The Explorer: University Of Arizona

University Of Arizona

Tuesday 09/30/2014
What's Up UA? - Using the Force: UA Police Officer Completes NASA Project

University of Arizona Police Officer Andrew Lincowski joined planetary scientists at NASA this summer to search for exoplanets that might have the potential to harbor life.

 
Haystacks uses high-fidelity spatial and spectral models of planetary systems to help astronomers search for earth-like planets in our galaxy. This model, which Lincowski helped develop, shows our solar system in a head-on view.
 

One night on patrol at the Posada San Pedro residence hall on the University of Arizona campus, UA Police Officer Andrew Lincowskifound himself stopping to help a student in need. This was not the kind of aid that police officers normally perform: Lincowski was summoned to assist with physics homework.

If this seems unusual for an on-duty officer, that's because it is. Lincowski is also an undergraduate student at the UA studying physics and astronomy, and recently he completed a summer-long internship at NASA.

The possibility of finding life-sustaining planets beyond our solar system has long captured the public's imagination, and the search is intensifying among today's top scientists. This past summer, Lincowski joined leading scientific minds at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centerin the investigation.

Lincowski traveled to Greenbelt, Maryland, over the summer as a NASA intern. Out of several hundred participants in the internship program, Lincowski was one of only 16 nationwide recipients of the prestigiousJohn Mather Nobel Scholarship, offered by the National Space Grant Foundation. During his stay, he participated in a project affectionately called "Finding the Needles in the Haystacks," otherwise known as theHaystacks Project.

"Haystacks is all about searching for Earth-like, extrasolar planets," says Lincowski. "This work is enabling us to determine what else is out there."

The existence of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, wasn't confirmed until 1988. Since then, more than 1,800 exoplanets have been discovered. The goal of Haystacks is to create high-fidelity models of extrasolar planetary systems to help scientists identify exoplanets and investigate them for signs of life.

"These models will be the inputs for detailed simulations of exoplanet observations with future NASA missions, including ones capable of finding truly Earth-like planets," explains NASA scientist Aki Roberge, principal investigator on the Haystacks Project and a mentor to Lincowski.

Spotting the dim light that corresponds to a far-away exoplanet is a colossal undertaking. One of the most effective ways to determine what an Earth-like planet might look like is to study the properties of our own solar system. Lincowski's role in the Haystacks Project was to create a model of how our solar system would appear if observed from far away.

Lincowski's efforts on Haystacks will inform the development of the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope, a NASA flagship mission planned for launch between 2025 and 2035. ATLAST will scan the stars for signs of life beyond our own solar system, and provide scientists with new insights into the underlying physics governing our universe.

"Andrew did an amazing job on the project this summer, showing great independence and persistence," Roberge says. "I think Andrew is a born scientist. He combines intelligence and discipline with valuable skills in writing and communication."

When he's not preoccupied unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos, Lincowski can be found in uniform, serving protecting his fellow students as an officer in the UA Police Department.

After Lincowski graduated with an accounting degree from the UA in 2006, he began working for a homebuilder. When the housing market crashed, he decided that he'd had enough of accounting and joined the Tucson Police Department. He hopes to one day work for the FBI and investigate financial crimes.

Ultimately, his interest in mathematics and the origins of the universe led him back to the UA in 2011 to begin his studies in physics and astronomy. In the spring of 2012, he transferred from TPD to UAPD.

"I loved it," Lincowski says. "UAPD is different than city or town agencies — they truly partner with the community."

Since then, he has managed to juggle a full academic course load and a demanding career as a campus police officer. He says the role of UAPD is far more diverse than people might realize.

"It's important to educate students and faculty about law and safety," says Lincowski, who also serves as a UAPD liaison to the Posada San Pedro residence hall. "We spend a lot of time on public outreach, and teaching people how to prepare for and deal with emergencies."

Brian Seastone, chief of police at UAPD, calls the department's commitment to community-oriented policing "total engagement."

"At the University, you can go from responding to a fire alarm to talking to a Nobel laureate — it's an incredible place to work," Seastone says. "We don't want officers just going out there and patrolling, we want them getting involved in the campus community.

"We are very fortunate that we have not only Andrew but a number of officers and civilian employees that are going to school, so they can see the student side of campus life and bring it back to UAPD. It makes us a better department."

When considering a drastic career change, Lincowski said it was important to be well rounded, have a financial plan, and be mentally and physically prepared to make the transition.

"You have to jump in with both feet, and be prepared for the long haul," he says. "You can't slack."

After the completion of his studies, Lincowski hopes to attend graduate school and complete a Ph.D. in astrophysics. He'd like to study high-energy physics, the origins of the universe, and the fundamental nature of matter and energy.

"Physics and astronomy are relatively far removed from the normal perception of most people, but everyone's technology is based on physics," Lincowski says. "We are at a point where computing technology is not going to progress much further without understanding and employing quantum mechanics. Advanced physics is required to continue to develop technology, even in biology and medicine."

Lincowski hopes that his efforts will help the public understand the importance of STEM education and increase awareness of scientific advancements.

"They say that civilizations are measured by their art and science," he says. "These things increase the quality of our lives, and move us forward as a species."

 

Posted in University of arizona on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 9:18 am. | Tags: Nasa Project , Andrew Lincowski , University Of Arizona , Police Officer , Comments (0)

Monday 09/29/2014
What's Up UA? - How New Social Movements Take Root

Contemporary movements, such as those initiated after the recent shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, can be born seemingly overnight in the digital age. UA researchers point to several factors.

UA sociologist Jennifer Earl has been investigating policing policies, and the relationship between protesters and the police, dating back to the 1960s.
 
After the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, #BlackLifeMatters — first used after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin — re-emerged in popular media and social media platforms, reigniting national conversations about policing practices, particularly in African-American communities.

