NIMBioS Parades for Science!

Darwin Day parade participants pose afterward for a group photo.

In celebration of Darwin Day, NIMBioS joined UT’s Darwin Day Tennessee organization to parade for science! Chanting “Science for the people!” and “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!” a group of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and postdocs from across campus came together last week to form a jubilant parade celebrating science. The parade began in front of Ayers Hall, circled around the Hill, and ended in front of the student union. Special guest and birthday honoree, Charles Darwin, in the form of a giant puppet, joined the parade. The parade was the first of a week-long series of events including lectures, tabling, and a teacher workshop on the theme of evolution.

NIMBioS’ Lauren Smith-Ramesh (L) and Suzanne Lenhart (middle) carry the NIMBioS banner. UT graduate student Sarah Sheffield represents geology (right).

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Optimal Control Paper Highly Sought

The final meeting of the Working Group in January 2014 (L to R): Paula Federico, Suzanne Lenhart, Rene Salinas, Scott Christley, Matt Oremland, Andrew Kanarek (via Skype), Rachel Miller Neilan, Reinhard Laubenbacher, Jie Xiong, Ben Fitzpatrick, David Gurarie. Not pictured: Gary An.

The NIMBioS Working Group Optimal Control for Agent-based Models has been busy blazing a trail: its perspective paper  on agent-based models in biology published last fall in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biology has been downloaded 500 times.

“Optimization and Control of Agent-Based Models in Biology: A Perspective” proposes a new approach to optimization and control and outlines steps and specific techniques.

The Working Group, which met four times from 2011 to 2014, was co-organized by Gary An, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine; Reinhard Laubenbacher, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute; and Suzanne Lenhart and Jie Xiong, both from the Department of Mathematics, University of Tennessee. The group submitted a proposal to form a Working Group following  a workshop at NIMBioS in December 2009.

NIMBioS Working Groups are chosen to focus on major scientific questions at the interface between biology and mathematics. The groups comprise up to 10 participants, focus on a well-defined topic, and have well-defined goals and metrics of success. Working Groups typically meet up to three times over a two-year period.

The next deadline to request support for a Working Group is March 1. For more information about Working Groups and how to apply for support, visit http://www.nimbios.org/workinggroups/

Citation: An G et al. 2016. Optimization and control of agent-based models in biology: A perspective. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. doi:10.1007/s11538-016-0225-6

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Now Showing: Program Evaluation 101

As a part of the NIMBioS-NISER partnership, we are pleased to present Program Evaluation 101, a previously recorded webinar on the basic concepts of multi-scale program evaluation for STEM education.

The goal of the webinar is to introduce the key concepts and vocabulary of program evaluation methods and is particularly directed toward researchers and educators working on pilot projects for NSF INCLUDES awarded projects.

Your presenters (from left) Sondra LoRe and Pam Bishop 

Presented by NISER Director Pam Bishop and NISER Evaluation Associate Sondra LoRe and moderated by Louis Gross, a professor of mathematics and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and founding director of NIMBioS.

Originally broadcast on Feb. 9, 2017, the webinar is the first activity in the NIMBioS-NISER series of STEM evaluation events for the NSF INCLUDES projects. Additional events include a tutorial on Feb. 22 and a conference on Feb. 23-24. Event information is available at http://www.nimbios.org/IncludesConf/

Information about NISER can be found at https://www.stemeval.org/

 

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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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