In the news / Biosystems Engineering

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The designation of Regents Professor is an honored position reserved for faculty scholars of exceptional ability who have achieved national or international distinction. Dr. Ian Pepper joins 5 other UArizona researchers recognized in 2021. In addition to this honor, Dr. Pepper has been inducted as a fellow by the Soil Science Society of America, the American Society of Agronomy, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Recent awards include the 2019 Extraordinary Faculty Award from the University of Arizona Alumni Association and the 2020 Graduate Teaching and Mentoring Award from the University of Arizona Graduate College.
 
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Snake bites are now recognised as one of the world's most important neglected health problems and one that disproportionately affects poorer communities. Dr. Leslie Boyer, founding director of BIO5’s Venom Immunochemistry, Pharmacology and Emergency Response (Viper) Institute at the University of Arizona, weighs in on the challenges surrounding antivenom. While many antivenoms are relatively effective, the complex nature of snake venom can make treatment difficult. Access to antivenom can be patchy and treatments with it can be expensive. The World Health Organization considers snake bites to be such a burden on some communities that they recently classified snake bite envenomation – where venom is injected by a bite – as a neglected tropical disease.
 
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The University of Arizona College of Engineering and its Department of Materials Science and Engineering are playing a key role in a $100 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish a national University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics. Dr. Erica Corral, associate professor in the UArizona Department of Materials Science and Engineering and a member of the BIO5 Institute, is an expert in thermal protection systems, materials and manufacturing, also heads a consortium cross-functional team in manufacturing and serves as deputy director for industry and national laboratory engagement.Dr. Corral is serving on the initiative's governance board and technical leadership team.
 
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Drs. Laura Meredith and Jana U’Ren pivoted their scheduled field work trip to Alaska to infer the impact of terrestrial carbon loss on climate change.
 
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Director of the BIO5 Institute Dr. Jennifer Barton has been named the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of the College of Engineering. As chair, Barton will be responsible for advancing biotechnological research and education, fostering collaborations, promoting and working with diverse teams, and providing national leadership in the field of bioengineering to meet societal needs.
 
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Tropical forests may be more resilient to predicted temperature increases under global climate change than previously thought, a study published in the journal Nature Plants suggests. The group led by Dr. Scott Saleska, UArizona professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studied data from the rainforest habitat at UArizona's Biosphere 2 and compared them to measurements taken at natural tropical forest sites. The results could help make climate prediction models more accurate.
 
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Innovative minds spanning several disciplines created partnerships to advance research and impact the lives of Arizonans at the second annual BIO5/BIOSA Faculty Industry Networking Event.
 
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A team of engineers and scientists is developing a solar-powered desalination system to recover water from concentrated waste streams with maximum efficiency. The team is conducting research using the Optical Sciences Center solar testbed.
 
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A record number of Tech Launch Arizona startups at UArizona were reported during FY2020. This was made possible through the innovations from 19 different startups by teams of world-class entrepreneurial researchers, including BIO5 members Drs. Minying Cai, David Harris, Victor Hruby, Doug Loy, Marty Pagel, Sairam Parthasarathy, Benjamin Renquist, Marvin Slepian, and Russell Witte.
 
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Dr. Urs Utzinger, the head of the UArizona Department of Biomedical Engineering undergraduate affairs and BIO5 member, sent 42 learning kits to his students during the Spring 2020 semester after COVID-19 concerns caused the University to move fully online. The kits contained micro controllers, motors, and other mechanical parts for the students to assemble, test, and calibrate from home. Dr. Utzinger sees that this experience of moving the course online prepared him for any future remote instruction.
 
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This semester the UArizona opened the new Peter and Nancy Salter Medical Device Design Lab for undergraduate students majoring in biomedical engineering and other engineering fields. Dr. Philipp Gutruf, a UArizona assistant professor of biomedical engineering and BIO5 member, discusses the educational value of giving students access to state of the art equipment that can help them manufacture and design circuit boards or custom enclosures for wearable devices.
 
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Reglagene, a biotech start-up led by BIO5 members Drs. Laurence Hurley and Vijay Gokhale, placed second in the RESI Innovation Challenge during JPM Week in San Francisco. The RESI Challenge featured 30 early stage life science companies from around the world and is designed to help startups refine their business plan, improve go-to-market strategies and increase investor readiness.
 
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A Tucson startup with technology to help fish farmers boost production were one of two grand prize winners of a business pitch competition at the 2019 edition of IdeaFunding. The founders of GenetiRate, including BIO5’s Dr. Benjamin Renquist shared in the $25,000 grand prize sponsored by UAVenture Capital
 
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Researchers, including UA COM-T Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine professor and BIO5 faculty member Dr. Donata Vercelli, are beginning to explore the various ways that microbes in the soil might protect us and benefit our health. This marks a turning point in soil research, as scientists used to hold the belief that soil is nothing more than a matrix to hold plants and minerals.
 
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Dr. Laura Meredith, rain forest science director for Biosphere 2 and BIO5 member, is one of the leaders of a four-month-long drought study. the aim of the research is to learn about how a hotter, drier future will alter tropical rain forest ecosystems. This European Research Council grant funded study will use Biosphere 2’s unique ability to control model ecosystems to collect data about multiple rain forest climates.
 
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The demand for potable and irrigation water has never been greater, and as such methods are being developed so new plant cultivars, farming technology, and irrigation can draw more out of arable land. UA Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering professor and BIO5 faculty member Dr. Joel Cuello, has developed the Vertical-Hive (V-Hive) Green Box, an indoor vertical modular growth system. The V-Hive reduces water consumption by 80 to 90 percent compared to traditional field farming.
 
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A team led by University of Arizona Biomedical Engineering professor and BIO5 researcher, Dr. Jeong-Yeol Yoon, has created a highly sensitive portable detection system capable of spotting norovirus at levels that can make people sick. Dr. Yoon believes that the handheld detection system could be used by governmental officials to analyze local groundwater sources in areas with heavy septic tank usage or even on cruise ships, where the virus is prevalent. 
 
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Many researchers with domain-specific expertise aren't aware of the predictive analytics, classification and visualization tools available, or they aren't fluent enough in the data science language to use them. A group of data-fluent UA researchers that includes BIO5 faculty Drs. Eric Lyons, Vignesh Subbian, and Nirav Merchant, is looking to change this by leading a grassroots effort to provide skills training designed to increase data literacy among researchers.