“The Bridging Success Early Start program was my vision to have a welcoming space for them.”

The free, six-day Bridging Success Early Start orientation on campus is a chance for former foster youth to meet each other, connect with peer mentors, get supplies (such as laptops donated by Insight and Target gift cards through Helen’s Hope Chest), learn about university resources, attend workshops and find support for dealing with their unique challenges.

Students can take a one-credit academic success course their first semester and get connected to tutoring support.

“One of the things that often happens with foster youth who spend time in a group home is that they have few opportunities to make decisions for themselves, such as choices about how late they stay up or what to eat for dinner,” Hanrahan said.

“Coming to a college campus where they have no one telling them what to do, when to go to bed, when to get up for classes, is overwhelming.”

Both Bridging Success and the Empower training are financially supported by Women in Philanthropy.

While originally intended for adults who were already connected to foster youth, Hanrahan said there’s been a lot of interest from community members outside of the system, so people who complete the course will be referred to groups that work with foster youths.

Talbot thanked those at the community event who helped to create the Empower training.

“I thank you for recognizing that individuals like myself are very much worth fighting for and for recognizing that we are not broken.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Nature Research and Biodesign to co-host fall conference on imaging molecular reactions

August 13, 2019

Some of the world’s most accomplished scientific minds will converge on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Nov. 6-8 to explore new methods that make it possible to observe molecules in action. Illustrating the adage "seeing is believing," the conference, “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action,” will showcase how cutting-edge methods are pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

At the conference, scientists will discuss how emerging methods that were unthinkable a decade ago have the potential to change the trajectory of drug discovery, accelerate the search for new sources of energy, miniaturize semiconductors – and even preserve art and archeology. The “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action” conference will come to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Nov. 6-8. Download Full Image

“The conference will bring together scientists from all over the world, working in disciplines ranging from structural biology, ultrafast spectroscopy and theory to quantum physics, to present and discuss novel breakthrough techniques and discoveries that will allow us to see the world around us ‘with new eyes’ by imaging molecular dynamics at the atomic scale,” said Petra Fromme, director of the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery, Regents Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and a member of the conference's scientific committee. To date, most structural knowledge is based on a static picture of the molecules or the material, limiting understanding because of the highly dynamic nature of living organisms, chemical reactions and transitions in materials.

“I am especially thrilled about the potential of this gathering because it is the first time the esteemed Nature editors have selected Arizona State University as a site for one of their prestigious conferences,” said Fromme.

“We are also eager to show conference participants the progress we've made with our prototype compact femtosecond X-ray light source,” said William Graves, lead accelerator physicist for the project and associate professor of physics. Participants will have the rare opportunity to visit the Beus CXFEL Laboratory, where scientists will be making final preparations for the first light experiment.

The conference is co-organized by seven Nature journal editors and noted researchers at ASU. The ASU team is led by Fromme, Graves and John Spence, the Richard Snell Professor of Physics at ASU. Nature senior editor Magdalena Helmer is leading the Nature team, along with editors from Nature, Nature Chemistry, Nature Communications, Nature Methods and Nature Physics. Many of the Nature publication editors plan to attend the conference.

In assessing sites and scientists for a conference that would be well-positioned to advance techniques such as serial femtosecond crystallography and ultrafast spectroscopy, among other related technologies, the Nature editors identified Fromme and her team as leading the field, issuing an invitation to Fromme and the Biodesign Institute to host this important conference.

The conference will feature five sessions, designed to stimulate new ideas and collaborations. The conference will include a poster session and presentations in five key areas of interest:

  • Mapping ultra-fast light-triggered molecular motion
  • Visualizing catalysis in real time
  • Energy transfer and excited-state dynamics
  • Dynamics of interfaces
  • Tracking large-scale molecular dynamics

The conference committee will invite those who have submitted the best abstracts to provide short talks at the conference.

The event is expected to draw a broad mix of scientists, representing an unusually wide array of disciplines. Speakers include two Nobel Laureates: Ada Yonath, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for unravelling the atomic basis of protein synthesis in living cells by solving the structure of the ribosome; and Brian Kobilka, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012 for his pioneering work in solving the structure of one of the most promising drug-targets, a G-protein coupled receptor with its G-protein.

