Crimson Laureate Donors
Thank you for your support of our vibrant community of scientists and mathematicians.
Last updated - June 2020
BENEFACTORS $1 MILLION +
Gary L. & Ann Crocker
Ronald O.* & Eileen Ragsdale
The Sorenson Legacy Foundation
Rodney H.* & Carolyn H. Brady
Thomas Kursar* & Phyllis D. Coley
Michael & Sally S. Hunnicutt
T. Benny* & Gail T. Rushing
John P. & Margaret A. Simons
Ryan J. & Jennifer Warner Watts
FOUNDERS CLUB $50,000-$99,999
Willard L. & Ruth P. Eccles Foundation
Raymond B. Greer
Frances N. & Joel M. Harris
Ole T. & Martha F. Jensen
Preston* J. & Phyllis* R. Taylor
Taylor Family Revocable Trust
DESERET CLUB $25,000-$49,999
David F. Blair
John Marcell Davis
Martin & Ragnhild Horvath
Dinesh C. & Kalpana Patel
PRESIDENTS CIRCLE $10,000-$24,999
Scott L. Anderson & Cynthia J. Burrows
Carleton DeTar & Laurel Casjens
Frederick R. Adler & Anne Collopy
Stephen G. & Susan E. Denkers Family Foundation
Naomi C. Franklin
Henry S. White & Joyce Garcia
Sidney J. & Marian C. Green
Mitchell T. & Diana M. Johnson
David B. & Lisa Goldstein Kieda
Jerry Anthony Murry
Batubay Hamit Ozkan
George R. Riser
Victoria J. Rowntree & Jon Seger
Thaddeus B. Eagar & Rebecca A. Uhlig
Neil & Tanya M. Vickers
Michael R. & Jan Weaver
PRESIDENTS CLUB $2,500-$9,999
Peter L. Ashdown
David G. Murrell & Mary C. Beckerle
Nikhil K. Bhayani
BioFire Diagnostics, LLC
Carlos* & Ann Bowman
Patrick Brennan & Carol D. Blair Brennan
Garrett M. Hisatake & Phuong Ngoc Bui
R. Harold Burton Foundation
Kathleen K. Church
Adella Serin Croft
Lawrence T. & Janet T. Dee Foundation
Sue M. Durrant
Edna & James Ehleringer
George & Lissa Elliot
David R. Carrier & Colleen G. Farmer
Joseph A. Gardella
Kenneth M. Golden
Scott A. & Larisa V. Zhilyakova Gore
Byron L. & Judy C. Hardy
Eric Harwood & Melissa Mitchell Harwood
Gale A. & John L. Haslam
Darren Wayne Housel
R. Kent & Terri N. Jex
Kenneth D. & Sandra D. Jordan
Paul & Darice Koo
Heber Jacobsen & Christine Lake
Dennis L. & Patricia A. Lombardi
George H. Lowe III
Larry L. & Leslie Marsh
Mark D. & Jennifer McLaws
Edward A. Meenen
Herbert I. & Elsa B. Michael Foundation
Robert Churchwell & Shelley D. Minteer
Mission Math Utah
Diego P. Fernandez & Valeria Molinero
Jerry Rees & Lynda S. Nelson
Jeffrey A. & Teresa A. Nichols
Mark T. & Brenda Nielsen
Alan P. Peterson
PRA Health Sciences
Timothy J. Purcell & Jessica Shepherd Purcell
Kirk Max Ririe
Rocky Mountain Power Foundation
Matthew S. Sigman & Deborah L. Burney-Sigman
Angela & Mark H. Skolnick
The Skolnick Foundation
David P. & Kimberly K. Sorensen
John E. Straub
Douglas J. N. Taylor
William B. & Vivien G. Terzaghi
Thomas F. & Kathlyn Thatcher
Utah STEM Action Center
Egbertus D. VanDerHeiden
Xiaodong Jiang & Jia Wang
Mary Ann & Peter B. White
Douglas L. & Kaye W. Wyler
Shaoqing Song & Fuli Zhao
DEANS CIRCLE $1,000-$2,499
Constantine P. Georgopoulos & Deborah Ang
Tarlton J. & Lorie L.* Blair
Scott K. Carter
Pejman Mahboubi Chalezamini
Lane C. & Paula W. Childs
Paul E. & Denise R. Christian
Carlos A. Chu-Jon
Thomas C. Robbins & Kathleen A. Clark
Ryan J. & Charlotte Conlon
Lawrence J. & Judy Kei Cook
Michael J. Bastiani & Denise Dearing
Sidney Paul Elmer
Cecelia H. Foxley
William E. Buhro & Regina Faye Frey
Donald Ned & Mary Ann Garner
David P. Goldenberg
Maciej & Anna Gutowska
Raymond R. & Vernetta B. Jessop
Erik Mathias & Nan Jorgensen
Daniel V. Kinikini
Craig V. & Linda M. Lee
Kristin Erickson Levinson
Ryan & Meghan Looper
Marin Community Foundation
Noel E. Marquis
Jeffrey M. & Allison J. Martin
Maria Navas Moreno
Frances & Richard* Muir
Stanley A. & Jane S. Mulaik
Kevin Wendell & Filinita Tupou Nemelka
Eric & Lora B. Newman
Clifford W. & Susan A. Nichols
Rick D. & Denise Nydegger
Anita M. Orendt
Gregory Steven Owens & Crystal D. Owens
Michael J. Pelletier & Christine C. Pelletier
Robert G. & Susan G. Peterson
Bernard T. & Marsha W. Price
Kevin P. Dockery & Kelly Reynolds
Carl L.* & Kathryn S. Robinson
Peter E. & Susan E. Rogers
Bryant W. & Betty Rossiter
Susan K. Rushing
George G. & Linda A. Seifert
Norman J. Dovichi & Susan L. Sharpe
Cameron J. & Melanie T. Soelberg
TD Williamson Inc.
