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Donor Recognition

Crimson Laureate Donors

Thank you for your support of our vibrant community of scientists and mathematicians

Last updated - Oct. 2021


ASSOCIATES $100,000-$499,999
Gary L. and Ann Crocker
Crocker Catalyst Foundation
L. and J. Jones
Ronald* O. and Eileen Ragsdale

FOUNDERS CLUB $50,000-$99,999
G. W.* and Ida* Anderson
Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
Raymond B. Greer
John P. and Margaret Simons
Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation

DESERET CLUB $25,000-$49,999
Frederick Adler and Anne Collopy
Joel M. and Frances Harris
George R. Riser
The Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving

PRESIDENT'S CIRCLE $10,000-$24,999
David Blair
Mitchell and Diana Johnson
Thomas Kursar* and Phyllis Coley
Stanton and Melanie McHardy
Dinesh and Kalpana Patel
Dinesh and Kalpana Patel Foundation
Don and Rebecca Reese
Kirk M. Ririe
T. Benny* and Gail Rushing
Gail T. Rushing Revocable Trust
Thomas and Kathlyn Thatcher
Travis Wager and Carrie Wager

PRESIDENT'S CLUB $2,500-$9,999
Scott Anderson and Cynthia Burrows
ARUP Laboratories
Nikhil and Chanda Bhayani
Carlos and Ann C.* Bowman
Rodney* and Carolyn Brady
The Rodney Brady Family Foundation
Dennis and Jean Bramble
Patrick Brennan and Carol Brennan
R. Harold Burton Foundation
Victor Cee and Holly Rausch
Charitable Flex Fund
Kathleen K. Church
Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation
Sue Durrant
Thaddeus Eagar and Rebecca Uhlig
George C. and Lisbeth Elliott
Nicholas and Courtney Gibbs
Kenneth M. Golden
Mark Hammond and Ming Hammond
Jim Hanson
Eric Harwood and Melissa Harwood
John and Gale Haslam
Garrett Hisatake and Phuong Bui
Darren Housel
Jacobsen Lake Foundation
Heber Jacobsen and Christine Lake
Alexandrea Jee
Kenneth and Noriene Jee
Larry B. Krystkowiak
Roger and Doris Leach
George H. Lowe III
Larry Marsh
Edward Meenen
RJay Murray
Burak Over
Timothy Purcell and Jessica Purcell
ReCor Medical, Inc.
Bryant and Betty Rossiter Trust
Bryant and Betty Rossiter
Susan Rushing
Kenneth Savin and Lisa Wenzler
Matthew Sigman and Deborah Burney-Sigman
David and Kimberly Sorensen
Neil and Tanya Vickers
Henry White and Joyce Garcia
Charles Wight and Victoria Rasmussen
Michael Wiley and Dana Cochran-Wiley

DEAN'S CIRCLE $1,000-$2,499
Peter B. Armentrout and Mary White
F. Reid and Margaret* Barton
Michael Bastiani and Denise Dearing
Christoph Boehme and Kristie Durham
Glenn and Reneé Buchanan
Andrej Cherkaev and Elena Cherkaev
Daniel and Kara Cherney
Paul and Denise Christian
Ryan and Charlotte Conlon
Roy Corsi
John and Sally Crelly, Jr.
Carleton DeTar and Laurel Casjens
Berton and Tiraje Earnshaw
L. Richard and Karen Feinauer
Cecelia H. Foxley
Joseph Gardella
Ed and Yvonne Groenhout
Xiaodong Jiang and Jia Wang
David and Lisa Kieda
Ruth Lofgren Irrevocable Trust
Dennis and Patricia Lombardi
Jeffrey and Allison Martin
David and Janna McKinney
Mark and Jennifer McLaws
Todd Mendenhall
Frank and Sharon Meyer
Mission Math Utah
Richard* and Frances Muir
Jerry Murry
Eric and Lora Newman
David and Marcia Nickell
Mark and Brenda Nielsen
Northrop Grumman
Anita M. Orendt
Gregory Owens and Crystal Owens
Anandan Palani
Thomas Robbins and Kathleen Clark
Carl* and Kathryn Robinson
Peter and Susan Rogers
George and Linda Seifert
Yifan Shi
Hyung and Young Shin
W. David Smith and Jerilyn McIntyre
Gerald Smith and Catherine Badgley
Cameron Soelberg
Jessica Swanson
TD Williamson Inc.
William and Vivien Terzaghi
Anh Truong
Egbertus VanDerHeiden
Chris Waters
Paul Watkins
Doju Yoshikami
Dean and Jane* Zobell

