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Clifton Sanders

Distinguished Alumnus

Clifton Gregory Sanders

The University of Utah Department of Chemistry alum Clifton Sanders will receive one of the Founders Day Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Award on March 1, 2023.

The University of Utah, Office of Alumni Relations, annually presents its Founders Day Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Awards to alums for their outstanding professional achievements, public service, and/or commitment to the U. Read more about the 2023 Founders Day Awardees.

After completing his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry at the U in the Department of Chemistry in 1990, Dr. Sanders worked as a researcher and senior scientist for several Utah biomedical technology companies and co-authored several publications, presentations, technical reports, and patents. He began his career at Salt Lake Community College as a faculty member, then as Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, as Dean of the School of Science, Mathematics, and Engineering, and finally as Provost for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer of Salt Lake Community College, overseeing the education of more than 61,000 students annually.

Dr. Sanders has applied his skills in innovation and research to improve the academic and economic landscapes of Utah. As the state continues to grow and diversify, Dr. Sanders led the development of several STEM programs and provided leadership for several local and national initiatives in STEM education and workforce development. With his leadership, Dr. Sanders played a key role in Salt Lake Community College becoming a Top 10 College nationally for total associate degrees awarded. He has been committed to the quality of student learning and assuring that faculty, administrators, and staff are deeply focused on the issue of degree completion. The programs of success that he and his faculty have implemented encompass and benefit Utah’s increasingly ethnically and socially diverse student population, as they leverage the value of culturally-enriched learning environments.

Dr. Sanders in 2015

Through his leadership role at SLCC and as a volunteer, Dr. Sanders has contributed to the success of the University of Utah. The greatest benefit to the U from Dr. Sanders’ leadership has been the thousands of successful students who started their higher education at SLCC and then transferred to the University of Utah to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Dr. Sanders has also been a leader of the Utah NASA Rocky Mountain Space Grant Consortium, which contributes to the development and diversity of NASA’s future workforce through internships, fellowships, and scholarship awards at the colleges and universities in the Utah System of Higher Education. He played a key role in the funding of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding of a joint project between SLCC and the University of Utah’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education. For the past 5 years, Dr. Sanders has volunteered as a mentor for the University of Utah African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative, providing a scholarly community and educational services to prepare African American Ph.D. students at the University of Utah for academic, industry, and entrepreneurial careers through mentoring, advising, and professional development.

Dr. Sanders has received multiple awards for his teaching and his distinguished service to the community over the past three decades. He was awarded the 1995-96 Salt Lake Community College Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award for Community Outreach and Science Education, and he received a Teaching Excellence Award in 1997 from the Salt Lake Community College Foundation; Salt Lake Community College recently named one of its libraries in his honor, the Dr. Clifton G. Sanders Racial Justice and Black Liberation Library, located at their South City Campus. In 2010, Dr. Sanders was recognized by the Utah Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters for Distinguished Service to the Community, and in 2017, by the University of Utah, Department of Chemistry as a Chemistry Distinguished Alumnus in 2017.

Hugo Rossi Lecture Series

Clifton Sanders is the speaker for the next Hugo Rossi Lecture Series. The lecture series is designed to bridge the College of Science and College of Education by attracting speakers whose scholarly pursuits include K-16 math/science education research.

Please join us for the March 15 lecture. Click here for more info and registration.

First published @

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Luke Reuschel

Luke Reuschel

Luke Reuschel

Learning at Mach 1.8.

Waiting for the signal to take off was adrenaline-inducing; the anticipation of the flight ahead was exciting all by itself. But nothing compares to when the pilot puts the jet into full throttle and you’re slammed to the back of your seat as the pilot shoots the jet out of the gate. It’s something I’ll never forget.

This flight was the culmination of my experiential learning component for my major in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences (ATMOS), where I decided to do a career-focused internship at Naval Air Station Lemoore, in California. It took a week of intensive training to prepare my fellow midshipmen and I to ride “rear-seat” in an F/A-18F Super Hornet.

Getting Ready to Fly
Before we could get a chance to fly, however, we had to do safety training, specifically designed for the type of jet we were going to be in. The first thing we learned was the configuration of the backseat, such as the ejection seat which has seven individual straps to keep you firmly secured to the seat in case you eject from the jet. Simply riding in the Super Hornet has hazards, such as G-LOC, which stands for “G-Force Induced Loss of Consciousness.” As the name suggests, this causes passengers to lose consciousness due to the force of gravity outweighing your body’s ability to pump blood to the brain. We learned the Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM) to combat this.

