NIMBioS awarded $50,000 in scholarships to graduate students from across campus last month, and we’ve got them on video! Check out the recipients of the 2019 Graduate Awards in their video interviews and find out what they’re studying.
As the academic year draws to a close, two laurels go out to NIMBioS Associate Director for Education & Outreach Suzanne Lenhart.
At the end of March, Lenhart was named Disability Champion by UT’s Student Disability Services. Lenhart directs the UT-NIMBioS STEM Alliance and is also a partner of the South East Alliance for Persons with Disabilities in STEM.
Lenhart was nominated by graduate student Larissa Weaver who stated at the Student Disability Services Recognition Dinner: “Dr. Suzanne Lenhart went above and beyond in founding a chapter of Alliance in STEM here at UT. This is a peer-mentoring group for disabled math and biology majors considering pursuing STEM careers. Dr. Lenhart listened to us and educated herself in issues disabled and chronically ill students have when trying to be successful as students and in the academic marketplace. She leads students to conferences and guides them on applying to grad school. I would not be in grad school without Dr. Lenhart.”
The other laurel is for a paper that Lenhart co-authored, which won the 2019 Rollie Lamberson Research Award Medal from the Resource Modeling Association. “Assessing the economic trade-offs between prevention and suppression of forest fires,” published in the journal Natural Resources Modeling, explores the trade‐offs between prevention management spending and wildfire suppression spending. The results support the conclusion that prevention management efforts offset rising suppression costs and increase the value of a forest.
A successful spring for Dr. Lenhart. Congratulations!
NIMBioS is pleased to announce the 18 participants selected for its highly competitive 2019 Summer Research Experience (SRE) program. Participants were selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants from around the country. The program runs for eight weeks, from June 4 – July 26, 2019.
Participants will come to NIMBioS on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus to work in teams with NIMBioS postdocs and UT faculty on six research projects at the interface of mathematics and biology.
2019 SRE participants and their assigned team projects are as follows:
Eniola Adewunmi (Mathematical Biology, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville), Ambrose Bechtel (Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville) and Giovanni Colon Cabezudo (Mathematics, Univ. of Puerto Rico) will collaborate on a project to explore the biochemical pathways for aerotaxis in motile bacteria.
Ellie Lochner (Mathematics, Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire), Brandyn Ruiz (Statistics and Applied Math, Arizona State Univ.), and Abigail Williams, (Biology & Mathematics, Salem College) will team up on a project to identify areas where climate change is reshaping the potential redistribution of animal populations and thus human-wildlife interactions.
Priscilla Cho (Chemistry, Emory Univ.), Lucas Flet (Mathematics, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville), and Margaret Knight (Mathematics, Colorado College) will work on a project investigating viral infection rates of marine phytoplankton.
Cassandra Azeredo-Tseng (Biochemistry and Applied Math, New College of Florida), Michael Luo (Applied Mathematics, The College of New Jersey), and Natalie Randall (Math and Computer Science, Austin College) will team up on a project to model cell differentiation and the influence it plays in cancer pathogenesis.
Vincent Jodoin (Mathematics: Education, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville), Sheridan Payne (Mathematics, Bellamine Univ.), and Meagan Todd (Systems Biology, Virginia Tech) will work on a project to model networking and the opioid epidemic.
Brandon Grandison (Mathematics and Environmental Science, Univ. of Florida), Ana Kilgore (Organismal Biology & Ecology, Colorado College), and Hannah Yin (Biology, Tufts Univ.) will work on a project to model the impact of shifting climate on co-evolution in vectorborne diseases.
NIMBioS and DySoC (the Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity) along with several UT groups across campus were fortunate to host Baba Brinkman this week for some spectacular educational rap.
