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Mayo Clinic, ASU collaborate to seed and accelerate research

November 17, 2017

In Silicon Valley, investors flock to back potentially disruptive new technology and apps — even if they are still in development. But the funding landscape is a little different for health research. Although novel ideas have great potential to radically improve health care and medicine, funding agencies usually choose to fund well-established research. This can be a barrier for researchers with new ideas.

Together, Arizona State University and Mayo Clinic are addressing this challenge and giving promising novel research the momentum it needs with an annual award of seed grants and accelerations grants. Mayo Clinic, ASU collaborate to seed and accelerate research Since 2005, the Mayo Clinic and ASU seed grant program has translated into 57 externally funded projects worth approximately $30.5 million as well as new patents and opportunities for student training. Download Full Image

For 14 years, the Mayo Clinic and ASU seed grant program has been funding — or seeding — new research collaborations between ASU and Mayo Clinic researchers aimed at improving patient care. By launching novel research on a small scale, researchers have been able to attract funding needed for larger studies and are making significant impact in their fields of study.

For example, since 2005 the Mayo Clinic and ASU seed grants have translated into 57 externally funded projects worth approximately $30.5 million. Seed grant recipients have also shared their knowledge through more than 25 journal publications and by mentoring student researchers.

This year, the eight teams selected for seed funding will tackle research ranging from hand rehabilitation after stroke to better diagnostics for obesity-associated liver disease. Each team includes a researcher at ASU and at Mayo Clinic and draws on the strengths of each institution.

“Together ASU and Mayo Clinic are addressing critical issues in health and medicine by leveraging clinical expertise and a commitment to use-inspired, innovative research," said Cheryl Conrad, professor and assistant vice president of research development of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. "In addition to attracting significant external funding, seed grant teams go on to submit patents, publish in top journals and improve outcomes for patients. All of this work makes an impact on human health and our economic well-being.” 

“Research drives everything we do for our patients," said Hugo E. Vargas, medical director of Mayo Clinic’s Office of Clinical Research in Arizona. "The long-standing tradition of the seed grant awards allows Mayo Clinic and ASU researchers and physician-scientists to work together to find answers to unmet patient needs, with the ultimate goal of advancing care for our patients. These awards also help to highlight the strong relationship that exists between Mayo Clinic and ASU.” 

The 2018 seed grant projects and lead investigators are:

“Developing nanotechnique-based diagnostics for obesity-associated liver disease using circulating hepatocyte-derived extracellular vesicle biomarkers,” Yung Chang, professor, School of Life Sciences, ASU; Harmeet Malhi, MBBS, gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic

“Clinical application of telomere length calculations for early detection of premalignant colon lesions and colorectal cancer,” Wayne Frasc, professor, School of Life Sciences, ASU; Lisa Boardman, MD, gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic

“Development of bioactive, stable secretin agonists for the potential treatment of obesity and diabetes: first-in-class therapeutics for critical clinical problems,” Giovanna Ghirlanda, professor, School of Molecular Sciences, ASU; Lawrence Miller, MD, gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic

“Identification and rapid quantification of myeloma cell-specific extracellular vesicles,” Ye Hu, associate professor, Biodesign Institute, ASU; Diane Jelinek, PhD, immunology, Mayo Clinic

“Real-time feedback training to improve gait and posture in people with Parkinson's disease,” Narayanan Krishnamurthi, assistant professor, College of Nursing and Health Innovation, ASU; Erika Driver-Dunckley, MD, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic

“Dual-task perturbation training: A novel intervention for fall prevention in people with Parkinson’s disease,” Daniel Peterson, assistant professor, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, ASU; Shyamal Mehta, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic

“Patient-centered exploration and innovation to understand and ease the burden of dialysis,” Kathleen Pine, assistant professor, School for the Science of Health Care Delivery, ASU; Victor Montori, MD, endocrinology, Mayo Clinic.

“Impaired hand function after stroke: A pilot study of hand dysfunction in stroke with pure motor or sensorimotor deficits and implications for hand functional rehabilitation post stroke,” Marco Santello, professor, School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, ASU; Maria Aguilar, MD, neurology, Mayo Clinic.

ASU and Mayo Clinic also collaborate to award an annual acceleration grant. This award targets a Mayo Clinic-ASU research project with established pilot data that is poised for high-impact and high-yield in the science of health care delivery. The award selection and funding is a collaboration between the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Healthcare Delivery at Mayo Clinic and the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

This year, the acceleration grant recipients will focus on improving type 1 diabetes treatment. Currently, type 1 diabetes interventions like blood glucose monitoring, food intake and insulin administration are based on a “one size fits all” approach and patients often struggle to adhere to the complex self-management.

"Our goal is to use informatics to deliver personalized interventions to improve the treatment of diabetes patients, and receiving the acceleration grant is making this possible. We are excited about the opportunity to help Mayo Clinic patients effectively manage their diabetes,” said Adela Grando, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Informatics.

Grando and co-investigator Bithika Thompson, Department of Endocrinology at Mayo Clinic, received the 2018 acceleration grant to address challenges of type 1 diabetes treatment. Previously, the team received federal funding for a pilot study, and the acceleration grant will enable them to build on and expand their research. 

Learn more about past seed grant recipients and about the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care.

If you are an ASU researcher, sign up to receive notifications about funding opportunities.