DEAN'S CLUB $500-$999
Mark Adamson and Nancy Tschiderer
Ntsanderh Azenui
Robert and Ann Beeching
BMO Harris Bank
Robert Cantrell
Liang-Yuan Chen
Steven and Kimberley Condas
Thomas and Carol* Dietz
Kevin Dockery and Kelly Reynolds
Richard and Linda Easton
Jaivime Evaristo
Douglas Fields and Anjali Fields
Jordan Gerton and Brenda Mann
Theodore and Tucker Gurney
Robert Guy
Brent Hawker
Raymond and Vernetta Jessop
Richard Johnson
Dane and Susan Jones
Erik and Nan Jorgensen
János Kollár and Jennifer Johnson
Minmin Lin and Hua Huang
Dan Little
Malcolm and Carole MacLeod
Noel E. Marquis
James and Kate Marshall
Samantha Marshall
David Marshall
Melvin and Linda Miles
Neil Morrissette
Kevin and Patty Moss
Phillip* and Ruth Novak
Mikio and Masayo Obayashi
Baldomero and Lourdes Olivera
Bob Palais and Micah Goodman
Timothy Parker
William Parmley
C. Dale Poulter and Susan Poulter
Lee and Dawn Roberts
George Rhodes
Jon Seger and Victoria Rowntree
Dennis and Barbara Sagendorf
Carina Sanchez
Mark Sherwood
Gregory and Jenny* Skedros
Eric and Cassandra Slattery
Shaoqing Song and Fuli Zhao
Gary and Jeanne Stroebel
Lawrence Thorne Sr.
TIAA Charitable Inc.
Jacob Umbriaco and Erin Umbriaco
Warner Wada
Jiang-Hua and Hanju Wang
Michael and Jan Weaver
Eric Weeks
Douglas and Kaye Wyler
Haoyu Yu
Zheng Zheng

Glenn and Lee Allinger
Albert and Christine Anderson
Edward and Florence Aoyagi
Zlatko and Vesna Bacic
Alexander Balk
Phillip and Michelle Barry
Richard and Shirley Behrendt
Robert and Sydney Bennion
Aaron Bertram
Darold and Sandra Bruening
Duane Burnett
Thure Cerling and Mahala Kephart
David T. Chuljian
Terry Chun and Kate Kwon
Robert Churchwell and Shelley Minteer
Richard Clark
Ruggiero Costanzo
Eric and Janice Del Mar
Arthur and Katherine Edison
Ron Estler
Aaron Fogelson and Deborah Feder
Denice Fujimoto
Jorge Garcia-Young
Karla Gilbert
Linda Goetz
Joseph and Karen Jensen
John and Inga Kenney III
Paul Kingsbury Jr.
Edwin and Kathryn Kingsley
Andrew Koppisch
Michael and Cathy Larsen
Mary Levine
Nelson Logan
Daniel Lundberg
Graeme Milton and John Patton
William and Jane Moore
William Mower
Marcus and Sara Nebeling
Richard Neville and Jane Torgerson
Allen and Anne Oshita
James L. and Bonnie Parkin
James and Margaret Parry
Steven and Elizabeth Pattison
David and Gloria Pehrson
Robert and Susan Peterson
Carl and Barbara Popp
Yam Poudel
Roger and Kathleen Pugh
Roger and Kathleen Pugh Family Trust
Thomas Richmond and Cynthia Squire
Andrew and Tiffany Roberts
Richard and Peggy Sacher
Dennis and Charlotte Sauer
David and Barbara Schultz
Mark Strohmeier
Dean and Samantha Stoker
Streeper, LLC
Dick and Elizabeth Streeper
David Suehsdorf and Janet Muir
Neal and Sheri Topham
Lane and Rhonda Wallace
Michael Weibel
David and Jennifer Wilson
Steven Yourstone

