U Astronomy, New AURA Member

Banner photo by Gail Zasowski

The Association of Universities for Astronomy (AURA) is pleased to welcome two new member institutions: the University of Utah and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Both institutions’ applications to join AURA were approved by AURA’s Member Representatives at its April annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

University of Utah astronomy

Established in 1850, the University of Utah is the flagship university of the state. A community of students, staff and scholars, the University of Utah—affectionately called “the U”—is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through innovative research; the education of future citizens, professionals and leaders; and scholarly and creative pursuits that preserve and broaden our understanding of the human condition. The U prepares students for leadership roles in Utah, the country and the world. Located in one of the darkest states in the nation, housing the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies and launching the first-ever minor in dark sky studies in the U.S., the U is a leader in exploring the impacts of artificial light at night and the loss of our night skies through a broad range of disciplines.

The University of Utah’s Department of Physics & Astronomy in the College of Science is committed to pursuing key science questions within an inclusive academic community; to training and diversifying the next generation of researchers, educators and technology workforce leaders; and to inspiring an appreciation for knowledge in students and the wider community.

Read the full story of the Department’s induction into AURA in @TheU

Zhigang Zak Fang: Humboldt Award

Titanium (Ti) metal, prized for its high strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and biocompatibility is a critical material in aerospace, defense, and medical applications, but its wider use is obstructed by excessively high costs.

Fang discussing with a former student Jarom Chamberlain, Ph.D., about 3D printing.

That’s where Materials Sciences and Metallurgical Engineering Professor Zhigang Zak Fang comes into play. A recent recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award, Fang has developed a breakthrough technology that can produce high-quality, low-carbon emitting titanium powder at a significantly reduced cost. Known as the Hydrogen Assisted Metallothermic Reduction (HAMR) process, the technology developed by Fang is based on the discovery of new science about the effects of hydrogen on the stability of Ti solid solutions with high oxygen content (up to 14wt%.)

“Titanium metal is difficult to produce because of its strong affinity to oxygen,” says Fang, who was notified earlier this month about the Humboldt, which promotes scientific cooperation between research institutions in the U.S. and Germany. He discovered that the bond between titanium and oxygen can be destabilized by inserting hydrogen atoms into the Titanium(II) oxide (Ti-O) solid solution lattices, leading to the completely new approach for sustainably producing low oxygen titanium with minimum energy and cost.

“By dramatically reducing the cost and carbon dioxide emissions of producing titanium powder, the HAMR process has the potential to fundamentally disrupt and transform the global titanium metal industry,” continues Fang.

Today, the U.S. must import almost 100% of the “titanium sponge” it consumes each year, made by this older process that is inefficient, expensive, and energy intensive. China and Russia control ~70% of the global market for titanium sponge, creating a significant supply chain vulnerability for a metal critical to America’s national defense. The current market-standard process for creating titanium metal heats titanium ore to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and reacts with chlorine gas and petroleum coke to produce titanium tetrachloride. That chemical compound is purified, reduced by molten magnesium in an argon atmosphere for up to four days, and then vacuum-distilled into the porous, brittle form of titanium known as “sponge.” It is then crushed and melted to make ingots and other titanium mill deliverables that are sent to the manufacturers of titanium products.

Fang’s research which led to the HAMR technology, promises to improve energy efficiency drastically. The HAMR process can produce primary titanium metal from either minerals or from titanium scrap. Recycling titanium scrap is the focus of the initial commercialization by IperionX, a commercial entity engaged in mining, production, and reshoring of Ti manufacturing in the US. Producing low-oxygen spherical titanium powder from scrap is accomplished by utilizing HAMR in combination with a patented Granulation, Sintering, and Deoxygenation (GSD) process. The result is that high-oxygen titanium scrap is transformed into low-oxygen titanium powders that meet or exceed stringent aerospace and biomedical industry standards.

Titanium powder can be used for additive manufacturing or utilized by powder metallurgy to manufacture products in a broad range of demanding applications, including aerospace, defense, biomedical, and other civilian applications, with dramatically increased sustainability.

An internationally renowned scientist

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards to internationally leading researchers of all disciplines from abroad in recognition of their academic record to date. The Humboldt Prize, also known as the Humboldt Research Award with a cash prize of EURO 60,000, is given annually to internationally renowned scientists and scholars and is named after the late Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt.

Inventor of a series of process technologies, Fang is a globally recognized innovator in the areas of cemented tungsten carbide, refractory metals, titanium, powder metallurgy, and metal hydride for hydrogen and thermal energy storage. Prior to joining the U, Fang had a successful industrial R&D career for over a decade. He has authored or co-authored over 180 peer reviewed publications. He is the named sole or co-inventor in over 60 issued U.S. patents. He founded/co-founded two start-up companies and successfully commercialized several tungsten carbide and titanium technologies.