Kelsey Wharton

Science Writer, Knowledge Enterprise Development

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Project management, transgender education, even beekeeping among courses offered
November 17, 2017

Self-paced Continuing and Professional Education courses provide the expertise that are most in demand by employers today

Professionals whose college days are behind them still need to learn new skills to stay at the top of their game, and Arizona State University has launched a new way to do that.

ASU’s new Continuing and Professional Education courses are mostly online, self-paced and developed to create the expertise that employers demand most.

“If you look at an individual’s career path once they leave with an undergraduate degree, they’re going to continue to need to learn new skills and refresh skills throughout their professional career,” said Darcy Richardson, director of continuing education for EdPlus, the unit at ASU that creates technology and forges partnerships to develop new ways of teaching and learning. “They need to learn to stand out from competition to progress their careers.”

Richardson said that employers want T-shaped employees, with a depth of knowledge in one area but also skills that translate to many different jobs, such as critical thinking and writing clearly.

ASU is now offering nearly 50 non-credit courses ranging from free to $399, for businesspeople, teachers and other professionals, based on what employers are seeking. New classes in “soft skills” include “Understanding Office Politics” and “Improving Informal Communication.”

Richardson said that project management is a highly prized skill in hiring, but only 15 percent of job postings require the official industry certification. So ASU created a set of classes on the different aspects of project management, such as choosing a project, developing a schedule and closing the project.

“We took the body of knowledge for project management and we identified 12 primary skill attributes that go in this body of knowledge,” she said. “Instead of one big program of all 12 categories, we developed 12 separate, three-hour micro-courses. Each one addresses a core skill.”

Users can take one or two courses to develop a skill or, by taking all 12, would be eligible to sit for the exam that leads to industry certification, she said.

Each course will generate a digital badge that can be used on a LinkedIn profile or a resume — another request from employers who are increasingly relying on electronic resume vetting.

Richardson said the program will eventually offer discounts to ASU alumni, who also will be surveyed on the type of professional development classes they’re interested in.

The project management content was created by ASU faculty in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and future courses — which Richardson predicts will be added at the rate of about 100 per year — also will be faculty-driven. For example, two daylong, in-person courses on beekeeping are being taught in the spring semester by Osman Kaftanoglu, the project manager of the ASU Honey Bee Research Lab at the Polytechnic campus in Mesa.

Another ASU staff member who created a course is Cammy Bellis, program manager for Project Connect, part of the T. Sanford Denny School of Social and Family Dynamics at ASU. She developed content for the online class called “Creating Affirming Schools for Transgender Students.” The self-paced course, for teachers, principals and other K-12 educators, covers issues such as using the pronoun requested by transgender students, the increased risk of depression and anxiety they face and how to respect their confidentiality. 

“We tell teachers that by using their asserted names, it shows them, ‘I see you, I affirm who you are and your identity,’ ” said Bellis, who has worked with transgenderTransgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex. youth and their families for several years. She also offers face-to-face workshops for educators.

“We always wanted this information to be more accessible to more people. We didn’t want to just see a change in Arizona; we’d like to see a change globally,” said Bellis.

Teachers in the one- or two-hour seminars frequently tell Bellis that they want more time, and at six hours, the online module — which includes videos, interactive case studies and animation — can provide that deeper level of material. The module was piloted with teachers, who said they especially liked the videos of transgender youths describing their experiences.

“We know when you put transgender people in front of cisgenderCisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. people, it’s more likely to break down stereotypes they have of that group. They can see a face with an issue. They can personalize it,” Bellis said. 

“The hope is to build empathy for this group because school is hard for them.”

Richardson said that the Continuing and Professional Education initiative will be focused on professional skills, not enrichment classes, which are provided by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ASU, or executive education, which is offered by the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“We’re staying with this niche of individuals who are working on their career trajectory,” she said. Upcoming course additions will likely include digital marketing and customer service.

“Employers tell me, ‘If I’m looking at an individual who has taken the time to further their education, even informally, that tells me they’re committed to learning and development, which makes them a better candidate,’ ” she said.

For details on Continuing and Professional Education courses, visit https://cpe.asu.edu.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


ASU director joins roundtable to discuss need for moderation in politics, public life

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's Paul Carrese contributes to an ongoing dialogue about the need for moderation in liberal democracy

November 17, 2017

Paul Carrese, director of Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, joined a roundtable discussion at the 49th Annual Northeastern Political Science Association Conference held Nov. 9–11 in Philadelphia to discuss Aurelian Craiutu’s book, "Faces of Moderation: The Art of Balance in an Age of Extremes."

The roundtable was an “Author Meets Critics” session that brought Carrese alongside Craiutu to discuss what it means to be a moderate voice in both politics and public life. Other participants included Murray Bessette, director of Academic Programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Bryan-Paul Frost, political science professor at the University of Louisiana Lafayette; and Dan Mahoney, political science professor at Assumption College. Aurelian Craiutu Faces of Moderation Download Full Image

In "Faces of Moderation," Craiutu examines the work of multiple prominent twentieth-century political thinkers, addressing both the strengths and limitations of moderation in the face of political binaries and extremes — especially fascism and communism. Craiutu applies these lessons to liberal democracies today, which face a new kind of extremism in our polarized and angry politics. 