CENTURY CLUB $100-$249
Roger and Diane Aamodt
Butch Adams and Amy Davis
Thomas Alberts
D. Wain and E. Rebecca Allen
David Alston and Nancy Alston
Michelle Amiot
Karen Anderson
Les and Mary Anderson
Terrell and Virginia Andersen
Markus Babst
Brett and Ruth Barrett
Lisa Barnes
Jim and Kimberly Barton
Brent and Virginia Beall
Scott and Susan Bean
Tarlton and Lorie* Blair
Gary and Shanna Blake
L. Beth Blattenberger
David Bowling and Jacqueline Waring
Benjamin C. Bromley
Lynn Bohs
Carmen Buhler
Brent and Anita Burdett
Lamar and MarLynn Bushnell
Sandra Calman
Jessica Carey
David Carrier and Colleen Farmer
Michael Cavanagh
Pejman Chalezamini
Shenlin Chen
Carlos Chu-Jon
Rebecca Christman
Dale Clayton and Sarah Bush
Thomas Conover and Mitzi Conover
Jonathan and Cherie Constance
Marshall Coopersmith and Kathie Coopersmith
Mathew Crawley
Stephen and Nicola Dahl
Quang Dang
Steven Dean
Tommaso de Fernex
James and Monica DeGooyer
James and Lindsey DeSpain
James and J. Linda Detling
Marcia Dewolfe
William and Carolyn Dickinson
Roger Drickey
Richard Driggs
Jerry Driscoll
Stuart and Mary Dye
Alan and Vickie Eastman
Thomas Engar
Richard and Chariya Ernst
Christopher and Joanne* Erskine
Bradley Esplin
Larry and Wendy Evans
Donald Feener Jr.
Melanie Feeney
William Feldman
Hwa-Ping Feng and Diana Montgomery
Diego Fernandez and Valeria Molinero
Robert and Claire Fish
Max and Josephine Forsberg
Gameil Fouad and Gina Barberi
David Fox
Apple Gaffney
Juan Gallegos-Orozco
Garth and Sarah Garrison
Craig George
Stephen* and Jessica Gledhill
Maureen Godbout
Patricia Govednik
Scott and Shirlee Graff
Marnie Grisley
Michael and Laura Gruenwal
Heidi Hachtman
Robert Hargrove and Carolyn Hargrove
Kenneth and Michele Hartner
Grant and Carolyn Head
Bret Heale and Rebecca Noonan-Heale
Henryk and Malgorzata Hecht
William Heeschen and Judy Gunderson
Robert and Tina Herman
Leo Herr
William Hewitson
Jason Hoggan
Lloyd Holmes
Martin and Susan Horvath
Christopher House
Douglas and Charlotte Howe
Sean Howe
Hsiang-Ping Huang and Yuan-ping Lee
John Hughes and Judith Hughes
Paul and RosaMaria Hurst
Srikanth Iyengar
Richard and Jacqueline Jacob
Jeffrey and Sherry Jasperson
Randy and Mary Jensen
Richard and Aurora Jensen
Georgia Jeppesen
Gary and Cynthia Kanner
Siegfried and Ellen Karsten
Cheryl Keil
Jerold* and Lucinda Kindred
William and Janet Kinneberg
Jaqueline Kiplinger
Zoe Koch
Nicholas Korevaar
Sandor Kovacs
Sally Kursar
Roger and Sue Ladle
Armin Langheinrich
Michael and Julie Larson
Kerry Lee
The Lentz Living Trust
Elwood and Marion* Lentz Jr.
Yan Li
Xing Lin
John Longino and Nalini Nadkarni
J. Allen Lowe
William Love
Daniel Lujan
Neil Manning
Burton Markham* and Diane Bentley
R. Spencer and Susan Martin
Jeffrey Masters
Kevin McGowan
Michael and Loretta McHugh
Walter and Carol McKnight
Christopher and Jenette Meldrum
Nick* and Suzanne Mihalopoulos
Grayson Millard and Devan Lee
William Miller Jr.
Larry and Sharma Millward
Steve Mimnaugh
Paul Mora
Maria Moreno
Marvin and Sharron Morris
Bryce Nelson
Patience Nelson
Kevin and Filinita Nemelka
William and Raquel Nikolai III
William and Ruth Ohlsen
Morris and Jane* Page
Philip Paradis
Brandon and Kristin Park
Jordan and Aurelia Pederson
Larry and Mary Petterborg
Naina Phadnis
Jayson Punwani
Clark and Sherrie Rampton
Sterling Rasmussen
Rasmussen Family Trust
Barry and Michelle Rhodes
R. Reid and Marlene* Rimensberger
Shauna Roman
Mike and Susan Kay Root
Peter Rose
Alan and Cheryl Rothenberg
Andrea Russell
Brian and LeeAnn Russell
Harold and Deborah Rust
Robert Sanchez
Vernon Sandberg
Clifton and Sandra* Sanders
Pearl Sandick
Jeraldine Schumacher
Karl and Ellen Schwede
James Schwing
Robert Sclafani and Christine Roberts
Holly Sebahar
Cagan Sekercioglu and Tanya Williams
Anil Seth
Michael Shapiro and Mary Shapiro
Michael Siler
Richard Smith and Lynda George
Michael Smith
Richard and Diane Smookler
Timothy Snell
Glade Sorensen
Joshua Southwick
Darryl and Alycia Spencer
Philip and Maida Spjut
C. William and Margaret Springer
Daniel Steenblik and Abigail Bird
Richard and Sheila Steiner
Greg Stillman
Harold and Kay Stokes
Barry Stults and Connie Stults
Jocelyn Taylor
Duc Tran and Hien Do
John Unguren
United Technologies
Christian Ulmer
Adrian and Jamie Vande Merwe
Robert Van Kirk
Jaimie VanNorman
Tom Vitelli and Michele Swaner
Nathan Walker
Qiuquan Wang
Stephen and Elizabeth Warner
Terry White
Ross Whitaker and Kerry Kelly
Luisa Whittaker-Brooks
Thomas and Linda Wilkinson
Kaylynn Willden
Jon and Heather Wilson
Richard and Kristin Winterton
Peter Wong
Kevin Wortman
Heng Xie
York and Mary Ann Yates
Timothy and Rocio Zajic


