Birds of the Philippines

What factors put Philippine birds at risk of extinction?

The lush forests and more than 7,000 islands of the Philippines hold a rich diversity of life, with 258 bird species who live nowhere but the Philippine archipelago. A new study from University of Utah researchers suggests that, due to deforestation and habitat degradation, more bird species may be endangered than previously thought—including species that may not have been discovered yet. The study is published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

“Our study provides a roadmap for not only which species may warrant heightened conservation attention,” says Kyle Kittelberger, a doctoral student in the University of Utah School of Biological Sciences. “But which traits a species may have that can help inform if it may likely be more at risk of extinction.”

Birds of the Philippines

Phillippine Frogmouth

Located in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is considered a global biodiversity hotspot and one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, hosting nearly 600 bird species. A high proportion of the wildlife is endemic to the country, meaning that it is found nowhere else. The Philippines also hosts some of the highest richness of species recently identified as distinct from other closely related species, showing that scientists still have much to learn about the Philippine ecosystems.

Within the last decade the number of endemic species has risen from 172 to 258. This increase of 86 endemic species is more than all the endemic bird species in China (67) or India (75) and more than any country in South America or Africa.

Çağan Şekercioğlu, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences who has done ornithological field work in over 90 countries on all continents cannot forget his first visit to the islands.

“When I first visited the Philippines in 2008, I was awestruck by the diversity and especially the endemism of its avifauna but also greatly depressed by the rapid loss of habitat,” he says. Excursions into the field took hours due to extensive deforestation. “While looking for rare forest birds in the lowlands of Mindanao, we were literally trying to keep ahead of the loggers that were cutting down century-old rainforest trees within a couple hundred meters of us,” he adds. Despite that, in 13 days he saw 161 bird species he had never seen before—and still has 163 bird species to go.

Deforestation, habitat degradation and wildlife exploitation, however, threaten that biodiversity. Southeast Asia, the authors write, is forecast to lose over a third of its biodiversity over the next century. The Philippines in particular ranks eighth in the world for the number of globally threatened bird species.

“There is a pressing need to assess what traits make some species more at risk of extinction than others and to use this understanding to help inform conservation efforts,” Kittelberger says.

Traits of threatened birds

To understand the status of Philippine birds, the researchers first determined the bird traits most predictive of extinction risk by correlating bird species’ ecological and life-history traits, including body mass, diet, elevation range, and clutch size (the number of eggs laid in a nesting season) with their conservation status. A species endemic to the Philippines was significantly more likely to face an extinction risk, they found. Narrow elevation ranges, dependence on forests and high body mass also put birds at risk for extinction.

Philippine Serpent-eagle

Then the researchers turned around and evaluated Philippine birds’ expected conservation status using those traits, comparing predicted conservation status with the IUCN Red List conservation designations. They found that 84 species were predicted to be in worse shape than their Red List designation, with 14 species predicted to be globally threatened (i.e. vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered) that aren’t currently classified as such.

“We predicted that the Philippine Serpent-eagle and Writhed Hornbill, two species that are not currently recognized as being globally threatened, are respectively endangered and critically endangered,” Kittelberger says. “We also predicted that the Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Calayan Rail and Philippine Eagle-owl, three species currently recognized internationally as being vulnerable, are likely endangered species. All these birds, therefore, warrant heightened conservation attention as they may be more threatened than currently believed.”

Lost before they’re found

Among the 84 species predicted to be more threatened, 12 were recently recognized as separate species, and three of those were predicted to be “vulnerable.”

Palawan Peacock-pheasant

“The Philippines have a very high level of endemism and it is currently estimated that there are twice as many bird species in the Philippines that have not yet been split and officially recognized, so there is a real risk of losing species before they are described,” Kittelberger says.

Kittelberger says that their research can be applied broadly to assess the conservation status of birds throughout the region.

“The most important thing that the Philippines can do to protect birds,” Kittelberger says, “is to address the high levels of deforestation, habitat degradation, and wildlife exploitation, and to increase land protection for wildlife and increase funding for conservation efforts.”

