Jay Mace: Scientist of Clouds, Painter of Landscapes


April 30, 2024
Above: In April 2023, Jay Mace (left) poses at kennaook/Cape Grim, Tasmania, with Roger Marchand. The two were on a site visit for the Cloud And Precipitation Experiment at kennaook (CAPE-k), a field campaign that got underway a year later. Mace and Marchand are co-principal investigators for CAPE-k. Photo is by Heath Powers, Los Alamos National Laboratory.




Mace painted this watercolor in January 2024 during a 60-day Southern Ocean voyage aboard the Australian research vessel Investigator. He estimates the deep-water scene was at about 50 degrees south latitude and 115 degrees east longitude. Photo is courtesy of Mace.

During his boyhood in northeastern Ohio, Gerald “Jay” Mace had two dreams.

One was to have a career that brought him close to nature. In those days, long hikes in the woods always included stopping by his favorite tree. It was a totem of the peace and fascination he found in the outside world and the knowledge it offered.

Today, Mace is an atmospheric scientist and professor at the University of Utah. He’s an avid hiker and camper. He bikes to work. He and his wife own a cabin in Idaho. He even paints, in oils, the nature he still loves. Always landscapes, always in one take, and always while seated outdoors. It’s a style of painting called en plein air, a French expression meaning “in the open air.”

His other dream was to get far enough away from Southington, Ohio, that he would never work in an auto plant. His father did assembly line work. Many cousins and uncles too. For him? Nope, never, and no way.

Mace calls his parents “progressive thinkers,” imbued with the sense of optimism the working class had in those days. “I picked that up.”

Optimism, the woods, and an affinity for science “were a big part of forming the way I looked at the world,” he says.

But optimism is not the same as having enough money for college. Halfway through his senior year of high school, Mace decided to join the U.S. Navy.

“My plans had not changed,” he says. “I was going to escape one way or the other. My ticket out was through the military.”

After basic training, only one Navy specialty resonated with Mace’s inclination toward the natural sciences: meteorology.

“They needed weather people,” he says, though he turned down an offer to be a nuclear engineer instead. “I’m an atmospheric scientist largely because I didn’t want to live in a submarine or in the bottom of some ship. I wanted to be able to see the sky.”

Read the full profile by Corydon Ireland, staff writer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in ARM: Dept. of Energy.

Safety Day Priority Registration

STEM Safety Day Priority Registration

Friday, September 6, 2024
Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House
155 Central Campus Drive

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

This free, multi-campus partner event, hosted by the College of Science, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, John and Marcia Price College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, and Environmental Health and Safety, offers seminars, trainings, and sessions designed to help our community better understand and mitigate health and safety hazards associated with working in STEM fields at the U. Whether you spend most of your time in a lab, a patient-facing setting, or an office, you will find relevant sessions to improve safety in your area of work.

Space is limited for many sessions. Those who use the priority registration link will have the first opportunity to sign up for individual trainings, seminars, and meals when the finalized agenda is published later this summer. Mark your calendar for Friday, September 6 and take advantage of priority registration below.

Safety Day Priority Registration

To add this event to your calendar, click here and select "add to my calendar." If you have questions about this event, contact David Thomas at d.r.thomas@utah.edu.


Safety Day

University of Utah STEM safety day

Friday, September 6, 2024
Cleone Peterson Eccles Alumni House
155 Central Campus Drive

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

This free, multi-campus partner event, hosted by the College of Science, Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, John and Marcia Price College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, and Environmental Health and Safety, offers seminars, trainings, and sessions designed to help our community better understand and mitigate health and safety hazards associated with working in STEM fields at the U. Whether you spend most of your time in a lab, a patient-facing setting, or an office, you will find relevant sessions to improve safety in your area of work.

Space is limited for many sessions. Those who use the priority registration link will have the first opportunity to sign up for individual trainings, seminars, and meals when the finalized agenda is published later this summer. Mark your calendar for Friday, September 6 and take advantage of priority registration.


