Bigger Questions Better Answers Bear Down

Want to change the world? At the University of Arizona, we tackle today's biggest challenges with collaborative solutions that improve lives in Arizona and beyond.

According to these UA alumni, the answer is simple: write.

By writing about what she knows, Barbara Kingsolver brings science to life

Best known for The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver began her writing career with freelance work for the University of Arizona’s science journal while she was working on her master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. She went on to spend two decades in the desert, and often references the region in her writing. — On going through multiple drafts: “Perfectionism is my disease. Revision is my milk and honey.” (From kingsolver.com)

Small-town America is alive and well in the works of Richard Russo

When Richard Russo, whose 2001 novel Empire Falls won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, told his mom that he intended to leave home in Gloversville, New York, to attend college at the UA, he expected her to object — until he realized she’d be joining him on his journey west. Readers everywhere can be grateful, for it was in Tucson where Russo’s interests shifted from archaeology to literature. — On sentimentality in writing: “Contemporary writers are more afraid of sentimentality than they should be, as if it were suddenly the greatest of all literary sins. It is a literary sin but not the worst. If you’re going to play it safe, you don’t get the real payoff. So that’s my Just Hokey Enough credo.” (From New York Magazine)

Wise beyond his years, David Foster Wallace explored the deep paradoxes of American life

You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of the best books of the 20th century that didn’t include David Foster Wallace’s epic 1996 masterpiece, Infinite Jest. A graduate of the UA’s creative writing program, Wallace became a literary rock star in the ’90s, and his work has proved to have staying power on those literary lists. — On perfectionism: “Like any kind of infinitely rich art, or any infinitely rich medium, like language, the possibilities for improvement are infinite and so are the possibilities for screwing up and ceasing to be good in the ways you want to be good.” (From interview by lexicographer and author Bryan Garner)

How did the first stars and planets form? How did stellar matter from the big bang transform into what we see today? What is the fate of our universe?

Scientists at the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab are manufacturing massive mirrors for the world’s largest telescope that will help answer some of the most daunting questions in 21st-century astronomy. The seven 27-foot mirrors will form the heart of the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) in the Chilean desert, providing more than 4,000 square feet of light-collecting area. The GMT, which will be 10 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, will lead the next generation of super giant Earth-based telescopes that explore planets around other stars and the formation of stars, galaxies and black holes in the early universe.

Want to see the mirrors up close? Visit the lab.

UA researchers are using Biosphere 2 as a laboratory for doing big science. Learn how their research will change our lives.

Tucked away off a remote highway 25 miles north of Tucson is a literal desert oasis, where plants of every kind thrive, and aridness gives way to damp, humid conditions. It’s not a mirage — it’s Biosphere 2.

Since taking over the 3-acre facility, UA researchers and students have been using Biosphere 2 as a living laboratory for doing big science, bridging the gap between the lab and the real world. The massive greenhouse-like structure is home to a tropical savanna, a million-gallon ocean, thorn shrub mangroves, a coastal fog desert and a tropical rainforest with more than 150 species of plants.

The UA scientists who work at Biosphere are on a mission to advance our understanding of the natural and man-made environment through unique experimentation, such as examining the effects of drought on our rainforests by producing a drought in the Biosphere rainforest.

Video: See how scientists conduct experiments at Biosphere 2 to understand how drought impact our rainforests.

“The way you effect change is to train a new generation of health professionals who understand integrative medical philosophy. So I founded the program in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona in 1994 with the intent of doing just that — that is, beginning to train physicians in a new way of thinking about medicine, to cover all those areas of deficiency in conventional medical education.” —Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the UA.

By working across disciplines, UA researchers are bringing transformational treatments to the marketplace.

In a farm community in North Dakota, about 15 percent of children have asthma. In a genetically similar community of Amish farmers in Indiana, the childhood asthma rate is only 5 percent.

When researchers, led by Fernando Martinez, MD, director of the UA's Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, discovered this discrepancy, they hopped on the chance to study the dust differences — and work to develop new medications that will treat and prevent the disease.

Work like this is just one example of how the center's efforts are making a difference. The team of renowned researchers have spent years examining the intersection of respiratory issues and genetics, immunology and molecular biology, ultimately resulting in bold solutions that will change and save lives.

How are we going to feed 10 billion people by 2050? The answer: super crops.

