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Families treated to day of fun, science at ASU Tempe Open Door

February 23, 2020

Rain or shine, there was plenty to do for those who visited the Tempe campus Feb. 22

Rainy skies couldn't dampen the spirits of those who braved the weather to attend ASU's Open Door on the Tempe campus Saturday. 

From a robotics competition to VR games to human brains, the event providied myriad opportunities for learning — and fun.

If you missed out, don't worry. There is one more free Open Door event:

  • Polytechnic campus: 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29

More: See photos from the Downtown Phoenix campus and West campus 2020 Open Door

Learn about what's in store at each campus, including information on the free app that can help visitors map out the activities they want to visit. Free tickets are available in advance online. 

Check ASU Now after each event for photo galleries of the action.

Top photo: Austin Stonebraker celebrates his win in the Sun Devil Smackdown hosted by the Sun Devil Robotics Club during the Tempe campus Open Door on Saturday, Feb. 22. Photo by Meg Potter/ASU Now

ASU professor helps students make their own mark

February 21, 2020

Richard Herrera’s interest in politics started at a young age when his school did a mock debate during the Nixon and McGovern presidential election. Over the years, Herrera — who is now an associate professor at Arizona State University — would volunteer with local candidates just to see what working in politics would be like.

Upon graduating with his MA in political science, Herrera envisioned that he’d get a secondary education certificate and teach high school. When discussing his plans with an alumnus connection, he was asked about the idea of pursuing a PhD. After some consideration, Herrera enrolled in UC Santa Barbara for his doctoral program focusing in American politics. Richard Herrera, associate professor at ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies. Download Full Image

“To me it was a way to marry my interest in politics and teaching,” Herrera said. “As a professor you get to decide what kind of research you want to do and that was really attractive to me.”

Herrera called getting hired to Arizona State University upon graduation “serendipitous.” He applied to schools across the country but due to an oversight on his part, he left out ASU.

Over the winter break, Herrera got a call from a mentor at Santa Barbara asking if he had applied to the job in the political science department at ASU. After admitting that he hadn’t, Herrera was encouraged to apply. The rest, so they say, is history.

Last semester marked 30 years that Herrera has taught political science at ASU. During that time he has done it all: He’s held leadership positions in both undergraduate and graduate studies, he’s led two different Washington, D.C., internship courses, he’s co-directed study abroad programs and so much more.

In 2014, when he was associate director of undergraduate studies for the School of Politics and Global Studies, Herrera was approached by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be one of three units to pilot the Early Start Program — a two-week immersion program to help incoming first-year students gain the necessary tools for a successful college career.

After talking it over with the school’s director, Herrera decided to add a second faculty lead to the program in Gina Woodall, senior lecturer at the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“One of the things I was coming across was the idea that to help students succeed they really need multiple contact points,” Herrera said. “They need to know that there are a number of people they can go to when they have questions or issues.” 

The duo wanted to focus on resilience and how to deal with setbacks. They included readings such as Angela Lee’s "Grit," brought in guest speakers like politicians Kyrsten Sinema and Jon Kyl, and helped students develop key skills that would better prepare them for their college coursework.

Herrera said he hoped to help students who might be facing things like imposter syndrome — a feeling that not only do they not belong but that it will be exposed — something that he said he faced himself during his time in college. 

“That sort of thing is a very real feeling that can have detrimental effects to your own success if you don’t have the tools to deal with them,” he said.

In 2005, Herrera took over as the program director for the Capital Scholars Program, which is a six-credit internship course that takes students to Washington, D.C., over the summer.

Most of the classes Herrera has taught at ASU have been large courses such as Intro to American Government, which can include upward of 200 students. The Capital Scholars Program, however, gave him the chance to work with smaller groups.

Herrera shared that it gave him an opportunity to know the students' strengths, weakness, ambitions and anxieties. During the course of the summer he saw firsthand many of the students' growth in responsibility, professionalism and confidence.

“The greatest benefit to me as a professor and as a person really, is being able to see the personal and professional growth of students who participate in the program over those nine weeks,” Herrera said.

Past participants, like political science alumnus Matt Caruso, were moved so much by the program that they have continued to remain in touch. Caruso, who has known Herrera for 14 years, volunteers his time as a mentor to current Capital Scholars while they are in the nation’s capital.

