Marshall receives NSF grant for Undergraduate Mathematical Biology Research program

Monday, October 4, 2010

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The National Science Foundation has awarded a group of Marshall University faculty members funding to develop a program that will encourage undergraduate research and participation in biology and mathematics.

The grant was announced by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, who congratulated Dr. Marcia Harrison, Dr. Simon Collier and Dr. Jeffrey Kovatch from the Department of Biological Sciences, and Dr. Anna Mummert and Dr. Scott Sarra from the Department of Mathematics for the $236,659 award to establish an Undergraduate Mathematical Biology Research (UBM) program.

The UBM program will include a number of initiatives designed to prepare math and biological sciences undergraduate students for graduate study and future careers that combine the two fields. Teams of students will participate in a summer research program and will continue their projects into the following academic year. The students also will participate in a seminar, where they will present their work and prepare for presentations at local and national symposia and conferences. Students can apply for a second year of support to continue their research projects.

Harrison, who will serve as the UBM program coordinator, said students will work with faculty to conduct research in topics like genetics, plant and animal physiology and environmental sciences. She added that the program is geared for freshmen and sophomore students, with a particular focus on attracting female, minority and Appalachian, first-generation college students.

“The intense involvement with the research will enhance the students’ skills in problem solving, experimentation and communication,” she said. “Students involved with these long-term projects will also benefit from the mentoring, which has been proven to be a successful mechanism for guiding students to graduate programs.”

Rahall said, “Hats off to the team that put this proposal together. Marshall University attracts top students and faculty to the Huntington area, helping to grow our community, and produce exciting new research and top-notch professionals. The UBM program is one more tool Marshall University now has in its belt to help students to reach their goals and achieve their dreams.”

Dr. John Maher, Marshall’s vice president for research, added his congratulations for the faculty members who received the grant.

“This grant is outstanding news,” he said. “I’m particularly pleased that the proposed research projects and other enhancements will complement Marshall’s new critical thinking curriculum. By increasing collaboration among undergraduate students and faculty in mathematics and biological sciences, the grant activities also will encourage interdisciplinary research and help strengthen the university’s overall research enterprise.”

Harrison said applications for Marshall’s 2011 UBM summer research program will be available next spring. For more information, contact her at (304) 696-4867 or

Contact:  Ginny Painter, Communications Director, Marshall University Research Corporation, 304.746.1964