"This is a line-up of superstars," said Spence. "The inexpensive room-sized compact X-ray free-electron laser will bring these femtosecond X-ray diffraction, imaging and spectroscopy techniques within reach of campuses and industrial labs across the country. This conference will showcase all the resulting research opportunities."

It is anticipated that this compact version of a free electron laser will be far more accessible and affordable than the five massive linear accelerators that currently exist worldwide. ASU’s compact X-ray free electron laser will place power in the hands of researchers who develop novel techniques for biomedical imaging in the form of phase contrast imaging and the formation of molecular movies of biomolecules at work, which will help scientists find new solutions to the treatment of cancer, diabetes, infections and many other chronic diseases. The instrument will also be used for the development of new materials with novel properties, a development that may lead to new breakthroughs in the field of quantum materials.

The conference will feature the following invited speakers:

Hashim Al-Hashimi (Duke University, USA)

Henry Chapman (DESY and University of Hamburg, Germany)

Lin Chen (Northwestern University, USA)

Paul Corkum (University of Ottawa, Canada)

Roberta Croce (VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Tanja Cuk (University of Colorado, Boulder, USA)

Naomi Ginsberg (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Songi Han (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA)

Hyotcherl Ihee (KAIST, South Korea)

Dorothee Kern (Brandeis University, USA)

Brian Kobilka (Stanford University, USA)

Suliana Manley (EPFL, Switzerland)

Todd Martinez (Stanford University, USA)

James McCusker (Michigan State University, USA)

Margaret Murnane (University of Colorado, Boulder, USA)

Anders Nilsson (Stockholm University, Sweden)

Eva Nogales (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Arwen Pearson (University of Hamburg, Germany)

Poul Petersen (Ruhr University Bochym, Germany)

Sean Roberts (University of Texas at Austin, USA)

Marius Schmidt (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)

Ben Schuler (University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Tahei Tahara, (RIKEN, Japan)

Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Martin Weik (OBS Grenoble, France)

Junko Yano (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA)

Ada Yonath (Weizman Institute, Israel)

Martin Zanni (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)

The deadline for early registration is Aug. 30. The deadline for poster abstract submission to be considered for a short talk is Sept. 12.

For more information, visit “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action” or contact Fromme at Petra.fromme@asu.edu or Dianne Price at Dianne.price@asu.edu.

Written by Dianne Price 

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Generosity to ASU climbs to new heights in 2019

August 12, 2019

Campaign ASU 2020 sets a fundraising record for the fifth consecutive year thanks to support from more than 101,500 individuals

Sun Devil supporters bolstered scholarships, medical advancements, professorships and research opportunities as part of a banner fundraising year for the ASU Foundation.

Nikki Hinshaw is one of more than 7,400 students who benefited from private scholarship support through the foundation to advance her learning opportunities. She received the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship, which enabled her to study abroad and complete an internship in Washington, D.C., as she works toward dual degrees in political science and communication.

Without scholarships, she would not have been able to engage in these learning experiences that require additional expenses including travel and lodging, she told ASU Now in February.

“I hope that (with the experiences), I’m able to make a bigger impact on my community and give back to others someday as well,” Hinshaw said.

This spirit of generosity from donors is what enabled the ASU Foundation to set a fundraising record for the fifth consecutive year. More than 101,500 individuals, corporations and foundations donated $413.7 million in fiscal year 2019, a 65% increase from fiscal year 2018. Of those, 25,520 were new donors.

“Our donors’ generosity provides life-changing experiences for our students and allows ASU to realize its aspirations as a world-class research university,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “ASU would not be the university it is today without the support of those who believe in the power of education to transform lives and our society and commit their resources to make that happen.”

While many students received scholarships, many even donated to scholarships to aid other students.

A group of 42 donors, half of which are current students, worked together to establish the newly endowed James Madison Scholarship that will aid a second- or third-year full-time law student in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law who is also a member of the Federalist Society. In addition to creating new scholarships for law students, the scholarship encouraged 36 first-time donors to give to ASU students.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support given to us this fiscal year, money donated to support ASU’s vision for what higher education can and should be,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Every gift is important, whether it’s $10, $100 or thousands of dollars. It all makes a tremendous impact on our students, faculty and the community.” 