Richard Neville & Jane Ellen Torgerson
Jacob T. Umbriaco & Erin L. Umbriaco
Jorge Rojas & Gabriela M. Vargas
Paul T. Watkins
Kenneth A. Savin & Lisa A. Wenzler
H. Ross & Katherine Workman
Dean H. & Jane H.* Zobell
DEANS CLUB $500-$999
Thomas Kelly Alberts
Charles H. & Judy J. Atwood
Ntsanderh C. Azenui
Zlatko & Vesna Bacic
Keld Lars Bak
F. Reid & Margaret H.* Barton
Dennis M. & Jean C. Bramble
Benjamin C. Bromley
Glenn S. & Renée L. Buchanan
Emily Ann Carter
Daniel Patrick & Kara Cherney
Frederic Marsh & Dulce Civish
Samuel J. Cole & Mary G. Furlow-Cole
Mark G. & Linda L. Conish
John E. & Sally P. Crelly Jr.
John C. & Laurie N. Dallon
Donald D.* & Jane G. Dennis
Christoph Boehme & Kristie Dawn Durham
Berton A. & Tiraje Earnshaw
Richard & Linda Easton
Richard D. & Chariya A. Ernst
Larry A. & Wendy Evans
Zhigang Zak & Wenfang Bian Fang
John R. & Terry-Lee Fitzpatrick
Craig D. George
Michael E. & Elizabeth S. Gibson
Bob Palais & Micah Goodman
Ed & Yvonne Groenhout
Henryk & Malgorzata F. Hecht
Daisy Germaine Hewitt
Robert W. Van Kirk & Sheryl Hill
Aaron Paul & Chantel Lucile Jenkins
Richard H. & Aurora Jensen
János Kollár & Jennifer M. Johnson
Michael D. Johnson
Anne Hamner & Cheryl Lynn Keil
Thure E. Cerling & Mahala Kephart
William B. Lacy
David Ryan & Laura Lowther
Jordan M. Gerton & Brenda K. Mann
Alexander Gibson McCray
Michael J. & Loretta H. McHugh
Clifton D. McIntosh & Terrie T. McIntosh
James C. & Michele H. McRea
David S. & Viera I. Moore
Neil P. Morrissette
Robert A. Sklar & Brenda L. Moskovitz
William R. Mower
Christopher P. Murdock
Patience A. Nelson
Aaron Y. & Holly A. Nelson
Ruth L. & Phillip J.* Novak
Earl M. & Alesa Ohlson
Roger & Kathleen Pugh
Justin D. Anderson & Lorena D. Purissimo
Jack B. & Itha W. Rampton
Gary L. & Norma D. Ranck
Natalie N. Rasmussen
Cheri Smith Reynolds
Barry B. & Michelle Rhodes
Harold M. & Deborah Jean Rust
David H. & Barbara Schultz
James W. Sewell
Mark H. Sherwood
Megan V. Sinner
Shane E. Smith
Dean J. & Samantha Stoker
Richard Dean & Elizabeth Blackett Streeper
Eric M. Peterson & Karen C. Thomas
Zeev Valentine Vardeny
Jiang-Hua & Hanju Wang
Michael L. Shields & Rachelle Wirth
York J. & Mary Ann Yates
Sean R. Young
Ted Allan & Debra Young
COLLEGIATE CLUB $250-$499
Karen L. Anderson
Jeffrey L. & Kathleen T. Anderson
Edward I. & Florence Aoyagi
David Owen Baumann
Austin F. & Dale O. Bishop
L. Beth Blattenberger
Kathleen Merry Chaudhry
Landon R. Clark & Erin Anne Shaw Clark
Chad & Kimberly Peterson Coates
Steven John & Kimberley Condas
Roy & Elaine Corsi
Ruggiero S. Costanzo
Ronald W. Day & Mava Jones Day
Steven J. Dean
R. Bruce & Debby Dickson
Nicholas C. Gunn & Gretchen Jane Domek
James Shannon Doyle & Lisa S. Doyle
Arthur & Katherine Edison
Mohamed M. & Joyce F.* El-Mogazi
Karla Jean Gilbert
Roy W. Goudy
Patricia Elena Govednik
Mark Hammond & Ming Chen Hammond
Alex & Louise Butler Hardman
Harry G. Hecht
Minmin Lin & Hua Huang
Jeffrey H. & Sherry N. Jasperson
R. Bradley & Vangie Jensen
John W. & Inga Kenney III
Antonios G. Koures & Anupama Kushawaha-
Elizabeth Marie Kralik
Elwood I. & Marion B.* Lentz Jr.
