Northern Michigan University undergraduate Erin Estes completed the Math-Bio Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). The highly selective program, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides students with hands-on research experience and the opportunity to make a real impact solving scientific problems at the intersection between biology and mathematics. Estes' project explored Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus and social behavior in honey bees.
More than 120 students across the country applied to be one of 10 UNCG Math-Bio REU summer participants. After a brief training period, the chosen undergraduates were divided into groups of two or three who conducted their own research projects with guidance from faculty mentors.
“The students' projects focused on diseases in humans and honey bees, both highly social species where interactions in complex organizations can lead to disease transmission,” says biology professor Olav Rueppell, one of the program directors. “Game theoretical and epidemiological modeling was supplemented by practical experiments to study diseases, ranging from Ebola to Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus.”
In addition to conducting research, participants also strengthened their science communication skills by presenting and writing about their findings. Students involved in the program have written up their results in preparation for scientific publication.
The Math-Bio REU aims to enrich undergraduates' experience by encouraging them to look beyond their individual disciplines.
“It's a challenging and rewarding program,” says Rueppell. “We immerse students in a stimulating, interdisciplinary environment.”
Faculty involved with the effort hope that students will go on to act as ambassadors for both the program and for undergraduate research in general.
Northern Michigan University alumna Sacha Pence (‘04) is the new director of the applied behavior analysis graduate program at the Drake University School of Education. Pence received her bachelor's degree in psychology and biology from NMU. She also holds a doctorate in psychology. Pence is a certified behavior analysist with experience teaching and working directly with children who demonstrate challenging behaviors. She also has diverse clinical training. Read Drake University's story here.