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Linking problem drinking behaviors to impulsivity

ASU psychology student wins NSF fellowship for doctoral research

June 18, 2019

When recent graduate Lyndsay Campbell transferred to Arizona State University in 2017, she also started a part-time job. Her work, as the assistant to the program coordinator for AmeriCorps at ASU, would be the seed for a proposal she wrote as a senior to the National Science Foundation (NSF). In April, Campbell found out her proposal was selected for a fellowship that will fund doctoral work in psychology at ASU.

The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program covers tuition and gives recipients a stipend for three years. Campbell is the third ASU psychology student to receive the fellowship in as many years. Lyndsay Campbell Psychology student Lyndsay Campbell wins National Science Foundation fellowship. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

With AmeriCorps, Campbell worked on ways to increase academic engagement at local Title I schools. In her NSF proposal, she wrote about how eye-opening it was to begin to understand the impact that early life experiences had on how students performed in school.

“Having an adverse experience in childhood dramatically increases the probability of having negative outcomes — like addiction or homelessness — as an adult. At AmeriCorps, I worked to include trauma sensitivity training into our programs,” Campbell said. “In graduate school I want to continue this type of work, but from a neuroscience perspective. I want to study how childhood experiences link to problem behavioral patterns like substance abuse.”

Campbell’s graduate work will bridge two labs in the ASU Department of Psychology: the Social Addictions Impulse Lab led by Julie Patock-Peckham and the Decision Neuroscience Lab led by Samuel McClure.

Patock-Peckham’s lab studies what causes alcohol use disorders in adulthood, and Campbell will focus on how childhood trauma affects the decisions people make about alcohol. She will look at the relation between adverse experiences in childhood and impulse control in college students.

“Lyndsay is a brilliant student who is interested in just about everything associated with making healthy and unhealthy choices. When she worked in my lab as a research assistant, we had several spontaneous conversations about how victims of trauma in early life often have difficulties with self-control and self-regulation, especially related to alcohol,” said Patock-Peckham, assistant research professor of psychology. “Lyndsay linked problems with impulsivity to the work on decision-making happening in the McClure lab. Our chats led to the proposed experiments in her GRFP application and a collaboration between SAIL and the Decision Neuroscience Lab.” 

Campbell will examine the relation between childhood trauma and impulse control when drinking alcohol in a new way: through the lens of neuroscience. With McClure, she will use neuroimaging methods to study the brain circuits involved in impulsivity.

“The technology used in neuroscience lets you ask complex questions,” Campbell said. “Exploring the neural basis of why people make the choices they do could lead to more effective interventions.”

Work from the McClure lab has shown that when people make choices that are less impulsive, an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex — located just behind the forehead — is very active. The Decision Neuroscience Lab has also shown that structural differences in the prefrontal cortex predict how impulsive people are in general. Campbell wants to test whether such structural differences are linked to the choices people make about how much alcohol to drink.

“Lyndsay’s interests lie right at the forefront of what we can do using neuroscience tools to study the human brain. We have a new ability to measure differences in how people’s brains are connected and how different parts of the brain interact as people make decisions. Lyndsay will be applying these methods to better understand a really important problem in society,” said McClure, associate professor of psychology.

About the same time she was writing her GRFP proposal, Campbell was also applying to graduate school. She said the decision to apply to ASU was easy because of her undergraduate experience.

“ASU has so many opportunities for undergraduate students to volunteer in different labs, and that really guided my choice. I could see myself doing the research at the graduate level, excelling in the program, and having the tools and resources to answer the questions I want to study,” Campbell said. “My interests are also interdisciplinary, and I feel right at home at ASU, which has a culture of promoting interdisciplinary research.”

Science writer, Psychology Department


ASU Law grad leading an NHL revival in the desert

June 17, 2019

Less than a decade after graduating from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, Ahron Cohen is leading a dramatic turnaround for the Arizona Coyotes.

The 35-year-old Cohen, who previously served as general counsel for the Coyotes, was named the NHL franchise’s president and CEO in July 2018. Although they missed out on a playoff berth in Cohen’s first year at the helm, the Coyotes just completed a 39-35-8 season — the most wins they’ve recorded since the 2011-12 season, when they won 42 regular-season games and made a magical run to the Western Conference Finals. photo of Ahron Cohen ASU Law 2010 alumnus and president/CEO of the Arizona Coyotes Ahron Cohen was named to 2019 Phoenix Business Journal's “40 Under 40” list. Download Full Image

It’s an accomplishment that helped land Cohen on this year’s Phoenix Business Journal “40 Under 40” list, which recognizes 40 young executives in the Phoenix metro area who are making a difference both in their organizations and the community. He is one of two ASU Law alums on the list, joined by Heather Boysel (2007), who was recently named managing partner at Phoenix law firm Gammage & Burnham.

Cohen said the 40 Under 40 recognition is more of a team honor than an individual one, crediting the amazing support he has at home and on the job.

“There are a lot of people who are responsible for this,” he said. “First and foremost is my wonderful family, who’s incredibly supportive. Second is my family with the Coyotes, both people who work for me, as well as our entire Coyotes community, for recognizing our message and what we're trying to do. So it's really because of my family at home and my family at work. I owe it all to them.”

Like all members of the 40 Under 40 club, Cohen stands out for how quickly he ascended to the pinnacle of his profession. It’s a journey that began growing up in Minnesota, where he fell in love with sports. Specifically as a football and basketball player.

“Surprisingly, no hockey,” he said with a laugh. “I was the one person in Minnesota, I think, who didn’t play any hockey.”

He went on to play collegiate football at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he also studied government and economics.

“I certainly realized during my time there that I wasn’t going to be playing on Sundays, so I was looking for other opportunities to stay involved in sports, and that’s what led me to law school,” he said.

