Author Archives: Paul Boyer

NSF inviting input on cyberinfrastructure strategy

The National Science Foundation is soliciting input on Future Needs for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science and Engineering.

Responses to this Request for Information will, according to the NSF announcement, “directly inform the shaping of NSF’s investment plans for research cyberinfrastructure – advanced computing; data, software, and networking infrastructure; cybersecurity, and associated workforce development – to revolutionize the frontiers of all science and engineering domains over the next decade and beyond.”

The response deadline is April 5, 2017, 5:00 PM ET.  The Dear Colleague Letter provides full background and the a link to the required submission website: https://www.nsfci2030.org.

White House’s proposed budget targets science

Since the November presidential election, the science community has anxiously worried about the fate of programs and agencies that support and conduct research in the sciences. President Trump’s proposed budget, released this week, offers little reassurance and is already generating a flurry of news stories and commentary.

According to a March 16 New York Times story, the proposed budget “took direct aim at basic scientific and medical research.” While this was anticipated, the story noted that “the extent of the cuts in the proposed budget unveiled early Thursday shocked scientists, researchers and program administrators.” It stated:

“The reductions include $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, from the National Institutes of Health, which fund thousands of researchers working on cancer and other diseases, and $900 million, or a little less than 20 percent, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which funds the national laboratories, considered among the crown jewels of basic research in the world.”

The story noted that the budget reflects an effort to zero-out funding for all climate change research, including within the EPA.

The budget must be passed by Congress and will, as is always the case, undergo significant changes. Indeed, some proposed cuts are already being deemed “non-starters” by several Republican leaders in Congress, particularly cuts to medical research.

Not all agencies are affected equally. Several websites and science advocacy organizations noted that the National Science Foundation was not mentioned in the White House’s budget. “Given the cuts seen for many other federal science agencies…some have seen the omission in the budget outline released today as a blessing,” observed the SAGE-sponsored website, Social Science Space.

Awards for “makers” making a difference

Infosys Foundation USA has launched its second year of the Infy Maker Awards competition to provide $10,000 to adult “makers” who are working on social impact projects. This year’s themes are education, health, environmental sustainability, and combating hunger.

Infosystems Foundation USA is a non-profit organization working to “expand professional development in computer science, coding, and making, especially for educators teaching in historically under-represented schools and communities,“ according to its website.

Applicants are asked to upload a photo and 90 second video and “answer several questions about your project and the problem you’re trying to solve.”

And what, exactly, is a “maker”? Adweek offers this quick definition:

“A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have its own magazine, Make, as well as hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude. Makers tap into an American admiration for self-reliance and combine that with open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology like 3-D printers.”

If that sounds like you or someone you know, the deadline for applying is Feb. 28, 2017.

For more information visit www.infymakers.com

I’m curious: Does this movement resonate in native communities, tribal colleges, and minority-serving colleges? Are there any students or instructors who consider themselves “makers”? Let us know.

Engineers Save the Day

A new children’s book series created by students at College of Menominee Nation presents engineers as problem-solving heroes

By Ryan Winn

Simply put, there aren’t enough Native Americans pursuing STEM degrees. As the National Science Foundation reported in its Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 Report, American Indians and Alaska Natives received a mere 0.4% of all master’s degrees in science and engineering between 1985 and 2005. Examining barriers, research has documented a widespread belief among American Indian students, even in the early years of their education, that science, math and engineering fields are difficult, uninteresting, and not relevant to their lives.

Future Engineer in Training Series.

Combating these attitudes, College of Menominee Nation’s STEM HERO Program is making math, science, and engineering meaningful and relevant to Native students by offering hands-on, culturally grounded, and interdisciplinary approaches to STEM education. One of our most recent projects, publication of a children’s book series about engineering, is testament to our success.

Partially funded by the National Science Foundation’s Tribal College and University Program, two fellow faculty members and I created and implemented a model that led our engineering students through the process of book creation and publication. Next, we devised classroom activities utilizing K’NEX toy sets and shared our work with grade school educators and students in our community. We empowered our engineering students to create stimulating tools that inspire young people to engage in STEM. It’s an exciting process we hope to help replicate beyond Northeastern Wisconsin.

Creating Interest in STEM

The genesis for our work began when engineering professor Dr. Lisa Bosman expressed interest in transforming a lecture-based Introduction to Engineering course into a more active learning environment.

“Initially I assigned students present their research about the various engineering fields at each course meeting,” Dr. Bosman said. “I then asked the class to give feedback and pose questions before supplementing and clarifying any areas that needed it. While this was a helpful way to flip the classroom, the presentations revealed that students needed help building their research and communication skills.”

Continue reading

New program solicitation announced for NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program

The National Science Foundation has issued a new program solicitation for its Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), which provides support to “early-career” faculty who “have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” according to the solicitation synopsis.

“Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research,” according to the synopsis. “NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from early-career faculty at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.”

The solicitation also includes a description of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The new CAREER program solicitation (NSF 17-537) can be accessed at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17537/nsf17537.htm

Funding for Alaska Native- and Native Hawaiian-Serving Colleges and Universities announced by USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has announced $3 million in available funding to support Alaska Native- and Native Hawaiian-Serving (ANNH) colleges and universities.

According to a USDA press release, NIFA’s ANNH Education Grants Program addresses educational needs in the food, agricultural and natural resource systems of the United States. Priority is given to those projects that enhance educational equity for underrepresented students and maximize the development and use of resources to improve food and agricultural sciences teaching programs.

The application deadline is March 21, 2017.

For more information: https://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/alaska-native-serving-and-native-hawaiian-serving-institutions-education

Learning Biology Through Research

Tribal colleges join an innovative program that makes research the centerpiece of introductory biology courses

By Paul Boyer

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Program Officer Dr. Viknesh Sivanathan with student Emily Davis. Through the HHMI program, Davis began studying phages as a freshman at James Madison University and later worked as a lab assistant at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Several tribally controlled colleges will soon begin developing their own SEA-PHAGES programs. Photo courtesy of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Many colleges and universities now promote undergraduate research opportunities, but they are, too often, offered to a select few. While juniors and seniors pursing STEM degrees might, in small numbers, benefit from this enriched form of learning, most students enrolled in lower division science courses still encounter conventional 100-level lecture and lab classes.

Since 2008, however, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Maryland has pioneered an innovative biology curriculum that makes original research the centerpiece of even introductory biology courses. Called SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science), the curriculum developed by HHMI focuses on the collection, isolation, and analysis of bacteriophages.

Bacteriophages, also called phages, are viruses that infect bacteria. They are abundantly present in the environment, both in soil and water, and are a highly diverse. This makes them an ideal subject for undergraduate research; every phage is a new discovery and its identification is a genuine contribution to the biological sciences.

According to HHMI Program Officer Dr. Viknesh Sivanathan, however, the larger goal of the SEA-PHAGES program is to enrich undergraduate education. Applying research methods to the isolation and analysis of phages allows lower division college students “the opportunity to engage in authentic research early in their academic career,” he said. “Not many students have the opportunity to do so, as most mentored research is typically offered to a small number of students.”

Continue reading

Conducting Fieldwork in the Shadow of DAPL

Sitting Bull College’s Linda Black Elk leads an environmental impact study on plants at Standing Rock, and works to decolonize medicine through Medic and Healer Council.

By Katie Scarlett Brandt

The Dakota Access Pipeline under construction in Iowa. Photo by Carl Wycoff. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADakota_Access_Pipe_Line%2C_Central_Iowa.jpg

The Dakota Access Pipeline under construction in Iowa. Photo by Carl Wycoff. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADakota_Access_Pipe_Line%2C_Central_Iowa.jpg

Sitting Bull College instructor Linda Black Elk isn’t the easiest person to get a hold of—and with good reason. As an ethnobotanist who studies the way people use plants for food and medicine, her research interests have led her to become actively involved in the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline opposition movement at Standing Rock.

Black Elk now spends much of her time out of the classroom, traveling between two protest sites–Sacred Stone Camp and the Oceti Sakowin Camp. Both are within a few miles of Sitting Bull College on Standing Rock Reservation, and Black Elk has two active research projects unfolding there.

“I want to show the wider public that this isn’t just about water. Water is the foundation of life, but more than water will be impacted by this pipeline,” she says.

The projects grew out of a conversation Black Elk had back in April. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who lives on Standing Rock Reservation, told Black Elk that a construction company was planning to run a pipeline through the area near Allard’s land and under the Missouri River.

“She knew that I gathered food and medicine right in the path of the pipeline,” Black Elk says. “When I found out the buffaloberry was going to be gone, I said we have to do something.”

Continue reading