If you have questions about this event, contact David Thomas, Director of Safety for the College of Science at d.r.thomas@utah.edu.


Thanks to our STEM Safety Day Sponsors:



Devoted to Change: SACNAS

SACNAS undergraduates at the U

April 30, 2024

University of Utah SACNAS cohort in Puerto Rico. Left to Right: Benning Lozada, Palepoi Gilmore, Parker Guzman, Lorelei Sole, Nayma Hernandez, Laura Rupert, Chelsea Bordon, James "Jim" Ackerman (University of Puerto Rico Campus Río Piedras) Bottom: Rodolfo Probst and Felis catus. Not pictured: Fatima Serratos. Photo credit: Luz.

An undergraduate extension of the University of Utah chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is celebrating its first anniversary serving and transforming the STEM culture of main campus.

Parker Guzman in Puerto Rico with the SACNAS cohort from the University of Utah.


“SACNAS is a place where you can go for opportunities,” Parker Guzman, the current president of the SACNAS undergraduate cohort, states. “And a community that’s fun and still focused on school.”

Established in 1973, the national society was formed to create community and a shared purpose for minorities in STEM. More than 50 years later, it is an organization whose influence and impact promotes all-inclusive diversity in STEM. Importantly, the 144 SACNAS local chapters support students who are historically underrepresented in STEM, helping them get opportunities and resources that are otherwise difficult to access.

The U chapter, founded in 2014 by bioscience graduate students at the health campus who desired closer community ties with other students underrepresented in STEM, today impacts undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral researchers and professionals. Over the years, the chapter’s grassroots influence has fostered community, future leaders, recruitment and retention, and a culture of inclusion and true diversity. Awarded the “2021 SACNAS National Chapter of the Year” by the national organization, the U chapter boasts alumni who have gone on to establish the Professional Chapter at ARUP in Research Park, south of campus.


To Seed and Grow

Leveraging this momentum, the vibrant health campus chapter has helped seed and grow the undergraduate main campus extension of SACNAS to better address the unique needs of undergraduates in STEM and to develop new leaders. They found enthusiastic support from faculty advisors Naina Phadnis (from the School of Biological Sciences) and Holly Sebahar (Department of Chemistry) along with Rodolfo Probst (postdoc at the College of Science’s Science Research Initiative, or “SRI”). In 2022, with SRI’s Laura Rupert, Probst escorted students to Puerto Rico, where SACNAS held the National Diversity in STEM (NDiSTEM) Conference. It was the perfect environment for students attending the U to connect to and exchange ideas with members and officers from SACNAS chapters around the country. Plus, the national conference created a space for networking with other students and faculty and for opportunities to attend future academic conferences.

“There are different needs between graduate and undergraduate students,” Guzman explains. “And the NDiSTEM Conference has plenty of resources for undergrads. It’s a chance to find mentors and opportunities for summer internships and for displaying our research. The spirit of SACNAS was really embraced by the students that went to Puerto Rico. There was momentum from SRI students and others to get involved with the undergraduate chapter here at the U. I’ve never been to a conference that was more welcoming and warmer!”

The SRI has been directly involved in the development of the undergraduate SACNAS chapter. Many College of Science students are involved in both, with the SRI promoting community adherences to students through shared research labs — similarly to what SACNAS chapters promote for diversity in STEM. “The NDiSTEM in Puerto Rico was planting the seeds,” Guzman says. “We’re providing a nurturing environment.”


Rodolfo Probst, post-doctoral researcher and SRI stream leader, in Puerto Rico.

After the Puerto Rico conference, the extension of the SACNAS chapter for undergraduates worked to develop its foundations on campus. In April of 2023, Guzman and Palepoi Gilmore created and hosted a local version of the NDiSTEM conference at the U, where undergraduates were able to present their research, attend professional development sessions, and get better prepared to transition to graduate school.

“Students like Palepoi and Parker, and many others, spearhead and lead all the efforts,” co-advisor Phadnis, states. “These students have organized one event each month during fall and spring semesters, focusing on either community, recruitment, outreach or career building.” Chapter events include socials, outreach, and panels.

