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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NIMBioS Teaches the Teachers

Tennessee elementary school teachers measure hip height learned how Alexander's Formula is used to model how fast dinosaurs could move based on their stride length, determined from fossilized footprints, and based on their hip height, determined from fossilized bones. The teachers then took on the role of pretending to be bipedal dinosaurs and performed trials by running outside

Tennessee elementary school teachers measure hip height as a part of an exercise learning how to use Alexander’s Formula to model dinosaur speed. The exercise was part of a workshop training math teachers in ways students can connect math and biology in the classroom.

Tennessee math teachers went back to the classroom this month to learn creative and engaging ways to connect mathematics with biology, led by the NIMBioS Education and Outreach team.

NIMBioS Associate Director for Education and Outreach Suzanne Lenhart, Education and Outreach Coordinator Kelly Sturner, and undergraduate intern Virginia Parkman traveled to Jacksboro Middle School in Campbell County, TN, yesterday to lead a one-day workshop for 23 area elementary and middle-school math teachers. The workshop was part of a longer Tennessee Department of Education “Math Counts II” Workshop.

In this lesson, teachers designing animal shelter cage arrangements.

In this lesson, teachers use array-thinking to design the placement of cages in animal shelters.

The NIMBioS team organized and presented interactive applications of math for grades 3-8, covering modeling, measurement and applications of geometry and array-thinking. Grades 3-5 teachers designed how cages might be arranged in different arrays in an animal shelter to minimize the spread of canine distemper virus. Grades 6-8 teachers learned how Alexander’s Formula is used to model how fast dinosaurs could move based on their stride length, determined from fossilized footprints, and based on their hip height, determined from fossilized bones. The teachers then took on the role of pretending to be bipedal dinosaurs and performed trials by running outside and measuring hip heights. They compared their data to what Alexander’s formula would predict.

In early June, Lenhart and Sturner traveled to Campbell County High School in Jacksboro, TN, for two days as a part of a longer workshop for high school math teachers called “Connecting Math and STEM Through Modeling.” Seventeen math teachers from Campbell County and surrounding counties participated in exercises designed to improve teachers’ understanding of math modeling in the real world. Using resources from Moody’s Mega Math Challenge, Lenhart and Sturner presented the steps involved in using real-world data to generate a modeling equation. Teachers worked in groups and then presented their own model solutions and shared how they might do simple modeling cases with their students.

The workshops were supported by two different grants to Lynn Hodge, associate professor of math education at UT-Knoxville, and Gale Stanley, a retired Campbell County science teacher and currently president of the Tennessee Science Teacher’s Association.

 

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SRE Team Publishes in Frontiers in Microbiology

(From left) Winode Handagama, Magaret McDaniel and Nitin Krishna

(From left) Winode Handagama, Magaret McDaniel and Nitin Krishna

Congratulations to the three students who participated in the 2014 Summer Research Experiences project on mathematical modeling of granuloma formation in Johne’s disease. The team, along with its mentors, has published their results in Frontiers in Microbiology.

“Quantifying limits on replication, death, and quiescence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in mice” investigates the limits of the rates of bacterial replication, death, and quiescence during Mtb infection in mice. The study found no significant correlation between estimated rates of Mtb replication and death, suggesting the decline in the rates was driven by independent mechanisms. The study also found that the data could not be explained by assuming that bacteria do not die, suggesting that some removal of bacteria from lungs of the mice had to occur even though the total bacterial counts in these mice always increased over time. The study also showed that to explain the data the majority of bacterial cells (at least 60%) must be replicating in the chronic phase of infection, further challenging widespread belief of nonreplicating Mtb in latency.

Co-authors are Margaret McDaniel, who at the time of the program was a student in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology and mathematics at UT-Knoxville; Nitin Krishna, who was a student in mathematics at the University of Chicago; Winode Handagama, who was a student in biochemistry at Maryville College; along with their mentors: Shigetoshi Eda in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, UT-Knoxville, and Vitaly Ganusov in the Department of Microbiology, UT-Knoxville.

McDaniel is now a graduate student in immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Her research includes how Mtb triggers a prolonged inflammatory signal.

Krishna is now a junior at the University of Chicago. He is currently a participant in Williams College SMALL Mathematics REU program, studying fluid dynamics and partial differential equations.

Handagama recently graduated from Maryville College.

The publication is available online at http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2016.00862/full

Eighteen undergraduates and two high school teachers participated in the 2014 Summer Research Experience at NIMBioS, June 9-August 1. During the eight-week program, participants lived on campus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and worked in teams with NIMBioS postdocs and UT faculty to conduct research at the interface of mathematics and biology. The award included a stipend, housing and some funding to support travel.

More information about NIMBioS’ SRE can be found at http://www.nimbios.org/sre/. Currently, 16 undergraduates are participating in the program, working in teams on five different research projects.

 

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