News and Updates


NASA is sending a mission to see if Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, has conditions suitable for life, and three ASU scientists are involved with the mission's instruments.

Three scientists in Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) — Philip Christensen, Mikhail Zolotov, and Everett Shock — are involved with NASA's newly announced robotic mission to investigate whether conditions suitable for life exist at Jupiter's moon Europa.

The mission, scheduled for launch in the 2020s, will follow up on the results of NASA's Galileo mission of 20 years ago. That spacecraft found Europa to be an intriguing body. Its surface is a shell of ice perhaps a few tens of miles thick, covering a salty water ocean.

The icy surface has numerous colored cracks and spots, perhaps rich in salts, where the ocean water appeared and froze. Observations from Earth orbit using the Hubble Space Telescope have also revealed that Europa erupts plumes of water vapor a hundred miles high or more.

The payload of nine science instruments will greatly increase the limited knowledge of Europa, tackling challenges such as imaging the surface in high-resolution and determining the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and the depth of its ocean.

A thermal instrument will scour Europa’s frozen surface in search of thermal anomalies.

"This is a terrific opportunity for ASU and SESE," says Philip Christensen. A Regents' Professor of geological sciences in SESE, he is the principal investigator for the Europa Thermal Emission Imaging System (E-THEMIS).

"The role E-THEMIS plays in the mission is to act as a heat detector," he explains. "It will scan the surface of Europa at high resolution for warm spots." Such locations, Christensen says, could be places where the ice shell has become thin and they are the most likely locations for plume activity.

The E-THEMIS instrument will be built at ASU using the engineers and facilities in SESE on the Tempe campus that are currently building Christensen’s OTES instrument for the OSIRIS-REx mission. ASU will do the instrument design, fabrication, assembly, test, and calibration, along with mission operations and science data processing. Ball Aerospace will develop the electronics that will be integrated into E-THEMIS.

"This plays perfectly into SESE's strengths in combining science with engineering," he says.

Everett Shock and Mikhail Zolotov, co-investigators for the MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa (MASPEX), will apply their geochemistry expertise to interpret the results.

“In order to assess habitability of Europa we will need to gather information about composition of surface materials and understand their relations with putative water ocean,” explains Zolotov, who is also a co-investigator on the Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON) and SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer (SUDA).

The MASPEX and SUDA instruments will be used to sample Europa’s thin atmosphere, including plume emissions and small particulates of minerals and ice lofted into space.

“We anticipate lots of data, but the MEANING of the data for the habitability of Europa will require additional experiments, calculations, and theoretical modeling, which are major strengths of the combination of geochemistry, biochemistry, and planetary science in SESE and at ASU,” says Shock.

The School of Earth and Space Exploration is a unit of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Written by Robert Burnham and Nikki Cassis



In a masterful merger of engineering, physics and biology, researchers have developed a briefcase-size device that can continuously detect trace bacterial levels in the ocean, quantify microbes in the soil, detect pathogens in our food, and more

Until recently, it took hours – sometimes days – to analyze biological samples after they were frozen in the field and brought back to the laboratory. But now there is a faster, cheaper and smaller way for researchers to bring gold-standard analysis to the field.

A team of researchers from Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration has combined their sensors, biotechnology, and instrumentation expertise to develop a portable, autonomous device that analyzes trace elements.

The highly miniaturized microbial analysis machine, called the ddPCR Bioanalytical Field Instrument, allows researchers to do things such as detect microbes in water, soil and the upper atmosphere.

The machine, which was recently highlighted in a Nature Methods article, is portable, exceptionally low-power, robust enough for long-term field deployment, doesn't require cleaning, and is easy to deploy and operate.

Developed by a team led by experimental physicist Cody Youngbull, assistant research professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the technology was originally intended for deployment on an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) platform as part of a project to map the dynamic microbial diversity in the world’s oceans.

After four years of development and millions of dollars from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the instrument is now operational. It is being used at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project to detect microbial contaminants in water more rapidly, with better accuracy and lower limits of detection.

The device employs emulsion droplet technology, which means that the aqueous sample comes into the instrument and is coated in oil thus keeping it from ever contacting the internal components. Once samples are loaded, reagents are mixed and processed and analyzed in perfect isolation. The data is then quantified directly in the field for immediate feedback. The small droplets enable the device to produce millions of copies of any specified DNA sequence in minutes.

With the emergent capability to perform this sort of analysis on an autonomous underwater vehicle, the device is quite adaptable to the needs of the researcher and has great potential for monitoring other locations in the field, including the built environment.

According to Youngbull, while it does have health applications since it is able to quantify pathogens, he doesn’t see it as a medical diagnostic tool.

“It’s designed for exploration,” he says. “Being able to detect trace components, single molecules, autonomously and reliably, without the need for sample return or hardware consumables in a really tiny, low-power package are what our machine is all about.”

Although there may be limited medical diagnostic applications, Youngbull envisions use of the device in homeland security, mass transit, public spaces, hospitals, schools, food production, and combat theater analytics.