“Herrera's influence on me from Tempe to D.C. has turned out to be life-changing,” Caruso said. “I am a proud example of Herrera's contribution to ASU students and alumni.”

This year, Herrera is being honored with the Faculty Teaching Achievement Award at Founders’ Day. This has given him a chance to reflect on his time at ASU and the impact he’s made on his students and colleagues.

When he came to ASU, Herrera knew he had a lot to learn about being a scholar in political science. However, he was certain that this university was right for him once he saw the type of mentorship he’d be receiving. Some of Herrera’s most memorable experiences were just talking with his colleagues about research or innovative ways to teach a course.

When it comes to mentorship, Herrera has certainly paid it forward.

Woodall met Herrera her freshman year when she was assigned the role of delegate in a simulated party convention that combined an upper and lower division class for a three-day event in the university's gymnasium. Since then Herrera has served as a mentor, whether it was allowing her to TA for a course or asking her to co-direct a study abroad program.

“As someone who had Rick as a professor, mentor, administrator, co-director and colleague, I can say with 100% certainty that he left an indelible mark on our school, on thousands of students’ lives, and in the lives of his colleagues and, thus, is very deserving of such an award,” Woodall said.

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


Cantelme Scholars demonstrate a passion for public service

February 18, 2020

Breanna Smith can’t wait to put on events. She’s organizing a fairly good-size one now. More on that in a moment.

A junior studying tourism development and management in Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development, Smith identifies herself as “one of those people.” As in, “one of those who are really involved students,” she said. Cantelme Scholars, Arizona State University, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 2019-2020 Pat Cantelme and the 2019-20 Cantelme Scholars. Download Full Image

The kind of student whose sheer volume of activity makes them stand out to the people who award scholarships and travel opportunities. But as active as she is, Smith said being tapped as a Cantelme Scholar caught her off guard.

“I was incredibly surprised,” she said, adding that she does what she always does. “I’m one of those people who sees something that needs to be done and I just do it.”

That good-size event she’s hunting for volunteers for? It’s a combination “culture/pop block party” involving the West Valley cities of Avondale and Goodyear to be held in late March at Estrella Mountain Community College, where Smith attended before transferring to ASU.

Breanna Smith, Cantelme Scholar, ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Breanna Smith, a junior majoring in tourism development and management, is a 2019-20 Cantelme Scholar.

She plans to use the experience as the basis for creating a permanent volunteer program among community college and high school students interested in events work.

The Cantelme Scholars are named for retired Phoenix Fire Capt. Pat Cantelme, who is co-founder, president and chairman of the board of the CDH Charitable Foundation, an Arizona-based private foundation that focuses largely on scholarship funding for Arizona residents attending the state’s public universities with a demonstrated passion for public service.

Cantelme, who became a fire captain at the age of 25, was president of the United Phoenix Firefighters, Local 494. He was significantly involved in restoring the historic buildings on West Van Buren Street that are now The Van Buren concert venue and State 48 Brewery.

The Cantelme Scholars program resides within the Public Service Academy, which is administered by the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. This year, the CDH Foundation provided generous tuition funding for 10 ASU students who graduated from Arizona high schools and provided stipends allowing students to take part in ASU Study Abroad programs.

Within the Public Service Academy, 172 majors are represented among students who, like Smith, want to make a difference in society by engaging in such activities as joining the Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps, Vista, the U.S. military and the National Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in addition to several public, for-profit and nonprofit entities, said Public Service Academy Executive Director Brett Hunt.

In addition to the requirements of their majors, Public Service Academy students take six more classes through the academy resulting in a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Smith is also pursuing a certificate in special events management.

Cantelme’s dedication to his community is a passion Smith said she wants to share with others.

“When I read about who Pat is and all his achievement at such a young age, it’s something I really connect with, his finding a need and filling it,” she said.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


History student awarded MCLEAPS internship for environmental services

February 14, 2020

Leah Terry is an Arizona native who has always enjoyed her history classes. When it came time to look at colleges and pick a major, Terry remembered a teacher saying, “Think about what you like, because what you are drawn to can become your major.” 

