Transcript: Q&A chat on genomics and science with UA dean - Arizona Daily Star

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Transcript: Q&A chat on genomics and science with UA dean

Joaquin Ruiz, University of Arizona Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science executive dean, chatted about UA Science and everything science related. Read the transcript to see what was discussed.

  • Hello and welcome everyone to StarNet's live Q&A chat with Joaquin Ruiz, executive dean of the University of Arizona Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science and the dean of the UA College of Science. Today's chat we are going to be talking about everything UA and Tucson science related. Please feel free to submit questions in the comment box to join in.
  • Let's get started. Hello Professor Ruiz. Are you ready to take a few questions?
  • Yes - and thank you for the opportunity.
  • Joaquin, thanks for chatting today. What kind of job market do your science undergrads face when they graduation this May?
  • Hello Debbie - fortunately even in tough economic times, scientists, engineers and mathematicians do well in the job market. As the world is increasingly driven by technological breakthroughs and with the revolution in the biomedical field, our students should find it easier to get a rewarding job.
  • Please define "Genomics Now"
  • It is simply the title we chose for the lecture series. Our intention is to show the community what we understand about genomics and a few examples on how our understanding of genomics can help address problems in food production, disease control and, in general, understand more about ourselves. The last event of the lecture series, which will be a a panel discussion, will talk about what are the possibilities in the future, as we better understand genomics. We chose to call that event - The Genome Tomorrow.
  • Can you describe a little bit what the first lecture of the lecture series is going to be about?
  • The first lecture, by Dr. Fernando Martinez, who by the way is one of our most extraordinary researchers, as well as a physician, will set the stage for the rest if the series. Dr. Martinez will describe the genome, how DNA, RNA, Proteins are related. He will define what genes are and importantly he will try to show how complex we are in the sense that all our body does is with only about 22,000 genes. Compare that to rice, for example, which has more than double the genes and you immediately see that we are an amazing machine, with so many variables that are interconnected. It will be a great lecture and nobody should miss it!
  • What time will be the first lecture?
  • All the lectures will be on Wednesday at 7 PM. The first lecture will be Wednesday, January 30th. The doors of Centennial Hall should open at 6PM.
  • Biosphere 2 has always been an incredible place to visit. What can visitors expect to see and do now that the Landscape Evolution Observatory has opened?
  • We are changing the whole visitor experience at the Biosphere and I am looking forward to see what people feel about the tours. But, to your question, visitors will be able to see the largest experiment in the world that deals with understanding the fate of water in our landscape as the Earth heats up and rainfall changes. We know that Arizona, for example, will continue getting warmer and as that happens, rain patterns and the amount of rainfall will change. This will affect vegetation and this will affect the weather. Noboby knows exactly how all this will work so we have created some models that we will be testing on the Landscape Evolution Observatory - also known as LEO.
  • What will be different about the visitor experience at Biosphere?
  • Here is a link to the to the Genomics Now lecture series for more info:
  • We are working on different tours for children, with hands-on experiences. We will also have a citizen science component, in which visitors will take some measurements that we will compile and use for our research. Later on, we hope to have experiences outside of the biosphere. All this is work in progress but I hope that by the Fall we will have many more things for our visitors to see and to learn from.
  • What other UA Science tours are available in addition to the Biosphere tours?
  • Read more about Biosphere 2 and LEO here:
  • We have Flandrau, of course. Right now there is a great exhibit on the natural history of our sky islands. I think that it is a good exhibit. I also highly recommend the Mt. Lemon Skycenter, where you can peer through the eyepiece of the largest telescope in the US that has an eyepiece. Adam Block, who runs the telescope, is an extraordinary educator and I am sure that you will love the experience. Wr also have tours of the famous mirror lab, which is located under the football stadium and where the largest mirrors in the world are fabricated for telescopes. I also highly recommend a tour of the Tree Ring Laboratory. You should know that the field of tree rings was invented here at the UofA. You will love to learn all that can be learned from tree rings.
  • Keep the questions rolling guys. No science question is too big or too small to ask.
  • Will Flandrau again be open and free to the public during the Tucson Festival of Books in March?
  • Yes. You know the Festival of Books will have a larger, and better, Science City. During the event Flandrau and other labs at the UA will be open to the public for free.
  • What big ideas are in store for Science City this year?
  • For all of you stargazers out there, check out the Flandrau's website:
  • UA Flandrau Bookstore- featuring book signings of presenting authors, sales of children’s/adult literature & merchandise
    1. Dinosaur Train – “Buddy” the T-Rex appearances Sun at 10 am – 12pm
    2. Curious George – Sunday afternoon?
    3. Authors – following main stage appearance