Ejection Seat Training

We then had to learn post-ejection safety and maneuvering techniques, such as how to untangle our parachutes and how to inflate our life vest in the event of an ejection over water. Lastly, we had to be medically cleared for flight activity. Now, we were ready to fly.

Flying With The Squadron
I was assigned to the Strike Fighter Squadron 122, the primary training squadron on base. The two-seat squadrons are designed to instruct Naval Flight Officers whose primary job is to ride full-time in the backseat of a two-seat plane, like Goose in the movie Top Gun. Because instructors would sometimes fly solo, the other Midshipmen and I had the opportunity to hop in the back. I was lucky and managed to get multiple flights in the F-18 jet, my first occurring only three days after I completed my initial training.

After takeoff, the jets do a “G-warmup,” where you pull seven G’s for a few seconds in order to familiarize your body to the rigors of naval aviation. Once the pilots have finished their training for the day, they are allowed to show off their flying skills. The pilots call this “raging,” and during this time we did some barrel rolls, quick turns, and low-level flying.

SAR Training

The Naval Search and Rescue Team
After my F-18 flights, I was able to do additional training with the Naval Search and Rescue team, SAR for short. I did two helicopter rides with them. During the first ride, I was assigned to be the “victim” of a car accident, where I was deposited into a hard-to-reach ravine for the SAR team to pull me out of. I was hoisted out of the ravine by helicopter, and to speed up the evacuation process, the helicopter began to travel forward before I was fully secured in the cabin. This meant I was flying through a valley, dangling from a helicopter, at high speed.

The second helicopter ride was much less thrilling. We flew to another base in Salinas, California. The Search and Rescue team were required to be stationed there while the F-18s were doing training events over the ocean, because the Salinas base is closer to the ocean and allows for a faster response time in the case of an accident. Once the F-18 training was over, we were allowed to return to the Lemoore base.

Cleared for Flight

Flight Simulator and METOC
The naval aviators in training use a flight simulator several times a week because they need the practice, but don’t get to fly actual jets every day. I was allowed to go into the flight simulator and experience what it was like to not just ride in the F-18, but to pilot it as well.

Ultimately, while the life of a fighter pilot or flight officer is very enticing, I am still comfortable with my decision to be a Meteorologist and Oceanographer (METOC) for the Navy. I’m commissioning as an officer this spring, and my time at Naval Air Station Lemoore has helped me grow more confident in my decision to join the navy, and the career path I have in front of me.

Editor’s note: The Experiential Learning component is required for all ATMOS majors. You can help fund thrilling and educational experiences like Luke Reuschel’s by making a donation to ATMOS undergraduate education.

by Luke Reuschel, first published @

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Prospective Faculty

Why Utah?


Utah Recreation

Hiking, biking, running, paddling, skiing, flying, climbing, exploring, and relaxing.

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Explore Salt Lake City

A modern metropolis nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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University Benefits

Medical, dental, retirement, tuition , wellness, and Employee Assistance Program.

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Faculty Stories

Utah’s Fly’s Eye Telescope Array

The cosmic origins of the "OMG Particle"

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Darryl Butt: Finding one’s ‘professional self’

Dean Butt reflects on his impact on students as he leads the U of U graduate school

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Storm Peak

Storm Peak is a lab and a classroom.

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Jessica Haskins

I could not have afforded my first year at MIT if I hadn’t received local scholarships.

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A.A.U. Membership

Utah joins the prestigious Association of American Universities.

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TreeNote is a two minute weekly radio feature from renowned ecologist Dr. Nalini Nadkarni.

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Fellow of the AAAS

Jennifer Shumaker-Perry elected as a Fellow of the AAAS.

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GSL Strike Team

The Great Salt Lake can be saved. This is how we do it.

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Fellow of the AAAS

Vahe Bandarian elected as a Fellow of the AAAS.

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$1M Grant to Chemists

Grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation may help chemists learn how molecules crystallize.

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Pauling Medal

Distinguished Professor Dr. Cynthia Burrows is the 2022 Pauling Medal awardee.

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Art & Air Quality

Public art piece finds common ground in the fight for air quality.

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Storm Peak Laboratory

One of only a handful of high elevation weather labs in the world.

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Clarivate’s Most Cited

Peter Stang is recognized for his exceptional research influence.

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Construction Update

Construction is about to begin on the University of Utah’s new Applied Sciences facility.

