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On campus - ASU News - Arizona State University

On campus - ASU News - Arizona State University

6 O c t O b e r 2, 2009

6 O c t O b e r 2, 2009 Rittmann receives top award at annual Arizona science event In BRIEF (Continued from page 1) Such solutions are vital to the future of the Southwest, where Colorado River water is used by seven states. Rittmann is part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, such as biodiesel. To improve human health, his research team’s collaboration with the Methuselah Foundation is exploring how to mitigate aging by identifying naturally occurring microbes to clean up the “junk” that accumulates in our bodies. In addition, in an innovative study with partner Mayo Clinic Arizona, Rittmann’s group explored the causes of obesity by identifying microbial communities to offer new clues in the body weight differences in average, obese and gastric bypass subjects. “They’ve discovered a dramatic difference between people who are obese and average weight in the types of bacteria that colonize the human gut,” says Alan Nelson, the executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “It really changes the whole paradigm of how we think of obesity, as a key factor may include controlling the bacterial population of the human gut.” The association’s annual awards ceremony, the largest gathering of Arizona’s bioscience community, took place Sept. 24 at the Arizona Grand Resort. Caspermeyer, with the Biodesign Institute, can be reached at (480) 727-0369 or New meal plans for faculty, staff No need to brown bag it Oct. 8. Sun Devil Dining is unveiling their new faculty and staff meal plans. Eat at any of the residential restaurants – Pitchforks in the Memorial Unioin, Manzy Square in Manzanita, Hassayampa or Taylor Place on the Downtown Phoenix campus – for $5 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you want to continue with this price, you can purchase a Faculty & Staff Dining Plan online at or by calling the Dining Office at (480) 727-3463. Faculty and staff also can choose from a variety of meal plans specifically designed to meet their individual needs. The residential restaurants feature varied menus with tastes from around the world including Italian, Mexican and traditional American. Each restaurant features a daily vegetarian or vegan entrée, in addition to soups and salad bars. Before you head out for lunch, check the menu at any location in advance online at Can’t make lunch on this day? You still can receive the discounted rate by visiting the Web site Student organization works for change This semester ASU has revived an organization that was previously on campus called Support for International Change (SIC). This student organization is being sponsored by Bert Jacobs and the international nonprofit group Support for International Change. The SIC chapter at ASU is available for students at all ASU campuses to join. The group focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and education, and focuses its work in Sub-Saharan Africa. Members of this organization will assist with fundraising events, social support and community awareness activities. This opportunity is open to students in many different areas of study from medicine to education, and all are welcome. First fall meeting of Faculty Women’s Club The first fall meeting of ASU’s Retired Faculty Wives/ Faculty Women’s Club will attempt to bring some clarity to America’s plan to reform the national health care system. Ken Kirschner, the former director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) and current state president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Arizona, will discuss health care reform at the club’s Oct. 12 meeting at Shalimar Country Club, 2032 E. Golf Ave., Tempe, following a noon luncheon. All retired ASU faculty women and spouses of ASU retired faculty members are invited to attend the group’s meetings that take place the second Monday of each month from October through May. Future speakers will address such topics as planned upgrades of Papago Park, a possible easing of Cuban-American relations, turning around the criminal mind, bygone days at ASU and women in Afghanistan. For reservations, or to learn more about upcoming programs, please contact Ann Patterson at (480) 967-5228 or ASU Retirees Association plans China trip The ASU Retirees Association (ASURA) Travel Com- ASU seeks nominations for founders’ Day Awards By Liz Massey Seeking to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the Arizona State University Alumni Association and the ASU community, the Alumni Association is accepting nominations for its annual Founders’ Day Awards. The awards will be presented at the Founders’ Day 2010 celebration, scheduled to take place at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa Feb. 24, 2010. The nomination deadline is 5 p.m., Oct. 21. Nominations are being accepted in four categories: The Alumni Achievement Award is presented to an alumnus who has excelled in his or her profession and contributed to ASU and/or the ASU Alumni Association and the community. The Young Alumni Achieve- mittee is planning a trip to China for members and their friends next May. The 22-day educational tour will include a visit to the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, a three-day cruise on the Yangtze, the Ming Tombs, the Forbidden City and much more. There will be an informational meeting for interested travelers at 2 p.m., Oct. 9, in the