To do whatever it takes. To follow every lead. To go to the ends of the universe in pursuit of knowledge. This is what drives the researchers and scholars at the University of Nevada, Reno – and it is this spirit that has powered the University’s rise to Carnegie® Classification R1, joining America’s top research universities.

Jennifer Pearson, Ph.D., MPH

Associate Professor
Tobacco Control Researcher


“It’s funny how life has a way of showing you your purpose when you least expect it. After graduating from college in southern California in 2002, I decided to become a Peace Corps volunteer as a way to immerse myself in the big wide world and work in a local community to try to make a positive impact through service. As luck would have it, they needed high school English teachers in Guinea, a beautiful, culturally rich country in West Africa that struggles with poverty, food insecurity, political corruption, low literacy rates, high unemployment, and lack of access to quality healthcare. Working with the incredibly generous and kind people that I met in Guinea turned into a life-changing experience for me.

I was posted in Siguiri, a thriving mining town in the northeast corner of the country. People made their living mining gold traditionally or as employees of the South African gold mine company in town; driving trucks and taxis between Bamako, Mali and the Conakry, the capital of Guinea; selling goods (mostly from China) in the large market; or farming. Guinean people are often engaged in subsistence living with limited access to modern amenities. Guineans often live in compounds made up of large extended families that are typically surrounded by a fence or wall for security and privacy. One day as I was relaxing in a café enjoying an outrageously cold Coke (a true luxury in a town without reliable electricity), I watched in disbelief as three shiny white pickup trucks emblazoned with the red-and-white logo of one of the world’s most famous cigarette brands rolled into the town. Out hopped these dashing figures dressed in pressed white t-shirts and pants, a desirable look as it signified their outfits were new. They immediately began boldly walking into the people’s private compounds and handing out packs of cigarettes for free. In a town where people were so poor that they would buy cigarettes one or two at a time, this was an extravagant gift. There is no way most people would have the disposable income to buy an entire pack of cigarettes, much less an entire pack of one of the best-known, highest status brands in the world.

At the time, this experience just made me mad. It felt unjust, though my 22-year-old mind wasn’t sure why. Through my experience working with a fellow teacher to start a peer drug education group for high school students, I knew that most people didn’t understand the danger of smoking. Now that I look back on it, this experience was the first time in my incredibly sheltered life that I had really noticed how laws and policies unequally protect people. Tobacco companies stopped giving out free samples in the US at least a decade before I watched this scene in Siguiri. Tobacco companies claim that they advertise only to attract adults who are already smokers to their brand, not to encourage non-smokers to start. That was not what I saw in Siguiri that day – that company with the red and white logo known around the world was giving out free samples to every passerby. They even tried to give me a pack. Wealth, political power, and a functioning democracy protect people from predatory companies that make money selling products that cause disease and death.

In the US, 480,000 people still die every year from smoking-related illness. While we’ve made huge strides to reduce the number of people who smoke, and teen smoking is at an all-time low, we still see the same dynamics at play in Guinea occurring here. It’s the people with the most wealth and power in society who are the least likely to smoke. Now, smoking is concentrated among those with the least money and power in society, particularly among people with mental health or substance use problems. This dynamic is unjust and it’s what attracts me to tobacco control research.

In my research at the University of Nevada, Reno, I conduct mixed-method research with a focus on tobacco regulatory science — specifically, e-cigarettes and tobacco products claiming to be “natural,” “additive-free,” or “organic,” and I work to influence policies and regulations at the state and federal level. I am now expanding my area of expertise from tobacco control to all legal drugs, including cannabis, to consider how policies affecting all legal consumer substances interact with and ultimately affect public health on a national and global scale. My colleague Dr. Karla Wagner and I also recently started the Center for Drug Use, Equity, and Policy Research in the School of Public Health to organize and support University of Nevada, Reno researchers interested in substance use research so that we can conduct the highest quality research to help the people who have the worst drug-related outcomes and consume the most societal resources. At the end of the day, I’m taking a “head ’em up, move ’em out” approach in my research to use the strongest possible scientific support to take a stand against these harmful marketing practices and work towards positive change to help people live longer, healthier lives and avoid the negative consequences of drug addiction.

Learn more about Jennifer Pearson.

Ethan Ris, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Educational Leadership


“Education has always been good to me. Since kindergarten, I’ve loved going to school, connecting with my teachers, and learning across the curriculum. And since kindergarten, I’ve happily spent every year of my life, except one, in schools: as a student, school counselor, education researcher, and professor.