After graduating from Bowdoin, he made a trip to Arizona to see his hometown Minnesota Golden Gophers play in the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. That sparked an interest in ASU and the Phoenix area, and although he had been focused on law schools in the Northeast and Midwest, he began looking into ASU Law.

Although ASU now runs a groundbreaking Master of Sports Law and Business program — something Cohen would have been highly interested in — the school had no specific sports law program at the time. Still, ASU Law’s administration sold Cohen on all the opportunities the Phoenix area offers, as a year-round hotbed of high-profile sporting events. And the law school’s dean at the time, Patricia White, had something else to offer: She was friends with Kevin Warren, a Phoenix native with ASU ties who was working as the general counsel for the Minnesota Vikings.

The possibility of an internship with Warren and the Vikings was a dream a Minnesota sports fan couldn’t pass up and helped seal Cohen’s decision to come to ASU Law.

He said he knocked on the dean’s door on Day 1 to follow up about the internship, got it, and that set in motion a series of events that led to where he is today.

“I worked for the Vikings throughout law school and after law school, and that’s what really propelled me into the sports world,” he said. “It’s all thanks to ASU.”

Warren, who was recently named commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, advised Cohen at the time that if he wanted to advance in the sports industry, the best thing he could do is hone his skills as an attorney at a large law firm. So Cohen joined the Snell & Wilmer office in Phoenix as a corporate attorney, and tried to get involved with as many sports issues as he could. That included the Super Bowl host committee, as well as representing the Coyotes ownership group when they purchased the team in 2013.

That work with the Coyotes led to an opportunity two years later to join the team as general counsel, and from there, he quickly climbed to his current role. Now at the top of his profession at the relatively young age of 35, where does Cohen go from here?

“First off, I’ll say this: I don’t feel too young,” he said. “There’s a lot of work, so I’m getting my fair share of gray hairs. But right now, my career goal is just solely focused on turning the Coyotes into a model sports organization, making this a great franchise.”

He said the biggest challenge of the job is that there’s always more work that can be done.

“There's always more that we can do to better connect with our fans, and engage our fans and reach new fans, and provide a great sports experience for everybody in this entire Arizona community,” he said. “So the work never stops, and there's always more that we can do.”

But that challenge is also the job’s biggest reward.

“The thing I enjoy most is the opportunity to be a builder and really help grow this franchise into a model sports organization,” he said. “Every single day, when I go to bed at night, and when I wake up, there's always more that we can do. And we can always take a positive step forward and be better today than we were yesterday. And that’s the excitement for me. There are a lot of positions out there where the status quo is acceptable. That's not the case for us. So I love that opportunity of continuing to grow and build something and develop it into something great.”

Being the president and CEO of the Coyotes is a full-time job and then some.

“There’s not too much free time these days,” Cohen said.

But when there is, he loves spending it with his wife and two young sons. They enjoy any type of exercise that lets them enjoy Arizona’s unique and beautiful scenery. And after all those years staying off skates in Minnesota, what is a favorite activity for the now desert-dwelling NHL executive and his boys?

Street hockey, of course.

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


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ASU female engineers to debut biomed project on international stage

June 17, 2019

Fulton Schools teams head to London to develop and present medtech devices

As International Women in Engineering Day on June 23 approaches, two female biomedical engineering students at Arizona State University are preparing to debut a biomedical device on a world stage in London. 

Mariam El Sheikha and Kelsey Boos are members of one of three ASU engineering teams headed to London this summer to advance their projects during the PLuS Engineering Summer School, then present them at an international showcase event. Their device is designed to speed upper limb function recovery for stroke patients.

Mariam el sheikha

Mariam El Sheikha 

El Sheikha and Boos are traveling the course to medical school by way of biomedical engineering degrees — when they’re not preparing for their trip to London this summer, they are studying for their Medical College Admission Tests. Their project, the design and initial development of a therapeutic medical device that enhances physical therapy for stroke victims, serves as the perfect gateway between biomedical engineering and medicine. 

El Sheikha was drawn to the biomedical path, and particularly this project, because of her grandfather. When he suffered a stroke in Egypt, “not only did he not have access to the biomedical devices we have in the U.S., he didn’t have access to comprehensive physical therapy,” El Sheikha said. “I wanted to do something that will help people’s lives.” 

Kelsey Boos has always wanted go to medical school, and while she initially thought she would focus on pediatrics, her experiences in biomed have her considering an alternative path. Her roommates have careers as biomedical engineers who design and develop medical devices. “I can see myself working in those environments,” she said.

The women were part of a bioengineering interdisciplinary product development team (IPDT) for a class focused on the fundamentals of developing and bringing to market a biomedical device using best industry practices and an entrepreneurial mindset, including ethics, FDA regulatory processes and business practices.

The team assignment was based on a relatively new stroke therapy that uses a surgically implanted vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) device to enhance physical therapy after stroke. According to recent studies, VNS in concert with therapy can as much as double upper limb function recovery. 

stroke device

The students will present their project this July during the PLuS Engineering Summer School Showcase. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

“When stroke causes damage to the brain, repetitive physical therapy supports neural plasticity — a reorganization of neural circuits which, over time, assigns lost functions to new pathways and ultimately improves motor function,” explained Jeffrey Kleim, a Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering associate professor of biological and health systems engineering who conducts neuroplasticity research and is one of the course instructors.  

“For example, when a patient tries to grasp an object, the old neural pathways no longer effectively connect to that action. VNS provides much needed extra neurotransmitters that drive neural plasticity to help reorganize brain function,” Kleim said.  

“This promising clinical trial research result may be more practically translated in the clinic, and especially at the point-of-care, if a technology can be developed that allows the patient to self-direct (at home) therapy in addition to clinical guidance,” explained Vincent Pizziconi, an associate professor of biological and health systems engineering and director of the bioengineering design center. Pizziconi also is a course instructor.

