The College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Arizona (UA) boasts an extensive education and research portfolio that explores topics from soil sciences to resource management; water studies to outer space. With 14 undergraduate and over 50 graduate programs spanning four schools and six departments, CALS’ research covers almost every aspect of natural life in the world today, playing a pivotal role in Arizona’s and the global economy since its inception 131-years ago.
The university itself is uniquely located in the southern Arizona desert, where students are challenged to create and develop new ideas across scientific disciplines that tackle some of the planet’s most pressing issues. Experiential learning is at the heart of UA’s research, forming the basis of the institution’s 100% Engagement initiative.
This innovative initiative complements the world-class education on offer at CALS, propelling students towards a successful career, graduate school or entrepreneurial goals – all before graduation. Here, experiences are based on a specific student interests and goals, providing invaluable and relevant insight into how a UA degree can evolve into a successful career.
It was recently announced that UA had placed in the top 0.3 percent of more than 27,000 higher education institutions worldwide by the Center for World University Rankings, while the University’s study of Water Resources was named in the top three institutions globally.
An example of such leading research is the work the College does to protect the world’s shrimp industry through its Aquaculture Pathology Lab. Here, scientists work alongside commercial shrimp farming enterprises, research institutions and nongovernmental organisations from across the world to recognise and diagnose infectious diseases in samples delivered direct to the university. The lab also certifies stock for the industry, tests feed ingredients, conducts research and trains shrimp disease specialists. Through a mutual relationship that sees clients pay for these services, the lab helps maintain the biosecurity of their products and ultimately, the health and profitability of the global shrimp industry.
This demonstrates the powerful research enterprise that encompasses life at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which is committed to advancing scientific knowledge and driving economic growth in the fields of environment, energy and natural resources, plant, insect and microbe systems, health and food safety, families and communities, animal systems and commerce.
Graduate students are presented with a plethora of certificate, master’s and Ph.D. programs to choose from, each offering unique opportunities to work with award-winning faculty and field experts from around the globe. The graduate programs here are consistently ranked among the top 50 institutions in the US, with the Aquaculture and Soil, Water and Environmental Science programs reaching the top 21 percent nationally.
For the Soil, Water and Environmental Science graduate programs specifically, students are offered a choice between two tracks – “Environmental Science” or “Soil and Water Science”. Students here regularly enrol in non-SWES courses as part of their program, demonstrating the multi-disciplinary characteristics of the SWES program. The department also offers dual degrees with an MA in Journalism, or an MBA from the Eller College of Management. Graduates from these dual degrees are able to make important contributions to discussions within news organizations about the ways in which scientific information should be gathered and evaluated, as well as discussions in the fields of science and journalism about the ways in which this information influences and affects society today.
Student presentations and publications are encouraged at CALS, while a host of workshops on topics ranging from the internet to scientific writing are regularly available. In addition to graduate-sponsored activities, departments also regularly organise events, such as picnics and weekly seminars – providing students with several opportunities to meet and socialise with colleagues.
Research work at UA is consistently recognised by global institutions as fundamental to the development and sustainment of our planet. The National Science Foundation recently funded an ongoing five-year project totalling more than US$7 million, to study how the maize kernel develops during the first 16 days after pollination, when it is most susceptible to drought and other stresses. This fundamental research will help shed new light on the developmental mechanisms of this important food crop, which could lead to strategies to increase agricultural yields in the context of shrinking arable land, major changes in the climate and the fast-growing global population.
This forms just a small portion of the cutting-edge research that is undertaken at the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Dean Shane Burgess highlights further fields of study in his welcome speech for the department: “Our faculty are developing a vaccine for one of the most common and devastating causes of acute human gastroenteritis; sequencing the rice genome to feed the world; providing teachers for 21st century bioeconomy jobs; engineering life-support systems to colonize Mars; and partnering with industry to deliver research on the role emerging digital technologies play in the marketplace.
“In addition, and unique to any other college in any Arizona university, we host Arizona’s federally mandated Extension programs, reaching nearly 800,000 people each year. Programs in wildfire mitigation, early childhood literacy and integrated pest management are just a few of these programs driving growth in Arizona’s economy—generating jobs, facilitating local economic development, saving taxpayers millions in medical costs and supporting Arizona industries.