Autonomous, digital droplet PCR is useful for many aspects of science. The device might even one day be integrated into a rover, lander or orbiter to seek out extant DNA in the water on Mars, the oceans of Europa, the ice plumes of Enceladus or wherever scientist-explorers one day hope to discover and quantify nucleic acid sequences.

Photo courtesy Cody Youngbull

Written by Nikki Cassis


An ASU graduate student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration has received a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) for research work in the area of Earth Science. A total of 391 applications for Earth Science were received, with 64 selected for award (~16%).

The fellowship, given to support outstanding students pursuing graduate degrees in basic and applied research in Earth and space sciences, was awarded Tiantian Xiang. She is pursuing a doctorate in Civil/Environmental/Sustainable Engineering.

She is the only winner from the state of Arizona in the Earth Science category, which highlights the strong Earth Science research program on the campus.

The award is $30,000 per annum, including $24,000 student stipend and an allowance of up to $6,000, consisting of $3,000 for student expenses and $3,000 for university expenses.

Xiang will explore land surface patterns at regional scales and assess their impact on land-atmospheric interactions through numerical modeling and spatial analysis of remote sensing products.

The modeling experiments will provide a better understanding of the North American Monsoon region over the southwest US and northern Mexico, as well as insights that can be directly applied to hydrologic and numerical weather predictions.

“This is an exciting project since we are looking into a very complex system and trying to find patterns using a state-of-art modeling tool,” she says. “I feel really honored and excited about this opportunity, and will keep working with my advisor and Dr. Enrique Vivoni and collaborator Dr. David Gochis from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.”

The fellowship program supports continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals.

Written by Nikki Cassis




The next big thing in space research is small.

Small, agile companies and small, inexpensive devices are changing how we explore the universe. Arizona State University researchers are working with both.

Most people have probably heard of such companies as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. The term “NewSpace” is often used to describe them. But what does that word mean?

“It’s commercial entities that are building, designing, operating, thinking about space-related projects and applications, but it’s not always the usual players – the Boeings and the Lockheeds,” said Jim Bell, a professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) and director of the NewSpace Initiative. “It’s usually smaller, more nimble, more entrepreneurial kinds of companies.”

The field is growing rapidly. ASU’s NewSpace Initiative is tracking nearly 900 companies that have entered the industry, up from around 500 just a year ago. These include everything from small start-ups working on technology projects out of someone’s garage to companies with thousands of employees designing and building new rockets.

University-industry collaboration: The final frontier

Until recently, space exploration has typically involved relationships between government and industry or between government and academia. The relationship between academia and industry has traditionally been weak.

ASU’s Space Technology and Science (or “NewSpace”) Initiative is leading a new integration of academic and commercial space enterprises using ASU’s core strengths in space science, engineering and education.

One challenge is that academia and industry typically define success differently. For scientists and faculty, the goal is usually knowledge and training for students. For industry, the goal is usually boosting the bottom line. Matching these two worldviews is not always easy to do, but it’s what guides the initiative’s philosophy.

“We’re never going to go to a company and ask them for money,” Bell said. “We’re going to go to a company and say: ‘Here’s what we do, here’s what you do, here’s how we can work together, here’s the money we can go after together.’ ”

ASU’s extensive experience in space science and exploration is an asset to companies working in this area. For example, ASU is home to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera and the Center for Meteorite Studies. The university is also a key participant in NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, the Curiosity and Opportunity rover missions to Mars, and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission.

ASU researchers have forged a number of smaller relationships with space companies for their own projects over the years. Scott Smas, the initiative’s program manager, is working to identify and leverage all of ASU’s space-related teams and their connections into something bigger for both the university and the industry.

“An example is an electrical engineering faculty that has built up a relationship with a space-related company,” Smas said. “We want to expose that whole group and the company to SESE, or to chemistry and biochemistry, and enable them to collaboratively submit bigger proposals than just a small subcontract.”

More than 150 ASU faculty members have some involvement with the space industry. Over the past two fiscal years, these relationships translated into $69 million in research funding through 211 awards. About 60 percent of those awards came through SESE and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. But the rest came through perhaps less expected units, such as the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, the Biodesign Institute, and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Ultimately the initiative’s goal is to expand into an institute that ties all of these interdisciplinary avenues of space research together across the university. The institute could support a wide range of space-related academic programs, courses and degree programs, and offer robust internship programs that allow students to get valuable experience before graduation and give companies a chance to participate in cutting-edge research while training potential future employees. To that end, ASU recently became an associate member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the trade association for the NewSpace industry.

“One thing these NewSpace companies want is our best graduates. They all want interns and employees in the future,” Bell said. “We can do that, and we do that well, but so does Stanford and MIT and all these other places. We distinguish ourselves with our experience – space mission experience, robotics, instrumentation, science, engineering and all the CubeSat stuff that’s going on across campus now.”

CubeSat revolution

CubeSats are small satellites up to the size of a shoebox that scientists and engineers started experimenting with in the early 2000s. Their small, lightweight, modular design allows them to hitch rides as secondary payloads on rockets launching larger satellites and remain in orbit to perform their tasks afterward. This makes them relatively cheap and easy for researchers at universities or small companies to build for a variety of purposes.