Two years into pursuing her history degree from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Terry received a newsletter from the school informing her about an opportunity called the Maricopa County Leadership and Education Advancing Public Service (MCLEAPS) internship program. The program is a special partnership between Arizona State University and Maricopa County that offers top students hands-on experience in county departments or divisions.  Leah Terry Leah Terry is pursuing a bachelor's in history and a minor in sustainability, both of which she saw as having a role in her internship work for Maricopa County. Photo courtesy of Leah Terry Download Full Image

On top of getting full-time, immersive work experience, the internship includes a full semester waiver of ASU tuition and fees, academic credit and a $5,000 stipend. 

Terry applied to join the environmental services department and, despite the tough competition for the program, was awarded the internship, beating out graduate students who applied for the same position. At first she worried she wouldn’t be accepted because she didn’t have a background in environmental services, but she is pursuing a sustainability minor from the School of Sustainability and had other indicators on her resume that told the department she would be a great fit.

“The one thing that set me apart was I’d been working with the André House downtown, which is homeless services, [a] homeless food kitchen, things like that,” said Terry. “So I worked with them for a long time, and a part of the internship, specific to the environmental services, is the Healthy Giving Council, which is an effort from the county to make giving to homeless populations more sustainable.”

Terry went into the internship thinking most of her peers would be in public policy or would be Arizona natives like her, but was surprised to find a different group. Most of the other interns are from out of state, and a few are international students studying all types of majors. 

“Meeting the other interns is really nice because some of them come from more unique majors, so it’s a very diverse group of people, which is interesting,” said Terry. 

Her internship advisers kept emphasizing the internship would be what she made of it, encouraging her to ask questions as well.

“I’m really trying to put myself out there and try to latch on to any different projects that I think are coming up,” she said. “That’s a big thing, just trying to be proactive. Once I get settled, even though the different divisions in the department are the ones that really initiate working with me, I will hopefully make each of them proud.”

Terry’s faculty mentor and associate professor of history, Catherine O’Donnell, wasn’t surprised to hear the internship was awarded to Terry. 

“Leah is a marvel: curious, hardworking and eager to contribute to every community of which she is a part,” said O’Donnell. “She will bring all of those traits, as well as the analytical skills she's developing as a history major, to bear in this terrific internship.”

Although the internship is not made specifically for history majors, Terry still sees her degree as important to the program.

“There’s a service aspect to it,” said Terry. “It’s so important to know the history of what’s around you. Growing up in Arizona, there was so much I didn’t know until coming to college, but it’s so important. Even just learning about the rhetoric of public policy through the years — it matters and it makes a difference.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Double major Victoria Froh designs her own path

February 14, 2020

Victoria Froh is in her junior year at Arizona State University, and in addition to captaining the women’s rugby team, she is working on a double major in Earth and space exploration and environmental chemistry.

This has allowed Froh to design an educational path all her own — a path that includes a healthy dose of the kind of interdisciplinary study that makes the School of Earth and Space Exploration an exciting place for undergraduate students. School of Earth and Space Exploration undergraduate Victoria Froh. Download Full Image

Question: Were you always interested in science, even from a young age?

Answer: Yes. It was always the subject I felt the most attachment to — the challenge of it. Also, my favorite teachers were always science teachers. I took organic chemistry in college, and it was fascinating. Just an intro version, but still!

Q: What brought you to ASU and to the School of Earth and Space Exploration?

A: I’m a National Merit finalist. One of the reasons I came to ASU was because it offers great academic scholarships, which made coming here really affordable, even compared to a state school in Wisconsin where I am from.

The other reason I wanted to come here was because the School of Earth and Space Exploration seemed like such an exciting place to study, as well as a cool community.

Q: What is a memorable experience you have had at the school?

A: Last year I took a course called Fundamentals of Planetary Geology. It was a pretty small class that had mostly graduate students in it. The semester culminated in us going on this really cool weekend field trip to Flagstaff and Sedona, where we hiked Meteor Crater and saw volcanic formations, and even slid down a lava chute. I don't know any other kinds of classes where you get to do something as hands-on and interactive.

Another cool aspect of the school that I was involved in was the first group of students to participate in the SpaceWorks program, which is essentially a string of consecutive classes centered on real-life workforce prep, giving students in all sorts of related majors the opportunity to learn applicable skills and work on project design teams. I was in the first class of students to take it, and it now has online students nationwide and a collaborative program with the NASA Lucy mission. It was a really cool way to get the experience of team involvement early on in my undergrad.

Q: Have you had any mentors in the school?

