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Anna Vickrey, PhD’20

Anna Vickrey


Anna Vickrey who graduated from the School of Biological Sciences with a PhD in 2020 has always been fascinated with domestication, both the process and the "products" which include the plants and animals important to our lives and history as humans. "I became really interested in the morphological diversity present both in domestic breeds and natural species by going to a lot of dog shows," she says.

The Salt Lake City native also had chickens and pigeons, growing up, and spent time around wild bird species ("My mom 'rehabbed' wild birds out of our house," she reports). As an undergrad at the University of Utah, she became curious about how diversity is generated at the genetic level. "Naively, I was wondering if differences in morphology are generated by 'coding' or 'regulatory' changes to genes. In reality," she admits, "it’s more complicated than that!)." Fortunately for her, this was one of the questions that Professor Mike Shapiro was asking in his pigeon lab which she was able to join and where she continued working through her graduation last spring.

Vickrey keeps pigeons as pets, mostly American Show Racer and Archangel breeds, so the model subject of her research for the past several years is one she'd had a longstanding interest in. While in the Shapiro lab she studied wing color patterns in domestic pigeons. "Even though we know that color patterns are really important for animals in the wild (for things like camouflage and mate choice), there’s still a lot that’s not known about how patterns are generated at the genetic and molecular level," she says. "I also work on head crests, a type of ornamental feather structure--sort of a fancy feather-do--that are present in lots of pigeon breeds and wild bird species."

For each of these projects, she and her team learned some surprising things about the genes that cause these traits. For example, pigeons with a wing color pattern called "barless" also can have vision defects that are called “foggy vision” by pigeon breeders. "The gene that we found is associated with the barless color pattern is known to cause hereditary blindness in humans when the gene is mutated." And while the researchers didn’t expect to discover this connection, foggy vision in barless pigeons is caused by eye defects that are similar to humans with this type of hereditary blindness.

Hitting the books in the Shapiro Lab.

Staggeringly, there are over 300 breeds of domestic rock pigeon. Similar to dogs, these breeds can look extremely different from one another (think of the difference between a Chihuahua and a Great Dane) even though they’re all the same species. Also, the pigeons all over a typical city like Salt Lake are “ferals,” she explains, meaning they’ve descended from the same domestic species.

The School of Biological Sciences houses research on a huge diversity of topics. "As an undergrad and then a grad student I’ve always felt very lucky to have exposure to such diversity--everything from crystallography and protein biochemistry to rainforest ecology!" she says. Now with her PhD, it's clear to Vickrey that it's important to be a lifelong learner. Even while currently finishing up the projects in the Shapiro lab, "we're starting to get some really cool results looking at the bright red skin around the eyes."

In turns out that the color may be another trait that was hybridized into domestic pigeons from the African speckled pigeon. She and her colleagues will also be kept busy during the next few months looking for modifier genes that control head crest size.

And what are her plans long-term? "I want to stay on a career path that allows me to continue to communicate science while keeping me connected to science. I'm really interested in genetic counseling but I'm also looking at a science policy fellowship."

Clearly, Vickrey whose heroes include Marie Curie, the Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity, is characterized by a diversity of inquiry she found so available at SBS. Indicative of that are other heroes of hers that she ticks off:  Latino artist Frida Kahlo, the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (most famous for his iconic The Little Prince), and the late marine biologist Rachel Carson whose signature Silent Spring spring-boarded conservation and nature writing into the national conversation. All of these people, like Vickrey, possess determination, creativity, and passion.

Armed with her doctorate, Anna Vickrey will eventually land at her next formal adventure animated by scientific research and intense learning. In the meantime, her love of domesticated animals continues, an interest that threads through her inquisitive life before and during her time at the U, and now post graduation. Along with reading fiction and cooking, she will always enjoy trail running with her dogs. "I [also] go to a lot of 'animal competitions'" she says, looking for the right term to describe her enduring interest outside her research, "like quarter horse races and sheepdog trials."

 

 

Masks for U

Spread the word, not the virus.