Find the full study at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.664764/full 

Co-authors also include Montague H. C. Neate-Clegg, J. David Blount and Çağan Şekercioğlu of the U’s School of Biological Sciences, Mary Rose C. Posa of the California Botanic Garden and John McLaughlin of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study was supported by the Christensen Fund.

 

By Paul Gabrielsen, first published in @theU

Mysteries of the Universe

Mysteries of the universe


Utah researchers join project to unlock enigma of 'dark energy'

Researchers from the University of Utah are joining forces with others for a universal five-year project that seeks to map the universe and gain insights into the mysteries of dark energy.

In a culture where science fiction reigns as one of the most popular genres for movies and television, the terms "dark matter" and "dark energy" likely convey a sense of foreboding to many.

But they got their label simply because scientists know so little about them, said Angela Berti, a U. postdoctoral researcher working on the project.

"You hear 'dark matter, dark energy' kind of thrown out there, and to the extent that you've kind of read popular science news, you might be aware that the astronomy community and the physics community knows that there's some additional mass out there in the universe," she said.

In the last 20 years, researchers discovered that the universe continues expanding at an increasingly rapid rate, which is considered "strange and unusual," according to Berti.

"We don't really have a great explanation for it. So the placeholder, we call it dark energy, something that's causing the universe to expand faster and faster," she said.

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, also known as DESI, in Tucson, Arizona, will collect data on the light from more than 30 million galaxies and other distant objects, which researchers will use to make a 3D map of the universe. DESI captures spectra, which are elements of light that correspond to the colors of the rainbow. Spectras split light into wavelengths, or redshifts, which researchers measure to find the distance to a galaxy or far-off object in space.

The project launched officially in mid-May after years of preparation. About 50 universities are participating in the U.S. and around the world.

With millions of galaxies to map, the researchers will use an algorithm to find the best estimate for distances between objects. Berti's role includes checking data on sample subsets of individual galaxies and spectra to make sure the algorithm data aligns. She will help find objects for which the algorithm is less effective in estimating distances, so researchers can improve the system.

"It's kind of cool because the reason it's really useful is when you have millions and millions of galaxies, you can't do that process by hand for every single one," Berti said.

She's also testing alternative modeling techniques for measuring redshifts.

DESI is the largest project so far to measure "very precisely the expansion rate of the universe, basically to just measure more precisely the rate at which it's expanding, and the rate at which the expansion might be changing," Berti said.

It will measure galaxies in one-third of the entire sky, she said.

The researchers don't know what they'll discover. But to make progress in understanding why the universe is expanding faster and faster, they need to measure that expansion as precisely as possible.

She said the project seeks to indirectly unravel some of the mysteries surrounding dark energy, which like dark matter, has eluded scientists for many years.

"The frustration and the foreboding comes from the fact that we haven't yet figured out what it is. It doesn't mean that we won't figure it out, and it doesn't mean that our current science is wrong, it just means that our current understanding is incomplete. And that's frustrating. ... They're two big, pressing mysteries that are yet uncracked," Berti said.

The project will "help us understand the properties of this unexplained phenomena better, and the more we understand the details about what's going on, the better chance we have of coming up with a theory that we can test," she said.

 

by By Ashley Imlay, first published in KSL.com

Let’s Get Kraken

the sigman Group launches open-access tool for chemists


An open-access tool for chemists that promises to save time and money in the discovery of chemical reactions has been launched this week by the research group of Distinguished Professor Matt Sigman of the University of Utah Department of Chemistry and the Matter group of professor Alán Aspuru-Guzik at the University of Toronto.

Kraken—created in a collaboration between the Matter lab, the Sigman group, IBM Research and AstraZeneca—is a library of virtual, machine-learning calculated organic compounds, roughly 300 thousand of them, with 190 descriptors each.

“This collaborative project changes how researchers will approach reaction optimization both in industry and academics,” Sigman says. “It will provide unforeseen opportunities to investigate new reactions while also the ability to know why the reactions work.”

“The world has no time for science as usual,” says Aspuru-Guzik, “Neither for science done in a silo. This is a collaborative effort to accelerate catalysis science that involves a very exciting team from academia and industry.”

