F1 Visa Update
July 14, 2020 - Update for International Students
Proposed changes in visa restrictions for international students have been rescinded, and visa qualifications will return to the standard set in the spring of 2020. International students are now able to register for classes that best suit their pathway to a degree, regardless of whether the class will be held online or in-person.
The College of Science remains committed to supporting you and helping you reach your academic goals and maintain your visa status under the current Immigration guidelines. The University of Utah continues to monitor this situation and will provide ongoing updates as new information becomes available.
I encourage you to reach out to your academic advisors or, in the case of graduate students, your department’s graduate program coordinator, with any questions or concerns that you may have.
We value the strength and diversity of our international student community, and we will continue to do whatever possible to support you during your academic career in the College of Science.
Spread the word, not the virus.
As faculty, staff and students slowly return to campus we are asking everyone in the community to take the utmost caution to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This includes wearing face coverings and maintaining appropriate physical distancing. The university will be providing face coverings to all faculty and staff to help make this possible.
Print & Mail Services will distribute the masks directly to departments. We hope to have the masks delivered in two weeks. Check with your department staff for availability.
The University is launching a campaign to remind people of the importance of wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing. The campaign features members of the campus community wearing appropriate face coverings with messaging about how to stay safe while on campus.
Departments will be able to place orders with Print & Mail Services for posters, A-frames, floor signs and other items with the campaign messaging. You can also get more information about staying safe on campus here.
We are all anxious for things to return to normal. However, that cannot happen until we stop the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the greater Salt Lake City area.
We can do that by coming together and protecting ourselves and each other with just a few small changes to our normal routines.
Remember, we are all One U.
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.
COVID-19 Student Resources
This situation is unprecedented, and every day brings new information requiring our collective best efforts and flexibility. We know communication about campus updates is key. With that in mind, here is a collection of recent updates we’ve shared that you might have missed, as well as a summary of how to interact with most student services.
Hear directly from College of Science leadership and researchers.
March 24, 2020
Dear College of Science Community,
As we all continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our foremost priority. The University is carefully monitoring the situation and is posting recommendations and additional information at the University COVID-19 Central website.
The College continues to follow the University’s guidance closely. Key points include:
All classes are being conducted in an online format. To remain up to date, students should use these tips and tools. In no circumstances will students be required to pay additional online course fees. A Credit/No-Credit grading option has also been instituted in all undergraduate classes.
The University remains open and operational at this time, however all administrative offices in the College of Science have ceased on-site operations and moved to teleworking arrangements. Please refer to the College of Science contact page for electronic contact information.
Please adhere closely to the University Travel Restrictions. If individual circumstances allow for it, we are strongly encouraging students to remain off-campus following these housing guidelines. For out-of-state students: time away this semester will NOT affect the status of your residency applications.
As of Friday, March 20th, at 5pm, the College of Science is restricting research to essential operations defined as follows: caring for experimental living organisms; maintaining continuous cell lines; and maintaining equipment and reagents that will otherwise be damaged by a complete shutdown. Principal Investigators (PIs) should carefully consider this mandate, and where a doubt exists, should discuss the options with their chair or director. Exceptions will be made for PIs whose research is directly related to COVID-19.
These measures are powerful tools to lessen the impact of a disease that has the potential to overwhelm the medical system for those who are most ill and in need of healthcare. SVP Good’s video presentation gives an excellent overview.
Commencement and Convocation exercises have been postponed. The College of Science is tremendously proud of the accomplishments of our students. We are in the process of formulating alternative plans to celebrate our graduates.
Most importantly, we are here to support you during this challenging time. The situation may feel overwhelming, but through calm and careful concerted efforts — and through the very power of science itself — we will see through this crisis. The following resources are fully operational and remain open for your use should you need them:
- Student Resource Guide
- University COVID-19 Central (801-213-2874)
- University Counseling Center (801-581-6826)
- Faculty & Staff Assistance Program (801-587-9313)
- Emergency Funds Application. For students who may be encountering financial emergencies, the U has established a single point of contact for emergency financial aid requests. Please contact the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships (801-585-6211, FAwin1@utah.edu) to discuss options for assistance.
Looking towards the future, the College of Science remains fully committed to fulfilling our educational and research missions. I look forward to working with all of you to continue our outstanding tradition of scientific discovery.
