Martin Cenek, a professor and computer science researcher at UAA, is an expert in artificial intelligence. He and three undergraduates, Lance Leber, Matt Devins and Mike Mobley, are developing a low-power, decentralized and asynchronous monitoring network for the remote arctic. Their goal is to detect events like oil spills, ice breakup, ocean acidification and vessel movement.
The network consists of $10, off-the-shelf computer chips wired into a pegboard. The system is designed to mimic the human brain, with each chip acting like a neuron. Cenek said, “It is called time-dependent neural spiking network. This is what I want to use to drive the intelligence of this network.”
Each chip by itself is a complete computer. Standing alone, it’s pretty dumb. But programmed to talk to each other, they become an intelligent information-gathering and transmission system. Low-powered and capable of functioning in primitive conditions, the network must work easily in environments with no technical infrastructure (say, the Bering Sea icepack).
Cenek has been borrowing paradigms from biology, from neurophysiology, “from whatever we can get our hands on just to make this intelligence work in a similar fashion as our brain works.”
Read more: “Research: Artificial intelligence in the Arctic.”
Inspiration from her beloved grandparents guided Alice Choi toward a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and motivated her to choose dentistry as her future career.
Alice moved from South Korea to join her aunt and grandparents in Anchorage when she was 16 years old, in 2009. After graduating from high school, Alice decided to stay in Anchorage and attend college at UAA because her grandparents and aunt needed her help more than ever: her grandmother’s asthma and diabetes had worsened and her grandfather suffered from dementia, heart disease, diabetes and bladder cancer. They needed her to convey to them, in Korean, what their doctors and nurses were trying to tell them.
Sadness over her grandparents’ declining health and their deaths in 2014 and 2015 shadowed Alice’s first years at UAA, but her memories of them inspired her to help others grow a healthy lifestyle, guided her toward a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences (with leadership honors), and motivated her to choose dentistry as her future career. Alice will attend dental school this fall at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.
“Looking over my past, I think I would not have come this far without challenges in my life,” she said.
“An economist in a zipper sweater doesn’t normally bring to mind a superhero, but these are not normal times.” So begins an Alaska Dispatch News article about Gunnar Knapp, a UAA economics professor and director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research.
Knapp has a knack for explaining complex material in a way that’s easy to understand. This skill, along with his expertise in economics, has put Knapp in high demand during the State of Alaska’s current fiscal crisis.
Through presentations, lectures, online Q-and-As and more, Knapp has helped explain the situation and possible solutions in a way almost anyone can understand—even if they only have a few minutes and little prior knowledge on the subject.
In one popular video, recorded for the same ADN article, Knapp lays out the state’s fiscal picture, including four areas where solutions need to come from. Watch the video to see this superhero in action.
She didn’t steal the spotlight. She earned it.
Most Alaskans wouldn’t link the word opera with Unalakleet, a community of 700 located just at the mouth of its namesake river on Norton Sound. Maybe not–until now. UAA vocal performance student and coloratura soprano Kira Eckenweiler grew up in Unalakleet.
“She’s probably, hands down, the most gifted singer I have ever worked with,” said Mari Hahn, an associate professor of music at UAA. “She’s got depth, strength, courage.”
A rural Alaskan comfortable with subsistence fishing and even calling and shooting her own moose, Kira has grown into an artist. “I want to sing opera for the rest of my life,” she said. “I want to go all around the world, singing opera.”
About 40 percent of University of Alaska Anchorage students are nontraditional. Like many of them, Jonathon Taylor balances a full-time career while earning a degree. Here he explains how he went from an introvert who avoided campus activities to being voted student body president and placing at the international debate championship.
We don’t just study glaciers. We climb them.
The class met at 10 a.m., but there were no desks, no whiteboards, not even any walls. Temperature hovered around -10° F. Everyone was bundled up to his or her eyeballs and only identifiable by the cascading colors of their downy layered jackets. In front of them stood a glacier. Welcome to beginning ice climbing class.
Some say talk is cheap. Not Kyle. He’s a language warrior, tenacious about revitalizing endangered Alaska Native languages. Although he’s Tlingit/Athabascan, he didn’t learn to speak Tlingit until he got to UAA. He has led talking circles on campus and tutored at Anchorage schools. He plans to earn a graduate degree in linguistics because he believes the cultural value of language is priceless.
Alex West, Pursuing M.S. in Civil Engineering, B.S. Civil Engineering ‘11
Staff engineer, PND Engineers
Because bears are bad dinner guests.
When anglers converge in salmon hot spots and discard hundreds of carcasses, it’s like ringing a dinner bell for bears. Alex West tackled this problem in engineering class and became the first UAA student to earn a patent. Her hydropowered fish grinder design disperses fish waste back into the ecosystem, reducing human-bear confrontations. Now that’s homegrown Alaskan innovation.
Who knew the comfort of home could be 756 miles away?
Crystalyn Lemieux’s penchant for pitching in gave her courage when she left her hometown of Haines to launch her college career at UAA. She grew connections through UAA’s Native Student Services, nestled into a warm campus community and thrived in her First Alaskans Institute internship. “I began to feel more comfortable with myself… I created my home away from home.
Ariane Audett, Biological Sciences/Honors College
One day when you go to the doctor’s office, Ariane Audett may walk through the door. Hear how this #UAAmazing student overcame homelessness and freshman year adversity to become a successful biological sciences student and earn a place in the University of Alaska Anchorage’s honors college.
Philippe Amstislavski and his team spent a year experimenting with how to grow insulation from fungus. They found a recipe that worked, and have a patent pending. It could be a home-grown industry in Alaska, he thinks.
What’s special about UAA’s effort, Amstislavski says, is that the fungus used is local, grows fast and can thrive in cold temperatures. It is the essence of a renewable resource for Alaska. Completely nontoxic, it also bypasses all the environmental and health hazards of traditional insulation materials.
Another unusual aspect of the Alaska-grown insulation: It can be used dry (dead, after being baked in an oven) or while still alive. If it is still living, the insulation can “self-heal” by growing back together after being punctured or damaged.
Read more: “Growing insulation from nature.”
Carrie Lindow, M.B.A. ‘04, M.A. Project Management ‘10
President, ChemTrack Alaska Inc.
An Alaskan who knows her place…
and that place is the C-suite.
As president of ChemTrack Alaska Inc., Carrie Lindow leads a team that extracts hazardous materials from the environment. Carrie grew up in Alaska fishing, playing hockey and skiing. Her life’s work ensures her daughter can do the same. UAA helped Carrie find her place. Where’s yours?