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Utah F.O.R.G.E.

The future of geothermal energy is located in Milford, Utah.

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College Merger

The College of Mines & Earth Sciences merges with the College of Science.

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10-year Plan

U astronomers tackle the decade’s biggest questions.

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Distinguished Service

Pearl Sandick receives Distinguished Service Award.

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IF/THEN Ambassador

The largest collection of statues of women ever assembled.

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The Frontier of Physics

Physics beyond the Standard Model.

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Physics Innovation

Yue Zhao Receives Physics Innovation Award.

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William D. Ohlsen

Emeritus Professor William David Ohlsen 1932-2021.

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Camille-Dreyfus Award

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks receives Teacher-Scholar award.

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NAS Membership

Mary Beckerle receives the significant recognition of NAS membership.

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AAAS Membership

Valeria Molinero joins the prestigious ranks of the American Academy.

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Amanda Cangelosi

Mathematics faculty receives U's Early Career Teaching Award.

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Sloan Research Fellow

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks awarded prestigious 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship.

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Cottrell Scholar

Gail Zasowski named a Cottrell Scholar.

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Carsten Rott

Carsten Rott appointed to the Jack W. Keuffel Memorial Chair in Physics & Astronomy.

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Mission Unstoppable

Mixing chemistry and martial arts for CBS television.

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Karl Schwede

The latest faculty to be named a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

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Christoph Boehme

Physics & Astronomy selects Christoph Boehme as Department Chair.

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Tino Nyawelo

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

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AMS Fellow

Davar Khoshnevisan, named Fellow of American Mathematical Society.

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Dean Peter Trapa

Peter Trapa has been named as the new Dean of the College of Science.

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Royal Fellow

Christopher Hacon adds another honor of a lifetime to his already stellar resume.

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Distinguished Research

Professor Molinero’s work is a hallmark of what research and scholarship should be about.

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Associate V.P. for Research

Diane Pataki is now Associate Vice President for Research at the University of Utah.

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AMS Fellow

Tommaso de Fernex, Ph.D. Associate Department Chair of Mathematics.

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AMS Fellow

“I was delighted to learn the news from the AMS,” said Peter Trapa.

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Breakthrough Prize

Christopher Hacon, has been interested in math for as long as he can remember.

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A.A.U. Membership



"It is difficult to overstate the importance of AAU Membership. This elevates the U to an exceptional category of peer institutions."
- Dean Peter Trapa


The University of Utah is one of the newest members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, which for more than 100 years has recognized the most outstanding academic institutions in the nation.

Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), announced Wednesday that University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins has accepted an invitation to join the association, along with the University of California, Santa Cruz and Dartmouth College. The three new members bring the number of AAU institutions to 65.

AAU invitations are infrequent; this year’s invitations are the first since 2012.



“AAU’s membership is limited to institutions at the forefront of scientific inquiry and educational excellence,” said Coleman. “These world-class institutions are a welcome addition, and we look forward to working with them as we continue to shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation.” - Mary Sue Coleman


About the AAU
The AAU formed in 1900 to promote and raise standards for university research and education. Today its mission is to “provide a forum for the development and implementation of institutional and national policies promoting strong programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate and professional education.”

A current list of member institutions can be found here. The membership criteria are based on a university’s research funding (the U reached a milestone of $547 million in research funding in FY2019); the proportion of faculty elected to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine; the impact of research and scholarship; and student outcomes. The U has 21 National Academies members, with some elected to more than one academy.

An AAU committee periodically reviews universities and recommends them to the full association for membership, where a three-fourths vote is required to confirm the invitation.

Leaders of AAU member universities meet to discuss common challenges and future directions in higher education. The U’s leaders will now join those meetings, which include the leaders of all the top 10 and 56 of the top 100 universities in the United States.


“We already knew that the U was one of the jewels of Utah and of the Intermountain West. This invitation shows that we are one of the jewels of the entire nation.” - H. David Burton


U on the rise
In FY2019 the U celebrated a historic high of $547 million in sponsored project funding, covering a wide range of research activities. These prestigious awards from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation are supporting work in geothermal energy, cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches to research that challenge existing paradigms and effects of cannabinoids on pain management.

They also are funding educational research programs with significant community engagement, such as the U’s STEM Ambassador Program and the Genetic Science Learning Center’s participation in the All of Us Research Program.