The CubeSat standard emerged from early experiments at ASU and Stanford with nano satellites (these weighing less than 10 kg). The industry around them is experiencing a re-emergence in the U.S. and is particularly strong in Japan and Europe.

Tech companies ranging from small start-ups to Google are looking at a variety of business applications for CubeSats. For example, a single CubeSat or small group of them could be equipped with cameras and set to cover a city like Phoenix. They could be used to monitor traffic in certain areas to help urban planners, or to monitor a business parking lot or that of a competitor to estimate customer activity. CubeSats can also monitor weather, facilitate communications, perform microgravity experiments and more.

“Every field goes through its golden era,” said Jekan Thanga, an assistant professor in SESE who helps organize the Cubes & Coffee: CubeSat Coffee Hour on ASU’s Tempe campus. “The big space sector had its golden era in the 1960s, and that culminated in the Apollo landings. So this is now its re-emergence.”

With space agencies and launch providers now investing in their potential, CubeSats are experiencing exponential growth in terms of projects and launch opportunities. ASU is taking an active role in the field. Faculty and staff at SESE and affiliated with the NewSpace Initiative are working on rebuilding the university’s radio ground station. Once complete, this will give ASU the full range of in-house space operations capabilities – from building a CubeSat to communicating with it in orbit.

“That’s possible right now by only a handful of universities and organizations – maybe less than 15,” said Thanga. “That’s our longer-term vision: building, launching and operating our own space missions.”

Thanga and SESE professor Erik Asphaug are working on a mission set to launch in 2016 that exemplifies ASU’s space research capabilities. Their CubeSat will carry pieces of meteorites into Earth orbit in an attempt to re-create the surface conditions on asteroids millions of miles away. This will enable them to re-create an environment for scientific study that would be too costly to visit for most researchers. The research will be relevant to the kinds of missions that NASA and NewSpace companies are considering, and it will provide valuable training for students.

“It enables us to give students a real flight project that is entirely owned by ASU, that gives them the skills so that when, say, five years from now we launch a 6U [large CubeSat] asteroid orbiter, they know what this is,” said Asphaug. “It’s not like this crazy, far-fetched thing – it’s just the next thing.”

Small cost, big opportunity

For Craig Hardgrove, an ASU postdoctoral research associate and director of research at the NewSpace Initiative, one of the most exciting things happening in the industry today is the birth of low-cost planetary exploration.

“I think a lot of doors open when you get the cost down to the prices we’re talking about,” he said. “We’d really like to get more faculty and staff working with commercial space partners.”

Using his background in planetary science, Hardgrove helps catalog ASU’s diverse space research community and matches faculty and staff with NewSpace companies for potential collaborations. The missions they pursue are much cheaper than typical space missions, which can range from hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $2.5 billion for something like NASA’s Curiosity rover.

“We’re proposing a mission for $5.5 million on a shoebox-sized spacecraft,” Hardgrove said of a recent proposal he submitted with commercial partners.

As an early-career scientist, Hardgrove is especially enthusiastic about the opportunities that NewSpace is opening up.

“I’m a post-doc and just got my PhD three or four years ago, so it was amazing to have an opportunity to propose a mission like this. Regardless of whether or not we win, I got some really great experience,” he said.

Thanga added: “We’re going to see master’s students and even undergraduate teams launch CubeSats and operate them and incorporate that as part of their educational experience before graduating.”

Students who want to learn more about the NewSpace industry may be interested in the following courses:

• Commercial Opportunities in Space (SES 494/598)
• Policy Dimensions of Space Exploration (HSD 598)
• Interplanetary CubeSat Design (SES 598/MAE 598)

Image: ASU's diverse space research community was supported by $69 million in funding across 211 awards from fiscal years 2012-2014.
Photo by: ASU NewSpace Initiative

Written by Nate McIntyre, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development




Many of us at one point or another have found ourselves pondering our place in the universe, asking “are we alone?”

To hybrid scientist-teacher Ariel Anbar, it’s a question that drives his workday – and thanks to his innovative teaching efforts, he has inspired many thousands of ASU students to think about habitability in new ways.

Anbar’s research focuses on Earth’s past and future as a habitable planet, and the prospects for life beyond Earth.

His pioneering research – especially about the chemical evolution of the environment – and innovative efforts in online education have garnered him the Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award.

The annual award, presented by ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, celebrates a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference-making demonstrated by Krahenbuhl, a former dean of the college.

Anbar is a President’s Professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability.

“Ariel has been a key member of our faculty for some time, now. He serves a vital role in connecting our department’s work in molecular sciences with the School of Earth and Space Exploration, where he holds a joint appointment. He has been extremely innovative in applying skills from his Earth science work to an emerging area of biomedicine. And, he has been a driving force in creating new technology platforms for teaching science,” says Daniel Buttry, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“To say he makes a huge difference to the institution’s key missions would be a drastic understatement.”