As faculty, staff and students slowly return to campus we are asking everyone in the community to take the utmost caution to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This includes wearing face coverings and maintaining appropriate physical distancing. The university will be providing face coverings to all faculty and staff to help make this possible.

Print & Mail Services will distribute the masks directly to departments. We hope to have the masks delivered in two weeks. Check with your department staff for availability.

The University is launching a campaign to remind people of the importance of wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing. The campaign features members of the campus community wearing appropriate face coverings with messaging about how to stay safe while on campus.

Departments will be able to place orders with Print & Mail Services for posters, A-frames, floor signs and other items with the campaign messaging. You can also get more information about staying safe on campus here.

We are all anxious for things to return to normal. However, that cannot happen until we stop the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the greater Salt Lake City area.

We can do that by coming together and protecting ourselves and each other with just a few small changes to our normal routines.

Remember, we are all One U.



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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the schedule for the fall semester?

  • Classes will begin as scheduled on August 24.
  • The fall break (October 4-11) is canceled. In-person classes may shift to online instruction this week due to the Vice Presidential Debate on October 7.
  • Instruction will shift online from November 30 to December 3, with final exams held online December 7-11.
  • This shift to all-online instruction and exams after Thanksgiving is based on the strong advice of U of U Health epidemiologists and mirrors the approach of many of our national peers.

What safety measures will be in place?

  • The University will provide at least one face covering for every student, faculty, and staff member. 
  • All buildings will provide hand sanitizer near entrances, elevators, and large classrooms.
  • Students will be provided with sanitizing wipes or other supplies at the entrance to classrooms and laboratory spaces.
  • Classrooms and public spaces will be cleaned daily.

What format will classes take?

  • All classes will be using Canvas. Students should ensure that they have access to Canvas and are familiar with its format.
  • Class formats are still being reviewed by the Registrar and the Department Chairs. As of mid-June, classes will fall into one of the following formats:
    • In-person classes will be held for courses that cannot move to an online format, such as laboratory courses.
    • Online classes (designated as Section 090 by the registrar's office). Students will access course content online.
    • Snychronous or Remote courses, in which the instructor will provide instruction during the scheduled course time. Snychronous courses can take place on campus in classrooms with the content available online, such as real-time webcasts.

We ask for student cooperation with the following:

  • Only come to campus if you are healthy. Contact your instructors if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Wear face coverings in all common areas in campus buildings.
  • Practice diligent personal hygiene and physical distancing.
  • Use sanitizing supplies provided as you enter classrooms and laboratories to wipe down your desk, table, chair, and/or bench top areas.
  • Follow instructions given by professors or instructors to maintain physical distancing guidelines during your class/lab.

Where can I get help?

The College of Science recognizes this is a challenging time for our students, faculty and staff. The University has provided several resources for your use.

Have another question? Email us at office@science.utah.edu. We're here to help you succeed.

Forest Futures

Forest Futures


Know the risks of investing in forests.

Given the tremendous ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, some governments are counting on planted forests as offsets for greenhouse gas emissions—a sort of climate investment. But as with any investment, it’s important to understand the risks. If a forest goes bust, researchers say, much of that stored carbon could go up in smoke.

In a paper published in Science, University of Utah biologist William Anderegg and his colleagues say that forests can be best deployed in the fight against climate change with a proper understanding of the risks to that forest that climate change itself imposes. “As long as this is done wisely and based on the best available science, that’s fantastic,” Anderegg says. “But there hasn’t been adequate attention to the risks of climate change to forests right now.”

Meeting of Minds

William Anderegg

In 2019, Anderegg, a recipient of the Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, convened a workshop in Salt Lake City to gather some of the foremost experts on climate change risks to forests. The diverse group represented various disciplines: law, economics, science and public policy, among others. “This was designed to bring some of the people who had thought about this the most together and to start talking and come up with a roadmap,” Anderegg says.

This paper, part of that roadmap, calls attention to the risks forests face from myriad consequences of rising global temperatures, including fire, drought, insect damage and human disturbance—a call to action, Anderegg says, to bridge the divide between the data and models produced by scientists and the actions taken by policymakers.