“AAU is a confirmation of the quality and caliber of our faculty and the innovative work they are doing to advance knowledge and address grand societal challenges. Our students and our community will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these endeavors. " - President Ruth Watkins


On Nov. 4, 2019, the U announced a $150 million gift, the largest single-project donation in its history, to establish the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. These gifts and awards are in addition to the ongoing support of the U from the Utah State Legislature.

This fall the university welcomed its most academically prepared class of first-year students. The freshman cohort includes 4,249 students boasting an impressive 3.66 average high school GPA and an average ACT composite score of 25.8. The incoming class also brings more diversity to campus with both a 54% increase in international students and more bilingual students than the previous year’s freshman class. Among our freshmen who are U.S. citizens, 30% are students of color.

The U’s focus on student success has led to an increased six-year graduation rate, which now sits at 70%—well above the national average for four-year schools. The rate has jumped 19 percentage points over the past decade, making it one of only two public higher education research institutions to achieve this success.



by Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, professor emerita, School of Biological Sciences

Introduction - October 6, 2022
For forty years, I’ve documented the ecological values that trees provide, like stabilizing soils and providing wildlife habitat. Listen

Autumn Colors - October 13, 2022
The process of moving out the chlorophyll reveals the yellow and orange of other leaf pigments. Listen

Why Apples? - October 20, 2022
Flowering plants have evolved so that their seeds will land in the best place to flourish, the very definition of biological fitness. Listen

The Wonders of Cork - October 28, 2022
Humanity has used cork for millennia. It's light, buoyant, and elastic, thanks to the 40 million air cells per cubic inch. Listen

Body Language - November 3, 2022
I noticed an odd branch on a small maple tree that started growing horizontally but then took a sharp vertical turn. Listen

Baseball Bats - November 10, 2022
Baseball bats use wood from ash trees to provide just the right feel for hitting homers. Listen

Symbolic Power - November 17, 2022
Why do trees pop up on our flags, stamps and money? Listen

Sycamore Trees - November 23, 2022
These trees thrive in city settings because of their rapid growth and tolerance of pollution. Listen

Good Old Trees - December 1, 2022
Habitats thrive when they have plenty of veterans trees in the mix. Listen

Music - December 8, 2022
The conductor’s baton is the smallest instrument in the orchestra pit and it makes no sound.   Listen

Holiday Wreaths - December 15, 2022
With the holidays come evergreen wreaths on people’s doors and windows. Where does all of this holiday greenery come from? Listen

Mistletoe - December 20, 2022
Given the biological purpose of mistletoe it is pretty strange that this parasite is also a symbol of love. Listen

Hermann Hesse - December 29, 2022
One of my favorite books is an essay by the German writer Hermann Hesse, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Listen

Petrified Trees - January 5, 2023
On a recent camping trip in Nevada, I visited a display of petrified wood. Listen

Trees and Trains - January 12, 2023
Each mile of train track passes over 3,000 railroad ties – nearly all of them made from trees. Listen

Into the Canopy - January 19, 2023
It wasn’t all that long ago that scientists called the tree canopy "the last biotic frontier." Listen

Trees and Money - January 26, 2023
I recently discovered that not a single tree is cut down to make America's money! Listen

Tu BiShvat - February 2, 2023
One of my favorite ways to honor trees is celebrating Tu BiShvat, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the “New Year for the Trees.” Listen

Tree Architecture - February 9, 2023
The diversity in tropical forests is mind-boggling. Costa Rica alone hosts nearly 2,000 types of trees! Listen

Gambel Oaks - February 16, 2023
We know that when it comes to people, unassuming doesn’t mean uninteresting. The same holds true for trees.Listen

Originally published @

Spirit of Salam

Spirit of Salam

Tino Nyawelo

Tino Nyawelo Wins 2023 Spirit of Salam Award.

The family of International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) founder and Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam announced that Tino Nyawelo, associate professor of physics at the University of Utah, is a recipient of the 2023 Spirit of Salam Award. Revealed annually on Abdus Salam’s birthday, the award recognizes those who, like Salam himself, have worked tirelessly to promote the development of science and technology in disadvantaged parts of the world.

Nyawelo was recognized for founding Refugees Exploring the Foundations of Undergraduate Education in Science (REFUGES), a program to help historically excluded students to pursue STEM education at the university level. Nyawelo, who in 1997 left his home country of Sudan to complete a postgraduate program at the ICTP in Italy, considers the award a full circle moment.

“This award is very special to me because my time at the center put me directly on the path that I’m following today,” Nyawelo said.

