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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


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ASU Prep graduate balanced competitive swimming with earning 4.0 GPA

ASU Prep grad to become a Sun Devil, but first is Olympic training.
May 31, 2019

After training for 2020 Olympics, elite athlete will become a Sun Devil

In addition to economics and precalculus, Jarod Arroyo has spent the last year learning a lot about balance.

Arroyo, an elite swimmer, was in the first graduating class of ASU Prep Tempe charter high school in May, finishing with a 4.0 grade point average. With high school behind him, he’ll spend the next year focusing on training for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. After that, he’ll swim for Arizona State University.

“The key is staying on top of it and not getting behind,” Arroyo said of his life balancing school and swimming. His days started at 5 a.m., when he would swim for two hours on the ASU Tempe campus, then drive to school and go to classes, and then return to the pool for another three to four hours of swimming and conditioning. Then it was dinner, homework and mental conditioning before bed.

Arroyo, who is a member of the Puerto Rican national team, traveled frequently for competitions.

Jarod Arroyo

Jarod Arroyo (left) and Andre Arnold were the only two members of the first graduating class of ASU Prep Tempe. They were among 230 graduates of all the ASU Prep schools at the ceremony on May 24. Photo contributed by ASU Prep

“I have to be proactive,” he said.

“I went to Argentina for three weeks for the youth Olympics last fall and I got ahead on all my work and turned it in before I left and when I came back I was perfectly fine because I was proactive.

“I just have to make sure that I tell my teachers.”

In addition to working with his teachers, he was able to keep up because some of his work was done online. ASU Prep TempeThe other ASU Prep locations are in Casa Grande, south Phoenix, downtown Phoenix and on the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa. There are more than 3,000 students total in the ASU Prep system, not including the ASU Prep Digital online school. is a blended learning campus that infuses technology in the classroom. Arroyo, who had to take both Algebra 2 and precalculus this year, learned on the ALEKS adaptive learning platform, according to Joshua Roth, principal of ASU Prep Tempe.

“So as he gets problems right or wrong, it’s adapting to where he’s at, reinforcing things or letting him get ahead on things he does know,” Roth said. “Without that platform he wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

ASU Tempe Prep’s first graduating class included Arroyo and Andre Arnold, who became good friends.

With only 48 students, the underclassmen looked up to the two seniors, Roth said.

“Jarod’s a really good role model for all of our students,” he said. “Being a small school and trying to find an identity, we were really happy to have Jarod with that senior leadership, and his presence and his demeanor.”

Arroyo’s competitive swimming career has meant sacrifices for his family. He moved to the Valley from Utah in 2016 with his mother and sister to train with the Pitchforks Aquatics swim club and its head coach, Fernando Canales. But Arroyo’s father, a professor of physiology at Brigham Young University, stayed behind. His father is from Puerto Rico, which allowed Arroyo to join the national team at age 15.

“Someday, I think by achieving my goals, that will repay them because they’ll know it was worth it,” he said.

He credits his parents with encouraging him to take swimming lessons at age 4 — even though he was afraid of the water. By age 10, he knew swimming was for him.

“My parents made sure I played lots of different sports. I played basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis,” he said. “And when I was 10, they said, ‘You have to pick one’ so I chose swimming.”

This summer, Arroyo will compete in the Pan American games in Peru, where he could qualify for the 2020 Olympics, and possibly in the world championships in Korea. His specialty events are the 400- and 200-meter individual medley and the 200-meter butterfly.

“When I was 12, watching the Olympics would inspire me,” he said. “And when I watched them in 2016 was when I realized how close I was to qualifying."

Arroyo has idolized Michael Phelps, the swimming legend and most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 medals, and was thrilled when he got to meet him.

“He’s really chill and laid back. I thought he would be so intense but he’s the nicest guy,” he said.

Phelps’ coach was Bob Bowman, who is now head coach of Sun Devil swimming and diving, which Arroyo will join in fall 2020.

“I’m so excited to come to ASU because not only do they have amazing facilities, but the men’s team has a really good culture of excellence and that’s thanks to Bob Bowman,” said Arroyo, who plans to double major in business and kinesiology because he wants to be a chiropractor.