The Humboldt is far from Zak Fang’s first acknowledgment for his work. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, ASM, and APMI, respectively. In 2009 he was the winner of an R&D100 Award. He is also the Editor-in-Chief for the International Journal of Refractory Metals & Hard Metals, the flagship scientific journal for refractory metals.

by David Pace


(January 3, 2024): Metallurgical Engineering Professors in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Utah recently signed a research agreement with IperionX (IPX) for $10MM over ten years, effective January 1, 2024. The project is led by Z. Zak Fang (PI) and Pei Sun (Co-PI). The Charlotte, NC-based IPX aims to become a leading American titanium (Ti) and critical materials company – using patented metals technologies to produce high-performance Ti metal from Ti minerals or scrap Ti at lower energy, cost, and carbon emissions than conventional technologies. Fang and his research team will provide IPX with research and development services related to metallurgical technologies to produce primary metals, advanced manufacturing technologies, including additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing) of titanium alloys, and recycling of rare earth metals from magnets used in wind turbines and electric vehicles. “This academic-industry partnership of the Fang Lab and IperionX exemplifies the College of Science’s innovative bench-to-application research to meet the needs of our energy future,” said Dean Peter Trapa.

(November 17, 2023): Zhigang Zak Fang’s research is one of R&D 100 Winners announced by R&D World magazine. This renowned worldwide science and innovation competition, celebrating its 61st year, received entries from 15 different countries and regions. This year’s esteemed judging panel included 45 well-respected industry professionals from across the world. Fang’s research was cited in the Process/Prototyping category.


Darryl Butt: Finding one’s ‘professional self’

Where does a skilled painter, celebrated inter-disciplinary educator and dean of College of Mines & Earth Sciences (CMES) go to advance their career? In the case of Darryl Butt, he becomes the dean of the graduate school. University of Utah Provost Mitzi M. Montoya announced in March that Butt has accepted the offer and will ascend to his new role June 1.

Darryl Butt

Also current Director of the Center for Multi-Scale Fluid-Solid Interactions in Architected and Natural Materials Energy Frontier Research Center, Butt is a celebrated, inter-disciplinary educator and oil painter. He promotes a de-silo-ed approach to looking at research problems and projects. Using a “flipped classroom” model and a dynamic (as in changeable, by all involved) syllabus, his vertically integrated approach not only flattens hierarchies and disassembles firewalls between disciplines but encourages greater diversity and inclusion from traditionally under-represented student groups.

His monthly painting workshops in the CMES’s advising center are popular and creates a space for the scientifically minded and others to get out of their empirical box and into an integrated one, shot through with creativity, innovation and “flow.” It’s an approach inspired by the 15th century scientist and artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Butt joined the U in 2016 as professor of metallurgical engineering and college dean, establishing strategic plans to address diversity; safety and security; student, staff and faculty success; cross-campus collaboration; fiscal stewardship and transparency. Under his leadership, the EpiCenter, a hub of student activity and advising for the college, was created, and the departments of Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering were merged. Butt has also been instrumental in enabling the merger of the CMES and College of Science.

The Graduate School is arguably the perfect fit for Butt. It offers more than 200 graduate degrees and supports more than 8,400 students enrolled in programs that vary from Master of Architecture to a doctorate in Nuclear Engineering.  As dean he will assess ongoing improvements to all academic programs and centers at the U through the Graduate Council Review process and enable the development of interdisciplinary graduate programs for multi-college academic degrees and certificates. Dr. Peter Trapa, Dean of the College of Science, will assume leadership responsibilities of the College of Mines & Earth Sciences which merged last year with the College of Science.

“One of the joys I get from research is watching the development of students and postdocs and helping them find their ‘professional selves,’” says Butt. “I’m looking forward to being their advocate as well as supporting the incredible faculty and staff at the University in support of our ambitious research mission.”

Celebrating Our Exceptional Faculty 2023

4 College Faculty Receive 2023 U Awards

Each year, the University of Utah recognizes the achievements of exceptional faculty members in teaching, research, mentorship and service. Below are the College of Science honorees for this year, with excerpts from their nomination letters.



Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching

Kenneth Golden
Distinguished Professor of Mathematics

“Having more than 40 years of classroom experience to perfect the art of teaching, 80-plus publications in academic and scientific journals, more than 500 invited lectures and having presented three times in front of the United States Congress, Dr. Golden has amplified what it means to be a teacher by not only being at the top of his field but also by creating a safe and inclusive environment where students can be challenged to reach their full potential.”



Distinguished Professor

Michael Morse, professor
Department of Chemistry

“Professor Morse’s substantial work exemplifies the highest goals of scholarship and research and he is internationally viewed as a leading expert in the experimental study of small transition metal, lanthanide and actinide molecules. His most recent work is setting the standard for these species and is crucially needed for benchmarking computational chemistry. At the same time, he is dedicated to teaching, mentoring and providing service to the profession and the local community at the highest level.”