After college, when I was working as a guidance counselor in a low-income high school in Rhode Island, I discovered that education hadn’t been as good to everyone. So many of my students and their families had missed out on the opportunities that had been available to me through schooling. I quickly realized that any supposedly meritocratic success I had was surrounded by thick layers of luck, privilege, and the “Matthew effect”—in which one good thing leads to another.

When I got to graduate school to study the history of education, I was dismayed to discover that the stratification of opportunity in the United States wasn’t an unfortunate accident. Many people over the years have passionately worked to create differentiated forms of schooling and to deny the best privileges to large swaths of students—especially those with marginalized gender and racial identities.

My research analyzes the powerful reformers who baked inequity into American education policy, but it also centers on others who bravely fought for more egalitarian forms of schooling. My new book, Other People’s Colleges: The Origins of American Higher Education Reform, shows how battles between these two groups in the first half of the 20th century eventually produced a higher education system that had broad access and student development at its heart, even as forms of stratification persisted. That means that the arc of educational history—to borrow a phrase from Dr. Martin Luther King—is indeed long, but it bends towards justice.

Today’s schools, colleges, and universities have a way to go towards eliminating longstanding patterns of exclusion and inequity, but progress is happening. In my teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno, I am honored to be helping train a new generation of higher education leaders who will continue the hard work of expanding educational opportunity to all Americans, for the betterment of our community, our state, and our nation as a whole."

Learn more about Ethan Ris.

Dmitri Atapine, DMA

Professor of Music (Cello)
Chair, Department of Music


“Music is a universal language. Just because this phrase is so overused does not make this statement any less true. If anything, it makes it more true! Music is passion, music is emotion, music is communication. It is a mysterious force that has the power to move thousands of people in a shared feeling, and yet each person will experience it in a uniquely individual way, as if its power is directed exclusively at each single individual. A four-year-old giddily clapping in Seoul; a young woman rejoicing in Madrid; an elderly gentleman moved to tears in Beijing, a standing ovation in New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, Morelia, Paris, Vancouver, London, Florence, Bogota, Chicago.

As I hop with my cello from plane to plane around the globe, I am privileged to see its magic first-hand. Halls of all sizes, audiences of all ages, performances of all kinds. From intimate house concerts to big symphonic productions; from a solo recital in a church in Málaga to joining colleagues on stage at the National Concert Hall in Taipei—all in service to the wonderful community, united by our mutual love for music. Composers, experimental and traditional, contemporary and historical, young and old, of all traditions, sending their message: 'Listen! Feel! Live! Love!' And we, the performers, pick it up and deliver it to as many ears as we possibly can: 'Yes, listen! Do feel! Be alive! Fall in love!'

The more I travel, the more it is obvious that music is an essential part of life. Music is not optional, nor is it ornamental. It is not just something that 'makes the world a better place,' but rather, it is something that makes the whole world go round! It proclaims who we are and what we are as persons and as a human race. It represents and teaches what matters to us. From prehistoric times anywhere on Earth, every generation has found the language of music to be the deepest form of communion and connection. Whether we join in celebration or tragedy, music is there before we even think of it! It takes us by the hand in dance or lends us a strong shoulder to lean on in grief. From times immemorial, music is taught to children as an essential attribute by every culture. It sharpens the mind and polishes the soul. Music must be nurtured, cherished, and championed, and I am humbled to play a little role in this great cause!"

Learn more about Dmitri Atapine.

Yumei Feng Earley, M.D., Ph.D.

Physiology & Cell Biology


“Running was a very important part of my youth; I grew strong when I began running. Running still brings me a lot of pleasure and strength even now. I was very small in size when I was growing up, compared with other girls in my class. While my grades were always at the top of my class, I was physically weak in many respects. One day, my school principal told me that I would not be allowed to move forward to high school if I failed my final exams in physical education. I was shocked and upset! He suggested that I run 1000 meters every day after class—and I did. One semester later, I became the champion of the 5K footrace in my school’s annual sports competition. I went on to win many championships in high school and throughout medical school—and I grew stronger every step of the way.

I grew up in a small village in China where my parents and all my relatives wished to have a physician (medical doctor) in the family. I felt those expectations and saw the pride in their eyes when they spoke of it, and that is when I decided what I was going to be. I went to the Chinese equivalent of an Ivy League medical school (Zhejiang University) and became an Internal Medicine Doctor at the age of 22. I loved seeing my patients and enjoyed being able to help anyone in need including all of my relatives! One day in the late 1990s, I attended a seminar on polymerase chain reactions (PCR) and it opened my eyes to how the explosion in molecular biological sciences could advance our understanding of medical science. This triggered my journey to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology and led to my becoming a member of the academic faculty in medical schools.