Craitu, Carrese and other participants addressed the inconsistencies between the extremism of campaign rhetoric with the moderation necessary to effectively legislate once elected, by brokering compromises across party lines. In fact, our constitutional system of separation of powers and federalism was designed to mitigate extremes and reward moderation by pushing parties and individual politicians to moderate their rhetoric and actions given the need to negotiate and conciliate in a complex political system.

The panelists discussed why our universities don’t emphasize these ideas, and how to balance a commitment to fundamental truths and values with the importance of avoiding polarization and extremism. 

Carrese has published extensively on the importance of balance and restraint in a representative democracy, including his 2016 book, "Democracy in Moderation: Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Sustainable Liberalism," which describes liberal democracy as fundamentally rooted in the avoidance of extremes. According to Carrese, moderation is a means for “coping with the complexity of the world” in a way that reconciles important principles and seeks a golden mean, without being reduced to polarization and ideological strong-arming.  

Both Craiutu’s and Carrese’s books on the subject are available in print or as e-books.

"Democracy in Moderation" has received prominent reviews published by Real Clear Politics, The Claremont Institute, and The Public Discourse

"Faces of Moderation" has been reviewed by David Brooks and Peter Wehner for the New York Times, and by the Wall Street Journal. 

Ty Fishkind

Communications specialist, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


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ASU prof discusses craniofacial conditions ahead of 'Wonder' release

Craniofacial abnormalities aren't actually all that abnormal.
November 16, 2017

The new film “Wonder” tells the story of a young boy who overcomes the challenges of living with the facial structural abnormality known as Treacher Collins Syndrome.

Craniofacial abnormalities are actually pretty common but not always well understood, said Nancy Scherer, Arizona State University professor and chair of the Speech and Hearing Science Department.

Scherer has an appointment on the Barrow-St. Joseph’s cleft palate team, where she conducts research on the efficacy of early speech and language interventions for children with craniofacial conditions. This Sunday, Barrow will host a private screening of “Wonder” for craniofacial patients and their families.

As part of her appointment at Barrow, Scherer helped establish a program for ASU students seeking their master’s or doctorate in speech language pathology that allows them to get clinical experience with assessment and treatment.

Students also assist with research. One project currently in the grant-writing stage hopes to develop an automated speech-analysis system to more accurately track children’s speech and language development over time.

“We’ve really developed a nice variety of opportunities for students and for me as a faculty member who needs access to a clinical population for my research,” Scherer said.

ASU Now sat down with Scherer ahead of this weekend’s release of “Wonder” to learn more about the most common craniofacial condition as well as the one explored in the film.

ASU prof
Nancy Scherer

Question: What are some of the difficulties faced by children with a cleft palate?

Answer: They’re identified at birth, so most of them are followed by a craniofacial team, and as part of that, they’re going to get all their surgeries, orthodontics, all the care they need. But most of the time, we find that early on these kids start out with slower speech and language development because a cleft palate is not usually repaired until about 9–12 months of age. So they kind of miss that first early speech development phase.

Q: Is it a common condition?

A: It’s actually one of the more common birth defects. About 1 in 600–700 children in the U.S. and worldwide are born with a cleft lip and/or palate. So it’s more common than you might think.

Q: How is Treacher Collins Syndrome different?

A: Treacher Collins Syndrome can include a cleft palate but also includes many other craniofacial structural differences. It can cause hearing loss and other problems with speech and even breathing. A cleft lip and/or palate can occur in isolation, or they can occur with other conditions. Usually about 30 percent of those born with a cleft lip and/or palate may have some other associated conditions.

Q: How can craniofacial abnormalities affect kids socially and emotionally?

A: For children with cleft palate, once they have it repaired, they don’t have significant facial deformities anymore. With Treacher Collins Syndrome, there is pretty significant facial deformity, and that can be a huge barrier both for families and for the child. So it’s really important for them to be able to educate the people in their environment to understand the condition because they can become isolated.

Q: Why is it important to educate the public on these kinds of conditions?

A: I think that it’s really important for people to understand that if a child has difficulty speaking that it isn’t necessarily a reflection of their ability to understand or their cognitive development. Most of these kids, with some early intervention, will be able to overcome these problems, and that’s particularly true of children with a cleft palate.

Top photo: In “Wonder,” Julia Roberts stars as the mother of Auggie Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay), a fifth-grader with Treacher Collins Syndrome who enters a mainstream elementary school for the first time. Photo by Dale Robinette/Lionsgate

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The No. 1 cause of heart disease is smoking.
Healthy lifestyle, good diet & stress management can help prevent heart disease.
November 15, 2017

Expo featuring free samples of local cuisine and fitness assessments before game; here are more tips on how to care for your heart

Up until the moment Becca Tobin’s heart stopped for seven minutes in an airport food court two years ago, there had been no signs that there was anything wrong with her. Fortunately, the former ASU women’s basketball star survived her ordeal, surpassing doctors’ predictions and going on to play professionally overseas.

Tobin’s total lack of warning is typical of most women, said ASU Clinical Assistant Professor and cardiac nurse Heather Ross.

“Women don’t always have the same kind of symptoms as men,” Ross said. “Unfortunately that translates a lot of the time to women not getting those clues that something is wrong until it’s too late.”