Baba’s first performance occurred at the end of the first full day of the DySoC/NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on Social Norms. While still sitting in their seats in the classroom, about 40 scholars from fields diverse as anthropology, economics, neurobiology, psychology and more heard some of the themes of the day in a “rap up,” which Baba wrote and performed after sitting in on the workshop, keenly attuned to the day’s discussions and masterfully taking great notes, obviously. Baba’s performance delved into topics such as the psychological experience of a social norm, social motivations in choice, collective action, and even India’s “theater of the oppressed.”
Whatever he learned on the first day — no doubt a fire hose of scholarly information — he brought to bear in the evening’s public performance, the world premiere of his “Rap Guide to Culture.” The performance included several tracks accompanied with a slideshow as well as audience interaction where Baba rapped “freestyle,” improvising based on audience responses to questions. Still finalizing the rap as he went along, or as Baba would say employing “performance, feedback, revision,” Baba will perform the show this summer at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.
The “Rap Guide to Culture” can now be added to his impressive collection of guides, including rap guides to Evolution, Human Nature, Business, Wilderness, Religion, Medicine, Climate Change, and Consciousness.
Baba’s visit was also sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Music, the Departments of Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology, the Office of Research and Engagement, and the Campus Events Board.
We were delighted to have Baba back at NIMBioS. He was last here seven years ago as a Songwriter-in-Residence. His original songs written while at NIMBioS include “Welcome to NIMBioS,” “Rising Up,” and “Mad Scientist.” “Welcome to NIMBioS” is a rap-up of the visit by the National Science Foundation during its site review of NIMBioS, which occurred while Baba was in residence in April 2012, and features “an intro” by NIMBioS Director Louis Gross. Listen to the raps at http://www.nimbios.org/songwriter.
For more than a decade,
since the institute was established under a cooperative agreement with the
National Science Foundation, NIMBioS has supported graduate students, providing
over 50 student-years of graduate support for more than 30 students pursuing
degrees in at least 10 different programs at UT. Graduate Assistantships included
a stipend as well as a tuition waiver to promote research in areas at the
interface between mathematics and biology. More information about NIMBioS’
Graduate Assistantship program is available at http://www.nimbios.org/assistantships/
The 2019 NIMBioS Graduate Award recipients are as follows:
Soheil Borhani, Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering
Alexander Cope, Genome Science & Technology
Jeff DeSalu, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Jessica Dreyer, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Hwayoung Jung, Psychology
Pramir K.C., Microbiology
Jasmine Kreig, The Bredesen Center, Environmental and Climate Sciences
Diane Le Bouille Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Donna K. McCullough, Microbiology
Jacob K. Moutouama, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Ruben A. Ortiz, Sociology
Tyler Poppenwimer, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Hari Prasad Regmi, Agricultural and Resource Economics
Jeffrey Hunter Rice, Microbiology
Ryan Douglas Kuster, Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology
For more than two decades, conservation biologist Krithi K. Karanth has studied the human dimensions of conservation in Asia—human-wildlife conflicts, land use change and the relationships between people and parks. In April, NIMBioS and the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy are excited to host Karanth in a talk on her conservation efforts in her native India.
Karanth’s talk will focus on projects that have applied conservation science to understand and develop interventions addressing human-wildlife conflict, wildlife connectivity and education in India. She will share stories from Wild Seve, which services more than a half million people and has helped 13,500 families file and receive compensation for wildlife losses from the government; Wild Kaapi, a wildlife friendly certification program that launched the world’s first wildlife friendly coffee company; and Wild Shale, a conservation education program being implemented in 300 schools in rural India.
Karanth is Executive Director of the Center for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore, an associate conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, and an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University and the National Centre for Biological Sciences. She has published more than 90 scientific and popular articles and has served on the editorial boards of the journals Conservation Biology, Conservation Letters and Frontiers in Ecology and Environment. She has mentored over 120 young scientists and engaged more than 500 citizen science volunteers.
For her contributions to science, in April, Karanth will receive the prestigious 2019 Women of Discovery Award, only the second Indian woman to win the award.
We’re very excited to catch Baba Brinkman at the world premiere of his Rap Guide to Culture live on stage next month at a free public event at UT’s Student Union.