A: I’ve been in a research lab with Assistant Professor Maitrayee Bose for about a year now. She has quite a few undergrads in her lab that come from all different parts of the school, so we can all come together and learn from each other. It's great to work in an environment with such a range of interests. Not surprisingly, there are also a wide array of different projects going on in Professor Bose’s lab. The project I’m currently working on is looking at different meteorite particles with isotopic anomalies.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I'm planning to go to grad school, but not right away. Especially with having two majors, I need a little bit of a break from school. This summer I want to get more experience doing research. I’ve applied for a bunch of programs. The one I’m most excited about is called DAAD-Rise, which would have me doing research in a lab run by PhD students this summer in Germany.

Written by William Kennedy

Undergraduate Ella Osby focuses on the evolution of stars

February 14, 2020

Ella Osby is a senior earning her degree in astrophysics at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Osby is originally from Atlanta, a city that she admits is more known for its light pollution than stargazing.

ASU Now talked with Osby about her intellectual evolution: how she went from wanting to study both Earth and space, to focusing solely on the evolution of stars. School of Earth and Space Exploration undergraduate Ella Osby. Download Full Image

Question: What brought you to ASU and, more specifically, to the School of Earth and Space Exploration?

Answer: I’ve always been interested in both earth and space sciences, which is really what led me to come to ASU and to the school. I loved that I could combine astrophysics with earth sciences, instead of them being separate. That cross-disciplinary nature isn’t common, so the school caught my eye with that, because originally I was going to minor in geology, but scheduling was difficult. Then once I got into the research side of astrophysics, my priorities changed. I’m happy with where my concentration is now. Astrophysics is a field where there is so much to learn. No matter what research we’re doing, and even when the result is unexpected, it’s always fascinating.

Q: What is a memorable moment from your studies?

A: There have been a lot, but one I remember from the beginning is from Camp SESE. The campgrounds are far from Phoenix and the sky was so clear. The mentors brought us out to this big open field to do some stargazing. They had a bunch of telescopes for us to look through. That was the first time I was able to see the Andromeda Galaxy with my naked eye. It was wild. Especially coming from Atlanta, then moving to Phoenix, light pollution is always an issue. But out there it was so clear.

Q: Who has been a mentor to you during your time at theschool?

A: I’ve been working with astrophysics Associate Professor Evgenya Shkolnik in her lab since I started here, and I have learned so much that I wouldn’t have been able to without having that opportunity. Simple life lessons, like how to conduct research and navigate the field.

Q: Can you describe your lab work?

A: Well, I don’t necessarily do lab work but more data analysis. Currently my work has been on ultraviolet evolution of low-mass stars. I also helped with the calculations and calibrations for the SPARCS telescope, which is in its second year of development and is being designed to look at the ultraviolet variability of low-mass stars over a full stellar rotation.

Q: What is the benefit of studying the UV rays from low-mass stars?

A: They are the most abundant stars in the universe, and they live for a long time. So ... they are some of the most likely to have planets around them that could support life. Yet, they are relatively active, emitting ultraviolet light, especially in the early planet-forming stage. So these stars could possibly strip planets of molecules necessary for life, like water and carbon monoxide. The goal of my research is to understand how strong the UV rays are and how much they change over a star’s lifetime. This is a really understudied field for two reasons: People were once more focused on sun-like stars, and low-mass stars are dim and hard to observe.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I’d like to go to grad school, get my PhD in stellar astrophysics and teach at a university. I like the idea of being a professor so I can always be hearing new perspectives.

Written by William Kennedy

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Love is in the air with these Sun Devil stories

February 13, 2020

Faculty and alumni share their stories — how they met and how they've kept the fire burning through life's ups and downs

Love finds us all at different times and takes us to different places — just ask these Sun Devil faculty and alumni.

ASU Now picked the brains — and hearts — of three Arizona State University couples who have stood the test of time. We asked them for their tips and advice on how to keep the fire burning through life's ups and downs. Here's what they had to say:

Below, listen to their individual stories.

Instant Connection

Foundation Professor Devoney Looser and Professor George Justice, both of the Department of English, fell in love over a drink at the Javelina Cantina in Tucson while attending the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference. The two of them found their friends drifting away, and before the night was over there was a declaration of marriage on the table.