But for the next several months, all his energy will be on getting to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

“I like to visualize myself there,” he said. “That helps me to push through the hard practices toward the end goal.”

Stefanie Contreras, marketing and communications manager for ASU Prep, contributed to this story.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Engineering grad’s hard work secures a promising future

May 31, 2019

Five years ago, Amanda Thart had no idea she’d be embarking on her career as an engineer in the defense industry.

The recent electrical engineering master’s degree graduate from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University will begin a job as an electrical engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems in June. Amanda Thart Amanda Thart Download Full Image

When she began studies at ASU, Thart said, “I wanted to make an impact, but I had absolutely no idea how to go about it,” and the security field wasn’t even on her radar.

Her skills in math and science, and a special engineering program in high school called Project Lead the Way, led her to choose electrical engineering as a major. She found in ASU a college destination not too far away from her family but also a school that would give her the most opportunities, and she took full advantage of them.

“I was specifically drawn to ASU because there were a lot of extracurricular opportunities I wanted to get involved with, a lot of big companies were coming here looking for students and there are a lot of opportunities for undergraduate research,” she said. “I liked that."

Getting started in research early and jumping straight into to the ASU Grand Challenge Scholars Program opened door after door, especially in the security field, her chosen Grand Challenge theme.

Thart's first research project as a freshman was in Fulton Schools Assistant Professor Paulo Shakarian’s Cyber-Socio Intelligent Systems Lab. Her project involved looking at military events happening in Iraq and Syria and then identifying the causal relationship between them to predict what might happen next by using historical patterns and machine learning. The cross-disciplinary experience in Shakarian’s lab also gave her the first opportunity to be a co-author on peer-reviewed research journal articles.

“It was important for me to get involved in research that early, and Dr. Shakarian was willing to take me on even though I didn’t have any computer science experience,” Thart said. “My involvement (in Shakarian’s lab) opened the doors to so many things. I was not only able to get an introduction into computer science but I was also able to get an internship early.”

In addition to internships with Raytheon and Moog Broad Reach, Thart participated in the Engineering Projects in Community Service program, known as EPICS, at ASU and was a NASA Space Grant recipient. These experiences enabled her to apply her knowledge to hands-on engineering projects.

“Actually doing engineering and being in an engineering environment is different than learning things in class,” she said. “You’re never going to know what engineering is truly like until you take the knowledge you learn in class and apply it in a real-world setting.”

She also conducted research during her undergraduate years through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and for her thesis as an honors student in Barrett, The Honors College.

Thart joined the ASU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and was a member of the STEM sorority Phi Sigma Rho and the electrical engineering and computer science honor society Eta Kappa Nu.

Her most memorable moment at ASU was presenting at the NASA Space Grant Symposium during her junior year. Though she had been involved in undergraduate research since her freshman year, this experience was the first time she had presented her research to a crowd instead of at a poster session.

“It was specifically that moment that was significant because it felt important that I was standing there, presenting research that was backed by an organization like NASA,” she said. “It was something I never expected to do when I came to college.”

Thart’s undergraduate experience culminated with a Moeur Award, the prestigious honor given to students who earn a 4.0 GPA for all classes taken at ASU. She was especially proud of this achievement because of how challenging her classes were and it meant she had successfully pushed through the ups and downs of her engineering degree.

But her educational journey wasn’t over yet. She immediately moved into the 4+1 accelerated master’s degree program in electrical engineering. Pursuing an advanced degree was an easy decision for Thart as she always knew she wanted one — to follow in the footsteps of her mom. This spring, Thart joined more than 930 Fulton Schools graduates who earned master’s degrees.

During both her undergraduate and graduate studies, mentors such as Robin Hammond, director of the Fulton Schools Career Center, and coworkers at her internships helped her figure out what she wanted to do in her career and how to get there.

Finding a role model in Laura McGill, vice president of engineering at Raytheon, helped Thart see how she could use her engineering skills and be a leader.

“I wanted to not only focus on a technical aspect of a problem, but the problem as a whole and have a higher-level view of engineering,” Thart said. “(McGill) showed me this role was possible.”