Daniel W. Lundberg
Malcolm & Carole J. MacLeod
Jed B. & Kathryn G. Marti
Fritz J. Knorr & Jeanne L. McHale
Kevin Wight McJames
Lindsay G. Miller
William L. & Jane Ehardt Moore
Marvin L. & Sharron Lee Morris
William D. & Ruth B. Ohlsen
Allen K. & Anne Oshita
James L. & Bonnie D. Parkin
James E. & Margaret A. Parry
Steven & Elizabeth Grace Pattison
Zackary Johannes & Karli Rachel Plenert
Clark B. & Sherrie W. Rampton
Ilya B. Reznik & Riley Lorimer-Reznik
Lee K. & Dawn L. Roberts
Andrew George Roberts
Brian G. & LeeAnn W. Russell
Dennis B. & Barbara H. Sagendorf
Pearl Elizabeth Sandick
Dennis T. & Charlotte J. Sauer
Patrick A. & Deborah F. Shea
Peter E. Silas & Stephanie B. Silas
Piotr & Joanna Skurski
Jerilyn S. McIntyre & W. David Smith
Nathan Frederick Dalleska & Eileen M. Spain
Thomas G. Richmond & Cynthia Squire
Claude Karim Tabet
Michael L. Taylor
Zhiwei Liu & Aihua Tong
Jared M. Vargason
Lane J. & Rhonda L. Wallace
Michael A. Weibel
Steven A. & Catherine N. Werner
Vernon D. Sandberg & Carol A. Wilkinson
Mary A. Young
CENTURY CLUB $250-$499
Roger L. Aamodt
D. Wain & E. Rebecca Allen
Glenn D. & Lee Allinger
Terrell N. & Virginia L. Andersen
Albert G. & Christine M. Anderson
Les C. & Mary E. Anderson
Gameil Taher Fouad & Gina Barberi
Jim & Kimberly M. Barton
Scott W. & Susan T. Bean
Richard & Shirley Behrendt
Douglas Neal & Karen Holt Bennion
Robert S. & Sydney B. Bennion
Burton L. Markham* & Diane L. Bentley
George Howze* & Katharine O. Biele
Jay R. & Kathleen L. Blain
Gary M. & Shanna H. Blake
Casey Carlo & Jiliane M. Brandol
William & Julie Breckenridge
William O. Wilson & Carmen R. Buhler
Ryan Gregory Bullett & Kelly S. Bullett
Michael J. Cavanagh
Grzegorz & Barbara Chalasinski
Brigham V. & Marsali M. Cheney
David T. Chuljian
Kip Smith & Monica D. Clement
Stephen L. & Nicola G. Dahl
Michael D. Darley
Harold A. & Sonja M. Decker
Celeste Veronica Delrio
James K. & J. Linda Detling
Alan D. & Vickie Muir Eastman
Christopher F. & Joanne Lewis* Erskine
Wei Jiang & Chenxi Fang
Briant J. & Glenna R. Farnsworth
Aaron L. Fogelson & Deborah Susan Feder
Christopher Bradford Fox
Stephen M.* & Jessica T. Gledhill
Keith M. Gligorich & Olena M. Gligorich
Bridget L. Gourley
Fletcher & Sally Gross
Brian & Mary Wohl Haan
Robert J. & Carolyn B. Hargrove
Carol Ann Harper
David G. & Jean Hart
Kenneth C. & Michele Taylor Hartner
Grant E. & Carolyn C. Head
Bret Heale & Rebecca Noonan-Heale
Emily C. Heider
E. Ronn & Nancy Decker Heiner
Robert K. & Tina R. Herman
William C Hewitson
Barton T. & Elizabeth E. Hoenes
Douglas H. & Charlotte R. Howe
Hongbo Tang & Yufeng Huang
Charles B. & Janet Hubley
Paul Rollins & RosaMaria Hurst
Alan Can-Hung & Nancy Huynh
Joseph & Karen Jensen
Georgia A. Jeppesen
Isaac Benjamin Johnson
Ronald L. & Mary Sue Johnson
Paul E. & Constance B. Johnston
Gary S. & Cynthia Kanner
Jennifer Pei-Chen Kao
Siegfried G. & Ellen G. Karsten
James P. & Kristine Keener
Roy A. & Marilyn L. Keir
Walter J. & Kelly S. Keller
James Kelley & Carolyn O. Kelley
Matthew T. & Autumn Kieber-Emmons
Ed & Marsha Kilgore
Paul I. & Eileen L. Kingsbury Jr.