“Socials and outreach help foster a sense of belonging,” Probst states. “While panels provide our students with invaluable resources for the next career paths.” To that Guzman adds: “The focus of SACNAS is to build community. You can go and have fun while also talking about school and receiving resources and opportunities. SACNAS is creating a safe and inclusive community where all can thrive.” Faculty advisor Sebahar states, “that was a big part of why I asked to take part.”

SACNAS give students a place to present their research and gain access to resources without the pressures often found in academic spaces. “Sometimes,” says Guzman, “you feel pressure to perform if you're presenting, or as a student, you might feel a sense of hierarchy that is always pervasive.” At SACNAS conferences, however, there is a sense of community and support, alleviating that pressure.

The 2023 NDiSTEM conference, held in Portland, Oregon, proved equally supportive and inspiring. Guzman attended as an officer for the U’s chapter of SACNAS, and Probst and Mikhael Semaan (also an SRI postdoc) went to the conference with SRI students, who presented for the first time at a research gathering.

“I saw this full cycle,” Probst recalls about being at the conference. “There’s a momentum where students come back with full energy. SACNAS is a glue, facilitating this kind of networking and creating a space in which students can go to meetings themselves. That week of being together, traveling together, talking to people from all over the U.S. and finding similar ground,” he continues, addressing prospective SACNAS members, “there’s lots of students doing some really amazing things, from research to outreach, and they want to hear from you. You're going to make great friends; you're going to find great opportunities to network.”

Momentum, a powerful thing

Large, well-known companies and non-governmental organizations participate in SACNAS conferences. Google, NASA, National Geography, and The Nature Conservancy all send representatives to the NDiSTEM conferences as those gatherings provide an amazing recruiting pool for highly capable individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Within the SACNAS NDiSTEM, the hierarchy of higher education STEM in can be circumvented because students present their research, from many different backgrounds, directly not only to peers but to the broader STEM community in both academia and outside organizations.

“The whole environment makes presentations more fluid,” Probst states. “Folks are kinder and engage with purpose. The atmosphere creates that, and it’s a celebration of diversity of backgrounds, research, and ideas.”

SACNAS students at the April 2024 NDiSTEM conference at the U: Alexander Rich, Ainsley Parkins, and Sylvia Lee.

“In STEM, the responsibilities and trust can be highly regimented,” adds Guzman. “Undergraduate students might feel like they can’t participate because they aren’t grad students or postdocs.” SACNAS events facilitate the leveling of that playing field, helping students feel comfortable in taking on responsibilities and research they otherwise might not have access to.

“In undergraduate research, you’re sometimes delegated to doing tasks,” admits Guzman, “instead of being allowed to focus on the bigger picture of what you’re researching.” SACNAS helps open these opportunities, especially students that are historically underrepresented in the sector.

Arguably an uncertain time for organizations like SACNAS in higher-ed where terms like equity, inclusion and diversity are now contested, this unique society remains dedicated to “promoting true diversity and supporting minority and underrepresented students.” The SACNAS chapter at the University of Utah will continue to maintain a space where inclusion and true diversity in STEM is always the first choice. Emblematic of that dedicated mission, earlier this month, the chapter staged the second year of the local NDiSTEM conference, and 116 individuals, including students, speakers and invited guests from all backgrounds and diverse experiences, registered for a full-day interactive meeting.

Momentum is a powerful thing, and as the anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This is true of the SACNAS undergraduate cohort at the University of Utah, and true of their president, Parker Guzman, and the faculty advisors devoted to change.

by CJ Siebeneck

Learn more:

  • Discord: SACNAS is currently recruiting members and officers, join our discord channel to get involved!
  • Linktree: SACNAS current ongoing events and programs
  • Conference Website: This year's Empowering Student's in STEM conference information.