    Tours/Exhibits – museum & lab tours, departmental open houses confirmed
    1. Flandrau Science Center- Explore new exhibits: "OSIRIS-REx Presents Great Balls of Fire", "Exploring Sky Islands" and "Crystalline Treasures: The Mineral Heritage of China." Self-guided tours at UA Flandrau Science Center are free Saturday and Sunday from 9:30am-5:00pm.
    2. College of Optical Sciences- Learn about the world of optics through hands-on demos and public presentations. Included in our open house will be two public talks: "Frontiers in Optics at the College of Optical Sciences” and "Museum of Optics: A History of Telescopes and Binoculars." Saturday and Sunday 9:00am-5:00pm.
    3. AZ Live- Experience an interactive 3D virtual reality by stepping into Arizona's Laboratory for Immersive Visualization Environments (AZ-LIVE)
    4. Physics Department- Explore the world of physics through a variety of open lab tours and a public talk on the Higgs boson
    5. Chemistry & Biochemistry Department- Join us for an open house on Saturday from 1:00-5:00pm, for tours of modern research laboratories, children’s hands on activities, an exciting Fire and Light Chemistry Show for all ages and a presentation about the impact of chemistry in society.
    6. Molecular & Cellular Biology Department- We are hosting an open house on Saturday from 10:00am to 12:00pm, to include laboratory tours highlighting the latest advances in life sciences research and an activity where you can isolate your own DNA
    7. UA MESA Botball- Computer Code in Action! Watch middle and high school teams put their robots to the test in the 2nd Annual Arizona Botball Tournament
    8. Steward Observatory Mirror Lab tours- UA scientists and engineers are producing the world's largest telescope mirrors that are revolutionizing astronomy and the way we explore the universe. Tours will take place, on the hour, both Saturday and Sunday beginning at 9;00 am with the last tour at 4:00 pm. Limited space available. Sign up for tours at the Science City Visitor Center. Limited opportunity to pre-register for tours by calling 520-626-8792 before March 5th.
    9. UA Herbarium- where we track plant biodiversity through space and time. Find out: Is Pima County the most diverse county? What plants make dogs sick? What new books cover botany of this region? Learn how to press, identify, photograph, and illustrate the plants you see everyday! Saturday and Sunday 10am-3pm.
    10. Jimmy Stewart’s Weather Bus- Learn about the atmosphere and how different weather patterns develop with TV weatherman Jimmy Stewart

    Technology & Engineering Tent- innovations in technology & engineering that drive our economy and enhance our quality of life
    1. AZ 4-H “Beep Patrol” - Meet the EcoBots and the students that "trained' them to brush their teeth and other tasks
    2. UA LEGO Robotic – play interactive soccer with your friends, teams of 2-3 players
    3. Raytheon - returns with their ever popular "Make and Take" activity. Find out what's fun about engineering and technology!
    4. SMART Teams – building 3-D protein structures
    5. Society of Civil Engineers – gumdrop structures and paper geodesic domes
    6. Pima County 4-H – activities on animal , plant, biology science and/or technology
    7. Schl of Info: Sci, Tech & Art – learn about computing science concepts and "play" with student designed video games, robot learning and more!