Much like campaigns such as #YesAllWomen, #OccupyWallStreet, #BringBackOurGirls and #AllMenCan, the handle also has been used to animate community-based action, political debate and state agency response. The same can be said of #BlackLivesMatter, which has led to the organization of initiatives and protests similar to those of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s.

At a minimum, such campaigns have helped to get people talking about societal ills. In some cases, they have led to social reforms and policy shifts, suggesting that the role of technology and social media is revolutionizing contemporary movements, said Susan Shaw, an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology.

Such initiatives indicate major changes in the ways that social movements form and evolve, said Shaw, who is among UA social scientists working to advance understanding about new movements.

UA sociologist Monica Casper, head of the UA's Department of Gender and Women's Studies, is teaching an honors course this semester on racial inequality and social justice in the wake of #BlackLifeMatters and the Ferguson case. Casper also has helped organize several campus events leading up to the "Black Life Matters Conference" to be held at the UA in January.

"There were several aspects of the Ferguson case that outraged people, including the fact that white police shot an unarmed black teenager and left his body in the street for hours. There was no apology, no accountability," Casper said.

"In the U.S., we are not even close to being 'post-racial,' and white supremacy runs deep in our institutions, histories, cultural memory and pop culture," Casper said of the need to understand activism represented by #BlackLifeMatters.

The birth of social movements

Casper, Shaw and other social scientists at the UA note at least three significant phenomena associated with new social movements:

  • Single-issue movements appear to be in decline, with evidence for unification around cross-issue organizing. 
  • Many new movements appear to launch after multiple grievances — especially in various parts of the nation —become evident in the larger public sphere.
  • The use of technology is aiding movement development, growth and sustainability.

For example, #BlackLifeMatters began in a smaller social circle. It is not only tied to cases sharing similar consequences — the shooting deaths of Kimani Gray in New York, Renisha McBride in Michigan and Martin in Florida — but it also evoked issues related to law enforcement policies, policing practices, black popular culture, media representation and the betterment of the African-American community.

"Brown's death, layered on top of the earlier tragedies, generated a national conversation, an outpouring of grief and a movement," Casper said.

Two schools of thought exist on how social movements are born and sustained. One holds that people organize around grievances. The other holds that grievances require a "political opportunity," an availability of resources necessary for organizing: time, money, space and access to media representatives.

Above all, social movements usually are established around issues of political and social equity, Casper said.

"Social movements are typically born out of some deep, shared concern and need to make change, and while they are often organized on behalf of social justice, they may also congeal around shared values, as in the anti-abortion movement," Casper said. "They often attract people who may be marginalized vis-à-vis the dominant society or group."

Shaw and Casper noted that a significant boon to launching new social movements has come through technology, specifically social media platforms with their immediacy and massive international networks.

"Movements need direction, communication, and shared vision — something that has become quite easy to provide in our digital age, where social media has both ignited and enabled various movements," Casper said.

The Arab Spring protests that began at the end of 2010 are a significant example, having taken the international stage sparked by social media. In fact, social media interactions, especially those on Facebook, are credited with regime changes in the Arab world, Shaw said.

"With social media platforms, people can communicate outside of official challenges that are not monitored and, of course, have the capacity to reach mass audiences," Shaw said. "It also helps people who are facing stiff government resistance to find a way to communicate, gather and organize."

National shifts in policing practices

The period spanning the 1960s and '80s resulted in significant changes in policing policies related to protests, said Jennifer Earl, a UA sociology professor and an expert on social movements and movement repression.

Earl, recently funded with a National Science Foundation grant to study U.S. policing practices dating back to the '60s, said the '70s marked a move in policing from a repression model to a "negotiated management" approach.

The negotiation approach, the prevailing model by the late '70s, is designed to reduce force and decrease protest intensity, Earl said. Agencies have done this by implementing permit requirements and negotiating with protesters about the time, place and manner of protest, she said.

Since the '90s, however, the nation has seen a rise in "police militarization," a move to arm officers with tactics and weapons normally reserved for warfare. The negotiated management model has been irregularly implemented, Earl said.

"You can see, in situations like Ferguson, that even when you have models of practice that departments and chiefs of police agree on, that doesn't mean they are always implemented," she said. "So, in Ferguson, it was like watching different scripts for police action from the 1960s to the mid-1970s play out in fast forward."

The public response since Brown's death has aligned with what Casper and Shaw noted about new social movements.

"Ferguson did create some real public awareness about police militarization, and this is causing some pushback," Earl said. "Now some cities are saying, 'We don't want and we don't need these tools in our communities.' But where it will settle is hard to tell."

The country has not seen such a significant change in police policies since the '80s, Earl said, adding that post-9/11 concerns have had an effect.

"There are a lot of competing models for how police should handle protests, but a singular model that enjoys wide consistence in the law enforcement field? We are not there yet," Earl said. "We are still in that innovation process, and the best practices have not yet emerged. Police are still struggling with their responsibility to protect and also support protesters' rights."

Evidence of a change in organizing and action had been present for a while. 

"It was in the late 1990s with the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle that we began to see all manners of concerns addressed — labor, environment, class issues, anti-poverty," Shaw said.

"That was the first time we saw that, and I suspect we will see more of that as people become increasingly aware that many issues are interconnected and simultaneously demand attention to multiple points of view."

Posted in University of arizona on Monday, September 29, 2014 9:46 am. | Tags: University Of Arizona , Social Movements , Comments (0)

Friday 09/26/2014
What's Up UA? - PBS 'NewsHour' to Feature Inspirational UA Student

The inspirational story of Samir Madden, a UA junior who is a congenital quadruple amputee, will be featured on "NewsHour," airing at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 on PBS 6.

As president of the International Child Amputee Network, Madden works to increase awareness of children with limb differences in schools and classrooms. He teaches and mentors on issues of self-esteem, bullying and acceptance. He is studying history and religious studies at the UA.

Madden's story also is one of 14 that will be broadcast nationally as part of "American Graduate Day 2014," which will air from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 27 on PBS 6. UA PresidentAnn Weaver Hart will introduce the program.