To help share that and more invaluable knowledge, ASU women’s basketball will host its third annual Heart Health Awareness Game on Saturday, Nov. 18, at Wells Fargo Arena. A Heart Healthy expo featuring free samples of healthy local cuisine and fitness assessments will take place outside the arena beginning two hours before the 2 p.m. game time.

Head Coach Charli Turner said that considering how the team has personally been affected by heart health issues — another former player, Aubrey Johnson, lost her 15-year-old brother to heart failure in 2006, and Turner’s own husband lives with heart disease — partnering with the American Heart Association to host the awareness game seemed like a no-brainer.

“For all of those reasons this has just really hit home for our ASU family,” she said. “And we feel like it’s our obligation because of the platform we have to give back within our community.”

Volunteers from ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, College of Health Solutions and Sun Devil Fitness Complex, as well as community partners including Dignity Health and the American Heart Association, will be on hand to give blood pressure and cholesterol checks, CPR training and more.

“Taste of Tempe” will feature healthy food samples from more than a dozen local restaurants and grocery stores, such as Outback Steakhouse, Red Robin, Jimmy John’s, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Attendees are of course encouraged to stay for the game following the expo, which will include a heart health awareness-themed halftime, complete with activities and giveaways.

women's basketball team and coach cheering
ASU women's basketball Head Coach Charli Turner (center) during a 2010 game against University of Oregon. The ASU team, which at the time included Becca Tobin (not pictured), defeated Oregon 73-68. Photo by Tom Story

“In our small way here, we’re trying to educate and have a fun event,” Turner said.

Despite a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found deaths from heart disease are on the decline, it is still the No. 1 killer of women, Ross said.

Ross researches wearable heart-health-tracking devices that can alert a patient that something is wrong before they begin to experience symptoms, hopefully preventing adverse reactions. She presumes the CDC’s findings about the decline in deaths from heart disease may be related to an increase in smoking bans and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“When they banned smoking in public places in the UK years ago, they saw a significant drop in heart attack rates,” Ross said. “And rates of sudden cardiac death in the U.S. dropped quite a bit in the years since the ACA was passed. What that makes us think is that people are getting checkups and preventative care, and are better able to take care of chronic health conditions because they have insurance.”

Still, the New York Times reported just this week that new guidelines for high blood pressure mean millions of Americans will need to change their lifestyles or begin taking medication. The news underscores the pervasiveness of heart health issues and the need for diligence where they are concerned.

RELATED: Q&A on the new blood pressure guidelines

The No. 1 cause of heart disease, Ross said, is smoking. Other factors that put people at risk include having diabetes and being post-menopausal.

Unfortunately, though, there are cases where one’s lifestyle or stage in life don’t contribute to causing the disease. Ross specializes in electrical arrhythmia, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. A related condition, atrial fibrillation, is also common in women and can cause strokes.

“It’s important to realize that a lot of things go along with heart disease, including risk of stroke,” Ross said.

As far as prevention goes, she recommends partaking in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and not smoking.

“There’s a lot of data that suggests that a Mediterranean diet that really focuses on veggies, whole grains, fruits and lean meats can be cardio-protective,” she said. “One of the tips we give patients when they go grocery shopping is to stick to the edges (of the store),” where healthier foods tend to be located.

In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet, Turner suggests dealing with stress through practices like yoga and mindfulness.

“Behavior change is really, really hard,” said Turner, whose master’s thesis focused on lifestyle changes in relation to heart disease. “But I think the biggest thing to realize [about heart disease] is that you can prevent it.”

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Back from the brink: How small donations helped save a species from extinction

November 14, 2017

A year after launching a PitchFunder campaign to save a tropical frog species, an ASU scientist is making strides

While stationed with the U.S. Army School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone during the 1970s, entomology expedition leader Albert Thurman would listen to the chorus of frogs in the streams at night.

The tropics of Central and South America were once lush with at least 110 species of colorful harlequin frogs, but nearly two-thirds of the known populations were wiped out by a deadly fungal disorder called chytridiomycosis, also known as chytid, in the '80s and '90s.

“The frogs are gone,” Thurman said. “There are no more songs at night.”

The Talamancan harlequin frog, Atelopus varius, was thought to have gone extinct along with other species until a tiny population was rediscovered in Costa Rica when a local child walked into a biology field station with one in his hand. That was more than five years ago. Even though the species was found, it is still on the road to recovery.

Conservation and wildlife biologist Jan Schipper, the field conservation research director at the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo and adjunct faculty in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, led an online PitchFunder campaign to save the Atelopus varius last year.

“The ethics of saving a species is a new one for humanity,” Schipper said. “We have a moral imperative to not let any species go extinct due to our reckless nature and heavy footprint on Earth, but we are also finding the value of the species is far more than just intrinsic.”

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The Atelopus varius is a flagship species for drinkable water because it relies heavily on an ecosystem with clean water, natural flow patterns and predictable seasons. However, contaminants are increasing in the area from “poison” fishing and people living upstream, Schipper said.   

Thurman, a research associate with the Frank F. Hasbrouck Insect Collection at ASU, was one of several donors who contributed to the School of Life Sciences’ PitchFunder campaign. Since 2001, he has been taking small groups of entomologists and ornithologists on trips to Panama.

Over the last 10 to 15 years, he has noticed the Talamancan harlequin frogs have been absent from the streams where they were once plentiful. He said that’s why he wanted to help the researchers in their efforts to save the species.

