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Mass Spectrometry

The John B. Fenn Award

Armentrout receives ASMS Award for Distinguished Contributions In Mass Spectrometry.

Peter B. Armentrout the Henry Eyring Presidential Endowed Chair of Chemistry at the University of Utah is the 2021 recipient of the John B. Fenn Award for Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry.

Armentrout is receiving this award for the development of robust experimental and statistical techniques for the determination of accurate thermochemistry. He developed the guided ion beam threshold dissociation approach to provide insights into the thermochemistry, kinetics, and dynamics of simple and complex chemical reactions. In addition, he developed a suite of software programs for statistically modeling the energy dependence of product formation for most reactive processes.


Armentrout in the lab

"These developments have allowed nearly 2500 distinct bond energies to be measured during his career. The impact of these fundamental measurements has been felt over many fields, including catalysis, biochemistry, surface chemistry, organometallic chemistry, and plasma chemistry."


He shared both the instrumentation designs and the software with laboratories around the world to enable the greater scientific community to study thermochemical processes. These developments have allowed nearly 2500 distinct bond energies to be measured during his career. The impact of these fundamental measurements has been felt over many fields, including catalysis, biochemistry, surface chemistry, organometallic chemistry, and plasma chemistry.

Professor Armentrout is a member of the editorial advisory boards of the Journal of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry and the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry and Ion Processes, and formerly of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Journal of Physical Chemistry, Journal of Chemical Physics, Organometallics, and the Journal of Cluster Science (charter member).

He is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society (fellow), American Society for Mass Spectrometry, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow). He presently has nearly 500 research publications that have appeared in the literature. Thirty-six students have received their Ph.D.s with Professor Armentrout.

Talley Fenn, Sara Rockow, Peter B. Armentrout, Brandon C. Stevenson, David Loertscher

The ASMS Award for Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry is named to honor the memory of John B. Fenn who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for the development of electrospray Ionization. Fenn joined ASMS in 1986 and remained an active member until his passing in 2010. The award in his name recognizes a focused or singular achievement in fundamental or applied mass spectrometry in contrast to awards that recognize lifetime achievement.


First published at


Alex Horn

Major Alex Horn

Dr. Horn graduated from the School of Biological Sciences in August 2021. He was a member of Professor Dave Carrier’s Evolutionary Biomechanics Lab. His dissertation, which he defended last year, was titled: “The Social Dependency Hypothesis: An Evolutionary Perspective on Health and Longevity.”

USAF, C-17 Globemaster

I joined the Air Force as an 18-year-old cadet. I came to the U as part of a program that would allow me to later return to the Air Force Academy to teach.

In my doctoral studies, I wanted to understand the relationships between our evolved propensity to form intense fraternal bonds in the face of stress and our abilities to maintain health and performance amidst difficult circumstances.

I was home when I saw the first few hours of the evacuation of Afghanistan on the news. My only thought was that I needed to get over there as fast as possible to help. I was one of the last of eight C-17 crews to deploy from Travis Air Force Base, California.

After landing in Qatar, we were immediately alerted to fly a floor-load of refugees to Germany. It was a seven-hour flight, and the aircraft was full of Afghan evacuees, including many children. I was amazed at their patience and positive attitudes despite the horrible circumstances. A few days later, my crew and I evacuated some of the last military personnel from Kabul, Afghanistan, on the final day of Operation Allies Refuge.

Operation Allies Refuge

It was a seven-hour flight, and the aircraft was full of Afghan evacuees, including many children.


My studies helped me contextualize the experience. The famed “fight or flight” stress response is good for running away from predators in the jungle but not helpful for keeping your crew safe in combat. My research shows there’s another stress response that helps us bond and maintain our composure during extreme stress and threat; this response has yet to be fully characterized.

This operation included some of the most challenging missions of my career, and I couldn’t have done it without the bond with my team. I am humbled to have participated in the largest noncombatant evacuation in history and excited to further that experience by applying my lessons learned to science.


By Alex Horn, originally published at of

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Moiré Magic

Moiré Magic

Highly tunable composite materials—with a twist.