*Indicates deceased

This list represents gifts of at least $100 made to any area in the College of Science including Departments, Centers, and Programs, between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. Standard University group designations are used. We are extremely grateful for these and all of our generous supporters.


Notebook 2020

Notebook 2020

Donor Recognition

Thank you for your support of our vibrant community of scientists and mathematicians.

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Student Emergency Fund

Support students in need.

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Rapid Response Research

Behind-the-scenes story of an NSF Rapid Response Research grant.

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Dean’s Update

Updated: June 12, 2020.

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Dominique Pablito

Zuni, Navajo and Comanche, student majoring in chemistry and biology.

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2021 Convocation

College of Science Convocation videos and slideshow.

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2020 Churchill Scholar

Michael Xiao brings home the U's fifth straight Churchill Scholarship.

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2020 Research Scholar

Delaney Mosier receives top College of Science award.

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Goldwater Winner

Isaac Martin awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

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50th Anniversary

Science has been part of the University of Utah since the very beginning.

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Goldwater Winner

Lydia Fries awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

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Ana Rosas

Medicine is a family tradition for the Rosas.

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Alex Acuna

Bridging the knowledge gap with networks of people.

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Dalley Cutler

I want to see sensible climate policies and actions.

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Rapid Response Research

Rapid Response Research


Researchers identify a new coronavirus in Hubei province, China.


Saveez Saffarian flies to Barcelona, Spain, to present research on HIV at the New Concepts in Virology conference


The W.H.O. declares a global health emergency with 9,800 infected worldwide.


Saffarian presents a colloquium on SARS-CoV2 virus to the science faculty.


NSF announces RAPID research grants for COVID-19.


Vershinin and Saffarian submit preliminary NSF proposal.


Preliminary NSF proposal is approved.


NSF RAPID Research Grant approved.


Research paper on CoV2 virus reaction to the environment submitted.


Saveez Saffarian

On January 30, 2020, Saveez Saffarian traveled to Barcelona, Spain, to present HIV research at the New Concepts in Virology conference. “There was a lot of speculation about SARS-CoV2 in that meeting. Although, at the time, it was far less than it would become,” said Saffarian.

Michael Vershinin

Upon returning to Utah, Saffarian was asked to present a colloquium on the SARS-CoV2 virus to his fellow faculty in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. During preparations, Saveez reached out to fellow faculty member Michael Vershinin for help. Vershinin and Saveez have been friends since 2010. “We often bounce ideas off each other. Just to get another opinion and a fresh set of eyes,” said Saffarian.

Vershinin and Saffarian dove deep into the scientific literature to learn as much as possible about corona and related viruses, such as influenza. Their focus was on presenting an overview of the SARS-CoV2 for the colloquium on March 5, 2020. “At the time, I did not immediately see a connection between my HIV research and the SARS-CoV2 virus,” said Saffarian.

Heather Swan

On March 6, 2020, the National Science Foundation (NSF), announced a program of $200,000 Rapid Response Grants for non-medical, non-clinical- care research coronavirus research. The RAPID funding program allows the NSF to quickly review proposals in response to research on issues of severe urgency with regard to availability of data, facilities, or specialized equipment. Saffarian’s colloquium had turned into research opportunity.

