Vaccines, Asteroids and Puppies: The Top Stories of 2021 – University of Arizona Provost

University Communications


2021 so far

University of Arizona researchers are making waves in 2021 – and the year is only halfway over.

Whether it’s transforming the campus into a high-capacity COVID-19 vaccination site or casting mirrors that will help astronomers peer into the deepest corners of the universe, UArizona scientists and scholars have left a lasting impact on the world this year.

Here are some of the university’s top stories of 2021 so far:

COVID-19 Vaccinations Begin at UArizona: Jan. 19

For more than six months, the University of Arizona served as a point of distribution for COVID-19 vaccinations, administering nearly a quarter of a million doses. UArizona began in January as the designated distribution point for the Phase 1B priority subpopulation of teachers and child care workers before shifting into a high-capacity state vaccination site serving southern Arizona in February. (The Associated Press, The Washington Post, USA Today)

OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft is Headed Home with Asteroid Sample: May 10

After nearly five years in space, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from near-Earth asteroid Bennu. (The New York Times, CNN, International Business Times)

Puppies are Wired to Communicate With People, Study Shows: June 3

Dogs may have earned the title “man’s best friend” because of how good they are at interacting with people. Those social skills may be present shortly after birth rather than learned, a study by University of Arizona researchers suggests. (BBC, NBC News, AFP France)

Sixth Mirror Casting Brings Giant Magellan Telescope Closer to Completion: March 5

Underneath the stands of Arizona Stadium, engineers with UArizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab manufacture the world’s largest and most lightweight telescope mirrors. At the center of the process is a giant spinning furnace, the only one of its kind. (NPR’s Science Friday, Engadget, Axios)

Engineers Propose Solar-Powered Lunar Ark as ‘Global Insurance Policy’: March 8

University of Arizona researcher Jekan Thanga is taking scientific inspiration from an unlikely source: the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark. Rather than two of every animal, however, his solar-powered ark on the moon would store cryogenically frozen seed, spore, sperm and egg samples from 6.7 million Earth species. (CBS News, CNN, Daily Mail)

Most Distant Quasar Discovered Sheds Light on How Black Holes Grow: Jan. 12

A team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona has observed the most distant quasar to date. Fully formed just 670 million years after the Big Bang and powered by the earliest known supermassive black hole, the quasar provides insight into the formation of massive galaxies in the early universe. (USA Today, CBS News, CNN)

COVID-19 Vaccine Reduces Severity, Length, Viral Load for Those Who Still Get Infected: July 30

Data from the AZ HEROES study show COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections, and when breakthrough infections do occur, the level of infection and impact of the disease are significantly reduced. (CNN, Fox News, Reuters)

UArizona to Lead Mission to Discover Potentially Dangerous Asteroids: June 11

NASA has tasked Amy Mainzer, an expert in infrared astronomy at the University of Arizona, with leading NEO Surveyor, a mission to find, track and characterize yet unseen asteroids and comets that may pose a threat to Earth. (CNN, LiveScience, iHeartRadio)

Volcanoes on Mars Could be Active, Raising Possibility that Planet was Recently Habitable: May 6

New observations reveal that Mars could still be volcanically active, raising the possibility for habitable conditions below the surface of Mars in recent history. (CNNCBC Canada, Popular Science)

Methane in the Plumes of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus: Possible Signs of Life?: July 6

A study published in Nature Astronomy concludes that known geochemical processes can’t explain the levels of methane measured by the Cassini spacecraft on Saturn’s icy moon. (The Week, Digital Journal, Big Think)

Researchers Find Evidence of a Coronavirus Epidemic 20,000 Years Ago: July 7

Studying the genomes of modern humans from 26 worldwide populations, researchers discovered the genetic “footprint” of an ancient coronavirus outbreak. Studies like this one could help identify viruses that have caused epidemics in the distant past and may do so in the future. (The New York Times, Smithsonian, Business Insider)

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