“It takes a long time, a lot of money and a whole lot of human resources to discover, develop and understand new catalysts and chemical reactions,” says co-lead author and Banting Fellow Dr. Gabriel dos Passos Gomes. “These are some of the tools that allow molecular scientists to precisely develop materials and drugs, from the plastics in your smartphone to the probes that allowed for humanity to achieve the COVID-19 vaccines at an unforeseen pace. This work shows how machine learning can change the field.”

When developing a transition-metal catalyzed chemical reaction, a chemist must find a suitable combination of metal and ligand. Despite the innovations in computer-optimized ligand design led by the Sigman group, ligands would typically be identified by trial and error in the lab. With kraken, chemists will eventually have a vast data-rich collection at their fingertips, reducing the number of trials necessary to achieve optimal results.

The Kraken library features organophosphorus ligands, what Tobias Gensch—one of the co-lead authors of this work—recalls as “some of the most prevalent ligands in homogeneous catalysis.”

“We worked extremely hard to make this not only open and available to the community, but as convenient and easy to use as we possibly could,” says Gomes, who worked with graduate student Theophile Gaudin in the development of the web application. “With that in mind, we created a web app where users can search for ligands and their properties in a straightforward manner.”

The team also notes that while 330,000 compounds will be available at launch, a bigger-scale library of over 190 million ligands will be made available in the future. In comparison, similar libraries have been limited to compounds in the hundreds with far fewer properties.

“This is very exciting as it shows the potential of AI for scientific research,” says Aspuru-Guzik. “In this context, the University of Toronto has launched a global initiative called the Acceleration Consortium which hopes to bring academia, government, and industry together to tackle AI-driven materials discovery. It is exciting to have Professor Matthew Sigman on board with the consortium and seeing results of this collaborative work come to fruition.”

Kraken can be freely accessed here. The preprint describing how the dataset was elaborated and how the tool can be used for reaction optimization can be accessed at ChemRxiv.

Story originally published in @theU

Camille-Dreyfus Award

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks recognized with the Camillle-Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award


Luisa Whittaker-Brooks, an assistant professor in the department of chemistry, is among 16 early career chemists named as a 2021 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. Selected by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars receive an unrestricted $100,000 research grant.

“I was actually having a meeting with my undergraduate students when I received a text message from my Ph.D. advisor with the news,” Whittaker-Brooks says. “The only thing I could think about after the text was how instrumental my undergrads were in getting this award.”

Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars, according to the Dreyfus Foundation, “are within the first five years of their academic careers, have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.”

Whittaker-Brooks’ award cites her research in “designer hybrid organic-inorganic interfaces for coherent spin and energy transfer.” Her research group, their website says, is “driven by two of the greatest challenges of our time –sustainable energy and low cost electronics for daily use applications. We plan to embark in these new endeavors by synthesizing and elucidating the functional properties of well-defined and high-quality materials for applications in photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, batteries, spintronics, and electronics.”

Story originally published in @theU

NAS Membership

mary beckerle elected to the national academy of science


The National Academy of Sciences has elected Mary Beckerle, PhD, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) CEO and distinguished professor of biology and oncological sciences at the University of Utah (U of U), as a member. Beckerle is among 120 newly elected members announced in a press release during the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.

Election as a member in this organization is widely accepted as a mark of excellence in scientific achievement and is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive. Of its more than 2,400 current members, approximately 190 have received a Nobel Prize, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

Beckerle shared she was “very surprised” to learn of her election to the prestigious group. She received a phone call this morning from a member of the National Academy of Sciences informing her of her election. Within minutes, she then received a flood of phone calls, emails, and text messages from colleagues congratulating her. “It was the most connected I have felt to my scientific community since the pandemic began, and it was lovely to be in touch with so many colleagues from around the world,” added Beckerle.

Beckerle’s research discovered a new pathway that is crucial in enabling cells to respond to mechanical signals in their environment. Such signals are now known to regulate cell growth and movement, two behaviors that yield critical insights into cancer biology. The Beckerle Lab is currently focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying this pathway and its impact on tumor progression, particularly in Ewing sarcoma, a rare but deadly bone cancer that typically affects children and young adults.