The current focus of my research is to understand the neural mechanisms of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases including diabetes and obesity. High blood pressure, or hypertension, puts extra stress on the blood vessels and vital organs and is the main risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, arrhythmia and dementia.

It affects more than one in three adults in the U.S., and for 95% of patients, the causes are unknown, according to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early identification and long-term control of hypertension is key to preserving cardiovascular health. Our research focuses on identifying key insights into the mechanisms that regulate blood pressure, as well as new levels of understanding in how hypertension develops. This knowledge will advance the development of novel antihypertensive therapeutics, or high blood pressure treatments."

Learn more about Yumei Feng Earley.

Elizabeth A. Koebele, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Political Science

“In the western U.S., rivers define our landscape and provide us with respite from our arid climate. So, it’s not too surprising that many of us build a 'sense of place' in relation to our rivers, even if we don’t actually spend much time thinking about them.

While the average person may not know where their drinking water comes from or where their local river empties, they do know that they can float through the downtown corridor on an inflatable innertube on a hot summer day, or enjoy walking on a shady trail along a creek, or celebrate a holiday with their family and friends in a riverside park. Maybe they even recreate on the snow that feeds their river or purchase produce from the local farmer’s market grown with the same water. (Lake Tahoe, a major winter recreation destination, is the source of Reno’s own Truckee River, along which this photo was taken.)

Our western rivers also support hydropower generation, robust ecosystems, and numerous other benefits that often go unseen. Unfortunately, these rivers are also being threatened by a warming climate — which makes it more critical than ever to recognize that we are all connected to one another and to our homes through them.

As an environmental social scientist, my research seeks to understand how we can more collaboratively govern our water resources to meet a variety of needs. This not only requires engaging traditional water stakeholders, like farmers and water utilities, in policymaking and management; it also means intentionally including historically underrepresented people and interests, such as tribes and advocates of environmental protection groups, in these processes. As water supplies dwindle and demands diversify, I believe that finding ways for these distinct (and sometimes conflicting) interests to work together is the only way to make our critical water resources go further in an equitable manner.

My journey to this area of study started on a boat on the Colorado River. I was volunteering with a team of scientists working to conserve an endangered fish species called the Razorback Sucker. A good friend of mine was one of these scientists, and he somehow convinced me to spend a few weeks on Lake Mohave, just outside of Las Vegas, collecting ecological data in temperatures that regularly exceeded 100 degrees F. These experiences helped me 'see' the water resources around me: I grew up near Phoenix, Arizona, and for the first time, I was perplexed by the canals of water running through the desert, bringing water to rapidly growing cities and suburbs, while endangered species were disappearing from local watersheds. I knew then that I had to understand these systems and find ways to make them work better.

That moment led me to pursue my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I learned an old and too-often-repeated saying: in the West, water is for fighting over. Unfortunately, I’ve found that fighting over water always leads to someone losing, which can be catastrophic in the case of a resource that literally sustains life. On the other hand, finding creative ways to work together, even when it isn’t particularly easy, may be the only way to ensure that all residents of the western U.S. can continue to connect to this amazing region through our rivers in the years and decades to come."

Learn more about Elizabeth Koebele.

Hao Xu, Ph.D., P.E.

Associate Professor
Civil and Environmental Engineering


“The movie The Matrix shows a scary virtual world formed by digital data streams, but isn't it cool to have a data stream reflecting all the details of our traffic world that we can use to save lives, time, and energy?

That is what I do with my research on roadside LiDAR networks.

When I was pursuing my bachelor's degree and master's degree in electrical engineering in China, my initial career plan was to be a software engineer and get nice paychecks. My master’s thesis on the Global Positioning System and the Geographic Information System opened a new gate to applications of data and technologies in transportation systems. "Well,” I thought in preparing my thesis defense, “I may be a good one-among-millions of software engineers, but I can do something unique by integrating my electronic engineering capabilities and transportation systems."

I came to the United States for my civil engineering (transportation) Ph.D. at Texas Tech University in 2007. Roadway design, signal timing planning, traffic performance evaluation, and traffic simulation exposed me to the amazing transportation engineering world and prepared me for my dream career.

