NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION AWARDS $2.5M IN RESEARCH GRANTS TO SSM FACULTY

Faculty from the School of Sciences and Mathematics are starting the academic year with $2.5M in research awards.

In addition to teaching and College service, SSM faculty members regularly compete for grants to fund independent research that is often conducted on campus alongside their students. This hands-on science experience is invaluable to those preparing for graduate school and professional health programs. Since April several notable grants have been awarded.

A team from the department of chemistry and biochemistry was awarded $319,800 from the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program (NSF-MRI) to purchase a new nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR) that will be used to support research and research training activities for projects in organic chemistry, chemical biology, and environmental chemistry. The grant will allow the department to expand the scope of its projects and provide relevant hands-on research training to approximately 100 undergraduate students each year. The department of chemistry and biochemistry has a strong tradition of involving undergraduates in peer-reviewed publications. Since 2010, 58 papers have been published with 33 student co-authors.

The NSF also awarded Drs. Matt Rutter, Courtney Murren, and Allan Strand $652,390 to support a three year project that explores the 27,000 genes of the small plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Undergraduate Phenotyping of Arabidopsis Knockouts (unPAK) trains future researchers while simultaneously building a database of complex phenotypes for plant knockout mutants. The project supports course-based undergraduate research experiences and community outreach programs that share plant knowledge with the Charleston community

WEBSITE: arabidopsisunpak.org

Faculty from the departments of Biology and Computer Science have teamed up to create a research experience that will cultivate the talents of young investigators drawn from both the life sciences and computer sciences, by engaging them in projects related to next-generation DNA sequencing technologies. These projects will span areas of bioinformatics, data mining, e-Science, genome biology, and molecular evolution. Drs. Andrew Shedlock (Biology) and Paul Anderson (Computer Science) serve as the principal investigators of this Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation awarded in the amount of $334,662.

VIDEO: Grant for Genomics Undergraduate Research

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (ROI) awarded a $263,153 Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) grant to Dr. Andrew Clark to support his biomechanics study of hagfish. Not only will this research provide insight to the evolutionary transitions of invertebrates, it will study the biomechanics of soft tissue and its ability to become rigid possibly resulting in biomechanical uses. Dr. Clark explains, “Non-linear materials are not as common in mechanical engineering, and this research may serve as “bio-inspiration” for new design ideas for machining and robotics tools.”

The research of Drs. Giacomo “Jack” DiTullio and Peter Lee focuses primarily on climate change. In February of 2013 the two, along with three undergraduate students, traveled to McMurdo Station, Antarctica to join collaborators from Stanford, Old Dominion, USC Santa Cruz, University of Vienna, and Institute for Systems Biology. They spent approximately two months with Project TRACERS (Tracing the fate of Algal Carbon Export in the Ross Sea) of which Dr. DiTullio is co-chief investigator. The project studies the production of marine algae and their ability to significantly impact climate change.

READ: Students, Professor in Antarctica Researching Climate Change

In response to this research, Drs. DiTullio and Lee were recently awarded $894,662 for the acquisition of a field-deployable Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometer (PTR-MS). Results obtained from the PTR-MS system would advance understanding of aquatic biogeochemical processes and important compounds and the data will help refine global biogeochemical and climate models.

View a list of newly awarded and ongoing grants for FY14 in the School’s annual report submitted in August, 2014.

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College of Charleston Professor, Alumnus Make Remarkable Evolutionary Discovery

Nearly 20 years after College of Charleston alumnus Jonathan Geisler ’95 took Geology Professor James Carew’s paleobiology class, the two are working together again. Geisler and Carew have made a tremendous evolutionary discovery based on the fossil of a previously unknown whale species found in the Charleston area.

Alumnus Mark Havenstein of Lowcountry Geologic and another local fossil collector initially found the fossil, which was later sold to fossil-collector Mace Brown. Brown prepared the fossil himself and invited Carew and Geisler to come see it years before he donated his fossil collection to the College in 2013.

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The fossil is on display at the Mace Brown Natural History Museum located in the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building

“The skull of this creature has significant sinuses and other features, such as skull asymmetry and telescoping that most likely allowed it to echolocate,” Carew said. “The question, scientifically, has been, ‘When did the ability for whales to echolocate arise,’ and this roughly 28-million-year-old whale has numerous features in the skull that suggest it had the capability of echolocation.”

With help from colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), specifically T. Holden, and co-author Matthew Colbert of the University of Texas at Austin, Geisler and Carew had the C. macei fossil CT-Scanned and then digitized as a 3-D model. Using both the fossil and the 3-D model, the team gathered additional evidence to support their conclusion that the cavities were used to facilitate echolocation.

Read more about their findings in Nature and Scientific America.