“Dr. Beckerle’s election to the National Academy of Sciences affirms what her colleagues see every day. She is a driving force as an individual scientist, yet Dr. Beckerle’s hallmark is collaborative leadership that allows teams of scientists to achieve more together than they ever could alone,” said Michael L. Good, MD, University of Utah interim president and CEO of University of Utah Health. In addition to leading HCI, Beckerle holds the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Endowed Chair and also serves as associate vice president for cancer affairs at the U of U. Beckerle is only the 27th faculty member in the history of the U of U to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Beckerle joined the U of U faculty in 1986, when she set up her first independent laboratory as a young scientist. Prior to coming to Utah, she earned her PhD in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she received a Danforth Fellowship. She completed postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received a Guggenheim Fellowship for her studies at the Curie Institute in Paris.

She has received numerous accolades for her research, including the National Cancer Institute Knudsen Prize in recognition of her contributions to research on the genetic basis of cancer. She is also an elected fellow of other distinguished scientific organizations, including the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Academy of the American Association for Cancer Research.  She served as President of the American Society for Cell Biology and is a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

As CEO of HCI, she led the organization to achieve its first-ever designation as a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the highest possible status of a cancer research institute. She also has led HCI’s clinical programs to recognition as among the nation’s Best Cancer Hospitals, according to U.S. News and World Report. Beckerle was appointed as a member of then-Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, where she co-chaired the working group on Precision Prevention and Early Detection.

“It is an incredible honor to be named alongside exceptionally talented colleagues who are part of the National Academy of Sciences,” said Beckerle. “Scientific research is fascinating and motivating work, yet as a scientist, I often feel impatient. Each day, I work with the understanding that people are counting on the scientific community to make discoveries that will improve health, develop better treatments for diseases, enhance quality of life, and, wherever possible, prevent development of diseases like cancer. It is deeply humbling to see my contributions, and those of the many people who have worked in my lab over several decades, recognized in this way. My sincere hope is that the work of my research team will contribute to Huntsman Cancer Institute’s vision of delivering a cancer-free frontier.”

Beckerle adds that the National Academy of Sciences has a major impact in shaping science policy. She looks forward to the opportunity to contribute to the national dialogue on how to advance scientific innovation and impact via her role as a member of this organization.

first published by Ashlee Harrison of Huntsman Cancer Institute in @theU

AAAS Membership

Valeria Molinero elected to the american academy of arts and sciences


Valeria Molinero, Distinguished Professor and Jack and Peg Simons Endowed Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, is among the 252 newly elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world and work together.

Among those joining Molinero in the Class of 2021 are neuroscientist and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay K. Gupta, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times and media entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey.

Molinero joins 16 other members affiliated with the U, including Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Kristen Hawkes. The U’s first member was chemist and National Medal of Science recipient Henry Eyring, elected in 1958. Molinero currently directs a center for theoretical chemistry named for Eyring.

“I am surprised and elated by this recognition,” Molinero said. “My most pervasive feeling is gratitude:  to my trainees and collaborators for sharing with me the joy of science and discovery, to my colleagues and scientific community for their encouragement and recognition, and to the University of Utah for the support that has provided me throughout all my independent career.”

Molinero and her lab use computational simulations to understand the molecule-by-molecule process of how ice forms and how polymers, proteins and other compounds can either aid or inhibit the formation of ice. In 2019, the U awarded her its Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award. In 2020, she and her colleagues received the Cozzarelli Prize from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for finding that the smallest nanodroplet of water that can form ice is around 90 molecules. Their research has application ranging from climate modeling to achieving the perfect texture of ice cream.

“This is not surprising, as Vale is just an outstanding scientist and colleague,” said Matt Sigman, chemistry department chair.

“Vale Molinero is among the most influential theoretical and computational chemists of her generation,” said Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science. “ Today’s announcement is a fitting recognition of her exceptional career.”

The College of Science now features eight Academy members, including five from the Department of Chemistry.

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Studies compiled by the Academy have helped set the direction of research and analysis in science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy, education and the humanities.

Current Academy members represent today’s innovative thinkers in every field and profession, including more than 250 Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners.

first published by Paul Gabrielson in @theU

Patterns in Sound

Fernando Guevara Vasquez


U mathematicians create quasiperiodic patterns using sound waves.

