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Description Participants Agenda TBA

NIMBioS/SCMB Investigative Workshop

Quantitative Education in Life Science Graduate Programs

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Topic: Quantitative Education in Life Science Graduate Programs

Meeting dates: March 16-18, 2020

Location: NIMBioS at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Stefano Allesina, Ecology & Evolution and Computation Institute, Univ. of Chicago
Louis Gross, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Christine Heitsch, Mathematics, Biological Sciences and Computational Science and Engineering, Georgia Tech
Mariel Vazquez, Mathematics and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Univ. of California, Davis

Support and Partners: This workshop is supported by funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, from the National Science Foundation support for NIMBioS, with additional support from the University of Tennessee. The Workshop arises from a partnership between NIMBioS and the Southeast Center for Mathematics and Biology (SCMB).

Objectives: This workshop brings together a diverse group of researchers and educators working at the interface of various areas of the life sciences and quantitative science (e.g. mathematics, statistics, computing, data science). There has been very little open discussion about educational aspects of graduate life science quantitative training, such as what topics to prioritize across the vast array of potential quantitative methods, how formal courses might be effectively mixed with online learning, seminars and lab group activities and the effectiveness of boot-camps and tutorials. While many meetings, conferences and projects have focused on undergraduate education at this interface between the life sciences and quantitative methods, there has been nothing similar for graduate education.

The intent is for the workshop to gather thought leaders on graduate life science education and its relation to quantitative training to determine commonalities of approaches across institutions and consider what evidence is available on the effectiveness of these approaches. The expectation is that this would provide potential guidance based on experiences at diverse institutions and in biological sub-disciplines about what has been tried, how effective the results have been, and what still needs to be examined. We expect that attendees will share experiences and any evaluation data regarding the programs they have been involved with. We intend for the workshop to gather advice from those with extensive experience in educating not only the few students specializing in quantitative biology, but also with the broad range of life science graduate students. Applications are welcome from those at any career stage, including recent PhDs.

Format: Approximately two weeks prior to the workshop, an online webinar will be held to provide background information for all attendees to ensure all are aware of the objectives, are provided some of the shared experiences from the organizers, and can discuss possible topics for breakout sessions during the workshop. The webinar will be recorded (as will formal presentations at the workshop) and available to anyone interested including those not attending the workshop. The workshop will consist of a limited number of summary presentations from some of the programs with experience in educating life science PhD students, followed by breakout sessions with facilitators and rapporteurs who will report back to the whole gathering. We will use online collaborative tools to compile the various discussion results, from which an overall workshop summary of findings and report will be developed by the organizers. A workshop evaluation will be carried out by the National Institute for STEM Evaluation and Research (NISER) (

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Application deadline: January 5, 2020

To apply, you must complete an application on our online registration system:

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  3. Complete your user profile (if you haven't already)
  4. Find this workshop event under Current Events Open for Application and click on Apply

Participation in the workshop is by application only. Individuals with a strong interest in the topic are encouraged to apply, and successful applicants will be notified within a few weeks of the application deadline. If needed, financial support for travel, meals, and lodging is available for workshop attendees.

NIMBioS Investigative Workshops focus on broad topics or a set of related topics, summarizing/synthesizing the state of the art and identifying future directions. Workshops have up to 35 participants. Organizers and key invited researchers make up half the participants; the remaining participants are filled through open application from the scientific community. Open applicants selected to attend are notified by NIMBioS within two weeks of the application deadline. Investigative Workshops have the potential for leading to one or more future Working Groups. Individuals with a strong interest in the topic, including post-docs and graduate students, are encouraged to apply. If needed, NIMBioS can provide support (travel, meals, lodging) for Workshop attendees, whether from a non-profit or for-profit organization.

A goal of NIMBioS is to enhance the cadre of researchers capable of interdisciplinary efforts across mathematics and biology. As part of this goal, NIMBioS is committed to promoting diversity in all its activities. Diversity is considered in all its aspects, social and scientific, including gender, ethnicity, scientific field, career stage, geography and type of home institution. Questions regarding diversity issues should be directed to You can read more about our Diversity Plan on our NIMBioS Policies web page. The NIMBioS building is fully handicapped accessible.

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NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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