"American Graduate Day 2014," hosted by author and U.S. Army veteran Wes Moore, will celebrate the exceptional work of individuals and groups across the country who are helping youth stay on track for college and career success. This year’s topics include early education, caring consistent adults, more and better learning, special needs, STEAM, dropout prevention and re-engagement, career readiness and college completion.

The program will be anchored by a series of 14 one-minute profile pieces that spotlight individuals around the country who are keeping students on the path to graduation.

Two additional Tucsonans will be featured in the broadcast: Tamara McKinney, program director of Reading Seed, and Tom Kramkowski, dropout prevention specialist and Youth on Their Own liaison.

McKinney is an advocate for reading proficiency and literacy in the K-3 student population. Reading Seed trains volunteers to work with struggling readers on motivation, phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

Kramkowski works to identify, guide and assist at-risk teens in the Tucson Unified School District. Many of the students with whom he works lack the support of an adult and have no permanent residence or consistent home environment.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRy7cnePYq0

Posted in University of arizona on Friday, September 26, 2014 9:07 am. | Tags: University Of Arizona , Pbs , Newshour , Inspirational , Students , Comments (0)

Wednesday 09/24/2014
What's Up UA? - UA Paves Way to Redefine STEM Education

The University of Arizona is helping to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, as one of just eight sites in the United States chosen to participate in a major national STEM education initiative.

In June 2013, the Association of American Universities announced that the UA and seven other project sites would receive grant funding through the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, which was established to address a nationwide demand to improve STEM education and to retain more majors and expand the workforce in STEM fields.

Since then, the UA has made important progress with course redesigns and faculty programs intended to make STEM teaching and learning more engaging. 

"We need more STEM majors," said Gail Burd, UA senior vice provost for academic affairs and a principal investigator on the UA's AAU grant. "A lot of evidence points to a loss of students from STEM majors because of the way they're being taught. These are hard subjects, and if it's not engaging and it's hard, students drift away."

Under the AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Initiative, which is funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the UA established the UA-AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Project — a comprehensive, interdisciplinary effort intended to expand STEM-related collaborations, curricula and funding opportunities.

Funded through 2016, the UA-AAU STEM Project saw a number of successes in its first year.

Course redesigns promote active learning

Under the leadership of John Pollard, the UA's director of general chemistry, andVicente A. Talanquer, a chemistry and biochemistry professor, a foundational UA chemistry course has been restructured to more actively engage students.

The redesigned  "Chemical Thinking" course, in development for three years, debuted this fall to more than 2,400 students in general chemistry, course 151. It incorporates more group-based discussions, problem-solving activities and other forms of active engagement, with less than 10 minutes of the hourlong class devoted to traditional lecture.

Students in an earlier pilot of the course reported better information retention and overall satisfaction with the redesigned course compared to traditional chemistry classes. This fall, four additional instructors are teaching general chemistry using the revamped curriculum for the first time.

"We are working to understand challenges and successes these new faculty might have to implementing the new curriculum with more active and engaged instructional approaches," Burd said.

Modeled after the chemistry course's success, a similar redesign is being introduced in a foundational UA biology class this semester. Meanwhile, the University's introductory course in computer programming for engineering applications has been restructured to include lab time and to emphasize student participation.

New instructional approaches also were introduced in a pilot general physics course last spring, with students reporting positive results in learning outcomes. A redesign also is in the works for the UA's introductory chemical engineering course.

Learning communities, workshops encourage teaching differently

As part of the effort to make STEM classes more engaging, the University has launched professional development opportunities intended to get instructors to think about teaching in new ways.

About 30 STEM faculty members participated in Faculty Learning Communities last year, in which they were tasked to come up with two weeklong engagement activities to teach in their classrooms each semester.

The University also launched a series of "Teaching Talks" and a three-hour workshop, specifically geared toward STEM educators on campus.

"The goal is to stretch beyond those five redesigned introductory courses and change the culture around the way we're teaching all STEM courses," Burd said.

Additional workshops and talks will take place in the coming year, including a daylong workshop with an architect and an expert on learning spaces that will look at how faculty can make the best use of physical spaces to make them more engaging. 

As part of that workshop, Pollard will spend a week or two teaching in a nontraditional space — a redesigned journal reading room in the Science and Engineering Library.

As the UA continues to forge new territory in STEM education, it is carefully tracking and analyzing its efforts to determine their effectiveness. Postdoctoral student Jonathan Coxis helping to lead that ongoing assessment, beginning with the redesigned general chemistry course, Burd said.  Jane Hunter, an associate professor of practice in the UA's Office of Instruction and Assessment, also has joined the AAU project to provide project support and management. 

Other goals for the UA-AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Project, Burd said, include establishing a teaching symposium and developing and expanding teaching awards that recognize and financially reward outstanding STEM educators on campus.

In addition to Burd, the UA-AAU Undergraduate STEM Education Project leaders include co-principal investigators Deb Tomanek, associate vice provost for instruction and assessment; Lisa Elfring, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology; andVicente Talanquer, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The AAU is a nonprofit organization of 62 leading public and private research universities in the United States and Canada. The 60 AAU universities in the United States award more than half of all U.S. doctoral degrees and 55 percent of those in the sciences and engineering.

 

Posted in University of arizona on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 1:16 pm. | Tags: University Of Arizona , Stem Education , Redefined , Deb Tomanek , Lisa Elfring , Vicente Talanquer , Comments (0)

Monday 09/22/2014
What's Up UA? - Wildcats Rally, Hail Mary TD Defeats Cal, 49-45

 Anu Solomon threw for a school-record 520 yards, none bigger than the 47 he collected on his final pass of the game as he found Austin Hill in the back of the end zone as time expired to cap a 22-point rally and stun California on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium.

