This project is providing undergraduate students with early research experiences at the interface of biology and mathematics and developing a biomathematics training program to persist beyond the duration of this grant funding. The program is recruiting annual cohorts of ten students and features four major components: i) a fall-term project-based course in which students work on a number of different group projects and acquire a common set of skills; ii) original research projects - starting in the spring and continuing through the summer - in which mixed teams of mathematics and biology students do research under the joint mentorship of biology and mathematics faculty; iii) a research seminar where students and faculty report regularly on their ongoing research projects; and iv) program assessment activities designed to determine the effectiveness of the different program components and mentoring activities, the impact of the overall program on student education and the extent to which the program can be institutionalized at the University of Illinois and other universities. The intellectual merit of the project lies in the way the interdisciplinary research projects are grounded in the students' experiences in the core project-based class where they encounter a range of topics that reflect modern research approaches that lie outside the normal "coverage" in either discipline. The students also read and discuss classic papers in mathematical biology, which in turn helps prepare them for the subsequent research seminar. The broader impacts of the project are felt through the participation of the undergraduate researchers as presenters in the annual Illinois Science Olympiad where they interact with and serve as role models for potentially hundreds of secondary school student attendees. The project is also carrying out a comprehensive assessment whose findings hold promise to help inform other institutions that are interested in developing and sustaining similar intense undergraduate research opportunities.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Program Officer
Lee L. Zia
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
United States
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