Like many dream stories, the process was not smooth, and sometimes it was boring, frustrating, confusing, and disappointing. I watched freeway CCTV videos daily to report any traffic incidents as a part-time traffic engineering student; collected traffic information by cameras and manually extracted the required information; and stood at an intersection to document the traffic queue length change. There were a bunch of traffic data, but the quality was a long way from answering our questions. Engineers and researchers either manually reviewed videos and extracted very limited information or just gave up and left the questions for the future. I worked on various transportation engineering projects, met different data challenges, but I could not find a good solution to the data problems, knowing that data is the foundation of all traffic systems.

Before finding my uniqueness, my hard work paid off in 2013 by bringing me to an assistant professor position at the University of Nevada, Reno in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. It was a big and exciting change for a researcher, but my questions about traffic data challenges were still not being answered.

At the University, we began to have biweekly meetings — initiated by Dr. Mridul Gautam in early 2016 — to chat and brainstorm ideas for a multidisciplinary team of researchers. Magic happened in the summer of 2016 at a brainstorm meeting when a colleague mentioned a LiDAR sensor's price had been reduced to $8,000. I had heard about LiDAR sensors, a major component of autonomous vehicles for high-accuracy spatial point measurement data, but it had been too expensive —more like tools for rich companies or programs. A price of only $8,000 was the threshold price for my research program and an acceptable price for roadside traffic sensing systems. It was the moment that I have prepared myself for many years and it suddenly happened.

Yes, the data is beautiful, unique, accurate, and full of details. I was happy — even a bit crazy with glee — when I opened the data file from the first roadside test. I guess it's like when the protagonist of The Matrix saw the raw data flow of his virtual world for the first time. At that moment, I knew that the sensor data would change transportation engineering a lot! Moving LiDAR sensors from vehicles to roadside infrastructure is the silver bullet for traffic data and information. It generates the data stream of our real world with fantastic detail and accuracy. Since then, I have focused all of my research efforts on developing the hardware system, data processing algorithms, software, communication to connected and autonomous vehicles, and automatic extraction of meaningful traffic measurements.

In 2017, we set up the world’s first LiDAR-equipped, smart-and-connected intersection in Reno, Nevada. In 2019, we implemented the world’s first LiDAR-controlled pedestrian crossing signal, the first real-time traffic signal system controlled by cloud point sensing data. In 2021, the University and Velodyne LiDAR published the first-in-class white paper that demonstrates the ability of LiDAR sensors to make transportation infrastructure more efficient, sustainable, and safe. Powered by the LiDAR network data, new traffic analysis and systems have been developed and employed by cities and states.

I found my uniqueness in integrating technologies and transportation, and now I continue to apply the 'silver bullet' to solve traffic problems one by one."

Learn more about Hao Xu.

Kari Barber, M.F.A.

Associate Professor, Electronic Media
Director of Graduate Studies, Reynolds School of Journalism


“Perspective. I remember playing on the rural acreage where I grew up and watching the planes fly overhead trying to imagine where all of the people inside might be going and what adventures lie ahead for them. I grew up in Oklahoma, where my family had lived since before the state was even a state. I checked out books by the armload from the public library, books by authors like Madeleine L’Engle, and dreamed of travel and lives that were not like my own.

I should stop here and explain that this is not the story of someone who hates where they grew up or is ashamed of where they are from. I love Oklahoma very much. The open, flat plains provide the perfect canvas for a creative mind to run wild. It’s endless space to dream and to create.

But...I wanted to know, feel and experience first-hand what was beyond the borders I knew. This curiosity led me to study journalism at the University of Oklahoma. Being in college, something that wasn’t common in my family, finally opened those doors to travel. I studied abroad in the Czech Republic and France and did an internship at a newspaper in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I lived by oceans and learned new languages, like the characters in the books I loved growing up. When I was done with school, it wasn’t long until I was able to return to traveling. I worked in northern Thailand and then west Africa as a journalist.

I was flying from country to country, peering out the little round window on landing, already dreaming of the amazing places I would see and fascinating people I would meet — a life that as a young girl I never imagined would be mine. For me, that decade, my twenties, was all about learning, observing and experiencing. It wasn’t until years later that I felt I had something to say.

With the intention of becoming a documentary filmmaker, I returned to the United States to pursue an MFA in film at American University in Washington, D.C. I finally had a perspective I wanted to share and a story I wanted to tell. Growing up in Oklahoma, I was aware of the beauty that is part of the state’s history but also the pain. It took leaving and spending many years reporting the stories of other places to finally find the voice to speak about where I am from. My first feature-length documentary, Struggle & Hope, was about the amazing resilience of historically all-Black towns in Oklahoma that formed around the time my family was also settling in the territory—and the violence and racism that those once-thriving towns and communities faced.