In his research, Anbar makes a difference by seeing connections that aren’t always obvious and inspiring talented teams and communities to develop them. That approach has led him to co-author over a hundred peer-reviewed papers, many led by students, and to head many large team projects.

Now, Anbar is making a difference as a leader in online learning at ASU and nationally. He is deeply involved in using the medium to its fullest to help educate and encourage a generation that has grown up with the Internet.

He is the driving force behind an online class called Habitable Worlds, which teaches students majoring outside the sciences how to think like scientists and uses the intuition of a tech-savvy generation to kindle their interest and spur their education.

“Professor Anbar’s innovative approach to teaching made the impossible seem possible. The math in the Habitable Worlds course seemed insurmountable for a non-science major like me, but his attitude, ability, and confidence in me, turned me in to a better student. Prior to his class, I had no interest in any form of science. Now I find myself scouring the Internet for news about new-found solar systems and the possibility of another habitable world,” said ASU alumnus Justin Slavicek.

As with his research, Anbar’s success in online education comes from building a team to pursue an idea that wasn’t immediately obvious: That online technology could be used to teach introductory science in a way that was more engaging than a lecture class. In Habitable Worlds, students learn though game-like activities that help them understand the science behind big, unanswered questions like “are we alone?”

ASU’s newly established Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX), directed by Anbar, is an initiative designed to develop and extend this idea. The ETX Center will develop, deploy, and research digital platforms that help teach science as the means by which we explore the unknown, rather than simply learning what is already known, and do it at scale.

As part of ETX in collaboration with the Inspark Science Network and the innovative education technology startup company, Smart Sparrow, Anbar will guide the network in developing “smart courses” that teach basic science concepts through the exploration of intriguing questions, placing traditional science content in a compelling context.

“Ariel is reaching out beyond his excellent research and teaching in two major directions: first to forge a new and better path in online education, and second to help organize a team to construct productive paths forward in addressing climate change,” says Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“He’s bringing the community together and helping us make significant leaps forward. This is what ASU is about.”

The Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award has been awarded since 2003 to a tenured faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences “who demonstrates a broad vision for academic scholarship and a passion for engaging students in discovery and exploration.” Anbar is the 13th recipient of the award.


The School of Earth and Space Exploration is proud to have many meritorious faculty and students. While this is an extensive list of honors, there are probably some deserving individuals who are not listed. Congratulations to all who received scholarships, grants and other honors.

Undergraduate awards
• Katherine Sheppard, CLAS Dean’s Medalist
• Eric Escoto, Greeley Planetary Geology Scholarship
• Courtney Starling, Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Scholarship
• Raphael D'Sa, Ravi DeFilippo Geology Field Scholarship
• Robert Dietz Field Camp Scholarship(s) – Courtney Starling, Raphael D'Sa, Eric Escoto, Thomas Ruberto and Balie Christina Walker
• Carl Fields, “Top Student Presenter” award for poster presentation at the 2014 Sigma Xi International Research Conference
• Yung-Chun Liu – SESE Fellowship for summer 2015
• Mostafa Khoshmanesh – 1st place The 10th Annual AEG Student Night 2015
• Megan Miller – 2nd place The 10th Annual AEG Student Night 2015

Graduate awards
Nathaniel Borneman, Second Prize - Arizona Geological Society, Third Annual Doug Shakel Memorial Student Research Poster Event, April 2015
• Gayatri Indah Marliyani, Third Prize - Arizona Geological Society, Third Annual Doug Shakel Memorial Student Research Poster Event, April 2015
• Kristen Whitney, Honorable Mention - Arizona Geological Society, Third Annual Doug Shakel Memorial Student Research Poster Event, April 2015
• Jacqueline Monkiewicz, ASU GPSA Teaching Excellence Award
• Steven Glaser, GPSA Teaching Excellence Award in the Fall and this semester I got the GPSA Continuing Excellence Award.
• Nathan Williams, ASU/CLAS Graduate Excellence Award; NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship Award
• Kristen Bennett, ASU/CLAS Graduate Excellence Award; NASA Mars Exploration Program conference travel grant award; NASA Planetary Dunes Workshop travel grant award
• Danika Wellington, ASU/GPSA Travel Grant award
• Prajkta Mane, 2014-15 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship; ASU/CLAS Graduate Excellence Award; NASA Astrobiology 2014 Winter School travel award; NASA Planetary Science 2014 Summer School travel award (JPL); Meteoritical Society travel award (September 2014); NASA Mars Student Travel Grant (Nov 2014); ASU/GPSA Travel Grant award (March 2015);
• Karen Rieck, 2014-15 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship; ASU/CLAS Graduate Excellence Award
• Daniel Dunlap, 2014 ASU/SESE Summer Graduate Student Research Award; Graduate Education Office Travel Award (March 2015)
• Kera Tucker, Meteoritical Society travel award (September 2014)
• Cameron Mercer, 2014-15 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship
• Sean Peters, Doctoral Enrichment Fellowship
• Marina Foster and Sandro Londono, Doctoral completion fellowships