Michael Vershinin recognized this research opportunity immediately. Much of the existing NSF research centered on the spread of influenza on an epidemiological level, with fewer answers about the actual virus particle and how climate and specific conditions affect it. “Our work is in the nanoscale,“ said Vershinin. “We can make a faithful replica of the virus packaging that holds everything together. The idea is to figure out what makes this virus fall apart, what makes it tick, and what makes it die.”

Prepared slides

The speed of the NSF approval was impressive. Vershinin and Saffarian submitted their preliminary NSF application on Friday, March 6. Twenty-four hours later, they received preliminary approval, and by Monday, March 9, final approval was issued.

“This application of sophisticated physics instruments and methods to understand how the 2019 coronavirus will behave as the weather changes is a clear example of how our investment in basic research years later prepares us for a response to a crisis that impacts not only our society, but also the whole world,”said Krastan Blagoev, program director in NSF’s Division of Physics.

Abhi Sharma

“You don’t just gain the insight that you want by looking at the virus on a large scale. Looking at a single virus particle is the key to being able to tease out what’s going on,” said the researchers. “Modern biology and biophysics allow us to ask these questions in a way we never could before.”

Saffarian and Vershinin are both members of the Center for Cell and Genome Sciences in the Crocker Science Center, where scientists who apply physics, chemistry and biology work alongside each other and can form collaborations rapidly—a key advantage in the fight against the virus.

Michael Vershinin, Abhi Sharma, Ben Preece, Heather Swann, Saveez Saffarian

Research Funding was provided by NSF under award number PHY- 2026657 for nearly $200,000.


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Dean’s Update

From the Dean

June 12, 2020

Dear College of Science Community,

In the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, the country continues to respond to racial injustice and the oppressive systems that enable it.  To be clear, the College of Science stands in solidarity with the Black community, and supports the University in its efforts to address pervasive racism.

In recent days, I have heard from many of you about actionable ideas to advocate for equity for all. Effective action requires sustained dialog, and I will continue to listen to your ideas, as I formulate plans of action with your department chairs.  I am committed to working with all of you to implement and sustain meaningful change toward a better, more equitable future.



Peter Trapa




Michelle Williams, PhD’87

Distinguished Chemistry Alumni 2019

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Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee

Working together for a better tomorrow.

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Arie Sitthichai Mobley, BS’00

Better health care based on the unique genetic makeup of each individual

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The Gandhis, BS’86, 91, 92

The Gandhi family is U - through and through.

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Dominique Pablito

Zuni, Navajo and Comanche, student majoring in chemistry and biology.

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2020 Churchill Scholar

Michael Xiao brings home the U's fifth straight Churchill Scholarship.

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Ana Rosas

Medicine is a family tradition for the Rosas.

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Alex Acuna

Bridging the knowledge gap with networks of people.

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Sahar Kanishka

A freshman perspective.

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Tino Nyawelo

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

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Dominique Pablito

Dominique Pablito

"My interest in medicine stems from my childhood experience."

Dominque Pablito grew up in the small town of Aneth, Utah, on the Navajo Nation, and in New Mexico on the Zuni Reservation. She lived in a four-bedroom house with 13 family members, sharing a bedroom with her mother and brother, and visited relatives for extended stays.

“I spent time with my great grandmother, whose house had no running water or electricity,” said Pablito.

Because her grandparents did not speak English, Pablito learned the Zuni and Navajo languages. Pablito said her father, an alcoholic, came in and out of her life.

“I spent time with his family in the Zuni Pueblo,” said Pablito. “I love the connection that the Zuni have with the land and the spirits of the land.”

With access to math and science courses limited in reservation schools, Pablito convinced her family to move.

“We ran out of gas in Saint George, Utah, where I registered for high school even though my family was unable to find housing,” said Pablito. “During my first quarter at my new school, I slept in a 2008 Nissan Xterra with my mother, brother and grandmother while I earned straight As, took college courses at Dixie State University and competed in varsity cross country.”

Pablito met her goal of graduating from high school in three years, racking up honors and college credits.

“My mother told me I would have to excel in school to get a scholarship for college,” said Pablito. “When I graduated at 15 with an excellent GPA, having taken college courses at night and with exceptional ACT and SAT scores, I was sure I would earn the Gates Millennium Scholarship. It wasn’t enough.”

