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
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.
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.
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.