Accumulating Risk

Forests absorb a significant amount of the carbon dioxide that’s emitted into the atmosphere—just under a third, Anderegg says. “And this sponge for CO2 is incredibly valuable to us.”

Because of this, governments in many countries are looking to “forest-based natural climate solutions” that include preventing deforestation, managing natural forests and reforesting. Forests could be some of the more cost-effective climate mitigation strategies, with co-benefits for biodiversity, conservation and local communities.

But built into this strategy is the idea that forests are able to store carbon relatively “permanently”, or on the time scales of 50 to 100 years—or longer. Such permanence is not always a given. “There’s a very real chance that many of those forest projects could go up in flames or to bugs or drought stress or hurricanes in the coming decades,” Anderegg says.

Forests have long been vulnerable to all of those factors, and have been able to recover from them when they are episodic or come one at a time. But the risks connected with climate change, including drought and fire, increase over time. Multiple threats at once, or insufficient time for forests to recover from those threats, can kill the trees, release the carbon, and undermine the entire premise of forest-based natural climate solutions.

“Without good science to tell us what those risks are,” Anderegg says, “we’re flying blind and not making the best policy decisions.”

Mitigating Risk

In the paper, Anderegg and his colleagues encourage scientists to focus increased attention on assessing forest climate risks and share the best of their data and predictive models with policymakers so that climate strategies including forests can have the best long-term impact. For example, he says, the climate risk computer models scientists use are detailed and cutting-edge, but aren’t widely used outside the scientific community. So, policy decisions can rely on science that may be decades old.

“There are at least two key things you can do with this information,” Anderegg says. The first is to optimize investment in forests and minimize risks. “Science can guide and inform where we ought to be investing to achieve different climate aims and avoid risks.”

The second, he says, is to mitigate risks through forest management. “If we’re worried about fire as a major risk in a certain area, we can start to think about what are the management tools that make a forest more resilient to that disturbance.” More research, he says, is needed in this field, and he and his colleagues plan to work toward answering those questions.

“We view this paper as an urgent call to both policymakers and the scientific community,” Anderegg says, “to study this more, and improve in sharing tools and information across different groups.” Read the full paper @ sciencemag.org

 

 

by Paul Gabrielsen first published in @theU

 

Recent Awards

2020 College of Science Convocation AWARDS


Student Recognition

CoS Research Scholar Award
Delaney Mosier, BS Mathematics

Churchill Scholarship
Michael Xiao, BS Biology

Barry Goldwater Scholarship
Lydia Fries, junior, Chemistry
Isaac Martin, junior, Mathematics & Physics

CoS Convocation Student Speaker
Delaney Mosier, BS in Mathematics

Faculty Recognition

University of Utah Distinguished Research Award
David Bowling, Professor of Biological Sciences

University of Utah Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence
Cynthia Burrows, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

University of Utah Distinguished Teaching Award
Kelly MacArthur, Instructor (Lecturer) of Mathematics

University of Utah Distinguished Research Award
International Society of Electrochemistry Fellow
Shelley Minteer, Professor of Chemistry

University of Utah Distinguished Professor
Valeria Molinero, Professor of Chemistry

University of Utah Distinguished Mentor Award
Pearl Sandick, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy

Community Engaged Teaching and Scholarship Award
Tino Nyawelo, Associate Professor (Lecturer) of Physics & Astronomy

John R. Park Fellowship
Andrey Rogachev, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy

Emile Argand Award from the International Union of Geological Sciences
Thure Cerling, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences

Simons Fellowship
Jonathan Chaika, Associate Professor of Mathematics
Karl Schwede, Professor of Mathematics

Mario Capecchi Endowed Chair
James Gagnon, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

American Chemical Society Award in Spectrochemical Analysis
American Chemical Society Fellow
Eastern Analytical Symposium Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Fields of Analytical Chemistry
Joel Harris, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

American Mathematical Society Fellowship
Davar Khoshnevisan, Professor of Mathematics

National Science Foundation Early Career Award
Sean Lawley, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair
Ryan Looper, Professor of Chemistry