Tempe Public Library Connections Room to answer questions and review the itinerary. The library is located on the southwest corner of Rural and Southern. Members and interested travelers can access a complete itinerary and information by visiting the ASURA Web site at They also can call the ASURA office at (480) 965-7668 or e-mail Gary Anderson, the trip leader, at Information sessions for doctoral students Individuals interested in pursuing the doctoral degree in leadership and innovation offered by Arizona State University’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) can meet with faculty and current students at one of four upcoming information sessions. Sessions will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Oct. 15, Nov. 12, Dec. 3 and Jan. 14, in the faculty/staff lounge, room 240, of the University Center Building on ASU’s West campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix. Light refreshments will be served. Sessions are identical, so there is no need to attend more than one. RSVPs are requested at (602) 543-6358, via e-mail at or online at CTEL’s doctoral degree in leadership and innovation is designed for working professional educators. The next group of students admitted to the three-year program will begin their studies next summer. The application deadline is Jan. 31. “Our program has proven extremely popular with educators who want to become more thoughtful, intentional and informed leaders, whether they work in a K-12 setting or with adult learners,” says Suzanne Painter, the program director and CTEL’s chair of graduate studies and professional development. “Putting research into action is a key focus of the program. Students conduct multiple studies to learn by doing and to bring about change based upon scholarship.” Last May, the program’s inaugural cohort of students celebrated their graduation. Of the 20 Arizona educators who started work on the program in 2006, all 20 successfully completed their doctoral degrees. More information about this and other CTEL graduate programs is available online at programs/graduate. ASU helps lead community partnerships Members of the Greater Phoenix community are invited to join Arizona State University faculty, administrators and students Oct. 14 to discuss new ways to collaborate and develop partnerships that are mutually beneficial. The community dialogues, “Partnerships for Purpose: Innovation, Cultural Capitol and Resilience,” will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., in the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus. ment Award is presented to an alumnus who attended ASU within the last 15 years, has excelled in his or her profession and has contributed to ASU and/or the ASU Alumni Association and the community. Staff Achievement Award is presented to an ASU staff member whose outstanding contributions to ASU have enhanced significantly the well-being and reputation of ASU within the community at large. Faculty Achievement is presented to faculty members who have demonstrated exemplary contributions in any of three categories: teaching, research and service. Typically, the Alumni Association honors one faculty member in each category each year. In addition to the awards presented by the Alumni Association, the ASU Foundation will present its Philanthropist of the Year award at the Founders’ Day event. First celebrated in 1960 on the eve of the institution’s 75th anniversary, Founders’ Day salutes the pioneering spirit of those who helped the university’s predecessor, the Tempe Normal School, become a reality on March 7, 1885. The Alumni Association began its tradition of presenting Founders’ Day Awards in 1964. To make a nomination for the 2010 Founders’ Day Awards, visit the Web site foundersday/awards. Massey, with the ASU Alumni Association, can be reached at (480) 965-3701 or The event, conducted by University Design Consortium at ASU, will focus on salient issues facing the community and university. National and local experts will lead the discussions, and audience participation is highly encouraged. Panel sessions will address the following questions: • How should ASU help to make the region more innovative (beyond teaching and research)? • What are the characteristics of a truly reciprocal partnership between university and community? • What should ASU do to maximize knowledge transfer? • How should the university contribute to the development of cultural capital/talent in the region? • What can ASU do to make metropolitan Phoenix a more resilient region? “Community embeddedness is one of ASU’s top priorities, and participants will develop specific recommendations for action to further enhance the strong links between the Phoenix community and the university,” says Kathryn Mohrmann, the director of the University Design Consortium. The keynote speaker is Eugenie Birch, the co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Urban Research and a professor in Penn’s Department of City and Regional Planning. ASU President Michael Crow also will speak at the event. Admission is free. RSVPs are encouraged. For information, call or e-mail Fang Jiang at (602 )496-1176 or fang. For a complete list of panelists, visit the Web site http:// ASU invites children to enter contest ASU is inviting schoolchildren from all over the state to enter its 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. essay-poster contest. Winners will receive savings bonds and have their entries displayed at ASU. They also will be honored at ASU’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration breakfast in January, along with their parents, teachers and school principals. Entries must be postmarked by Nov. 4. ASU started the contest 25 years ago to encourage children to discuss the ideals of the late civil-rights leader with their parents and teachers. Students are asked to create their entries around the theme, “Beyond the Dream: Building Communities Through Servant Leadership,” focusing on a member of their family, school or community who demonstrates leadership through service. Essays or poems depicting the theme must be 250 words or less. The winning posters will be made into bookmarks, so they must be oblong in shape – as small as 4 1/2 inches by 11 inches, but no larger than 6 3/4 by 17 inches. Prizes are $150, $100 and $75 savings bonds. Entries in each of the three categories will be judged by grade level: primary (Kindergarten through second grade), intermediate (third through fifth grade), middle (sixth through eighth grade) and secondary (ninth through 12th grade). Winning entries will be chosen on the basis of originality, clarity, creativity and best depiction of the theme. Entry forms will be posted on the Web site For more information, or to request entry forms in the mail, call Heidi Maxwell at (602) 543-5306 or e-mail

O c t O b e r 2, 2009 Research grants target today’s urgent social, scientific challenges (Continued from page 1) The goal of ASU’s new center is to design and construct a synthetic system that uses sunlight to convert water cheaply and efficiently into hydrogen fuel and oxygen. Society requires a renewable source of fuel that is widely distributed, abundant, inexpensive and environmentally clean. The use of solar energy to produce a clean fuel such as hydrogen is essentially the only process that can satisfy these criteria at a scale large enough to meet the world’s energy demands. Plants and similar organisms use photosynthesis to oxidize water, producing oxygen and fuel compounds such as carbohydrate and hydrogen. The system to be developed in the ASU center will be designed using principles borrowed from these natural processes. “This grant will allow us to put together a complete system that starts with the absorption of sunlight and ends with the creation of a clean fuel, such as hydrogen,” says Devens Gust, an ASU professor of chemistry and biochemistry and the director of the new center. “It also will provide resources to educate students at all levels about renewable energy, and it could lead to whole new industries,” Gust says. Easier diagnosis of pediatric TB A grant of $107,700 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Robert Husson at Children’s Hospital in Boston and Joshua LaBaer, the director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Medicine at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, will improve methods for detecting tuberculosis (TB) in children. An accelerating TB epidemic in settings where HIV is highly prevalent demands new tools for TB control. One area of great need, especially for pediatric TB, is improved diagnosis. The standard approach of sputum smear microscopy and culture are insensitive, especially in children and in HIV-infected persons of all ages. They also require laboratory resources and skilled personnel. LaBaer has been working with his colleague in Boston on new, high throughput technologies in the field of functional proteomics, which seeks to understand the roles that proteins play in the human body. In this project, LaBaer will produce microscopic arrays of Mycobacterium (Continued from page 1) Research shows context is critical for student understanding of mathematical concepts and skills. Modeling makes the mental connection between math and science through meaningful activity, which leads to the development of mathematical ways of thinking about scientific phenomena. The Modeling Institute is designed to engage and empower teachers and their students as they work directly with bench scientists in systematic and sustainable education programs and scientific communities. The project director is Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz, an assistant professor with ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership and a longtime practitioner of modeling instruction in high school physics and physical science. A recent ASU doctoral degree graduate, Megowan-Romanowicz says she specifically chose ASU for her doctoral studies to learn about modeling instruction from David Hestenes, a professor emeritus of physics who pioneered modeling workshops for high school teachers 20 years ago. “This is something that I have been preparing to do for 35 years,” Megowan-Romanowicz says. “To actually be able to create a modeling program using the very best products of my colleagues from all over the ASU colleges is a dream assignment.” In addition to serving as a hub for NSF-funded STEM education initiatives at ASU, Megowan-Romanowicz says the project will push middle school teacher preparation and best practices in modeling instruction to the forefront of this work. “There is no reason that instruction based on conceptual models and the practices of modeling wouldn’t work in any subject at any grade level, so we are designing these courses with this best practice in mind,” she says. The first spark of interest in the project was ignited by Melinda Romero, the executive director of staff development and instructional services with the Chandler Unified School District. Concerned about the lack of highly qualified middle school math and science teachers, Romero approached ASU about providing certified elementary school teachers with the higher level of content knowledge needed to increase student achievement within the STEM disciplines. While there is an abundance of certified elementary school teachers, Romero says the school district has few qualified applicants for middle school math and science teaching assignments. “We felt we weren’t tapping into the elementary certified teachers who have an interest in STEM, but don’t have the coursework tuberculosis proteins that can be screened with patient serum to identify antigens that can be used to develop new tests for TB in children. Helping children improve their oral language A $130,527 grant from the NIH is helping ASU’s Shelley Gray research the challenges that children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) face in trying to understand and use new words. Children with SLI often have poor vocabularies. It is not that they cannot learn new words, but they require significantly more exposure to new words before they can store sufficient phonological and semantic information to recognize and produce them. This has a negative impact on their oral language and literacy development, especially reading comprehension. This project is investigating whether phonological or semantic encoding, or retrieval cues, help children with SLI learn new words faster, says Gray, an associate professor of speech and hearing science at ASU. “Faster word learning will result in a larger vocabulary,” Gray says. “This is crucial for preventing reading comprehension problems and for closing the academic gap between children with SLI and children with typical language development as they progress through school.” Child development and immigrant adaptation School can be tough on any child, but for children new to the United States, it can become an ordeal as they try to acclimate to a new school and a new country. With a $221,575 NIH grant, Jennifer Glick, an ASU associate professor in the School of Social and Family Dynamics, will take an integrative approach to study child development and immigrant adaptation. Children of newly arrived immigrants can find many ways to adapt in the United States depending on the resources of the family and the interactions they receive in the community. If society fails to support immigrant adaptation, it’s expected that the child’s school performance will suffer. However, the child’s family and ethnic community may bring additional resources to the education sphere. Thus, the interaction of family background, parental involvement and community context all will influence developmental and educational outcomes for children in immigrant families. A key goal of this study is to go beyond using immigrant status as a proxy for other traits to determine how family migration context – including parent’s age and arrival, language background and use, national origins and ethnicity – are related to school readiness and early academic progress. “This project is a multidisciplinary approach, combining theoretical perspectives of immigrant adaptation and child development,” says Glick, who studies immigrant adaptation and family survival strategies. “We are looking for a better understanding of how the school performance of immigrants’ children is advanced by the family context in which they live.” Training a surgeon’s hand In any field, good training improves skills. This is as true for airplane pilots as it is for surgeons. The more you do, the better you become. But when it comes to training surgeons, there is an associated need to cut training costs that can compromise training quality. An $874,484 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow Baoxin Li, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Computing Informatics & Decision Systems Engineering, to overcome this quandary by exploring simulation-based surgical training. “Our goal is to come up with a system that can shorten the time involved in training a surgeon and improve the quality of the training,” Li says. But to do this Li needs to come up with a system that can do several things, including monitoring and measuring a surgical resident as she performs a procedure and then being able to put value judgments on what the system sees during the exercise and to associate skill ratings with correction procedures. “We present a machine-learning approach to computational understanding of surgical skills based on temporal inference of visual and motion capture data from surgical simulation,” he says. “This learning approach is enabled by our simulation and data acquisition design that ensures clinical meaningfulness of the data.” or aren’t prepared to take the exam,” Romero says. She noted that 45 teachers in the Chandler district, alone, have expressed an interest in the program. “This is an opportunity to build on their knowledge, give them more experience and broaden their expertise,” Romero says. “It would be a pool we could use to fill our middle school math and science positions when we have shortages, and we want them to be excited about math and science for our kids even if they don’t choose to teach in the middle school setting.” ASU will accept 25 of the best qualified elementary school teacher applicants into the Modeling Institute for the first two years and an additional 50 teachers each of the following three years to produce 200 highly qualified math and science teachers over a five-year period. The teachers enrolled in the Modeling Institute will have the opportunity to earn a master’s degree with an emphasis on strengthening their content knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “This is a hallmark of ASU’s philosophy of social embeddedness, of making ourselves available to our partners in the community,” says James Middleton, a professor and the director of CRESMET, as well as a co-principal investigator on the project. 7 A simpler grasp Because the human hand is an evolutionary marvel, it is incredibly hard to replicate and employ on a machine, such as a robot. For example, says Marco Santello, a professor of kinesiology at ASU, robotic grasping has been around for 25 years and yet there are no successful devices for grasping in unstructured environments. “The new generation of highly successful mobile and humanoid robots still lack basic ‘hands’ that can reliably grasp arbitrary objects,” Santello says. That may change as a three-year, $236,000 National Science Foundation grant to Santello and a team of researchers (Peter Allen of Columbia University and Robert Howe of Harvard University) will let them explore new ways of developing simpler grasping devices for robots. The work is based on four basic principles: begin with robust grasping as the goal; learn from the human hand, but do not replicate it; simplicity is essential; and put functionality in passive mechanics, not in elaborate sensing and control. Experimental work at ASU involving graduate and undergraduate students will aim to understand how the brain controls dexterous manipulation activities. Using these ideas, “we propose to build a lowcost, low degree of freedom grasping device that is based on hard human grasping data,” Santello says. “We will test the new tools in simulation and build hardware that is functionally proven for a given set of robotic grasping tasks.” Panchanathan says that ASU faculty have responded rapidly and strategically to acquire stimulus research grants. To date, ASU researchers have sent in proposals totaling more than $350 million in research funding. “ASU faculty and researchers have put forth tremendous efforts to secure stimulus funding in a highly competitive environment,” he adds. “We are pleased with our success thus far and are looking forward to securing a number of new projects over the next year. This will allow us to not only contribute significantly toward solving challenging problems faced by society, but also result in a significant economic impact.” Derra, with Media Relations, can be reached at (480) 965-4823 or Institute aims to engage, empower math, science teachers SUZANNE STARR James A. Middleton, center left, a professor of mathematics education and the director of CRESMET, and Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz, center right, an assistant professor of science education, conduct a workshop for middle school math and science teachers. He credits the long-standing personal and institutional relationships between ASU and the Chandler Unified School District with bringing the project to fruition. Middleton says the collaborative concept embodies the New American University’s principles of access, excellence and impact, and builds on ASU’s history of teacher training and innovation. “ASU, throughout its history, has had the wisdom of hiring scholars in the academic departments, top-level researchers and world-class scholars in our schools of education,” Middleton says. “We have the most innovative STEM education projects in the country. ASU is able to leverage its resources and sustain the infrastructure through economies of scale. “By combining and integrating ASU’s best projects in science and mathematics education, we are hoping to create an institutionalized infrastructure by which we can make a real impact in the lives of teachers and children throughout the Valley. We will increase the number of students who are successful and who come to ASU to take part in transformative research and devote their lives to making the world a better place,” Middleton says. The project brings together a multidisciplinary team of co-principal investigators from across ASU including: Carole Greenes, a professor of mathematics education, an associate vice provost for STEM Education and the director of the PRIME Center; Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz, an assistant professor of science education in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership and the director of the Modeling Institute; James A. Middleton, a professor of mathematics education and the director of CRES- MET; David Birchfield, the director of the SMALLab initiative for K-12 Embodied and Mediated Learning; Monica Elser, the director of K-12 education and outreach programs for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability; Tirupalavanam Ganesh, the assistant dean for information systems with the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education; Susan Haag, the director of research and evaluation for CRESMET; Charles Kazilek, the director of technology integration and outreach in the School of Life Sciences; Melinda Romero, the executive director of staff development and instructional services with Chandler Unified School District; and Wendy Taylor, an instructional specialist coordinator for the Mars Student Imaging Project in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Palmer Martin, with the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education, can be reached at

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