In the News

  • Cache Valley Daily Friday, Mar. 13, 2020

    All USU Instruction Moving Online

    Utah State University President Noelle Cockett joined members of the Utah Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday to announce steps being taken by USU to slow the spread of the disease and safeguard higher education students. In a press conference at the Utah Emergency Operations Center at the State Capitol, Cockett emphasized that, as the state’s land grant university, USU has a special responsibility to maintain its statewide educational mission while still protecting its campus communities. In a brief statement, Cockett explained that USU has cancelled all university-sponsored events both on- and off-campus; cancelled all non-essential university-funded travel; and, will transfer all instruction to online formats in lieu of face-to-face classes. In a public statement released in Logan while Cockett was speaking in Salt Lake City, USU officials said the goal of the university’s proactive steps was to help public health officials “flatten the curve” of coronavirus infection.

  • The Herald Journal Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020

    USU Moves Classes Online in Response to Coronavirus

    Utah State University announced that classes for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester would be moved online to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The announcement was sent to students through the school's campus alert system Thursday. Classes from Friday through next Tuesday have been cancelled "to allow faculty members time to move their classes into the online learning environment." The announcement comes a day after Utah State University canceled and postponed all campus events and university travel, both domestic and international, through at least April 8. Classes went on as scheduled Thursday, though students coming back from last week were encouraged to stay home if they felt ill and to fill out a survey if they had traveled during the break. An increasing number of universities around the nation have already moved to online-only classes in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in an effort to limit its impact on health care and other infrastructure.

  • The Herald Journal Monday, Mar. 09, 2020

    Space Station Chief Scientist, USU Alum, to Speak at Commencement

    Julie A. Robinson, chief scientist of the International Space Station Division at NASA and a Utah State University alum, will serve as USU’s commencement speaker for its 133rd graduation ceremony. Robinson and two other prominent individuals will receive honorary doctorates Thursday, April 30, at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan. “We are honored that Julie has accepted our invitation to address our students this year,” said USU President Noelle Cockett. “She is a renowned scientist and researcher and has dedicated her professional career to solving problems both on Earth and in space.” Robinson will receive an honorary doctorate along with: Karen Morse, a former chemistry professor, college dean and provost at USU, and president emerita of Western Washington University; and Linda S. Daines, a USU graduate and one of the first women managing directors at Goldman Sachs. Cockett said honorary degrees are an important way the university can recognize people for the commitment and sacrifices they have made to make positive changes in the world. “We are delighted to honor these outstanding women who have contributed to the Utah State community in a number of ways,” she said. “They are innovative leaders in their fields whose leadership and vision should be commended.”

  • Cache Valley Daily Monday, Mar. 09, 2020

    USU Air Quality Expert is Clean Air Person of the Year

    Utah State University air quality expert Seth Lyman is Utah’s Clean Air Person of the Year, named recently by the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR). A faculty member at USU’s Vernal campus, he was recognized for his work in developing solutions to fight air pollution in the Uintah Basin, a much different challenge than northern Utah’s pollution. ”Pollution in Cache Valley and on the Wasatch Front is really driven by cars, agriculture, things like that,” said Dr. Lyman. “Whereas, out where I am there aren’t a lot of people. “There is some agriculture, but not as much — at least not as concentrated. But what we do have a lot of is oil and gas wells. The mix of pollution that comes out of the oil and gas industry is just right to make ozone in the wintertime.” He was recognized for his ability to explain the science to leaders of local government and those who run the 25 oil and gas companies in the Basin.

  • The New York Times Friday, Mar. 06, 2020

    Red Space Lettuce Might Feed Red Planet Voyagers

    When astronauts head for Mars, perhaps sometime in the 2030s, there is a good chance that they will be growing their own vegetables to eat along the way. In research published on Friday, researchers are reporting that lettuce grown in space is safe to eat and as nutritious as that grown on Earth. “This was really good,” said Gioia D. Massa, a plant scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and an author of a paper that appeared in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science. “There wasn’t anything completely surprising or crazy or weird.” ... “It’s just a rigorous, careful study on the safety of crops grown in space,” said Bruce Bugbee, a professor of environmental plant physiology at Utah State University, who was not involved with the research. “This kind of research is really helpful for us to feed people away from the planet Earth. NASA selected five research projects last month to develop better plant-growing systems. One by Dr. Bugbee aims to use more sensors and controls to more precisely mete out water and nutrients. NASA will choose the two most promising prototypes, and researchers will then make more polished versions to be tested in space, Dr. Bugbee said.

