Gross Joins National Committee to Take On Data Science

Louis Gross NIMBioS Director Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics

Louis Gross
NIMBioS Director Emeritus
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics

NIMBioS Director Emeritus Louis Gross has been invited to join a select group of scientists and engineers from around the country to serve on a National Academies of Sciences committee to set a vision for the emerging discipline of data science in undergraduate education in the United States.

“Envisioning the Data Science Discipline: The Undergraduate Perspective” was created by the National Research Council for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The committee set to take on this study is charged with developing a vision for the core principles, intellectual content, and pedagogical issues for data science. While the primary focus will be the undergraduate level, related issues at the middle and high school and community college levels will also be considered.

The committee will also consider ways to engage underrepresented student populations and to maintain student interest in STEM via data science.

The committee comprises a select group of thought leaders in data science, computer science, and statistics from academia as well as industry. Also included are educators who teach students as well as those who hire and employ those students.

Ultimately, the study is intended to inform new undergraduate data science programs at colleges and universities, to help foster the development of such programs, and to build data science expertise in the workforce.

The study begins next month with a workshop and roundtable in Washington, DC. A second workshop will be held at a later time. Video from both workshops will be captured to make discussions at the workshop widely available beyond workshop participants and attendees. A final report will be prepared and disseminated widely.

Gross is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics at UT, and Director of the Institute for Environmental Modeling. Gross founded NIMBioS in 2008. He has served on several National Research Council Committees, including chairing the National Research Council Committee on Education in Biocomplexity Research. He also served on the National Academy of Sciences Board on Life Sciences for six years..

The National Science Foundation Award Abstract describing the study can be found at http://bit.ly/2fZL5lY.

 

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Vazquez Receives Nation’s Top Math Prize at Blackwell-Tapia

2016 Blackwell-Tapia Conference Attendees

2016 Blackwell-Tapia Conference Attendees

Over 100 researchers, faculty, graduate students and others gathered last week to witness Mariel Vazquez, a professor of mathematics and microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California, Davis, receive the nation’s highest research award for minority mathematicians, the 2016 Blackwell-Tapia Prize, in Knoxville at the conclusion of the biennial Blackwell-Tapia Conference.

Before presenting the prize, Richard Tapia, professor of mathematics at Rice University, gave a stirring speech where he called upon all mathematicians from under-represented groups to achieve excellence both in research and service to the nation in training and inspiring the next generation of mathematicians.

Mariel Vazquez and Richard Tapia

Mariel Vazquez and Richard Tapia

In a moving acceptance speech, Vazquez spoke of how she felt the honor profoundly as an immigrant from Mexico with children born in the United States, together representing the changing face of America. She related how she came to the United States “with stars in her eyes” and urged the audience to recognize and reach out to all of the starry-eyed students to help them also follow their dreams.

The ceremony was the capstone of two days of talks by an inspiring line-up of mathematicians and statisticians on topics from using math to move robots quickly to conducting statistical research in industrial, government and academic settings. The event included a poster session, many opportunities for networking, and a pre-conference event for undergraduates where Vazquez and Jose Perea, an assistant professor of mathematics from Michigan State University, shared the stories of their career paths and applications of their research. Abdul-Aziz Yakubu, a professor of mathematics at Howard University, gave the conference’s annual Joaquin Bustoz, Jr. distinguished lecture.

The NSF Mathematical Sciences Institutes Diversity Committee hosted the 2016 Blackwell-Tapia Conference and Awards Ceremony, with NIMBioS as the lead institute and the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) as co-organizer. This was the ninth biennial conference held since 2000, with the location rotating among NSF Mathematics Institutes.

The event was supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Additional support for Canadian participation was provided by the Fields Institute.

The conference and prize honors David Blackwell, the first African-American member of the National Academy of Science, and Tapia, winner of the National Medal of Science in 2010, two seminal figures who inspired a generation of African-American, Native American and Latino/Latina students to pursue careers in mathematics.

Conference photos can be viewed on the NIMBioS Flickr site.

The next Blackwell-Tapia conference will be lead by ICERM in Providence, RI in 2018.

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NIMBioS Celebrates the Nation’s ‘Active Learning Day’ with 3-D Printing

Adventures in STEM campers 3D print flower models

Adventures in STEM campers print flower models in 3D at this year’s camp.

As a part of the US President’s Office of Science Technology and Policy’s Active Learning Day, which is celebrated today, Oct. 25, NIMBioS is pleased to announce the release of a new 3-D printing educational module aimed for middle school learners.