“I haven’t seen the frogs in years,” Thurman said. “Somebody has to do research and figure out how to stop them from going extinct because they’re a good part of the ecosystem. We can’t afford to lose all the frogs.”

Back in the 1970s, Thurman also saw Atelopus zeteki, the Panamanian golden frog, in El Valle de Antón, Panama. Local children would sell the frogs at the Sunday market in paper bags for 50 to 75 cents, he said. The frogs weren’t protected at the time. The unabated collection and selling of these amphibians drastically reduced the population before the chytrid fungal disorder hit, wiping out the populations of these frogs. 

“I would buy as many of the frogs as I could and drive way back into the mountains to release them in the hopes the kids wouldn't find them,” said Thurman. “I don't think it worked as well as I hoped.” 

Schipper and his team of local and international researchers and students used the funds from the PitchFunder campaign to implement a biosecurity protocol for the small population of this critically endangered frog in the Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica. They facilitated a decontamination process to ensure no other strains of the fungus could contaminate the frogs’ habitat. The team also installed barrier fences to enclose breeding frogs and protect them from invasive trout predation.

The PitchFunder campaign funds also helped support the team’s initiative to further research on this amphibian. They increased testing for the presence of fungus on the frogs and the degree of infection. The team also gathered a significant amount of data on individual frogs.

“We managed to use all the funds from the campaign, which not only had a huge stand-alone value but has also helped us leverage other funds,” Schipper said. “We combined funds from ASU, the Phoenix Zoo, Disney and some private donations to pull off the most successful field season with Atelopus varius to date.”

The frogs began their breeding season in October and November of last year. Schipper said the crew found tadpoles, which means the harlequin frogs are still breeding and the measures to avoid animal extinction played a significant role.

“The continued existence of the species is testimony to the philanthropic support we have received,” he said. “We had the first visual evidence of tadpoles in this population ever — so they’re reproducing — and this might be the first year we haven’t had net negative population growth, which is amazing. It’s incredible to see that the combination of smaller donations was able to make such a difference.”

With the news of tadpoles, Schipper and his team are creating an entire recovery strategy for the species. During the next 12 months, a massive transition will occur to ensure a breeding population into the future, he said. They’ll build a new field station with a “head-start” facility to bring eggs in from the wild to be hatched in captivity and raised to tadpoles, increasing survivorship to nearly 100 percent. Then, they’ll relocate the frogs to a better habitat in streams that are inaccessible to them because of the range.

The team also plans to hire one full-time biologist to monitor the population and maintain the equipment. The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo pledged $40,000 for the 2017-18 fiscal year to help build a small harlequin frog rescue and breeding center on site. The center will work to increase the number of frogs and have an infection-free population from the fungal disorder. 

“The catalyst, in part, was ASU via the PitchFunder campaign, so we remain eternally grateful for the head start we received in saving the species,” said Schipper. “We’ll also be starting a small campaign now to help cover staff salaries since the Phoenix Zoo can’t cover international salaries.”

Schipper’s team also started a local, environmental education program with startup funds from the Rufford Foundation. The program will partner with the Costa Rican water and aqueduct ministry to educate locals about water quality and how animals and humans need access to clean water.

“It’s a win-win,” Schipper said. “To promote conversation, human health and well-being together.”

Top photo by Sandra Leander/ASU

Save the frogs

Help Sparky and researchers in the School of Life Sciences save the Talamancan harlequin frog from going extinct. Dodge invasive trout predation and contaminated fungal water along the way. Make sure to capture the frogs before opening the door to a safe habitat for the critically endangered amphibian.

Choose your level of difficulty:

Use the keyboard arrows to move
your Sparky character.

Press Enter to start the game.

Amanda Stoneman

Copywriter , College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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New wireless infrastructure needed for Puerto Rico, other disaster-struck areas

November 14, 2017

We must change the way communications systems operate, says ASU professor

According to a Federal Communications Commission status report issued last week following a survey of Hurricane Maria damage, nearly 50 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell sites remain out of service, with many counties operating at less than 25 percent of full service.

Daniel BlissBliss is an associate professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, where he serves as the director of the Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architectures (WISCA), director of the Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architectures (WISCA) at Arizona State University, offers insights about building a wireless infrastructure with the capacity to provide immediate, ongoing communications access during emergency situations.

Bliss emphasizes growing urgency based on the trifecta of increased populations near potentially affected areas, increased dramatic events due to climate change, and increased reliance on communications by both emergency responders and the general public.

Question: Aside from restoring power to wireless providers, what other measures are needed to ensure uninterrupted wireless communications in Puerto Rico and disaster-struck regions in the future?

Answer: The economic model of current wireless systems is tuned to reasonably high-density, affluent regions with well-supported infrastructure. When a disaster strikes, the region is transformed into one that does not satisfy these criteria. 

Because there is no strong economic motivation to solve these problems, access to the wireless spectrum should come with specific mandates to carriers — like the Emergency Alert System (EAS) that requires radio and television networks to serve as a public warning system during emergencies. Basic emergency access should be a fundamental licensing component for a carrier’s operation within a region.

Q: What kinds of wireless infrastructure could have prevented a total communications outage in Puerto Rico?

A: Carriers currently have the ability to set up temporary cellular base stations. Interesting extensions to this concept include the Google Loon System, which puts base stations on balloons, and AT&T’s Flying COW (Cell on Wings), which was deployed in Puerto Rico last week. However, these approaches are really just Band-Aids.  