Perspective is everything in storytelling. Whose perspective is included in the story; whose is omitted? What are the biases of my own perspective? I feel fortunate that in my life, I’ve encountered people who have such different lived experiences. When I produce documentary films and teach documentary filmmaking, appreciation, understanding and inclusion of outside perspectives is key. I’ve had the chance to be on the plane and on the ground. I hope my work can help those who haven’ perhaps see the world differently.”

Learn more about Kari Barber.

Kyra Stull, Ph.D.

Associate Professor



“When standing on the summit of a mountain, the accomplishment — and in a sense, the view — gives you the ability to see the potentiality of future opportunities. At that moment, the version of your current self is inherently different from the version that started the journey. There is a comparable journey in academia. I have grown, adapted, and evolved on the trek up every mountain of research and I know that who I am today is dependent on who I was when I started and everything I experienced along the way.

The summer between my first and second years of my master’s program was spent at a medical examiner’s office where I assisted with autopsies every morning and the afternoon tasks would depend on the office’s needs. One of those needs was to organize the x-rays. This seemingly mundane task forever shaped me as an anthropologist. Biological anthropologists primarily learn about human variation in donated or cadaveric skeletal collections. I realized while organizing radiographs that the use of advanced imaging, whether it was traditional radiographs, computed tomography scans, or magnetic resonance images, could provide an opportunity that removed our dependence on skeletal collections and in actuality could expand our knowledge of human variation since not all demographics populate skeletal collections. My research is focused on better understanding the complexities of human growth and development and how it is impacted by the environment in which one lives. Using advanced images offered an opportunity to overcome the greatest obstacle to the advancement of human growth and development research in biological anthropology, which is accessibility of data.

As humans grow, there is an adaptive response to the environment that is analogous to climbing any mountain. We never know what environments and obstacles children will be faced with, but each of these impacts the final adult phenotype. The mature form is an outcome of the journey the child has taken along their own individual mountain that is also dependent on their unique selves. I spend my time as a researcher trying to understand how children climb the mountain of growth, how obstacles impact that growth and how their growth changes if they’re at the base of the mountain or if they’re close to the summit when faced with those obstacles. With the help of my postdoctoral fellow, graduate students and international collaborators, we have developed the largest virtual repository to try and answer these complex questions about childhood growth and development.

I never imagined that my future would be forever shaped by organizing radiographs, just like I never know how a mountain will impact me. By embracing that opportunity years ago, a foundation for the research that I love was developed and a seemingly monotonous task gave me insight on how to explore the subadult skeletal system and ask and answer complex questions about growth.“

Learn more about Kyra Stull.

Krishna Pagilla, Ph.D.

Ralph E. and Rose A. Hoeper Engineering Professor


“Water is integral to life and the environment. My path to water is partly by chance and partly by preparation. Although I started in the engineering field for my career, I always wanted to teach. Graduate school prepared me for an academic career in environmental engineering, and personally, I began to see water in a multitude of dimensions. Water to drink, clean, play, for life and for the life around me. The ability to teach and research about water with my students has further strengthened my insights and interests in water. After arrival of my own children and seeing how much they enjoy water, the passion became very personal.

As we face the challenges of changing climate and increased variability in precipitation, water becomes more important for our planet, people, and our prosperity. Every drop of water is a resource that needs to be cared for, used, recycled, and returned to nature for future generations. In this context, my research has focused on water resource recovery for wastewater treatment, water quality protection, water reuse and ecosystem preservation. I believe we also can make important advances in water management and water resiliency for communities by addressing the demand side of the water supply-demand equation. This includes water footprint reduction of human activities, reducing water losses during supply, and finding uses for non-traditional water sources. Much of the world is living under water-deficit conditions, but often, property, ecosystem, and human life damage happens due to severe floods. Water and sanitation are so intricately linked to human health and productivity. I am excited that I am addressing all these issues in research, education and outreach to communities. The students we educate and the ideas we generate to solve the world’s water problems will continue far into the future and will be highly impactful.”

Learn more about Krishna Pagilla.