Dominique Pablito

To compensate, she applied for 15 scholarships and was awarded 12, including the Larry H. Miller Enrichment Scholarship—a full ride.

For Pablito, the transition to college life was jarring.

“It was the first time I had my own bed in my own bedroom,” said Pablito. “I missed being so close to my Zuni culture. I brought small kachina figurines with me and did my best to decorate my room like my old homes.”

Despite her hard work in high school, Pablito was not prepared for college academics and sought help from tutors, professors, and TAs.

“I spent late nights watching tutorials on YouTube,” said Pablito. “College retention rates for indigenous students are exceptionally low, so instead of going home for the summer, I sought out research internships and difficult coursework to keep busy.”

Academics were not her only challenge.

“I started college at 15 and by age 16 I had no parents,” said Pablito. “My mother was abusive and we ceased contact. At 17, I was diagnosed with an adrenal tumor, which pushed my strength to its limits. I never felt more alone in my life.”

For support, she turned to her grandparents.

“Hearing their voices speaking the languages I grew up with helped with my loneliness,” said Pablito. “My grandfather didn’t allow me to drop out of college.”

Pablito also reached out to Indigenous student groups.

“I joined AISES and the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), which connected me with community elders,” said Pablito. “I tutored students in math and science and assisted in teaching Diné Bizaad (Navajo) to students who had never heard the language. Being a part of these communities has been crucial in my success.”

She also credits her research internships with helping her discover her strengths.

“I decided to major in chemistry when I participated in the PathMaker Research Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where I used biochemistry to investigate DNA damage and repair in cancer cells,” said Pablito. “Dr. Srividya Bhaskara guided me through the world of research, helping me earn many awards and grants.”

In the lab Pablito learned the important lesson that failure is inevitable.

“I began to think that science wasn’t for me, until I understood that failure is a part of research,” said Pablito. “What matters is how you handle that failure.”

She had a different lab experience during an internship at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. There she used targeted photoactivatable multi-inhibitor liposomes to induce site-specific cell damage in various cancer cells.

“That’s where my research interest in cancer and molecular biology developed,” said Pablito. “That internship taught me how to effectively present scientific data and how important community can be for the success of Native students.”

Her interest in medicine stems from her childhood experience with the Indian Health Service.

“Many of my elders distrusted going to doctors because most health care providers are white,” said Pablito. “My great-grandfathers’ illnesses could have been treated much better had they visited a doctor sooner. I will use my medical training to improve the care of elders on my reservation by integrating culture, language and medicine.”

In addition to earning an MD in family medicine, Pablito plans to earn a doctoral degree in cancer biology and eventually open a lab on the Zuni Pueblo to expose students to research.

“I want to spark an interest in STEM in future generations of Indigenous scholars,” said Pablito. “I want to give them advantages I never had.”


by D.J. Pollard
American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

The AISES magazine, People in Winds of Change, focuses on career and educational advancement for Native people in STEM fields. The article below first appeared in the Spring 2020 Issue.



2020 Churchill Scholar

Michael Xiao

Five for Five.

Michael Xiao brings home the U's fifth straight Churchill Scholarship.

Five years after the University of Utah became eligible to compete for the prestigious Churchill Scholarship out of the United Kingdom, the university has sported just as many winners. All of them hail from the College of Science, and all were facilitated through the Honors College which actively moves candidates through a process of university endorsement before applications are sent abroad. The effort has obviously paid off.

“These students are truly amazing,” says Ginger Smoak, Associate Professor Lecturer in the Honors College and the Distinguished Scholarships Advisor. “They are not merely intelligent, but they are also creative thinkers and problem solvers who are first-rate collaborators, researchers, learners, and teachers.”

The most recent U of U winner of the Churchill Scholars program is Michael Xiao of the School of Biological Sciences (SBS).

While early on he aspired to be a doctor, Xiao’s fascination with how mutations in the structure of DNA can lead to diseases such as cancer led him to believe that while it would be one thing “to be able to treat someone, to help others, it would be quite another to be able to understand and study the underpinnings of what you’re doing and to be at its forefront.” This is particularly true, right now, he says, with the advent of the coronavirus.

Michael Xiao

The underpinnings of Xiao’s recent success started as early as eighth grade in the basement of his parent’s house where he was independently studying the effects of UV light damage on DNA. To quantify those effects he was invited to join a lab at nearby BYU where faculty member Kim O’Neill, Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Biology mentored him through high school, even shepherding him through a first-author paper.