Mathematicians and engineers at the University of Utah have teamed up to show how ultrasound waves can organize carbon particles in water into a sort of pattern that never repeats. The results, they say, could result in materials called “quasicrystals” with custom magnetic or electrical properties.

The research is published in Physical Review Letters.

“Quasicrystals are interesting to study because they have properties that crystals do not have,” says Fernando Guevara Vasquez, associate professor of mathematics. “They have been shown to be stiffer than similar periodic or disordered materials. They can also conduct electricity, or scatter waves in ways that are different from crystals.”

Quasiperiodic two-dimensional pattern by Fernando Guevara Vasquez

Non-pattern patterns

Picture a checkerboard. You can take a two-by-two square of two black tiles and two white (or red) tiles and copy and paste to obtain the whole checkerboard. Such “periodic” structures, with patterns that do repeat, naturally occur in crystals. Take, for example, a grain of salt. At the atomic level, it is a grid-like lattice of sodium and chloride atoms. You could copy and paste the lattice from one part of the crystal and find a match in any other part.

But a quasiperiodic structure is deceiving. One example is the pattern called Penrose tiling. At first glance, the geometric diamond-shaped tiles appear to be in a regular pattern. But you can’t copy and paste this pattern. It won’t repeat.

The discovery of quasiperiodic structures in some metal alloys by materials scientist Dan Schechtman earned a 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and opened up the study of quasicrystals.

Since 2012, Guevara and Bart Raeymaekers, associate professor of mechanical engineering, have been collaborating on designing materials with custom-designed structures at the microscale. They weren’t initially looking to create quasiperiodic materials—in fact, their first theoretical experiments, led by mathematics doctoral student China Mauck, were focused on periodic materials and what patterns of particles might be possible to achieve by using ultrasound waves. In each dimensional plane, they found that two pairs of parallel ultrasound transducers suffice to arrange particles in a periodic structure.

But what would happen if they had one more pair of transducers? To find out, Raeymaekers and graduate student Milo Prisbrey (now at Los Alamos National Laboratory) provided the experimental instruments, and mathematics professor Elena Cherkaev provided experience with the mathematical theory of quasicrystals. Guevara and Mauck conducted theoretical calculations to predict the patterns that the ultrasound transducers would create.

Creating the quasiperiodic patterns

Cherkaev says that quasiperiodic patterns can be thought of as using, instead of a cut-and-paste approach, a “cut-and-project” technique.

If you use cut-and-project to design quasiperiodic patterns on a line, you start with a square grid on a plane.  Then you draw or cut a line so that it passes through only one grid node. This can be done by drawing the line at an irrational angle, using an irrational number like pi, an infinite series of numbers that never repeats. Then you can project the nearest grid nodes on the line and can be sure that the patterns of the distances between the points on the line never repeats. They are quasiperiodic.

The approach is similar in a two-dimensional plane. “We start with a grid or a periodic function in higher-dimensional space,” Cherkaev says. “We cut a plane through this space and follow a similar procedure of restricting the periodic function to an irrational 2-D slice.” When using ultrasound transducers, as in this study, the transducers generate periodic signals in that higher-dimensional space.

The researchers set up four pairs of ultrasound transducers in an octagonal stop sign arrangement. “We knew that this would be the simplest setup where we could demonstrate quasiperiodic particle arrangements,” Guevara says. “We also had limited control on what signals to use to drive the ultrasound transducers; we could essentially use only the signal or its negative.”

Into this octagonal setup, the team placed small carbon nanoparticles, suspended in water. Once the transducers turned on, the ultrasound waves guided the carbon particles into place, creating a quasiperiodic pattern similar to a Penrose tiling.

“Once the experiments were performed, we compared the results to the theoretical predictions and we got a very good agreement,” Guevara says.

Custom materials

The next step would be to actually fabricate a material with a quasiperiodic pattern arrangement. This wouldn’t be difficult, Guevara says, if the particles were suspended in a polymer instead of water that could be cured or hardened once the particles were in position.

“Crucially, with this method, we can create quasiperiodic materials that are either 2-D or 3-D and that can have essentially any of the common quasiperiodic symmetries by choosing how we arrange the ultrasound transducers and how we drive them,” Guevara says.