Down 28-6 at the half, UA outscored Cal by a margin of 43-17 in the second half, putting up a blistering 36 points in the fourth quarter alone en route to the 49-45 victory. The win moved Arizona to 4-0 on the season, and was UA’s first Pac-12-opening win since 2010.

“Winning on a Hail Mary is so improbable,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “At first, you’re exhilarated, and then you’re thinking, ‘How did that just happen?’ I’m so happy for Austin Hill. I’m happy for Anu, who was off, but kept battling and executed the last play. I’m happy for the people who stayed and watched the game. It’s a good day to be an Arizona Wildcat.”

Solomon finished the night 47-of-73 for 520 yards and five touchdowns through the air, and ran for a team-high 46 more yards to pace the Wildcats to 627 yards to total offense on the night. He broke Willie Tuitama’s record of 510 passing yards set at Washington in 2007, while also breaking Matt Scott’s records for completions and attempts in a game.

Cayleb Jones had 13 catches for 186 yards and three scores – all career highs – for Arizona, cracking the century mark for the third-consecutive game. Jones’ 13 catches rank on second on Arizona’s single-game chart, while his 186 yards represented the 12th-best single-game effort in program history.

Hill caught all eight of his receptions in the second half, finishing with 127 yards and two touchdowns.

“There’s nothing like a Hail Mary to finish a game,” Hill said. “It means a lot to me that I was able to secure the catch, especially since the offense came back so strong and the defense was playing their butts off. I think this game showed that no matter how far behind we are, we have the maturity to pick ourselves up and learn from mistakes during the game so we can make big plays and come back to get the win.”

Nate Phillips also had eight grabs, accounting for 80 yards, and Trey Griffey and DaVonte' Neal both caught five passes as Solomon distributed his 47 completions between nine different receivers.

The Wildcats racked up 420 yards of total offense and 371 yards through the air after halftime, culminating in one of the most memorable plays in recent Arizona football history.

Scooby Wright III amassed career highs of 18 tackles and two sacks to lead a Wildcats’ defense that yielded just 197 yards of total offense to Cal during the maniacal second-half rally. Tra’Mayne Bondurant had seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss, also coming up with a critical interception and recovering a crucial onside kick to fuel the rally.

Arizona’s defense tallied 10 tackles for loss, including three sacks, broke up three passes and forced a fumble on the night.

The first quarter ended with Cal on top, 14-0, after the Golden Bears reached the end zone on their first two possessions of the game. UA got on the board with a field goal at the 10:39 mark of the second quarter, but Cal was able to answer with a touchdown on the ensuing drive to increase its lead to 21-3.

Casey Skowron added another field goal with 5:28 left in the half to make the score 21-6, but UA saw the Golden Bears answer with another touchdown at the 3:43 mark of the second quarter to push their advantage to the halftime score of 28-6.

“There wasn’t any panic at halftime,” Rodriguez said. “We’re in shape. I told the guys before the game that we were going to have to play for 60 minutes.”

Arizona found pay dirt at the 11:02 mark of the third quarter when Solomon hit Jones for a 41-yard scoring strike, bringing the score to 28-13. The touchdown capped an eight-play, 96-yard drive by the Wildcats.

A Cal field goal with 8:28 left in the third period stretched the margin to 31-13, and Skowron tacked on another field goal for UA with 14:46 left to play draw the Wildcats back within two scores at 31-16.

On Cal’s ensuing possession, Bondurant came up with his first interception of the season on a tipped ball and returned it 24 yards to the Cal 17 yard line. Two plays later, Solomon found Hill for a nine-yard score to cut the deficit to 31-23 with 13:36 left to play.

The Golden Bears scored on their next drive to move out to a 38-23 lead with 10:56 left on the clock, but UA had an answer in the form of a 16-yard touchdown connection between Solomon and Jones with 8:09 remaining. The duo’s second touchdown hookup of the night capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive and brought Arizona within eight at 38-30.

Cal was able to get back into the end zone on their next possession, increasing its lead to 45-30 with 5:21 to play, but Terris Jones-Grigsby punched in a six-yard run with 3:30 remaining to make the score 45-37 and once again bring Arizona within one score.

Bondurant made a huge play for the Wildcats on the ensuing onside kick, stepping in front of a Cal player to secure the ball. UA needed only four plays to reach the end zone, as Solomon connected with Jones yet again, this time from 15 yards out, to make the score 45-43.

Solomon looked for Jones on the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game, but the pass was deflected and fell incomplete.

After the Golden Bears recovered the next onside kick, Cal eventually missed wide left on a 47-yard field goal attempt with 52 seconds left, giving the ball back to UA with no timeouts.

After an offensive pass interference on the first play of the drive set UA back to its own 15 yard line, Solomon methodically worked UA down the field. He converted a fourth-down pass to Hill to set Arizona up on the Cal 47 yard line and spiked the ball with five seconds to play.

On the last snap of the game, the Wildcats finished the job, as Solomon launched a pass into the end zone and Hill battled to come down with it in the back corner for the game-winning score. When the dust settled after an official review, Arizona had won the game by a score of 49-45.

“We work on that one day a week, on Thursday,” he said. “This week, we did a little more. We put in two different kinds of Hail Marys, focusing particularly on where the ball needed to be thrown. I said five yards into the end zone. I think Anu threw it seven-and-a-half.”

After a bye week, Arizona will play its first Pac-12 road contest at Oregon on Thurs, Oct. 2. Slated for 7:30 p.m. MST, the game will be televised by ESPN and carried on the Arizona IMG Sports Radio Network.

For continued coverage of Arizona football, follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/ArizonaFootball and on Twitter @ArizonaFBall.

Posted in University of arizona on Monday, September 22, 2014 1:11 pm. | Tags: University Of Arizona , Wildcats , Anu Solomon , Austin Hill , Football , Comments (0)

Thursday 09/18/2014
What's Up UA? - When Job Loss Equals Weight Gain

Patricia Haynes in the UA College of Medicine has been awarded $3.1 million to study the relationship between unemployment and putting on pounds.