The best answer is to fundamentally change the way our wireless systems operate. Theoretically, we can trade communications range for data rate. For example, a cat video requires a data rate that is at least 10,000 times larger than a text message. But in an emergency, all you might need is a text message. 

If our communications systems and equipment were sufficiently flexible to switch to a lower data rate with a longer communications range, a sparse subset of operating base stations could support a region during a disaster.

These ideas motivate our efforts at ASU’s WISCA. We investigate fluid wireless systems to address our dynamic needs, including emergencies scenarios. Our efforts include the development of theory, algorithms, computational architectures and actual integrated circuits required to efficiently and cost effectively implement these systems.  

Q: Are there overall advantages to similar wireless infrastructures that extend beyond remote areas that aren’t connected to a major communications or power grid?

A: If we provide the capabilities and tools to implement fluid communications systems, we could also address the needs of a much wider range of users. Currently, less affluent and lower density users are often ignored. The cost of the infrastructure, and even the handsets, are prohibitive.

But if we stop setting the communications requirement to be multiple, simultaneous, high-definition cat videos, we can provide service to communities that are currently ignored, potentially providing much wider access to information for poorer communities. 

Q: Where do you see wireless technology headed in the next three-to-five years?

A: We are seeing the commercial development of computational architectures that live in our phones and base stations that could support more flexible communications.  However, the standards and employment of these capabilities is driven by profitability. 

One reason for optimism is that current interest in the internet of things (IoT) is motivating more flexible communications. While I do not think that I need my toaster to be connected to the internet, the increased flexibility could have broader impact.  

If we tweak the goals, the next generation of communications could be more robust in the case of emergencies and, as a side benefit, provide more access to a wider range of users, including those who are currently underserved.  

For this to happen, we need to push for changes in both technical and regulatory fields.  It will not happen otherwise.


Top photo: Associate Professor Daniel Bliss with an unmanned aerial system (UAS) optocopter used for WISCA research.

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Healthy Devils: Electrolyte drink recipes for staying hydrated

Homemade electrolyte drinks are healthier than store-bought ones & easy to make.
Ready to hit the trail in (slightly) cooler weather? Stay hydrated; here's how.
November 13, 2017

Editor's Note: This is the second installment in an ASU Now series featuring nutritious recipes demonstrated by faculty from the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, an academic unit of ASU’s College of Health Solutions. Find the first installment, about overnight oats, here.

It’s already November, and students at ASU have celebrated the homecoming game, indulged their pumpkin spice cravings and rescued their snuggly hoodies from the deep recesses of their closets. But they probably haven’t donned them just yet — although all signs point to fall, the temperatures in Tempe, Arizona, remain steadfastly north of 80 degrees on average.

High temperatures can be an issue when you’re competing in outdoor sports, as many students who participate in Sun Devil sports clubs do. Loss of electrolytes through sweat can happen more quickly, making it especially important to replenish them.

“When dehydrated, the body can overheat more easily, which can lead to heatstroke,” said Simin Levinson, ASU clinical assistant professor of nutrition.

In addition, dehydration can affect mood, reduce energy levels, cause muscle cramps and headaches, and may even reduce cognitive function.

Levinson, who also works as a consulting nutritionist for the Phoenix Suns, teaches a course at ASU on sports nutrition in which her students engage in a peer-to-peer exchange with students participating in ASU club sports by providing them with nutrition guidelines to ensure they’re maintaining an overall state of good health and performing at peak athletic ability.

The exchange benefits both parties.

“My students benefit by gaining experience in preparing and delivering nutrition presentations and handout materials,” Levinson said, “and the club sport student-athletes benefit from the nutrition information and practical tips.”

One of the best tips is also one of the most obvious: Stay hydrated. It’s also great advice for students who feel themselves succumbing to cold and flu season as electrolytes can be lost through diarrhea and vomiting associated with illness.

And although it may be tempting to reach for a store-bought sports drink, making your own is both better for you and easy to do — even in a dorm-room setting.

“Homemade electrolyte drinks are made with familiar and natural ingredients and are free of artificial colors and artificial flavors,” Levinson said. “They’re a great way to naturally replenish electrolytes.”

A self-described “recreational athlete,” she often makes her own rehydrating electrolyte drinks at home to refuel after a hike. They’re so easy, her teenage daughter started making them for her softball practices.

Here, Levinson shares four rehydrating electrolyte drink recipes you can try out yourself.


Lime Coconut 



1–2 limes, juiced

1 cup water

2 cups coconut water

2 tbsp. maple syrup

¼ tsp. salt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or jar. Stir or shake until well-blended. Pour into a glass and enjoy!


Lemon Ginger



1 lemon, juiced

3 cups mineral water

1 ginger chunk, grated

2 tsp. agave nectar

¼ tsp. salt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or jar. Stir or shake until well-blended. Pour into a glass and enjoy!


Green Tea and Juice


2 cups green tea

½ cup pomegranate juice

2 tbsp. honey

¼ tsp. salt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or jar. Stir or shake until well-blended. Pour into a glass and enjoy!