To find out more about their story, listen as they talk about the institution of marriage, Jane Austen and love-filled emails:

Drifting through love

For music Professor Mike Kocour and Heather Landes, director of the School of Music, love happened at different times. On their first date, Heather couldn't help but notice the cute jazz pianist playing in the club, who also happened to have a locker next to hers. Mike — so lost in his music — finally saw "this beautiful girl" weeks later as she crossed the street. 

Find out who initiated the date that has led to 35 years of love:

Friendship first

Brian and Leah Swanton met each other on their first day of classes at ASU, where they were both in the urban planning program. Brian was young — 17 at the time — and felt like Leah was out of his league. This year they are celebrating 25 years together, their three beautiful daughters and the scholarship they recently created for current ASU students, The Brian and Leah Swanton Urban Planning Scholarship.

To learn more about what led to love after four years of friendship, listen here:

Top photos courtesy of the lovebirds

School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate has a passion for chemistry and cosmetics

February 13, 2020

Chloe Larson's interest in the sciences differs from many students. Her end goal is to combine her passion for cosmetics and science to work in Italy in a career in cosmetic chemistry. To that end, the student in the School of Molecular Sciences at Arizona State University is pursuing her bachelor's degree in chemistry with a minor in italian. Larson is also a part of Barrett, The Honors College.

In her free time, Larson enjoys swing dancing and crafting and is involved with the SAACS club on campus, where she serves as secretary. School of molecular Sciences undergraduate Chloe Linton School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate Chloe Larson would like to earn a master's degree in cosmetic chemistry and then potentially work for a cosmetic company. Photo by Mariela Lozano Download Full Image

One of Larson's remarkable adventures was studying abroad in Italy this past summer to challenge her practice in the Italian language and learn about art history through a Barrett, The Honors College program. Through this immersive experience she was able to better understand new cultures and learn more about herself. 

Through the School of Molecular Sciences, Larson has had the opportunity to learn about different practices that she can apply in her future career. Her favorite part about the school is that there are many opportunities to partake in labs and projects. She said one of her favorite classes was organic chemistry with President's Professor Ian Gould because he knows how to engage his students and makes learning the material fun and easier to understand.

ASU Now talked to Larson about her time at ASU so far about her future plans.

Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Answer: After graduating from ASU in spring of 2022, I would like to continue with my studies in cosmetic science. I would like to earn a master's degree in cosmetic chemistry and then potentially work for a cosmetic company. I would like to make products that are healthy for the skin but also rich in color and the vibrancy of the product. I am intrigued by everything that has to do with chemical reactions, but my main reason for pursuing this career path is to make people happy with their products and to look at the end product and be proud of what I create. 

Q: Do you have any tips for other students?

A: I highly encourage all students to check out the tutoring center and office hours. Students that have taken the course before you can share tips on how to succeed in the course and help you better understand the material. Leave the “tutoring is for people who are not smart” stigma in the past, because every college student who uses the center is better able to earn the grades that they would like in the course. By visiting the office hours, students are given the ability to ask questions directly to the professor and revisit in-depth questions about a topic from class.

Q: What made you choose ASU? 

A: I am from Arizona and wanted to stay close to home and pursue a degree in the field of chemistry. My big reason for joining ASU was because of being No. 1 in innovation. ASU and the School of Molecular Sciences have a lot of resources, making the student experience fun and always dynamic. Seeing what current students are involved in really amazed me. The opportunities to take part in research was another big thing that drew me in as I made my final decision to join the Sun Devil community.

Written by Mariela Lozano, communications assistant, School of Molecular Sciences. Jenny Green contributed to the story.

First-gen School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate on path to becoming a physician

February 13, 2020

Oscar Ramos, an Arizona native and first-generation college student, is wrapping up his final semester at Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences as a biochemistry major. Ramos is involved with the Latinos in Science and Engineering organization on campus, where he serves as the second-year secretary for the club. This club has allowed him to grow both personally and professionally into a Latino leader.

Ramos also enjoys giving back to his community through volunteering. He volunteers at an elementary after-school STEM club in Mesa, Arizona. His focus is to serve as a mentor for young individuals, who he hopes will gain a passion and love for the sciences and in the future also join a career within the STEM field. School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate Oscar Ramos School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate student Oscar Ramos wants to help reduce health disparities in his community. Photo by Mariela Lozano Download Full Image

In addition, Ramos — who is learning French and Portuguese — enjoys learning about new cultures and languages. 

Question: What college accomplishments are you most proud of?

