Tech Talk

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science, medical and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.

Tricky Transmission

University of Arizona Health Science Researchers are beginning to investigate factors into the secondary transmission of COVID and flu. The Arizona Household Virus Study is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Respiratory Virus Transmission Network. The Network is interested in investigating if vaccines reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and influenza. “It will help us understand transmission rates in households as well as risk factors that influence transmission, such as household size, composition, and vaccination status,” Dr. Kate Ellingson said in a press release. Ellingson is the assistant research professor in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Ellingson and Dr. Karen Lutrick from UA College of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine are leading the study. The study will look deeper into transmission factors such as vaccination status, virus characteristics and day-to-day factors like physical and behavioral characteristics. Tucson community members can participate in the study and may be compensated for their time. Participants who quality should have tested positive for COVID or influenza in the last six days; lived with someone who is not yet sick and who lived with you 10 days prior to testing positive, and can read English or Spanish. Interested people should contact a study coordinator at 520-621-8357. “Dr. Ellingson and Dr. Lutrick are the ideal researchers to lead the Arizona portion of this vital national CDC study,” Iman Hakim, Dean of the Zuckerman College of Public Health said in a press release. “They bring experience and expertise to the job, including current experience working on COVID-19 research with the CDC.”

Preparing for an Asteroid Apocalypse

It is well-known in the scientific community that dinosaurs were effectively wiped out by the aftereffects of an asteroid impact/and or massive volcanic eruptions. Geological evidence suggests that these events led to worldwide environmental change and dinosaurs were no more. If the extinction was caused by an asteroid, humans are not safe from experiencing a similar fate. To address this otherworldly threat, scientists from all over the world are testing new reaction programs to deter an asteroid from entering the earth’s atmosphere. Some of these astronomers work at the University of Arizona and recently did a mock exercise of the International Asteroid Warning Network’s reaction to an incoming asteroid. The mock exercise was used with the Apophis asteroid’s close orbit around Earth. UA researchers detected the asteroid and logged its trajectory through the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey. UA’s detection and other scientists around the world leaped into action to make more measurements to investigate risk. “This real-world scientific input stress-tested the entire planetary defense response chain, from initial detection to orbit determination to measuring the asteroid’s physical characteristics, and even determining if, and where, it might hit Earth,” Vishnu Reddy, associate professor at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said in a press release.

Hacking Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is one of the most important features of an online business in the modern age. In the last year, major companies like Microsoft, Facebook and even the Federal government were hacked and the personal data of millions of citizen were stolen. To address this national issue, UA scientists began a startup company called BG Networks to bring UA tech to the public. The creators include electrical and computer engineering professor Roman Lysecky, professor of electrical and computer engineering Jerzy Rozenblit, graduate student Aakarsh Rao, former graduate student researcher Nadir Carreon, and professor Johannes Sametinger of Joannes Kepler University Linz in Austria. The technology works in two parts; a security automation tool, and embedded security software.