NIMBioS Evaluation Services Now Available

NIMBioS uses a systems-based model for evaluation. The CIPP approach considers the organization as a whole, assessing the quality and significance of outcomes while still examining the inputs and processes that lead to these outcomes.

NIMBioS uses a systems-based approach for evaluation, one that considers the organization as a whole, assessing the quality and significance of outcomes while also examining the inputs and processes.

NIMBioS is pleased to now offer its considerable experience and expertise in providing external evaluation services to the STEM research and education sector, with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary programs. Under the guidance of Pamela Bishop (Ph.D., Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement), NIMBioS Evaluation Services provides independent, rigorous and transparent formative and summative evaluation services targeted to the unique goals of the program under evaluation.

Dr. Pamela Bishop NIMBioS Evaluation Manager

Dr. Pamela Bishop
NIMBioS Evaluation Manager

With expertise in evaluation theory, design and implementation, the NIMBioS evaluation team is capable of evaluating large-scale projects to optimize decision-making and to untangle the complexity of program dynamics in order to understand how and why the project works (or doesn’t work) for whom.

NIMBioS carries out extensive evaluations of the variety of activities it supports, which has led to peer-reviewed publications on the methods used at NIMBioS to foster interdisciplinary research and education. NIMBioS uses a systems-based approach to program evaluation of center-scale effectiveness, with particular emphasis on assessing the impacts of NIMBioS in developing cross-disciplinary collaborations and research. More than 150 systematic evaluations of NIMBioS activities and events have been conducted.

You can read more about NIMBioS Evaluation Services at http://www.nimbios.org/about/evaluation

NIMBioS also provides all of its evaluation reports online. Read our evaluation reports from all NIMBioS activities, including Working Group meetings, Investigative Workshops, Tutorials, and Education and Outreach Events.

To explore your options for evaluation with NIMBioS Evaluation Services, contact Pamela Bishop at (865) 974-9348) or pambishop@nimbios.org

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Fireflies, Farms, Food: NIMBioS SRE 2015 Underway!

The 2015 SRE's at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The 2015 SRE’s at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The 2015 NIMBioS Summer Research Experpience (SRE) for undergraduates and teachers just wrapped up its third whirlwind week. Already participants have gone on the annual pilgrimage to see the synchronous fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, eaten yummy food at welcome parties and barbecues, and taken part in tutorials on programming, mathematical modeling in life sciences, 3D printing and more. All have gotten off to a great start on their research projects. The eight week program is sure to go by too fast!

SRE's at the welcome party, for many of them their first night in Knoxville!

SRE’s at the welcome party, for many of them their first night in Knoxville.

The Invasive Species group meets with their mentors.

The Invasive Species group meets with their mentors.

The host-pathogen and tuberculosis SRE groups tour a local dairy farm to learn about how cattle are managed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The Host-Pathogen and Tuberculosis SRE groups tour a local dairy farm to learn about how cattle are managed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

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Productive Working Group Leads to Special Issue

MAP Working Group, Meeting 4. (L to R): Vitaly Ganusov, Maia Martcheva, Gesham Magombedze, Eiichi Momotani, Yrjö Gröhn , Shigetoshi Eda, Yoram Louzoun, Srindand Sreevatsan, Don Klinkenberg, Suzanne Lenhart, Ad Koets, Ynte Schukken.

MAP Working Group, Meeting 4. (L to R): Vitaly Ganusov, Maia Martcheva, Gesham Magombedze, Eiichi Momotani, Yrjö Gröhn, Shigetoshi Eda, Yoram Louzoun, Srindand Sreevatsan, Don Klinkenberg, Suzanne Lenhart, Ad Koets, Ynte Schukken

The Within-host Modeling of MAP Infection Working Group has had an extremely productive few years and its work has paid off in a dedicated special issue this month of the journal Veterinary Research. Ten of the twelve papers in the issue were produced by the Working Group.

The Working Group on MAP, which stands for Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, held its first meeting at NIMBioS in June 2012 and wrapped up after the fourth meeting in July last year. The group comprises 16 members from diverse fields, including mathematics, statistics, epidemiology, immunology, microbiology and optimal control and is co-organized by Ynte H. Schukken, Cornell Univ.; Ad Koets, Utrecht Univ.; Srinand Sreevatsan, Univ. of Minnesota; Maia Martcheva, Univ. of Florida; and Shigetoshi Eda, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The Working Group was established following a successful Investigative Workshop on the topic held in the summer of 2011. The chief objective of the Working Group was to develop a within-host MAP infection model, using observational data on infection patterns and within-host immune response data. Ultimately, the model aimed to provide an understanding of the progression of and mitigation strategies for Johne’s disease in ruminants, which is caused by intestinal infection of the bacterial pathogen MAP. JD causes reduction of milk production, weight loss, and premature culling of clinically affected animals. JD has been found in more than two-thirds of US dairy herds and causes the US dairy industry an estimated annual loss of hundred millions of dollars.

