The original Seven Wonders of the World represent the most awe-inspiring marvels and miracles the planet has to offer. But there are many new and remarkable wonders in existence today.
For instance, the University of Arizona is actively working on innovative solutions and breakthroughs that address global issues and solve challenges on micro and macro levels to move the world forward.
Though it may be surrounded by desert, the University of Arizona has a first-class water resource program — named No.1 in the world by theShanghaiRanking Academic Ranking of World Universities. This is partly due to the program’s impactful research: discovering the genesis behind a 20-year-drought in the Southwest that has led to the passage of a regional contingency plan.
“The hydrology research here is one of the oldest,” says Claire Louise Zucker, associate director of the Water Resources Research Center. “We have years of producing well-educated hydrologists and environmental scientists who are out in the community.”
Climate, adaptation and ecosystems
The risks of climate change are at the forefront of a global conversation, which makes the university’s actionable research, in partnership with practitioners in society and natural resource managers, so paramount. Gregg Garfin, deputy director of science translation and outreach at the Institute of the Environment and associate professor in the school of Natural Resources and the Environment, says the university has a strong history of applied tactical research focused on real-world issues, plus "an abundance of research programs that are focused at the interface between science and society, making this an ideal place to work on climate adaptation."
Sustainable built environments
Perspectives from multiple disciplines are tackling the complex challenge of designing spaces in which people can live and thrive in an environment with so many complex challenges.
"The future is very much a part of our perspective,” says Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, dean of the University of Arizona College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture. “It aligns so well with this notion of building a changing world."
Part of the goal, Pollock-Ellwand says, is to research and provide data to better inform those who are doing the building to do it with less waste and in a more sustainable way.
Arts and humanities
“Why study the humanities?” asks Alain-Philippe Durand, dean of the University of Arizona College of Humanities, noting that the college teaches students “that they’re going to be acquiring new skills and competencies that are the most in demand on the job market today.” Students armed with these skills are attractive to employers looking for critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, problem-solving, intercultural competence, adaptability and more.
Food systems and security
“We want to feed the world without destroying the planet,” says Rod A. Wing, director of the Genomics Institute at the University of Arizona. This is exactly why his team mapped the genome of African rice, which grows with less water, at higher temperatures and on marginal lands, providing poorer countries devoid of significant rainfall with the ability to feed their people. University of Arizona students get to jump into learning about and researching such critical issues hands on.
Fourth Industrial Revolution readiness
University of Arizona researchers are taking devices previously controlled by humans to the next level — engineering them to have curiosity and the ability to problem-solve and network on their own. One such device has the ability to make diabetes an afterthought.
"Diabetes is a huge epidemic plaguing humanity nowadays," says Wolfgang Fink, associate professor and Keonjian endowed chair at the University of Arizona College of Engineering. "So wouldn't it be nice if you had an implanted device that would monitor your blood sugar at all times, and the moment it detects changes in the blood sugar level, it will actually administer insulin at the appropriate dosage through an implanted reservoir?"
The university has been a part of every major NASA planetary mission and is ranked No. 1 in astronomy and astrophysics resarch and development funding and No. 4 in NASA funding among public institutions. Now, through OSIRIS-REx, it’s striving to make history. OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is a seven-year project to travel to the asteroid Bennu to collect samples and return home with them in 2023 — the first NASA mission to do so.
“What used to be science fiction is now a reality,” says University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “Our work at Bennu brings us a step closer to the possibility of asteroids providing astronauts on future missions into the solar system with resources like fuel and water.”