Early Career Teaching Award

Claudia De Grandi, associate professor (lecturer)
Department of Physics & Astronomy

“Dr. De Grandi is an outstanding educator because of her persistent aspiration to evolve her teaching practice. I know from experience that she gives students many opportunities throughout the semester to provide feedback regarding the class. Furthermore, I know that she uses this information to shape how she proceeds in the classroom. Her commitment to enhancing her classrooms is one of the many ways that she is able to accommodate a wide range of student needs. As a future educator myself, I admire her devotion to education and her perspective on education as a constantly developing process. Dr. De Grandi’s willingness to adapt is something that all educators could benefit from.”




Early Career Teaching Award

Sean Howe, assistant professor
Department of Mathematics

“During my undergraduate career, Dr. Howe has been instrumental in my success by advising my applications for scholarships, graduate schools and research experiences; and by providing individual instruction on an advanced research project and related topics. I am extremely fortunate and grateful for Dr. Howe’s constant support and the positive impact he has had on my life and academic career. The personal impact of his guidance truly cannot be understated—he has proven to be an outstanding mentor in every manner possible, exhibiting extraordinary character and compassion for his students.”



Celebrate all faculty awards given this year by the University of Utah here:


Tim Hawkes named College of Science senior fellow

Great Salt Lake advocate and former Utah lawmaker Tim Hawkes joins College of Science Leadership Team as Senior Fellow

The University of Utah College of Science announced the selection of attorney and former Utah legislator Tim Hawkes as Senior Fellow. In addition to advising college leadership, Hawkes will also serve on the executive advisory board for the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy.

Hawkes currently serves as General Counsel and Vice-Chair of the Board for the Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative, where he handles a wide variety of legal and regulatory issues, as well as business strategy, strategic communications, and governmental affairs, particularly on issues that relate to the Great Salt Lake. Tim has nearly two decades’ worth of experience in water law and policy and advocating for Utah’s natural resources.

During his eight years in the State Legislature, Hawkes served in House Leadership as Rules Chair, and on the Business & Labor and Natural Resource Committees. He also sponsored many important pieces of water legislation. A trained mediator and outdoor enthusiast, Hawkes served for ten years as Utah Director for Trout Unlimited. From 2014-2017, he co-chaired Utah’s Recommended State Water Strategy Team. Hawkes holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Juris Doctor from Columbia University School of Law.

“I am delighted to serve as an inaugural Senior Fellow of the College of Science,” said Hawkes. “I look forward to working with Dean Trapa and the exceptional staff and faculty of the College to help address critical environmental challenges facing Utah. Both the College and the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy can shape and support policy decisions at all levels.”

Hawkes is the first fellow selected by the College of Science. The College of Science Fellows Program will expand in the future to include other experts and leaders in strategic areas of opportunity.

“I am excited to have Tim Hawkes join us as Senior Fellow and advisor to the College of Science,” said Dean Peter Trapa. “Tim’s policy acumen and understanding of environmental issues fit perfectly with President Randall’s vision to enhance the U’s unsurpassed societal impact.”

“Through Adversity to the Stars”

Basic research in math, science and engineering is the lifeblood of major technological advances and innovations that can accelerate climate solutions and propel society toward a more sustainable future.

Ken Golden measuring the fluid permeability of sea ice off the coast of East Antarctica. Photo by Jan Lieser.

Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Ken Golden, dubbed the “Indiana Jones of mathematics,” delivered the opening remarks of the second day of the Wilkes Climate Science & Policy Summit, May 16-17 at the Alumni House, University of Utah.

Below is a transcript.

Alta Ski Resort, which is just 26 miles from here, had a whopping 903 inches of snow this season, delighting skiers with tons of fresh powder all year up until a few weeks ago, and Solitude Resort is still open! But what about 10, 20, 50 years down the road? Suppose you’re in the ski industry, or an investor? Was this the start of a period of great abundance for our ski resorts? Or was it an aberration, a last gasp before the climate system settles into a drier equilibrium that may not be so favorable to skiers? And what about our neighbors in Colorado or in the Sierra Nevada?

With such questions in mind, I’m delighted to welcome you all to day two of our Wilkes Climate Summit which will provide deeper dives into the science behind these and other questions, as well as plenary and keynote addresses on issues that affect all of us. You’ll be able to hear a broad range of viewpoints, see cutting-edge scientific advances and innovations, and experience an enlightening exchange of ideas at what we believe will be a seminal event for climate science and solutions in Utah.

Now, our snowpack and precipitation patterns are not just of interest to skiers; they are of critical importance to our water supply, to agriculture and industry, to creating the conditions for drought and wildfires, and also to the health of our Great Salt Lake, as we’ll hear from Speaker of the Utah House, Brad Wilson. We’re so honored and delighted to have you here to give the keynote address this morning. Just like the snowfields of the Rockies, one can ask about the future of the corn fields of Iowa or the wheat fields of Kansas. City planners in Miami, Boston or other coastal cities are certainly interested in long-range predictions for how rapidly sea levels will rise.