Jamie Voyles, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


“My research focuses on infectious disease in wildlife. My team and I take a “One Health” perspective, recognizing that human, plant, animal, and ecosystem health are inextricably connected. To better understand infectious disease dynamics, we have focused on a highly lethal disease of amphibians (a group that includes frogs, toads, and salamanders). We have intensely studied many of the factors that can shift deadly disease systems so that hosts and pathogens can co-exist. Our findings — even if coming from a lowly toad — are hopeful, not only for wildlife threatened by disease, but also for humans because their delicate balance with the environment keeps us all healthy and thriving.

Two decades ago, I first watched a deadly pathogen do its damage. I was a graduate student with a youthful (albeit slightly naïve) enthusiasm for the conservation of tropical frogs, working in Panama. At that time, a fungal pathogen (called “chytrid”) appeared and spread through the rainforest streams. I watched helplessly as the vibrant-colored frogs and toads became sick and died. As they disappeared, the streams became silent, and my graduate research project ground to a halt. After all, no frogs means no frog research. So, my adviser, perhaps wisely, advised me to move on.

Fast-forward ten years. Although I advanced in my scientific career, I was still haunted by the loss of Panamanian amphibians. During my postdoctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley, I returned to Panama to see for myself what remained of the Panama’s jewel-like frogs. I had the idea that if the pathogen somehow became weaker, or the frogs’ immune systems became stronger, then perhaps such a change would shift the balance, and allow those amazing animals to survive. I galvanized a team of researchers and toad-enthusiasts to begin a search and a new scientific adventure.

The news from field reports was grim; many amphibian species had reached the brink of extinction. Sightings of these now-rare creatures had dwindled until they were only rumors. We spent several months climbing trails with heavy packs and muddy boots. We repeatedly stumbled out of the rainforest disappointed, bug-bitten, and empty handed. Until, after months of searching, we finally found a glimmer of hope. We came across a single, male, highly-endangered Golden Frog (Atelopus varius) perched on a mossy boulder, unconcerned that a cross-continent scramble had been underway for months, just to find him and his brethren. We sat in the rain, watching him hop, and snapping pictures. We collected samples for diagnostic and genetic testing and then, somewhat reluctantly, we said good-bye and wished him well.

We were overjoyed…and here’s why: One small frog in the wild suggested that there were at least some surviving populations out there. And if there is even one small population holding on in spite of the disease, there’s hope – not just for that frog population, or even for the species, but for all wildlife confronting lethal disease. That finding launched a decade of research that has revealed many key insights into how lethal diseases work, how they subside, and how everything is interconnected.

I love what I do. I love science and the adventure of learning something new about the world. Science also offers a great deal of hope, especially as we confront all kinds of serious challenges – just as we do with the current pandemic. It is an inherently creative and hopeful process designed to find the truth. I can’t imagine doing anything else."

Learn more about Jamie Voyles.

Sarah Bisbing, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Forest Ecosystem Science


“The fluttering of quaking aspen leaves in the wind. The smell of a subalpine forest at dawn. The taste of a freshly-picked huckleberry. The skin-tingling sensation of jumping into a frigid alpine lake. The awe of viewing a glacier calve. These moments bring peace and connection and breathe life into me – experiences I never imagined could be mine during my childhood in Chicago, where exposure to the natural world was a beach day on the urban shores of Lake Michigan. At 19, a trip with friends to a handful of western national parks gave me my first glimpse into both the tranquility but also the curiosity that evolves from time spent exploring natural ecosystems. I am inherently inquisitive, independent, and, as an ambitious individual, thrive when exposed to slower, quieter, calming experiences.

The natural world proved to be a perfect match for these traits and for my insatiable need to adventure, explore, and investigate. And, once introduced to the wild and rugged forests of the West, I was hooked. I have spent every possible day since exploring, learning, observing, and experimenting in forests from Alaska to California and into the Rocky Mountains. In these pursuits, I aspire to understand the processes driving the patterns we observe in forest composition and structure and to identify the fate of these patterns and processes in the face of a rapidly changing climate. I work at the intersection of theoretical and applied ecology, using well-established concepts to influence the management and conservation of forest ecosystems. We, as forest ecologists and managers, are using the knowledge gained over the last few decades of climate change and altered disturbance regimes to act, to build resilience into our forest ecosystems, and to sustain the goods and services we all so value in our forests. I may speak for the trees, but I do it for your children and mine.”

Learn more about Sarah Bisbing.

Scott Earley, Ph.D.


University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

“Is brain circulation the key to preventing strokes and dementia? My research involves studying, on a molecular level, how the human brain regulates blood flow so we can better understand — and someday possibly prevent — cerebral small vessel diseases and stroke, as well as vascular cognitive impairment and dementia.