It’s yet to be seen what those materials might be able to do, but one eventual application might be to create materials that can manipulate electromagnetic waves like those that 5G cellular technology uses today. Other already-known applications of quasiperiodic materials include nonstick coatings, due to their low friction coefficient, and coatings insulating against heat transfer, Cherkaev says.

Yet another example is the hardening of stainless steel by embedding small quasicrystalline particles. The press release for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry mentions that quasicrystals can “reinforce the material like armor.”

So, the researchers say, we can hope for many new exciting applications of these novel quasiperiodic structures created by ultrasound particle assembly.

Find the full study here.

 

by Paul Gabrielsen, first published in @theU

Amanda Cangelosi

Amanda Cangelosi receives U's Early Career Teaching Award


Amanda Cangelosi, instructor (lecturer) in the Mathematics Department, has received the 2021 Early Career Teaching Award from the University of Utah. The award is given to outstanding young faculty members who have made significant contributions to teaching at the university. Specifically, the University Teaching Committee looks for a faculty member who has distinguished her or himself through the development of new and innovative teaching methods, effectiveness in the curriculum and classroom, as well as commitment to enhancing student learning.

“I’m honored to receive this award and recognition from the university,” said Cangelosi. “Since my work focuses on the preparation of future Utah K-12 teachers, which intersects with social justice goals in a foundational way, this award means that the U cares about dismantling systemic oppression. There is nothing more systemic than K-12 education, and thus no more impactful space to invest one’s energy.”

In her approach to teaching, Cangelosi believes it's important for children to have math teachers who are skillfully trained to break the unhealthy and dangerous cycle of students who make value judgments about their self-worth based upon their achievement (or lack of) in math. “Issues of mathematical status and power between students in a math classroom need to be recognized and attended to by teachers so children don’t label themselves as “stupid” or, equally-dangerously, as “smart” relative to each other,” she said.

To overcome social divisions and stratifications within the classroom, Cangelosi believes teachers need to focus on creating productive, collaborative, and student-centered learning activities, implementing culturally relevant lessons, using multiple approaches to teaching math, and embracing unconventional approaches. Implementing these strategies require teachers to engage in challenging identity work, understanding the history of education in the U.S., embracing heterogeneous classrooms, and engaging in anti-bias and anti-racist training within mathematical contexts.

In her own teaching, Cangelosi draws heavily from the mainstream math education literature. For example, several of her students were personally affected from watching and reflecting upon Danny Martin's Taking a Knee in Mathematics Education talk from the 2018 annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Cangelosi’s teaching contributions include the following:

  • She taught a math lab class at Bryant Middle School for the 2019-2020 academic year to deepen productive collaborations between the U and local schools, thereby creating a seamless practicum space for undergraduate Math Teaching majors, while providing long-term outreach to the local community.
  • Inspired by Utah State University’s teaching practicum, in 2011 she established the current innovative structure of the Math 4095 course—including funding (often out of her own pocket) for mentor teachers, which resulted in onsite, fully-contained classrooms at local schools for University of Utah teaching majors.
  • During the pandemic, she created a sustainable and equitable virtual after-school tutoring program that allowed local high school students to meet with math undergraduates for homework support.
  • She created sanitized manipulatives kits to be distributed to her students for use in online synchronous lectures and labs, to help maintain the integrity of her hands-on collaborative Math 2000/4010/4020 classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • She helped develop course curricula for Math 2000, Math 1010, and Math 4090/4095, introducing and modifying resources from her previous work as a secondary math teacher at The Urban School of San Francisco, bringing what are now mainstream practices to the University of Utah.
  • She has made numerous community, school-district-level, and Utah State Board of Education (USBE) contributions, such as diverse teacher recruitment, committees, and professional development.

“I love approaching old concepts in new, nontraditional ways, because we so often confound our understanding of concepts with the arbitrary conventions that we use to communicate them,” she said. “This often challenges student perceptions of classroom status and power in productive ways, often flipping the previously conditioned dynamic on its head and inviting students to rewrite their mathematical identities in a positive light.”