She also started to return the favor by getting involved during her junior year as an EPICS High mentor for high school students involved in community service engineering projects, and as an Engineering Futures mentor for first-generation college freshmen. The opportunities reminded her of her own experience in the Project Lead the Way program and motivated her to help aspiring engineers discover their love for the field.

“I realized I had all this knowledge I’d gained in college that I wanted to pass on to people because I wanted to make sure they had the best chance of success,” Thart said. “I can inform freshmen how to get to their goals and how to use the tools available to them.”

Thart’s idea of success in her engineering career is to one day have a position as an engineering leader like McGill and to keep learning more about different fields of engineering and business.

She also wants to continue mentoring at ASU, especially to encourage more diversity in the field and close the gender gap she noticed as an engineer herself.

“I want to make sure I continue working with students to not only show them what engineering is, but show everyone that it could be a viable option for them,” Thart said. “I want to open the doors to engineering for more people.”

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Six grads illustrate why math is a great major for women

May 24, 2019

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

ASU Now caught up with six recent graduates from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, who talked about being Sun Devils, their experiences as women in STEM and what their plans are after graduation. Charly McCown Charly McCown Download Full Image

Charly McCown

Bachelor of Science in computational mathematical sciences
Gilbert, Arizona

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I am excited to take a little bit of vacation time and then start my career. I will work as a junior quantitative marketing analyst at Carvana on the quantitative marketing team. I am looking forward to this position because it requires the critical thinking and tech skills I learned while pursuing my degree and will allow me to follow my passion for data analysis. I am drawn to Carvana for many reasons, one being that they value mathematical backgrounds. This is important to me because I know they appreciate my education and understand its power. I am also excited to learn about marketing and how analytical skills can be applied for improved performance and results. Aside from my job, I hope to continue my part in encouraging women to pursue STEM careers.

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

A: After my first coding class (C++) as a freshman at a different university, I thought I would never code again and that it just was not for me. After my transfer to ASU, I had to take Java instead. I was upset about it, but I heard Java was a little easier, so I figured I would give it a shot. The professor was very clear that it was an introductory course, and she put forth such great effort to help first-time coders be successful and not be intimidated. I learned that I could code, and in fact, I was good at it! This completely changed my perspective and even the course of my education and career as I switched from math to computational math.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Sharon Crook has taught me many important lessons, but the one that resonates with me the most is one that I learned through her example rather than her teaching. As a part of her lab (ICON Lab), I have had the opportunity to get a closer look at what she does. She has been a role model to me as a woman and mother in STEM, and I am inspired when I hear of the things she is involved in like committees, grants, papers, traveling to conferences and more. I also see that through these busy times, she continues to make time to mentor and involve undergraduates such as myself in her research. She strives to provide me and other undergraduates with the opportunities we need to gain experience and be successful. She has taught me not only that it is possible to be a successful woman and mother in STEM, but also the importance of helping others find that success as well.

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

A: My best advice is to be proactive in your education and gaining experience, as well as forming genuine relationships with people. Actively search out opportunities to get involved with clubs, research, internships, jobs, events and groups that will give you the experience you need. Make friends and connections in your major and other majors, form study groups, meet as many people as you can, and form authentic connections with those people. Support your peers and help them find success. Remember the people who have influenced your path and helped you along the way, then give back by taking opportunities to be that person for someone else.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public? 

A: Mathematics is not just arithmetic. Mathematics majors are not human calculators, and it does not discredit their mathematical ability if they do not calculate your arithmetic problem on the spot.

Q: Why is mathematics a great major for women to pursue in college?

A: Mathematics is a great major for women because it is empowering. Options give you power, and if any degree is going to give you options, it is a math degree. It is also a great major for those unsure of what they want to do, since the skills learned are very transferrable over different fields and can be applied in many different ways. Additionally, the skills learned in a math degree are sought after by employers, which allows for a wide array of options for the future — whether it be in academia or industry.

Q: What advice would you share with undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a math major?