Kelsey Boos

Kelsey Boos 

The challenge presented to the BME design class was to develop a low cost, noninvasive (nonsurgical), self-directed device that would facilitate at-home VNS therapy for stroke patients that would speed recovery and function — while reducing treatment costs and minimizing adverse events associated with implantable VNS devices. 

In addition, a key product specification required for home use involved an ergonomic, or human factor consideration, such as ease of use.

The resulting, external device stimulates the vagus nerve through its auricular branch, which is located in the ear. In addition to triggering additional neurotransmitters, “there’s a closed feedback loop that ensures the patient is performing the motion correctly,” El Sheikha said. “The nerve is stimulated only during the correct therapeutic movements.”

The device itself mimics current earpiece models and is positioned in a way that won’t be displaced by movement or impede physical therapy. A built-in motion detector is used to signal the stimulation electrode.

The IPDT of 20 students was divided into four core technology groups: circuits, electrodes, microprocessor and systems integration.

El Sheikha, a member of the electrodes design team, developed the electrode circuit design for the earpiece. Boos, the section leader for systems integration team, designed an earpiece that accurately targeted the auricular branch of the vagus nerve for stimulation, while also guiding her team in the integration of Xbox Kinect technology. 

According to Pizziconi, the novel concept of using Kinect technology has the potential to set the project apart from other medtech competitors.

“It was a valuable learning process to see that it could be done with multiple groups of people,” Boos said about the process that had teammates working in their assigned areas before coming together to integrate all of the components. 

For El Sheikha, the process has been an opportunity to familiarize herself with tools she’ll be using as a physician. “As a doctor, it’s important to investigate how you can improve a device and provide feedback to the technology developers,” she said. 

Both women are looking forward to sharing the project in London and getting feedback from international perspectives.

Top photo: Mariam El Sheikha and Kelsey Boos work on the work on their stroke rehabilitation device at the Schwada building on June 12, 2019. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Native American students explore advanced degree horizons at Graduate Pathways conference

June 14, 2019

As a transgender woman and first-generation student from the Navajo community of Teec Nos Pos in northeastern Arizona, Arizona State University alumna Trudie Jackson is used to forging her own way.

Today, she holds concurrent bachelor’s degrees in American Indian studies from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and public service and public policy from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and a master’s degree in tribal leadership and governance from The College’s American Indian studies program. But the road hasn’t been easy. Trudie Jackson graduated with a master's degree in tribal leadership and governance from The College's American Indian studies program.   Trudie Jackson graduated with a master's degree in tribal leadership and governance from The College's American Indian studies program. Download Full Image

Trudie Jackson, an alumna of The College's American Indian Studies program's master's degree track.Trudie Jackson, an alumna of The College's American Indian Studies program's master's degree track.

“Native students balance being in a Western educational institution and coming from a tribal community,” she said. “Part of going to school is just learning sometimes you had to make sacrifices — you may not be able to engage in a ceremonial event back in your community, for example, because you have a paper due.”

Learning to navigate those challenges is what led her to attend Graduate Pathways ahead of her master’s degree track a few years ago. Organized by American Indian Student Support Services (AISSS), the biennial conference helps Native American undergraduates and alumni learn more about advanced degrees and application processes.

Now pursuing a doctorate at the University of New Mexico, Jackson returned to campus this month to share her experiences with a new generation of postsecondary-bound indigenous students at the 2019 Graduate Pathways.

After graduating with a master's degree in tribal leadership and governance from The College's American Indian studies program, Trudie Jackson wants to help others do the same.

Alumna Trudie Jackson speaks to a room of fellow Native American students considering graduate paths.

“You may encounter professors who have never had a Native student, but that’s actually where you have the chance to share your knowledge,” Jackson said, speaking to a crowd of around 50 students, alumni and faculty mentors at the conference. “I believe one way I contribute to academia is through my own experience as an American Indian transgender woman; that perspective is not always reflected in the scholarship we read, and that’s what inspires me to keep going.”

Paving the way

According to AISSS Acting Director Laura Gonzales-Macias, more than 3,000 Native American students were enrolled at ASU in 2018, many of whom are in The College’s 23 schools and departments. Over 500 are working toward doctorates or master’s degrees.

She said the number is continuing to grow and already significant, particularly by national standards — Native Americans make up less than 1% of U.S. college students and are represented even less in graduate programs.

Several initiatives aim to bring more young people into the fold and support them once they arrive, but fewer exist at the graduate level.

Graduate Pathways was designed to bridge the gap.

“There are many challenges involved in being a Native American student, one of them being that often you are the only one in the course,” said Gonzales-Macias, who is also an instructor in The College's American Indian Studies program. “I think it is particularly important at the graduate level for these students to hear what the climate is like for indigenous students and how they can continue navigating such a large institution.”

The two-day training includes resume and personal statement workshops and one-on-one mentorship sessions with faculty from the degree programs students are interested in. Perhaps most importantly, Gonzales-Macias hopes participants walk away feeling like they’re not alone. It is a sentiment she remembers being a vital step of her own psychology graduate track at The College, in 1992.

“Coming to ASU back then, it was not as diverse a place as it is today,” she said. “I was far from home and family, a first-generation student and by then, continuing onto my doctorate — connecting with fellow Native graduates was my saving grace.”

Lasting connections

Now in its fifth year, Gonzales-Macias says the program comes full circle when alumni like Jackson return to give today’s prospective graduate students a unique insight into what’s next.

“Bringing back former participants lets new students see that someone else has been in their shoes,” she said.

That was the case for Rodney Aguilla, a Tohono O’odham tribal member who came to Graduate Pathways to learn more about advanced programs in fields spanning American Indian studies, law or teaching.

Rodney Aguilla, a senior in The College's American Indian Studies program, came to Graduate Pathways to learn more about advanced degree options.