Abdus Salem

Salam, a theoretical physicist from Punjab, Pakistan, received a bachelor’s and doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge due to Pakistan’s lack of scientific infrastructure at the time. Salam was a passionate advocate for boosting science in developing countries and lived by his conviction that science is the common heritage of humankind. In 1964, he founded the ICTP in Trieste, Italy, as an “international scientific hub of excellence linking scientists from developing countries with their colleagues worldwide, overcoming intellectual isolation and helping build a strong scientific base around the world so that all countries can play their rightful role in the global science community and in the family of nations,” according to the ICTP. He won the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics, becoming the first Pakistani and the first Muslim from an Islamic country to receive the prestigious prize in science.

In 1996, Nyawelo was unsure of his next move. He had completed a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Sudan University of Science and Technology in Khartoum, Sudan and was appointed as a teaching assistant. At the time, there were no Sudanese physics PhD programs, and he was considering switching to computer science. Luckily, Marten Durieux, a renowned Dutch physicist from the University of Leiden, Netherlands, intervened. Durieux, who passed away in 2011, traveled to Sudan every year to teach physics courses. His first-ever PhD student was a brilliant scholar from Sudan, and Durieux fell in love with the country. Over his career, Durieux mentored 11 Sudanese students through their PhDs. Nyawelo was admitted to a year-long intensive program at the ICTP.

Marten Durieux

“The ICTP diploma program was eye-opening, but difficult,” said Nyawelo. “It was the first time I’d left my country, the first time I’d learned science in a language other than Arabic, I didn’t know anybody, and Italy was a culture shock.”

Through Durieux, Nyawelo met Jan-Willem van Holten, a theoretical physicist at the Dutch the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics (NIKHEF), with whom Nyawelo continues to collaborate to this day. After he completed his PhD in 2004, he returned to the ICTP for his postdoc. During his time in Europe, Nyawelo traveled frequently to Utah to visit his girlfriend, now wife. They started dating in Sudan, but she and her family were relocated to Salt Lake City after fleeing violence at the outbreak of the Sudanese civil war. Many of Nyawelo’s friends and classmates had also relocated—and the community felt like coming home.

“Durieux—that’s the connection that helped me, and motivated me to help others. I benefited a lot from support to pursue physics without paying a cent,” Nyawelo said. “I was planning on giving something back.”

While in Utah, colleagues in the Department of Physics & Astronomy gave Nyawelo a desk to continue his research, eventually offering him a post-doc position in 2007. By 2009, he and other members of the refugee community became alarmed at the high rates of school dropouts. They realized that many refugee youth come to Utah with little English and intermittent formal schooling. When they arrive in Utah, the school system places them in a grade based on their age, leaving many feeling overwhelmed and left behind. Nyawelo and partners founded REFUGES, an after-school program to help refugee students in middle and high school thrive in STEM subjects. The U has housed REFUGES since 2013 where it has expanded to include a summer bridge program for incoming first-year students at the U, and non-refugee students who are underrepresented in STEM fields.

Receiving the Salam Award in Trieste, December 2023

“I related to the Utah newcomers. It reminded me of when I went to Italy for the first time, science was taught in different language in a very different system,” said Nyawelo. “That’s how the whole afterschool program started. Because I remember the feeling of being that vulnerable.”

In 2020, the National Science Foundation awarded Nyawelo and collaborators $1.1 million over three years to study how refugee teenagers construct self-identities related to STEM across settings, such as physics research and creating digital stories, across relationships, such as peer, parent, and teacher, and across the languages they speak. Embedded in REFUGES, the first-of-its-kind project is titled “Investigating the development of STEM-positive identities of refugee teens in a physics out-of-school time experience.”

A cohort of teens learned the principles of physics and computer programming by building detectors for cosmic rays. The detector technology is adapted from HiSPARC (High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics), a program founded by Nyawelo’s former advisor, van Holton. van Holton and his students have flown to Utah several times to help Nyawelo adapt the program.

“I still have a big connection with the Netherlands— van Holten and his colleques at Nikhef has donated a lot of the equipment for free, to work and build cosmic ray detectors with high schools student here in Utah, and they handed me the project that they started more than 20 years ago,” said Nyawelo. “It’s been an exciting project that can serve as a model for other places who want to support students from these backgrounds succeed in STEM in higher education. Just like I was at ICTP and the Netherlands.”