For many Peace Corps volunteers, making an impact doesn’t end when their stint abroad does. That’s why more than 200 volunteers have chosen to attend the University of Arizona upon their return to continue their education and service.

As part of the Peace Corps’ Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, the UA is No. 2 on the list of institutions with the most returned volunteers. Fellows receive scholarships for graduate studies in 25 programs at the university, and they continue their impactful work by carrying out an internship in an underserved U.S. community.

For alumna Rachel Murray, the skills and interests she developed as an education volunteer in Sierra Leone inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in public health at the UA. During her time as a Coverdell Fellow, she worked with teen refugees, helping them to integrate into the community and connect with people in the U.S.

  • For many Peace Corps volunteers, making an impact doesn’t end when their stint abroad does. That’s why more than 200 volunteers have chosen to attend the University of Arizona upon their return to continue their education and service.

  • As part of the Peace Corps’ Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, the UA is No. 2 on the list of institutions with the most returned volunteers. Fellows receive scholarships for graduate studies in 25 programs at the university, and they continue their impactful work by carrying out an internship in an underserved U.S. community.

  • For alumna Rachel Murray, the skills and interests she developed as an education volunteer in Sierra Leone inspired her to pursue a master’s degree in public health at the UA. During her time as a Coverdell Fellow, she worked with teen refugees, helping them to integrate into the community and connect with people in the U.S.

To knit together an inclusive university, you need many different groups working to answer the big questions — from a variety of perspectives. These UA programs are nurturing diversity by addressing specific needs.

Ensure all Native Americans have access to an affordable education. All enrolled members of Arizona’s 22 Native American tribes qualify for in-state tuition at the UA, no matter where they live.

Help members of the LGBTQ community feel welcome. All UA students, staff and faculty members are invited to participate in Safe Zone training. By completing two free workshops, participants commit to being a source of support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community.

Increase the number of Hispanic medical students. As a national center of Hispanic health research and training, the UA’s Arizona Hispanic Center of Excellence works to grow the number of Latino physicians and promote biomedical research focused on the Hispanic community.

Be a home to the largest adaptive athletics program in the country. Disabled students have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of sports — from basketball to rugby to tennis — through this UA program.

Ease the transition from veteran to student. From scholarships to career services, Veterans Education and Transition Services helps vets navigate academic life.

Provide African American students a place to explore their identity. The Building Leaders and Creating Knowledge (BLACK) community provides an on-campus residential setting where students can examine their personal identity while developing leadership skills and participating in cultural events.

Set international students up for success. Each spring and fall, International Student Services hosts an orientation, introducing international students to the academic resources available to them and providing immigration information.

Celebrate the diversity of Asian American culture. The Asian American Cultural Association, the first Asian interest organization at UA, hosts monthly events and is open to all students.

Give low-income students access to financial aid. The UA’s Arizona Assurance Scholars Program provides assistance for students in need, helping them overcome economic barriers to education.

At the University of Arizona, diversity unites and propels us forward.

UA faculty members are on a mission to send the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to the asteroid Bennu, study it in detail and bring back a sample to Earth. The carbon-rich asteroid may contain molecular precursors to the origin of life, and studying its data may help us understand why we’re here.

These successful, innovative alumni are breaking boundaries.

Savannah Guthrie, co-host of The Today Show
When Savannah enrolled at the UA, she was unsure what to major in and decided to give a few journalism classes a try. Today, you can catch her interviewing world leaders and celebrities alongside Matt Lauer. Watch her interview with President Barack Obama.

Nikolas Gelo, software engineer at Apple
Just one month after graduating from the UA with a degree in computer science, Nikolas was off to the Bay Area to work as a software engineer for Apple, where he helps programmers develop the in-camera apps we rely on for stunning selfies. Read a Q+A with Nikolas about what he did in college that helped him land a gig at Apple.

Monica Yellowhair, postdoctoral research associate at the UA Cancer Center
Growing up in Kayenta, Arizona, within the Navajo Nation, Monica often heard stories of tribal members working in now-abandoned uranium mines, unaware of health risks. Today, she’s determined to find solutions for the Navajo people by investigating how exposure to depleted uranium can cause cancer and other alterations in a person’s DNA, and how that DNA can repair itself. Read more about the life-changing work she’s doing.

Joseph Acaba, NASA astronaut
His master’s degree from the UA is in geology, but his work has taken him far from Earth. During his career with NASA, Joseph has made multiple missions to space, and in 2009 performed a spacewalk to help unfurl the wings that provide power to the International Space Station. Watch Joseph’s team take its spacewalk.