The above animation shows the patterns created as two circles move across each other. Those patterns, created by two sets of lines offset from each other, are called moiré (pronounced mwar-AY) effects. As optical illusions, moiré patterns create neat simulations of movement. But at the atomic scale, when one sheet of atoms arranged in a lattice is slightly offset from another sheet, these moiré patterns can create some exciting and important physics with interesting and unusual electronic properties.

Mathematicians at the University of Utah have found that they can design a range of composite materials from moiré patterns created by rotating and stretching one lattice relative to another. Their electrical and other physical properties can change—sometimes quite abruptly, depending on whether the resulting moiré patterns are regularly repeating or non-repeating. Their findings are published in Communications Physics.

The mathematics and physics of these twisted lattices applies to a wide variety of material properties, says Kenneth Golden, distinguished professor of mathematics. “The underlying theory also holds for materials on a large range of length scales, from nanometers to kilometers, demonstrating just how broad the scope is for potential technological applications of our findings.”


Ken Golden

"We observe a geometry-driven localization transition that has nothing to do with wave scattering or interference effects, which is a surprising and unexpected discovery."


With a twist

Before we arrive at these new findings, we’ll need to chart the history of two important concepts: aperiodic geometry and twistronics.

Aperiodic geometry means patterns that don’t repeat. An example is the Penrose tiling pattern of rhombuses. If you draw a box around a part of the pattern and start sliding it in any direction, without rotating it, you’ll never find a part of the pattern that matches it.

Aperiodic patterns designed over 1000 years ago appeared in Girih tilings used in Islamic architecture. More recently, in the early 1980s, materials scientist Dan Shechtman discovered a crystal with an aperiodic atomic structure. This revolutionized crystallography, since the classic definition of a crystal includes only regularly repeating atomic patterns, and earned Shechtman the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Okay, now onto twistronics, a field that also has a Nobel in its lineage. In 2010, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering graphene, a material that’s made of a single layer of carbon atoms in a lattice that looks like chicken wire. Graphene itself has its own suite of interesting properties, but in recent years physicists have found that when you stack two layers of graphene and turn one slightly, the resulting material becomes a superconductor that also happens to be extraordinarily strong. This field of study of the electronic properties of twisted bilayer graphene is called “twistronics.”

Two-phase composites

In the new study, Golden and his colleagues imagined something different. It’s like twistronics, but instead of two layers of atoms, the moiré patterns formed from interfering lattices determine how two different material components, such as a good conductor and a bad one, are arranged geometrically into a composite material. They call the new material a “twisted bilayer composite,” since one of the lattices is twisted and/or stretched relative to the other. Exploring the mathematics of such a material, they found that moiré patterns produced some surprising properties.

“As the twist angle and scale parameters vary, these patterns yield myriad microgeometries, with very small changes in the parameters causing very large changes in the material properties,” says Ben Murphy, co-author of the paper and adjunct assistant professor of mathematics.

Twisting one lattice just two degrees, for example, can cause the moiré patterns to go from regularly repeating to non-repeating—and even appear to be randomly disordered, although all the patterns are non-random.  If the pattern is ordered and periodic, the material can conduct electrical current very well or not at all, displaying on/off behavior similar to semiconductors used in computer chips. But for the aperiodic, disordered-looking patterns, the material can be a current-squashing insulator, “similar to the rubber on the handle of a tool that helps to eliminate electrical shock,” says David Morison, lead author of the study who recently finished his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Utah under Golden’s supervision.

This kind of abrupt transition from electrical conductor to insulator reminded the researchers of yet another Nobel-winning discovery: the Anderson localization transition for quantum conductors. That discovery, which won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics, explains how an electron can move freely through a material (a conductor) or get trapped or localized (an insulator), using the mathematics of wave scattering and interference. But Golden says that the quantum wave equations Anderson used don’t work on the scale of these twisted bilayer composites, so there must be something else going on to create this conductor/insulator effect. “We observe a geometry-driven localization transition that has nothing to do with wave scattering or interference effects, which is a surprising and unexpected discovery,” Golden says.

The electromagnetic properties of these new materials vary so much with just tiny changes in the twist angle that engineers may someday use that variation to precisely tune a material’s properties and select, for example, the visible frequencies of light (a.k.a. colors) that the material will allow to pass through and the frequencies it will block.