Private support funded a variety of initiatives and programs that will transform the university and community. 

Community-based businesses that benefited from private support include food truck and catering small businesses owned by women and underrepresented groups. They have access to Prepped, a free early-stage food business incubator, through a collaboration with Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and support from the College of Health Solutions. An anonymous donor invested in this opportunity to ensure the incubator had the staff and funding needed to help businesses. 

Students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration were able to send their payloads — including live bees — into space thanks to donors Cathy and Peter Swan. The students involved with this project traveled to west Texas in May to watch the launch and used remote acoustic sensing technology to record the bees’ vibrations, pressures and orientation in space. 

“When we launched Campaign ASU 2020 we had six core objectives — several of which focused on students — and we’ve had tremendous success in that area,” Buhlig said. “In the last year it has been really exciting to see a dramatic increase in gifts to support our faculty who are core to this institution.” 

Faculty not only benefited from private support, but also contributed to a culture of philanthropy. Nearly 2,700 faculty and staff members donated to Campaign ASU 2020 last fiscal year.


Video by Joel Farias

Three transformational gifts received in the past year are intended to revolutionize medical discoveries, expand dementia research, further nursing education to offset the nursing shortage and revitalize Maryvale and other Arizona communities.

Leo and Annette Beus donated $10 million toward the Beus Compact X-ray Free Electron Laser (CXFEL) Lab at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. The lab will house a CXFEL laser, which is a first-of-its-kind X-ray technology. Worldwide, there are only five X-ray Free Electron Lasers, and researchers often have to wait as much as a year to use them. ASU’s compact version may provide accessibility that can lead to faster research and discovery for medicine, renewable energy and the computer industry.  

Charlene and J. Orin Edson donated $50 million to be split between the ASU Biodesign Institute and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. The money is earmarked for the university’s multidisciplinary dementia research and to increase nursing education. 

Mike and Cindy Watts donated $30 million to advance the prosperity of Arizona communities such as Maryvale, where the Wattses grew up. Through a collaboration between community leaders and the university, the gift will enable embedded community services, strengthen entrepreneurial efforts and increase community engagement through the renamed Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Private support is critically important to Arizona State University because it enables solutions to problems that can transform lives and improve communities,” Buhlig said. “Private support enables opportunities for growth, innovation and excellence for our students and faculty.” 

Campaign ASU 2020 was publicly launched in January 2016 to raise the long-term fundraising capacity of the university and focuses on six priorities including student access and excellence; student success; the academic enterprise; discovery, creativity and innovation; enriching our communities; and Sun Devil competitiveness. The fundraising campaign is in its final year.

Learn more about supporting ASU.

Top photo: ASU Foundation staff express their gratitude on Sun Devil Giving Day — a day for ASU community members to designate what university areas they want their donations to support. 

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications , Enterprise Partners


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ASU alumna makes big ripples in Lake Havasu City

August 2, 2019

Biology major Briana Morgan is municipality's water conservation specialist

There aren’t any great white sharks in the Colorado River, but a picture of them captivated Briana Morgan and propelled her into a career of working on water conservation in Lake Havasu City.

Her visiting great uncle, an underwater photographer, showed her pictures of the predator he had snapped. She was 7 at the time.

“It was definitely a pivotal moment for me, and I was instantly captivated,” said Morgan, who is Lake Havasu City’s current water conservation specialist. “That captivation instantly took over me because every waking moment I watched documentaries, bought books, did research and was intrigued by underwater life and everything that had to do with water.”

Morgan, who graduated from Arizona State University at Lake Havasu in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science, said her passion for the environment and conservation was not only stoked by her uncle, but fueled by personal circumstances.

The Lake Havasu City native suffered from a growth deformity called leg length discrepancy in her youth. Morgan’s right leg was 3.5 inches shorter than her left, which didn’t allow her to participate in many physical or outdoor activities with her friends. Her parents stressed education as an avenue to a better life.

“We shared with Briana that she needed to concentrate on her studies because she was going to need a good job with insurance in case she had more medical issues,” said her mother, Cherith Morgan. “Briana also had a good attitude because if she faced a challenge, her mindset was always, ‘I’ll conquer it.’”