Access to 3-D printing has been a growing trend in K-12 schools. NIMBioS’ hands-on module features active learning using 3-D printing technology to teach middle school students about physical scientific models and cell organelles. The activity has already proven a success over the years at NIMBioS’ “Adventures in STEM Camp” for middle school girls, and now the instructions for this activity are available for teachers.

In this curriculum module, aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, students learn about physical models and how they are used in science, then design and print their own representations of different cell organelles or flowers. The activity follows the 5E instructional model. Full details about the module, including information on required materials and a pdf handout for teachers, are available at http://www.nimbios.org/education/3dprinting_module

Active learning is the process of putting students at the center of their educational experience, where teachers assume a supportive and guiding role. Active learning has been shown to increase student engagement and achievement. OSTP declared October 25, 2016 “Active Learning Day” to inspire educators to incorporate more active learning in their classroom. According to OSTP’s blog, “On this day, STEM educators at all grade levels, from K-12 through college and university, are encouraged to spend at least 10 minutes using an active learning technique in their classrooms. Implementing active learning can be as simple as using small group discussions for problem-solving, asking students to write down a question they have following a lesson, or allowing time for self-assessment and reflection by the students; it also can be as expansive as hands-on technology activities or engaging students in authentic scientific research or engineering design.”

NIMBioS’ 3-D printing activity joins a suite of other educational modules that promote active learning at the interface of math and biology collected on the NIMBioS Education Module Page. All of these activities were developed at NIMBioS in support of various outreach activities.

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“Life at the Interface” Shared with Undergraduate Researchers at NIMBioS Conference

Dr. Judy Day delivering her featured presentation on "Working @ the Interface: The Challenges and Opportunities of Mathematical Biology"

Judy Day delivering her featured presentation on “Working @ the Interface: The Challenges and Opportunities of Mathematical Biology”

Plenary speakers shared the challenges and rewards of their careers at the interface of mathematics and biology at this year’s eighth annual Undergraduate Research Conference at the Interface of Biology and Mathematics.

Keynote speaker Jorge X. Velasco Hernández (Mathematics and Biology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) kicked off the conference by highlighting how the process of abstracting a biological concept into its essential elements is mathematics, not just when the numbers get involved. He went on to demonstrate his process using disease modeling.

Featured speaker Judy Day (Mathematics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Univ. of Tennessee) told students about her work modeling low-dose anthrax exposure and gave advice about what it takes to succeed in collaborative, interdisciplinary work.

Leslie Fuentes from Hawaii Pacific University shares her literature review on Using Daphnia to Monitor Water Toxicity.

Leslie Fuentes from Hawaii Pacific University shares her literature review on Using Daphnia to Monitor Water Toxicity.

The keynote and featured talk were just two highlights of the conference, which attracted 120 participants. The two-day conference also included 31 student poster presentations, 35 student talks, a showcase of graduate school opportunities, a career panel, and lots of networking. Students presented on work ranging from a mathematical model of skeletal muscle regeneration to optimal vaccination strategies for cholera. Students also enjoyed the annual tradition of networking using the game SET. Tweets from the conference used the hashtag #nimbiosURC. A complete set of photos from the event is available on the NIMBioS’ flickr site.

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NIMBioS Postdocs: Where Are They Now?

Postdoctoral PlacementsWhere do NIMBioS postdoctoral fellows go upon completion of their fellowship? More than 85% of NIMBioS postdoctoral fellows accept faculty positions at the world’s top institutions (Top 500, Shanghai Rankings), a far higher success rate than most postdoctoral programs.

Postdocs have accepted faculty positions at R1 institutions and at liberal arts colleges, positions in government, in industry, and further postdoctoral research positions. Recent postings include the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Research Fellowship at University College London, an assistant professorship in integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin, a Discovery Early Career Research Fellowship at Australian National University, and the Herchel Smith Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge.

A complete listing of postdoctoral placements is available here. To read full details about our current and former postdocs, visit http://www.nimbios.org/personnel/postdocs

Since 2009 when the program was established, NIMBioS has supported 41 postdoctoral fellows for two-year fellowships. NIMBioS postdocs have produced more than 190 journal papers and 160 poster presentations, among many other academic products, including book chapters and software programs.

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Text Publication and More for Former NIMBioS GRA

New text features Milt's work.

New text features Milt’s work.

Congratulations to former NIMBioS graduate research assistant Austin Milt whose dissertation research recently appeared in a new major text for conservation planning.

