National Science Foundation
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In The News


Summer 2010 


Congratulations to Joe Vaughan, PhD student, who received a $2000 award to attend the Fungal Environmental Sampling and Informatics Network (FESIN) workshop that is being held in conjunction with the Ninth International Mycological Congress (IMC9) in Edinburgh, Scotland July 29-August 6, 2010.  "The goal of this 3-day workshop is to introduce participants to available methodologies for analyzing large genomic and metagenomic datasets.

  Michael Joe Vaughan

The primary objectives are 1) to provide participants with training in bioinformatics resources available for analysis of high throughput genomic and metagenomic datasets; and 2) to identify infrastructure needs for fungal metagenomics research and establish priorities for multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional proposals.


Spring 2010 

Congratulations to Marian Ortiz, PhD student, who was awarded a one-year $30,000 National Science Foundation IGERT fellowship through the University of Arizona IGERT Program in Genomics. This program aims to bring together faculty and students from three main research areas: evolution, functional genomics, and computation.  Students in the program are admitted through different departments but participate in several IGERT activities together. These include a bi-weekly discussion group, international symposia, research seminars, and several courses. 

  Marianyoly Ortiz

In Marian's application for this fellowship she wrote "I believe that associating with other students working in the area of genomics will foster creative approaches to examining my metagenomics dataset.  Further, the required courses will help me acquire fundamental knowledge about genomics which will improve my understanding of genomics concepts and terminology.  In addition, metagenomics analysis of bacterial communities has been done in very few sites successfully; therefore, being able to interact with scientists specialized in the area of genomics through the IGERT program will represent a great opportunity to expand the focus of this investigation and the thoroughness of analysis serving as a pioneer for future projects and collaborations".


April 2010 



Congratulations to Nam Nguyen who received the “Best Poster Presentation” Award for his research “Are Difficult-to-Culture Microorganisms More Hungry or Lonely? Application of a Tissue Culture Insert (TCI)-based approach to cultivating microorganisms indigenous to Kartchner Caverns, Arizona” at the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science. Annual Meeting in Flagstaff, AZ, April 10, 2010.

Nam began work on this project as an undergraduate at ASU West and he was recently accepted into an MS program in microbiology ASU.


June 2009 

Andrea Byrne, a University of Arizona undergraduate student is working on constructing a 16S rRNA clone library from a Kartchner speleothem.  But Andrea has many other interests as well.  In fact, this summer, Andrea and the rest of the UA Baja Racing engineering design team journeyed to Burlington Wisconsin for the Baja SAE competition held June 11-14. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) has a division called Collegiate Design Series, whichtest the budding engineer in many ways, whether with vehicles or airplanes or environmental design. The premise of the BajaSAE Series mimics the world-renowned Baja 1000 race: a single-seat, off-road vehicle prototype is to be designed and fabricated by a team of undergraduate engineers, then put to the test in a series of static and dynamic events. Static events include sales presentation, a cost report, and a design report and presentation. Dynamic events test the vehicles' capabilities and could range from anything, including Acceleration, Hill Climb, Rock Crawl, Manuveurability, Mud Bog, Sled Pull, and so on. The climax of each competition is the Endurance race, a grueling four-hour race on a course filled with whoops, ditches, hills, turns, drops, and many other obstacles. These competitions help you prepare for a career not only in engineering: all of the tools and skills that you are given and develop can be applied to anything. The international competitions also give you the opportunity to meet teams from other schools from the U.S. and around the world, and to see other teams' designs and get new, ever-evolving ideas for next year.



Karis Nelso at Graduation
April, 2009

Congratulations to Karis Nelson who received the best undergraduate oral presentation for her talk “Magnificent speleothems in Kartchner Caverns: are microbes involved?” at the 48th Annual Arizona-Southern Nevada Branch of the American Society for Microbiology, Tucson, AZ, April 4, 2009. 

Karis graduated summa cum laude May 2009 with honors and is joining the Maier Lab for her MS degree beginning fall 2009 after a relaxing summer off.



December, 2008

Congratulations to Julie Neilson who was awarded the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) 2008 Outstanding Staff Award. 