Brigetta Barrett, Olympian
As the most successful women’s high jumper in collegiate history, Brigetta Barrett claimed six NCAA championships during her time at the UA, as well as silver at both the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 World Outdoor Championship. Watch her talk about taking home silver.

Greg Rosborough, co-founder and director of menswear brand Abasi Rosborough
As one half of the duo behind Abasi Rosborough, Greg (a graduate of the UA’s Eller College of Management) is on a mission with his business partner, Abdul Abasi, to reinvent the men’s suit. Read their profile in The New York Times.

Learn what other UA grads are doing. Join the University of Arizona Alumni Association!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to works by the likes of Ansel Adams, a picture may just be priceless. UA’s Center for Creative Photography, which Adams helped found in 1975, is now the largest institution in the world devoted to the history of North American photography, with some 90,000 works by 2,200 photographers, including Edward Weston and Helmut Newton. —Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941. Photograph by Ansel Adams. ©2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

Untitled, no date. Photograph by Lola Alvarez-Bravo. ©1995 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation.

Hula Hoopers, Chicago, 1958. Photograph by Mickey Pallas. ©1995 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation.

  • They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But when it comes to works by the likes of Ansel Adams, a picture may just be priceless. UA’s Center for Creative Photography, which Adams helped found in 1975, is now the largest institution in the world devoted to the history of North American photography, with some 90,000 works by 2,200 photographers, including Edward Weston and Helmut Newton. —Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941. Photograph by Ansel Adams. ©2016 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

  • Untitled, no date. Photograph by Lola Alvarez-Bravo. ©1995 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation.

  • Hula Hoopers, Chicago, 1958. Photograph by Mickey Pallas. ©1995 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation.

These physicists have earned their field's highest accolade

Roy J. Glauber, Ph.D., adjunct professor of optical sciences, UA College of Optical Sciences

Notable work: Glauber was awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence. His theories, which are commonly used in quantum optics, created a model for photodetection and explained the fundamental characteristics of types of light. His innovative work on the nature and behavior of light has greatly influenced the UA’s atom optics program.

Nicolaas Bloembergen, Ph.D., professor of optical sciences, UA College of Optical Sciences

Notable work: His contribution to the development of laser spectroscopy earned him the 1981 Nobel Prize in physics. Bloembergen’s work proved to have far-reaching applications in communications, medicine and security. Still active in his field in his mid-90s, Bloembergen recently joined the UA Optical Sciences Center faculty.

Willis E. Lamb Jr., Ph.D., regents professor of physics, professor, UA College of Optical Sciences

Notable work: Lamb was awarded the 1955 Nobel Prize in physics for his experimental work on the fine structure of the hydrogen atom, which led to crucial implications for quantum theory of matter. Lamb’s discovery of the quantum effect that became known as the “Lamb shift” led physicists to rethink the basic concepts behind the application of quantum theory to electromagnetism. After more than 25 years of teaching at the UA, Lamb retired in 2002 and passed away in 2008.

Long before he was the 11th horse trainer to lay claim to the illustrious Triple Crown, Bob Baffert was a fixture at Arizona Stadium. From the time he was 10 years old, Baffert, a Nogales, Arizona, native, would regularly make the hourlong trek north to Tucson to cheer on the Arizona Wildcats.

Baffert went on to attend the UA, studying at the university’s one-of-a-kind Race Track Industry Program. Since its inception in 1974 the program has produced hundreds of successful industry leaders, Baffert included, in all facets of racing. What started as a trial program has grown to become known in the racing industry as a developer of top young talent through its undergraduate and graduate programs. It is also the host of the yearly Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming, the largest horse-racing conference in North America.

Through the years, University of Arizona faculty and alumni have collected 10 Pulitzer Prizes. Meet the gifted men and women whose work is changing the world.

Nancy Cleeland, journalist
Notable work: As a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, Cleeland was the lead writer on a team that examined Wal-Mart and its impact on the global economy. “The Wal-Mart Effect” won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2004.

Virginia Escalante, journalist
Notable work: At the Los Angeles Times, Escalante was a member of a reporting team that produced a series on Southern California’s Latino community, which was awarded the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Ryan Gabrielson, journalist
Notable work: As part of the East Valley Tribune team (along with UA alumnus Paul Giblin) in Mesa, Arizona, that covered the impact a local sheriff’s focus on immigration was having on crime investigations, Gabrielson was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2009.