Peter A.* & Carole Koren
Robert O. & Judy R. Kron
Lawrence R. & Sally L. Kursar Sr.
Roger O. & Sue Ann H. Ladle
Armin P. Langheinrich
Rolf Eric & Lucinda K. Larsen
Michael Craig & Cathy Larsen
Franklin M. & Joan T. Leaver Jr.
Kerry L. & Ann J. Lee
Xiaoqin Cao & Zhongjian Li
Jason A. & Linda E. Lillegraven
Hai-Bo Wang & Jun Lu
Anthony F. & Jennifer Ann Lund
Vance Andrew & Heidi R. Lyon
Ming-Jun Lai & Lingyun Ma
Lynn R. & Pamela Mahoney
Russell L.* & Estelle S. Marlor
James U. & Sylvia B. Mathis
Walter L. & Carol L. McKnight
Thomas C. & Linda B. McMillan
Frank G. & Sharon R. Meyer
William E Miller
Larry K. & Sharma B. Millward
Hwa-Ping Feng & Diana L. Montgomery
Earl & Sharlene Mortensen
Marcus P. & Sara Nebeling
William & Raquel Nikolai
Vanessa Blue Oklejas
Larry J. & Carol Page
David N. & Gloria Pehrson
Carl J. & Barbara Popp
Douglas Samuel & Jeannie M. Prince
Li & Hope Z. Qi
Urvin Shah & Kavita Reddy
David J. & Earnestine M. Remondini
Robert Anselmo Sclafani & Christine M. Roberts
Jack D. Morris & Glenda M. Rose
Peter E. Rose
Alan S. & Cheryl Ruth Rothenberg
Richard M. & Marilynn Rytting
Richard & Peggy D. Sacher
Robert A. Sanchez
Richard P. Savage Jr. & Mary Savage
William D. Schraer
Kimberly R. Schuske
James Lloyd Sferas
Richard B. & Harriett Sher
Ki Joon & Akiko K. Shin
William Thomas & Susan D. Silfvast
Richard A. & Diane R. Smookler
Don & Barbara B. Snyder
Glade V. Sorensen
Philip J. & Maida H. Spjut
Michael Henry & Ruth C. Stevens
Harold T. & Kay Stokes
Gary G. & Jeanne A. Stroebel
Barry M. Stults & Connie C. Stults
Edward Yu & Helen Sun
Tom Vitelli & Michele A. Swaner
Pete W. & Diane T. Temple
Robert B. Roemer & L. Irene Terry
Roy M. Piskadlo & Ellen Tolstad
Thomas E. & Susan Tomasi
Sylvia D. Torti
John C. Tully
Christian A. & Laura J. Ulmer
John F Unguren
Chi S. Van
Jayson A. Punwani & Jaimie VanNorman
Gregory Alan VonArx
Reed H. & Catherine Walsh
Ruping Deng & Xiaoli Wang
M. Bruce & Claire L. Welch
Paul Landry Wiggins
Eliot J. & Susan Wilcox
Bonnie B. Wilkerson
Cagan Sekercioglu & Tanya Williams
Kenneth & Betty J. Wireman
Charles Jui & Tamara Young
Timothy R. & Rocio Zajic
Daniel Ryan Wik & Gail Zasowski
Steve M. & Shari Zinik
This list represents gifts of at least $100 made to any area in the College of Science including Departments, Centers, and Programs, between January 1, 2019 and May 1, 2020. Standard University group designations are used. We are extremely grateful for these and all of our generous supporters.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
Research Funding was provided by NSF under award number PHY- 2026657 for nearly $200,000.
"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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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
Isaac Martin awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.
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.”
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