Cucumber Cooler



2 tbsp. lime juice

2 cups water

2 sprigs mint, muddled

2 tsp. agave nectar

¼ tsp. salt

Cucumber slices to taste

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or jar. Stir or shake until well-blended. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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American higher education is a sinking ship, says Jonathan Haidt.
November 9, 2017

Comparing higher education in America to the Titanic is a risky move when you’re speaking to a crowd of college students and professors, but that’s exactly what Jonathan Haidt did Thursday evening at Arizona State University.

Referring to what he views as an alarming decline in diversity of viewpoints on college campuses across the nation, the New York Times best-selling author of “The Righteous Mind” said, “This is an extremely dangerous situation for higher education. American higher education could be a sinking ship.”

Haidt visited ASU’s Tempe campus to contribute to an ongoing discussion about free speech on campus with his talk, “America's Escalating Outrage: Why Is it Happening, What Does It Do to Colleges and How Can We Reverse It?”

The talk marked the final event of the fall 2017 semester series “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society,” sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, and co-sponsored by the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The series continues Jan. 26, 2018, with a visit from Robby P. George (Princeton University) and Cornel West (Harvard University) for a dialogue about free speech.

Haidt, a social psychologist and the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, conducts research on morality, its emotional foundations, cultural variations and developmental course.

“There’s been a sea change in the academy in the last two or three years,” he told the audience Thursday. “It’s like someone reached in and changed the way we interact with each other.”

The ratio of professors who identify as left- vs. right-leaning has skyrocketed in recent years, with a 2016 poll putting it at 17 to 1. According to Haidt, that’s “a terrible state of affairs” as it affects research and civil discourse.

When you’re not challenged by different viewpoints, he said, “You get stupid. You get lazy. You believe things dogmatically.”

The co-founder of Heterodox Academy, “a politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists and other scholars who want to improve … academic disciplines and universities,” Haidt said the trend on college campuses is a reflection of the culture war that has dominated American politics of late.

“America had the weirdest political season in history,” he said. And it all began around 2014, thanks in large part to social media and the ease with which fake news and propaganda flow there. And as incendiary as those headlines can be, we love to read them — it’s neurological.

“The more angry you are, the more pleasing it is to read fake news,” even if you might doubt it, Haidt said. This all goes back to fundamental human nature. We’ve evolved to be tribal, to align with one side or another. We see it most obviously in the passionate sports fan.

But sometimes passion can be dangerous. As passions rise, Haidt explained, so does the ability to believe the worst about the other side. What has resulted in America is a deeply divided nation, in which both sides believe so fiercely in their convictions that they view the other side as not just wrong but fundamentally evil.

That division has reared its ugly head in academic institutions, which have become so left-leaning that even professors who identify as liberal report feeling as though they have to walk on eggshells so as not to offend students lest they cry, “Microaggression!”

“That is one of the worst ideas ever to come out of psychology,” Haidt said. “It has no scientific validity.”

What’s worse, it creates an environment where nobody learns anything.

“What is a safe space?” he continued. “It’s a way of saying, ‘No collisions, because that would hurt people.’ No, it helps them grow. Without collisions, what are you doing in college?”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Haidt believes there are things those in academia can do to foster an environment where students are taken out of their comfort zone and challenged to think in order to grow. Namely, welcome and seek out viewpoint diversity and don’t be so quick to judge.

“Give the most charitable reading of what others say and do,” he said. “This is what’s disappeared from the classroom. Don’t look for ways to be offended. If we do that, we can actually talk to each other.”

Haidt ended his talk with an invitation to visit his website, yourmorals.org, where you can take a survey to get insight into your own sense of morality, and you can take the “outrage reduction pledge”: 1) I will give less offense 2) I will take less offense 3) I will pass on less offense.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Top photo: Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, talks about political discord within society at ASU's Student Pavilion on Thursday. Haidt says that as passions rise, groups believe the opposing sides to be getting worse and worse. The solution is to encourage listening and understanding opposing viewpoints. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Q&A: ASU Law professor discusses focus of major new report on criminal justice reform

November 9, 2017

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has published an in-depth new report titled “Reforming Criminal Justice.” The four-volume, 57-chapter publication, which was the culmination of a yearlong collaboration involving 150 of the nation’s foremost academics, was directed by Erik Luna, ASU Law Amelia D. Lewis Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law, and made possible by a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The report was unveiled Oct. 26 at a national summit in Washington, D.C., titled “Advancing Justice: An Agenda for Human Dignity and Public Safety.” Hosted by the Charles Koch Institute, the summit featured leading academics, members of law enforcement, community advocates, media figures and other influencers to discuss the most urgent priorities for criminal justice reform. Professor Erik Luna speaks with Vikrant Reddy Professor Erik Luna speaks with Vikrant Reddy at the Advancing Justice conference in Washington, D.C. Download Full Image

At the summit, Luna discussed the report and answered questions from Vikrant Reddy, a senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute.

Question: What is this project, exactly? I know it’s a book, but give me some more details. What’s the book about?

Answer: “Reforming Criminal Justice” is a four-volume report authored and reviewed by scores of leading scholars in criminal law and other disciplines.

The contributions to this report describe the need for reform in particular areas of American criminal justice and suggest policy recommendations to achieve such change.

In particular, the report seeks to make the relevant law and literature accessible to those who might use this information in discussing and implementing criminal justice reforms.

The report’s primary audience includes those groups and individuals who can effect change either directly or indirectly — like the attendees at today’s summit — but also the average citizen who happens to be interested in criminal justice reform.