Faculty awards
• Lawrence Krauss, (1) Humanist of the Year Award, 2015, American Humanist Assoc., (2) First Prize Award, Gravity Research Foundation 2014
• Frank Timmes, Simons Foundation Fellow - Theoretical Physics
• Enrique Vivoni, (1) 2015 Fulbright Scholar, (2) 2015-2016 Leopold Leadership Fellow
• Steve Semken: 2014-15 Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award for the Natural Sciences, CLAS
• Sangeeta Malhotra: Awarded Hubble Space Telescope Treasury program (her third!), the Faint Infrared Grism Survey (FIGS). Largest HST treasury program this year.
• Meenakshi Wadhwa, 2015-16 Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award
• Anbar, (1) HHMI Professor, (2) Geochemistry Society (3) the European Association of Geochemistry
• Carlton Moore, Mineralogical Society of Arizona Hall of Fame
• Ronald Greeley had a Mars Crater named after him

By popular vote, this year’s winners are:
Undergraduate Professor: Steve Reynolds
Graduate Professor: Allen McNamara
Task Master: Jenny Patience
Postdoc: Mark Salvatore

Graduate Astronomy: Abhi Rajan
Graduate Geology: Alli Severson
Graduate ESD: Kay Davis
Graduate Planetary: Heather Meyer

Undergraduate Astrophysics: Michael Busch
Undergraduate ESD: Ben Stinnett
Undergraduate Astrobiology: Tristyn Bercel
Undergraduate Geology: Katherine Sheppard




A mission to study dynamic changes in the atmosphere of Mars over days and seasons led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involves the University of Colorado Boulder as the leading U.S. scientific-academic partner.

Known as the Emirates Mars Mission, the project is being designed to observe weather phenomena like Martian clouds and dust storms as well as changes in temperature, water vapor and other gases throughout the layers of the atmosphere. The CU-Boulder part of the mission will be undertaken at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

The mission will be headquartered at and controlled from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, which is affiliated with the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology. According to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice president and prime minister of Dubai, the new Mars probe will be named Hope.

The UAE’s U.S. scientific-academic partners also include the University of California, Berkeley, and Arizona State University.

“We view this as a marvelous partnership and unlike anything the university has ever done before,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “This mission not only will involve the advancement of important science, it will include a large emphasis on international education, something CU-Boulder is strengthening at a rapid pace.”

Education and outreach efforts are expected to reach thousands of K-12 students, undergraduates and graduate students from around the world, said DiStefano.

Leading the mission are more than 75 Emirati engineers and researchers, a number that is expected to grow to more than 150 by 2020. Mike McGrath, LASP engineering director and project lead at CU-Boulder, said that a team comprised of CU-Boulder faculty, LASP engineering and missions operations staff and university students will contribute to the effort. The mission is still in its early planning stages, said McGrath.

The science objectives include round-the-clock global weather mapping of the Red Planet in order to better understand how surface weather changes the upper Martian atmosphere. Scientists are interested in how and why Mars -- which has gone from a warm, wet planet to a cold, dry planet -- is losing its oxygen and hydrogen into space.

The UAE is a constitutional federation of seven emirates, or principalities: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah.

Faculty, staff and students from all three U.S. universities will work with UAE researchers on mission data analysis, said McGrath.

LASP currently is leading NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission that began orbiting Mars in September 2014 to help scientists better understand the role atmospheric gases played in changing the climate on the planet over the eons. Data from the new UAE-led mission is expected to complement data from MAVEN and other NASA Mars missions.

Image: CU-Boulder/LASP is one of three universities partnering with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the Emirates Mars Mission, named “Hope,” and will serve as the lead U.S. scientific-academic partner. (Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center)

Reposted with permission from UC-Boulder

Written by Jim Scott



As one of this year’s Fulbright Scholars, Arizona State University cosmochemist Meenakshi Wadhwa will have an opportunity to work at India’s premier research institute for the space sciences. She will be working on collaborative research involving studies of a unique Mars meteorite to understand the origin and history of water on Mars.

“It is my hope that my collaborative research at India’s Physical Research Laboratory will open future opportunities for my students and postdoctoral researchers — and possibly even others more broadly in SESE — to collaborate with students and researchers there, and possibly other Indian academic and research institutions as well,” says Wadhwa, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the director of the Center for Meteorite Studies.

Wadhwa was awarded the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award, which will enable her to spend four months in the spring/summer of 2016 to conduct research at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India), known as the cradle of space sciences in India.

Her research activities focus on deciphering the origin and evolution of the Solar System and planetary bodies through geochemical and isotopic means. She relies on a technique known as isotope analysis to measure the ratios of isotopes, which are two or more forms of the same element that contain different numbers of neutrons.

She has made significant contributions in the development and application of high precision isotope analyses that have led to a better understanding of processes and time scales involved in the formation and evolution of planetary bodies in our Solar System.