Since then Xiao has matured into a formidable researcher, beginning his freshman year in the lab of Michael Deininger, Professor of Internal Medicine and the Huntsman Cancer Institute, followed by his move to the lab of Jared Rutter, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator in biochemistry. With Rutter he studied the biochemistry of PASK and its roles in muscle stem cell quiescence and activation of the differentiation program. His findings provided insight into the role and regulation of PASK during differentiation, as well as a rationale for designing a small molecule inhibitor to treat diseases such as muscular dystrophy by rejuvenating the muscle stem cell population.

Early experience in a research lab is not only about engaging the scientific method through new discoveries but also about making academic connections that lead to auspicious careers.

Sir Winston Churchill

One of those connections for Xiao was with Chintan Kikani now at the University of Kentucky. In fact the two of them are currently finishing up the final numbers of their joint PASK- related research.

The Churchill award, named after Sir. Winston Churchill, will take Xiao to Cambridge University beginning in October. While there, Xiao plans to join the lab of Christian Frezza at the MRC Cancer Unit for a master’s in medical science. After returning from the UK, Xiao plans to pursue an MD/PhD via combined medical school and graduate school training in an NIH-funded Medical Scientist Training Program.

Xiao is quick to thank his many mentors as well as SBS and the Honors College, the latter of which, he says, taught him to think critically and communicate well, especially through writing. Honors “was very helpful in helping me improve in a lot of areas,” he says, “that are important to my work and my personal life as well.”

Denise Dearing, Director of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah describes Michael Xiao as one who “epitomizes how early research opportunities are transformative and how they ‘turbo-charge’ the likelihood of creating world-class scientists. The School is first in line to congratulate him on receiving this extraordinary award.”


by David Pace


- First Published in OurDNA Magazine, Spring 2020

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Delaney Mosier

Delaney Mosier receives top College of Science award.

Delaney Mosier, a graduating senior in mathematics, has been awarded the 2020 College of Science Research Scholar Award for her cutting-edge work in the area of sea ice concentration, using partial differential equation models.

“I am humbled to receive this award,” said Delaney. “The College of Science is teeming with groundbreaking research, so it’s an overwhelming honor to be considered one of the top researchers in the College. I’m proud to be a representative of the amazing research going on in the field of mathematics.”

Delaney is also proud to receive the award as a woman. “I strive to be a positive role model for girls and women in STEM. I hope that by earning this award, I can inspire other women to consider working on mathematics research.”

In his letter of support for Delaney’s nomination, Distinguished Professor Ken Golden, who has served as her supervisor and mentor, discussed her research abilities, natural leadership skills, and mathematical prowess, indicating that Delaney is one of the most talented and advanced students he has seen in his 30+ years of mentoring.

Super Student

The College of Science Research Scholar Award, established in 2004, honors the College’s most outstanding senior undergraduate researcher. The Research Scholar must be a graduating undergraduate major of the College of Science, achieve excellence in science research, have definite plans to attend graduate school in a science/math field, and be dedicated to a career in science/math research.

Studying the Behavior of Sea Ice

Delaney studies patterns in the behavior of sea ice in polar regions. She’s interested in how physical processes affect these patterns on a short-term basis and how climate change can affect them in the long-term.

The primary goal of her research with Dr. Golden is to understand better how and why sea ice is changing over time. Considered relatively low order, their model allows them to study intimately the details of the sea ice pack, which can provide insights that might not yet be apparent to the climate science community. Her work tries to answer one of the most important research questions of the modern age: Why is polar sea ice melting so rapidly and will it ever recover?

She has always been passionate about the environment and finds the project exciting because it incorporates mathematics along with studying climate. “My project is very dynamic,” she noted. “Each time I meet with Dr. Golden, we discuss something new to incorporate into our model or seek a new way to understand it. It’s thrilling to be a part of such unique and innovative work.”

Utah Strong

She became seriously interested in math because of her 7th grade algebra teacher. “Mrs. Hein fostered an exploratory environment—I collaborated with my peers and was often challenged to explore the world of mathematics for myself,” she said. “I couldn’t get enough of it. To this day, math remains the one activity that I can completely lose myself in. Math challenges my mind in exhilarating and motivating ways.”

Mentors at the U

Delaney credits Dr. Golden with helping her pursue a variety of opportunities that have furthered her career as a mathematician. She also has praise for Dr. Courtenay Strong, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, and Dr. Jingyi Zhu, associate professor of mathematics, who have served as mentors and helped guide her research.

