‘Catalyst’ research TV show produced by ASU students returns to Arizona PBS

“Catalyst” is back.

The scientific program that explores cutting-edge research at Arizona State University and its potential impact on the community begins its second season in February. Produced by ASU students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the show returns Wednesdays at 9 p.m. beginning Feb. 13 on Arizona PBS.

Supported by ASU Office of Knowledge and Enterprise Development Research, the 30-minute program explores interdisciplinary research initiatives happening at the university, including the environment, human behavior, sustainability and urban planning among other topics.

“Catalyst” is hosted by Cronkite Professor of Practice Vanessa Ruiz, a former co-lead anchor for 12 News, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix.

“Every episode, we are visiting different locations throughout the Valley, exploring these incredible research and technology breakthroughs,” she said. “Our viewers have already made it clear how much they love the show, and I can’t wait to show them what we have in store with these new episodes.”

Cronkite students work under the direction of Professor of Practice Steve Filmer, an award-winning television producer whose works include “ABC World News Tonight” and “Good Morning America.” Under his guidance, students receive valuable experiences in storytelling, research, videography, editing, writing and production.

Filmer said this season features more segments with both Ruiz and researchers filmed on location.

“You’ll be seeing more of our scientists and researchers out of the lab and into the world,” Filmer said.

Segments include ASU School of Life Sciences researchers who visit the Phoenix Zoo to study cancer rates among larger animals, as well as an ASU molecular biologist who visits the Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, to draw a connection between “biological engines” and cars.

ASU students from the School of Music as well as the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, who collaborated with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to help map movements and sounds of migration animals and their habitats to help local government agencies build accommodating infrastructure.

Students and researchers from ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, explored ways that buildings and other infrastructure in Mexico are built for comfort and resilience in extreme heat.

Additionally, School of Music students created a new musical score for the show opening as well as various episode segments.

Following a successful 13-episode first season last summer, students at the Cronkite School, the home of Arizona PBS, began working on a second season of production last fall as part of the school’s professional immersion program. The Cronkite School has more than a dozen professional programs in which students work in professional settings, producing high-quality content that serves the public under the guidance of faculty.

Cronkite School Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan said the show supports the station’s mission of promoting lifelong learning, while also providing real-world experiences for students at the Cronkite School.

“‘Catalyst’ showcases the exciting research happening at the country’s most innovative university,” Callahan said. “To have students from across ASU collaborating on this program exemplifies the unparalleled experiences offered at this school.”

Feb. 13

A neuroscientist tracks brain activity in middle-aged men diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as they age. Their families hope it will help them prepare for challenges faced later in life.

Feb. 20

Biologists install digital cameras and microphones around wild habitats to observe how endangered animals migrate through them. By mapping their movements conservationists can advise governments how to build infrastructure that protects them. Plus, explore the Acoustic Ecology Lab.

Feb. 27

Evolution has programmed incredible abilities into the genetic codes of Earth’s unique animals. Biologists look at animal genes, behavior, and cell structure to see how they’ve overcome health problems still faced by humans. Explore lizard and human cell regrowth, ant antibiotics and the gila monster genome.

March 20

How do city planners and engineers use innovative designs and materials to build living spaces that are comfortable and energy efficient? Historians map an ancient Mexican city to learn its buried secrets, while engineers test modern buildings and playgrounds to test their resilience and comfort under high heat.

March 27

“Catalyst” explores new strategies for preventing sports concussions. We’ll meet former student-athlete Stephanie Cahill who’s now a concussion advocate. Go inside manufacturers that are designing safer football helmets, while sociologists Steve Corman and Yanquin Liu, who are making a documentary about reporting injuries among athletes. We’ll also chat with ASU football team doctor Dr. Ankiar Chhabra and discuss long-term side effects of CTE with Dr. Diego Mastroeni.

April 3

Automotive engineering students from Sun Devil Motorsports build a Formula race car from scratch for a national design competition. NASCAR mechanics create engine parts in a 3D printer, climatologists track the rapid rise of car interior temperatures during summertime and a psychologist simulates bad driving behavior to help program safety software into autonomous vehicles.

April 10

Biochemists test a cancer prevention vaccine for dogs; A computational biologist explains how elephants have genes that destroy cancer before it spreads; A computer scientist uses social media data to help victims of natural disasters communicate with rescuers; A glassblower shapes custom goblets and tools for science laboratories.

April 17

(See Feb. 13)

April 24

(See Feb. 20)

May 1

(See Feb. 27)

May 8

(See March 20)

May 15

NASA’s DAWN orbiter uses an ion engine to survey dwarf planet Ceres and the asteroid Vesta; Astrophysicists launch a balloon carrying a 5,000-pound telescope into the stratosphere over Antarctica; NASA tests its Orion parachute system over an Army bombing range; A geologist examines rock samples and oxygen molecules to study planet Earth’s “Great Oxidation Event” 2.5 billion years ago.

May 22

Examine gadgets that can improve our safety and strength: drones to help search-and-rescue operations, nanotech that’s helping fight tuberculosis and an ASU lab that’s in a race against other infections and infectious diseases.

May 29

Evolution has programmed incredible abilities into the genetic codes of Earth’s unique animals. Biologists look at animal genes, behavior, and cell structure to see how they’ve overcome health problems still faced by humans.

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