A: If you are considering pursuing a math major, then do it! It is not an easy path by any means, but it is very possible to be successful! It was a quite fulfilling major for me, and there were a few things about it that I would like to point out. When pursuing a degree in math, try to be proactive about finding what you are passionate about. That does not mean you have to figure it out any time soon, but get exposure to what's out there, because there is A LOT out there. The variety of ways you can apply your math degree means you are likely to find something you are excited about. Another would be to get support from many different places. You are not doing this alone. Support and advice from peers, clubs, professors, mentors, bosses, family, friends, and even successful people you have never met but would like to, can be invaluable, and many times you need to be the one to reach out and ask for it. Finally, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. You own your future, and whatever you choose should be what will lead you to what you want in life. In many of my classes, as a woman, I was the minority. Don't let this intimidate you — let it motivate and empower you.

Sierra Murphy

Sierra Murphy

Bachelor of Science in mathematics, Bachelor of Science in biological sciences (biomedical sciences), Bachelor of Arts in chemistry
Marin County, California 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will continue researching cancer vaccines at the ASU Biodesign Institute. I plan to start medical school in Fall 2020.

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

A: I learned that I love research. I never imagined this for myself. I though research would be too difficult or frustrating or boring. It isn’t. It’s the root of science: experiment. I love research especially because all of my majors factor into it. Biology is the main subject (cancer vaccines) but the data analysis/interpretation/designing the experiment is mathematics, and chemistry is all the tests we use to identify information about the tissues etc.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Don Jones taught me that there is a difference between learning to learn and learning to pass a class. This has really helped me prioritize knowledge over scores.

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

A: Be good to you and be proud of yourself, first and foremost. Empower rather than compete. Be authentic to who you are. One of the best decisions I made in college was to not share my grades/test scores. Coming from a pre-med background, I saw so many people lose themselves to stress and competition and what looks best on their resume. I realized that comparing grades only succeeds in making someone feel bad. So now when people ask, I politely decline. After I made this decision, I started to become less of a perfectionist and truly accepted myself. I became proud of my efforts rather than my scores.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public?

A: I think everyone has some form of math anxiety because they think they’re not good at it. Yes, there are people who start out with a natural mathematics ability, but mathematics can be learned if you keep an open mind. Anyone is capable of improving in math. I also think you don’t necessarily need to be extremely good at math to gain from it. Math teaches you so much, not just content wise, but it teaches you how to problem solve. So I think the most misunderstood thing is that mathematicians never fail, I believe we fail the most, but we also get back up one time more than we fail.

Q: Why is mathematics a great major for women to pursue in college?

A: Mathematics is a great major because it develops skills that directly translate to life. It challenges you to keep working until you find solutions to complex problems and teaches you to pursue your goals with tenacity. This is especially important for young women because there will always be people telling them that they’re not capable. To that, I say, the ceilings wouldn’t be made of glass if we weren’t meant to see beyond them.

Q: What advice would you share with undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a math major?

A: My advice to undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a major in mathematics is to never compare yourself to your peers and instead look at how far you’ve come. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and definitely lend help whenever you can. Build connections: I met two of my best friends through mathematics at ASU. These women are ambitious, intelligent, kind, inspiring, strong and unstoppable.

Emily Rumney

Emily Rumney

Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and a Bachelor of Music in violin performance
Tucson, Arizona 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In the fall, I will begin a two-year Master of Music degree program in violin performance at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where I will be studying under the guidance of Almita Vamos and MingHuan Xu.

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

A: One thing that has surprised me was how I was able to find such a tight community in what at first seemed like an impossibly large school.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The most important lesson I learned while at ASU was to believe I was capable of tackling difficult problems, whether in mathematics or in playing the violin, and to persist in my efforts to solve those problems. My violin professor, Dr. Katherine McLin, has held me to a very high standard of performance while giving me support and encouragement along the way, and has helped me to transform my playing. Dr. Matthias Kawski’s Introduction to Topology course pushed me to think about more abstract concepts than I ever had before, but by working hard to understand the details of the theory I was able to grasp some truly beautiful mathematical results.

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

A: Focus on your studies and persevere in your own work; try to allow yourself to be inspired by the strengths of the students around you, and try to learn from them.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public?

A: I think it’s that mathematical thinking requires practice, just like any skill, and that most people who write themselves off as lacking mathematical talent have just not had the opportunity to develop that skill.