“Moreover, our mathematical framework applies to tuning other properties of these materials, such as magnetic, diffusive and thermal, as well as optical and electrical,” says professor of mathematics and study co-author Elena Cherkaev, “and points toward the possibility of similar behavior in acoustic and other mechanical analogues.”

Find the full study in Communications Physics.


by Paul Gabrielsen, first published in @TheU.


Betty Vetter Award

Betty Vetter Award

Ramón Barthelemy

Ramón S. Barthelemy, Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Utah, has been awarded the 2022 WEPAN (Women in Engineering ProActive Network) Betty Vetter Research Award for notable achievement in research related to women in engineering. The award is named in memory of Betty M. Vetter, long-time director of the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, who served as the first treasurer of WEPAN and was a founding member of the Board of Directors.

Barthelemy is an early-career physicist with a record of groundbreaking scholarship and advocacy that has advanced the field of physics education research as it pertains to gender issues and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)+ physicists.

“WEPAN is an impactful member society that hosts the ARC STEM Equity Network, an intersectional effort supporting equity research in STEM,” said Barthelemy. “I am humbled and honored to have my work recognized by an organization that works so tirelessly to enhance inclusion with considerable focus on the various intersections of identity one can have. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with both WEPAN and the ARC STEM Equity Network.”

The field of physics struggles to support students and faculty from historically excluded groups. Barthelemy has long worked to make the field more inclusive—he has served on the American Association of Physics Teachers’ (AAPT) Committee on Women in Physics and on the Committee on Diversity—and was an early advocate for LGBT+ voices in the AAPT. He co-authored “LGBT Climate in Physics: Building an Inclusive Community,” an influential report for the American Physical Society, and the first edition of the “LGBT+ Inclusivity in Physics and Astronomy Best Practices Guide,” which offers actionable strategies for physicists to improve their departments and workplaces for LGBT+ colleagues and students.

Barthelemy recently served as co-lead author on a study of LGBT+ physicists that detailed the difficulties, harassment, and other behaviors that make them leave the profession.

“LGBT+ people feel shunned, excluded and are continually having to readjust and twist themselves to fit into the physics community,” said Barthelemy. “LGBT+ people are inherently a part of this field. If you want physics to be a place that anyone can participate, we have to talk about these issues.”

Gender has a big impact on a person’s perception of their environment. While about 15% of LGBT+ men reported an uncomfortable or very uncomfortable experience, 25% of women and 40% of gender non-conforming people reported similar experiences.

“The study tells us that support has to be available in the entire institution,” said Barthelemy. “LGBT+ individuals in all departments have to be continually coming out when we engage with the broader campus community and new people, since our LGBT identity is seldom assumed. By making our presence known, we can help encourage greater equity, diversity and inclusion throughout the institution.”


In 2019, Barthelemy joined the U’s College of Science as its first tenure-track faculty focusing on physics education research (PER), a field that explores how people learn the content and culture of physics. Since arriving, he has built a program that gives students rigorous training in physics concepts and in education research, qualities that prepare students for jobs in academia, education policy, or general science policy. He founded the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Utah (PERU), where he and a team of postdoctoral scholars and graduate and undergraduate students explore how graduate programs policies impact students’ experience, long-term studies of the experience of women in physics and astronomy and of students of color in STEM programs, and understanding the impacts of a sense of belonging on a student’s performance in introductory STEM courses.

“We talk about inclusivity and diversity in the classroom, but there needs to be more research about what that means. We look at various aspects of interactive classrooms and how it impacts their content learning outcomes,” said Barthelemy. “If you feel like you belong in the classroom, if you feel comfortable raising your hand, you can participate in groups, teaching and learning from peers—that’s an example of inclusivity, looking at people’s sense of belonging.”

The research has implications beyond the classroom—Barthelemy uses the findings to inform and develop policies and best practices to support people from historically excluded groups in physics. “It helps us teach better, but also understanding the culture of physics has implications in the quality of research done in national labs, for example, that inevitably impacts people across the country,” he said.

