OUR MISSION: YOUR SUCCESS

Student-professor teams at Arizona do big things, like improve the ways humans and machines interact, use technology in new ways to benefit health and the environment, and more.

CURIOUS BOTS

Because this robotic explorer will have to make decisions on its own, it will need cognitive abilities that until now have been unique to humans, such as curiosity.

Associate professor Wolfgang Fink and his team of students and researchers are going to answer the question, "Can a machine learn how to be curious?" Inside the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory, they are working to build a robotic geologist that can operate in environments too hazardous for humans, such as natural disaster zones.
 
The challenge is to create robots that mimic the approach a human explorer would take in areas that may be too hazardous for humans to explore — first surveying the landscape, homing in on a certain region, then getting closer to investigate.
 
"No longer would humans be the ones pushing the buttons," Fink says. The team is developing reasoning algorithms that teach machines to recognize features in a landscape that a human explorer would classify as "interesting."
 

Full Story: Humans and Machines Enter New Orbit

wolfgang-fink-small.jpg

Assistant Professor Wolfgang Fink and a student testing a robot
Wolfgang Fink and his team, including student Alex Brooks (left), work to building a robotic field geologist.

"We can do amazing stuff with technology. It's the cultural challenge that will make or break us."

– Ash Black, Tech.Global executive director

DEEP LEARNING

Arizona senior Taite Nazifi, a double major in computer science and French, spent the summer near Longo Mai, Costa Rica creating a web application for the "Movimiento Ríos Vivos," or "Living Rivers Movement." Nazifi's part of Justice 360, a partnership between UA Global's Climate Justice study-abroad program and Tech.Global. Ash Black, Tech.Global’s executive director, believes the journey to Longo Mai will prepare Nazifi for a career in an increasingly connected world.

"My objective is to build an extremely robust and usable mobile web application for an area that doesn't necessarily have a great internet connection, and for people who don't use web applications or devices often," Nazifi said. 

The people of Longo Mai demonstrate resilience in the face of environmental challenges. The locals grow their own food, harvest water and strive to act with compassion, to one another and to the earth. 

Nazifi shares, "The mornings here by the rivers are my most cherished and valued experiences by far. I can't even begin to explain what kind of amazing impact this has made in my life."

Full Story: A Summer of Learning, Deep in Costa Rica

one-taite-360-image.jpg

Costa Rica wildlife photographed by student Taite Nazifi
Taite Nazifi snapped photos in Costa Rica, observed wildlife and considered fields of data that might be useful to collect, envisioning a software solution for conservationists who document conditions at area rivers.
 

LUNG ON A LEAF

Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine — Phoenix have developed a revolutionary "lung on a leaf" to study pulmonary disease, including lung infections such as Valley fever and inflammatory conditions such as sarcoidosis, in a plant model.

The idea for the lung on a leaf began with UA undergraduate researcher Ryan Zenhausern and his mentor UA assistant professor Jerome Lacombe, who were developing a new cancer research model using spinach leaves.

The platform technology provides a 3-D tissue microenvironment that is constructed by treating a leaf with detergents to remove all traces of plant cells, DNA and proteins, leaving only its scaffold. Next, different types of cells are repopulated on the skeleton of the leaf and recellularized on the surface of the leaf. The stem vasculature can be populated with the appropriate cell types, which resemble blood vessels.

Professor Kenneth Knox, MD, became interested in the research from a pulmonologist's perspective, because a lung and a leaf possess similar branching structures. 

Knox hopes that by using inactive Coccidioides fungus — the cause of Valley fever — to simulate inflammation, researchers will be better able to understand how inflammation begins, which will pave the way for new therapies.

Full Story: 'Lung on a Leaf' Model to Study Pulmonary Diseases

knox-lung-plant-web-tm-4771.jpg

A regular spinach leaf (left) and one that is being decellularized.
A regular spinach leaf (left) and one that is being decellularized.

 

"We are developing a tool that will better mimic the human system and improve the overall concept of personalized medicine"

—Frederic Zenhausern, director of the UA Center for Applied NanoBioscience and Medicine

STAND UP TO SEISMIC FORCES

"I am really proud to be working on this project because we are not just doing something that is going to be our thesis or papers. This is something that will make people's lives better." —Anshul Agarwal

Doctoral student Anshul Agarwal experienced the Bhuj, India earthquake in 2001, a tragedy that inspired him to study structural engineering at Arizona. Today he is involved in research to design buildings that can better withstand seismic forces and potentially save lives.