  • Inside Science Wednesday, Mar. 04, 2020

    Change in Diet Sent Snakes Looking for New Defense Against Predators

    Keelback snakes are master chemists. These unusual snakes possess glands in their skin that contain heart-stopping toxic steroids to defend against predators. When an attacker tries to eat them, the glands rupture, releasing a mouthful of potentially fatal poison. But these snakes, native to China, Japan and Southeast Asia, don't have the biochemical machinery to produce these toxic chemicals themselves. Instead they gather them from their own prey -- poisonous toads -- and repackage them into their own chemical defense. About 15 million years ago, however, some species of keelback snakes in China changed their diet -- they switched from eating toads to eating earthworms. But somehow they retained their glands and kept them filled with poison. "When we investigated the worm-eating species and found they still posses the toxins but the worms they were eating did not, then the hunt was on for the source of the toxins," said Alan Savitzky, a herpetologist at Utah State University in Logan.

  • Cache Valley Daily Wednesday, Mar. 04, 2020

    USU Scientist Reports Evolutionary Shift in Snakes

    Utah State University herpetologist Dr. Alan Savitzky is part of a multi-national research group of scientists who have documented an example of adaptation in the animal kingdom. He said “keelback” snakes, found in southeast Asia, sport glands in their skin where they store a class of lethal steroids to protect them from predators. These snakes have derived the lethal poisons from eating toads. This is where an evolutionary example of adaptation has been observed. ”The surprise from this most recent study is that a group of these snakes that have stopped eating frogs and started eating earthworms still have that same type of toxin in their skin,” Dr. Savitzky explained, “But in this case they’re not eating frogs and toads, they’re eating firefly larvae. And the fireflies also produce the same type of toxin the toads have in their skin.”

  • Via Satellite Monday, Mar. 02, 2020

    Space Dynamics Laboratory-Built SmallSat Deploys from ISS

    The Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) at Utah State University announced Monday that a small satellite it built was deployed into orbit, and early telemetry indicates that the spacecraft health is nominal and the satellite is operating as designed. The SDL-built Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter CubeSat, known as HARP, was launched on Nov. 2, 2019, on a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. Following a three-month stay on the International Space Station (ISS), HARP was deployed into its intended orbit on February 19. The HARP satellite was built to carry a payload built by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The satellite’s objective is to validate the in-flight capabilities of a highly accurate and precise wide field of view hyper-angular polarimeter for characterizing aerosol and cloud properties.

  • SB Nation Monday, Mar. 02, 2020

    The Ballad of Wild Bill: The Rise, Fall and Rise of USU's Iconic Superfan

    On a Sunday morning in the spring of 2011, the only decision Bill Sproat had left to make was where he was going to kill himself. Would it be easier for people to find him in his living room, he wondered, or the backyard? “I was worried people would find bone fragments and bloody matter all in the yard,” he says. “I don’t know why I thought about that but I did.” He sat at the kitchen table and weighed the options while putting the finishing touches on his suicide note. A gun rested on the table close by. He picked it up. At that time when he was considering ending his life, it’s difficult to overstate Sproat’s stature on and around the campus of Utah State University. He was more than a student. He was a full-blown celebrity in Logan, Utah. And when he stepped inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, he became something more: a demigod, with 10,000 people chanting his name. Nationally, he had become one of the most recognizable faces in all of sports, written about in Sports Illustrated, discussed on ESPN’s First Take, and even given the top spot in ESPN’s Top 10 plays. So why on earth did he want to die?

  • Friday, Feb. 28, 2020

    Not Falling Far from Tree: Ecologists Study Seed-to-Seedling Transitions

    Why are there so many species of plants? Why do some plants thrive, while others don't? Utah State University ecologist Noelle Beckman and colleagues Philippe Marchand of the University of Quebec, Liza Comita of Yale University, Joseph Wright of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, Richard Condit of Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History and internationally renowned ecologist Stephen P. Hubbell of the University of California, Los Angeles, explore these questions and recently published findings about seed-to-seedling transitions in the journal Ecology. The researchers studied spatial characteristics of 24 tree species from data collected at the STRI's Forest Dynamics Plot on Barro Colorado Island, located in the man-made Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal. "Patterns of seed dispersal and seed mortality influence the spatial structure of plant populations and the local coexistence of competing species," says Beckman, assistant professor in USU's Department of Biology and the USU Ecology Center. "Most seeds are dispersed close to the parent tree, where mortality is also expected to be the highest, due to competition with siblings or the attraction of natural enemies."