The special issue of Veterinary Research published this month is a compilation of work that explores and connects MAP dynamics at multiple levels.

Congratulations to this hard-working and productive Group!

If you are interested in seeking support for your research and would like to propose a Working Group or Investigative Workshop, the next deadline for support is September 1. Full details on what categories of support NIMBioS provides as well as proposal information can be found at http://www.nimbios.org/research/

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NIMBioS Welcomes New Researchers

(From left) Nels Johnson, Megan Rua, Quentin Johnson

(From left) Nels Johnson, Megan Rúa, Quentin Johnson

We’re excited to announce our new postdoctoral and sabbatical fellows who will bring their research to NIMBioS this summer and fall.

New postdoctoral fellows include:

Nels Johnson joins NIMBioS in June following a postdoctoral fellowship at Colorado State Univ. where he has been focused on the Great Plains Methane project investigating communities of methane consuming soil bacteria. At NIMBioS, Johnson will develop new, flexible community models for addressing the impact that diversity and community structure have on ecosystem function and for better understanding the biodiversity of communities across environmental gradients and traits.

Quentin Johnson joins NIMBioS in August after completing his Ph.D. in Life Science/Genome Science and Technology at the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville. His project centers on developing a high-throughput mathematical and computational model to identify allostery and the mechanism by which the allosteric signal is initiated and propagated in the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor and retinoid X receptor complex, which are proteins involved in preventing growth of cancer cells.

Megan Rúa is currently an NSF postdoctoral research fellow in biology at the Univ. of Mississippi where she is conducting a 1200 seedling experiment. Starting in August, her research at NIMBioS will focus on using selective source analysis (SSA) to estimate selection due to interspecific interactions and other sources and will also involve employing meta-analysis in conjunction with SSA to examine these relationships across a broad array of hosts and their mycorrhiza.

New sabbatical fellows are as follows:

Charles Price, an assistant professor of plant biology at the Univ. of Western Australia, will work on a project to understand the physical drivers of allometric patterns in trees. Price begins his fellowship in June.

Richard Schugart, an assistant professor of mathematics at Western Kentucky Univ., begins his fellowship in August to investigate optimal treatment protocols for a bacterial infection of a wound using oxygen therapy.

And joining NIMBioS in February 2016 as a sabbatical fellow is Glenn Ledder, a professor of mathematics at the Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln, whose project involves dynamic energy budget modeling and multi-component systems.

The next deadline for applying for a postdoctoral fellowship and a sabbatical fellowship is September 1.

 

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Workshop to Support Research Collaboration Between Junior and Senior Women

Wiki_Women_Editors_Project_-_Opening_Meeting_6-1024x753

Yet another barrier facing women in academia is that senior women faculty are less likely to collaborate with junior women. A study in Current Biology found evidence for this in the field of psychology, a field getting very close to gender parity. NIMBioS’ Research Collaboration Workshop for Women in the Mathematical Biology, coming in June, will support the efforts of a group of women committed to help change this.

Eight senior women researchers in math and biology will lead four teams of  four to five women postdocs, junior faculty, and advanced graduate students on projects that are expected to continue after the workshop and lead to a joint publication.

Seventy-five researchers in mathematics and biology applied to the workshop, showing there is a great demand for opportunities like this one. Only 18 applicants were selected, the size limited to encourage the quality of the interactions among the participants.

Some of the collaborations will be international, with participants from Europe and Asia.

The research projects include:

The workshop structure, with leaders, projects and working groups planned in advance, is intended to be bi-directional, such that senior women will meet, mentor, and collaborate with the brightest young women in their field on a part of their research agenda of their choosing, and junior women (tenure track faculty, post-docs and advanced graduate students) will develop their network of colleagues and supporters and encounter important new research areas to work in, thereby improving their chances for successful research careers.

The format of this workshop was modeled after the highly successful WhAM! Research Collaboration Workshop for Women in Applied Mathematics held at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) in September 2013.

 

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NIMBioS Undergrads – Where are They Now?

Just a few of the graduate institutions, companies, and scholarships our past REU and SRE students have mentioned so far.

Just a few of the graduate institutions, companies, and scholarships our past REU and SRE students have mentioned so far.