    Science of Food Tent- exploration of food production, properties and preparation from the perspective of scientific concepts
    1. Tucson AquaPonics – grow food and fish together, this is how food will be grown in the future!
    2. UA Food Products & Safety – food samples & demos to learn about food safety & preservation
    3. UA Microbiology Club – hand washing competition w/GloGerm, food safety/hygiene
    4. UA Chemistry Club – Make ice cream using liquid nitrogen!
    5. Pima County Village Farm – vermicomposting (worm poop) and growing healthy foods!
    6. USDA-ARS Carl Hayden Honey Bee Research Lab – Watch a real bee hive in action and try to find the queen
    7. AZ Genomics Institute – taste rice and sleuth genes to solve world hunger
    8. Heifer Intl – learn about global integrated farming, eat bugs and witness the power of poop!
    9. Art Institute – farm to plate, molecular gastronomy and food carving demos
    10. Foods from the Sonoran Desert – groups rotating throughout the weekend(Tucson Botanical Gardens, Ban the Farm, TOCA)
    11. Tohono Chul Park -from sweet prickly pear fruits to protein-rich mesquite pods, come discover the taste of the desert
    12. UA Veterinary Science & Microbiology – identify proteins and genes that contribute to meat tenderness
    13. School of Plant Sciences – importance of plants and microbes in our lives

    Science of Sports Tent- fundamentals of athletes in motion and the science that supports play in all its forms
    1. UA Engineering: Arizona Science of Baseball – Learn to hit a homerun, test your balance, swing mechanics and reaction time
    2. AZ Science Center – travelling baseball exhibits/activities, demos (Save the Melon/Cow’s eye)

    Natural World & Biodiversity Tent- increase awareness and understanding of the rich diversity of plants, animals & habitats of the Sonoran Desert
    1. VIPER Institute - Scorpions, tarantulas, and spiders on display, witness the fascinating process of antivenom production and pick up your scorpion tattoos!
    2. UA Sonoran Desert Discovery – UA students share about the diversity of the desert with native animals and plants
    3. AZ Sonoran Desert Museum – meet live desert animals and discover their “role” in the natural world
    4. Cooper Center for Environmental Learning – use all your senses to explore the Sonoran Desert
    5. AZ Native Plant Society – use of native plants in your yard, match the plant to its desert animal
    6. UA Biosphere 2 – Engage in hands-on activities and demonstrations on water availability in the southwest U.S
    7. Insect Discovery – meet and handle beautiful, weird, and amazing insects and arthropods
    8. UA Geosciences – dig for dinos, make a stream flow and see a volcano erupt!
    9. Karchner Caverns - Explore the fascinating world of a "living" cave with hands-on, kids activities, cave formation displays and skull boxes
    10. AZ Project WET – discover how water moves from clouds, mountains, below ground with groundwater flow models demos
    11. Tucson Audubon Society – play the bird ID game and learn the birds of AZ

    In the Lab-In the Field Tent- understanding our world through scientific investigation using a myriad of laboratory and field equipment, technology and practices
    1. Pima County Master Gardeners - Be a detective and use our microscopes to learn how to identify amazing plants and insects
    2. Bio5 Institute & Jr Biotech - "Teenage Romance Mystery"-forensic evidence and "Is it a Plant or Animal?"
    3. Sky Island Alliance – Identify & match tracks and other signs of wildlife
    4. USA Phenology Network – take a nature walk and observe seasonal changes, play plant games and use our cutting edge visualization tool
    5. UA Maricopa Agriculture Ctr -
    6. Desert Plants Journal/Tierra Del Sol Inst. – Learn how to prepare native seeds for your garden and compare them to a display of newly sprouted plants

    Body & Health Tent- discover the mysteries of the body and human health from the microscopic to life size
    1. Bio5 Institute & Jr Biotech - Cheek Cell DNA and Secrets of a Cell activities
    2. AZ Health Sci Ctr Education Group - Come meet UA nursing, pharmacy and public health students as they lead a variety of fun activities that teach you about your health!
    3. UA Biomedical Engineering- visit the world’s only approved total artificial heart and learn about recent advances in cardio-engineering
    4. UA Dept of Physiology Student Club- Explore the human body and its functions with interactive models and simple exercises