Providing policy makers, business and industry leaders, state and federal agencies, other stakeholders and the public with data-driven, science-based assessments of our current situation—how we got here, and projections of what we may face down the road—is one of our most important jobs we have as scientists and academics. Moreover, basic research in math, science and engineering is the lifeblood of major technological advances and innovations that can accelerate climate solutions and propel society toward a more sustainable future.

A broad palette

The main challenges in developing a broad palette of potential climate solutions all pretty much boil down to science, engineering, and math problems. Examples include how to optimally design advanced materials to better convert sunlight to electricity, how to efficiently store and transport energy, how to best extract energy from winds, tides, and waves (as we heard about yesterday in one of the prize lectures), how to design and build clean technology products that the public embraces, how to optimally tune the microstructure of thermally smart nano-composite coatings for windows (as we heard about yesterday in another prize lecture), how to capture or sequester greenhouse gases before they enter the atmosphere, how to engineer algae and other microbes to make better biofuels, what to do with the waste from nuclear fission and how to harness the power of the stars from nuclear fusion.

Moreover, most of these big issues, like Utah’s snowpack, water, and wildfires, or developing next generation batteries for storage applications, are complex and highly cross-disciplinary, typically requiring expertise from several scientific, engineering, and mathematical disciplines, interaction with local, state, and federal governments, involvement with business and industrial partners, and funding from federal agencies or private foundations. Indeed, our final keynote today will be given by David Manderscheid, Division Director of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Thanks so much, David, for giving us NSF’s perspective on these issues. We’re really looking forward to your remarks this afternoon.

Before we go further, I think it might be useful to mention the 800-pound gorilla that can overshadow and make climate projections that much more difficult, or should I say the 800-pound polar bear just to our north? When people hear that the average global temperature has risen by about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the mid-20th century, it might be easy to dismiss the significance or magnitude of this warming. But if we look to the north, we see the frozen surface of the Arctic Ocean—Earth’s refrigerator—that reflects sunlight during the polar summer when the sun can shine 24/7 and protects the ocean from too much solar heating. But we’ve lost about half of this summer sea ice cover! Not 5%, but 50%. Not over the past million years, or thousand years, but over the past 30 or 40 years! On February 13, 2023, Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record low.

Ripple effects

But just like throwing a rock into a pond, there are ripple effects. And the bigger the rock, the bigger the ripples, and the further they go. The extent of the sea ice we’ve lost in the Arctic is about two-thirds the area of the contiguous United States and is probably the largest change on the Earth’s surface due to planetary warming. That’s a big rock. Having been to the Arctic 11 times over the past 22 years and to the Antarctic seven times since 1980, I’ve seen tremendous changes in the polar marine environment over this period. From a human perspective, I’ve seen significant impacts on native communities along the northern coast of Alaska.

How the ripples affect the global climate system, weather and precipitation patterns in North America, our ski industry, the Great Salt Lake, and our drought and wildfire conditions, are particularly difficult, yet fascinating problems. The speed of the changes and the lack of equilibrium, as well as feedback effects further challenge modeling and prediction efforts.

But what I hope we all can take away from these observations is that we’re all in the same boat—Planet Earth!—and that the sheer complexity, scope, and highly interdisciplinary nature of the issues necessitates that if we’re ever really going to get anywhere, we must work together!—across ideological, academic, intellectual, as well as party lines to achieve big goals that will benefit all of us. A principal, long-term goal is that we be responsible, knowledge-based, data-driven stewards of our “boat” and of our resources as we set sail to the future, particularly as we turn the helm over to our younger citizens.

Finally, a few hopeful, optimistic remarks that I’ll make as somewhat of an outsider to climate science—that is, I’m a math teacher whose only formal training and early career research is in mathematics and theoretical physics. I did start working on sea ice in high school and college, but I only became involved in the larger questions about our climate system much later in my career.