Other Awardees
The two other Spirit of Salam awardees Hugo Celso Perez Rojas of the Instituto de Cybernetics Mathematics and Physics in Cuba, who has worked intensely to persuade Cuban policy makers that basic science is by no means a luxury but a crucial need for the development of third-world economies; and Federico Rosei, Institut National Recherche Scientifique in Montréal, Canada, has shown outstanding international leadership, spanning from research, to education to building capacity and mentoring.

“We are delighted to recognize the contribution of these three fine humanitarians, who have taken the spirit and example of Abdus Salam to serve humanity and promote education to the most deserving in the developing countries. They have worked tirelessly to support those, who purely by the accident of their birth do not have access to those born in the developed countries.”

by Lisa Potter, first published @ theU


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Fellow of the AAAS

Fellow of the AAAS

Jennifer Shumaker-Perry

Jennifer Shumaker-Perry is among the 506 newly-elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

AAAS members have been awarded this honor because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Other fellows currently at the U including Nancy Songer, dean of the College of Education, Thure Cerling, recipient of the 2022 Rosenblatt Prize and Mario Capecchi, 2007 Nobel laureate. The U’s first Fellow was geologist and former university president James Talmage, elected in 1906. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

New Fellows will be presented with a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin and gather in spring 2023 in Washington, D.C. Fellows will also be announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science in February 2023.

Shumaker-Parry, professor of chemistry, was elected for “significant contributions to the design and study of plasmonic nanomaterials, and promotion of graduate education integrating science, business, and communication for broad and diverse career pathways.”

“It’s an honor to have been nominated and selected to be an AAAS Fellow,” she says.

“The nomination also highlights the importance of all aspects of training the next generation of scientists including mentoring students through teaching relevant classes, collaborating on research, and advising and supporting them.”

Her research group studies how light interacts with metal nanoparticles.

“At the nanoscale, metal particles don’t behave like bulk materials,” she says. “Instead, the optical behavior of metal nanomaterials can be tuned by controlling the size, shape or assembly of nanoparticles.”

Learning how to fine-tune the interactions between light and nanoparticles by manipulating the properties of the nanomaterials can aid the design of systems to transfer information using light and monitors of human and environmental health.

Shumaker-Parry is the director of the Biotechnology track of the U’s Professional Master of Science and Technology program, which “provide(s) professional scientists an opportunity to earn a graduate science or math degree that increases their core scientific knowledge and quantitative skills,” according to the program description.

“I have learned so much from advising and teaching students who bring their work experiences and unique perspectives to the program,” she says. “Most of them are working full-time or part-time, so they add a lot of industry-based scenarios to classroom discussions. My role is to help the students create a path through the program that aligns with their career goals.”

“I am excited to see the elections of Dr. Bandarian, Dr. Schmidt and Dr. Shumaker-Parry as AAAS Fellows,” says Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “This recognition demonstrates their lasting contributions to their disciplines, as well as their impacts on future scientists. The University of Utah is a national leader in scientific research and education, and our three new Fellows embody this leadership.”

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. Currently, members can be considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering groups of the Association’s 24 sections, or by any three Fellows who are current AAAS members (so long as two of the three sponsors are not affiliated with the nominee’s institution), or by the AAAS chief executive officer. Fellows must have been continuous members of AAAS for four years by the end of the calendar year in which they are elected. AAAS Fellow’s lifetime honor comes with an expectation that recipients maintain the highest standards of professional ethics and scientific integrity.

Each steering group reviews the nominations of individuals within its respective section and a final list is forwarded to the AAAS Council, which votes on the aggregate list.

by Paul Gabrielsen, first published in @theU.

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Anna Tang

Anna Tang

The Key in our Collective Hand.

"Mathematics,” says Anna Tang, “is a key in our hands that is able to change shape to fit almost any lock in the world.” A senior in math at the U, Tang not only uses that key to model how breast cancer tumors continue to grow despite estrogen controls in current therapies, but to apply for a Fulbright fellowship. In April, she was confirmed as a finalist and will be heading to Germany this fall.

A member of the Fred Adler lab known for its broad range of mathematical modeling work—from rhinoviruses to ant colonies and from sea ice to urban ecosystems–Tang is clearly enamored with math-biology models, which have grown exponentially, especially as they relate to healthcare applications. That interest not only stems from working on differential equations as a precocious youth–and now at the U. There was support from her parents: her mother, a research faculty member at U Health who was quick to instill in her daughter that failure is just one step toward success; and her father, a computer scientist. That her parents are both immigrants from post-communist China, and “not fluent in the language of elementary writing assignments,” they focused with their daughter on the universal language of math.