A series of surgeries corrected Morgan’s leg when she was a teen, but when she was about to graduate high school, a new crisis emerged: Morgan’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

“He was very strong, very stubborn but also encouraging,” Morgan said. “He fought to the very last day and one of the last things he told me was, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I will be here to see you do all of these wonderful things.’”

Sadly, that was not the case. Bill Morgan died a week before his 52nd birthday on July 13, 2012. A month later, Morgan started her freshman year at ASU.

“His death was definitely traumatic and emotional, but as far as college was concerned, it was a breath of fresh air and I needed it,” Morgan said. “I went into college highly motivated.”

Morgan blazed through her freshman year but was severely slowed down when she was a sophomore. That’s when she suffered a grand mal seizure a few days before the first anniversary of her dad’s death. Most seizures last between three and five minutes. Morgan said hers lasted between 20 and 30 minutes.

The damage was hefty. Morgan was placed on medication that slowed her down and didn’t allow her to drive for six months. She also lost a good chunk of memory and was forced to retake a calculus class.

“There were a lot of street names and routes I forgot, and to this day I still can’t remember a lot of my high school years,” Morgan said. “I don’t remember my father’s funeral at all.”

The seizure and ensuing epilepsy diagnosis not only forced Morgan to take a good look at her life, but also her future. She was studying to become a field biologist but figured she might become a liability because of her condition. So she switched her focus from biology to water conservation in her sophomore year.

One of her thesis/capstone projects focused on the Colorado River, its importance, issues it faces regarding shortages, impacts on stakeholders and a call to action for conservation.

The timing was fortuitous.

Months before Morgan graduated, Lake Havasu City’s water conservation specialist position was up for grabs. According to Doyle Wilson, water resources coordinator at Lake Havasu City and Morgan’s boss, she gave a great interview. Wilson interviewed close 50 candidates before hiring Morgan.

“She’s grown into the position, and her job has grown as well,” Wilson said. “Briana is very dependable and works well with others.”

One example of Morgan's work is an April 2017 landscaping project with Mohave State BankNow State Bank of Arizona in Lake Havasu in which she suspected there were leaks and came up with a redesign that was not only more aesthetically pleasing, but saved the city thousands of gallons a year in water consumption.

Lisa Van Ella, the bank’s vice president of community development, reached out to Morgan when she noticed the bank’s water bills were extremely high. Prior to the landscaping project their irrigation usage was averaged almost 30,000 gallons a month, or a couple of average-size swimming pools worth of water according to Van Ella.

“I kept wondering why are our water bills so high,” Van Ella said. “And our landscaping looked terrible. We definitely had some issues, which is why I called Briana.”

Morgan quickly swung into action with a mission to beautify the landscaping while conserving water. She also enlisted ASU’s Environmental Community Outreach club, a club she belonged to while attending the university. They mapped out the logistics of the transformation of the bank as part of their classwork.

They determined the bank’s irrigation system not only had major leaks, but needed a new design to include water-friendly plants and vegetation, and bioswales and other landscape elements to absorb surface runoff. They discovered the bank experienced 56,000 gallons of water running off its hard surfaces from an average annual rainfall of 4.24 inches.

The yearlong project ended on Earth Day 2017 with students and bank employees pitching in to install a drought-tolerant plant selection and green infrastructure. ASU students also made sure that whatever was taken away from the property was repurposed for another use.

Not only did the bank look better, but it was operating more efficiently. Its water usage also decreased by 76%-86% every month.

“We saw immediate results regarding our water bill,” Van Ella said. “The amount of money we invested into the project came back to us over time. We have Briana to thank for this.”

The city recognized the bank with the “Lake Havasu City Water Conservation Recognition Award” in 2018. That was the same year the Havasu News Herald selected Morgan as the youngest awardee for Havasu’s 30 under 40 Up-and-Coming Leaders. The award recognizes the city’s best and brightest young leaders.

“Briana is the right person at the right time for Lake Havasu water conservation,” said Raymond Van der Riet, director of ASU at Lake Havasu. “As an environmental science student, she always demonstrated a knack for applied solutions. Briana’s keen analytical approach to problem-solving is much needed in Lake Havasu City, where the economy is directly impacted by the ebb and flow of the Colorado River. There is no doubt the city is in good hands.”

