A team of faculty researchers at Arkansas State University has secured a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to train interdisciplinary teams of scientists to analyze novel interactions within multiple levels of biological organization.
The project, “Understanding Invasion and Disease Ecology and Evolution through Computational Data Education” is described by the researchers with the abbreviation UandI-DEECoDE (You and I Decode).
Dr. Travis Marsico, professor of botany in Department of Biological Sciences, is the principal investigator for the project.
“The project focus, at the interface of disease ecology, invasive species biology, and advanced computation, is timely and incredibly important to help solve some of society’s pressing problems,” Marsico said.
He is joined by a team of co-principal investigators: Dr. Jake Qualls, assistant professor of computer science, Dr. Emily Bellis, assistant professor of bioinformatics, Dr. Asela Wijeratne, assistant professor of bioinformatics, and Dr. Kyle Gustafson, assistant professor of parasitology. Greg Umhoefer is project coordinator.
“I am thrilled about the transformative potential of our research traineeship for the science doctoral programs at A-State,” Marsico said. “The interdisciplinary nature of our program will allow us to make important discoveries, advance science, and train a diverse scientific workforce.”
Grant activities will include interdisciplinary and project-based coursework, professional development institutes, data science bootcamps, mentorship networks, research pods, and opportunities to conduct science abroad.
Direct local impacts will include long-lasting institutional improvements to graduate student life by sustaining more Ph.D. lines and building a solid and inclusive graduate student culture, according to the grant proposal narrative.
The focus of UandI-DEECoDE, at the intersection of disease ecology, invasion biology, and data science, makes this program the first of its kind to explicitly address the need to combine expertise from these fields to enhance the understanding of ecology and evolution among newly interacting species.
The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program is designed to encourage development and implementation of potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training. The program is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary or convergent research areas through comprehensive traineeship models that are innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.