  • The Herald Journal Friday, Feb. 28, 2020

    Women Judges Cite Mentors, Opportunities, Group Efforts at USU event

    As part of a new speaker series on campus, four Utah Court of Appeals judges visited USU on Friday morning to discuss their experiences navigating a predominantly male career path as women. The judges sat on a panel as part of the first installment of the Women in the Judiciary series moderated by Christy Glass, a USU professor and head of the Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research. In 2017 when Judge Diana Hagen was appointed, the Utah Court of Appeals became one of very few female-majority benches nationwide. Addressing the audience, Judge Michele Christiansen Forster said that moment when she realized four out of the seven judges were female was a “remarkable moment.” ... Judge Mary Kate Appleby was told that she was the “wrong everything” and that she wouldn’t make it as a judge in Utah, but after assuming office in 2014, she has proved that and other preconceptions wrong. After going to graduate school starting a career, Appleby decided to go to law school as a nontraditional student. She encouraged students to keep an open mind and be receptive to new opportunities and said that if she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t have made it to where she is today. This concept resonated with some students who have been wrestling with what their next step looks like. “I think it is so awesome to see all of these women,” said Rana Abulbasal, a USU Ph.D. student studying social inequality. “They make it sound like beyond what you see in the movies. It is a real thing and anyone can do this. It was validating to hear about how they have gone through difficult obstacles to get where they are now just like many of us. They managed to push through and keep fighting.”

  • Cache Valley Daily Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020

    USU Helping to Launch Outdoor Industry Certificates

    Utah State University, working with both Colorado and Western Colorado Universities, is launching three outdoor industry business certificates, offered online, each with a different emphasis. Rene Eborn is a special assistant to the vice president over USU Online. She said USU’s Outdoor Product and Design program qualifies Utah State to be part of this new offering. ”We feel we are very uniquely positioned to provide these opportunities for practical education and for people who are already working in this industry,” she explained, “for them to earn a certificate and then maybe potentially move on to extending their educational opportunities.”

  • Utah Public Radio Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020

    Talk At USU Looks At How Bees Enrich Human Life

    The Science Unwrapped talk at Utah State University this month focused on bees and how they impact our lives through the foods we eat. “I love bees! I just think they are so beautiful. I didn’t know that males didn’t sting you. That was entirely new to me,” said Cathy Clements, who attended the Science Unwrapped talk at USU this weekend. She said she looks at bees all summer and is excited to try and find them in her garden. She was one of the many people who attended the event to learn more about the many varieties of bees, beyond just the yellow and black, fuzzy, flying, honey-making kind with a painful sting.

  • The Conversation Monday, Feb. 24, 2020

    Goldman Sachs' Push for Board Diversity Doesn't Go Far Enough

    Several European countries – including Norway, Germany, Finland, France and Spain – have introduced quotas for women on company boards. Other countries have introduced voluntary targets and imposed penalties for failing to appoint women directors. And this year, public companies in California will face a US$100,000 penalty if their boards don’t include women. Recently, Goldman Sachs announced that it will not take a company public unless the business has at least one woman on the board of directors. This signals a growing consensus among large investors that companies with all male boards are less profitable and less competitive than other companies. This push is important, particularly as women directors remain significantly underrepresented on corporate boards and the U.S. falls behind a number of other countries in women’s presence on boards. But it’s not enough. We are a sociologist and a management professor, and for more than a decade, we have analyzed the impact of board diversity. Our research shows that companies with diverse boards are more innovative, enjoy stronger community relations, have better equity and diversity policies and outcomes, pursue more environmentally sustainable practices and are better governed.

  • The Herald Journal Monday, Feb. 24, 2020

    Still Got That Swing: USU Dance Club Visits Retirement Home

    Lights, music and laughter traveled from the makeshift dance floor at Williamsburg Retirement and Assisted Living into the lobby, the residents’ rooms and even out into the parking lot on Friday evening during a community swing dancing event. “You should have seen me dance when I was younger,” said Linda Geismann as she rested after dancing to two songs back-to-back. “You just have to move to the music and let it flow through you.” Originally from Belize, Geismann said she dances in a style a little different from the swing dancing that was demonstrated on Friday, but she said she enjoyed learning new moves. The event was prompted by several conversations that Tami Merrill, the retirement home’s activities director, had with residents about what they used to do on Friday nights. “These guys are always talking about how they used to go dancing at the Elite Hall on the bouncy floors,” Merrill said, “and we wanted to try something new anyway, so I just started brainstorming.” Merrill invited the USU Big Band Swing Club to join the evening of dancing. The evening alternated between an open dance floor and rehearsed dance numbers performed by the club members. Residents lined the room, and some even gathered in the loft to watch the dancing.