  1. Momentum. Climate science is attracting far more interest, talent, funding and resources now than in the recent past. The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for climate modeling and prediction. The climate system is now a vibrant, active area of study in applied math and physics, as well as in the geosciences, and sustainable energy is an increasingly large component of engineering curricula. Significant increases in federal and private funding for climate research have brought us to a new level of activity and excellence where the most advanced ideas and methods of math, physics, computing and data science—such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, topological data analysis and uncertainty quantification—are brought to bear on these most challenging of problems.
  2. “The Utah Way.” Having lived in Utah for over 30 years, it seems to me that we have an unusual capacity and desire here to come together to solve problems. Here our leaders often work across party and ideological lines to get big things done, even on controversial or divisive issues. As evidenced by this climate summit, and other developments in our state, I hope the time is now right for us to see the emerging, leading role that Utah can play in advancing the science and in developing innovative policy and practical, market-driven solutions to our climate challenges. We would like to particularly thank the Wilkes family and President Randall for helping us get started with the visionary Wilkes Center.
  3. Our young people. I get to work with some of the most brilliant and creative young mathematicians, from 10th and 11th graders to undergraduates, Ph.D. students, and postdocs, and so many are drawn to use their mathematical talents to solve climate problems. An 11th grader working with us now had already published a paper in probability theory before he started working with us on problems at the interface of mathematics and climate science. I developed an upper-level math course on climate modeling and watched enrollment grow from 4 to 25 after teaching it a few times over the past decade, and with students from many different majors. I regularly teach large introductory calculus classes and interact with hundreds of undergraduates each year. I have certainly noted that our younger citizens are increasingly aware, interested and engaged in issues affecting Earth’s climate as the decisions we make now have the potential to significantly impact the world they inherit.

Finally, my belief is that addressing and overcoming the challenges presented by our rapidly changing environment provides us with some of the greatest opportunities we have ever seen for innovation and problem-solving, investment, spawning new markets and industries, job creation, and not to mention—revolutionary advances in math, science, and engineering. Kind of like the amazing scientific and technological advances ignited by overcoming the seemingly insurmountable challenges that humans faced when we first went to the moon and beyond.

Thus, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Latin phrases that sets the compass toward our highest aspirations: per aruda ad astra—“through adversity to the stars!”

By Kenneth Golden
Distinguished Professor of Mathematics

Winner of this year’s Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching Dr. Golden
moderated the Polar Climate and Ecosystems Panel at the proceedings. Watch a video of the Summit here and read an overview of the Summit in @TheU

Humans of the U: Sam Hendry

My freshman year, I took a bioethics class and learned some history about the U.S. that I didn’t know about.

It really blew my mind, that got me interested in joining United Together Against Hate (UTAH), a social justice advocacy group in U athletics. It’s been fascinating to learn about different racial disparities and all sorts of social justice issues that are going on in the U.S. And I’ve gained a lens in looking back home in Canada, because we’ve had some similar ongoing issues that have become more publicized in recent years, like the trauma of boarding schools on First Nation communities. Then after the George Floyd tragedy in the spring of 2020, I knew I wanted to be more than a bystander.Growing up as a military kid, my family moved a lot and friendships seldom lasted.

Read the full story of this talented competitve skier from Canada in @theU


Humans of the U: Katya Podkovyroff Lewis

Growing up as a military kid, my family moved a lot and friendships seldom lasted.

My French mother—a teacher and musician—encouraged reading and creativity while my American father —a soldier working in field artillery—encouraged tinkering and what he called “real world skills.” My curiosity was often left free to roam, and led me to have plenty of imaginary friends and daydreams that would occupy my time. As I grew older, this imagination mainly translated to creative writing.

Moving to the United States felt like a culture shock even as an American citizen, and high school was an even harder adjustment. When my senior year rolled around, I felt like a first-generation student in many ways with a father who had never been to college and a mother who wasn’t familiar with the American college system. Thanks to military educational benefits, I was able to attend American University in Washington, DC – my dream school and “reach school” due to my family’s financial situation. I took on double major in journalism and international studies, with a concentration in environmental sustainability and global health, intending to focus my career on science writing or science communication.

After graduation, I began a communications internship in January 2020 writing stories about climate change and ended up writing articles on COVID-19, specifically regarding resources for journalists and the toll of reporting on the pandemic. The pandemic changed a lot of people’s plans, including mine—when I was laid off from my restaurant job in March of 2020 and had the impending end of my internship that June, I scrambled for journalistic freelancing opportunities. But I wasn’t content with just writing about topics I was so interested in—I realized that I wanted to do the work. I decided to go back to college for a second bachelors in biology with a minor in Earth science at the University of Utah, where my passions have since flourished.

Read the rest of of Katya’s story in@theU.

3 Numbers that Changed My Life

I majored in math for a reason, I’m a lot better with numbers than I am words, so today, I want to tell you about 3 numbers that changed my life.

#1. 31,878. That’s the difference between 122 and 32,000. As a math major, numbers have always held a special significance, but as humans, I think we struggle to comprehend their magnitude.

For some context, here are your college milestones. 89 is the number of majors you could have chosen, 120 is the credits you finished to earn a bachelors degree, 1,534 is the number of acres you walked around campus, and 31,878 is the difference between the size of my high school and the University of Utah.

Coming from such a small school, my transition to a large university was nothing short of overwhelming. I didn’t have AP, IB or advanced programs, so I felt behind in my classes. I was expected to have a thorough understanding of concepts I’d never even heard about. I didn’t have a large network of alumni and students to reach out for support. Ultimately, I felt like I didn’t have the tools to be successful.