Unexpected job loss is one of the most stressful life events a person can experience, and it affects much more than one's pocketbook. It might also lead to weight gain, research suggests. 

Studies have indicated that unemployed people tend to have a higher body mass index, on average, than those who are employed. A new University of Arizona study will look at why that might be.

Patricia Haynes, assistant professor of psychiatry in theUA College of Medicine, has been awarded a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to study the link between job loss and weight gain. She will look specifically at how post-job-loss changes in sleep and social rhythm — a person's daily routine — might affect weight.

"The idea is that unemployed individuals have had a disruption of their daily routine, which is like losing an anchor in the time structure of their day," Haynes said. "Their social rhythm becomes disrupted, which may then impact their biological rhythms and sleep, and increase the propensity towards excessive caloric consumption."

While existing data suggests that insufficient sleep can lead to changes in appetite and satiety hormones, few studies have examined that relationship in a real-world setting, Haynes said.

Haynes developed the idea for the study after listening to National Public Radio. A story about unemployment and the recession was immediately followed by a separate, unrelated story about the country's growing obesity problem. It occurred to Haynes that the two issues might be connected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 65 percent of Americans are now overweight or obese. Research suggests that the obesity rate increased during the recession, but the cause for the increase is not entirely clear. Haynes believes that poor sleep quality and disruptions to people's daily routines after job loss could be largely to blame.

Haynes and her research team will follow 250 recently unemployed people over an 18-month period, using smartphones to capture information about participants' daily behaviors in real time. For example, participants might be prompted, via a message on the phone, to report on how they slept the night before, what kind of exercise they did that day or what activity they are doing at any given moment. Select participants also will be asked to take and submit photos of the food they eat. All participants will undergo weight and nutrition assessments in the lab.

Haynes is partnering with the Arizona Department of Economic Security's Unemployment Insurance Administration to identify potential study participants — people who involuntarily lost their jobs within six months of enrolling in the study.

She expects that some study participants will be more vulnerable to weight gain than others. Those hardest hit by the job loss might engage in more sedentary activities, such as watching TV or eating unhealthy foods, she said. At the same time, there may be a subset of more resilient people who see job loss as an opportunity to devote more time to exercising or improving their health.

Haynes also is interested in exploring the effects of re-employment — that is, how a person's sleep, daily routine and weight is impacted if he or she finds new employment during the course of the study.

Haynes hopes that the results of her study will inform health and weight interventions and programs for the recently unemployed.

"Sleep and social rhythms are highly amenable to change by behavioral intervention," she said. "Therefore, these data will help us determine whether typical weight-loss programs might be enhanced by also targeting sleep and social rhythms."

Dr. Ole Thienhaus, professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry in the UA College of Medicine, said the study could have a broad impact.

"Unemployment, chronic sleep restriction and obesity are highly prevalent social and public health issues," he said. "I anticipate that the results of this study will be of high relevance to a large segment of the U.S. population."

Haynes is a behavioral sleep medicine specialist and clinical psychologist who studies insomnia, stress and how people's daily behaviors affect sleep. As director of the UA's Stress and Trauma Recovery Clinic, her research includes studies looking at sleep and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Her collaborators on the unemployment study include Emily A. Butler, associate professor of family studies and human development in the UA College of Agriculture and Life SciencesDuane Sherrill, professor of biostatistics in the UA's Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public HealthGraciela Silva, assistant clinical professor of nursing in the UA College of NursingCynthia Thomson, UA professor of public health and director of the Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion; Dr. Stuart F. Quan, professor emeritus of medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine in the UA College of Medicine and the Gerald E. McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School; George W. Howe, professor of psychology and psychiatry at George Washington University; and Nirav Merchant, director of information technology for Arizona Research Laboratories at the UA.

 

Posted in University of arizona on Thursday, September 18, 2014 11:00 am. University Of Arizona , Job Loss , Weight Gain , Patricia Haynes Comments (0)

Monday 09/15/2014
What's Up UA? - Don’t Underestimate Your Mind’s Eye

UA study finds that objects in our visual environment needn’t be seen in order to impact decision making.

 
Laura Cacciamani just completed her doctorate in psychology at the University of Arizona.
Laura Cacciamani just completed her doctorate in psychology at the University of Arizona.
 
Can you see it? Cacciamani showed to participants in her study images of dark silhouettes that contained the outlines of recognizable objects in the space surrounding the silhouette, called the ground side of the silhouette. Here, two halves of a leaf appear outside the black silhouette. (Image courtesy of Laura Cacciamani)
Can you see it? Cacciamani showed to participants in her study images of dark silhouettes that contained the outlines of recognizable objects in the space surrounding the silhouette, called the ground side of the silhouette. Here, two halves of a leaf appear outside the black silhouette. (Image courtesy of Laura Cacciamani)
 

Take a look around, and what do you see? Much more than you think you do, thanks to your finely tuned mind's eye, which processes images without your even knowing.

A University of Arizona study has found that objects in our visual field of which we are not consciously aware still may influence our decisions. The findings refute traditional ideas about visual perception and cognition, and they could shed light on why we sometimes make decisions -- stepping into a street, choosing not to merge into a traffic lane -- without really knowing why.

Laura Cacciamani, who recently earned her doctorate in psychology with a minor inneuroscience, has found supporting evidence. Cacciamani's is the lead author on a co-authoredstudy, published online in the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, shows that the brain’s subconscious processing has an impact on behavior and decision-making.

This seems to make evolutionary sense, Cacciamani said. Early humans would have required keen awareness of their surroundings on a subliminal level in order to survive.

"Your brain is always monitoring for meaning in the world, to be aware of your general surroundings and potential predators," Cacciamani said. "You can be focused on a task, but your brain is assessing the meaning of everything around you – even objects that you’re not consciously perceiving."