Rodney Aguilla, a senior in The College's American Indian Studies program, came to Graduate Pathways to learn more about advanced degree options.

Growing up in Three Points, Arizona, southwest of Tucson, Aguilla saw getting an education as a way to give back to the sister who raised him.

“My sister always told us that education is the key to the world,” he said. “She literally saw me go from dropping out of high school, to getting my GED, and finally, to coming here — she did a lot to help push that forward.”

He transferred to ASU from Tohono O’odham Community College last May to pursue a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies and a minor in history, both from The College.

He said being homesick and away from family made coming to ASU difficult at first. Hearing from current graduate students at the conference made him feel like he was on the right track.

“I think as Native students, we all kind of have that extra weight on our shoulders to come back and do something for our tribe,” he said. “Meeting other students and learning from their experiences really helped, I hope to one day be here too, putting on these programs for others who come after me.”

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU sweeps the podium at 2019 Materials Bowl

June 13, 2019

Ten teams from Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering competed against five teams from the University of Arizona Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the 16th annual Materials Bowl in Tempe, Arizona.

The Materials Bowl is a senior capstone project and poster competition for Arizona materials science and engineering students sponsored by the ASM International Phoenix Chapter in which a jury of four industry professionals award the three top-ranked projects. The winning team receives the Materials Territorial Trophy. Members of the winning teams and mentors (from left: Pranvera Kolari, Benjamin Shindel, President’s Professor James Adams, Senior Research Specialist Shahriar Anwar, Austin Bennett, Brandon Houck, Andrew Black, Samantha Hom, Devin Hardy and Ariana Tse) pose with the Materials Territorial Trophy after winning the three top prizes at the 2019 Materials Bowl. Photograph courtesy of Shahriar Anwar Download Full Image

Teams of two to five students gave presentations to a panel of judges and were critiqued based on the quality of their projects and presentations.

“In the materials science and engineering capstone course we strive to give the students as much real-life experience as possible,” said Shahriar Anwar, a senior research specialist in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

This year, ASU teams took the top three prizes. The first-place team included Andrew Black, Devin Hardy, Samantha Hom and Ariana Tse. They took home the top prize of $1,000 and claimed the Materials Territorial Trophy for their project, “Redesigning Heat Treatment of Additively Manufactured AM355.”

In the project mentored by Honeywell, the team designed a heat treatment for additively manufactured AM355 stainless steel, which is used in the aerospace industry. They reduced processing time and costs while maintaining the material’s desired properties. The team achieved roughly 20% increased tensile strength (increased ability to be pulled apart without breaking) while reducing costs by 20% and direct treatment time by 50%.

The team of Austin Bennett and Brandon Houck earned the second-place prize of $700. Their project was titled “Design and Process Development of Natural Fiber Reinforced Bio-Composites.”

The duo developed a method of generating and testing a microbial harvested biocomposite that may be able to be used as a replacement for natural leather made from animal hide. They were able to achieve mechanical properties comparable to that of natural leather.

The third-place team featured Pranvera Kolari and Benjamin Shindel, who won a $300 prize for their project, “ConCreate: Design of an Additively Manufacturable and Sustainable Concrete Mix.”

The ConCreate team produced additively manufactured concrete that incorporated waste glass. The team claimed that their product would reduce both global carbon dioxide emissions and improve glass recycling while speeding up building construction using additive manufacturing techniques. The resulting product had similar mechanical properties to traditional concrete structures. 

The Materials Bowl competition helps showcase the caliber of materials science and engineering students to members of the local industry.

“The competition between ASU and UA generates real excitement and a competitive mindset toward excelling and taking pride in their projects,” Anwar said. “The presentations are made in a formal atmosphere similar to that of a scientific conference and affords an opportunity to our students to present to a diverse audience from academia and industry.”

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU anatomy and physiology faculty turn book proceeds into student scholarships

June 12, 2019

When ASU students purchase the lab manual for their human anatomy and physiology courses at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, they're not only preparing themselves for success in the classes, they're contributing to the success of their fellow students.

The customized text, developed in-house by the faculty who teach the BIO 201 and 202 courses, not only costs less than a standard manual, the proceeds directly support ASU students pursuing their passion for science.  ASU SHAPER Scholarship recipients with children at Tide Academy The first SHAPER Scholarship recipients used the funding to help pay for a science-focused ASU Study Abroad experience in Costa Rica. Alyssa Anderson (middle) and Erika McClinton (right) with students at the Tide Academy. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Anderson Download Full Image

Co-authors Jeff Kingsbury, senior lecturer; J. P. Hyatt, associate professor; and Tonya Penkrot, lecturer; in collaboration with then-lab manager Jennifer Legere, were driven in 2017 to create a manual that better served students and was in keeping with the teaching innovations that College of Integrative Sciences and Arts faculty have implemented in science courses.

“We wanted something more relevant, customized and affordable for students. We wanted to develop a product tailored to what we actually do in our labs, that could incorporate the Anatomage Table, and would reduce the cost for students,” explained Kingsbury. “Our manual saves students roughly 50% of what they paid when we used a standard lab manual.”

When the trio ditched the previous lab manual in fall 2017 for their co-authored alternative, they took the benefit to students to an even higher plane, deciding that royalties from the sale of their manual would establish the SHAPER (Scholarship Honoring Anatomy and Physiology Education and Research) Scholarship.

“We all agreed that we wanted to give back to the students,” said Hyatt, about their decision to create the scholarship.

“It’s a good thing to do, and it helps the students,” said Kingsbury. “We worked with our college development officer to start the scholarship with the ASU Foundation. The money goes directly from the publisher to the fund every July and January.”

All three faculty members wanted the scholarship to help students pursue their passions in science in some way.

“We want students to be able to use the scholarship for research, application fees, conference fees or other special educational opportunities in the realm of anatomy and physiology,” said Penkrot.