The New York-based award winning playwright, science communicator, and Canadian rap artist is best known for his ‘Rap Guide’ series of science-themed plays, and he’s gained worldwide fame with successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the World Science Festival, and a series of off-Broadway plays.
We caught up with Baba to find out about his musical aspirations, why he thinks science is redemption, and what to expect in the new performance. Whether or not you’re a rap fan, Baba’s shows always enlighten and entertain. Check out his latest video for Rap Guide to Climate Chaos and a review of the smart song collection.
Q. Why rap about science?
The findings of science are emerging as the greatest story ever told, both the most inspiring and also the most important to comprehend if we want to alleviate suffering and improve the wellbeing of everyone on this planet. Rap at its essence is a storytelling art form, which makes it a powerful way to tell the stories of science, and also the musical and lyrical power of the genre allows people to connect to the message viscerally, in a way that a lecture can’t achieve, so I’m hoping to spread passion for an curiosity about science, in addition to just dropping some knowledge on people.
Q. What can audiences expect from the world premiere of the Rap Guide to Culture?
Audiences can expect to encounter a new way of thinking about what culture is and how it works, with rap and hip-hop culture as the “model organism” under investigation. I’ll be breaking down the evolutionary forces that shaped the norms and techniques of my favorite art form, while generalizing them to our species and the recent history of the planet. When you boil it down, culture is biology. It’s a non-genetic evolutionary process that owes its origins to genetic evolutionary processes, and the better we understand how culture is linked to the rest of the life sciences, the more we can steer its evolution in directions that promote positive social outcomes rather than unintended negative consequences. So the show will be about culture but also about saving the world from itself, with science and rap as the unexpected forces of redemption.
Q. Is the show suitable for young audiences?
The official rating is PG-13, as with my other “Rap Guide” shows, but if parents want to bring younger children, it’s up to them and their assessment of their offspring’s maturity level. I can promise it will be no more salacious than most modern rap, and the mature references and strong language will at least be employed in the service of an overarching educational message.
Q. Do you have to like rap to enjoy your show?
I’m sometimes described as “rap for people who don’t like rap” so no, if you’re not into rap, you will still have a good time, although you might find yourself asking “Why in the name of Darwin didn’t I like rap before? Where did I go wrong?” On the other hand, if you already like rap, you’re in for a real treat.
My role in the workshop will be to absorb as much information as possible and write and perform rap summaries of the daily talks and activities, while also checking the accuracy of Rap Guide to Culture against the data in the presentations. I will likely have to change aspects of the show after attending the workshop, but that’s my whole process, and mantra: Performance, Feedback, Revision. (That’s also how evolution works)
New York-based rap artist and former NIMBioS Songwriter-in-Residence Baba Brinkman returns in April to participate in a DySoC/NIMBioS workshop and premiere a new work, Rap Guide to Culture, in a free public performance.
Brinkman has been wowing audiences for ten years with his imaginative and award-winning “Rap Guide to…” series in which he takes ideas from science and philosophy and presents them in a unique platform: hip-hop.
When he returns to NIMBioS in April, he will premiere his new “Rap Guide to Culture” at 7:30 p.m. on April 23, 2019, in UT’s Student Union.
The series so far includes rap guides to Evolution, Human Nature, Business, Wilderness, Religion, Medicine, Climate Change, and Consciousness. His latest science/rap/comedy show, about the neuroscience of consciousness, recently concluded an eight-month run off-Broadway at the Soho Playhouse.
Called “astonishing and brilliant” by the New York Times, Baba is a Scotsman Fringe First Award winner and a two-time Drama Desk Award Nominee. He was featured on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” and at the Seattle Science Festival opening for Stephen Hawking. Baba is a winner of the National Center for Science Education’s “Friend of Darwin Award” for his efforts to improve public understanding of evolutionary biology.