Celebrate U - Top Entrepreneur 2018
Baldomero Olivera, Professor of Biological Sciences

American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow
John Parkinson, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences

Highly Cited Researcher for 2019 by Web of Science
John Sperry, Professor of Biological Sciences

American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal
National Academy of Inventors Fellow
Peter J. Stang, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

Faculty Teaching Award for Excellence in General Education
David Temme, Professor (Lecturer) of Biological Sciences

University Sustainability Teaching Scholar Designation
Tanya Vickers, Instructor (Lecturer) of Biological Sciences

John A. Widtsoe Presidential Endowed Chair in Chemistry
Henry White, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

  


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Alumni Webinar

Alumni Webinar


Peter Trapa, PhD
Dean of the CoLLEGE OF SCIENCE

Addressing the World's Challenges in the College of Science

Dean Peter Trapa discusses the critical importance of research, beginning at the undergraduate level, as the College continues to produce changemakers in science and mathematics.

 


James Detling, PhD’69

Professor Emeritus, Botanist, Colorado State

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Amy Davis, PhD’03

A circuitous route from academe to industry

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Dale C. Larsen, BS’59

From aerial photographer to dentist

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Jason Allen, BS’01

Turbo-charging career through research

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Steve Mimnaugh, BS’73

Living more than one life.

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Donor Recognition

Thank you for your support of our vibrant community of scientists and mathematicians.

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George Elliott, PhD’81

Retired U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officer gives back

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Jim Kaschmitter, BS’72

From copper mines to NiCo batteries to experimental aircraft.

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Student Emergency Fund

Support students in need.

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Carol Blair, BA’64

Professor Emerita, Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology

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Emily Bates, BS’97

Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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Arie Sitthichai Mobley, BS’00

The Jackson Laboratory

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Clifford Stocks, BS’80

CEO, OncoResponse

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Bill Jack, BA’77

Distinguished Chemistry Alumni 2019

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Griffin Chure, BS’13

National Science Foundation Postdoc Research Fellow, Stanford

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Jeffrey Webster, BS’81

Surgeon at Reno Orthopedic Clinic

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Kurt Zilm, BS’76, PhD’81

Distinguished Chemistry Alumni 2019

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Anna Vickrey, PhD’20

Pigeon-holed and lovin' it.

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Michelle Williams, PhD’87

Distinguished Chemistry Alumni 2019

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Ole Jensen, BS’72

Ole Jensen’s one claim to fame was that he was tapped to be a “calf sitter."

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Doon Gibbs, BS’63

Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York.

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The Gandhis, BS’86, 91, 92

The Gandhi family is U - through and through.

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McKay Hyde, BS’97

Equities Engineering for the New York office of Goldman Sachs.

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Alumni VS Coronavirus

Utah biotech companies rally to fight the coronavirus.

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Alumni Panel

Distinguished science alumni share their experiences.

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Crimson Legacy

Learn about planned giving opportunities.

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Winter 2019

Crimson Laureate Society updates from December 2019.

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Jim Sugihara, PhD’47

The University of Utah's first PhD recipient.

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Connor Morgan, BS’19

What does a former Student Body President and Biology alum do after graduating from the U?

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Summer 2019

Crimson Laureate Society updates from May 2019.

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Lynn Miller, BS’63

One of the architects of Universal Life insurance.

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2019 Churchill Scholar

Cameron Owen - Chemistry and physics major and student researcher.

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Ryan Watts, BS’00

Co-Founder of Denali Therapeutics, focused on cures for neurodegenerative illnesses.

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2017 Churchill Scholar

Michael Zhao - Mathematics major and student researcher.

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2016 Churchill Scholar

Mackenzie Simper - Mathematics major and student researcher.

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Michelle Williams, PhD’87

Michelle Williams

Michelle’s story sounds like it must have been deliberately calculated and executed. How else does someone go from Jamaica at an all-girls boarding school to college in New York City to graduate school at the University of Utah to Global Group President of Arkema, a billion-dollar subsidiary of Altuglas International? Turns out, Michelle had zero plans whatsoever to lead an international company along her career path. Instead, she thought she might like teaching. As she says, “Plan A never works out, and sometimes it’s Plan H or Plan G that finally works!”