When we transition to college, we leave behind our established friends, family and community. We leave behind our support system and are forced to build one from scratch. This requires effort, intention, and vulnerability. It means reaching out to new people, trying new experiences, and asking for help, even when it feels uncomfortable. As I look out into the crowd, I don’t see a sea of faces, I see my network.

31,878. It’s a huge number, and I felt every bit of it in my transition. But in my life, there’s one number that puts this to shame.

#2. 8,431. Though it’s less than one third of the size, the difference in that 8,431 is much greater than 31,878. 8,431 is the number of miles from India to America. The distance that my dad traveled alone, in an airplane for the first time without even enough money to afford a ticket home. 8,431 is the distance between my parents and their mom and dad. The distance between their favorite foods, their best friends, their childhood! 31,878 represents my transition to college, but 8,431 represents my parents transition to a new life. I stand here tonight not as an individual, but as a representative of a larger community. Their stories remind me, remind us, that success is not easy and it does not come quickly.

As an ambassador, I’ve led countless tours and answered many questions about classes, extracurriculars and campus life. I knew I would be shaping the experiences of other students, but what was most significant was the way it shaped my own college experience. By sharing my story with others, I was forced to reflect on my own journey and the choices that I made. This led me to appreciate the opportunities I’d been given and be more intentional about the decisions that I made.

Today is a day to celebrate not only the decisions we’ve made, but the decisions made by those around us and those who came before us. Their decisions gave us the privilege to make our own. Through their struggles and triumphs, we are able to stand here today on their shoulders and honor their legacy. So thank you. Thank you for sacrificing familiarity, and comfort. Thank you for sacrificing your loved ones’ milestones: birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Thank you for sacrificing the opportunity to watch your parents grow old and instead working to build me a new life.

I would also like to take a moment to thank those who have passed away. Though they are not physically here, their impact on our lives continues to be felt. Thank you for your unwavering support, encouragement and love. Your absence today reminds us of the preciousness of life and your memory and love continues to inspire us. Thank you.

Onto the third and final number: 6. When people ask me about my major, they make a face at my response. Even without words, their furrowed brow and squinted eyes says it all: “why math”. When I was younger, I loved math because I thought it was rigid. I naively believed that if you followed all the rules, you could solve any problem. In a gray world, I found comfort in what I thought was a black and white subject.

However in college, I quickly realized that was far from the truth. The subject I believed was black and white wasn’t just gray, it was a rainbow of colors. What scared me most were the unsolved math problems, 6 to exact. Some of these problems have been around for centuries, and even with the brightest mathematicians who’ve dedicated their careers to studying them, they remain unsolved. I used to worry that I too would remain unsolved. That despite everyone’s greatest efforts, I was just too difficult to figure out. That I would remain a hypothesis, an experiment, and never evolve into anything concrete.

Now, I take pride in that. The existence and pursuit of these unsolved problems is what keeps the field exciting. While they themselves may remain unsolved, the process of solving them leads to new discoveries, collaborations and insights. So tonight, I encourage us to embrace the unsolved parts of our lives. Some questions exist not to be answered, but to remind us what we are looking for.

Thank you.

by Sahana Kargi

This speech was delivered by Kargi who represented the Class of ’23 on May 4, 2023 at the College of Science convocation in the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah.

Safety Day

U of U STEM safety day

STEM Safety Day brings faculty, staff and experts together from throughout campus offer trainings and updates on laboratory, clinical, classroom and workplace safety.



Shelly Beck
Assistant Professor, Department of Health & Kinesiology
Shelly Beck is an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) for the Department of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Utah. Shelly has been instructing pre-hospital emergency courses for over 20 years. During this time Shelly has also worked as an Advanced EMT in many pre-hospital settings; specializing in event and mass gathering emergency response.
John Bird
University Fire Prevention Specialist
John Bird is the Fire Prevention Specialist for the University of Utah.

Aaron Fogelson
Safety Committee Chair, Department of Mathematics
Aaron Fogelson is the Safety Committee Chair for the University of Utah Department of Mathematics. Aaron is also a College of Science Safety Committee member.
Mary Handy
Assoc. Director, Asst. Radiation Safety Officer, Environmental Health & Safety
Mary Handy is a Health Physicist with nearly 30 years of experience in radiation safety. With a strong background in ionizing and non-ionizing hazards, she has established herself as a highly skilled and respected professional in this field. Throughout her career, Mary has worked with a diverse range of service industries, including academic, consulting, energy production, and as a government subcontractor. She also serves as a Co-Chair of the ANSI Z136.8 (Safe Use of Lasers in Research, Development, or Testing). She is committed to safety and compliance, and continues to works towards being a liaison with the demands of the safety industry and the needs of the customer. Mary holds a MS in Environmental Engineering with a Health Physics emphasis from the University of Florida, and regularly participates in Health Physics and Laser Safety professional conferences.
Isabelle Harward
Manager of Educational Laboratory Facilities, Crocker Science Center
Isabelle has been working in the scientific field for the past 12 years in industrial and government labs in the fields of Chemistry and Biology. She was previously the Laboratory Manager for the Material Science and Engineering department and has recently transitioned into Laboratory Manager for the College of Science. Unsurprisingly, she loves cats.