  • Park Record Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020

    Transcontinental Railroad Pulls into the Park City Museum

    The Park City Library’s Tozer Gallery takes visitors to Promontory Summit with “World Transformed: The Transcontinental Railroad in Utah,” a traveling exhibit that will show through March 15. The exhibit, developed by the Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library staff and made possible with a grant from the Utah Division of State History, traveled throughout Utah last year in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the railroad’s completion, said Courtney Titus, Park City Museum’s curator of exhibitions and collections. “We’re a little late, but since we had the opportunity to display the exhibit, we wanted to give Park City a chance to see it,” Titus said. ... Much of the exhibit includes documents and artifacts from Golden Spike National Historical Park, Brigham Young University, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints History Library, Utah State Historical Society and Utah State University’s Museum of Anthropology, according to Titus. Artifacts include items used by the Chinese laborers — porcelain tea sets, opium tin lids, pipes, vials and bottles. Another case is filled with objects such as marbles, hand-made dominoes and other items that laborers used for recreation. “It’s a fairly small exhibit, but there is so much detail, especially for people who are interested in the railroad and trains,” Titus said.

  • Montana Public Radio Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

    Guest Speaker, Panelists At MSU Discuss Climate Change And Solutions

    A group of city, state and tribal representatives met this week in Bozeman to share ideas about how to address climate change in Montana. A guest speaker at the conference said Rocky Mountain states are going to see catastrophic changes on our current path. Around 200 people filled up Inspiration Hall at Montana State University Tuesday evening for an event organized by MSU, the city of Bozeman and Climate Smart Missoula, a non-profit advocacy group. Physicist Rob Davies from Utah State University said if we continue burning carbon on our current trajectory, we can expect a 13 degree Fahrenheit increase across North America by the end of the century. In Montana, that looks like reduced snowpack and streamflows, more frequent and longer droughts and wildfires, more weed and insect pests, and a transition of forests into grasslands. Davies said everyone needs to adopt an emergency mindset. “In a very technical sense, an emergency is a situation that requires immediate action to prevent catastrophic outcomes, and that’s what we need. The tipping points, the risk of these tipping points is just far too high,” Davies said. He said public officials should be taking on climate change like they approach public health emergencies, such as the coronavirus or Covid-19 outbreak.

  • Beef magazine Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

    Beaver Power Provides Year-long Water to Idaho Ranch

    Jay Wilde summarizes ranching simply: “Cows need two things—something to eat and something to drink.” He speaks from experience. In 1995, when Wilde started ranching his family’s high-elevation property in Idaho’s Rocky Mountains, both food and water were hard to come by for livestock. Today this ranch is wealthy in forage and flowing streams, thanks to Wilde’s determination, many helpful partners … and beavers. Wilde was raised on the property with his siblings, where his parents grew grains. Jay had always dreamed of running a cattle operation and began putting in place conservation projects that would provide his livestock with reliable sources of forage and water. ... Wilde promptly called up the two professionals mentioned in the article, who worked at Utah State University and Anabranch Solutions. They helped Wilde build 19 BDAs in 2015. Wilde then partnered with the USFS and Idaho Fish & Game to relocate five beavers into Birch Creek—who happily set up shop using the BDAs as home base.

  • Cache Valley Daily Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

    USU Class of 2020 Creates "Aggies First" Scholarship

    Utah State University’s class of 2020 has created, as its senior gift, the “Aggies First” scholarship named for the school’s first female president — Noelle Cockett — and the first Ethiopian student body president Sami Ahmed. Tony Ahlstrom of the Student Alumni Association said the idea for the scholarship came from Jonathan Young of the Alumni Association. “He suggested we go a different route for a scholarship that would be able to be something that’s more meaningful,” Ahlstrom explained, “reaches more students and has a direct impact on more people than a physical gift would. That’s how the idea for a scholarship came to be.” The goal is to raise $25,000 by encouraging students to donate $20.20 over the course of a year and then the donations will be matched by eight different USU colleges.