During her time in India, she will be working with students and colleagues at the PRL to understand the origin and history of water on Mars based on studies of Mars meteorite NWA 7034, also known as “Black Beauty”. Water on the Red Planet is a big deal for scientists because of the potential it offers for extraterrestrial life. Wherever there’s water on Earth, scientists have found life – and researchers suspect the same may be true elsewhere.

“We have only just begun our investigations of this meteorite — it was only discovered in 2013, and the Center for Meteorite Studies acquired a slice of it last year,” says Wadhwa.

Using a combination of state-of-the-art analytical facilities at the PRL and ASU, she will be developing methods for precise analyses of the abundance and isotope composition of water in the fine-grained minerals in this Mars rock, thought to have formed as surface regolith on that planet. She also hopes to utilize these methods for analyses of other samples in the collection of the PRL and the Geological Survey of India that are not as readily available in other museum collections.

ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies holds a 20-gram cut of Black Beauty. The bulk chemical composition of this meteorite closely matches that of the Martian crust as measured by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers and Mars Odyssey Orbiter. It also contains the most amount of water of any of the known Martian meteorites.

Wadhwa’s Fulbright project will build upon recent work in her research group on understanding the water contents and hydrogen isotopes in Mars meteorites, especially in major minerals in these rocks that typically do not accommodate much water in their structure.

Each year, the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program awards about 800 highly sought after teaching and/or research grants to selected U.S. faculty and experienced professionals, enabling them to engage in collaborative studies and research in more than 125 countries. Award recipients are chosen for exemplary achievements and proven leadership in their fields.

Wadhwa's most notable recognitions include a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship, Nier Prize of the Meteoritical Society, Fellow of the Meteoritical Society, the Antarctic Service Medal (for two field seasons collecting meteorites in Antarctica) and an asteroid named 8356 Wadhwa by the International Astronomical Union.

She is only the second ASU recipient of this award, which is part of the Fulbright Scholar Program and is jointly funded by the Government of India. The first ASU recipient was Stephen MacKinnon, professor emeritus in the department of history.

Written by Nikki Cassis







Surviving four or more years of college is hard enough, but some Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ students go above and beyond by taking opportunities to further their education. They take advanced courses, study abroad, participate in research – and do it exceptionally.

These students receive the college’s Dean’s medal and are honored at the end of the year by their school or department.

Meet the 2014-2015 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s medalists:

Katherine Sheppard

Dean’s medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration
Major: Earth and Space Exploration
Concentration: Geological Sciences
Thesis: Senior Thesis Research: Experimental Petrology and Igneous Processes Center (EPIC)
Post-graduation plans: Pursuing a doctorate at a university.

“Katherine was hired in our SIMS lab as a student worker, and I really do not think of her as an undergraduate, but as a graduate student who has used her time in the research and classroom arenas to gain and master an amazing breadth of scientific skills and knowledge,” said Rick Hervig, professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Emily Fritcke

Dean’s medal: Department of English
Major: English Literature and History
Minor: Arabic Studies
Certificate: Study of Religion and Conflict
Accomplishments: Fritcke
 currently works for the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict as a marketing and communications assistant. She served two years as a research assistant to Yasmin Saikia studying the impact of the education process on Pakistani youth and is presently an assistant coordinator for an upcoming international conference on political Islam. Fritcke
 has been active in Arizona politics working on a Congressional campaign in 2012 and serving as campaign manager for a local high school board candidate in 2014. In the summer of 2014, Fritcke
 completed a program studying Eastern European literature in Romania, under the guidance of Ileana Orlich.
Thesis focus: Explored how governments manipulate history curricula to create their ideal citizenry.
Post-graduation plans: Fritcke
 plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career that will provide her the opportunity to promote the advancement of international relations and women’s rights.

Jenna Smith

Dean’s medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and School of International Letters and Cultures
Major: Philosophy, Classics
Certificate: Symbolic Systems
Accomplishments: Smith was one of a group of four undergraduates who presented an evening on "Alan Turing and the Imitation Game," for the community group Spirit of the Senses. She has been a campus campaign coordinator and operations coordinator for Teach For America. Smith has worked in leadership positions for ASU Changemaker Central, the ASU School of International Letters and Culture, and Barrett, The Honors College.
Thesis: Compiled a body of advice that jurors can use regarding reasonable doubt, knowledge vs. belief, and legal proof, when making decisions about a defendant’s guilt or innocence in capital cases.
Post-graduation plans: Her plan is to request a deferral from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law so that she can pursue either a Teach for America opportunity or a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant grant in South Korea.

Ryan Muller

Dean’s medal: Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology
Minor: Mathematics
Accomplishments: Muller conducted undergraduate research in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley as an Amgen Scholar. He was a member of the ASU iGEM Synthetic Biology Research Team. Muller has been published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology and spoken at conferences like the Center for RNA Systems Biology Annual Meeting.

“He is one of the best and brightest students that will have graduated from our department. Ryan truly epitomizes what the undergraduate experience can be for a student in the new American University,” said Wilson Francisco, associate professor and associate chair in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.