>> HOME <<

From Ecology To Impact Investing: Nalini Nadkarni

From Ecology To Impact Investing

April 24, 2024
Above: Nalini Nadkarni. Credit: Niki Chan Wylie

Harnessed and helmeted, ecologist Nalini Nadkarni has ascended the towering strangler figs of the Costa Rican rainforest to observe the many plants, animals, and microbes that live in the upper canopy. She has done the same in the temperate forests of Washington state. As a forest canopy researcher, this has been her work for four decades. She has published more than 150 scientific papers and articles and was named a National Geographic Explorer at Large in 2023. But that is not where her efforts stop.



Reaching far beyond the scientific community, she has created science education programs for people who are incarcerated, programming for churches and synagogues, and worked with Mattel to create a set of Explorer Barbies to inspire girls to study nature. These efforts speak to Nadkarni’s desire to broaden her reach beyond academia to ensure trees do not go overlooked. That, despite their silent and sedentary nature, people would recognize the multiple ways trees enrich our lives and life on our planet.

It is with this same spirit of creating connections that Nadkarni became a Sorenson Impact Institute Senior Fellow in Residence. She said she sees a great deal of common ground and potential for complementary efforts between ecology and social impact investment. As the Institute’s newest fellow, she will bring her expertise, experiences, and contacts in ecology, conservation biology, and the environment to the Institute to create new pathways to connect ecological actions and programs with the power and mission of impact investment.

Read more about Nadkarni’s career and her vision for her work with the Sorenson Impact Institute at Forbes.

Biologist Eron Powell: Student Commencement Speaker

shaping students into people of excellence

April 29, 2024
Above: Eron Powell

For the 2024 University of Utah student commencement speaker Eron Powell, a love of learning is one of the most important things he is taking away from his time at the U.



“Outside of college and into the future, I hope to always be able to educate myself,” Powell said. “We are never complete people. We have to keep working on ourselves. That is the fun of living—learning to be a better person who is more kind, more compassionate and more caring.”

Twenty-six-year-old Powell grew up in Emmett, Idaho, with his seven siblings. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biology, he was drawn to the U because of the school’s research opportunities and the prestige of the U’s College of Science.

Though Powell faced many challenges during his first year of college, from health issues to adapting to rigorous course work to finding his place among strangers, there is a lot he will miss about being a U student.

“As we approach commencement, I’m sadder than I thought I would be,” Powell said. “I thought I’d be so excited, but I really loved my experience at the U. So it’s hard that it’s ending.”


Read the full article by Maitlyn Mortensen in @ The U. 

The General Commencement ceremony where Powell will speak will be held on Thursday, May 2 at 6 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Read more about the 2024 commencement here.

Arbor Day & Cottam’s Gulch

Arbor Day & Cottam's Gulch

April 26, 2024
Above: Cottam's Gulch, Credit: Mathew Crawley

On this Arbor Day: The legacy of botanist Walter Cottam transformed U campus into a living laboratory. How the university became Utah's official arboretum, home to 9,600 trees on its main campus, featuring at least 250 species from around the world.

Back in the 1930s, University of Utah administrators had a plan for a natural gully that ran past the then-new Thomas Building (now housing the Crocker Science Center) south of Presidents Circle. That proposal was to fill it and and stick more buildings there.


Botany professor Walter Cottam had a different idea for the spot. How about a botanical feature filled with exotic trees? This vision for what became known as Cottam’s Gulch somehow prevailed, and ultimately proliferated around the U where Cottam and colleagues went on a decades-long tree-planting spree.

Thanks to those efforts, the Utah Legislature in 1961 designated the booming campus as the state’s official arboretum, to “provide resources and facilities for cultivating a greater knowledge and public appreciation for the trees and plants around us, as well as those growing in remote sections of the country and world.”

More than 60 years later, main campus is home to 9,600 trees representing 250 species and many more different varieties within species. With Arbor Day upon us (April 26), now is the time to tour the campus arboretum with trees beginning to leaf and blossom.

Bring a smartphone so you can scan the QR codes found on placards attached to about 100 trees, most of them within or near Presidents Circle.