José Galvez, photojournalist
Notable work: Galvez used his personal experience with photographing Mexican-Americans in Tucson to illustrate the Los Angeles Times’ 1984 Pulitzer Prize–winning series on Latinos in Southern California.

Paul Giblin, journalist
Notable work: Giblin won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2009 for his work on the team at the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Arizona, (with UA alumnus Ryan Gabrielson) that revealed how a popular local sheriff’s focus on immigration was endangering investigations of violent crime.

Jack McElroy, journalist
Notable work: As the managing editor of the Rocky Mountain News, McElroy helped guide the paper to a Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography in 2000 for its powerful collection of images taken after the shootings at Columbine High School.

N. Scott Momaday, Ph.D., professor emeritus of English
Notable work: His novel House Made of Dawn is credited for leading the way for the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream. It won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Richard Russo, author
Notable work: His novel Empire Falls, which follows the story of a diner in a fictional, blue-collar town in Maine, was awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Frank Sotomayor, journalist
Notable work: As a co-editor and writer of the landmark Los Angeles Times series on Latinos in Southern California, Sotomayor earned a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1984.

Terry Wimmer, Ph.D., professor of practice, UA Department of Journalism
Notable work: While at the Orange County Register, Wimmer directed coverage of a fertility scandal at the University of California, Irvine. The paper’s stories won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.

Learn more about the UA's award-winning School of Journalism

Heart and Soul

Imagine you’re faced with the gravest of diagnoses: Your heart has failed and you’re out of time. In an emotional TEDx Talk, Dominic Alexander, a senior clinical engineer in Banner – University Medical Center’s Artificial Heart Department, explains how an artificial heart can buy patients the extra time they need, whether a day, a month or 10-plus years.

Residents of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert have long known what a precious commodity water is. As climate change affects the world, and drought becomes more common, the global community is looking to the experts at the University of Arizona for solutions.

The UA Water Network is home to more than 280 faculty and researchers in 48 departments, all working together toward a common goal: to pursue new ideas in managing the world’s most critical resource. As part of this network, the Water Resources Research Center is one of five UA water centers responsible for the Water Sustainability Program, which is working on making Arizona’s supply safer and enduring for generations to come. Faculty and staff partner with researchers across campus, the region and the world to work on issues like planning for future water needs, managing competing needs and water governance.

Uber has already transformed how we move around our cities. Now, in a partnership with the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences, the San Francisco-based company will focus on self-driving car technology — particularly the mapping and optics challenges involved in developing a fully autonomous vehicle. Uber plans to work with some of the world’s leading experts in lens design at the UA to improve the imagery they capture and use to build out mapping and safety features. It’s another revolutionary project that builds on the UA's history of excellence in optical sciences.

How Bear Down, Arizona became a UA rallying cry.

There’s a secret code of sorts among University of Arizona students and alumni: Travel anywhere in the world, long after graduation, and you’ll run into people sporting a Wildcat hat or T-shirt. You’ll find yourself reflexively shouting “Bear down!” to them as they pass, and they’ll no doubt reply with the same enthusiasm.

Now the unofficial mantra of the university, the phrase has roots nearly a century old. In the fall of 1926, John Byrd “Button” Salmon, who was the student body president and varsity quarterback, was critically injured in a car wreck while traveling back to Tucson from Phoenix. When his coach visited him in the hospital, Salmon had a final message for his teammates: “Tell them … tell the team to bear down.”

Salmon passed away shortly thereafter, but his words lived on. Bear Down, Arizona is now the school’s fight song, and the rallying cry can be heard anytime the Wildcats take the field.

Learn more about the history of Bear Down and John “Button” Salmon.

From the UA’s first graduating class to today, the university has celebrated co-ed excellence

Ofelia Zepeda is working to keep native language alive for future generations

Ofelia Zepeda is a co-founder of American Indian Studies at the UA as well as the internationally recognized American Indian Language Development Institute. Known for her language preservation initiatives focused on the Tohono O’odham language, she is also a scholar and a published poet.

Laura N. Banks-Reed is committed to changing the way students learn

Laura N. Banks-Reed, who earned four degrees from the UA, all in the College of Education, has dedicated her career to improving educational opportunities for students. The Tucson Unified School District named Laura Nobles Banks Elementary School in her honor, and her name was added to the African American Women’s Arch in the UA Women’s Plaza of Honor.