Q: Why is mathematics a great major for women to pursue in college?

A: Mathematics can be so empowering and satisfying. There have been countless moments during my mathematics degree that I have figured out a problem after being stuck on it for a while. Getting to the mathematical truth behind an answer simultaneously gives me great satisfaction and leaves me wanting to tackle another problem in order to know more. You’ll also find that mathematics is a very versatile major, and the kind of thinking and problem-solving it teaches you is invaluable. It might seem like you need to have your career planned out already, or know what kind of research you want to do, but that’s really not the case. At the beginning of my undergraduate degree, I didn’t know whether I would be going to grad school for music or for mathematics. Over the past two years, I had to make the choice, and I opted to apply for master’s programs in music. However, even if I could do my undergrad all over again with this knowledge, I would still have double majored. The time I invested in my math degree was well-spent because of the ways my math studies challenged me to take new approaches to problems and to persevere in my efforts to solve them.

Q: What advice would you share with undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a math major?

A: If you enjoy math enough to be considering a math major, I would encourage you to go for it! It can be intimidating to enter a field where women continue to be underrepresented, and you may feel you have to prove yourself or to have clear goals in mind for your future career. However, the most important thing is really to challenge yourself and work hard, because the reward of learning is so great. Try to focus on your studies and on improving your own mathematical abilities rather than comparing yourself to others, as difficult as that can be sometimes. Pursuing math for its own sake is so rewarding if you love it. You may already have career plans, but even if you don’t, and just know that you like math, that’s completely fine too. Mathematics is such a broad discipline, and you can take a range of math classes in order to find out what excites you the most. Additionally, our undergraduate math degree programs here at ASU will leave you quite a bit of latitude to explore your own mathematical interests and to receive credit for doing so, so there is a wealth of opportunity for you to define and pursue your own path.

Jessica Campos

Jessica Campos

Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics with a secondary education teaching certification
Springerville, Arizona

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I will attend Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a 2019 Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow to pursue my master's.

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

A: During the second semester of my freshman year at ASU, I enrolled in Dr. Marilyn Carlson’s MAT 207 course. Before beginning my college career, I thought that teaching math was going to be easy and that I would simply be able to show students how I learned it and they would follow along and instantly understand! I now know that in order for students to truly learn and grow, I cannot confine them to my own acquisition of knowledge and understanding. The Pathways to Calculus Curriculum co-developed by Dr. Carlson challenges teachers and students alike to reimagine mathematics in a new and more productive way. When I first encountered the Pathways Curriculum in Dr. Carlson’s course, I was very apprehensive to step outside of my own mathematical and pedagogical comfort zone. However, after witnessing classmates transform and discover their mathematical ability through innovative curriculum and discussions, I could not see myself approaching mathematics or teaching mathematics in any other way. I am very glad to have studied under Dr. Carlson and hope to cultivate the same mathematical mindset in my future classroom.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: During my time at ASU the most important lesson I learned was to embrace my personality. Dr. Jay Abramson was the very first professor I encountered at ASU during my summer as a student of the Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program. Every day Jay (as he would insist we call him) would walk into the classroom and immediate take off his sandals at the front of the room. He would always stumble in one to two minutes before lecture began, somehow balancing a coffee thermos, a Rockstar energy drink, a huge messenger bag overflowing with papers, and a plethora of colored pens, highlighters and Dry Erase Markers in his hands. I had never encountered a more quirky teacher in my life. He was easily one of the best professors I have had the pleasure of taking at ASU, he was comfortable with his personality and that showed through his love for teaching and interacting with students.

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

A: The best piece of advice I can give to students is “Find purpose in your passion. If the path you choose makes you equally nervous and excited you will never get bored or become complacent with your life.”

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public?

A: Mathematics is generally misunderstood by the general public as a series of steps to be followed in a particular order to produce a solution. However, I believe that the beauty of mathematics lies in the mindset. All the equations and algorithms that are often associated with mathematics are all the result of centuries of meticulous arguments and theories developed by men and women who dedicated their lives to problem solving and exploration.

Q: Why is mathematics a great major for women to pursue in college?