The study builds on the findings of earlier research by Jay Sanguinetti, who also was a doctoral candidate in the UA Department of Psychology. Both studies go against conventional wisdom among vision scientists.

"According to the traditional view, the brain accesses the meaning – or the memory – of an object after you perceive it," Cacciamani said. "Against this view, we have now shown that the meaning of an object can be accessed before conscious perception.

"We're showing that there’s more interplay between memory and perception than previously has been assumed," she said.

Cacciamani asked participants in her study to classify nouns that appeared on a computer screen as naming a natural object or artificial object by pressing one of two buttons labeled "natural" or "artificial." For example, the word "leaf" indicates an object found in nature, while "anchor" indicates a man-made or artificial object.

But before each word appeared on the screen, the computer flashed a black silhouette that – unknown to participants – had portions of natural or artificial objects suggested along the white outside regions (called the "ground" regions) of the image. Participants were not told to look for anything in the silhouettes, and they were flashed so quickly – 50 milliseconds – that it would have been difficult to notice the objects in the ground regions even if someone knew what to look for. Participants never were aware that the silhouette’s grounds suggested recognizable objects.

Cacciamani measured how well study participants performed at categorizing the words as natural or artificial by recording speed and accuracy.

"We found that participants performed better on the natural/artificial word task when that word followed a silhouette whose ground contained an object of the same rather than a different category," Cacciamani said.

This indicates that the brain accessed the meaning of the objects in the silhouette’s grounds even though study participants didn’t know the objects were there, she said.

"Every day our visual systems are bombarded with more information than we can consciously be aware of," Cacciamani said. "We're showing that your brain might still be accessing information without your conscious awareness, and that could influence your behavior."

Cacciamani's study was co-authored by Mary Peterson, Cacciamani' primary adviser and a UA professor of psychology and cognitive science as well as director of the UA's Cognitive Science Program, and by Sanguinetti and Andrew Mojica, recent graduates of the Department of Psychology's doctoral program. After graduation, Cacciamani will take a position as a postdoctoral fellow at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

Posted in University of arizona on Monday, September 15, 2014 9:57 am. | Tags: University Of Arizona , Mind , Eye , Laura Cacciamani , Comments (0)

Thursday 09/11/2014
What's Up UA? - 'What I Wish I Had Known as a Freshman'

Reflecting on their time as undergraduate students, three University of Arizona Regents' Professors say that collaborative work is underrated, humanities and history courses are indeed valuable, and mistakes can be a great teacher.

That’s just some of the wisdom imparted by Diana Liverman, Regents' Professor of Geography and Development and co-director of the UA Institute of the Environment, who is currently on sabbatical; Toni Massaro, Dean Emerita of the UA James E. Rogers College of Law; and Pierre MeystreDiana Liverman's expertise and research interests focus on the human dimensions of environmental change, connecting earth and social sciences to understand challenges of drought and climate change, climate policy, climate change communication, food security, land use, and international environmental governance. Liverman has advised a wide range of government committees, NGOs and businesses on climate issues.a Regents' Professor of Physics and Optical Sciences and director of the UA Biosphere 2 Institute. UA alumni also talk about their experiences and share advice in "Career After College: Alumni Share Tips for New Students."

Q: What tips would you share with today's students to help them succeed in the academic environment? 

Liverman (left): Try to turn up to most of your classes and spend some of the time listening to what's being said instead of taking notes on your computer or checking social media. In smaller classes, ask questions, and never begin your comment with “This is probably a stupid question but ...” Remember, there really are no stupid questions! Go to exam study sessions and form study groups.

Massaro (right): Make your academic ends the first priority. A lot of things are available in college that are exciting and important to the experience: making new friends, exploring autonomy, balancing school and social life. The first woman to serve in the position, Toni Massaro is also one of the longest-serving UA deans in recent history. Massaro, who holds the Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law, has been with the college since 1989 and is an expert in civil procedure and constitutional law.But the classroom and academic work should be your first priorities in order to make the most of the opportunity to grow intellectually.

Meystre: Embrace your ignorance. Learn to be comfortable with not knowing the answer, but then don't stop until you have it figured out. Don't be afraid to ask questions, even simple questions. Questions that may seem simple can lead to profound answers. And chances are that others don't know, either, and will be happy that somebody asks — or they will know the answer, and then they'll be able to help you. Also, be open to unexpected opportunities and challenges.

Q: What do you wish you had known when you were a freshman? 

Liverman: That so many opportunities would open up for me as an environmentalist and woman during my lifetime. When I was a freshman, there were no “green” careers, and it was tough for a woman to succeed in the environmental arena. Second, that working in a group — rather than competing — can help you be a success. And third, that I didn't have to find a husband my first year at college (that's what my grandmother thought I should be focusing on). It is much more fun to look around, travel the world and find someone later.

Originally from Switzerland, Pierre Meystre, who joined the UA in 1986, has developed theory that has profoundly influenced all aspects of quantum optics, according to Nobel Prize winners in that field. He was named Regents' Professor in 2002.Massaro: That the humanities and history courses would so enrich my entire life. I wish I had taken a lot more of them, even as a science major.  

Meystre (left): That one should not be afraid to make mistakes. Being overly cautious can be paralyzing, and one often learns more from failures than from success. And for a curious mind, what can possibly be more boring and uninteresting than having things run just as expected?

Q: What would you have done differently?  

Liverman: I would do study abroad. I would do internships and/or volunteer for local environmental or other organizations. I would take more science.

Meystre: I don’t think much about that. I don't find it particularly useful to obsess about "missed opportunities." We have just one ride and may as well enjoy it.

Q: What turned out to be your best move? 

Liverman: Helping a visiting professor with her research one summer. She then invited me to take a master’s degree with her in Canada.

Massaro: Taking Bergen Evans' world literature course.  A Northwestern classic, and the best course I took in college. And then choosing law school for my graduate work.