During my doctoral studies and postdoctoral work, I came to appreciate that interesting things happen when positively or negatively charged molecules – which are called “ions” –cross biological membranes. I applied my early training in electrical engineering and molecular biology to the study of ion channels in physiological systems, including the human brain. Appropriate regulation of blood flow within the brain is necessary for learning, memory, understanding and sustaining life itself. The complex cerebral microvascular network is profoundly influenced by the brain’s ever-changing atmosphere of physical, environmental, endocrine, paracrine, metabolic and neurochemical stimuli.

After reading a seminal paper by Micheal Caterina, then a postdoc at UCSF working with David Julius, describing the polymodal nature of TRPV1 channels, I immediately became enamored with the transient receptor potential (TRP) “superfamily” of cation channels. TRP channels act as sensors of diverse stimuli, including chemical agonists (chemicals that bind to receptors and activate receptors to produce a biological response); temperature, reactive oxygen species (a type of unstable molecule that reacts easily with other molecules in a cell), and osmolarity (the measure of solute concentration). The concept that TRP channels act as fundamental cellular sensors of the brain’s internal environment and provide critical input for homeostasis, adaptability, and dynamic regulation of the cerebral microvasculature provides a guiding framework for our research.

Our findings have convincingly demonstrated that an expanding group of TRP channels on cerebral microvessels have essential sensory functions which are central to cerebral vascular homeostasis and adaptability. Our research will continue to address critical gaps in our knowledge regarding how cells use TRP channels to sense and respond to complex changes in the local environment within the brain to regulate blood flow and meet this organ’s unique metabolic demands.

This research has the potential to reveal the basic mechanisms underlying cerebrovascular pathologies, including cerebral small vessel diseases and vascular cognitive impairment and dementia, which have been identified as critical research areas by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)."

Learn more about Scott Earley.

Shamik Sengupta, Ph.D.

Ralph E. & Rose A. Hoeper Professor

Executive Director, Cybersecurity Center

“When I started, I did not think about studying cybersecurity. My strong point was mathematics as my parents were very strong in math and they encouraged me to get the grasp of it in a fun, interactive way. When I was very young, though, my grandfather’s hobby was wireless radio, so I also became interested in wireless radios from a very early age. When I began my Ph.D., my natural choice was to study wireless networking where I would be able to learn all about radios. Also, at that time wireless networking just started to become part of our day-to-day lives.

My research started with, ‘how we can make a radio intelligent?’ In 1999, Joseph Mitola III and Gerald Q. Maguire Jr coined the term ‘cognitive radio’ – a radio with cognition power, so it can learn, analyze, and make decisions. I started by researching cognitive radio. The University of Central Florida where I did my Ph.D. was very big on interdisciplinary studies and had a club that only gave scholarships to those highest-grade proposals which took an interdisciplinary perspective. I started to think about cognitive radio from an interdisciplinary perspective – anthropology, human society, economics and computer science. Very quickly, I learned that when we develop something, it must have resilience. Making something intelligent is not sufficient; you need to make it resilient and secure, so it is not easily compromised. That started my interest in cybersecurity.

My first tenure-track assistant professor job was at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, one of the very first colleges that started interdisciplinary cybersecurity. There, we taught cybersecurity to the students – who would eventually become law enforcement officials – from a very comprehensive perspective, teaching them technology, policy, law, ethics, psychology, and human behavior. Thus, my research in cybersecurity also started to become more interdisciplinary and I started to discover unique ways of looking into this problem.

When I came to the University of Nevada, Reno, we started an interdisciplinary group, and submitted our first NSF grant involving capacity building across five disciplines with ten faculty members. Everyone began to think about cybersecurity from an interdisciplinary perspective, and that’s true around the world today.

How does the future look? As the scope of cyberspace is becoming more complex with the emergence of new innovations and technologies, the need and significance of cybersecurity education and research across various disciplines cannot be overlooked. Cybersecurity in these areas will require well-trained proactive decision-making professionals, who are not only aware of their core disciplines but are also aware of the cybersecurity risks of their designs as well as risks from other interconnected disciplines. Moreover, with quantum computing on the horizon, cybersecurity is entering into a very interesting era and now is the time for us to recognize the potential danger and start investigating post-quantum cryptography and cybersecurity.”

Learn more about Shamik Sengupta.

Andrei Derevianko, Ph.D.