It turns out that another Chinese immigrant whom Tang refers to as “Auntie” propelled Tang even further into the language of math and its potential applications to healthcare. While working on her PhD at the U, says Tang, “Auntie took care of me when my mother [working as a post-doctoral researcher] and father were attending conferences.” Already an MD, Anna’s surrogate mom often told stories of working in emergency rooms in China. Then, in 2008, eight-year-old Tang traveled to Jiangxi Province to visit her Auntie who had earlier returned to China where she eventually learned she had contracted stomach cancer.

“She had always been so full of life,” recalls Tang, “helping others as a doctor and researcher … .” But now, the woman who with her mother was “pushing the boundaries of our knowledge … was decimated by the cancer that had affected her.”

While the experience with Auntie in China was fourteen years ago, Tang vividly remembers how bleak the woman’s hospital room was “except for one single, solitary sunflower in the vase next to her bed.” While looking at that flower and its seeds the third grader suddenly remembered, of all things, the Fibonacci Sequence–the series of numbers in which the next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it–and how it is found in nature.

That experience was “the root of the wish to apply math to life,” she says. There with her Auntie, Tang remembers wishing she could cure cancer “like you could solve a math problem. … Cancer is a strange land. It whisks its patients away to another world of fear and uncertainty.”

Unfortunately, the intrepid model to Tang of what it means to seek scientific understanding did not return from that land.

An honors student with a minor in chemistry, Tang will work with Anna Marciniak, a mathematical oncologist at Heidelberg University in Germany. In that lab Tang will be working to quantify the mutational landscape of another kind of cancer: acute myeloid leukemia. Using integro-differential equations she and her team will be asking what the mutations of cancer cell populations look like and how they present themselves phenotypically.

Meanwhile, Tang, who works as a TA in the Department of Chemistry, is readying for graduation later this year. She says that Adler, who is also Director of the School of Biological Sciences, “is the most eccentric professor I’ve ever worked with. In a good way,” she quips, then laughs: “He has in his office a list of ‘trigger’ things that he doesn’t want to see in a math model.” The Adler lab is a very collaborative environment, she continues, “always a blast! The projects are so diverse you get to see so many applications of math. It’s inspiring.” In the lab Tang works closely with post doc Linh Huynh, designing models, running simulations, collecting data and talking over fixed point stability and long-term behavior.

It's not every third grader who resonates with the Fibonacci Sequence. In fact, Tang finds doing mathematics, in a way, meditative. “I really love it because you’re just thinking. It feels a little like I can take myself away from technology just working with a piece of paper.” Reflexively, however, Anna Tang recalls her Auntie in that hospital room, and the Fulbright aspirant knows she wants to move through that heady, calming space, into simulations and eventually applications to healthcare.

“If there is anything that can prolong the life of a cancer patient,” she says, “it will be math,” the shape-shifting key in our collective hand that can fit most any lock.

by David Pace, first published @

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Applied Science Groundbreaking

Dean Peter Trapa

On Friday, Feb. 10, the University of Utah held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Applied Sciences Project, a $93.5 million endeavor that includes renovation of the historic William Stewart Building and a new 100,000-square-foot building with modern teaching labs and state-of-the-art research facilities. The completed spaces will house world-class scientists addressing the country’s most urgent issues, including energy, air quality, climate change and water management, and provide additional classrooms and experiential learning opportunities for crucial undergraduate STEM courses.

“Utah is growing, and we need to expand,” said U President Taylor Randall to the crowd at the Applied Sciences Project ceremony. “This project will help us increase capacity to educate new generations of STEM leaders and provide the expertise to sustain Utah’s STEM economy to keep Utah vital.”

Gary Crocker

The Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy and the Departments of Physics & Astronomy and Atmospheric Sciences will relocate to the new building upon its completion in late 2024. The researchers will use the facilities for a range of activities, such as forecasting hazardous weather, predicting the Wasatch Front’s winter particulates and summer ozone, developing new advances in semiconductors and quantum materials and managing the Willard Eccles Observatory telescope at Frisco Peak. The partnership between these departments is a component of the merger between the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences, announced last year.

“In the end, when all is said and done, the core objective of philanthropy has always been the impact that a gift might have on individual lives. Ann and I know very personally that the College of Science is the pivotal portal in this state through which students wishing to enter the sciences and science-based profession must pass,” said Gary Crocker. “Ann and I have seen this virtuous cycle. Science leading to commercial innovation, leading to better jobs and better communities.”