She came to the University of Utah after breezing through college so much so that it was all a blur, and she found herself in Dr. David Grant’s research group at the age of 19. “I had no idea what I was getting into.” She, like most 19-year-olds, was looking for adventure and eagerly said goodbye to her teary-eyed mother at the airport. Michelle was checking off her adulting list: she rented an apartment--her ​own​ place; figured out her schedule; supported herself on her tiny teaching and research stipend; and she made her way, “I mucked my way through it.”

Michelle is emphatic that “this is where I grew up.” Only second to her decision to have children, coming to the University of Utah Chemistry Department was the best decision she ever made. Despite her overwhelm when she began her graduate research, she was quick and willing to ask for help, and she’s continued to do so throughout her entire career. “The reality is that I have always found that there are people who will help you. There are always people who see something in you.”

As she was completing her PhD research and dissertation defense, Michelle began casually interviewing with companies while she waited for her experiments to finish. She turned down a job offer from Dow Chemical though the interview was one of the most impactful conversations she would have about her career. The interviewer advised her, “young lady,” at which Michelle rolled her eyes, “you’re going to have opportunities and opportunities, and you need to find a company that has the right personality to match your personality.” She turned down the Dow Chemical position, and, instead, accepted a job at Rohm and Haas.

The job at Rohm and Haas was a continuation of the sense of community she had come to love at the University of Utah. It was a small enough, family-owned company where she could build relationships, and the focus was on learning, training, development and growing people. From a young age, Michelle has developed and followed her core values through every step of the way.

 
by Anne Vivienne
 

Dean’s Update

From the Dean


June 12, 2020

Dear College of Science Community,

In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, the country continues to respond to racial injustice and the oppressive systems that enable it.  To be clear, the College of Science stands in solidarity with the Black community, and supports the University in its efforts to address pervasive racism.

In recent days, I have heard from many of you about actionable ideas to advocate for equity for all. Effective action requires sustained dialog, and I will continue to listen to your ideas, as I formulate plans of action with your department chairs.  I am committed to working with all of you to implement and sustain meaningful change toward a better, more equitable future.

 

Sincerely,

Peter Trapa

 

 

 


Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Working together for a better tomorrow.

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Arie Sitthichai Mobley, BS’00

The Jackson Laboratory

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Michelle Williams, PhD’87

Distinguished Chemistry Alumni 2019

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The Gandhis, BS’86, 91, 92

The Gandhi family is U - through and through.

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Dominique Pablito

Zuni, Navajo and Comanche, student majoring in chemistry and biology.

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2020 Churchill Scholar

Michael Xiao brings home the U's fifth straight Churchill Scholarship.

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Ana Rosas

Medicine is a family tradition for the Rosas.

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Alex Acuna

Bridging the knowledge gap with networks of people.

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Sahar Kanishka

A freshman perspective.

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Tino Nyawelo

I see myself in those kids who are brought here as refugees.

Read More

 

 

Biological Invaders

Science Research Initiative


Fox Squirrel Biology Research STREAM

Denise Dearing, PhD, Distinguished Professor, School of Biological Sciences
Tess Stapleton, PhD Candidate, School of Biological Sciences

Biological invaders are one of the key drivers of ecosystem change. Invasion can result in loss of native species, reduction of ecosystem diversity, and even loss of ecosystem services such as soil stabilization, water filtration, and natural pest control. These disturbances can cause long-term disruptions and even extinction of native species. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand the effect of invaders if we wish to preserve local ecosystems.

For the last hundred years, the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) has used human urbanization to spread out of its native eastern range and to invade the western United States. In 2011, these invasive squirrels were first spotted in Utah along the Jordan River Parkway and have since spread into the Salt Lake Valley.

This area is home to two native Utah species, the rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus) and the red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). How far these fox squirrels have spread throughout the valley, whether they are moving into the mountains, and how they affect these native species remains unclear.