Answer: Having the opportunity to conduct research at two prestigious institutions makes me very proud. In the summer of 2018 I was evaluating the effectiveness of a new method for detecting the rate of false alarms in cardiac ECG (electrocardiogram) monitors at the University of Michigan Medical School. I learned a lot of new things during my time there and had the chance to get out of my comfort zone to learn something new.

Last year, I worked in a lab at the National Institutes of Health, which is the largest funding agency of biomedical research in the world. I have to say this experience was pretty incredible! This place is huge, and everyone working there is conducting research on just any topic you could think about. I was in a biochemistry and genetics lab working on a protein that is known to be expressed in cancer cells. I was developing yeast as a model to study the mechanism of this protein in further detail, to be used as an alternative to using human cell lines or other models.

Q: How has being a part of the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU helped propel you in your career?

A: I have had great professors who have been willing and eager to help out with my classes. They have shown their passion for science, and I appreciate that a lot. I think that showing passion for your field and demonstrating that eagerness to help others is important for fields where you work directly with people. Going into medicine, I want to do the same thing for my patients. Seeing how my professors demonstrated their concern for my success is something that I want to take with me into medicine, where my patients can also see my passion for helping them live healthier lives.

Q: How do you plan to make a difference after you graduate?

A: In my journey toward pursuing medicine, I want to start by making a difference in my community. Arizona as a whole is lacking enough physicians to treat our aging and underserved populations. Maryvale, especially, needs physicians who can understand them and connect with them to build that trust between provider and patient. This community is often overlooked by physicians because the majority of the population is uninsured and low-income, so there is not much opportunity for them to go into private practice. This area of Phoenix faces significant health disparities, especially since the majority are from a minority background and low income. I see it every day, and I think that it’s pretty absurd that people are facing these health disparities in a first-world country.

As a future physician, I plan to deliver exceptional care and reduce those health disparities in my community. Using my language skills, I also see myself serving abroad on medical missions in impoverished countries to extend that care to others in need.

Q: Do you have any tips for other undergrad students?

A: Don’t focus so much on having the perfect grades. Most people think that grades will open doors for you, but the real world doesn’t use GPAs. I think that building yourself as a person who can effectively communicate, make a connection with someone and take initiative is much more valuable than being a 4.0 student. You can’t get these things from a classroom; you have to go out into the community and interact with people, help those who are in need. So I say to devote some of your time to volunteering doing something you enjoy and stick to it. It will teach you so much and make you grow as a person.

Written by Mariela Lozano, communications assistant, School of Molecular Sciences. Jenny Green contributed to this story.

School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate changing the world one trip at a time

February 13, 2020

Julia Jackman, an Arizona native and a junior in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences, is pursuing her concurrent bachelor's degree in biochemistry and global health, along with a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership. Her support system consists of her family (including her twin sister, Olivia, and older sister, Emily), whom she thanks for helping her reach her goals and dreams.

“I have made it a priority in my college education to travel as much as I can,” explained Jackman. “I feel that hearing new perspectives and learning about how others live has given me a new outlook on life and what I want to do in my career. While I love giving back to my local community during the school year, I enjoy experiencing new things and challenging myself to apply my learning on an international level during the summers.” Julia Jackman, ASU School of Molecular Sciences Junior Julia Jackman, a junior in ASU's School of Molecular Sciences, traveled to Peru (after freshman year), Israel and Palestine (after sophomore year) and soon to Switzerland, Italy, Jordan, Israel, and Ethiopia (after junior year) at no cost out of pocket. She highly encourages students to take the opportunities such as scholarships that are available to them. Photo by Mariela Lozano Download Full Image

She has traveled to Peru (after freshman year), Israel and Palestine (after sophomore year) and soon to Switzerland, Italy, Jordan, Israel, and Ethiopia (after junior year) at no cost out of pocket. She highly encourages students to take the opportunities such as scholarships that are available to them.

Starting off her journey very early, Jackman found a great interest in the Electoral College and defended her thesis, "Presidential Elections: Implications of a National Popular Vote," in November of 2019. With the guidance of her two mentors — thesis director and Assistant Professor Zachary German and her second reader, state Sen. Sean Bowie — she was able to defend her thesis successfully. Jackman's research consists of quantitative research on presidential candidate campaign behaviors and the winner-take-all method. She presented her research at a conference in April 2019 and will be presenting a poster about her research in Chicago this coming April. Learn more about her research by reading her thesis.