A: The reason why math is a great major for women to pursue is because math is beautiful and loving to learn more about it doesn’t make you “nerdy,” it makes you fierce! Being a math major has empowered me both as a young woman and a Mexican American to have the confidence to challenge myself and try new things. Math is viewed by many as a difficult subject to study, so being one of the few people who have the opportunity to call themselves a “math major” I am honored to belong to such a unique, strong and intellectual community of scholars worldwide!

Q: What advice would you share with undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a math major?

A: Find value in failure. The most important lesson you can learn is to let yourself fail at something you really care about. Your academic abilities are not static or unchangeable, YOU have the power to develop new and stronger skills but only if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and be faced with the possibility of failure. 

Hailey Walters

Hailey Walters

Bachelor of Science in actuarial science
Gilbert, Arizona

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be working an internship with Allstate Insurance in Chandler, Arizona. In the fall, I will be returning to ASU to pursue a master's degree in actuarial science. I'm excited to see what opportunities are in store for me beyond that!

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

A: I was surprised that my professors would be so willing to become invested in my education, career and growth. Once I discovered that each professor was so prepared to spend time answering my questions and helping me, it really solidified my decision to work towards a master’s degree for a chance to teach students in the future and help them in the same way.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Jelena Milovanovic taught me many lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my academic and professional life. I was able to participate in many of my college experiences that prepared me for real work thanks to her, and being around her has helped me develop my work ethic and leadership skills immensely.

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

A: I would highly recommend frequently taking a step back to enjoy being on campus. Take advantage of the events held for students, meet new people and go to sports events. Don’t be too focused on graduating too quickly just to look impressive.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public?

A: The general public believes that mathematics is a concept that one either understands and is amazing at, or does not understand at all. The reality is that there are so many places in between where people can learn about the specific math that they are interested in and that applies to their lives, without having to get a degree in it.

Q: Why is mathematics a great major for women to pursue in college?

A: Mathematics is a great major for anyone to pursue because it can really prepare you for any role. The problem-solving and analytical skills that you learn in such a major will really benefit you anywhere you choose to work.

Q: What advice would you share with undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a math major?

A: I would tell others to never shy away from a challenge. You're capable of more than you know, and as long as you're confident and willing to put in the work, you will succeed beyond your expectations. Make friends with students in your math classes, because getting together to discuss things from multiple perspectives is always helpful. Don't forget to befriend your professors as well! They're here to help you and they're always willing to answer your questions; you just have to ask them! They want to see you succeed, too. So overall, my advice is to really make the best of your time in college, because it will be over before you know it.

Samantha Brozak

Samantha Brozak

Bachelor of Science in mathematics and a certificate in secondary education
Gilbert, Arizona

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’ll be teaching eighth grade math at Greenfield Junior High School. I’m very excited to show students how useful and fun math can be! This is a critical stage for students in their math education as well as their social, emotional and psychological development.

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

A: I learned that failure is a part of the process. There are going to be times where everything breaks and that is just science. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it just means you have to find a new perspective or another paper or different process.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Abba Gumel, hands down. As a mentor, he always had high expectations and provided great advice. Dr. Gumel taught me to be confident in my abilities and rigorous in my work. He also knows all of the good coffee shops.

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

A: Branch out of your area of study and see where you can apply your knowledge in other fields, or just see what else you like! The most interesting work is collaborative, interdisciplinary work.

Q: What is most misunderstood about mathematics by the general public? 

A: “Math people” are a pervasive myth. No one is born a “math person.” It takes practice, patience, and curiosity, just like any other skill or hobby. Math isn’t finished yet, either! I told my seventh graders I did mathematical research and they just couldn’t comprehend that we don’t know everything about math yet.

Q: Why is mathematics a great major for women to pursue in college?

A: Math is more than just crunching numbers. The tools and skills I gained from my math major are invaluable. I’ve learned mathematical concepts that are relevant in tons of fields. However, I’ve also learned how to be resourceful, persistent, precise and methodical. Most importantly, I now know that I can handle whatever is thrown at me, whether that’s a math problem I’ve been working at for hours or an unruly student who refuses to learn.