Hartman Professor of Physics


“I am a theoretical physicist. I am involved in both developing quantum technologies and their applications in fundamental physics and cosmology. As I look back at my nearly 20 years at the University of Nevada, Reno, the theme of atomic clocks is recurring. Atomic clocks are arguably the most accurate instruments ever built and they underpin the technology behind such ubiquitous applications as the Global Positioning System and communication networks.

My group has invented and contributed to developing several novel classes of atomic clocks. One of the highlights is our theoretical proposal for optical lattice clocks using ytterbium atoms. Proposed 15 years ago, now these clocks tick away at several national metrology labs around the globe. They also reached a remarkable milestone in human timekeeping: these clocks are guaranteed to neither gain nor lose a second over the age of the Universe. Considering the exquisite accuracy of atomic clocks, it is natural to ask if these quantum sensors can be used to answer open questions in physics and cosmology, such as exacting the nature of dark matter. While galactic-scale observations indicate that dark matter constitutes 85 percent of all the matter in the Universe, so far it has escaped direct detection in terrestrial experiments. With my University of Nevada, Reno colleague Geoff Blewitt and a group of talented students, we are searching for the minute effects that dark matter might have imprinted on atomic clocks aboard GPS satellites – a level of expertise and theoretical modeling that is unique to University of Nevada, Reno.”

Learn more about Andrei Derevianko.

Jacquie Snow, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Psychology

Cognitive and Brain Sciences Group

“During high school and college, I was unsure what direction to take for my career, but I loved rock climbing. Climbing is a physically and mentally challenging pursuit that demands strength and tenacity as much as focus, problem solving and perseverance. Climbing brought me a sense of clarity and perspective and underscored the importance of pursuing in life what one wants to do – which for me was tackling problems that keep me engaged and inspired.

Now, as a neuroscientist at the University of Nevada, Reno, I study human brain function. Understanding how the brain works is a complex problem that captured my interest as an undergraduate. I remember attending psychology lectures where we discussed fascinating case studies of neurological patients whose perception of the world was altered in specific ways due to localized brain damage.

Later, as a Ph.D. student and postdoc, my research focused on patient studies because it allowed a powerful reverse-engineering approach to understand brain function. The first experiments I ran with stroke patients failed. I discovered that patients with the types of lesions I was interested in were rare, and designing appropriate tasks was difficult. Now, years later, my students and I have developed innovative solutions for studying brain function in patients and neurologically healthy observers, both in the laboratory and the fMRI scanner. We are working to understand the neural mechanisms of naturalistic vision – how real-world solid objects are represented and processed in the brain, and how responses differ when we look at computerized images of objects, or as 3-D holograms using virtual reality. Our research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Like the mental chess of rock climbing, research requires perseverance, focus and problem-solving. For me, research isn’t work; it is a chance to explore and answer exciting questions at the frontier of science.”

Learn more about Jacquie Snow.

Sarah Cowie, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Anthropology

“When working with Native American students and communities, I learn more than I teach. Maybe that’s an odd thing for a professor to say, but it’s true. My earliest interests in archaeology emerged from watching adventure movies and strolling through my rural hometown’s countryside, looking at collapsed barns and derelict bridges, and poking at old artifacts on the ground. In college, I studied anthropology, and specifically archaeology: a field that blends STEM and humanistic work to interpret the material remains of past human activities. Archaeology is invigorating in its capacity to employ various disciplines to understand the past.

As I was finishing my Ph.D. in anthropology and conducting archaeology on federally managed lands, I began working with – and learning from – Native American communities. As a non-Native person myself, I seriously began to question how archaeology should (and shouldn’t) be conducted. Now at the University of Nevada, Reno, Native students, colleagues, and elders teach me about the inseparability of past, present, and future. They explain how past processes of colonialism still have negative impacts on indigenous communities today. Many urge caution about how archaeological excavation disturbs the earth, “breaking though time,” as one elder described it to me. If we are not careful, we risk erasing or distorting Native peoples’ histories on the land; this is understood as modern-day colonialism.

When archaeologists do research on Native American heritage, we must do so with Native peoples and with indigenous values in mind, and with decolonized methods that don’t exploit people’s heritage for academic benefit. These are lessons I never learned as a student. Here at the University of Nevada, Reno, I am fortunate to work with Native American students and communities to improve archaeological research and teaching. Together, we can show that collaborative and participatory archaeology with, by, and for Native communities produces innovative, ethical, and rigorous understandings of heritage.”

Learn more about Sarah Cowie.