Read the full story by Brian Maffly and take a guided tour of the gulch in @ The U. Read a previous article about Cottam's Gulch by Ann Jardine Bardsley BA'84 here.

Humans of the U: Brenda Payan Medina

Humans of the U: Brenda Payan Medina

April 26, 2024
Above: Brenda Payan Medina. Credit:  Harriet Richardson/University of Utah


I’ve been involved in a lot of areas that are important to me outside of my engineering degree—I’ve worked at the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, the Women’s Resource Center, the Center for Student Wellness and with the Utah Prison Education Project. All these positions work directly with students, which is why I decided to pursue a master’s degree in higher education at Columbia University next year.


I feel really connected to students who may be struggling, I think because of my own background as a first-generation student. Neither of my parents graduated high school and my grandparents didn’t finish elementary school. It feels like a big step for myself and my siblings to reach a point where we’re graduating college.

I applied to the U through the College of Science ACCESS Scholarship program and when I first got here, I had kind of a hard time. I literally don’t think I would’ve stayed on campus if it weren’t for the ACCESS director at the time, who really advocated for me. I was planning on transferring back home to Price because I had a whole support system down there. Here, there are definitely people willing to help you, but it’s harder to reach out when you’re used to figuring everything out your own, like I had been. I want to use what I learned to help other people have an easier experience navigating college and living away from home, because it can be super overwhelming to try to balance everything.

I’ve seen discourse on social media saying you don’t always need a college degree to succeed. But for students where education has historically not been a part of their family, I think it’s still important to pursue higher education even if it’s  inaccessible to them. It’s one of the reasons I started working with the Utah Prison Education Project and the STEM Community Alliance Program with the arts manager, where I help plan art classes and exhibitions for students in juvenile facilities. It’s really cool because a lot of the students find a drive to pursue their projects when they know their work will be shown at galleries. Working with UPEP and STEMCAP has given me a different perspective about what education looks like and what works for different people, and I’ll hopefully continue working with this population in a similar program at Columbia.

Read the rest of the story in @ The U

Humans of the U: Gabe Brown

Humans of the U: Gabe Brown

April 26, 2024
Above: Gabe Brown. Credit:  Harriet Richardson/University of Utah


“I’ve always loved the outdoors. I grew up here in Utah going on backpacking trips in places like the High Uintas. So, I knew I wanted to do something in conservation and fortunately, I found myself working in Austin Green’s lab, who uses trail cameras to understand local ecosystems.



I really like working in Austin’s lab not only because he’s a  really supportive mentor (and fellow nerd), but also because we work with the Sageland Collaborative, a Utah based nonprofit I really admire.  I find their commitment to community engagement, collaboration with policymakers, and applied science to be very inspiring. I think those are three things that are really important in conservation; scientific research, because you need to have the understanding of what’s going on to manage effectively; collaboration, because you need to work with people who have the power to make changes; and then—the most important thing for me—is engaging the public in conservation of their local ecosystem. I am really passionate about people’s connection to land, and how our experiences shape our perception of nature and what things are worth conserving.

It’s funny—the fact that my research lab uses cameras is completely incidental to my other passion, filmmaking. I’ve also always loved film, but I also knew early on that I didn’t want to work in Hollywood,  or live in LA. I love the creativity possible in film, but I have always loved science more. I went into school not thinking I would ever do a film degree, but then I found out about the U’s documentary minor program. Through the program I’ve been able to refine my skills as a filmmaker and meet some incredibly talented friends along the way.

I’m really interested in human ecology and conservation, and how people are connected to the land that sustains them. Right now, I’m doing a student fellowship with a local nonprofit called Leicester Productions to make a short film about Great Salt Lake. The group I’m focusing on is called the Youth Coalition for the Great Salt Lake. Many of the members of the coalition are queer or come from other underrepresented groups, and I think it’s really important to amplify those kinds of voices in environmental spaces.

Read the full story in @ the U.