NicoleBender_penguins_croppedvert

Former SRE Nicole Bender conducts penguin consensus work in Antarctica as a part of her doctoral work at Stony Brook Univ.

Their lives once converged here for a summer research experience at NIMBioS, but now our undergraduate alumni study pipets at Stony Brook University, viral evolution at UCLA, and computational ecology at the University of Oregon, among many other experiences. NIMBioS has recently begun to reach out to the alumni of our undergraduate research experience programs, now called the Summer Research Experiences (SRE) program, to find out their post-college graduation plans and endeavors.

“I can say that the REU experience has greatly contributed to a successful application and start at the University of Oxford,” wrote 2012 REU alumna Annet Westhoek, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Systems Biology at the University of Oxford where she models the interactions between legumes and their nitrogen-fixing symbionts.

John Shamshoian, 2014 SRE alumnus, plans to start a PhD program in biostatistics at UCLA in the fall. “I’m proud to say NIMBioS’ SRE program helped make this possible and will ease the transition to grad school having done some research already.”

“Things are going well,” wrote Kiersten Utsey, 2013 REU alumna, now working on her PhD in Math Biology at the University of Utah, “and my experience at NIMBioS definitely helped prepare me for graduate school!”

With six cohorts of REU/REV/SRE students since 2009 and many long since graduated, catching up with all 115 of them is a considerable challenge. If you are one of our alumni reading this, we want to hear from you! Let us know what you’re up to — whether you are in graduate school, working, backpacking Central America or writing your memoir, please drop a note to Kelly (Moran) Sturner at kmoran@nimbios.org.

We’re fortunate to have worked with such great students over the years, and it’s always extra nice to feel the appreciation back. Many students sent kind words when they reported their activities to us. Brittany Boribong, 2014 REU alumna, on her fall plans to start a PhD program at Virginia Tech in Genetics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, wrote, “I couldn’t have done this without … everyone at NIMBioS.”

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Fractals and Fruit Flies Win Awards at Regional Science Fair

A cardboard cutout advertising the Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair

A cardboard cutout advertising the Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair

NIMBioS awarded its annual prizes for Research at the Interface of Mathematics and Biology last month to budding young scientists and mathematicians at the Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair. The junior prize went to Piper Halcrow and Olivia Ricche from St. Mary’s Catholic School, the team responsible for “Mutant vs. Wild: Who Will Survive.” Their project was a careful analysis of mutant and wild fruit fly responses to different concentrations of organic compounds. Hunter Vallejos of Oak Ridge High School took home the senior prize for his project: “1/f Power Spectra and Fractals in the Heart” in which he investigated different kinds of noise in electrocardiogram signal data.

 

NIMBioS Graduate Assistant Jason Bintz and Education & Outreach Intern Virginia Parkman assisted with the judging. Awardees received certificates and cash prizes.

"Mutant vs. Wild: Who Will Survive" received the Junior NIMBioS Prize at the science fair.

“Mutant vs. Wild: Who Will Survive” received the Junior NIMBioS Prize at the science fair.

NIMBioS also assisted in judging two other special awards: the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) award and the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society award. The AWIS award went to Pittman Center Elementary student Alexis Valentine for her project, “Bat Chat (Using Echolocation to Determine White Nose Syndrome Effects).” The Mu Alpha Theta award also went to Hunter Vallejos.

 

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NIMBioS Postdocs Join the Mammal March Madness Fun!

NIMBioS Postdocs and staff imitate the animal they chose to win while displaying their March Mammal Madness 2015 brackets

Some of the more competitive “NIMBiods” imitate the animal they chose to win while displaying their March Mammal Madness 2015 brackets

NIMBioS postdoctoral fellows and staff participated in the March Mammal Madness this year, a wildly popular scientific take on the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Championship Tournament. In March Mammal Madness, mammals, and even some mythical creatures, compete in computer simulated rounds for the title of champion.

As the March Mammal Madness website explains, “battle outcome is a function of the two species’ attributes within the battle environment. Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, fight style, and other fun facts that are relevant to the outcome. These are one on one- head to head combat situations- um except for the mythical mammals that have multiple heads. Some random error has been introduced into calculating battle outcome & the amount of that error is scaled to the disparity in rankings between combatants.”

This year’s victor was the Sumatran Rhino after a fierce final battle with the Dwarf Mongoose. Hmm, guess that was Goliath vs. Cuteness.

The action was followed closely on Twitter. #2015MMM

Unfortunately, while none of the NIMBioS participants was successful in picking the winner, all had a blast following the rounds and engaging in some healthy competition (and trash talk) along the way.