Conservation Planning: Informed Decisions for a Healthier Planet by Craig R. Groves and Edward T. Game is a new resource for practitioners, students, or researchers of conservation, natural resource management, or landscape planning and architecture. It includes methods, tools, approaches and case studies in nature conservation. Milt’s model, a decision support tool called Bungee — Balancing Unconventional Natural Gas Extraction and the Environment — is featured in a one-page color spread in the text. The tool is an example of conservation planning software that uses optimization to trace a tradeoff space for a multi-objective conservation problem.

“It will be very well-read within its field – likely the industry leading text for the next 5-6 years if recent history is anything to go by and widely read by grad

Austin Milt

Austin Milt

students and conservation practitioners the world over,” said Paul Armsworth, Milt’s former adviser in UT’s Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department.

Milt, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published a one-page color has had a productive year, with several other publications, including “Performance of a cap and trade system for managing environmental impacts of shale gas surface infrastructure” with Armsworth, in the proofing stage at Ecological Economics, and “The costs of avoiding environmental impacts from shale-gas surface infrastructure” in Conservation Biology (press release here).

 

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Working Group Publishes Review in American Naturalist

Participants from the March 2016 meeting of the Working Group, Meeting 3 participants: (L to R) Michael Antolin, Joanna Kelly, Andrew Storfer, Katie Lotterhos, Sean Hoban, David Lowry, Laura Reed.

Participants from the March 2016 meeting of the Working Group (L to R) Michael Antolin, Joanna Kelly, Andrew Storfer, Katie Lotterhos, Sean Hoban, David Lowry, Laura Reed.

The work of the NIMBioS Working Group on Computational Landscape Genomics has come to fruition with a synthesis review paper in The American Naturalist.

“Finding the genomic basis of local adaptation: Pitfalls, practical solutions, and future directions” provides a critical assessment of complex approaches to identifying genes that underlie adaptive differentiation of populations.

The Working Group, which has met three times since 2014, consists of experts in genomics, statistics, mathematics, bioinformatics and population genetics. Its chief goal has been to advance analytical and computational methods that integrate both the genomic and the ecological landscapes in order to understand the spatial distribution of adaptive genetic variation.

Lead co-authors are former NIMBioS postdoc Sean Hoban, now a tree conservation biologist at the Morton Arboretum; Joanna Kelley, Biological Sciences, Washington State Univ.; and Katie Lotterhos, Marine and Environmental Sciences, Northeastern Univ. Marine Science Center, Nahant, MA. Working Group co-organizers are Andrew Storfer, Biological Sciences, Washington State Univ.; Gilles Guillot, Applied Mathematics, Technical Univ. of Denmark, Copenhagen; Mike Antolin, Biology, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins; and Mary Poss, Biology, Penn State Univ., University Park.

NIMBioS Working Groups are chosen to focus on major well-defined scientific questions at the interface between biology and mathematics that require insights from diverse researchers, meeting up to three times over a two-year period. Working Groups are relatively small with no more than 15 participants, focus on a well-defined topic and have well-defined goals and metrics of success.

The next deadline to request support for a Working Group at NIMBioS is Sept. 1. For more information, visit http://www.nimbios.org/workinggroups/

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Special Collection Explores Motivation of Play

Meeting 3 of the Working Group on Play, Evolution, and Sociality. (Back row, L to R): M. Mangel, H. Fouts, B. O'Meara, G. Burghardt, B. Smuts, K. Lewis Graham, G. Cordoni, M. Rehakova, E. Palagi, P. Hammerstein. (Front row, L to R): S. Pellis, J. Auerbach. Not pictured: J. Schank, E. Akcay

Meeting 3 of the Working Group on Play, Evolution, and Sociality. (Back row, L to R): M. Mangel, H. Fouts, B. O’Meara, G. Burghardt, B. Smuts, K. Lewis Graham, G. Cordoni, M. Rehakova, E. Palagi, P. Hammerstein. (Front row, L to R): S. Pellis, J. Auerbach. Not pictured: J. Schank, E. Akcay

Research on what motivates play in mammals, both human and non-human, has been published in a special issue of the journal Behaviour. The nine papers in the special issue are products of the NIMBioS Working Group on Play, Evolution and Sociality.