Anika Larson

Dean’s medal: School of Life Sciences
Major: Biological Sciences and Global Studies
Accomplishments: Larson has worked on a project on taking education to prisons, and she leads a team on teaching biology to a group of adult inmate students. Larson also has environmental health research experience with organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Protection and School Lunch Project. She also participated in many on-campus organizations like the Prison Education Awareness Club and Health and Counseling Student Action Committee.

“She is often the one working late in the lab, dedicated to getting the job done. When she has taken the work on the road, with posters and presentations, that has proven very successful as well. She stands out in these traditional areas of study and research,” said Jane Maienschein, director, Center for Biology and Society.

Lauren Crider

Dean’s medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
Major: Mathematics
Accomplishments: Crider has published two papers on applied mathematics topics in proceedings of international conferences and has made numerous research presentations at conferences, workshops, and student research forums. She’s interned at the Air Force Research Laboratory and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

“Lauren Crider exemplifies what it means to excel as a CLAS Mathematics student,” said Nancy Childress, associate director, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

Christopher Luna

Dean’s medal: Department of Physics
Major: Physics and Mathematics
Accomplishments: Luna has been published in a number of journals. He’s a peer mentor and helps lower division physic students. He’s also involved with organizations, such as the American Physical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Thesis: Neural Networks for Predicting Heat Transport in Tokamak Plasmas.

“A striking aspect of his character is his humility. Academically, Christopher stays grounded, with no big-headedness, even though he was top of my class. As a student in my classes, he took it upon himself to mentor some of the other students who were having difficulties. As a result, all of those students ended up doing well in my class. I am positive that Christopher will be a fabulous teacher/mentor.” -Michael Treacy, Professor of Physics

Sydney-Paige Komarnisky

Dean’s medal: Department of Psychology
Major: Psychology and Biology
Accomplishments: Komarnisky helped with research in the Kwan Warriors Lab, Las Madres Nuevas Lab, and Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab. She’s interned at HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center and volunteered at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Hospice of the Valley. She also was involved with the Barrett Mentoring Program for two years and helped freshmen adjust to college life.
Thesis: Momentary Associations Among Negative Affect and Cortisol: Is Alone vs. Not Alone a Moderator? Is Perceived Support a Moderator?

“Paige is an amazingly thoughtful young scholar. As a research assistant in my lab, she was one of those rare undergraduates who actively sought opportunities to acquire deeper understandings of the phenomena we were studying. She was a joy to work with, and set a very high standard for other outstanding students to follow,” said Keith Crnic, Las Madres Nuevas project.

Shelly Bruno

Dean’s medal: American Indian Studies Program
Major: American Indian Studies
Accomplishments: Bruno was involved in a number of organizations while attending ASU. She was involved in the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund and Save the Wolves Foundation while helping as a troop leader for her son’s and daughter’s Boy and Girl Scout troops.

“Shelly’s focus on environmental justice and sacred site protection on Indigenous lands are also noted in her work. She is responsible, caring and strives to improve the quality of life for people. She has a bright future and we wish her well,” said John W. Tippeconnic III, director of the American Indian Studies Program.

Jakob Hansen

Dean’s medal: Department of Economics
Major: Economics and Mathematics
Minor: Music Performance
Accomplishments: Hansen contributed to two publications that were in the Journal of Computational and Applied Mathematics and BIT Numerical Mathematics. He also has been awarded the Economics Department’s JP Morgan Chase Scholarship, the Goldwater Scholarship, and National Merit Finalist scholarship. Hansen was an ATR Center Intern, a research assistant at ASU and a participant in the CSUMS Summer Research Program.
Thesis: Downsampling for Parameter Choice in Ill-Posed Deconvolution Problems

Ryan McConnaughy

Dean’s medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Major: Communication, Sociology
Accomplishments: McConnaughy has received numerous academic awards, and is a member of several academic and professional organizations, including the Association of Human Communication, the National Communication Association and Phi Theta Kappa. McConnaughy, a Navy veteran, is a member of the Barrett Veteran Advisory Group, who strive to increase Veteran’s interest in Barrett and recruit more Veteran students. He has also worked with Barrett Association of Transfer Students, to assist incoming students with their transition to ASU. McConnaughy has also volunteered with Arizona Special Olympics.
Thesis: Battlefield to Classroom: Issues Veteran Students face communicating in the classroom

Jaylee Conlin

Dean’s medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Major: Geography and Computer Science
Accomplishments: v was selected for the NASA Student Airborne Program and spent the summer doing research with NASA. She won the Outstanding Student Paper Award at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in 2014.

“We went with Jaylee Conlin because of the rigor of her programs of study plus two other qualities. She was selected for the prestigious NASA Student Airborne Program, spending the summer doing research with NASA involving flight work, and as product of this research won the Outstanding Student Paper Award in the December meeting of the AGU (American Geophysical Union). There were several winners, but the competition is national and Colin was up against students from elite institutions across the country,” said Billie L. Turner, Gilbert F. White Professor of Environment and Society, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Hannah McAtee

Dean’s medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Major: Global Health and Pre Medicine
Minor: Spanish
Accomplishments: McAtee has been recognized in a variety of different scholar programs, such as the Tillman Scholar, Barrett-Mayo Premedical Scholar and Grady and Kathryn Gammage Memorial Scholar. She’s interned twice for World Food Prize in India and Washington, D.C. as well as volunteering at Make-A-Wish and Trinity Hospital.

