Welcome to the ninth edition of the University of Arizona College of Science’s showcase. Now more than ever, it’s important that we share the important work being done in our departments and centers, always with the goal of promoting fact-based research and results. And we are doing amazing things.
Because of the sometimes unsettling attention on the role of science in our world, we’ve chosen to examine Searching for Certainty during this year’s annual UA Science Lecture series. Our scientists will talk about how the scientific community works together to build consensus from evidence, mediates differences of opinion in the face of debate and ultimately establishes theory — scientific truth that grows over time. You can read a little about each one of these exemplary scientists in the pages that follow.
Meanwhile, UA President Robert Robbins has made science and technology a key element in his 10-year strategic plan for our university. We are gratified and challenged by his goal to become the No. 1-ranked school in space and planetary science and technology in the world with research investments of $100 million per year and by creating an Arizona Space Center and additional graduate programs. Another ambitious goal is for the UA to be ranked in the Top 3 in physical sciences funding by 2025, by increasing our research investments from $125 million to $160 million a year.
And speaking of space … the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission reached its target, the asteroid Bennu, at the beginning of December and has begun to survey every meter of the space rock, looking for just the right spot to extend the spacecraft’s “arm” to kiss the surface and sweep up precious dust and pebbles to return to earth. What will we learn about the origins of our universe? Stay tuned. The precious cargo returns to Earth in 2023. You can see the iconic image of Bennu on the “Art of Science” pages in this publication.
But we are not only about space. A sampling of other scientific advances our faculty and students have made over the past year include a study by the ecology and evolutionary biology department that determined that patterns of coral reef diversity in the Central-Indo Pacific Ocean evolved slowly over time – tens of millions of years – but could be wiped out in just a few years by human impact.
The Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research continues to contribute to an understanding of climate including tracking the northern-most edge of the Earth’s tropical belt over 800 years showing that periods of tropical expansion coincided with severe drought. And psychology researchers concluded that people who engage in substantive conversations tend to be happier than those who don’t.
Many of our faculty members are fellows and members of national and international scientific organizations, and recognized at the UA as Regents’ and distinguished professors. Within the college are the Galileo Circle Fellows, faculty who are the epitome of the academic scholar, with a deep understanding over a broad range of science, a willingness to think in a truly multidisciplinary way and an ability to inspire students and colleagues alike. We’re presenting a broad sample of their years and decades of work in these pages.
I invite you to come to our lecture series, which starts Tuesday and explore Science City and our open houses at the Tucson Festival of Books in March, so you can see for yourself the science and meet the scientists who make our College of Science one of the best in the world.