Meystre: Picking a great field of study. Physics is extraordinarily beautiful and exciting. It challenges you at every turn and always hits you with new surprises, with profound questions ranging from the origin of the universe to the nature of reality, and with practical applications that can have a significant societal impact.

Q: What was your most career-determining stroke of luck or serendipitous event?  

Liverman: Getting an internship at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and persuading climate scientist Stephen Schneider to supervise me. He set me on my path to becoming a researcher, mentored me for many subsequent opportunities. 

Massaro: A conversation with an undergraduate professor my senior year of college telling me "You ought to go to law school," even though she had been steering me to her own graduate/Ph.D. program the previous three years. Her shift helped me take the big leap professionally (and personally). And then, at the end of law school, two professors encouraged me to apply for a law-teaching job after my time in practice. I was extremely fortunate to have teachers who took such a keen interest in all of their students.  

Meystre: There are too many to count. Most lucky perhaps was picking a specialization that was not very fashionable at the time but that turned out to become very hot, and also being at the right place at the right time.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?  

Liverman: You will make the most amazing friends in college who will see you through all the ups and downs of life. Look for ways to meet new people, not always like you, and it will change your life.

Massaro: Make the most of this moment, knock on your teachers' doors and enjoy your classmates. They can be your best teachers, too. Raise your hand. Be curious. Then "pay it forward" by helping others with their studies or volunteering in the community. There is no better way to learn than to teach others.

Meystre: Don't forget to have fun. If you don't, maybe you are not doing what you should be doing.

Diana Liverman's expertise and research interests focus on the human dimensions of environmental change, connecting earth and social sciences to understand challenges of drought and climate change, climate policy, climate change communication, food security, land use and international environmental governance. Liverman has advised a wide range of government committees, non-governmental organizations and businesses on climate issues. The first woman to serve in the position, Toni Massaro is also one of the longest-serving UA deans in recent history. Massaro, who holds the Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law, has been with the college since 1989 and is an expert in civil procedure and constitutional law. And originally from Switzerland, Pierre Meystre, who joined the UA in 1986, has developed theory that has profoundly influenced all aspects of quantum optics, according to Nobel Prize winners in that field. He was named Regents' Professor in 2002.

 

Posted in University of arizona on Thursday, September 11, 2014 9:50 am. | Tags: University Of Arizona , Freshman , What I Wish I Had Known , Comments (0)

Tuesday 09/09/2014
What's Up UA? - UA Undergraduate Researchers Take to the Radio

University of Arizona student researchers are now sharing their work in a public, nonacademic forum: on the radio.

The UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program is partnering with KXCI 91.3 to produce "Thesis Thursday," a weekly segment featuring student researchers during "The Home Stretch," one of the station's shows.

"After the first segment, I got so many calls from people who were happy to hear students doing important work in the community," said Cathy Rivers, the host and producer of "The Home Stretch."

"We hear so much negativity in the media these days. Hearing about the students work and the excitement they have for their research, studies and future careers brings a very positive perspective to what our youth are doing in our community," Rivers said. "It gives our listeners a glimpse as to what is happening in different fields of study and what our future doctors and scientists are looking at today that will affect us in the future."

Shaina Hasan, an Honors College senior majoring in biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology, discussed her research experience abroad through the UA's Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open! program. Hasan spent time in Singapore during the summer of 2013, investigating how interaction between two specific proteins could have implications in cancer development.

"It's important to share my research through the media because it makes science and research accessible to the public, getting them more interested about what UBRP and BRAVO! do for students and the impact research has on the community," Hasan said. "When the community learns about the University's research, they become more scientifically literate, which is important for understanding the science and technology that surrounds us." 

The segment airs at 4 p.m. each Thursday. Others planned include:

  • Sept. 11: Manny Vasquez, an Exceptional Research Opportunity Program student and now a UBRP student studying chemical engineering
  • Sept. 18: Stephanie Kha, an Honors College student studying biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology.
  • Sept. 25: Alec Perkins, an Honors College student studying molecular and cellular biology.
  • Oct. 2: Judith Menzl, an Honors College student studying molecular and cellular biology and linguistics.
  • Oct. 9: Baltazar Chavez-Diaz, an Honors College student studying biochemistry, mathematics, and molecular and cellular biology.
  • Oct. 16: Wonn Pyon, an Honors College student studying chemistry and neuroscience and cognitive science.

Segments are planned through the end of November.

"Humanizing the research that is done at the University is extremely important to ensure community support," said Ursula Tooley, a former UBRP student who earned her bachelor's neuroscience from the UA in May. She now works in Oregon.

On the show, Tooley spoke about her research with the UA Down Syndrome Research Group, under the direction of Jamie Edgin, an assistant professor of psychology. At the lab, Tooley aided in an investigation of sleep and language development in toddlers, contributing to the finding that inadequate sleep adversely effects language development among young children – something that can be even more complicated for toddlers with Down syndrome.

"I hoped that by sharing this in a more public forum – and with a different audience than those who read scientific papers – the information will reach parents of young children who might be able to use it," Tooley said. "Sleep is vitally important for the development of all kinds of skills, including those necessary to do well in school and interact with other children, so parents who might be concerned about how well their kid is sleeping should know that the earlier they act, the better.”

Victoria Farrar, a senior in the Honors College studying chemistry and ecology and evolutionary biology, was featured on the show over the summer and spoke about studying Gila monsters in Saguaro National Park in partnership with Kevin Bonine, the education and outreach director for Biosphere 2 and outreach initiatives director for the College of Science.

"Participating in the research was really valuable to me because I was able to share my work –which has local, ecological importance – with the broader community of Tucson," Farrar said. "I immediately realized this when a man called in after my segment was done about his own experiences with Gila monsters, and I was able to be brought back on the air to share even more information, especially ways that citizens could help our research.