Q: What advice would you share with undergraduate women thinking of pursuing a math major?

A: You don’t have to be a “math person,” those don’t exist. Math takes practice just like anything else. Ask questions. Be disciplined, but don’t forget to sleep. It will catch up with you. Be persistent. Learn to code, even if it’s just to check your work. It’ll open up tons of doors when paired with a math major.

Sometimes, you may be one of five of women in a 40-person lecture hall. You are just as capable as anyone in that room. If you don’t see anyone who looks like you, pave the way and be the person you needed, whoever that is.

Rhonda Olson

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


Reimagined hospital bed minimizes risk of pressure ulcers

Online team’s invention wins the Palais Senior Design Prize

May 24, 2019

Electrical engineering students in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering completed their final capstone course with a bang. And for one team, it also ended with an award and the reward of carrying out a project that makes a difference for patients staying in hospitals.

Seniors worked on a two-semester design project to fulfill all of the academic requirements for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering while gaining experience to prepare for the workplace. The course culminated at Demo Day with students presenting projects to the public in trade-show fashion. someone holding a smartphone with a doll laying on a bed in background Hadassah Fromowitz, a senior in the electrical engineering program in Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, operates the mobile interface of the Personal Care E-ssistant, a reimagined hospital bed designed to minimize the risk of pressure ulcers. Photo courtesy of Hadassah Fromowitz Download Full Image

“This is very much ‘finishing school’ for electrical engineers,” said Michael Kozicki, the senior design program coordinator and a professor of electrical engineering in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the six Fulton Schools.

“The goal is to make our students extremely valuable in the job market. Yes, we produce highly technical individuals — four years of a rigorous curriculum will do this — but our differentiator is the soft skills we instill through the capstone.” 

Fifty-six senior design teams competed in the spring semester electrical engineering Demo Day. The projects ran the gamut from solar-powered battery chargers and smart photovoltaics converters to an automated pool chemical system and an evacuation indicator system. Each project integrated multiple facets of electrical engineering and other disciplines to solve a societal challenge.

For the first time in Demo Day history, a team of online students claimed the Palais Senior Design Prize with a design for a reimagined hospital bed.

The Palais Senior Design Prize was established in 1998 to recognize the best senior design project in electrical engineering. The award is presented each semester to a student team whose capstone design project demonstrates technical prowess and clear value for society. Students also must communicate their research, design efforts and outcomes in ways that can be understood by people other than scientists and engineers.

Winners of the competition receive a small cash prize funded by Professor Emeritus Joseph Palais.

“The majority of our online teams are superbly well organized. The online students know how to plan and execute,” said Kozicki. “However, performing a team project, and particularly a hardware project when the team members are spread around the planet, is a huge challenge that involves an extra level of determination and an additional modicum of ingenuity.”

photo of a patient's room

An overview of the subsystems and features of the Personal Care E-ssistant, an updated design of a hospital bed to relieve and prevent pressure ulcers. The bed was created by a team of electrical engineering students as part of their capstone senior design project. Photo courtesy of Hadassah Fromowitz

Personal Care E-ssistant, a project worthy of the Palais Prize

Under the mentorship of Associate Professor Pavan Turaga, electrical engineering seniors Makayla Donaldson, Hadassah Fromowitz, Robert Graves, Olivia Ruthven and Timothy Sparks designed and built a hospital bed called the Personal Care E-ssistant that minimizes the risk of pressure ulcers.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and a recent study, more than 2.5 million individuals in the U.S. develop pressure ulcers annually and an estimated 60,000 Americans die each year as a direct result of pressure ulcers. The team worked together on a solution to address this large-scale issue.

The inspiration for the project came from one of Fromowitz’s relatives whose spouse was bedridden due to medical complications. Distraught about the damage to his skin, infections and wounds that required multiple dressing changes, she asked if Fromowitz could do something to prevent the bed sores.

Other team members had similar memories of relatives in hospital settings. They jumped at the chance to help create a solution that would not only improve the standard of care and quality of life for bedridden patients but also reduce the risk of caregiver injury.

“There are many factors that contribute to the formation of pressure ulcers,” said Fromowitz. “Our bed works by targeting three of the main concerns: prolonged pressure, poor blood circulation and shear and friction.”

