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portraits of Christina Dinh, Andrea Achilli and Kim Ogden

From left: Graduate student Christina Dinh works in the Micro/Nano Fabrication Center, which is being upgraded. Chemical and environmental engineering associate professor Andrea Achilli is leading a regional water security and reuse effort, and CHEE Department Chair Kim Ogden is principal investigator on a project that is turning the desert shrub guayule into rubber.

The Big Reveal: UA Engineering’s Top News Picks of 2023

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The Big Reveal: UA Engineering’s Top News Picks of 2023

Ten (plus one) stories represent a banner year at the University of Arizona for serving humanity through engineering.

At the University of Arizona College of Engineering, 2023 saw several firsts and untold successes. The college admitted students at all-time high while serving an increasingly diverse population. Industry-focused degree programs launched. Research spending grew to an unprecedented high as partners from government, business, campus and the community helped students and faculty realize ideas to improve the human condition.

These news stories showcase a few moments from an unforgettable year at the College of Engineering. Take a look back and be sure to read to the end for an article about double Wildcat pride.

Giving Students an Edge

1             NASA Interns Study OSIRIS-REx Sample to Pinpoint Origins of Life

The OSIRIS-REx craft returned to Earth from the 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid Bennu after seven years in flight. Now the world eagerly waits to learn what insights the sample brought back from the mission holds. Two aerospace engineering students – Maanyaa Kapur and Zach Purdie – work on the analysis team as they complete NASA internships.

2             State Commerce Authority Injects $35.5M Into Semiconductor Tech

With support from the Arizona Commerce Authority, the college is tackling the shortage of skilled workers in the semiconductor industry. An upgrade and expansion of the university’s Micro/Nano Fabrication Center, plus new educational modules, will give students at the UA and partner schools the facilities and training to fill the workforce gap.

3             Powerhouse Software Program Begins With Steady Proponent

Since launching under Sharon ONeal’s leadership two years ago, the BS program has attracted 177 students, and the college has opened graduate programs as well as online and distance offerings. The systems and industrial engineering professor of practice remains steadfastly focused on preparing students for the work world.

4             First Collegewide Makerspace Opens

A 5,000-square-foot Engineering Design Center, available 24/7 to students, opened in February 2023. The EDC precedes the Student Design and Innovation Center, for which fundraising is ongoing. The 100,000-square-foot center will provide collaborative classrooms, a student advising center, and a home for clubs and organizations.

Spearheading Mind-Blowing Science

5             Hansel and Gretel Breadcrumbs Inspire Robots on Mars

Wolfgang Fink, electrical and computer engineering associate professor and Edward and Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair, is first author on a paper detailing a communication network in which rovers work as a team independently from human input to explore subsurface environments such as lava tubes and caves to find human habitats on distant planets. The network employs mini sensors that drop periodically, just as Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs behind to find their way home.

6             NSF Awards $30M to Elevate Topological Acoustics

The National Science Foundation awarded $30 million to establish the New Frontiers of Sound Science and Technology Center, where researchers led by Pierre Deymier, professor of materials science and engineering, are exploiting the properties of sound to vastly improve computing, telecommunications and sensing.

Improving Health Across the Board

7             Engineering and Health Unite to Improve Cancer Treatment

The state awarded $10.8 million for the University of Arizona Cancer Engineering Initiative to explore cancer diagnosis and prevention methods and precision treatments. In a related story, UA alumni Mike and Sheri Hummel gave $5 million to the initiative and the College of Medicine to help combat the threat of cancer.

8             Wearables Offer Potential to Reduce Digital Health Divide

Wearable health monitoring devices require significant infrastructure, making them inaccessible to under-resourced communities. Researchers, led by assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Craig M. Berge Faculty Fellow Philipp Gutruf, have developed a system that can send health data up to 2,400 times the distance of Wi-Fi without the need for satellites or cell signals.

Keeping Sustainability at the Fore

9             $70M Project Turning Desert Shrub Into Rubber

The world’s predominately Asia-Pacific rubber supply is problematic and subject to market volatility. Kim Ogden, chair of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, is leading a $70 million project in partnership with Bridgestone Americas Inc., Native American communities and others to develop a sustainable source from guayule (pronounced why-OO-lee) grown in the Southwestern United States.

10           Southwest’s Dwindling Water Prompts Reuse Consortium

Arizona’s traditional water sources are running low. With initial government funding of $12 million for phase one, the UA, working with two other universities, established the Consortium for Potable Water Reuse to advance sustainable water treatment technologies and reuse systems.

Noting One Among Many Winning Faculty

Plus 1    Arizona Sports Hall of Fame Inducts Justine Schluntz

Justine Schluntz, an alum of and associate professor of practice in aerospace and mechanical engineering, was inducted into the 2023 Class of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame for her accomplishments as a swimming and diving student-athlete from 2005 to 2010. Schluntz, also a Rhodes Scholar, is one of only four Wildcats to hold the title of NCAA Woman of the Year (2010).