Cangelosi received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics Education, as well as a Master’s of Statistics degree from Utah State University. She also has a post-baccalaureate degree in mathematics from Smith College. She joined the U’s Math Department in 2011.

 

by Michele Swaner - first published @ math.utah.edu

Allergy Season

Climate Change & Allergies


William Anderegg

With spring around the corner, here's some bad news for allergy sufferers: Human-caused climate change has both worsened and lengthened pollen seasons across the U.S. and Canada, a study Monday reports.

The new research shows that pollen seasons start 20 days earlier, are 10 days longer and feature 21% more pollen than they did in 1990.

“The strong link between warmer weather and pollen seasons provides a crystal-clear example of how climate change is already affecting people's health across the U.S.,” said study lead author William Anderegg, a biologist at the University of Utah.

"Climate change is making pollen seasons worse across the U.S., and that has major implications for asthma, allergies and other respiratory health problems," he told USA TODAY.

Climate change, aka global warming, is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, which release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

Allergies to airborne pollen can be more than just a seasonal nuisance to many. Allergies are tied to respiratory health and have implications for viral infections, emergency room visits and even children’s school performance, according to a statement from the University of Utah. More pollen, hanging around for a longer season, makes those impacts worse.

Climate change has two broad effects, according to the study. First, it shifts pollen seasons earlier and lengthens their duration. Second, it increases the pollen concentrations in the air so pollen seasons are, on average, worse.

Anderegg's research team looked at measurements from 1990 to 2018 from 60 pollen count stations across the U.S. and Canada, maintained by the National Allergy Bureau.

Although nationwide pollen amounts increased by around 21% over the study period, the greatest increases were recorded in Texas and the Midwest, and more among tree pollen than among other plants.

"Our findings are consistent with a broad body of research on pollen seasons, respiratory health and climate change," Anderegg said. "Other studies have also found increasing pollen loads in many regions and, in controlled greenhouse settings, that warmer temperatures and higher carbon-dioxide concentrations increase plant pollen production."

The researchers also found that the contribution of climate change to increasing pollen amounts is accelerating.

“Climate change isn’t something far away and in the future," Anderegg concluded. "It’s already here in every spring breath we take and increasing human misery. The biggest question is – are we up to the challenge of tackling it?”

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.

 

First published @ usatoday

Sloan Research Fellow

LUISA WHITTAKER-BROOKS AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS SLOAN AWARD


Assistant Professor of Chemistry Luisa Whittaker-Brooks is one of the recipients of the prestigious 2021 Sloan Research Fellowship, given to researchers “whose creativity, innovation, and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of scientific leaders.”

The awards are open to scholars in eight scientific and technical fields: chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience and physics. Candidates must be nominated by their fellow scientists, and winners are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of a candidate’s research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field. More than 1000 researchers are nominated each year for 128 fellowship slots. Winners receive a two-year, $75,000 fellowship which can be spent to advance the fellow’s research.

Whittaker-Brooks, a 2007 Fulbright fellow, earned her doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo before a L’Oreal USA for Women in Science Postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University. Among other awards, Whittaker-Brooks has received a Department of Energy Early Career Award, a Cottrell Research Scholarship, a Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences and was named one of C&EN’s Talented 12 in 2018.

“I was very excited as this award is a testament to all the great work that my students have accomplished throughout these years,” Whittaker-Brooks said. “I am happy to see that their endless creativity and research work ethics are highly recognized in the field.”

Her research studies the properties and fabrication processes of nanomaterials for potential applications in solar energy conversion, thermoelectrics, batteries and electronics. She and her research group are also testing hybrid concepts to simultaneously integrate multiple functions, such as a nanosystem that scavenges its own energy.

The Fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to improving the welfare of all through the advancement of scientific knowledge. Founded in 1934 by industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the foundation disburses about $80 million in grants each year in four areas: for research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economics; initiatives to increase the quality and diversity of scientific institutions and the science workforce; projects to develop or leverage technology to empower research and efforts to enhance and deepen public engagement with science and scientists.

Since the first fellowships were awarded in 1955, 44 faculty from University of Utah have received a Sloan Research Fellowship.

 

first published @ chem.utah.edu