Prolonged pressure occurs when a patient lays in the same position for an extended period of time. Caregivers can alleviate pressure by rotating the patient 30 degrees to their side periodically. However, it’s not always easy for caregivers to rotate patients on a consistent schedule.

The Personal Care E-ssistant makes rotating the patient easy. The caregiver simply presses a button on a remote control or a wireless interface, and the patient is tilted 30 degrees. Caregivers can also set a timer to have the E-ssistant automatically rotate a patient at scheduled intervals.

Graves designed the bed rotation subsystem with two linear actuators (a component of a machine that provides controlled movements) programmed to raise and lower the left and right sides of the bed. The bed can be adjusted from a handheld remote, mobile device or computer terminal.

Poor blood circulation is a result of patient immobility, which leads to cell death and eventually skin and muscle breakdown. Caregivers can move the patient’s extremities to increase blood flow and lessen the likelihood of skin breakdown.

Ruthven designed, coded and built the bed’s passive motion that allows caretakers to increase patients’ blood circulation without manually moving them. Caregivers can set up an automated cycle whereby the patient’s upper body and legs are slowly raised and lowered according to a schedule.

“This feature decreases the risks of caretakers hurting themselves during the process of moving the patient and the patient hurting themselves during the process of being moved,” said Ruthven. “If any problem occurs during the passive movement, the stop button can be used to cease all movement.”

Shear ensues when a patient slips down in bed and gravity pushes downward on the patient’s body. Friction is the force created by the patient’s body rubbing against the bed sheets. A combination of both can result in pressure ulcers.

Donaldson worked on a safety sensor subsystem to detect when patients are positioned too high or too low in bed and notify a caregiver. If patients need to be lifted, the conveyor belt feature in the mattress can be activated to reposition patients without further damaging their skin.

“The conveyor belt rolls in the direction specified so the patient is moved back into place without being dragged across the sheet,” said Fromowitz, who developed the plans for the conveyor belt and wrote the code to run this subsystem. “This also helps keep caregivers from injuring themselves while pulling heavy patients into place.”

Fromowitz also designed and built the bed frame in collaboration with a carpenter to ensure all features could work in unison. She then integrated all the subsystems into a final prototype with the help of the original subsystem designer.

Sparks confirmed each of the subsystems worked with Wi-Fi and the bed’s control interface system. He also integrated a number of different microcontrollers so they could be controlled remotely.

“The team was extremely organized and had superlative project management skills,” said faculty mentor Turaga. “Everyone was motivated and eager to contribute.”

Completing the project completely online

The winning senior design team had members in California, New York, Ohio and Tennessee. As students in the Fulton Schools’ online electrical engineering program, they understood the challenges of working remotely, so they honed the communication and planning skills necessary to make the project successful.

“Working online means there has to be a serious effort in communicating specs and details very clearly so everything can come together and fit in the end,” said Fromowitz. “It also required splitting up the work and then setting clear goals and deadlines so everyone’s schedule could be accommodated and still get our project done and our work submitted on time.”

Team members communicated via Slack for daily conversations, Google Hangouts for group conference calls and Google Team Drive for document sharing. Their tasks were tracked in an online project management tool called Asana.

“In most traditional capstone projects, the defining experience is one of teamwork and collaboration intended to prepare students to enter the workforce with sufficient soft skills in addition to discipline-specific skills,” said Turaga. “The notion that such skills can be developed online has been met with skepticism. That’s why I feel this online team's output is so impressive, and the fact that they won the Palais Prize is even more remarkable.”

Team members were stunned when they found out they had won the Palais Prize, especially because of the range of innovative senior projects presented at Demo Day.

“Our team is very happily surprised we were the first online team to win this honored prize,” said Fromowitz.

“Working remotely, sometimes it’s hard to tell if our work is being given the same attention as the work of those students on campus. We miss out on the nod or smile from the instructor that shows us we’re doing OK,” she said. “Winning this prize was an affirmation that online students are being equally considered and was a very satisfying ‘nod and smile’ from the team of judges.”

Amanda Stoneman

Science Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering