News and Updates


Phoenix residents Ed and Helen Korrick know what it means to give back. Their generosity has benefited Arizona State University for 29 years, encompassing such critical investments as a Presidential Professorship endowment that supports renowned ASU faculty member Philip R. Christensen, support for Sun Devil Athletics and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, as well as their membership in the President’s Club since 2006.

Ed and Helen show their devotion to ASU’s vision for a New American University by advancing the School of Earth and Space Exploration through their professorship, which allows Phil Christensen greater flexibility to pursue his research. When Ed’s 15-year-old grandson was very interested in science several years ago and expressed an interest in meeting Phil, Ed was able to arrange a meeting. What was supposed to be a 15-minute conversation extended into a three-hour discussion of the Mars Program.

“I will never forget how extremely generous he was,” Ed says. “I am so pleased to help him continue his research at ASU and I am glad he is still here.” Professor Christensen is one of the nation’s leading space instrument scientists. The Korricks’ professorship endowment allows him to advance his research and exploration initiatives. Also a Regents’ Professor, Christensen works to expand ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration through the building of instruments intended for use in places like Mars.

Ed’s experience in the retail industry stemmed from his father, Charles Korrick, who immigrated to America from Prussia at the turn of the 20th century to aid his brother, Sam, who immigrated in 1888 and settled in Phoenix in 1895. Sam opened the New York Store, a small dry goods store, in a building now occupied by the Phoenix Symphony offices.

Ed’s family was close with Frank Lloyd Wright, a famous architect and interior designer. Ed says Wright was at times supported by the Korrick family, who would often allow him to purchase goods on credit when he was struggling during the Great Depression.

In 1914, after Sam died and the population of Phoenix continued to grow, Charles, who by that time was the sole owner of the New York Store, built a bigger department store at First and Washington streets and named it Korricks. It was once considered the largest department store in Arizona and even contained its own soda fountain and tea room.

As Ed grew up in Phoenix, he nurtured a love of the symphony, perhaps extending from his own mother’s interests as a member of a group that was instrumental in the founding of the Phoenix Symphony in 1946. As a result, Ed continues to support the Phoenix Symphony today.

“My family moved to Arizona at the turn of the century when it was just a small town; we have watched the community grow,” Ed says. “You can’t live in a community and not participate, so it is appropriate for us to give back. I hope that my family will continue the legacy we’ve started at ASU because it has been an important part of our lives.”


Growing up in a small Arkansas farming town, Amber Straughn couldn’t help but be captivated by the clear, dark night sky, brimming with stars.

As a NASA research astrophysicist, Straughn spends much of her time peering into that same mesmerizing sea of stars – only now with the world’s best telescopes. Straughn is part of the science team for the James Webb Space Telescope, which will launch in 2018 and will enable researchers to learn more than ever before about the universe’s earliest galaxies and how they formed individual stars. Straughn’s first research project in graduate school at ASU studied galaxy mergers, using data from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image, a stunning million-second-long
exposure that NASA unveiled in 2004, the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved.

“That was really exciting as a young graduate student, that beautiful image was taken just as I was starting to enter the research phase of my grad-school career,”she says. “Really from a very young age I was captivated by the sky and I was asking questions about what’s up there, why, how does it work.”

Though an astronomer at heart, Straughn chose to study physics because of its versatility. She chose to study at ASU because of the university’s strong reputation in the space sciences; she knew it was a place where physics and astronomy could go hand in hand.

“She’s a fantastic example of a graduate student and researcher,”says Rogier Windhorst, Straughn’s graduate advisor and a Regents’ Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.“She’s very into teaching and outreach as well as research and always willing to do her part. She oozes love for astronomy.”

Straughn started at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,Md. in 2008 after completing her Ph.D. Her love of teaching serves her well there, as part of her current duties are in public outreach.The work is something she considers vital, not only because it’s important to educate the public about NASA’s discoveries, but also because she wants to show young girls that women have great opportunities at the forefront of scientific research.

Although the launch date for theWebb telescope is nearly six years away, Straughn’s excitement for what the project may discover is palpable.

“I think this is the most exciting project I could be involved in at NASA right now,” Straughn says.“The telescope is basically designed to answer the big questions in astronomy, the questions Hubble can’t answer. And I’m really excited about the surprises that are out there that we haven’t even thought of yet.That’s one of the things that keeps me going in this field.”

By Eric Swedlund, a Tucson-based freelance writer

(Posted with permission from ASU Magazine)


Six ASU students will travel to NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston to conduct experiments aboard the “Weightless Wonder” aircraft the week of June 11, 2012.

The Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP) gives undergraduate students the opportunity to propose, build and fly experiments in reduced gravity. The teams will perform the experiments aboard a microgravity aircraft which produces periods of weightlessness for up to 25 seconds at a time by executing a series of approximately 30 roller coaster-like parabolas over the Gulf of Mexico. During the free falls, the students will to gather data in the unique environment that mimics space.

The ASU team’s opportunity to participate is the result of the hard work and commitment of Jacob Higgins, Danielle Hoots, Craig Hoots, Amy Kaczmarowski, Emily McBryan, and Pye Pye Zaw. The team, known as the Dust Devils Microgravity team, was selected based on scientific merit and educational outreach potential from more than 60 proposals. They have put many hours into researching and building their experiment. They are also taking time to reach out to other students and the community to share their unique experiences and discoveries.

The Dust Devils will arrive at Ellington Field, where astronauts do their T-38 training, on June 8. They will then go through physiological training and fly their experiment during the week of June 11. This experiment will test the mechanisms in which dust coagulates in a microgravity environment to provide insight on creation of planets from the proto planetary disk. Following their flight, the team will evaluate findings, draw conclusions and provide the results to NASA.

For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, visit:

To read the background story about the Dust Devils, visit:

Photo by Tom Story

(Nikki Cassis)


 Newfound galaxy secures spot among top 10 most distant known objects in space

Astronomers at Arizona State University have found an exceptionally distant galaxy, ranked among the top 10 most distant objects currently known in space. Light from the recently detected galaxy left the object about 800 million years after the beginning of the universe, when the universe was in its infancy.

A team of astronomers, led by James Rhoads, Sangeeta Malhotra, and Pascale Hibon of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, identified the remote galaxy after scanning a moon-sized patch of sky with the IMACS instrument on the Magellan Telescopes at the Carnegie Institution’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

The observational data reveal a faint infant galaxy, located 13 billion light-years away. “This galaxy is being observed at a young age. We are seeing it as it was in the very distant past, when the universe was a mere 800 million years old,” says Rhoads, an associate professor in the school. “This image is like a baby picture of this galaxy, taken when the universe was only 5 percent of its current age. Studying these very early galaxies is important because it helps us understand how galaxies form and grow.”

The galaxy, designated LAEJ095950.99+021219.1, was first spotted in summer 2011. The find is a rare example of a galaxy from that early epoch, and will help astronomers make progress in understanding the process of galaxy formation. The find was enabled by the combination of the Magellan telescopes’ tremendous light gathering capability and exquisite image quality, thanks to the mirrors built in Arizona’s Steward Observatory; and by the unique ability of the IMACS instrument to obtain either images or spectra across a very wide field of view. The research, published in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters, was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

This galaxy, like the others that Malhotra, Rhoads, and their team seek, is extremely faint and was detected by the light emitted by ionized hydrogen. The object was first identified as a candidate early-universe galaxy in a paper led by team member and former ASU postdoctoral researcher Hibon. The search employed a unique technique they pioneered that uses special narrow-band filters that allow a small wavelength range of light through.

A special filter fitted to the telescope camera was designed to catch light of narrow wavelength ranges, allowing the astronomers to conduct a very sensitive search in the infrared wavelength range. “We have been using this technique since 1998 and pushing it to ever-greater distances and sensitivities in our search for the first galaxies at the edge of the universe,” says Malhotra, an associate professor in the school. “Young galaxies must be observed at infrared wavelengths and this is not easy to do using ground-based telescopes, since the Earth’s atmosphere itself glows and large detectors are hard to make.”

To be able to detect these very distant objects which were forming near the beginning of the universe, astronomers look for sources which have very high redshifts. Astronomers refer to an object’s distance by a number called its “redshift,” which relates to how much its light has stretched to longer, redder wavelengths due to the expansion of the universe. Objects with larger redshifts are farther away and are seen further back in time. LAEJ095950.99+021219.1 has a redshift of 7. Only a handful of galaxies have confirmed redshifts greater than 7, and none of the others is as faint as LAEJ095950.99+021219.1.

“We have used this search to find hundreds of objects at somewhat smaller distances. We have found several hundred galaxies at redshift 4.5, several at redshift 6.5, and now at redshift 7 we have found one,” explains Rhoads. “We’ve pushed the experiment’s design to a redshift of 7 – it’s the most distant we can do with well-established, mature technology, and it’s about the most distant where people have been finding objects successfully up to now.”

Malhotra adds, “With this search, we’ve not only found one of the furthest galaxies known, but also the faintest confirmed at that distance. Up to now, the redshift 7 galaxies we know about are literally the top one percent of galaxies. What we’re doing here is to start examining some of the fainter ones – thing that may better represent the other 99 percent.”

Resolving the details of objects that are far away is challenging, which is why images of distant young galaxies such as this one appear small, faint, and blurry.

“As time goes by, these small blobs which are forming stars, they’ll dance around each other, merge with each other and form bigger and bigger galaxies. Somewhere halfway through the age of the universe they start looking like the galaxies we see today – and not before. Why, how, when, where that happens is a fairly active area of research,” explains Malhotra.

In addition to Hibon, Malhotra, and Rhoads, the paper’s authors include Michael Cooper of the University of California at Irvine, and Benjamin Weiner of the University of Arizona.


Image: False color image of the galaxy LAEJ095950.99+021219.1 . In this image, blue corresponds to optical light (wavelength near 500 nm), red to near-infrared light (wavelength near 920 nm), and green to the narrow range of wavelengths admitted by the narrow bandpass filter (around 968 nm). LAEJ095950.99+021219.1 appears as the green source near the center of the image cutout. The image shows about 1/6000 of the area that was surveyed. Photo by: James Rhoads

(Nikki Cassis)




NASA-funded research looks to isotope analysis rather than X-ray for measurement

Are your bones getting stronger or weaker? Right now, it’s hard to know. Scientists at Arizona State University and NASA are taking on this medical challenge by developing and applying a technique that originated in the Earth sciences. In a new study, this technique was more sensitive in detecting bone loss than the X-ray method used today, with less risk to patients. Eventually, it may find use in clinical settings, and could pave the way for additional innovative biosignatures to detect disease.

“Osteoporosis, a disease in which bones grow weaker, threatens more than half of Americans over age 50,” explained Ariel Anbar, a professor in ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and senior author of the study.

“Bone loss also occurs in a number of cancers in their advanced stages. By the time these changes can be detected by X-rays, as a loss of bone density, significant damage has already occurred,” Anbar said. “Also, X-rays aren’t risk-free. We think there might be a better way.”

With the new technique, bone loss is detected by carefully analyzing the isotopes of the chemical element calcium that are naturally present in urine. Isotopes are atoms of an element that differ in their masses. Patients do not need to ingest any artificial tracers and are not exposed to any radiation, so there is virtually no risk, the authors noted.

The findings are presented in a paper published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of May 28. It is titled “Rapidly assessing changes in bone mineral balance using natural stable calcium isotopes.”

“The paper suggests an exciting new approach to the problem,” said Dr. Rafael Fonseca, chair of the Department of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and a specialist in the bone-destroying disease multiple myeloma. Fonseca was not associated with the study but is partnering with the ASU team on collaborative research based on the findings.

“Right now, pain is usually the first indication that cancer is affecting bones. If we could detect it earlier by an analysis of urine or blood in high-risk patients, it could significantly improve their care,” Fonseca said.

The new technique makes use of a fact well known to Earth scientists, but seldom used in biomedicine: Different isotopes of a chemical element can react at slightly different rates. When bones form, the lighter isotopes of calcium enter bone a little faster than the heavier isotopes. That difference, called “isotope fractionation,” is the key.

“Instead of isotopes of calcium, think about jelly beans,” explained Jennifer Morgan, lead author of the study. “We all have our favorite. Imagine a huge pile of jelly beans with equal amounts of six different kinds. You get to make your own personal pile, picking out the ones you want. Maybe you pick two black ones for every one of another color because you really like licorice. It’s easy to see that your pile will wind up with more black jelly beans than any other color. Therefore, the ratio of black to red or black to green will be higher in your pile than in the big one. That’s similar to what happens with calcium isotopes when bones form. Bone favors lighter calcium isotopes and picks them over the heavier ones.”

Other factors, especially bone destruction, also come into play, making the human body more complicated than the jelly bean analogy. But 15 years ago, corresponding author Joseph Skulan, now an adjunct professor at ASU, combined all the factors into a mathematical model that predicted that calcium isotope ratios in blood and urine should be extremely sensitive to bone mineral balance.

“Bone is continuously being formed and destroyed,” Skulan explained. “In healthy, active humans, these processes are in balance. But if a disease throws the balance off then you ought to see a shift in the calcium isotope ratios.”

The predicted effect on calcium isotopes is very small, but can be measured using sensitive mass spectrometry methods developed by Morgan as part of her doctoral work with Anbar, Skulan and co-author Gwyneth Gordon, an associate research scientist in the W.M. Keck Foundation Laboratory for Environmental Biogeochemistry at ASU. Co-author Stephen Romaniello, currently a doctoral student with Anbar at ASU, contributed an updated mathematical model.

The new study, funded by NASA, examined calcium isotopes in the urine of a dozen healthy subjects confined to bed (“bed rest”) for 30 days at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Institute for Translational Sciences–Clinical Research Center. Whenever a person lies down, the weight-bearing bones of the body, such as those in the spine and leg, are relieved of their burden, a condition known as “skeletal unloading”. With skeletal unloading, bones start to deteriorate due to increased destruction. Extended periods of bed rest induce bone loss similar to that experienced by osteoporosis patients, and astronauts.

“NASA conducts these studies because astronauts in microgravity experience skeletal unloading and suffer bone loss,” said co-author Scott M. Smith, NASA nutritionist. “It’s one of the major problems in human spaceflight, and we need to find better ways to monitor and counteract it. But the methods used to detect the effects of skeletal unloading in astronauts are also relevant to general medicine.”

Lab analysis of the subjects’ urine samples at ASU revealed that the new technique can detect bone loss after as little as one week of bed rest, long before changes in bone density are detectable by the conventional approach, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).

Importantly, it is the only method, other than DEXA, that directly measures net bone loss.

“What we really want to know is whether the amount of bone in the body is increasing or decreasing”, said Morgan.

Calcium isotope measurements seem poised to assume an important role in detecting bone disease – in space, and on Earth. The team is working now to evaluate the technique in samples from cancer patients.

“This is a ‘proof-of-concept’ paper,” explained Anbar “We showed that the concept works as expected in healthy people in a well-defined experiment. The next step is to see if it works as expected in patients with bone-altering diseases. That would open the door to clinical applications.”

However, the concept extends even beyond bone and calcium, the authors noted. Many diseases may cause subtle changes in element isotope abundances, or in the concentrations of elements. These sorts of signatures have not been systematically explored in the development of biosignatures of cancers and other diseases.

“The concept of inorganic signatures represents a new and exciting approach to diagnosing, treating and monitoring complex diseases such as cancer,” stated Anna Barker, director of Transformative Healthcare Networks and co-director of the Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. Barker, who came to ASU after being deputy director of the National Cancer Institute, emphasized the simplicity of the approach compared to the challenges of deciphering complex genome-derived data, adding “there is an opportunity to create an entirely new generation of diagnostics for cancer and other diseases.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Human Research Program and specifically the Human Health and Countermeasures Element and the Flight Analogs Project supported this work. Bed rest studies were supported in part by the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health.

(Jenny Green)

Image: This illustration by the Mayo Clinic is an example of abnormal bone density in osteoporosis. Scientists at Arizona State University and NASA are developing a new approach to the medical challenge of detecting bone loss by applying a technique that originated in the Earth sciences. Their findings are presented in a paper published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of May 28, 2012. Image by permission of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.


ASU team engineers Moon-mining robot for NASA’s 2012 Lunabotics Competition

Arizona State University was one of more than 50 teams from around the world to test its Moon-mining robot design in the third annual Lunabotics Mining Competition. The event was held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida May 21-26.

The international competition challenged university teams to design and build a remote controlled or autonomous excavation robot called a lunabot. The teams’ robots went head-to-head to determine which could mine and deposit the most simulated lunar soil within 10 minutes. Teams were judged on their robot’s dimensions and mass, regolith collection, dust mitigation, bandwidth and power usage, and the ability to control the lunabot from a remote control center.

The event drew teams from as far away as Bangladesh and Romania and included competitors from all across the United States. Top honors in the competition went to University of Alabama for earning the most cumulative overall points and Iowa State University for collecting and depositing the most regolith.

“We went into the competition with high hopes, but we were realistic since this was our first year competing,” says Ben Stinnett, leader of the ASU Lunabotics team. “We would have loved to walk away with a prize, but we are happy with the amazing experiences we gained at this event.”

Stinnett was one of four ASU students to travel to Florida for the competition. He was joined by Jim Crowell, Jesse Banks, and Patrick McGarey. All four students are majoring in Earth and Space Exploration with a concentration in Exploration Systems Design. The team roster also includes: David Nelson (Aerospace Engineering), David Darling (Earth and Space Exploration), Michael Anderson (Aerospace Engineering), Jack Lightholder (Aerospace Engineering), Nicholas Lantz (Electrical Engineering), and Pye Pye Zaw (Earth and Space Exploration). Ganesh Kumar, a graduate student, assisted the team, and Professor Srikanth Saripalli served as faculty advisor.

The team’s efforts are the latest in a rapidly growing program in robotics and engineering in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), which combines science and engineering to produce the next generation of explorers.

“I would not have been able to build this robot without my SESE classes, especially Mark Robinson’s and Paul Scowen’s Exploration Systems Engineering class (SES 405). That completely changed everything we were doing with the design of the robot,” says Crowell. “Without Electronics Instrumentation (SES 330) with Chris Groppi, I wouldn’t have been able to make all the circuits we needed, nor would I have known what a transistor is or what a resistor does.”

The team’s lunabot weighed in at 46.5 kilograms and measured 1.5 meters long (with the arm closed), 0.5 meter wide, and 0.75 meters tall.

In the first round of the competition, the ASU team had complete control of their lunabot, but they were unable to get out of the rut they started in. In round two, the team was unable to establish communication with the lunabot.

"With the limited resources and time that the lunabotics team had, they performed admirably. They gained valuable real-world knowledge that will be useful for the next year's competition," says Saripalli.

“This year was riddled with oversights. We came to the competition with a team of mostly freshmen, with no robotics experience – no one on our team had ever built a robot or competed in a robotics competition – so it was year of growing pains and learning experiences,” says Stinnett.

Next year, the team would like to secure more sponsorship so they are not only able to afford higher-quality materials but so that they can bring more people to Florida.

“Most of our team stayed back in Tempe providing moral support. It’s kind of sad that we’re here with their hard work and they’re not able to be here with us when other teams have 20 or 30 people with them,” says Stinnett.

Budgetary issues were a huge concern for the team. The average budgets for teams in previous years were listed at upwards of $30,000. The ASU team worked within a $5,000 budget.

In lieu of monetary contributions, some local companies in the valley supported the team with donations of materials: Microchip donated microprocessors and development chips; IGUS donated plastic parts to protect wires; and HeatSync Labs in downtown Mesa, a collaborative working environment for scientists and engineers, opened its doors to the students and assisted with questions and problems.

“Being a part of this competition has made me feel much more confident about going into the workforce and has given me an experience that I can expound upon in interviews. You really do need “real” experience, like this competition provided – projects beyond just coursework,” explains Crowell.

ASU’s Lunabotics team is sponsored by its sister organization SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space), the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and the Autonomous System Technologies Research & Integration Laboratory.

     > Images are posted on Kennedy’s Media Gallery at:

     > More images and videos are posted on our SESE Facebook Fan page:

     > For information about the competition, visit:

Image: Pictured from left to right are: Jesse Banks, Ben Stinnett, Patrick McGarey and Jim Crowell.