This includes the study abroad experience that College of Integrative Sciences and Arts faculty direct in Costa Rica. In the program — a partnership between ASU Study Abroad and the Tide Academy, a small school in Costa Rica — students gain exposure to another culture and have the chance to teach and develop science curriculum for K-12 students, helping prepare them to become instructional assistants in anatomy and physiology courses at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.  

By December 2018, the SHAPER fund was able to support its first two scholarship recipients.

Rising junior Erika McClinton and graduating senior Alyssa Anderson both used the scholarship to support their participation in the Costa Rica experience in March. For both, the benefits of that experience are still paying dividends.

SHAPER impacts professional paths 

For ASU health entrepreneurship and innovation major McClinton, the academic plan had originally been to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. But when she didn’t get accepted into the highly competitive program, she found herself stuck and unsure of what her next move was — until a series of opportunities came her way.

“I found out about the Costa Rica trip through Dr. Kingsbury’s BIO 202 class,” McClinton said. “At first, I told Dr. Kingsbury that I was not able to go, but then he told me about the scholarship opportunity, which was amazing.”

The Costa Rica trip allowed her to combine a few of her passions.

“I wanted to go on the Costa Rica trip because of my love for science. My minor is in Spanish, and I had not been to another Spanish-speaking country since I was 9, so this whole experience was all I had ever dreamed of,” she said. “Also, I knew that we would be teaching children at a school, which really captured my attention, because I had just applied to be an instructional assistant for BIO 201, so everything was lining up perfectly.”

Receiving the scholarship helped change McClinton’s outlook and provided her with new opportunities.

“Getting the scholarship and going to Costa Rica helped me build relationships with the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts faculty, and they encouraged me and gave me the confidence to pursue a summer internship with Anatomage,” McClinton said.

Anatomage, the Silicon Valley-based technology company that created the Anatomage Table that students use for digital dissections in the BIO 201 and 202 courses at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, took its first ASU intern last summer and has sponsored two for summer 2019.

“I’ll be there for eight weeks, and I will be working on the computer technology and helping build the anatomy software,” McClinton said.

“The scholarship really helped me bounce back after not getting into nursing school. I realized that some of the things you want may not be for you right now,” she reflected. “I’m excited to be in Silicon Valley, the capital of technology, and to be surrounded by lots of opportunities.”

Alyssa Anderson outside the Tide Academy in Costa Rica

Alyssa Anderson took away life-changing lessons from Costa Rica.

The scholarship and the Costa Rica experience have had similar professional impact on Anderson, who graduated from the College of Health Solutions in May.

During the study abroad experience, Anderson said, her passion for teaching impressed the director of the Tide Academy.

“I really like teaching, and I care about teaching younger kids about science so they can be inspired and be the change we need them to be,” said Anderson, who kept in touch with the school in the months following the experience and has been offered a teaching position there.

Starting in August, she will be teaching math, science and ocean awareness to grades 3-12.

“I’m super excited,” she added. “It's an opportunity for a lot of personal and professional growth and will allow me to leave my comfort zone. I plan to learn as much as I can from a new culture, new country and the kids.”  

Anderson said several faculty members had put the study abroad trip on her radar, but it wasn’t until she learned about the SHAPER Scholarship that she realized she could make the trip happen.

“While finances were the root of my stresses regarding whether or not I was even going to be able to go, ASU made it very possible,” she said. “With the SHAPER Scholarship, the grant I got from the Study Abroad office and the money I raised, studying abroad became a reality — and for that, I am still forever grateful.”

ASU Downtown Phoenix campus anatomy and physiology students can apply at any time for SHAPER Scholarship support by emailing faculty members Tonya Penkrot, J. P. Hyatt or Jeff Kingsbury. The request should detail the rationale for why the award would be appropriate for the educational or research activity that students want to engage in. Although the process is relatively new, Kingsbury said, they are generally reviewing students’ requests in December and April.

Written by Kelley Karnes

ASU alumna shares perspective with STEM undergraduate researchers

June 7, 2019

This past March, Megan Thielges returned to Arizona State University not as an undergraduate chemistry student, but as the keynote speaker at the 26th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by the School of Life Sciences, in conjunction with the SOLUR Undergraduate Research Program.

The symposium provides a chance for undergraduate researchers to present what they've learned through their research experiences. The event is open to faculty, staff, students and the general public. Indiana University Bloomington Professor Megan Thielges and SMS Professor James Allen. Download Full Image

In a talk titled "Trek of a Biophysicist," Thielges shared her story of progress from an undergraduate at ASU to an associate professor in the department of chemistry at the University of Indiana Bloomington. She described her personal development in science while sharing a broader perspective gained along the way.

“My career as an academic professor should be considered a lifestyle. I feel very fortunate to do what I love,” Thielges said. “The freedom to pursue my interests is the key advantage of my specific position.”  

Thielges received her BS (summa cum laude) at ASU in 2003. She was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship for training in biophysics at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, where she earned a PhD under the direction of Professor Floyd E. Romesberg in 2009. She went on to a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Institutes of Health-funded postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Michael D. Fayer at Stanford University. She joined the faculty at Indiana University in the summer of 2012.

From left to right: Megan Thielges, Joann Williams and James Allen Photo. Courtesy Jacob Sahertian, School of Life Sciences

Thielges answered a few questions about her experience at ASU, her work today and the advice she has for those who are interested in studying in the STEM field.

Question: How did your undergraduate experience in the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU prepare you for your current career path?

Answer: My experience in a research group as an undergraduate was most valuable to my career trajectory. The experience convinced me to pursue a career in academic research and bolstered my application for top graduate programs, setting up my path to becoming a professor myself.

Q: What is it like applying your degree in a new area?