Dean of the College of Science
One of the biggest unknowns about the coronavirus is how changing seasons will affect its spread. Physicists from the University of Utah have received the university’s first COVID-19-related grant to tackle the question.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant to Michael Vershinin and Saveez Saffarian of the U’s Department of Physics & Astronomy to study the structure of the SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus strain at the center of the pandemic. The physicists will create individual synthetic coronavirus particles without a genome, making the virus incapable of infection or replication. The researchers will test how the structure of the coronavirus withstands changes in humidity and temperature, and under what conditions the virus falls apart.
The results will help public health officials understand how the virus behaves under various environmental conditions, including in the changing seasons and in microclimates such as air-conditioned offices.
“We’re making 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, what makes it die,” said Vershinin, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and co-principal investigator of the grant. “This is not a vaccine. It’s won’t solve the crisis, but it will hopefully inform policy decisions going forward.”
The researchers searched the fully-sequenced SARS-COV-2 genome that was published in January and zeroed in on the genes responsible for the structural integrity of the virus. They are now synthesizing these genes in living cells and allowing their proteins to assemble into virus particles.
“Coronavirus spreads similarly to the influenza virus—as small mucus droplets suspended in the air. The predominate idea is that viruses lose infectivity because the particles lose structural integrity,” said Saffarian. “The physics of how the droplets evolve in different temperature and humidity conditions affect how infectious it is.”
The RAPID funding program allows NSF to quickly review proposals in response to research on urgent issues, such as global pandemics.
“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.
ONE FROM MANY
At the onset of the coronavirus, Vershinin and Saffarian dove deep into the scientific literature to learn as much as possible about corona and related viruses, such as influenza. They realized that many studies looked at the spread of influenza on an epidemiological level. There are fewer answers about how climate and specific conditions effect a single virus particle. Both researchers bring decades of experience working in the nanoscale. Vershinin lab’s specialty is using optical tweezers, a tool that enables him to probe individual molecules just a few atoms across.
“It’s often compared with the tractor beam from ‘Star Trek.’ You just use light to reach in and apply force to manipulate things,” Vershinin said.
Saffarian’s lab focuses on viruses that, like coronavirus, contain RNA strands. His lab utilizes many tools to track the behavior of individual virus particles, including HIV.
The researchers are members of the Center for Cell and Genome Sciences in the College of Science, 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.
“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,” Vershinin said. “Modern biology and biophysics allows us to ask these questions in a way we never could have before.”
Funding for this research was provided by NSF under award number PHY-2026657 for nearly $200,000.
by Lisa Potter
>> @theU - 03/18/2020
Math in Paris
The need to take a summer math class evolved into an amazing summer in Paris for Avery Hazelbaker, a mathematics and pre-med major. “I needed to take a math class, so I just searched "learning abroad differential equations" on Google and the CEA Paris Engineering Program popped up.”
Hazelbaker had a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do before she graduated from the U, and studying abroad was one of them. “I had traveled to Europe with my family when I was younger,” she said, “but I’m not sure I appreciated it enough at the time. I wanted to go again, study math, and really dive into the culture.”
She gives high marks to the CEA program because of the math instruction and the opportunity to meet different kinds of people. “I absolutely loved my math professor—he was so much fun, very nice, and extremely knowledgeable,” said Hazelbaker. “He would spend 10-15 minutes of class going over some common French words and phrases to help us understand and become more comfortable with French culture.”
She liked the differences between the U.S. teaching and the French learning style. “In France, the teachers expect the students to write out what they’re doing for each step, so they can confirm that students know what they’re doing,” said Hazelbaker. “At the U, instructors assume students know why they're doing something if the work is correct.”
During her stay, she traveled on weekends to various cities in Europe. She also spent time getting to know the “arrondissements” in Paris. She was able to see a World Cup game, visit several chateaus in the Loire Valley, and attend quieter events, such as a classical music concert at L'église de la Madeleine.
Hazelbaker was fortunate to live in housing that included not only CEA students but also other students who were attending universities in Paris. “I became extremely close with three girls,” she said. “One was born in South Africa but has lived most of her life in France, another was from Germany, and a third had family in Africa but had been born in Lyon. These girls showed me what it was really like to live in Paris and how to make the most of the experience by immersing myself in the culture and not just seeing it from the outside. I didn’t know that I would be living with people who weren’t Americans, but it was the best thing that could have happened. I made the best friends and had experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been living with people from another culture.”
She encourages her U classmates to consider learning abroad. “Everyone should try it if they have the chance,” said Hazelbaker. “It’s such an amazing experience. I know it sounds like a cliché, but you really do learn a lot about yourself, and you become a better person. I would love to return to Paris.”