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Congratulations to the New Participants of SRE 2015!

2014 SRE students are interviewed about their research by the media.

2014 SRE students are interviewed about their research by the media.

NIMBioS is pleased to announce the 17 participants selected for its highly competitive 2015 Summer Research Experience (SRE) program for undergraduates and teachers. Participants were selected from a pool of more than 150 applicants. The program runs for eight weeks, from June 8-July 31. Participants will come to NIMBioS on the Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus to work in teams with NIMBioS postdocs and UT faculty on research at the interface of mathematics and biology.

2015 SRE participants and their assigned team projects are as follows:

Ashley Dantzler (Mathematics, Univ. of Tennessee, Chattanooga); Margaux Hujoel (Mathematics & Computational Biology, Harvey Mudd College); Virginia Parkman (Mathematics, Univ. of Tennessee); and Ayana Wild (Computer Science & Mathematics, Tennessee State Univ.) will work on a project to model canine distemper.

Talon Johnson (Mathematics, Morehouse College); Januka Khanal (Biology, Southeastern Univ.); Michael Rohly (Mathematics & Biology, Columbus State Univ.); and Nick Sirek (Honors Biology & Geology Teacher, L&N STEM Academy, Knoxville, TN) will explore stressors in host-pathogen interactions.

Ashish Gauli (Biology, Fisk Univ.); Nathan Wikle (Mathematics, Truman State Univ.); and Ryan Yan (Mathematical Biology, College of William and Mary) will investigate invasive species movements through global shipping routes.

Mariel Bedell (Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon Univ.); Yilin Lin (Applied Mathematics, Emory Univ.); and Emmie Melendez (Mathematics, Univ. of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez) will model the distribution of fluid pressure in the kidney.

Riley Mummah (Biology, Statistics & Mathematics, The Pennsylvania State Univ.); Diya Sashidhar (Applied Mathematics, North Carolina State Univ.); and Jinchuan Wei (Science, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities) will develop mathematical models of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in mice.

 

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Bat Monitoring Working Group Receives ‘Wings Across the Americas’ Award

The North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) working group was hosted by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, Tenn., to design a program for coordinated bat monitoring across North America. Front row: (L to R) Tushar Kansal, Laura Ellison, Susan Loeb, Tom Rodhouse, Kathi Irvine, Subhash Lele, Robin Russell, Cori Lausen. Back Row: (L to R) Tom Ingersoll, John Reichard, Matthew Clement, Tom Stanley, Wayne Thogmartin, Doug Johnson,Tom Hallam , Patrick Field, and John Sauer.

Bat conservation researchers and their partners associated with a NIMBioS Working Group were recognized yesterday with the U.S. Forest Service Wings Across the Americas Research Award for their contributions to the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat).

The award was accepted on behalf of the US Geological Survey contributions to NABat by Anne Kinsinger, USGS associate director for Ecosystems, at the North American Wildlife Resources Conference in Omaha, NE.  USGS partners also recognized were the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bat Conservation International, Bat Conservation Trust, Canadian Wildlife Service, University of California, University of Alberta and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Research on bats is important not only because they are vital to the well-being of ecosystems, but also it is in the best interest of the economy due to the importance of bats for pest control and pollination of native and agricultural plants,” Kinsinger said.

Wings Across the Americas is an international program of the U.S. Forest Service that works with a wide range of partners here in the United States and overseas to conserve habitats and populations of birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies. The award recognizes outstanding conservation work by U.S. Forest Service and partner agencies.

The novelty of the NABat program is a vision for collaborative monitoring of an imperiled species group with a sound statistical underpinning allowing for species distribution modeling across broad geographic regions. Researchers provide expertise on statistical survey design, statistical analysis of bat acoustic and colony count data and database development informed by experience with many wildlife species such as bats, birds and amphibians.

NABat was developed in conjunction with specialists from other agencies, universities and NGOs in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico in response to growing concerns over threats to bats from continuing and emerging stressors including habitat loss and fragmentation, white-nose syndrome, wind energy development and climate change.  There are currently no national programs to monitor and track bat populations in North America, and NABat seeks to assist in development of such programs that will provide managers and policy makers with the information they need to effectively manage bat populations, detect early warning signs of population declines and estimate extinction risk.

Efforts to date include four workshops and discussions supported by NIMBioS and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives National Council to develop a national monitoring program. The workshops were attended by scientists and researchers from multiple agencies including FWS, USGS, USFS, NPS, University of Calgary and the Canadian Wildlife Service.  The framework for NABat, “A Plan for a North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)” will be published in May 2015.

 

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