The magazine for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at
Iowa State University
Professor Nicole Valenzuela
Professor Nicole Valenzuela's turtle genome research is shedding light on dinosaur ancestors.

LAS Update

News and information from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Keep up with the college on our news site,

LAS, ISUAA honor alumni and friends

Shane Jacobson ('03 communication studies, '08 MS education) was selected as a recipient of the ISUAA Outstanding Young Alumni Award; Deb Tharnish (‘77 English) for the ISUAA 2018 Alumni Medal; ISU Bands Director Michael Golemo and the Iowa State University Cyclone Football Varsity Marching Band for the ISUAA 2018 Impact Award; David Kurns (’82 journalism and mass communication) for the ISUAA Alumni Service Award; and Lee Ann De Reus (’86 political science) for the ISUAA 2018 Alumni Merit Award.

In addition, the college selected five alumni and friends for college distinction. Maryl R. Johnson (‘73 zoology) was awarded the LAS Citation of Merit; Dan Winters ('03 journalism and mass communications) was awarded the LAS Young Alumni Award; Sharon Haselhoff ('88 political science) was selected for the Carrie Chapman Catt Public Engagement Award; Henry Ong ('78 agricultural journalism and mass communication) was selected for the LAS Dean’s Arts and Humanities Award; and Arthur Slusark, chief communications officer for Meredith Corporation, was selected to receive the LAS Distinguished Service Award.

Award recipients will be honored at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Honors and Awards Ceremony Oct. 25, 2018, and a university ceremony on Oct. 26, 2018.

Turtles and birds provide living clues to dinosaur genomics

Nicole Valenzuela, professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, co-authored a study that reconstructs the likely genome structure of a common ancestor of birds, turtles and dinosaurs. The international research team’s findings, which reach back through 260 million years of genomics, were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications.

Exploring the graves of ancient volcanoes

The Kilauea volcano’s lava eruptions in Hawaii made for dramatic headlines this year. To better understand modern day volcanoes, efforts are growing to analyze data from the past. Sven Morgan, professor and chair of geological and atmospheric sciences, is an expert in solidified magna chambers that exist far beneath the surface of continents, like graves of ancient volcanoes.

LAS launches new data science major

Iowa State students can now declare an undergraduate major in data science. Approved in June by the Iowa Board of Regents, the new major joins the LAS data science minor and data science certificate launched last year. Data science is one of the nation’s fastest-growing technology careers. Students will learn how to analyze data, extract knowledge and insights and communicate findings to help make informed decisions.

Department of English reaches 11,000 students through MOOC

More than 11,000 teachers around the world enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) offered by the applied linguistics program at ISU. Taught by Volker Hegelheimer, professor and chair of English, and Kimberly Becker, graduate student in English, the five-week class focused on technology use in language learning classrooms. All materials were open educational resources and paper-based methods also were shared for teachers with limited classroom resources.

What if our wasted heat energy could be recycled?

Kirill Kovnir, associate at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and associate professor of chemistry, wants to recapture and reuse our waste energy. His research on new thermoelectric materials is exploring how to better convert heat energy into electricity.

The quest to understand quark matter

LAS researchers John Lajoie, professor of physics and astronomy, and Marzia Rosati, professor and assistant chair of physics and astronomy, and their lab group are developing a new detector that will help unravel mysteries of quark matter. The Super Phenix (sPHENIX) will collect more detailed data about quarks, adding to the current explosion of new data in nuclear physics.