    Brain & Behavior Tent- learn about scientific advances unraveling the anatomy and function of the brain and animal behavior
    1. UA School of Mind, Body & Brain- see a real human brain and the brains of other animals, along with demos of illusions, reflexes, mixing up your senses, and fooling your brain
    2. UA Linguistics- make a spectrogram of your name and learn about linguistics – language science

    Space & Light Tent- travel beyond Earth into the cosmos using the technology of optics and physics and how it impacts our daily lives
    1. UA Lunar & Planetary Lab- make impact craters to understand how they change the surface of planets, moons and asteroids
    2. Pima Air & Space Museum - try your hand at folding and flying paper airplanes have fun learning about aerodynamics and aircraft control
    3. Mt Lemmon SkyCenter- get a close-up view of the sun, safely through a solar telescope, enjoy a solar art activity and learn about high resolution imaging
    4. Tucson Amateur Astronomers - Kids and adults will learn about processes on and in the sun and how they impact life on Earth and allow for life!
    5. National Optical Astronomy Observatory/Kitt Peak National Observatory- Learn about astronomy with fun, hands-on activities about optics, dark skies, and telescopes
    6. Controlled Environment Agriculture Center/UA Lunar Greenhouse - We can grow food on the moon. Visit the Lunar Greenhouse and observe hydroponics, crop lighting and other technologies that can be used on Earth!

    Science in Everyday Life Tent- from morning to night, we rely on science for everyday living
    1. So AZ Regional Science and Engineering Fair (SARSEF)- Students can conduct research from the age of 5 through High School while earning prizes, trips and college scholarships? Play with our favorite science and engineering toys!
    2. AZ Native Plant Society- Match local birds, bugs and other desert animals to their native plants and learn how to use them in your landscaping
    3. Pima County 4-H- A rotating set of hands on activities that will span the realm of science and technology
    4. UA Superfund Research- Spin the trivia wheel and test your knowledge about environmental pollution and how to live healthier
    5. UA Department of Physics- Come and see magnets defy gravity, bend light and boil water
    6. UA Soils, Water & Environmental Science- we will demonstrate how many bacteria are on everyday items you carry with you, using a hand-held device
  • You can read this at your leisure but I wanted to make sure you had all that we will do.
  • That's an amazing lineup!
  • Will any of the lectures touch on the Human Genome Project? Or ethics issues/challenges? I confess I don't know enough about this topic to ask a specific question. Received the lecture series announcement and hope to attend as many as possible.
  • Yes - there will be discussions about the Human Genome Project in most of the lectures and there will be discussions that deal with ethics. We in fact hope to have an ethicist at the final panel, as well.
  • Hello Joaquin, Many colleagues have been asking me and I am wondering too: Why do you believe that a tram up to Mt. Lemmon from Oro Valley is good for conservation? And especially address how these benefits could outweigh the incredible impacts the construction would have through the Coronado National Forest and most probably wilderness? Thank you.
  • Hy Carolyn - thanks for thee question. I do not know what the impact would be to construct or build a tram from Oro Valley to Mt Lemmon. I certainly do not know its impact on conservation and I would be at the top of the list to ask for a thorough study of the issue. However, I do believe that the tram would have a good impact on tourism and economic development.
  • Are you reading any good science books? Fiction or non-fiction?
  • I am reading a great book by Nate Silver on predictions. Great fun. It describes how we deal with information
  • I'm intrigue by the notion of a science cafe. How do they work?
  • It is simply a venue for science discussions. Basically we have a partnership with a few places. One is downtown , the other in Sadlebrooke, where we have scientists give lectures in a very informal setting. It is a great way to lear about all the advances that are happening in science. The Science Cafe downtown has been great because we have had a few lectures on mathematics. They have been great fun!
  • How can Tucsonans get involved in local science projects?
  • They are welcome to give me a call or send me an email and I can connect them with the many researchers that we have. Of course there are other great local institutions, such as the Desert Museum, Tohono Chul, etc, where there are many ways to be involved.
  • Well thank you very much for all the great questions and I hope to be back soon!
  • This concludes the end of today's live chat thank you for joining us.
  • Got more science questions you want asked? Joaquin Ruiz's email:
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