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International Fossil Collector Donates $1.6 Million Collection to College

mace_brownMace Brown’s lifelong passion for collecting and recording fossils was sparked by a rock collection when he was 13. By age 45, he had amassed a collection of more than 87 species of shark teeth. For the next 15 years, Brown expanded his collection with fossils from around the world. Recently, Brown donated more than 1,500 rare fossil specimens valued at more than $1.6 million to the College of Charleston’s School of Sciences and Mathematics to establish the Mace Brown Natural History Museum. Read more.

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SSM Students and Faculty to be featured at In!Genius

One hour. Seven presentations. Among them are:

Computer Science major Will Jamieson realized that in low light, selfies don’t turn out because most phones do not have a flash on the phone’s front camera. So he created an app for that and now Front Flash Android app is currently on track for one million downloads!

Sylricka Foster is on the five year plan, because she simply can’t get it all done in four years. Between double majoring in geology and political science, double minoring in environmental geology and Spanish, researching climate change, attending scientific conferences and working for the NASA South Carolina Space Grant Consortium (NASA SCSGC), this rising senior hasn’t had a moment to spare since she came to the College in 2009. She will present with Dr. Cyndi Hall, her research mentor in the department of geology and environmental geosciences.

For more information on In!Genius visit ingenius.cofc.edu

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NEW! School of Sciences and Mathematics e-Newsletter

Check out the latest edition of the SSM Newsletter.

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E-NewsSummer2013

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Computer Science Major’s App on Track for One Million Users

June 20, 2013

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The selfie trend is soaring and so are downloads for College of Charleston Computer Science Major Will Jamieson’s Front Flash Android app. A selfie is a self-taken photograph usually posted online via social media outlets. Jamieson realized that in low light, selfies don’t turn out because most phones do not have a flash on the phone’s front camera.

“I was trying to upload a photo of myself to Snapchat one night and all I could get was a black screen,” Jamieson explains. “At that moment, I decided I was going to make an app that emulated a flash with the front camera. I had no idea that I would be on track to have a million users within two months of launching.”

The app launched on June 7, 2013 and has more than 5,000 photos taken daily in 56 different countries.

Click here to learn more!

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Students to Become Next Generation of Genomics-Enabled Scientists

June 4, 2013

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College of Charleston and MUSC researchers will use a $100,000 grant to train a new generation of genomics-enabled scientists to advance the future of biology. The 12-month grant funds research positions for four undergraduate students, starting in summer 2013. The project is a collaboration between the College of Charleston Departments of Biology and Computer Science, and the MUSC Center for Cancer Genomics.

To continue reading click here.

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Two Students Selected as Goldwater Scholars

May 3, 2013

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College of Charleston students Erica Tracey and Brenna Norton-Baker were selected as 2013 Goldwater Scholars from a field of more than 1,100 applicants. Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D.

“Being awarded a Goldwater Scholarship is often the first in a string of prestigious recognitions,” the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation notes. “Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 80 Rhodes Scholarships, 118 Marshall Awards, 110 Churchill Scholarships and numerous other distinguished fellowships.”

Click here to read more!

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Students Take Knowledge from the Classroom to Research, and Sweep Geology Awards

Dr. Leslie Sautter and students of the College’s BEAMS program took first, second, and third place for poster presentations at the 2013 US Hydro Conference. Robin Banner, Kyle Ford and Montgomery Taylor, and Matt Rittinghouse collected $2,000 in scholarships and will have their work published in CARIS Coastlines marine GIS mapping newsletter.

Click here to read more!

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School of Sciences and Mathematics Alumnus Named 2013 Eddie Ganaway Distinguished Alumnus of the Year

Mitchell Leverette ’85 exemplifies the spirit, character, and dedication that Eddie Ganaway so loyally demonstrated during his life-long devotion to the campus, his fellow students, and his profession.

As the first African American graduate of our Geology Dept., as a student advocate for the appreciation of diversity, and as an alumnus that has demonstrated significant and outstanding contributions to his profession and Alma mater, Mitchell Leverette personifies the spirit of Eddie Ganaway.

As a student, Mitchell was a champion for campus diversity – organizing and leading a cohort of his fellow students whom worked closely with former College of Charleston President Collins to help document, preserve, and recognize the legacy of the African American student experience at the College. These efforts had a multiplier effect, laying the foundation for a more inclusive and welcoming campus for students from diverse cultures and creating opportunity for a more diverse and vibrant learning community.

As Chief for the Division of Solid Minerals for the Bureau of Land Management, Mitchell is a leader among the Agency’s knowledge experts in mineralogical exploration and domestic resource management. He is one of the country’s foremost experts in the field, frequently lecturing on the subject and helping shape domestic energy exploration and production efforts.

Like Eddie Ganaway, Mitchell is a pioneer and peer leader. We proudly congratulate Mitchell Leverette for being recognized as the 2013 Eddie Ganaway Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient!

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