A: The interdisciplinary nature of our research is very challenging. Gaining depth of understanding in multiple scientific areas requires versatile thinking and simply more time. For this reason, I also find it difficult to train new students in our research group. However, I am excited by the science so the challenge is worthwhile.

Q: Can you describe your Sun Devil story? What brought you to ASU?

A: Honestly, having grown up in the cold of North Dakota, initially I considered ASU because of the warm weather and the offer of a generous scholarship package. I had just applied for fellowships, which made me aware of the importance of research experience. When I visited, ASU promoted their undergraduate research programs, and learning about all the opportunities cemented my decision to attend ASU.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories of ASU — academic, research or otherwise?

A:  My time in the laboratory was the highlight of my undergraduate years. I worked with a fantastic bunch of graduate students, and my mentors were very supportive. A research lab becomes one’s family.

Q: What is your advice for current students in the School of Molecular Sciences who are thinking of pursuing a career path similar to yours?

A:  While my work is satisfying, the career also is very competitive, so you have to be consistently dedicated, which can mean giving up other things in life, as well as getting used to handling setbacks and criticism. There are many excellent career paths in which you can do science. Also, as an undergraduate, I did not realize how so-called “soft” skills, like communicating effectively both verbally and in writing or interacting with and motivating people with diverse personalities, are just as critical to your success as your technical understanding of science.

Q: What would you tell a prospective ASU student that they need to know about studying in the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU?

A: Take advantage of all that is offered. Don’t be shy to engage your professors. Enjoy being a student. Your undergraduate years likely will be among the best times in your life. 

Communication specialist, School of Molecular Sciences

PhD grad aims to make mathematics meaningful, not magical

June 5, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Matt Weber had earned his master’s degree and knew he enjoyed education and teaching but was feeling suffocated at his job. He was the only full-time mathematics faculty at a small college in Utah. There were no other math colleagues to interact with, and he wasn’t experiencing much professional growth. Download Full Image

“I felt a little bit like an eagle inside a cage,” Weber remembered. “I needed to spread my wings and my current job was not letting me do that.”

He applied for the PhD program in mathematics education at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Arizona State University. He had heard of Pat Thompson and Marilyn Carlson, two well-recognized names in the field of mathematics education who had built the successful program at ASU.

A grant from the Arizona Mathematics Partnership (AMP) funded him as a research associate. AMP is part of a $9 million program funded by the National Science Foundation, conceived by principal investigator and ASU alumna April Strom.

AMP focused on professional development for middle school mathematics teachers. AMP also produced research to help understand teachers’ and students’ mathematical thinking and beliefs. Over 13,000 Arizona students were impacted by the AMP program.

“AMP really opened my eyes and affected the way I think about mathematics more than my classes at ASU did,” Weber said. “I was rubbing shoulders with lots of different PhDs who were sharing their wisdom with the middle school teachers, and I got to watch this over and over as a researcher, so some of those ideas really sunk in.”

Many of the people involved with AMP are alumni of ASU’s Mathematics Education PhD program, and were mentored by Marilyn Carlson. This included April Strom, Ted Coe, Judy Sutor, Frank Marfai, Trey Cox, Jim Vicich, Scott Adamson, and Kacie Joyner. “Marilyn Carlson changed the direction of our careers, and our philosophy about teaching changed,” explained Strom. ”We learned deeply, and we taught the teachers.”

Part of Weber’s research involvement with AMP included interviewing teachers and investigating what they understood about ideas related to multiplication and division, proportionality and measurement.

“That’s ultimately what paved the way for my dissertation. I remember the day when we had an epiphany. We gave a task to the teachers and a certain thing kept occurring. They were changing their way of thinking about division depending on the divisor.

"If it was a whole number, they drew one picture. But if it was a fraction, they drew a different picture. They didn’t realize they switched from partitive to quotative division. They didn’t even realize that was two different ways to think about division.”

Weber described an example in the context of whole numbers: 15 divided by three. He would ask each teacher to say what their meaning is and draw a picture of it. “Usually you will see something in the form of partitive, where they make three groups with five things in each group, which would give an answer of five,” explained Weber.

“Sometimes you would also see quotative meaning, how many threes make 15, and the answer is five. If they could show both ways, you could push and say, 'Do you realize these are both different?' And if they don’t see both ways, usually it’s an eye opener to them. ‘Wow, you’re right! I didn’t even realize I was switching,’" said Weber.

Weber then described an example using a fraction. He asked the teachers what is 15 split into 7/4 groups? “Usually you start to see some obstacles very quickly, about how they cope with non-whole number groups.”

In Weber’s dissertation, he discussed a teacher who was struggling. Given the problem of 4 divided by 1/3, she could only think quotatively (how many 1/3’s make four?) and kept answering with 12. Weber tried to get her to answer the question '1/3 copies of what makes four?', but she repeatedly said, ‘I can’t draw this.’

Eventually he used pizza as a reference, and described how you could eat 1/4 of it. The teacher drew a pizza circle, drew lines to cut it into four quarters and highlighted one. “If there were 12 pepperonis spread out evenly, how would you know how many pepperonis you would get on 1/4 of the pizza?,” he asked. The teacher was able to deduce and put 3 pepperonis on each quarter section of the pizza: 1/4 of 12 makes 3.

Weber suggested they reverse engineer this. “What if you know there were 3 pepperonis per slice, but you don’t know how many total pepperonis there were to begin with?,” he asked her. The teacher was able to take that context, reverse engineer it, and start thinking about 1/4 of a number becomes 3. She just couldn’t see that without Weber’s guiding. Eventually she realized there were multiple ways to think about it.

“Middle school teachers are put in a position to analyze the reasoning ability of their students, and some of these ways of thinking will arise naturally in their students,” Weber explained. “It would be a shame for a student to explain a division problem with a partitive conceptualization and for the teacher to say, ‘No, do it this way” because it doesn’t click for the teacher. Having awareness so they can recognize thinking in their students that’s valid thinking, and supporting that, versus snuffing it out and saying it’s wrong, I think is crucial for a teacher.”