President Taylor Randall

The project will boost the capacity for crucial undergraduate courses, allowing departments to address record STEM enrollment. Classes taught in the buildings are necessary for 37 different STEM degree programs and nine pre-professional programs, including all engineering, pre-medical and computer science majors. Along with access to modern experiential teaching spaces, students will avoid bottlenecks in high-demand courses, helping reduce graduation time.

“The collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of this project will bring together faculty and students who will work together to address the grand challenges of our day and make great advances in fundamental research,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science.

The Utah State Legislature approved the project in 2020 and the state appropriated $64.8 million in funding for the project. Both the university and the legislature consider the project a high priority because it supports the state’s STEM economy.

Dean Darryl Butt

“The Applied Sciences Building will be a home base, a catalyst for learning and innovation in the 21st century, and will touch thousands of lives,” said Darryl Butt, dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

When completed, the Crocker Science Center and the two buildings in the Applied Science Project will form the Crocker Science Complex. The complex, made possible by an $8.5 million gift from Gary and Ann Crocker, will form a dynamic interdisciplinary STEM hub on the east side of the U campus.

Visit our Applied Science Project pages for more information.

Visit our UGIVE page to make a donation in support of the Applied Science Project.



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GSL Strike Team

Great Salt Lake Strike Team

Utah’s public research universities – The University of Utah and Utah State University – formed the Great Salt Lake Strike Team to provide a primary point of contact for policymakers as they address the economic, health, and ecological challenges created by the record-low elevation of Great Salt Lake. Together with state agency professionals, the Strike Team brings together experts in public policy, hydrology, water management, climatology, and dust to provide impartial, data-informed, and solution-oriented support for Utah decision-makers. The Strike Team does not advocate but rather functions in a technical, policy-advisory role as a service to the state.

The Great Salt Lake Strike Team developed an evaluation scorecard to create apples-to-apples comparisons of the most often proposed options. By briefly outlining these policies and providing necessary context, options, and tradeoffs, we give an overview of expected water gains, monetary costs, environmental impacts, and feasibility. Many options work in conjunction with others, particularly “Commit Conserved Water to Great Salt Lake” which is foundational to shepherding water conserved through other policy options to the lake.

Strike Team Policy Options

Commit Conserved Water to Great Salt Lake
Coupled with accurate quantification, appropriate procedural mechanisms, and practicable means of delivery, stakeholders may be able to commit conserved water to Great Salt Lake.

Agriculture Water Optimization
Agriculture water optimization provides immediate and improved resilience to producers and builds the foundation of flexibility, infrastructure, and methods required to make more water available for Great Salt Lake.

Optimize Municipal and Industrial Water Pricing
By optimizing water pricing in Utah, policymakers can improve water management and increase water deliveries to Great Salt Lake.

Limiting Municipal and Industrial Water Use Growth
Efficiency and conservation in new and existing M&I water use creates savings for future growth and can also conserve water to be delivered to Great Salt Lake.

Water Banking and Leasing
The State of Utah or the Great Salt Lake Trust could lease water for Great Salt Lake, reallocating water from willing sellers to willing buyers.

Active Forest Management in Great Salt Lake Headwaters
Thinning Utah’s forests is not likely to substantially increase the amount of water reaching the GSL. Although thinning can improve forest health and reduce the risk of severe wildfire, it does not always increase streamflow.

Great Salt Lake Mineral Extraction Optimization
Mineral extractors working on Great Salt Lake collectively hold over 600,000 acre-feet of water rights. The state is currently working with these companies to encourage innovative processes for new mineral development.

Import Water
Importing water to Great Salt Lake from the Pacific Ocean (or other sources) is feasible but would be expensive, slow, and controversial.

Increase Winter Precipitation with Cloud Seeding
Cloud seeding can marginally enhance the amount of snowfall in mountainous regions of primary water sources.

Raise and Lower the Causeway Berm
Raising the adaptive management berm at the Union Pacific Railroad causeway breach between the North and South Arms of Great Salt Lake would effectively act as a dam. This would keep freshwater inflows of the major tributaries in the South Arm where salinity levels are reaching a critical threshold.

Mitigate Dust Emission Hotspots
Implementing dust control measures on exposed portions of the Great Salt Lake lakebed would reduce the impacts of dust on human health.


Visit the Gardner Policy Institute to view the latest updates.


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