“My friend and roommate, Katelyn Queen, has been a wonderful mentor and inspiration to me throughout my journey,” said Delaney. “She is always willing to give me advice and support me in my endeavors. I have watched her excel in her first year of graduate school, and that has inspired me in moving forward.” She also thanks fellow students and her parents for their love and support. “My parents are simply the best,” said Delaney.

Her favorite teacher at the U is Dr. Karl Schwede, professor of mathematics. “I had Dr. Schwede for several classes and learned so much,” she said. “He has high standards for his students, which motivated me and helped me to retain the material. He is also supportive and helpful.”

When she isn’t studying or doing research, she loves to dance and listen to music. She was a competitive Irish dancer from ages 11 – 17. She is also an avid reader, especially during the summer.

The Future

Goodbye Salt Lake City

Delaney will begin her Ph.D. studies in applied mathematics this fall. She hasn’t yet decided if she will work in industry, continue with climate research, or become a professor. “Whatever I decide to do, my goal is to use mathematics to have an impact on the world,” she said.


by Michele Swaner



Goldwater Winner

Isaac Martin

Isaac Martin awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

The College of Science is pleased to announce that Isaac Martin, a junior studying mathematics and physics, has been awarded Utah's second Goldwater Scholarship for 2020-21.

During middle school and most of high school, Isaac lived in Dubai with his family, where he attended an online high school, allowing him to focus on science and math classes. When his family moved to Utah the summer before his senior year, he decided to attend Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) instead of finishing high school, taking as many math and physics classes as he could.

“It was incredible because I had never had teachers like that before,” said Isaac. “My professors at SLCC were more than happy to talk with me after class and during office hours. They were the main reason I was able to complete SLCC's catalog of math and physics courses in a year. They were instrumental in my decision to switch out of my pre-declared computer engineering major into a math and physics double major at the U.”

Transition to Math

During Isaac’s first four semesters at the U, he intended to pursue a physics Ph.D. and focused primarily on physics classes; however, after brief stints in two different labs, he realized mathematics is a better fit for his talents and interests.

Last summer, Isaac participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his work has since resulted in a publication. Isaac has been planning to attend the University of Chicago’s REU math program this summer, but if that doesn’t happen due to COVID-19 concerns, he will continue working on positive characteristic commutative algebra with his U supervisors, Thomas Polstra, a National Science Foundation postdoc, and Professor Karl Schwede.

He is indebted to professors in the Math Department, including Dr. Adam Boocher, previously a postdoc at the U and now assistant professor of mathematics at the University of San Diego; Professor Srikanth Iyengar; Dr. Schwede, Dr. Polstra; and Professor Henryk Hecht. “The thing I appreciate most about my mentors is their willingness to take time out their day to talk to me and offer advice,” said Isaac. “My conversations with them are mathematically insightful, but they also reassure me that I'm worth something as a person and am good enough to pursue a career in math.”

Career Goals

When he’s not doing math, Isaac is most likely either playing piano, rock climbing, running in the foothills, or beating his roommates in Smash Bros Ultimate. “I used to have a huge passion for video game programming and would compete in game jams, which are game development competitions held over 36- or 48-hour time intervals,” said Isaac. “I haven’t been able to do that much in the last few years, but would like to pick it up again as a hobby.”

Isaac hopes to have a career in academia as a pure mathematics researcher. “I'd especially like to study problems in commutative algebra and representation theory with relevance to mathematical physics,” he said. Isaac also remains interested in the world of condensed matter. “There is so much novel mathematics dictating theoretical condensed matter, and I expect many exciting breakthroughs will happen there in the near future.”


The Goldwater Scholarship



As the result of a partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP), Mrs. Peggy Goldwater Clay, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, announced that the Trustees of the Goldwater Board have increased the number of Goldwater scholarships it has awarded for the 2020-2021 academic year to 396 college students from across the United States. “As it is vitally important that the Nation ensures that it has the scientific talent it needs to maintain its global competitiveness and security, we saw partnering with the Goldwater Foundation as a way to help ensure the U.S. is developing this talent,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, Director of the NDEP program, as he explained the partnership. With the 2020 awards, this brings the number of scholarships awarded since 1989 by the Goldwater Foundation to 9047 and a scholarship total to over $71M.

From an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 191 of the Scholars are men, 203 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 287 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 59 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships, and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.


by Michele Swaner