Steve Hawker
Account Manager, Fisher Scientific
Account Manager for Fisher Scientific, Research & Safety Division.

Clint Haymond
University Fire Marshal
Clint Haymond is the Fire Marshal for the University of Utah.

Chris Hunter
Assistant Biosafety Officer
Chris Hunter completed his B.S. in Biology at the University of Utah in 1997. Chris began his career at the University of Utah in 1999. During his time at the “U” Chris has been involved with research on campus, serving as a laboratory technician and/or laboratory manager to a few of the laboratories on campus. In 2022 Chris joined the Environmental Health and Safety Department as the Assistant Biosafety Officer and serves as an IBC Administrator.
EHS Compliance Team
The EHS Compliance Team is comprised of Safety Compliance Manager Alicia Duprey-Gatrell, Compliance Specialist Jill Frei and Compliance Specialist Nathan Barlow. The EHS Safety Compliance team is responsible for the improvement, updates and questions regarding the Safety Administrative Management System (SAM). They provide compliance services to both EHS and the larger University Community.
Larhonda Johnson Horton
Director for Student Support and Accountability, Office of the Dean of Students
LaRhonda Johnson Horton currently serves as the Director for Student Support and Accountability at the University of Utah. She is an experienced educator, thought leader and higher education administrator. As a practitioner, she supports individuals and institutions with proactively identifying, appropriately responding, and optimally resolving challenges. LaRhonda is dedicated to educating the university community on how to be effective leaders with regards to student support and accountability practices encompassing research, best practices, and well-being strategies. Johnson-Horton earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Elon University and a Master of Education in College Student Personnel Administration from James Madison University.
Reggie Johnson
Police Sergeant, University Police
Reggie began his Law Enforcement career at the UUPD in 1993 where he served as both a Patrol Officer and Bike Officer. Reggie eventually left the dept. and went on to complete his career with the West Valley City Police Dept., serving in such roles as Patrol Officer, Traffic Investigator, School Resource Officer (SRO) and retired as Detective. Reggie returned to work with the UUPD in 2020, working in patrol and the depts. Peer Support Team. Reggie is currently the Sergeant in the Community Outreach Program (C.O.P) and U’s Athletic Liaison Officer.
Wil Mace
Research Manager, Dept. of Geology & Geophysics
Wil is a Research Manager in Geology and Geophysics with specialties in mass spectrometry and groundwater hydrology. He has done work in many areas around Utah, Yellowstone National Park, and Kenya, and he approaches Safety – particularly field safety – in a dynamic way; in that it is never done. There are always improvements that can be made, and every field session should be used as a learning experience for the next.
Pamela Manglona
Health Physicist, U of U Environmental Health & Safety
Pamela is a Health Physicist with the Radiation Safety Division of the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Department where she oversees the research use of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation-producing equipment, radiation security, and radioactive waste management program at the U. She also serves as the Assistant Laser Safety Officer for the laser safety program. Pamela has a B.S. Applied Physics from University of the Philippines and a M.S. Health Physics from Idaho State University.
Tom Marston
Supervisory Hydrologist, Studies Section at the United States Geological Survey
Tom has worked for the USGS for 15 years and has been responsible for a wide range of hydrologic studies in the state of Utah as well as the Intermountain West of the United States. Tom received both his Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees from the University of Utah in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences in 2007 and 2009. As part of his duties with the USGS, Tom served as the Utah Water Science Center Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinator for 4 years. This position is responsible for maintaining and implementing the safety plan for the Science Center as well as performing annual safety audits for OSHA compliance.
Jim Muller
Executive Director of Facilities Management, College of Science
Jim helps oversee the facility-related operations of the Crocker Science Center. He works with building occupants, project managers, architects and contractors to facilitate renovation, infrastructure upgrades and new construction projects for the College of Science.
Alex Mumphrey
Lauren McCluskey Foundation volunteer
Steve Natrop
Hazardous Materials Manager, Environmental Health & Safety
Steve Natrop is the Hazardous Materials Manager for Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Utah.