“The goal is to make mathematics meaningful, and not magical, in the mind of the person.”

Weber received his PhD in Mathematics Education this May. We asked him a few questions about his experience here at ASU.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: While at ASU I was introduced to, and have become a proponent of, constructivist philosophy, which was entirely new to me at the time.

Q: Tell us more about constructivist philosophy.

A: Constructivism is this idea that knowledge is constructed, and usually in unique ways. Two people can look at the same object but infer different things about it. It means one thing to one person, something else to a different person, but they are seeing the same thing. This idea is that people have, if you will, a set of blueprints that governs their mathematical thinking. When they see something, it triggers a certain set of instructions for them to act on that. And everyone’s blueprint is different, kind of like a fingerprint. We don’t all visualize the same thing in the same way. Truly understanding the way a person thinks is something that is not really knowable to an outside person. I can look at the evidence of what things you’re saying, the things that are observable, and then make judgment calls about what’s not observable going on in your head. That’s the challenge of this kind of research, is getting at the underlying mathematical meanings that people have.

I used to think of mathematics as very black and white. Like the way I see it is the way it is meant to be seen. It’s right or wrong, and I see it the right way. But I’ve since learned there is a lot of gray mathematics, a lot of different ways that people make sense of things, sometimes valid, sometimes invalid, but that work. Like gimmicky – I just do “this” every time and it works, and I get full credit. They think they have a mathematical understanding of something, but no, you’ve caught on to a gimmick that happens to work. With constructivism, I view so many things in life that way, all knowledge is like this. It was introduced to me in the context of mathematical learning but now I see it everywhere.

Q: Why did you choose ASU for your doctoral degree?

A: Three reasons: (1) the math education program was well known, (2) weather, and (3) my twin brother lives here.
Q: Why is mathematics education a great doctoral degree to pursue?

A: There is so much to do to improve the educational experiences of students in K-16 for mathematics in this country. If you are interested in researching learning theory, pedagogy, and student thinking, then come join the fun!
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Pat Thompson helped me to be careful in my thinking and writing regarding mathematical ideas by avoiding thinking about them and describing them in realist terms.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in graduate school?

A: Get good mentors and surround yourself with people dedicated to your success.
Q: What do you think is misunderstood about math by the general public?

A; That math is about memorizing and applying formulas, instead of about reasoning about quantities and modeling the world we live in.
Q: When not studying, what do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

A: Tennis, cooking, ultimate frisbee, piano, hiking, traveling.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Continuing to work in my current position (residential faculty member in the mathematics department at Glendale Community College), and aim to present at conferences and publish from my dissertation.
Also, my dad retired recently and he wants to ride a bike across the country. It’s called the Transamerica Trail, from Yorktown, Virginia, and then 4,300 miles later you end up in Astoria, Oregon.

Since I work on a nine-month contract I have my summer off, I said, 'I’ll join you.' May 14th we start the trail. It will be three months of survival — that’s it. Where’s the next food? Where’s the next water? Where’s the next place to sleep? ... as we slowly inch our way across the U.S. map. (You can follow their journey online.)

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


Sun Devils earn President’s Service Award through volunteerism

June 4, 2019

Arizona State University students have been recognized once again with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for their commitment to their communities. Both individuals and groups of Sun Devils participated in thousands of collective hours of service to qualify for the 2018–19 award.

The award was established by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation in 2003 and honors the dedication and importance of those who give their time to serve their communities. Students volunteer at Devils in Disguise 2019 Students volunteer during Devils in Disguise 2019. Photo courtesy of Changemaker Central Download Full Image

The President's Volunteer Service Award is structured within three main tiers: bronze, silver and gold. The tiers are based on age and hours of service completed within a 12-month cycle.

For 2018–19, nine ASU students received gold (250 or more hours), five received silver (174–249 hours) and 15 received bronze (100–174.) Two students were repeat awardees from last year: Matthew Logelin and incoming Vice President of Policy for Tempe Undergraduate Student Government Trey Leveque, who both received gold. 

Eight university groups were awarded this year: University Service Learning and Alpha Kappa Psi – Iota Xi Chapter, who achieved gold; Devils Pitching In, who received silver; and National Society of Collegiate Scholars at ASU, Rotaract Club of ASU, Zero Waste, Pitchfork Pantry (Tempe and downtown Phoenix) and Arnold Air Society (Tex May Squadron), who received bronze.

Changemaker Central at ASU is a certifying partner for the award and confers it to participating individual students, clubs and organizations at the university. They help connect students with service opportunities throughout the year including monthly days of service and larger events like Devils in Disguise, where more than 1,000 volunteers serve on campus and in the community.

Natalie Zarasian, a sophomore studying supply chain management at the W. P. Carey School of Business, is the service chair for Changemaker Central. She believes that community service is a vital part of the Sun Devil experience.

“Community service allows for Sun Devils to become active members within their community and help make a positive impact,” Zarasian said. “Students are able to find their interest and passions by exploring different opportunities. They are also able to step out of their comfort zones and experience new opportunities that can lead them to truly making a positive change in society.”

Zarasian points out that the value of community service spreads far and wide.

“For ASU, they can take pride in the positive things their students are able to accomplish. For the greater community, they are able to interact with ASU students and see what Sun Devils are capable of. For younger members of the community, ASU volunteers can serve as an inspiration for the future and influence them to go to college and help out in the future.” 

Some of this year’s awardees offered their insights about community service and what they’ve learned through these experiences.