Barthelemy has had an untraditional journey to academia. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in astrophysics at Michigan State University and received his Master of Science and doctorate degrees in PER at Western Michigan University. “Originally, I went to graduate school for nuclear physics, but I discovered I was more interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion in physics and astronomy. Unfortunately, there were very few women, People of Color, LGBT or first-generation physicists in my program,” said Barthelemy, who looked outside of physics to understand why. “I found this quite curious,” he said.

In 2021, Barthelemy received the Doc Brown Futures Award, an honor that recognizes early career members who demonstrate excellence in their contributions to physics education and exhibit excellent leadership.

Barthelemy’s work has also been recognized with external funding to complete his projects. In 2020, he and his U colleagues Jordan Gerton and Pearl Sandick were awarded $200,000 from the National Science Foundation to complete a case study exploring the graduate program changes in the U’s Department of Physics & Astronomy. In the same year, Barthelemy received a $350,000 Building Capacity in Science Education Research award to continue his longitudinal study on women in physics and astronomy and created a new study on People of Color in U.S. graduate STEM programs. Lastly, Barthelemy was selected to conduct a literature review on LGBT+ scientists as a virtual visiting scholar by the ARC Network, an organization dedicated to improving STEM equity in academia.

In 2014, Barthelemy completed a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland where he completed research looking at student motivations to study physics in Finland. In 2015, he received a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy in the United States Department of Education and worked on science education initiatives in the Obama administration. After acting as a consultant for university administrations and research offices, he began to miss doing his own research and made the decision to come to Utah.

Based in Washington, D.C., WEPAN was founded as a non-profit educational organization in 1990. It is the nation’s first network dedicated to advancing cultures of inclusion and diversity in engineering higher education and workplaces. The WEPAN Awards honor key individuals, programs, and organizations for accomplishments that underscore WEPAN’s mission to advance cultures of inclusion and diversity in engineering education and professions. WEPAN Award honorees demonstrate extraordinary service, significant achievement, model programs, and exemplary work environments.

by Michele Swaner, first published @

Our DNA 2022


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Lindsey Henderson

Lindsey Henderson

Lindsey Henderson, Secondary Mathematics Specialist for the Utah State Board of Education.

Leading a revolution in how math is taught in Utah.

Lindsey Henderson (BS’2002 Mathematics Teaching, with a minor in geology) is poised to lead a revolution in how math is taught in Utah. As the Secondary Mathematics Specialist for the Utah State Board of Education, she and her team determine how Utah school kids are taught mathematics and which math courses are useful for their career paths following high school graduation.

In October 2021, Henderson and her team posted a survey asking Utah’s tech founders, executives, and chief technical officers to discuss the kinds of math typically used in tech careers. The results were interesting and surprising. According to the tech community, calculus is moderately useful because it teaches problem-solving skills, but it isn’t particularly useful in daily work. Other respondents thought calculus should be replaced immediately with more useful math-related subjects, such as AI and data science. Another study by Dr. David Bressoud, DeWitt Wallace Professor Emeritus at Macalester College says that studying calculus in high school is only marginally beneficial for the small number of students (18%) who study it.

“These responses reveal how much math skills in the workplace have changed and suggest how important it is for students to learn new and different skills for their future careers,” said Henderson. “Skills such as how to analyze and interpret data and spreadsheets and how to create other types of visual data.” Half of the respondents reported using algebra often, but the majority noted that they seldom, or never, use geometry, trigonometry, and especially calculus. The results of the survey mirror the results of a similar and larger survey created by professors at Stanford University and the University of Chicago in 2019, which can read about here. For now, the Utah State Board of Education is still collecting data and hasn’t yet decided on how best to update secondary mathematics courses and teaching for Utah students.

In 2021, Henderson received a Women Tech Award from the Women Tech Council for her educational leadership.


Lindsay Henderson

"My education at the University of Utah has made every difference in my life. I had a wonderful experience at the U, both socially and academically, and I feel it prepared me for success!"


At the U

Henderson grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, and was raised by a mom who taught deaf students and a dad who taught kids who had been hospitalized due to mental illness. Her mom and grandfather have strong roots at the U since they both graduated from the university. Growing up in Utah County, Henderson’s family was considered an outlier because they always cheered for the University of Utah teams at sporting events.