The goal of this project is to determine the current range of this invasive squirrel, including how much they overlap with native species and how far east and upslope they extend. Working in collaboration with the natural history museum we will document sightings, collect voucher specimens, and prepare study skins of fox squirrels. This project will greatly contribute to ongoing work on the spread of these invasive animals and these specimens may be used for decades to come.

 

 

>> Apply Now <<

 

Ole Jensen, BS’72

On the surface, Ole Jensen’s start as an undergraduate biology major, angling for medical school, didn’t appear particularly auspicious. His one claim to fame was that as an undergraduate the Salt Lake native was tapped to be a “calf sitter,” which meant that he would sit all night with young bovine used in experiments and monitor their heart rates. The calves were a critical part of the University’s artificial organ program which would eventually produce the world’s first artificial heart in the 1980s.

Not bad for a Utah boy who, when he wasn’t fishing with his Norwegian-born father on the Provo River and elsewhere, spent much of his early life collecting what would become one of the largest insect collections in the state.

It was a heady time to be studying biology at the U. Department Chair Gordon Lark was bringing in guest lecturers and expanding the faculty at a prodigious rate, including micro-biologist Mario Capecchi who would eventually be awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in genetics. Jensen recalls his time in the early seventies as an undergraduate at the U. One day, he says, anatomy professor Stephen Durrant “threw out twenty animal bones spread over a long table and asked the students to identify […them] as part of the midterm exam.” It turned out that the students, who in class had been studying strictly land mammals, got very few correct answers. “One bone that very much perplexed me that I remember to this day,” Jensen continues, “was half of a frontal bone with an ovoid depression. It was from a dolphin: the depression access for the spout!” Needless to say, it was “a particular shock” to find a marine mammal bone in the pile, but it was an experience that Jensen still recalls with some exhilaration.

After graduating from dental school at Northwest University, Jensen continued to Michigan to study oral surgery and, as a post doc, anesthesia, which would eventually lead to a Master’s degree in anesthesiology before returning to the west where he set up practice in Denver. There he plied his trade, as both a science and an art, for the next 38 years. But research has continued to braid its way through his entire professional life—a continuous thread that has kept him at the forefront of the fast-moving field of oral and maxillofacial surgery in which technology, the life sciences and medicine converge. As with many oral surgeons, Jensen performed four-on-one implant operations, which combine bridgework with a maximum of four implants per each of the crescent arrangements or arches.

Eventually, he modified the procedure so that it was less invasive and more intuitive, underscored by his determination to see the implant not as an analogue to a tooth (or teeth) but as a function of bio-mechanical forces, mathematically determined. Eventually he would join forces with business partners to found Clear Choice Dental Implants. “Basically, for five years I wanted to die,” Jensen says of the start-up which now has forty clinics across the nation. The company nearly failed three times, including during the recession of 2008. “I wanted to practice . . . business with integrity, and to be doing things in the best interests of the patients. It’s hard to do that with this kind of work where it’s not too costly and not too difficult for doctors to perform.” In a recent DentalTown podcast, Jensen explains, “If you have a business that is related to dental implants, you’re not going to do stuff that will put the business at risk."

"So this has a business, scientific, and a clinical basis of validity," he says ". . . [and] we stand by the way we treat our edentulous patients… .” Of course success is never final. With his rigorous research background and his bias for asking lots of questions, this time about biofilm, the pervasive glue-like matrix that grows virtually everywhere and can lead to complications in bio-medical work, Jensen took on yet another professional challenge. In September he was hired as Chief Medical Officer for Israel-based NOBIO, helping to create products through Nano-technology in which particles with superior micro-biotic activities are baked into the product to prevent bacteria from growing on surgically implanted devices.

Jensen’s research questions, especially as they’ve related to medicine, have been open ones. “Almost everything I’ve done is in surgery,” he says. “Now I’m doing a project with computers,” referring to his latest adventure. Inspired by the training of pilots who learn to fly by logging many hours in flight simulators, Jensen and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston are developing a program for surgical simulations.