In addition to community education, grant writing, water audits and pressure checks on homes and businesses, Morgan juggles other assignments: She facilitated Lake Havasu City’s rebate program that helped residents obtain water-saving appliances at discounted prices; is heading up a rainwater/grey water harvesting project for two of the city’s municipal facilities; established the city’s Recommended Landscaping Plant List and is in the process of converting it to a database that will soon be available on the city’s website. She was also responsible for helping Lake Havasu City win third place for 2018 in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and fifth place in 2019.

She also assisted New Horizons, a nonprofit that assists persons with disabilities, with a community garden project on a vacant city lot. Morgan helped in the planning and design phase, ensuring the landscaping was desert-friendly and graded to prevent flooding in the walkway areas during storm events.

The community garden currently leases planting beds to residents who grow vegetables and share them with the community. It hopes to open a farmers market in the fall and hold events such as weddings, meetings and wine tastings.

One could argue that Morgan is finding her own success through perseverance. However, she doesn’t forget that she had to fight every step of the way.

“I get that comment a lot. ‘Wow, you’re so strong. I don’t know if I could do that,’” Morgan said. “The reality is people are built to fight, and they’re meant to fight. It’s just whether or not they’re put into that situation. I think everybody has a fighter inside of them; it’s just a matter of bringing it out.”

Top photo: ASU at Lake Havasu City graduate Briana Morgan is the municipality's water conservation specialist in the western Arizona community. Morgan poses at the city's water treatment plant, where she gives tours. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU research reviews unregulated stem cell clinics in six southwestern states

August 1, 2019

Expertise of providers, legitimacy of therapies examined

Unproven and unregulated stem cell therapies for treatments for conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease to multiple sclerosis to macular degeneration are putting patients at risk in a market that has grown rapidly in recent years.

In a paper published Aug.1 in the journal Stem Cell Reports, Arizona State University investigators offer a detailed characterization of nearly 170 direct-to-consumer stem cell businesses across six southwestern states. The study focused on Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, where the researchers estimate that about one-third of all stem cell clinics in the U.S. are located.

Currently, the only stem-cell based products that are FDA-approved are from cord blood or bone marrow and are approved only to treat cancers of blood and bone marrow. Yet many of the clinics included in the study are using fat-derived stem cells in treatments that have not undergone clinical trials for a wide range of diseases. 

It turns out relatively little is known about the clinics that deliver stem cell treatments or how their procedures align with the expertise of the practitioners providing them.  

“Previous studies have built up a broad picture of the direct-to-consumer stem cell industry,” said Emma Frow, an assistant professor with science policy expertise in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University who the is co-senior author of the paper with David Brafman, a stem cell bioengineer also with the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering.

“Like others, I had significant concern about the impact these clinics could have on vulnerable patient population as well as the perception of the legitimacy of stem cell-related research as a whole,” Brafman said. “As a scientist, I was also fundamentally interested in these clinics in a more general sense. What type of treatments were they offering? What diseases were they claiming to treat? How were they supporting such claims?”

The researchers conducted extensive online searches for stem cell clinics in the six states.

“We took a deeper dive into a smaller number of clinics and found that there’s a lot of variation among the businesses offering these services,” Frow said. “About 25% focus exclusively on stem cells, but many others are facilities like orthopedic and sports medicine clinics that have added stem cells to their roster of services on offer. For these clinics, it’s very difficult to know how much of their business comes from stem cell treatments.

“There’s no exhaustive list of all the clinics that exist,” Frow said. “This is a lively marketplace, with businesses opening and closing and changing their names.”

For the 169 businesses identified, the researchers catalogued the treatments being offered, the medical conditions the clinics purported to treat and the types of cells they claimed to use.

For the clinics focused solely on stem cells, they also looked at the stated expertise of the care providers in relation to the medical conditions they offer to treat with stem cells. 

“Just because someone is board certified doesn’t necessarily mean they are qualified to provide stem cell treatments," Frow said. “You really need to ask what they are board certified in and whether their medical expertise is well-matched to the condition you are seeking treatment for.”

The researchers found that orthopedic, inflammatory and pain conditions were the main types of medical conditions treated with stem cells at direct-to-consumer stem cell clinics in the Southwest.

Frow notes that these types of conditions “tend to be chronic problems that often are not curable. The market has really capitalized on targeting conditions that are hard to manage with existing therapies.”