“I saw the U as an opportunity to further my education and as a safe place to start learning how to become an adult,” said Henderson. She loved living on campus (in the Van Cott dorms and then eventually in Benchmark after the 2002 Winter Olympics). She worked at the front desk at Van Cott as well as at the Heritage Center before, during, and after the Olympics.

She was very good at math and enjoyed calculus and linear algebra. She decided that she wanted to earn a math degree because she loved learning, doing math, and she hadn’t heard of many women who had math degrees.

“My education at the University of Utah has made every difference in my life,” she said. “I feel so fortunate to have had access to such a high-quality institution of higher education.  I had a wonderful experience at the U, both socially and academically, and I feel it prepared me for success!”

Favorite Professors

After she received an associate’s degree from Utah Valley University (UVU), she transferred to the U. Her favorite math professors were Dr. János Kollár (linear algebra), Dr Alexander Balk (differential equations), and Dr. James Carlson (history of math).  Although she had already taken linear algebra at UVU, she took the class again at the U just for the opportunity to study with Dr. Kollár. She was impressed with his teaching style, and today she still loves linear algebra.

She remembers Dr. Balk’s efforts to engage students in differential equations by using rainbow-colored chalk to make things exciting. She appreciated his interest in students, and she felt seen and valued by him, which contributed to her doing well in his class.

She still thinks most about a history of mathematics class taught by Dr. Carlson. She loved learning about how mathematical topics were discovered and about different cultures and the way they reasoned and made sense of the world mathematically. While she was taking his class, she suffered a life-threatening snowboarding injury and had to be hospitalized. Dr Carlson worked with her one-on-one to help her make up an incomplete grade. “He did it out of the goodness of his heart and because he truly cared,” she said. “To this day, I appreciate his willingness to work with me, and I will never forget how he adapted his teaching to support me during a difficult time.”

Dr. Mary Burbank in the College of Education was a non-mathematics professor who greatly influenced Henderson. She was Henderson’s student-teaching professor, and Henderson flourished in her classroom. “She was the kind of professor who really took the time to get to know you, and then she pushed you to grow in ways that you needed to grow,” she said. “I loved working with her and appreciated the trust and relationship building she invested in because it really helped me hone my teaching skills.”

Advice for Students

“Learn to be your biggest advocate—nobody else will do it for you. Make space for yourself and your ideas because you have wonderful thoughts to share and so much to learn from others,” she said. “Not everyone will recognize your potential, and that’s okay as long as you do. Your persistence and thirst for knowledge will benefit you in so many ways in the future!”

Teaching Math

Once Henderson graduated from the U, she accepted a position teaching integrated 8th grade science and pre-algebra at Bryant Middle School in the Salt Lake City School District. After two years teaching both mathematics and science, she was told that she wasn’t considered “highly qualified” to teach integrated science and that she would have to complete more coursework to continue. At that point, Henderson decided to become a full-time mathematics teacher. She worked hard to keep her middle school students interested in math, and she tried to harness their excitement for learning. She would integrate mathematical discovery and enrichment tasks into the standard curriculum, such as having students use Mobius Strips, build tetrahedral kites, and work on other mathematical projects.

After five years at Bryant, she began teaching mathematics at Highland High School. From there, she transferred to East High School, where she spent the next nine years. Throughout her 13-year teaching career, she taught all secondary grade levels and all math subjects offered in Utah, from pre-algebra to AP Calculus, except AP Statistics and continuing education courses. She enjoyed it when the state switched to the new integrated math standards in 2010. She loved teaching and integrating connections between algebra, geometry, and algebra II, instead of teaching each subject by itself. She started using task-based and inquiry-based mathematical learning experiences.

“I loved making my classroom a place where traditionally underrepresented groups of students felt safe, and I particularly enjoyed making math accessible to all students,” she said. “One of the ways I did this was by helping students see themselves differently—changing their thinking so that they began to see themselves as mathematical thinkers and doers.”

Towards the end of her teaching career, she decided to form her own business—Sugar House Instructional Design—so that she could consult on curriculum development projects. She taught and consulted with private STEM Education Technology (EdTech) startups. Her consulting practice went well, and she was quickly promoted from consultant to chief academic officer for a local startup called Zaniac.  She spent two years there before moving to Because Learning! (formerly Ardusat) as the director of learning.