(Nikki Cassis)



The LROC team uploaded some great photos of Earth during the solar eclipse. Check them out here: In this photo, LRO turned to image the Earth four times during the solar eclipse on 20-21 May 2012; in this view the Moon's shadow is seen passing over the Aleutian Islands. Annotated NAC Image E192199689L [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].


Philip Christensen, a Regents' Professor of Geological Sciences in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been chosen as co-chairman of the recently established Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS).

The committee was created by the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of the United States. Astrobiologist James Gregory Ferry of Pennsylvania State University is Christensen's co-chair.

"The committee was created to support scientific progress in astrobiology and planetary science and to assist the federal government in integrating and planning programs in these fields," says Christensen. "It will provide an independent forum for identifying and discussing issues in astrobiology and planetary science."

The committee holds its first meeting in Washington, D.C., May 23-25, 2012 – the agenda is downloadable from a link at the CAPS website given above.

A planetary geologist since 1981, Christensen is director of the Mars Space Flight Facility on the Tempe campus and Principal Investigator for the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a 10-band infrared and visible camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. He is also currently developing OTES, a mineral scouting spectrometer for NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission. The instrument will be built on the ASU campus.

Christensen notes that one of the first tasks CAPS will undertake is evaluating NASA's revised plans for planetary science in light of the document Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022. This document, published in 2011 by the National Academy of Sciences, came out of a once-a-decade survey process to identify the most important goals for planetary science over the following 10 years.

In response to the President's proposed FY2013 budget, which sharply reduced spending on planetary exploration, NASA created program-planning groups for Mars and Europa to canvass their science communities and develop exploration plans for the next decade. These program-planning groups will release their preliminary reports in the next few months. CAPS will review the reports and give its assessment to NASA.

"CAPS role is purely advisory," Christensen explains. "The committee contains a mix of planetary scientists and astrobiologists. Our aim is to provide solid advice to NASA and the federal government from experienced scientists working in the relevant fields."

Image: Mars explorer Phil Christensen. Credit: Tom Story

(Robert Burnham)


The students, young postdoctoral researchers and professors who recently attended the 4th annual ASU workshop on secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) asked a lot of questions. In their own words, “How can I determine the hosts of hazardous elements in coal? How can I measure germanium in novel synthetic materials? Which trace elements are dissolved in my zircon crystals? What can I learn from analyses of minerals in my meteorite samples?”

The visitors spanned a wide range of interests: from biochemists eager to determine the chemistry of a single cell to tectonicists struggling to understand how continental collision events are recorded in the chemistry of the resulting rocks. They came to ASU to learn how SIMS might help them in their geochemical quests.

SIMS is a surface analysis technique that is sensitive to most of the elements contained i n the periodic table. In SIMS, a high-energy ion beam is focused to a spot and directed at a chosen location on a sample. Secondary ions ejected from the surface as a result of the energetic collisions are accelerated into a mass spectrometer where they are detected as a function of their mass. SIMS is known for its high sensitivity and high spatial resolution in a lateral sense, but is particularly important to the semiconductor industry because of its ability to determine how the chemistry of a sample changes with depth (on the scale of tens of nanometers). Currently ASU has one of the most extensive arrays of SIMS instrumentation, and SIMS expertise, in the world. These attributes result in geochemists from around the world traveling to the NSF-funded National SIMS Facility on ASU’s main campus.

The organizers worked to show the connections between the collection of data during a visit and the events occurring in the vacuum chamber that produce these data. Their philosophy is not to simply help visitors obtain quality analyses, but to act synergistically to help them interpret their results and show them the potential of this instrument to go far beyond their initial goals.

The workshop is unique in that the participants obtained hands-on experience, were taught about mass spectrometry, examined the parts that make up a mass spectrometer (electrostatic lenses, magnets, apertures, slits etc.), learned how to prepare samples appropriate for this technique, and heard about the theories behind the ion-solid interactions that produce the secondary ion signal.