"I think reaching out to the community is important, because as tax-paying citizens, they do fund the research we do at this university," she said. "Letting them know what we do, and how it is relevant to their lives, is critical."

Posted in University of arizona on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 10:05 am. University Of Arizona , Researchers , Radio Comments (0)

Thursday 09/04/2014
What's Up UA? - Send Your Tweet – and Your Name – to an Asteroid

The OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission team invites the public to submit short statements and images about solar system exploration – today and in the future – to fly aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launching in 2016.

The Asteroid Time Capsule campaign asks people to think about what space exploration looks like today and what it might look like in the year 2023. They can share their predictions via Twitter or Instagram.

A digital collection of the top entries will travel to the asteroid Bennu aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Led by the University of Arizona, the robotic OSIRIS-REx mission is the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

The selected entries will be etched into two "time capsules," each consisting of a one-square-inch silicon wafer. One wafer will be affixed to the spacecraft, the other will be attached to the sample return capsule, which will detach and deliver its cargo of asteroid material to Earth in 2023.

"Our progress in space exploration has been nothing short of amazing," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and professor in the UA's Lunar and Planetary Lab and Department of Planetary Sciences. "I look forward to the public taking their best guess at what the next 10 years hold and then comparing their predictions with developments in 2023."

Posts can be about science, engineering, technology or other subjects related to space exploration today and in 2023. OSIRIS-REx will collect tweets and choose the top messages and images to send with the spacecraft. 

"We're excited to see if we can predict how we will be operating in space a decade from now," said Ed Beshore, the mission's deputy principal investigator. "Here's a sample – '2014: We're building a spacecraft to go to an asteroid for a sample; 2023: We'll be using asteroids for fueling stations for expeditions.'"

OSIRIS-REx will study and map the 1,760-foot-wide asteroid Bennu for two-and-a-half years, then will collect a sample of surface material and head back to Earth. In 2023, after a journey of more than 3.9 billion miles – the equivalent of going around the earth 160,000 times – the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will release the sample return capsule as it approaches Earth.

The capsule will enter Earth's atmosphere at about 28,000 mph, streaking across the western United States and landing in the Utah desert, returning as much as 4 pounds of asteroid material and one of the two "time capsules" to Earth. Upon arrival, mission managers will retrieve the digital content to check on the predictions. The other wafer, affixed to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, will continue to travel through deep space indefinitely.

"In 2023, when the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule comes back to Earth with some of the oldest material found in solar system, we'll see where public perceptions of space exploration in 2014 were and where we thought we'd be in 2023," Lauretta said.  

A few simple rules help guide members of the public in creating a time capsule entry:

  • Think about what we are doing in solar system exploration in 2014 and what we might be doing in 2023.
  • Tweet your statement with hashtag #AsteroidMission or tag OSIRIS-REx on Instagram with the hashtag #AsteroidMission to share your ideas as a graphic or photo.

OSIRIS-REx's sample of asteroid material will help with the investigation of planet formation and the origin of life and will provide insight into the future exploration of asteroids for resources and economic development. The data collected from the asteroid also will aid in the threat assessment of future asteroids that are headed toward Earth.

The Asteroid Time Capsule campaign complements "Messages to Bennu!," a public engagement campaign launched in January that invites people from around the world to submit their names to fly on the spacecraft.

Submissions for both campaigns will be accepted until Sept. 30.

"We have collected almost 350,000 names with the 'Messages to Bennu!' campaign," Beshore said. "Our goal is to collect 500,000 names by the end of September, but we'd like to shatter that goal."

"OSIRIS-REx has to take many years to perform a complex asteroid sample return," said Bruce Betts, director of science and technology for The Planetary Society, a public outreach partner on the mission. "A time capsule capitalizes on the long duration of the mission to engage the public in thinking about space exploration: Where are we now, and where will we be?"

Posted in University of arizona on Thursday, September 4, 2014 9:56 am. Comments (0)

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Tuesday 09/30/2014

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Wednesday 09/24/2014

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Monday 09/22/2014

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Thursday 09/18/2014

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Monday 09/15/2014

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Thursday 09/11/2014

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Tuesday 09/09/2014

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Thursday 09/04/2014

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Tuesday 09/02/2014

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Thursday 08/28/2014

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Monday 08/25/2014

What's Up UA? - Laser 'Lightning Rods' Channel Electricity Through Thin Air

Thursday 08/21/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Fall Enrollment Sets Record for Diversity, Number of Freshmen

Tuesday 08/19/2014

What's Up UA? - Remarkable Résumé: UA Student Journalist's Career Includes CNN, NYT Phoenix

Friday 08/15/2014

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Wednesday 08/13/2014

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Monday 08/11/2014

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Monday 06/09/2014

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Thursday 06/05/2014

What's Up UA? - New Wilderness Medicine Class Hones Patient Care Skills in Rugged Conditions

Tuesday 06/03/2014

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Monday 06/02/2014

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Friday 05/30/2014

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Thursday 05/29/2014

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Tuesday 05/27/2014

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Friday 05/23/2014

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Wednesday 05/21/2014

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Monday 05/19/2014

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Thursday 05/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Earning a UA Degree, in a Grandfather’s Memory

Tuesday 05/13/2014

What's Up UA? - UA's Phoenix Cancer Center is 'Topped Off,' Joins Award-Winning Medical School Building

Thursday 05/08/2014

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Monday 05/05/2014

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Wednesday 04/30/2014

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Friday 04/25/2014

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Wednesday 04/23/2014

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Monday 04/21/2014

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Thursday 04/10/2014

What's Up UA? - Spring Fling Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Return to UA Mall

Monday 04/07/2014

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Thursday 04/03/2014

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Monday 03/31/2014

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Tuesday 03/25/2014

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Tuesday 03/18/2014

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Friday 03/14/2014

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Tuesday 03/11/2014

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Friday 03/07/2014

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Wednesday 03/05/2014

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Tuesday 03/04/2014

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Friday 02/28/2014

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