From Because Learning! she made the transition back to public education, but now she had her math and teaching skills, along with her newly honed people and project management skills. She landed a district-level leadership position in the Davis County School District, the largest public district in Utah, and served as their K-12 mathematics specialist for the next two years. She found that she had a talent for bringing together diverse stakeholders and achieving a consensus, along with building productive, positive communities of educators.

When a secondary mathematics specialist position opened at the Utah State Board of Education, Henderson saw an opportunity to work with a community of mathematicians at the state level. In the two years since she joined the board, she has built a community of more than 4,000 math or math-adjacent educators/leaders, significant growth from the 250 educators she inherited when she first began working for the state. Since Utah switched to an integrated secondary mathematics core in 2010, there have been remarkable student results. “I have been proud to unite the Utah Secondary Mathematics community around a shared common vision for mathematics education in Utah, as well as set the tone of the culture for what mathematics looks like for secondary math students in Utah,” she said. She also has been fortunate to work with higher education partners on several projects, most recently in updating the Secondary Mathematics endorsement requirements. Math endorsements are required in order to teach in a public school in Utah.

She has been doing a lot of collaboration with the local mathematics community and also with the Conference Board of Mathematical Sciences. She is preparing for the 2023-2024 school year when mathematics core standards are up for revision, with the goal of updating standards and determining the best path forward to ensuring that Utah high school graduates have the requisite math skills.

Henderson lives with her wife and kids in Salt Lake City. She loves to read, enjoys summer, and is drawn to water in nature—lakes, oceans, rivers. “I seem to stumble across parabolas a lot when I am out and about,” she said. “I’m also the crazy cat lady in the neighborhood—I have four Scottish kilt kittens that I adore. My wife and I really love living in Utah and all that it has to offer.”

by Michele Swaner, first published @

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Outstanding Advisor

Outstanding Advisor

Cyri Dixon has been named a NACADA Outstanding New Advisor.

Cyri Dixon, the Undergraduate Academic Advising Coordinator for the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has won the Outstanding New Advisor Award – Primary Role Category – from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). Award selection is extremely competitive and designed to honor and recognize professionals who have made significant contributions to the field of academic advising in higher education. Candidates are nominated by their institution, and each application is carefully reviewed by NACADA committee members. All outstanding advisor nominations include a comprehensive list of the nominee’s professional qualifications, academic accomplishments, letters of support, and documented advising success.

Cyri Dixon

“I am grateful to work with such fantastic students, staff, and faculty. Advising is challenging, but working with my wonderful students makes it all worth it.”


“I am very honored to receive this award,” said Dixon. “I am grateful to work with such fantastic students, staff, and faculty. This award really highlights the strides we have been able to make in our department to create a better student experience and build a community where all students feel welcome and successful. Advising is challenging, but working with my wonderful students makes it all worth it.”

Dixon was previously recognized for her exemplary advising work when she was named Outstanding New Academic Advisor in 2021 by the University of Utah Academic Advising Community (UAAC). She serves as the only undergraduate advisor for the department and has proven to be a valuable resource to undergraduate physics students in all areas of academic advising. She has 236 physics major students that she meets with regularly, and she takes pride in knowing each student by name. She helps each develop a course plan that fits their interests, and she connects them to research and internship opportunities, campus resources, and the department community.

Here are comments from the University of Utah’s President’s Office, faculty, staff, and students about Dixon and her work:

“Dear Cyri, The President’s Office received this email of gratitude from a parent recognizing the talented staff and student employees at our university. Thank you for the hard work, kindness, and caring dedication you show our students and families. You are appreciated, and we value your contribution to the success of our students and university. We know this comes from colleagues like you who make it happen. Thank you.”
~Office of the President

“Whenever I am worried about a student, Cyri knows what is going on or knows what to do to address the problem. Thank you for your help, patience, and for caring about all our students.”
~Dr. Tugdual Stephan Lebohec, faculty