Brandon Newell
Occupational Safety Manager, Environmental Health & Safety
Brandon first started working in the realm of safety in the Air Force, where he worked as a quality assurance inspector in the explosives safety field. After leaving the Air Force Brandon returned to finish his undergrad education at Weber State University, majoring in Microbiology. After graduating, he was hired by EHS at the University of Utah as a Lab Safety Inspector. He went on to hold several other positions on the EHS team including Safety Specialist before moving into his current Safety Manager position in which he oversees EHS’s team of safety specialists and works on various safety program and infrastructure issues.
Elaine Newton
Education Coordinator for Office of Equal Opportunity
Elaine joined the OEO in September 2022 from the world of non-profit. She has been an adult educator for 7 years and is committed to adult learning practices in all education settings. Elaine will be discussing the University’s non-discrimination policy and reviewing equity recommendations from higher edu research.
Emily O'Hagan
Deputy Regulated Waste Manager
Emily works alongside labs to manage unwanted materials from generation to pickup to final disposal. She can help with the SAM system, chemical storage, and shipping dangerous goods along with Steve Natrop. She studied chemistry at the U and is excited to help educate the community about chemical safety and what happens to chemicals once they leave the lab.
Ricardo Rodrigues
Occupational Safety Specialist, Environmental Health & Safety
Ricardo Rodrigues is an Occupational Safety Specialist for Environmental Health & Safety at the University of Utah.
Stormy Sideria
Emergency Management Specialist, U of U Dept. of Public Safety
Stormy joined the University of Utah Emergency Management team in February of 2020. During the University's response to COVID-19, Stormy has been an integral leader in emergency operations and planning. She served over seven years in the U.S. Army, specializing in recovery operations. Stormy carries five years of medical first response experience as an AEMT working for the Brigham City Fire Department. Before arriving at the U, Stormy worked private security for Westinghouse and Goldman Sachs. Stormy has a BA in Emergency and Disaster Management and a BS in Psychology.
Dan Smith
Police Officer III, University Police
As a police officer with 18 years of experience, Dan has served in several capacities from Patrol and Investigations Sergeant to School Resource Officer to Gang Detective and current head of a UVU post where he is the supervisor over Combative and Fitness. Here at the University of Utah, Dan works as FTO, COP officer and Head of Combatives.
Jen Stones
Associate Director, Occupational Health & Safety
Jen Stones is the Associate Director of Occupational Safety for the University of Utah Environmental Health & Safety. Jen has a wide breadth of knowledge in EHS programs including industrial hygiene, hazardous materials, regulatory auditing and health and safety training.
Agnes Szarzec-Larsen
Safety Generalist/ESH Coordinator, Argonne National Labs
Agnes Szarzec-Larsen is a Deployed Environment, Safety and Health Coordinator for the Material Science Division and the Quantum Foundry at Argonne National Laboratory. Her past work titles include Hazard Analyst with the Office of Emergency Management at Argonne National Laboratory, and as Senior Laboratory Specialist in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah. During her more than ten years of experience, Agnes developed valuable skills in implementation of work planning and control processes, including evaluation of work activities, identification of hazards, and controls to mitigate risks and exposures. She has extensive knowledge of laboratory and chemical safety with specific application of ESH requirements and standards. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science, both in chemistry from the University of Utah.
Peter Trapa
Dean, College of Science
Peter E. Trapa is the Dean of the College of Science. He oversees all aspects of the college, and is responsible for the college’s student success initiatives, academic programming, research activity, faculty, and staff.

David Thomas
Director of Safety, College of Science
In partnership with EHS, David works with all members of the Colleges of Science and Mines and Earth Sciences community to address safety concerns, advance new safety initiatives and promote a culture of safety.

Lauren Weitzman
Special Assistant to AVP for Health and Wellness in Student Affairs
Lauren Weitzman currently serves as special assistant to the AVP for Health & Wellness in Student Affairs and is completing a phased retirement from the U at the end of June. She was formerly director of the University Counseling Center. Lauren received her B.S. degree in Psychology from the University of Utah and her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. A licensed psychologist, Lauren brings her expertise in treating anxiety, depression, trauma, grief/loss, and work-life integration to her private practice.
Taylor Wilson
Emergency Management Specialist, U of U Dept. of Public Safety
Taylor joined the University of Utah Emergency Management team in November of 2021. Before coming to the U, Taylor worked as an Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management COVID-19 Intern in Killeen, Texas. He specialized in the response and mitigation of COVID-19 and Testing and Vaccine Clinics. Taylor has first-hand emergency response experience after responding to Hurricane Harvey, Winter Storm Uri, and the Bastrop Complex Level Fire. He holds a bachelor's degree in emergency services administration with an emphasis in emergency leadership.
Catie Yonto
Health and Kinesiology Graduate Assistant TA, PEAK Health & Fitness, OSHER Center for Integrative Health
Catie is currently in the Health Education Specialist and Wellness Coaching master's program at the University of Utah. Her main interest is chronic care and hopes to work in Cardiac Rehab upon completion. In the past 10 years, she has worked in nonprofits teaching environmental education at botanical gardens and nature centers. When Catie is not facilitating wellness coaching sessions, she is likely hiking or bird-watching with her dog and husband.