Stephanie CahillName: Stephanie Cahill

Academic College: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Major: Psychology

What new skills have you learned since beginning your service? I have learned that the more you volunteer and the more you expand your horizons, the more you learn from the people around you. You start out wanting to help others but you find those other people are actually helping you grow as a person

Matthew LogelinName: Matthew Logelin

Academic College: Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Major: Educational studies

What was your favorite volunteer experience? My favorite volunteer experience was volunteering at After the Bell After School Care in Glendale, Arizona. I assisted children with homework, built positive relationships with them and facilitated various activities. A few of these included baking, sports and recreational games. This experience helped give me an awareness of some of the issues children in low-income communities face and how we can solve them. This also gave me inspiring mentors and valuable leadership skills.

Maryam Abdul RashidName: Maryam Abdul Rashid

Academic College: School of Sustainability

Major: Sustainability

What was your favorite volunteer experience? My favorite volunteer experience was with Alpha Kappa Psi. It was a picnic that helped raise funds for foster children to come together and reconnect with each other even after they’ve been adopted.

Farizah AliName: Farizah Ali

Academic College: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Major: Biochemistry/global health  

What was your favorite volunteer experience? I really enjoyed volunteering to tutor elementary school students in the local refugee community and connecting to the kids.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Experiential learning: ASU students get jumpstart in Washington, D.C.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Capital Scholars Program gives students an opportunity to work, live in nation's capital

June 4, 2019

Alexandria Maese grew up knowing firsthand how international affairs hit home.

“My dad is a U.S. Army veteran, and so part of the direction I’ve taken has been to try to understand that perspective,” Maese said. “My mom came from Mexico as a student and has always emphasized the importance of school especially, because not everyone has the opportunity — I really took all of that to heart.” Alexandria Maese spent two months in Washington, D.C. as part of the The College's Capital Scholars Program. Alexandria Maese, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and concurrent minors in Italian and military leadership, spent two months in Washington, D.C., as part of the The College's Capital Scholars Program. Download Full Image

Alexandria Maese, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and concurrent minors in Italian and military leadership, spent two months in Washington, D.C., as part of the The College's Capital Scholars Program.Alexandria Maese, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and concurrent minors in Italian and military leadership, spent two months in Washington, D.C., as part of the The College's Capital Scholars Program.

Maese turned that knowledge into action at Arizona State University, declaring a political science major in The College of Liberal Arts and SciencesSchool of Politics and Global Studies, along with minors in Italian and military leadership. Outside the classroom, she interned at the Arizona Democratic Party and volunteered with community service and advocacy projects in the Valley.

By her junior year, she wanted to see how the topics she’d studied played out in real time on Capitol Hill. Scholarship support from The College helped her spend two months in Washington, D.C., as part of the Capital Scholars Program, where she interned with lobbying and consulting firm the Madison Group.

“D.C. was an amazing stepping stone because it made me realize that I wanted to go back to the capital, but not right away,” said Maese, who graduated in May. “Some of the best advice I received was to start by focusing on how I can impact Arizona.”

Finding common ground between local and global issues is no easy feat, but Maese said her experience allowed her to do just that. She spent her senior year as a research intern at Global Ties Arizona, the state wing of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor and Leadership Program.

Experience as a hiring prerequisite

A 2017 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found some 65% of employers consider field experience when hiring fresh graduates.

The preference is already understood by students — at ASU, almost 50% of undergraduates complete at least one internship before graduating.

Carol McNamara, associate director for public programs at The College’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, said opportunities in the nation’s capital serve as vital platforms for those with public service aspirations.

“There is nothing quite like spending a semester on Capitol Hill for understanding and appreciating the structure of American government, and means by which Americans govern ourselves,” said McNamara, also a senior lecturer at the school. “Students have the opportunity to make themselves a part of that process by engaging with political leaders, their staff and their constituents.”

Funding the future

But living and working in Washington, D.C., comes with its own set of hurdles. Student ambitions can be stymied by the financial strain of balancing a cross-country move with the demanding, and often low-paid, intern schedule. At The College, scholarship funds play a key role in filling the void.

That was the case for Nikki Hinshaw, who studies political science and communication through the School of Politics and Global Studies and Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Like Maese, funds from The College supported her internship with the Washington, D.C.-based McCain Institute Policy Design Studio in 2018.

Hinshaw spent the semester engulfed in foreign policy courses and international seminars through the program, all while completing an internship at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs.

“Without scholarships, I would not have been able to engage in these unpaid and often costly opportunities,” she said. “I hope that (with the experiences), I’m able to make a bigger impact on my community and give back to others someday as well.”

Matthew Jernstedt, a first-generation student who transferred from Phoenix College, used the McCain Institute Policy Design Studio internship to advance his foreign diplomacy aspirations. With the help of a recommendation letter from lifetime U.S. diplomat and current McCain Institute Senior Director Michael Polt, Jernstedt received the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship this year.

“I want to use my fellowship to advocate for the representation of first-generation and community college students in foreign policy,” said Jernstedt, who studies political science at The College’s School of Politics and Global Studies. “With great privilege, comes the responsibility to reach out and speak out on behalf of those who are underrepresented and may doubt whether competitive fellowships are even within their reach.”

Multifaceted opportunities

Some 25 students from the School of Politics and Global Studies engage in internships through the McCain Institute and the Capital Scholars Program yearly. But students from other majors also find opportunities there.

Kristy Dohnel, a history major in The College’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, became one of just two national recipients of the Dorothy Andrews Kabis Memorial Internship last month.

The opportunity, which honors former National Federation of Republican Women president Dorothy Andrews Kabis, sends recipients to the organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarters for a summer.

“The internship is vastly unique, covers my living costs, travel expenses and gives weekly stipends — an opportunity that is almost unheard of,” Dohnel said. “Learning how to deal with the hustle and bustle of D.C. is a skill that not many people have, and I am especially excited to hone many new skills.”

Experiences in Washington, D.C., are essential building blocks for students across The College and at ASU at large. Learn more about how you can help sustain opportunities for years to come.

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences