NSF Blog Highlights the Broader Impacts of SSM Faculty Project

The Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched a new feature on their blog this week, “Focus on Broader Impacts.” Proposals submitted to IOS require both an “Intellectual Merit (IM)” and a “Broader Impacts (BI)” section. IOS plans to use this feature to highlight awardees with unique and/or creative approaches to Broader Impacts. The first subject of the new blog was unPAK, a project that engages students in scientific discovery as they gather phenotypic data on thousands of Arabidopsis mutants.

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New Field Stations To Enhance Studies

The two long awaited Field Stations at Dixie Plantation are now open and ready to accommodate faculty and students beginning Fall 2015.

These two field research laboratories serve biology, geology, ecology, environmental studies, and archaeology research as well as providing education opportunities for all other sciences. A commitment to the International Living Building Challenge Recognition Program, Field Stations will implement innovative renewable energy and water technologies to achieve net zero energy consumption and extremely low potable water use.

Innovations include:

  • Passive cooling design with solar chimney and operable windows turned to prevailing breeze
  • Daylight design to provide diffused, filtered sunlight to all spaces without increasing heat gain
  • Resilient design with barn doors serving as retractable hurricane shutters
  • Rainwater catchment with cistern sized to provide non-potable fresh water
  • Geothermal HVAC to provide quiet, renewable energy that minimizes impact to wildlife
  • Architecturally integrated solar photovoltaic array to offset energy demand for current Dixie Plantation facilities

This project was made possible by support from a generous grant from the Spaulding-Paolozzi Foundation

Click photos to enlarge:

Dixie Field Station Photos-1Dixie Field Station Photos-5Dixie Field Station Photos-3Dixie Field Station Photos-7 Dixie Field Station Photos-6












Faculty interested in reserving Field Stations should contact Lisa Calvert, 843.953.6566 or by email.

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Computer Science major is ‘Bucking the Trend’

IMG_8844Joye Nettles just graduated with a degree in computer science. Before she left the College she founded the Women in Computing club, served as student president of SCAMP, and designed a program that will help girls learn computer programming through fashion. As part of the inaugural ICAT class, she developed the Android app called “SpotIt,” which allows users to book parking spots in downtown Charleston. Her team won the top prize: $10,000. Shortly after graduation Joye began her dream job as an associate consultant at ThoughtWorks, a global software development firm.

Read: ‘Bucking the trend’: College of Charleston Senior Joye Nettles is computer science star

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Dr. Scott Harris Awarded Fulbright Hosted by National and Kapodistrian University in Athens

Dr. Harris’ core research will allow for quantitive and qualitative analysis of coastal change in response to varied sea-level rise scenarios across a complex landscape in the North Euboean Gulf of Central Greece. Data gathered, analyzed, and interpreted through this project will also inform several major Bronze Age archaeological sites about their submerged paleolandscapes along the Southwestern edge of the gulf. The research site covers the marine portions of the ancient sites of Kynos, Mitrou, and Halai and from modern Arkitsa to the Theologos Peninsula about two hours north of Athens. The derived scientific products and interpretations will not only inform the maritime aspects of the terrestrial sites, but will also assist in the identification of submerged sites before, during and after the significant periods of seafaring in the Bronze Age along this major seaway. While many studies of the submerged portions of Greece focus strictly on submerged cities, specific shipwrecks, or the deep sea, this collaborative project will form a coherent regional investigation focused on paleolandscapes and coastal changes throughout antiquity. The broader context of the study will influence disciplinary thoughts on the preservation of ancient landscapes, of coastal deposits, and of submerged archaeological sites along an important ancient maritime seaway.

Submerged paleolandscGreece 2apes hold a record of antiquity that informs us about past coastal conditions and human adaptations. Understanding the influence of how variable local sea-level changes have influenced the preservation potential of submerged coastal systems is crucial to understanding these interactions. Working with host faculty and two other Greek universities, we will map the seafloor between Theologos and Arkitsa Greece to answer questions of preservation potential in a natural experiment of differential sea-level change in this actively tectonic and rich Bronze Age maritime region.   The scholar will bring expertise in coastal dynamics and advanced seafloor mapping techniques while the host institution provides expertise in understanding ancient sea-level histories in this region.


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Chemistry Department Receives New Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer (NMR)

NMR aFaculty members from the department of chemistry and biochemistry were recently awarded a grant in the amount of $319,800 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to purchase a new nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer (NMR). This award was made possible by the Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program (NSF-MRI). This instrument will be used to support research and research training activities for projects in organic chemistry, chemical biology, and environmental chemistry. This new instrument will allow the department to expand the scope of its projects and provide relevant hands-on training to approximately 100 undergraduate students each year.

Pictured is the new Burker Avance III HD 400 MHz NMR Spectrometer with a multinuclear probe and a sample express 60 sample changer. This instrument replaces the department’s 300 MHz NMR that was purchased from another NSF grant in 1989.

NMR 2 a

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School of Sciences and Mathematics STEM Outreach: Over 10,000 Students in 8 Days

charleston-stem-fest-cofcThe School of Sciences and Mathematics recently sponsored five major STEM outreach events that benefited the Charleston community.

As a member of the Lowcountry STEM Collaborative, the School of Sciences and Mathematics joined with co-sponsors such as Boeing, SCE&G, The Citadel, Google, MUSC, and Clemson to present the Charleston STEM Festival, held on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at Brittlebank Park in downtown Charleston. Over 7500 people from the Charleston community were in attendance. Exhibits featured hands-on science activities suitable for all ages. Scheduled events included an SCE&G safety show; the Birds of Prey flight demonstration; Mad Science Fun; an earthquake dance; and a chemistry magic show performed by our very own Alpha Chi Sigma (AXE) professional chemistry fraternity.

The School hosted the 15th Annual Darwin Week Monday, February 9 – Thursday, February 12. Seven lectures were presented under the common theme “Teaching the Controversy”. In conjunction with the Charleston STEM Festival, Piccolo Darwin offered museum tours, hands-on computer labs, and “A Whale of Tale” lecture that taught students about whale evolution in the Charleston area. Approximately 1200 people attended these events.

36On Friday, February 13 SSM faculty, staff, and students once again partnered with the School of Education, Health and Human Performance to create a morning of STEM related activities at TD Arena. STEM Education Day is hosted by College Athletics. Over 1300 students from Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester schools and home schools visited over 40 different exhibits before cheering on the women’s basketball team as they tipped off against Hofstra.

Also on Friday, the department of computer science hosted 33 high school students from nine area schools who competed in a computer programming competition.

The 2015 Math Meet took place on Saturday, February 14. More than 500 high school students from the tri-state area participated in this day of mathematically flavored competitions. The event also features competitions in physics and chemistry and students toured the Natural History Museum between competitions.


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Lowcountry Hall Awarded Google Grant for Interdisciplinary Computer Science Curriculum

Scratching the Surface is designed to leverage the success of Google’s CS First, the STEM education expertise of the Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math, and the classroom expertise of Berkeley County School District middle school teachers. By leveraging the capabilities of these programs and adapting content to South Carolina State Department of Education curriculum standards, we will bring CS education to over 8,400 middle school children by the year 2018, with a sustainable annual reach of 2,250 middle school students per year.

About the Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math

The Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math (LHSM) is the educational and public engagement arm of the College of Charleston’s School of Sciences and Mathematics (SSM), serving as a critical bridge between the College’s science and math faculty and regional K-12 educators. The LHSM provides a mechanism for communication and collaboration between College faculty and administrators, regional educators, and the general public.

The LHSM provides K-12 classroom educators with critical science and math resources, education, and professional development opportunities. These resources are essential, given the increasing number of STEM educators retiring in South Carolina and the United States, combined with the dwindling supply of educators certified to teach STEM disciplines (one-third of public middle school teachers have not majored in science or math).

Program Structure

The design of the Scratching the Surface program will concentrate on the Overarching goal of reinforcing positive perceptions of Computer Science as a career among both females and underrepresented groups. To achieve this goal, we will focus program efforts on:

  • Capacity Building in Educators: Professional Development (PD) Opportunity for Teachers – under the guidance of a College of Charleston Computer Science Department Faculty Member, middle school teachers from BCSD’s middle schools will be:
    • Introduced to computer science fundamentals for classroom integration in a controlled learning environment that is designed to promote positive perceptions and instill confidence,
    • Taught Google’s free programming software (Scratch),
    • Taught Carnegie Mellon’s free 3-D programming software (Alice), and
    • Engaged to integrate computer science in current curricular standards.
  • Afterschool Programs: Women in Computing Club – building on the foundation of Google CS First and working in collaboration with the Women in Computing Club at the College of Charleston, college-enrolled female computer science majors will serve as mentors for the middle school students.
    • The Women in Computer Science Program will use the model of Google CS First, which increases students’ access and exposure to computer science education while reinforcing positive perceptions about computer science among females and underrepresented groups.
    • The Program will also incorporate female and minority student speakers/ volunteers from the College of Charleston Women in Computing Club and the greater Charleston Technology Industry.
    • The Program will coincide with the academic calendar and allow for 4 on-site visits to the College of Charleston to be exposed to the campus and the computer science environment.
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SSM Faculty Receive Prestigious Fulbright Awards

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Approximately 8,000 Fulbright grants are awarded each year. More than 300,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the program since its inception.

2014-2015 Awardees include:

Jack-DiTullioGiacomo “Jack” DiTullio, professor of biology and John Arthur Siegling Endowed Chair in Biology, received a Fulbright award where he will travel to Naples, Italy, to lecture on the “Environmental Variability and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.” His host institution from February 2015-August 2015 is Parthenope University of Naples.


Dinesh_SarvateDinesh Sarvate, professor of mathematics, received a Fulbright award to lecture and research on the subject area, “Curriculum Development, Teacher Training, and Discrete Mathematics”. His host institution is Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda. He will continue his research until June 2015.

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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.


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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