“Since her first days in our lab, Hannah has indicated that her career goal is to be a medical doctor and unlike many students, she truly understands the commitment she is making in this regard. Next year, Hannah will be moving on to medical school at one of the four institutions to which she was accepted. I am confident that Hannah will find success in all her future endeavors,” said Anika Hutchinson, aademic success specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Alyssa Timms

Dean’s medal: School of Politics and Global Studies
Major: Political Science
Minor: Military Leadership
Certificate: Political Entrepreneurship
Accomplishments: Timms is a Reserve Officer Training Corps member. She interned in Washington, D.C. for a member of Congress while enrolled in the McCain Institute. She also was a part of the Junior Fellows program in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“To my knowledge, we have not recognized her [enough] as the outstanding student that she is. Whether she follows a military career or a career in governmental service, she is well prepared and has the drive and determination to succeed and make us proud,” said Richard Herrera, associate director, School of Politics and Global Studies.

Abbey Pellino

Dean’s medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Major: Sociology and Global Studies
Certificate: Religion and Conflict and International Studies
Accomplishments: Pellino is an undergraduate research fellow with the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. She had the opportunity to work on the Kakehashi Project in Japan where she exchanged ideas with local business owners, students and government officials. She also participated in a Semester at Sea and she was an American Rotaract Representative in the Ukraine in 2012.

“It was always a pleasure to work with her and to share ideas about her future career path. She has a positive and outgoing personality, and she is eager to continue her education in global affairs. She is a shining example of one of our many outstanding students in the Sanford School,” said Lois Laynor Goldblatt, academic success coordinator.

Samantha Sidoti

Dean’s medal: School of Social Transformation
Major: Women & Gender Studies and Human Communication
Accomplishments: Sidoti has helped freshmen through their college experience as an ASU Community Assistant, Senior Community Mentor and First Year Success Coach. She worked with the Purple Ribbon Council, a nonprofit focused on preventing teen dating violence.
Post-graduation plans: She will spend the next two years as a corps member of Teach For America.

Tate Desper

Dean’s medal: School of Transborder Studies
Major: Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies and Spanish Linguistics
Accomplishments: Tate has helped with research at Brown University’s Department of Anthropology and the Wells Fargo Fellowship’s Latino Undergraduate Research Collaborative. She is a recipient of the Wells Fargo Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies Research Scholarship.
Thesis: Rivera & Livramento: Linguistic Identity on the Uruguay-Brazil Border

“There is no doubt that Tate is an exceptional student, who will continue to be successful in her future endeavors,” said Edward Escobar, acting director and associate professor, School of Transborder Studies.

Written by Alicia Canales



ASU researchers are hoping to work with NASA to find out

Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus may offer the next best hope for finding life elsewhere in our solar system, astrobiologists now say. An article published in Forbes April 29 by Bruce Dorminey titled, “NASA May Plumb For Signs Of Life In Enceladus' Plumes” discusses two potential mission proposals to Enceladus to sample its towering geyser-like plumes of water erupting from its frozen surface.

Both proposed NASA missions involve ASU researchers.

The Cassini spacecraft discovered an icy plume erupting from an ancient salty ocean inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and proved it contains organic molecules. These factors, added with the icy satellites geothermal energy, make plausible the idea that life exists on this tiny moon.

The first proposed mission, called ELF (short for Enceladus Life Finder), would follow in Cassini’s footsteps, using two state-of-the-art instruments to measure the ocean’s history, habitability and biotic state.

ASU professors Ariel Anbar and Everett Shock make up the ASU portion of the multi-institutional team that designed the proposal.

“If you really want to look someplace in the solar system and determine whether life could independently arise on any body, then Enceladus is a great bet,” Anbar is quoted as saying in the Forbes article.

While giant-geysers erupting over an icy surface sound fascinating, astrobiologists aren’t expecting to find life there. It’s the warmer, liquid waters beneath the surface that interests them.

The article quotes Anbar as saying, ““It’s not likely that anything is living in the plumes because the particles freeze pretty fast when exposed to space. But there could be things living in the oceans that the plumes are sampling.”

The proposed ELF mission would make use of today’s capabilities, including mass spectrometers of much higher resolution, range, and that would measure key chemical indicators of just how habitable Enceladus’ ocean such as temperature, pH, and oxidation state.

Of course, the only way to tell if life exists in Enceladus’ subsurface ocean is to collect ocean water samples – which is what the second proposed mission, dubbed LIFE (short for Life Investigations For Enceladus), seeks to do.

Image: This photo of water geysers spouting from Saturn's moon Enceladus was taken by NASA's Cassini orbiter in October 2007
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA 

Written by Nikki Cassis