The nine papers in the special issue include:

  • Motivation of play: from ethological to neurological perspectives by Elisabetta Palagi and Hillary N. Fouts
  • Work-themed play among young children in foraging and farming communities in Central Africa by Hillary N. Fouts, Carin L. Neitzel and Lauren R. Bader
  • Affiliation, dominance and friendship among companion dogs by Rebecca K. Trisko, Aaron A. Sandel and Barbara Smuts
  • Play fighting in Visayan warty pigs (Sus cebifrons): insights on restraint and reciprocity in the maintenance of play by Sergio M. Pellis and Vivien C. Pellis
  • Aggression and hierarchical steepness inhibit social play in adult wolves by Giada Cordoni and Elisabetta Palagi
  • Motivation, development and object play: comparative perspectives with lessons from dogs by Gordon M. Burghardt, Julia D. Albright and Karen M. Davis
  • Metacommunication in social play: the meaning of aggression-like elements is modified by play face in Hanuman langurs (Semnopithecus entellus) by Marek Špinka, Marie Palečková and Milada Řeháková
  • A brain motivated to play: insights into the neurobiology of playfulness by Stephen M. Siviy
  • Stone handling, an object play behaviour in macaques: welfare and neurological health implications of a bio-culturally driven tradition by Charmalie A.D. Nahallage, Jean-Baptiste Leca and Michael A. Huffman

The full special issue can be found at http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/1568539x/153/6-7.

In a series of meetings from 2011 to 2013, the NIMBioS Working Group brought together mathematicians, anthropologists, zoologists, neuroscientists, ecologists, psychologists and other top experts to examine play as a window into cognitive evolution and the rules of sociality.

Until the Working Group was established, the field lacked a mathematical and computational approaches for understanding how play evolves. Using mathematical tools, the group aimed to uncover factors predicting the dynamics, occurrence and trajectory of play in the animal kingdom, as well as explore the ecological, psychological and life history factors that facilitate and maintain play.

The special issue is the second from the Working Group. The first was Adaptive Behavior on the origin and evolution of play issued last November.

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SRE Undergraduates Present at Summer STEM Poster Symposium

SRE participants Kelly Regan (left), Alana Cooper and Emily Horton (right of poster) present their work on dynamic modeling of human emotions.

SRE participants Kelly Regan (left), Alana Cooper and Emily Horton (right of poster) present their work on dynamic modeling of human emotions.

Undergraduates in the NIMBioS Summer Research Experience (SRE) program presented five posters on their projects last week at the University of Tennessee (UT) Summer STEM Poster Symposium. NIMBioS students joined with other undergraduates conducting summer research from other campus programs in engineering, chemistry, computing, life sciences, nursing, psychology, and more. Fifty-seven posters were presented in all.

Since the SRE’s still have two more weeks to the program, only methods and preliminary results were presented. The students reported that the feedback they received from faculty and other students will help them as they continue and begin to wrap up their projects. For some students, it was their first time presenting a research poster of their work, a valuable new experience.

The poster symposium is one that NIMBioS helps co-organize annually with CURENT, an NSF-supported engineering center located at UT. More photos from this year’s symposium are available here.

NIMBioS also hosted visitors for the symposium whom have been spending the summer at East Tennessee State University doing research in math and biology through a summer research experience for undergraduates sponsored by the National Security Agency. After lunch together, the students stayed for a panel discussion on graduate school featuring graduate students in math and biology from UT organized for the SRE program participants.

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STEM Campers Run Like Dinosaurs and Design 3D Models

Adventures in STEM campers 3D print flower models

Campers watch a 3D printer bring their flower model design to life.

Middle school girls from across Tennessee enjoyed trying out different models used in math and science at this year’s Adventures in STEM Camp. The campers used computers to design 3D models of flowers for 3D printing, tested a mathematical model for dinosaur locomotion, and played with Netlogo to learn about agent-based modeling of predator-prey interactions. Fifteen middle school girls participated.

In another activity, girls demonstrated population modeling by pretending to be wolves and deer in an exciting game of “Oh Deer!” They graphed their results outside with sidewalk chalk on one of Knoxville’s Greenways. Other highlights included engineering activities to learn about the power grid, a tour of the UT Veterinary Hospital, and interviews with mathematicians, scientists and engineers.

Campers pose with graphs they created of changing deer and wolf populations from the game "Oh Deer!"

Campers pose with graphs they created of changing deer and wolf populations from the game “Oh Deer!”

NIMBioS and CURENT, an NSF-supported engineering center at UT, have co-organized the week-long day camp since 2012. The camp’s goal is to encourage and inspire middle school girls with STEM interests by delving into a variety of fun hands-on activities, making new friends with shared interests, and by learning about career opportunities in the STEM fields.

Thanks to the many NIMBioS staff, graduate students, and other volunteers that help make this camp possible.

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