“Cyri’s work represents many of NACADA’s Core Values, but most striking is her laser-like focus on empowering her students. In her philosophy, Cyri shares a little of her own experience as a first-generation student from a rural area; knowing that there so many talented and brilliant students who are limited in opportunities and resources, she [Cyri] writes that this ‘drives my motivation to help any student who walks in my door to not only survive and graduate, but also thrive and make the most of their experience.’”
~Stephanie Begaye, and Ashley Glenn, UAAC Advisor Awards Committee Co-Chairs

“Cyri has been a terrific advisor for me. She has always been available for chats or emails and been quick to respond to all of my questions, even unusual or specific ones that are only tangentially related to completing a physics degree. After every meeting I’ve had with her, I tell my wife, ‘she’s a great advisor.’ I think Cyri absolutely deserves this award.”
~student comment

“Cyri, thank you for taking the time to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I wanted to let you know I was accepted into two programs, one of them being the University of Utah! This is a huge step in pursuing my career goals and an immense accomplishment for me.”
-student comment

A first-generation graduate of Utah State University, with a degree in Physical Sciences Education, Dixon also has minor degrees in physics and chemistry teaching. She recently earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Utah. Originally from Idaho, she returned to Utah after living in the Midwest and teaching middle school science and engineering in Arizona. She loves hot air ballooning, Wonder Woman, and her dog, Roka.

Since 1983, NACADA has honored individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising. The goal of NACADA is to promote quality academic advising and professional development of its membership to enhance the educational development of students. For more information, visit NACADA.

by Michele Swaner, first published @


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Living Legend

Toto Gets Stamped!

Filipino stamp of "Toto"

Distinguished Professor Baldomero Olivera is featured in the Filipino Postal Office’s “Living Legends” commemorative stamp series.

Affectionately referred to as “Toto,” Olivera has pioneered research on marine cone snails, demonstrating the therapeutic potential of their venom, already resulting in an FDA-approved drug. The University of Utah’s biochemistry and pharmacy departments (UofU Health) are currently expanding on some of this work.

His early research contributions include the discovery and biochemical characterization of E. coli DNA ligase, a key enzyme of DNA replication and repair that is widely used in recombinant DNA technology.

In a 2018 profile, Olivera was described as unconventional: “Not every molecular biologist would think to look in cone snail venom for potential therapeutics. But a long-held interest in the biological environment that surrounded him while growing up in the Philippines — and a habit of making unconventional choices — led Baldomero ‘Toto’ Olivera to do just that.”

After completing his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology and postdoctoral research at Stanford University, Olivera returned to the Philippines to establish his independent research program. Now at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah, Olivera has discovered several peptides in snail venom that have reached human clinical trials. One has been approved for the treatment of severe pain.


Baldomero Olivera

“I didn’t make choices that were conventionally considered wise at the time. The things that didn’t seem so wise at the time turned out to be okay.”


While building a productive research program, he also was developing new ways to educate and inspire future generations of scientists in the U.S. and the Philippines. As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, he has developed hands-on curricula that draw young students to science by teaching them about scientific principles they can observe in the organisms they see every day.

When Olivera was selected as one in the series of “Living Legends” commemorative stamps, graduate student Paula Florez Salcedo in the Olivera lab tweeted “He is a living legend, and I can’t believe I get to learn from him!”

When asked by an interviewer to list something that Olivera knows now in his career as a scientist that he wished he’d known earlier, he says,

“I didn’t make choices that were conventionally considered wise at the time. When I was going back to the Philippines, everyone was saying ‘Why are you doing that? You’re ruining your scientific career.’ But that turned out to be very good for my scientific career because I started working with cone shells. So I really have no major regrets, I must say. The things that didn’t seem so wise at the time turned out to be okay.”

In science and technology, the post office selected to honor national scientist and physician Ernesto Domingo along with the internationally recognized Olivera.

“They have dedicated their lives and talents to the Filipino people,” Postmaster General Norman Fulgencio said in February when the announcement was made. “They deserve to be immortalized in our stamps to inspire not only Filipinos, but every nationality who will see our stamps.”

The post office turned over to representatives of the honorees the framed stamps in tribute to them. “The stamps we issued today are not only meant for delivery of letters, but more importantly to deliver hope,” Fulgencio said.

Furthermore, the stamps “symbolize what Filipinos are capable of — wherever we are, whoever we are up against and whatever it takes,” he said.


by David Pace, first published at