ASU possesses an outstanding combination of equipment and personnel in the mass spectrometry field. Three magnetic sector SIMS (delivered in 1984, 1999, and 2010) form the core of the facility, and two time-of-flight SIMS (TOF-SIMS) are also available. Professor Peter Williams, from the department of chemistry and biochemistry, pioneered many of the theories describing secondary ion formation and practical applications of SIMS to materials science. Professor Richard Hervig, from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has developed many SIMS techniques for geochemistry and applied them to natural samples from this and other planets as well as a variety of synthetic materials. Professor Lynda Williams, in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has used this technique on a range of materials at the organic/inorganic interface. Williams, Hervig and Williams are the principal investigators on the ASU SIMS facility grant. Also assisting the workshop were post-doctoral researchers Maitrayee Bose (demonstrating the application of ASU’s new, $3.5M NanoSIMS and Klaus Franzreb (describing semiconductor analyses and applications of Time-of-flight SIMS to research) and graduate student Steve Guggino (sample preparation and post-analysis microscopic characterization).

Source: Richard Hervig


In the summer, students and faculty from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration leave the lab behind to conduct hands-on research in the field.

Field camp is a tradition in the education of a geologist – supported by the old adage that the best geologists are the ones who have seen the most rocks. It provides students the opportunity to apply what has been learned in the classroom and laboratory to real geological problems in the field.

The School of Earth and Space Exploration offers two basic field courses – Field Geology I (GLG 451) and Field Geology II (GLG452). Field II, commonly known as Field Camp, has been offered in its present form for 12 years and is highly recommended for students majoring in the Earth and Space Exploration concentration in geological sciences. The students spend three weeks in a hands-on environment learning fieldwork techniques outside of Payson, Ariz.

Field II is expensive (tuition plus a $869 class fee) and it takes students away from summer jobs for three weeks so it can be a financial hardship. To provide financial assistance to students who might otherwise not be able to afford the expenses of field camp, two scholarships exist – the Robert Dietz Field Camp Scholarship, named after a former professor in geology at ASU, and the Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship, in memory of a recent alumnus who died in a mining accident August 2010.

For many years, the Robert S. Dietz Field Camp Scholarships were funded by Professor Robert S. Dietz using his own personal resources. Now, SESE carries on this tradition in his memory awarding the scholarships to support students who are majoring in geology. This year, two recipients were selected to receive $500 scholarships: William Akers and Samuel Ybarra, both students are majoring in Earth and Space Exploration with a concentration in geological sciences.

The Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship was created in 2010 in honor of Ravi DeFilippo, a 2009 graduate of SESE from Tucson, Ariz. The scholarship covers the amount of the field camp fee and is made possible by gifts from Ravi’s family and friends to honor his memory and his love of field geology. The recipient of this year’s Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship is Lori Prause.

“Field work is a very important part of a geologist’s education. Everything learned in the classroom over many years is collectively applied to the rocks, structures, and depositions in nature,” says Prause. “The cost of a concentrated field class is naturally expensive given that shelter, food, and a classroom are necessary for the students. Having assistance for part of the expense by way of a scholarship is of great help for a valuable experience that might not be feasible without it.”

Michelle Aigner, a senior working toward her bachelor of sciences with a focus on geological sciences, was the recipient of the first Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship.

“This scholarship really helped relieve the stress of trying to come up with time to earn more money for camp and the missed time at work when I would be at camp,” says Aigner, who juggles a part-time job in between her studies and caring for her recently widowed mother. “I love geology and field camp was an awesome way to integrate all the subjects I’d learned so far and just a really great experience.”

“Students will be practicing their field mapping skills, data collection skills, interpretation and writing skills as well as preparation of accurate maps and cross sections. They will be working independently in rugged terrain and forest to uncover the geology and interpret the geologic history of the area,” explains SESE Professor Tom Sharp, instructor of Field II. “This course compliments their classroom work by providing an independent study experience that brings in all of their geologic knowledge to solve problems in the field.”

Not being able to work for three weeks in the summer places a large financial burden on students. Therefore, SESE is seeking to increase its available support so that every student participating in the field camp can receive some level of aid, but your help is needed to make this happen.
To make a gift to one of the field camp scholarship funds — in any amount — click the links below.

Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Camp Scholarship:

Robert S. Dietz Field Camp Scholarships:

Caption: Leah Pettis records data on her map during the Field Geology Camp, held outside of Payson, Ariz., in June 2011. Credit: Tom Story

To look at more photos from last summer's field season, check out this gallery:


(Nikki Cassis)