Earlier studies have shown a lower percentage of clinics treating inflammatory conditions. “This could mean that the number of clinics treating inflammatory conditions is on the rise or that, in the Southwest, there is more focus on treating inflammatory conditions than in other parts of the U.S.,” Frow said.

The researchers also found differences in the degree to which the stated expertise of care providers matched the medical conditions they treat with stem cells.

For example, they identified that specialists in orthopedics and sports medicine were more likely to restrict stem cell treatments to conditions related to their medical specialties, while care providers listing specialties in cosmetic or alternative medicine were more likely to treat a much wider range of conditions with stem cells.

“We have been able to identify important trends that will have significant impacts on informing vulnerable patient populations, making recommendations for future regulatory enforcement and conveying urgency for policy changes," Brafman said.

Public discussions of direct-to-consumer stem cell treatments usually treat clinics as though their business models were all similar, but this study highlights key differences across these clinics.

“We think it makes a difference whether a business is focused solely on stem cells or offers it as one treatment among many,” Frow said. “And we think it’s important to pay attention to the medical qualifications and expertise of the care providers offering stem cell treatments. We want to bring more transparency to discussions of the direct-to-consumer stem cell marketplace and to empower consumers to figure out what kinds of questions to ask when they’re considering treatment.”

Top photo from Pixabay

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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ASU students organize art show to connect prison inmates to community

ASU students organize show of inmates' artworks to benefit youth charity.
July 30, 2019

Sales from 'Inkcarcerated' gallery show will benefit children's art charity

Even as they are separated from their communities, the men who are incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence are finding a way to give back, with help from Arizona State University.

Two ASU students have organized a gallery show of art made by the men, and sales will benefit a nonprofit that provides art therapy to traumatized children.

“Inkcarcerated: Creativity Within Confinement” will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at the A.E. England Building at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The students, Genevieve McKenzie, a senior majoring in criminology and psychology, and Caitlin Matekel, a PhD student in criminology, created the show through their work with the Center for Correctional Solutions in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

The event is meant to connect the men to the communities they will eventually be returning to, Matekel said.

“It’s bridging that gap between corrections, which is so hidden, and the community that they’re eventually going home to. How do we connect those two groups?” Matekel said.

This is the second art show of its kind organized by ASU students. Two years ago, McKenzie was in a project-based learning course that spent two semesters exploring incarceration.

“We spent the first semester learning about what goes into recidivism and the reentry process and the challenges that people face when they’re leaving prison,” said McKenzie, who toured a prison and reentry center and interviewed formerly incarcerated people as part of the class.

“In the spring semester, we focused on how to address it, so we planned this art show.”

The students sold all of the art and donated the money to charity — an experience that was so successful, she wanted to try it again.

Over the past several months, McKenzie and Matekel organized donations of canvases, canvas panels, pads of paper, pencils, brushes and paints to the men in Florence, many of whom attend organized art classes. Others pursue art as a personal hobby.

More than 200 works of art will be in the show, and proceeds will go to Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, an organization that provides programs for children who have experienced family trauma, homelessness and violence. The artworks, including paintings and drawings, will be priced at about $30 and up.

The show is among the projects being done by the Center for Correctional Solutions, which is directed by Kevin Wright, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“The center is more interested in working with people rather than on them. We don’t want to do research on them, we want to do it alongside them," Matekel said.

McKenzie is involved in a project in partnership with the Arizona Department of Economic Security to create a new employment program for women incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville.

“We interviewed around 200 women, asking about programming and the types of jobs they have had or would be interested in having.

“Now we’re working with our advisory board to create entrepreneurship training — how someone can start a career with all these restrictions placed on them and still thrive, with a focus on the power skills that go into being your own boss,” she said.

The center also developed the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, in which ASU students travel to a prison to learn about crime and justice alongside incarcerated people. This fall, that program will be held at the women’s facility in Perryville for the first time.

The work of the center is intended to make incarceration more transparent to the public, Matekel said.

“It’s a way to communicate and have people care about this, because these people are coming home. They matter.”

Top photo: The “Inkcarcerated: Creativity Within Confinement” art show will include more than 200 artworks produced by men incarcerated in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Corrections

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now