The goal is to fortify reform efforts currently afoot in the United States with the research and analysis of respected academics.

In this way, the report hopes to increase the likelihood of success when worthwhile reforms are debated, put to a vote or otherwise considered for action, and implemented in a criminal justice system.

By connecting the world of academics with real-world policy and practice, it is hoped that the report will help bridge the wide gap between scholarship on the books and the reform of criminal justice on the ground.

Q: Are the authors all lawyers (just like the two of us), or have you recruited authors from other disciplines too?

A: Most definitely — the participants came from numerous disciplines: criminology and criminal justice, economics and statistics, sociology and social work, psychology and psychiatry, public administration and health policy, philosophy and political science, and so on.

To be sure, there are a lot of law professors involved, which is unsurprising given the endeavor — seeking to reform a system of law and legal policy.

But many of the legal scholars have PhDs in allied fields and are considered experts in disciplines besides law.

And you have to keep in mind that law is inherently parasitic — think of law and economics, for instance, and law and psychology — and law professors who specialize in criminal justice may be the most interdisciplinary of them all.

Q: Sometimes academics are used to only writing for each other. How are you ensuring that this book will have a wider audience and actually be useful in the policy-making community?

A: You’re absolutely right. Traditionally, academic authors have written to themselves — that is, to other criminal justice scholars — not to the public or even to policymakers, professionals, or policy analysts interested in criminal justice.

As a result, academic scholarship has tended to be inaccessible in the sense that it is dense, filled with jargon, and, as a general rule, painful to read and unfriendly to normal human beings. Oftentimes scholarly works are physically inaccessible as well, published by academic presses and journals and buried in libraries or hidden behind paywalls.

The report is specifically designed to counter this — it is intended to be accessible in the dual sense that it is readily available to everyone, through our dedicated website, and that the prose is not loaded with legalese or its nerdy cousin, academese.

We hope the report can help the criminal justice reform movement in perhaps its most daunting task, namely, the gap in knowledge that exists among the general public and even among many government actors. Most people tend to be unaware of the character and quantity of crime, the scope of criminal law, the rules of criminal procedure, the reality of pretrial and trial proceedings, the nature of sentencing schemes and their severity, and the lasting consequences of conviction and incarceration. What is needed is a means to help people grasp the system’s workings and its many, interrelated problems, so Americans and their representatives can have a full and thoughtful discussion of possible solutions.

This is where academics have a role to play. After all, our work is fundamentally all about reform. Criminal justice scholars spend most of their time studying, critically analyzing, and writing at length about crime, punishment, and processes, with an eye toward providing greater understanding of the criminal justice system and proposing changes to that system. Not least of all, our primary university responsibility is to teach — and my hope is that the experience of our day job, teaching about the complexities of criminal justice, allows us to help the American policymakers and the public understand these issues as well.

Q: I want to ask you two questions about things academics know that other people don’t. First, what’s an example of something that is widely agreed-upon in the academic community that politicians don’t fully appreciate? Secondly — and this may be harder — what’s an example of something that is widely agreed-upon in the academic community that criminal justice reform advocates don’t fully appreciate?

A: As to the first question, I would point to the really exceptional chapters in the report on reasons why we punish in the first place. Politicians often assume that more incarceration equals more deterrence, but the empirical data does not back that up. As Daniel Nagin concludes in his chapter on deterrence, lengthy prison sentences cannot be justified on the basis of crimes prevented by deterrence, and the empirical evidence does not support the idea that harsh mandatory sentences have a meaningful deterrent effect. In fact, Shawn Bushway’s chapter on incapacitation shows that it is difficult if not impossible to justify harsh sentences based on the incapacitative effect of incarceration. If anything, the case for lengthy prison sentences must rest on retributive considerations, but if you read Jeffrie Murphy’s chapter on retribution you’ll understand that the theory of just deserts does not justify draconian sentences, particularly mandatory punishments. More than anything else, retribution provides a brake on sentencing, not a gas pedal. Pass your new lengthy mandatory minimum if you must, Mr. Lawmaker, but stop claiming that it’s necessary for purposes of deterrence, or for incapacitation, or for retribution. 

As for your second question, I might answer with the flip side, which is that incarceration as a sanction is not some vestigial part of the criminal justice system like the human appendix, which can be removed without any real consequence. Incarceration has a role, and no serious academic believes otherwise, save some Scandinavian penal abolitionists. But what is well recognized by both academics and criminal justice reformers is that incarceration too often is the first option rather than a last resort. If we put the resources in empirical supported programs, we can avoid the socioeconomic and human costs of imprisonment through non-custodial sanctions, as discussed in Michael Tonry’s chapter on community punishments. We can also be much smarter in who we incarcerate, as shown in John Monahan’s chapter on risk assessment in sentencing. And when we must imprison individuals, we can do a better job in corrections – the depressing “nothing works” adage attributed to Robert Martinson is not true today. Read Frank Cullen’s chapter on correctional rehabilitation. There are things that work, evidence-based prison programs that can help reduce recidivism. There are academics out there who are doing the research – what we need to do is to bridge the gap between academics and real-world reform, and this report hopes to begin this process.  

Q: OK, my last question is the most important one: If somebody wants a copy of this book, how do they get one?

A: It’s all available for free, online at academyforjustice.org.

Senior director of communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law