  • Utah Public Radio Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020

    USU's Annual Rock And Fossil Day Is Coming Up This Weekend

    USU’s annual rock and fossil day is coming up this weekend at the university’s Logan campus. This year there will be a new children’s activity as part of the program. Early each spring, the Geosciences Department at Utah State University opens its doors for Rock and Fossil Day. On this day department faculty and students share their knowledge and excitement about rocks and fossils with visitors. Ellen Imler, a department staff assistant, said the event is for all ages. “Everybody from the youngest child who might just love dinosaurs, because they're dinosaurs, to the oldest person who loves being a rock hound and going out and finding cool things as they're hiking.” ... When children come to the event, they will receive a passport that helps them answer questions and learn new things. At the end, they will receive a sticker for completing the tasks. Rock and Fossil Day 2020 takes place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Geology Building on the USU Quad.

  • Tremonton Leader Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020

    Box Elder County Students Celebrate Year of the Woman

    One hundred and fifty years after the first woman to vote in Utah cast her ballot, almost to the day, of women over the years. To support Utah State University’s Year of the Woman, USU Brigham City involved local high school students in Box Elder County in a photo and essay contest. The goal was to creatively promote and celebrate the accomplishments of women in the community, both historically and current. Last Thursday, the winners of that contest — five in all — received prizes and praise for their work. Essay winners read their winning entries, which covered everything from Harriet Tubman’s work helping slaves to Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking environmental writings. The public was invited to view the contests submissions and vote for their favorites. Impromptu voting booths were set up for them to use, and to celebrate the women’s suffrage movement. “We’re excited to highlight the great work coming from our local high school students,” said Dan Black, associate vice president of USU Brigham City. “This has been a great opportunity for USU Brigham City to participate in Year of the Woman in a way that celebrates the impact women have had on our communities.”

  • Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020

    Intuitive Machines Unveils 2021 Moon Landing Navigation Approach

    Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C Lander will capture raw optical images of the lunar surface and convert them into Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) measurements to land within 200 meters of its intended landing site.

    Intuitive Machines navigators led by Co-Founder, Dr. Tim Crain, attended the American Astronautical Society’s Annual Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference in Colorado, US. The conference’s 43rd meeting included industry and academia experts from Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory, The University of Colorado- Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Sensing, Estimation and Automation Laboratory and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Utah State University Guidance, Navigation and Control Assistant Professor Dr. Randy Christensen presented a paper evaluating the performance of the fundamental Nova-C navigation system utilizing linear covariance techniques. Dr. Christensen and his team established that the Nova-C Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) approach will easily land within 200 meters of the intended landing site and presented a subset of their analysis at the conference. “The amazing thing is, with this architecture even a small number of TRN measurements during powered descent to the lunar surface will be enough for Nova-C to meet its landing accuracy target,” said Dr. Christensen after presenting his results. “We’ll have more than enough TRN data to meet landing requirements.”

  • Friday, Feb. 14, 2020

    USU Biologist Explores Small Non-coding RNA in Bumble Bee

    When the Human Genome Project was declared complete in April 2003, scientists celebrated the bits of DNA coded for proteins, but many dismissed the importance of non-coding DNA. Thinking it had no purpose, it was dubbed “Junk DNA.” Since that time, the scientific community has acknowledged those indecipherable genomic sequences, transcribed into functional non-coding RNA molecules, are not junk at all. Rather, investigators are now striving to unlock the secrets of these regulatory switches, signals and sign posts. Utah State University undergraduate researcher Anna Figgins, one of those intrepid investigators, is exploring the role of small, non-coding RNA in bumble bees. “Bumble bees exhibit sophisticated forms of cooperative behavior,” says the Payson, Utah native. “The division of labor between queens and workers is associated with large phenotypic differences that emerge from a shared genome. This suggests caste differences stem from changes in how shared genes are regulated.” Figgins is among about 30 USU undergraduates, who’ll present their work to state legislators and visitors in Utah’s Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. The annual Undergraduate Research Day, initiated by USU in 2000, is designed to showcase the importance of research in undergraduate education.

  • Nevada Today Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020

    Nevada Professors Teach Uzbekistan Government, Students Range Management

    The College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources partnered with Utah State University and Samarkand State University in Uzbekistan to educate Uzbekistan lawmakers, university officials and graduate students about rangeland ecology and management. In April of last year, Uzbekistan lawmakers passed the “On Pastures” law to address degradation of rangeland and pasture throughout the country. With its passage, Samarkand State University Rector Khalmuradov Rustam Ibragimovich, head of the university, invited University of Nevada, Reno Professors Barry Perryman and Brad Schultz, and Utah State University Associate Professor and Range Management Extension Specialist Eric Thacker, to teach policy makers about the history of American environmental policy related to rangelands. This January, Ibragimovich was elected as a senator for the Supreme Assembly of Uzbekistan.


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