Julie Neilson recieving awardThis award was given in recognition of Ms. Neilson’s exceptional contributions to the effectiveness of laboratory operations and her commitment to increasing diversity in the sciences.  High school student Matt Creamer writes about Ms. Neilson saying “…I can still remember my first day when I didn’t know the difference between a nucleotide and a neuron but luckily Dr. Maier placed me in the capable hands of Julie.  I quickly found out that with her help, it didn’t matter that I had no previous experience.”

Matt further writes “An extremely impressive thing about Julie is how easily she handles her job.  Sitting in Julie’s office was like being in the middle of a train station.  In and out every single person in the lab from undergraduate to post-doc would run in with their questions and problems but it never seemed too much for Julie.  She would sit, coolly talking to each person and they would slowly calm down until they were laughing about the situation and Julie would give some advice on how to solve any problems they had, at which point they would rush off again and Julie would take up her next unscheduled appointment.” 


May, 2008

Congratulations to Joe Vaughn who received at $750 travel award to attend and present his work at the Fungal Environmental Sampling and Informatics Network (FESIN) Workshop, Aug. 2-3, 2008.  The Workshop is part of the Ecological Society of America Meetings in Milwaukee, WI. 


March, 2008

High school senior Matt Creamer won the top score for his poster presentation The effect of Media and Substrate on Culturability of Oligotrophic Cave Bacteria at Tucson Magnet High School. 

Matt went on to present his work at the SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research Science and Engineering Fair). At SARSEF, Matt was a 1st place, ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) finalist earning a week-long trip to present his work in Atlanta Georgia. Only two ISEF finalists were awarded from all of Tucson.  Matt also received a University of Arizona and a ScieEnTeK-12 Scholarship.  Congratulations Matt!!! We are very proud of you.

November, 2007

Congratulations to Leland "Sandy" Pierson who was awarded the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) 2007 Teacher of the Year Award.

Teacher of the Year Award. The CALS Faculty Teaching Award was created to recognize and honor unusual dedication and outstanding performance by a faculty member.  This award was given to Dr. Pierson to honor not only his pedagogical skills but also his commitment to improving teaching programs with the College.  In his nomination package, Dr. Pierson was recognized by students and faculty alike as one of those rare individuals gifted with the art of explaining extremely complicated concepts with remarkable clarity.  His teaching is described as “not only clear, insightful and instructive, but also creative, innovative and exciting”.  He was further described as “a teacher who loves to teach” and one who “has a passion for his work”.

Dr. Pierson teaches Microbial Genetics which has both a lecture and lab component.  This course can be considered the capstone of the core of the Microbiology major at the University of Arizona.  The award selection committee recognized that this course is instrumental in training a core of graduates who will become the foundation of the biotechnology workforce in southern Arizona.  This course consistently attracts 100+ students in large part due to Dr. Pierson’s enthusiastic hands-on style.  It is also noteworthy that in addition to excellence in teaching, Dr. Pierson maintains an active well-funded research program, serves as the Chair of the Division of Plant Pathology and leads the University of Arizona Institutional Biosafety Committee.


Congratulations to Raina Maier who was awarded the University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) 2007 Research of the Year Award. 

The UA CALS Research Faculty of the Year Award recognizes and honors Dr. Maier for her outstanding research achievements and contributions that have made an impact at the local, state and national level in the field of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Outstanding achievement is defined by the selection committee as an investigator who is producing high quality and quantity of work over an extended period of time, pursuing interdisciplinary efforts, providing exceptional service to department or discipline and making special efforts to recognize excellence in others.
cave stalactite
Dr. Maier has published over 80 scientific journal articles and authored 14 book chapters as well as a textbook “Environmental Microbiology” that is used in universities around the country. Dr. Maier’s research interests range from investigating the ability of bacteria to survive in extremely oligotrophic environments like the Sonoran and Atacama Desert soils, Kartchner Caverns surfaces, and mine tailings from sites in southern Arizona, to elucidating the role of biosurfactants in microbial survival and their potential biomedical and environmental applications. In addition, she is studying the biological factors and processes influencing the transport and fate of bacteria and contaminants in the environment. The information gained from this research is used in the development of innovative remediation approaches, which can be tested at a range of scales, from the pore-scale to the field-scale.

updated 7/2009

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