Traditionally researchers of seismic safety look at walls and braces, which transfer seismic forces through a building's foundation down and into the ground. But forces cannot be transferred vertically from walls and braces to the earth unless steel collectors – reinforcements in concrete floor slabs or in special beams below them – first transfer those forces horizontally.

Researchers at Arizona in Civil & Architectural Engineering & Mechanics focus on those steel collectors, and we utilize computer simulations and shake table tests to design safer structures.

Computer simulations then provide valuable trial-and-error information. Professor Robert Fleischman shares, "Every day, our students can do a quarter-of-a-million-dollar test." 

Agarwal is one of those students. He runs up to 50 simulations in a day, adjusting variables to create a structure where collectors can do their job effectively. 

Full Story: Earthquake Engineers Shift Focus to Ensure Structural Safety

seismic-forces.jpg

The University of Arizona and partners at Lehigh University and the University of California San Diego stand in front of the nation’s largest outdoor shake table that simulates earthquake conditions on structures
The University of Arizona and partners at Lehigh University and the University of California San Diego stand in front of the nation’s largest outdoor shake table that simulates earthquake conditions on structures.

 

Arizona alumni are healthier, happier and more successful than their peers nationally

—2017 Gallup Study

urban-design.jpg

A drawing/sketch of a First Avenue design
The students envisioned activity development along First Avenue that incorporates detention basins with existing topography to encourage native vegetation and social interaction.

NOTHING SAYS 'THANK YOU' LIKE URBAN DESIGN

When you live and study at the University of Arizona, your experience can inspire projects you never thought you’d undertake. 

A group of graduate students in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture decided to give something back by developing a Complete Streets policy for Tucson.  

"What is ‘Complete Streets?’ It's basically designing streets for everyone," said Amanda Maass, one of four planning students and three landscape architecture students who worked to build a framework that would support safe, equitable and healthy streets, and encourage economic growth within districts throughout the city. "These are key aspects in creating a sustainable community."

The students' ideas included new shopping and parking locations, parklet spaces near transit lines to encourage mobility with dignity, and vegetation improvements with storm water run-off detention basins.

"I was impressed the most by just the fact that they were so passionate about the cause and the human at the center of it," assistant professor Kelly Cederberg said. "I drive down these corridors every day, and I see how many people are standing out in the hot sun waiting for a bus that comes very infrequently, and trying to cross the road and getting almost hit by cars. I don't think those people ever left their minds."

Full Story: Students at Arizona take to Tucson's Roads

 

queen-bees.jpg

Bees at work in a honeycomb
Anderson's team used the UA’s next-generation sequencing capabilities to identify the species and amounts of bacteria living in honey bee intestines. This allowed them to compare the bacteria that make up the gut flora in aging workers versus aging queens.

QUEEN BEES AND THE MICROBIAL FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

In two genetically identical castes, why do worker bees die within weeks of being born whereas queens can live for years? 

A team of researchers including three UA graduate students discovered that while worker bees and queens can be genetically identical, their vastly different lifespans appear to be connected to different microbes living in their guts. 

"Our study is the first to suggest a connection between the bacteria that inhabit the bees’ guts, the foods they eat, and physiological differences related to aging, stress and longevity," says Kirk Anderson, a research microbiologist with the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center and adjunct scientist in the UA's Department of Entomology and Center for Insect Science.

A growing body of research suggests that in humans, so-called probiotic bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are associated with health and longevity, whereas bacteria belonging to a group known as Proteobacteria often are associated with unhealthy microbial imbalances. There appears to be a similar trend in worker bees, leading the researchers to hope that bees could be used as model organisms to study the more complex assemblies of microbes that make up the microbiome in mammals, including humans.

"How and why do things get old and die?" Anderson says. "These are fundamental processes that model systems help us explore, and the honey bee with its tractability and relatively simple microbiome could help us answer these questions."

Full Story: Queen Bees and the Microbial Fountain of Youth