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09-04-2009

Clarkson University Receives $239k Biomathematics Research Grant

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Clarkson University departments of Mathematics and Biology have been awarded a $239,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to enhance undergraduate education at the intersection of biology and the mathematical sciences.

The funding will provide for a small amount of curriculum development, but the centerpiece of the program is intensive 10-week summer research projects. Here, undergraduates chosen from both the math and biology majors will team together with two faculty researchers to tackle relevant research problems.

Faculty members Jim Schulte and Tom Langen (Biology) and Sumona Mondal and Joe Skufca (Mathematics) will provide the primary leadership of the program, but a number of additional faculty from across campus will participate on a partial basis throughout the three-year grant.

"There are a lot of important questions in biology that can benefit from the insight provided by mathematical models, with an explosion of new science emerging from this mixed discipline," said lead investigator Schulte. "The NSF sees biomathematics as a key area for investment to develop future cohorts of innovative scientists."

The grant's primary purpose is to fund undergraduate research. It will provide summer stipends to six to eight students during each of the three summers of the grant.

The planned research includes tackling problems such as modeling the impact of the environmental effects of roads and land development in the Adirondacks, studying decision-making in seed gathering birds, modeling brain mechanism in response to threat detection, automated species identification using advanced image processing, along with a number of other cutting edge problems, such as understanding how hazardous waste gets trapped in the ground or how the nervous system controls digestion.

"To do good science on these problems, you really need good teamwork between the disciplines: the biologist is the system expert, but the mathematician is the expert on the mathematical analysis techniques," said Langen. "Working alone, neither may make significant progress, but together, they can really bring new understanding to the problem."

"During the academic year, our goal is to help students to learn the tools they will need to conduct good interdisciplinary research, preparing them to really excel during the summer research component," added Mondal.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.


[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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