A leader in her field, Ina Gittings opened the door for women’s athletics

Ina E. Gittings joined the UA faculty as the first director of physical education for women. She earned her master’s degree from the UA in 1925 and was a trailblazer in women's athletics. Gittings introduced UA undergraduate women to sports, including archery, horseback riding, swimming and track. UA’s Gittings Building is named in her honor.

Step into McKale Center any given game day and you’re likely to be engulfed by a sea of face-painted, red shirt-wearing, sign-toting students — also known as the ZonaZoo. At 12,000 students strong, the UA’s student section is the largest in the Pac-12 and was named the best in the nation in 2015.

And it’s no surprise that the Wildcats have a dedicated fan base. McKale Center is home to one of the most successful college basketball franchises of the modern era. The rafters of McKale are lined with championship banners and retired jerseys from the likes of Steve Kerr and Jason Terry. Legendary coach Lute Olson can be spotted in the crowd, cheering on the team he led to a national championship in 1997. And when alumni like Andre Iguodala and Luke Walton come by to catch a game, it’s a who’s who of the NBA.

But they aren’t called the “cardiac Cats” for nothing: Get ready to bite your nails to the quick — especially come March.

Named in honor of the Grand Canyon State’s recent admission into the union, the USS Arizona became a flash point for World War II when it was bombed at Pearl Harbor. Today, its bell rings from the UA’s Student Union Memorial Center. In 1944, Bill Bowers (UA class of ’27) discovered the bell was about to be melted down and arranged for the university to acquire it. The bell is rung seven times the third Wednesday of each month at 12:07 p.m. to honor achievements of the UA, and also can be heard on special occasions.

Designated a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy in 2015, Tucson offers a bounty of culinary choices from indigenous classics to college student hangouts. Here are four must-try favorites.

Cafe Poca Cosa
Something of a T-town institution, Cafe Poca Cosa set — and maintains — the standard for modern Mexican cuisine. Chef-owner Suzana Davila draws on the wide range of flavors and ingredients from her native country, creating a menu that changes twice daily, based on what’s fresh and in season.

Cup Cafe
This upscale diner tucked away in the historic Hotel Congress does double duty as both a great date-night destination as well as the perfect place to refuel in the next morning. There’s usually a wait for its award-winning brunch, but killing time is easy at the hotel’s Bloody Mary bar.

Mi Nidito
There’s no shortage of great Mexican food in Tucson, and every local has an opinion on who serves up the best tacos, pozole and chile relleno. But for many people, the choice is easy: Mi Nidito in South Tucson, which was started in 1952 by a couple from Sonora, Mexico.

Eegees
Tucson’s best-kept secret might just be this homegrown fast-food chain that serves up sandwiches and fries that are a far cry from the fare found at other drive-thru establishments. The food is solid, but it’s really the frozen, slushy-style drinks with delicious rotating flavors of the month that have made it a cult favorite among students and locals alike.

From a Friday night bonfire to a day full of fun, food and tailgating, homecoming at the UA is so much more than a football game. The annual parade features 50 student-built floats and the game day festivities draw more than 60,000 alumni back to campus each year.

A tradition since 1974, Spring Fling is the largest student-run carnival in the country. Nearly 20,000 attendees flock to the festival each year for traditional carnival fun: elephant ears, whirligigs and Ferris wheels are the stars of the show.

Arguably the biggest football game of the year, every year, the rivalry between Arizona State University and the University of Arizona runs deep. When the teams took the field on Thanksgiving Day in 1899, they never imagined they were launching what would become the country’s oldest rivalry game.

  • From a Friday night bonfire to a day full of fun, food and tailgating, homecoming at the UA is so much more than a football game. The annual parade features 50 student-built floats and the game day festivities draw more than 60,000 alumni back to campus each year.

  • A tradition since 1974, Spring Fling is the largest student-run carnival in the country. Nearly 20,000 attendees flock to the festival each year for traditional carnival fun: elephant ears, whirligigs and Ferris wheels are the stars of the show.

  • Arguably the biggest football game of the year, every year, the rivalry between Arizona State University and the University of Arizona runs deep. When the teams took the field on Thanksgiving Day in 1899, they never imagined they were launching what would become the country’s oldest rivalry game.