Jackman was also awarded the Barrett Global Explorers Grant, along with one of her best friends, Amal Altaf. Their mission for the trip will be to research the barriers of refugee participation in higher education through the scope of ASU’s Education for Humanity program. The lack of effective and inexpensive online education platforms for refugees first drew her interest to this project.

“We were awarded the $10,000 grant, and we will be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland; Tel Aviv, Israel; Amman, Jordan; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to complete the research. Our goal is to better understand the world of refugee higher education so that we can alleviate the burdens that currently prevent refugees from attending college, since only 1% of refugees currently have access to tertiary education,” said Jackman.

Question: How has being a part of the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU helped propel you in your career?

Answer: The School of Molecular Sciences has been my home for the past three years, and I am so appreciative for all of the opportunities I have been given. Upon first applying to ASU, I was planning on studying biomedical engineering. I had done some work with 3D printing and I knew I wanted to go into medicine, so I thought engineering was the right route for me. However, the summer before I began school at ASU, I met with the advisers in SMS, including Tom Avants and Orenda Griffin. They helped me to change my major to biochemistry, a decision I am extremely happy I made. I have been fortunate to have had incredible chemistry professors, including Peter Williams, Ranko Richert, Ian Gould, Po-Lin Chiu and Kevin Redding; they have not only motivated me in my classes, but also gave me so many skills that have been transferrable to my other classes and to life in general. I have felt supported and motivated to continue down the path to becoming a physician.  

Q: How do you plan to make a difference in the world with your experience and degree after you graduate?

A: I am hoping to pursue experiences working in human rights and refugee studies after graduating from ASU. I’m not entirely sure where this will lead me in the short term, but in the long term, I plan to attend medical school to attain dual degrees — master’s in public policy and doctor of medicine — so that I can work with underserved populations both locally and abroad.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I currently am one of the co-executives for the Refugee Education and Clinic Team (REACT). It is a partnership between ASU and Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine where we provide health-related educational workshops to refugees and asylum seekers in Maricopa County. We are currently in the process of establishing our brick-and-mortar clinic, which we hope will be established by the end of the year. I hope to continue to work in contexts such as these in the future. In five years, I hope to be in medical school, continuing to work within public policy and humanitarian contexts by practicing medicine. 

Q: Do you have any tips for other undergrad students?

A: One piece of advice that I wish I received was that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Freshman year was an incredibly challenging and overwhelming year for me. I thought that if I were to achieve my goals of becoming a doctor, I would have to do everything all at once as soon as I got to college.

As a pre-med, the pathway to medical school is well-defined; you must do research, you must have clinical experiences, a fantastic MCAT score ... the list goes on. It is really easy to get caught up in this pre-med rat race where you are simply driving yourself to do the things you think you should do, not the things you want to do. For me this created a really toxic mentality that didn’t set me up for sustainable success in college.

My piece of advice would be to pursue the things you love while working to engage in your classes with the content and with the professors. The relationships and experiences you gather in college will likely be among the best in your life, so don’t spend the time doing things you feel obligated to do. Study the things you love and get involved in activities in which you feel energized. Go travel, study abroad, complete a cool project that has nothing to do with your major. Start a new club or join some that look intriguing! Just put yourself out there in the activities you enjoy and everything else will follow.

Q: What made you choose ASU and the School of Molecular Sciences? 

A: As an native Arizonan and a younger sibling to someone who went to ASU, I always knew that ASU was a fantastic school. In high school, though, I was determined to go to an out-of-state university to get a new experience. In the end though, I ended up at ASU because of ASU’s fantastic scholarship program for in-state students.

I am so grateful that I chose ASU, for an endless list of reasons. The major reason, though, is that I truly feel that I have been supported in every step of my journey, by my professors, classmates and mentors. The fact that I’ve been able to attend school for free (because of my merit scholarship and job as a community assistant at Barrett) has opened up so many doors to me in the future as well.  ASU fosters a collaborative atmosphere that has influenced me to engage with my community in a deeper way than I ever thought possible. The amount of opportunities at ASU are endless, and SMS has offered me incredible resources and mentors that have challenged me and changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to put into words. 

Written by Mariela Lozano, communications assistant, School of Molecular Sciences. Jenny Green contributed to this story.