In addition to his science rap, Baba is a pioneer in the genre of “lit-hop” or literary hip-hop, with rap adaptations of Beowulf, Gilgamesh, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Baba tours and performs regularly and has spoken at several TEDx conferences and performed at the World Science Festival.
Baba was a Songwriter-in-Residence at NIMBioS in 2012. His original songs written while at NIMBioS include “Welcome to NIMBioS,” “Rising Up,” and “Mad Scientist.” “Welcome to NIMBioS” is a rap-up of the visit by the National Science Foundation during its site review of NIMBioS, which occurred while Baba was in residence in April 2012, and features “an intro” by NIMBioS Director Louis Gross. Listen to the raps at http://www.nimbios.org/songwriter.
Like all of Baba’s performances, his April show at UT cuts across a wide range of disciplines, from science to music to the arts. The interdisciplinary nature of the show is evident in the wide range of partners across the UT campus who are sponsoring Baba’s performance. We appreciate their support! Visit our webpage for updates: http://www.nimbios.org/bababrinkman
The Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity (DySoC) at NIMBioS is pleased to host world-renowned primatologist Frans de Waal for a talk next month on animal emotion and empathy ahead of his much-anticipated new book, to be published in March.
Drawing upon his decades of research on empathy and the perception of emotion in primates, de Waal’s talk will make the point that the study of animal emotion is a necessary complement to the study of behavior.
A leading voice in uncovering the emotional world of primates and parallels in humans, de Waal is credited with the discovery of conflict resolution among primates. His work has inspired the field of primate cognition as it relates to cooperation, altruism, and fairness.
An engaging science writer and one of the world’s most visible primatologists, de Waal is the author of 13 books, which have been translated into 20 languages. He is widely known for such books as “Chimpanzee Politics,” “Peacemaking Among Primates,” “The Age of Empathy,” “The Bonobo and the Atheist,” and New York Times bestseller, “Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?”.
Of de Waal’s most recent book, “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves” (Norton, March 2019), New York Times best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari writes: “A captivating and big-hearted book full of compassion and brimming with insights about the lives of animals, including human ones.”
The book will be available for sale at the talk, and de Waal will sign books following his talk.
De Waal is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior at Emory University where he directs the university’s Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, one of the world’s foremost centers for research on primate behavior.
De Waal is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people and listed by Discover Magazine among its all-time “Great Minds of Science.” He has received a Los Angeles Times Book Award (for his 1989 work, Peacemaking among Primates), the American Psychological Foundation’s Arthur W. Staats Award, and the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Technology Pioneer Award.
Recognized by the American Society of Primatologists as a “Distinguished Primatologist,” de Waal is the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Behaviour.
De Waal completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Nijmegen, began graduate studies at the University of Groningen, and received a Ph.D. in biology from Utrecht University, where he is a distinguished university professor.
The November issue of Natural Resource Modeling is dedicated to Suzanne Lenhart, NIMBioS Associate Director for Education and Outreach and a Chancellor’s Professor in Mathematics at UT.
Three former students of Lenhart’s—Rachel Leander, Wandi Ding and René Salinas—guest edited the special issue. Lenhart chaired Leander’s and Ding’s dissertation committees, while Lenhart served on Salinas’ dissertation committee and co-wrote six papers with him. Leander is an assistant professor of mathematics at Middle Tennessee State University and Ding is a professor of mathematics there. Salinas is an associate professor of mathematics at Appalachian State University.
They write: “Suzanne Lenhart’s dedication to making mathematics diverse, inclusive, and accessible sets her apart from other great mathematicians.”
While students at UT, despite her busy schedule, Lenhart was always available. “She had a reputation for being a professor you could go to for help,” they write.
In addition to commending Lenhart’s research accomplishments in the mathematical sciences, the authors note her dedication to helping advance underrepresented students in the STEM fields and to making mathematics accessible to younger students and researchers.
“By making mathematics accessible to a larger and more diverse group of people, Suzanne contributes immeasurably to the advancement of science,” they write.