Rutgers-Camden Awarded NSF Grant to Establish Summer Research Program

Rutgers-Camden Awarded NSF Grant to Establish Summer Research Program



CAMDEN — This
summer, 10 undergraduate students are gaining critical research and professional
development skills through a new program at Rutgers–Camden.

The
Computational Biology Summer Program introduces students to an integrated
approach to research that incorporates the biological sciences, mathematics,
computer science, chemistry, and physics.

“This program
allows students who would otherwise not have an opportunity to study
computational biology gain meaningful experience in the field,” says Benedetto
Piccoli, the Joseph and Loretta Lopez Chair in Mathematics at Rutgers–Camden
and Ph.D. program director for Rutgers–Camden’s Center for Computational and
Integrative Biology (CCIB).

The 10-week program
is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and establishes the
CCIB as a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site. An REU site
consists of a group of undergraduates who work in the research programs of the
host institution.

This summer
marks the first year of the three-year grant awarded to Rutgers–Camden. Piccoli
is the principal investigator for the project.

The
Computational Biology Summer Program is open to students from throughout the
United States and targets those enrolled in community colleges, non-traditional
students, veterans, and students from communities underserved in STEM (science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines.

“These are
students at a critical stage in their academic careers,” says Piccoli. “This
program may inspire students who are interested in the sciences to focus their
area of study or pursue a career in a STEM field.”  

Students
accepted to the program this year are representing Burlington County College,
Camden County College, and Rutgers–Camden. They are receiving a $5,000 stipend
and are living on the Rutgers–Camden campus for the duration of the program.

Throughout
the 10-week program, which began June 3, the students are mentored by
Rutgers–Camden faculty members and graduate students through interactive
workshops and research projects.

Each student
is assigned to one of four research projects for which they will write a final
report in the form of a scientific abstract and present their findings at the
conclusion of the program. The research topics are: spatial patterning in
ecosystems; group behavior in animals; engineering E. coli to produce biofuels; and deciphering the genetic basis of
cell shape in plants.

In addition
to research experience, the students receive computational biology training,
professional skills development, and enrichment sessions geared toward
broadening their understanding of the issues surrounding scientific research.

“This is my first time actually doing research and I’m
especially interested in experiencing what the research process is like and
gaining new skills,” says Tevin Wilson, an engineering major at Burlington
County College from Westampton. “It will be helpful to have that experience
through this program when applying to a four-year school.”

Julianne
Thornton, a Berlin resident majoring in biology at Camden County College, says
the program is helping her boost her research skills.

“I’m
looking forward to learning how to write a research paper and how to present
research findings while getting more experience in a lab setting,” Thornton
says.

Bryan Gachomo, a Marlton resident majoring in biology at
Rutgers–Camden, says the program is helping him apply classroom knowledge to a
lab setting.

“Sometimes, the classroom work isn’t enough,” Gachomo
says. “In the real world, they want to see how you can apply what you’ve
learned in the classroom, so getting this experience now is beneficial in the
long run. I’d like to go to medical school and this program is something that I
hope helps get me there.”

The following students are participating in the Computational Biology Summer Program this
year. Their hometowns and high schools are noted.

BURLINGTON COUNTY COLLEGE

Kelleshae
Bryson (Westampton; Wolmer’s Trust High School for Girls, Jamaica); John Rapacz
(Marlton; Edmond North High School, Oklahoma); Tevin Wilson (Westampton;
Rancocas Valley Regional High School)

CAMDEN COUNTY COLLEGE

Sarah Kamal
(Sewell; Washington Township High School); Paul Manofu (Cherry Hill; Cherry
Hill High School East); Julianne Thornton (Berlin; Winslow Township High School)

RUTGERS UNIVERSITY–CAMDEN

Lyla Jno
Baptiste (North Brunswick; North Brunswick Township High School); Bryan Gachomo
(Marlton; Harrison High School, Indiana); Soumya Manikonda (Edison; West
Windsor-Plainsboro High School South); Anna Waite (Collingswood; homeschooled)

The Rutgers–Camden Center for
Computational and Integrative Biology combines the expertise of researchers
from traditional biomedical disciplines — such as biology, chemistry and
psychology — with the analytic methods employed by mathematicians, physicists
and computer scientists to understand how individual biological systems work.

For more
information about the CCIB visit ccib.camden.rutgers.edu.

More
information about the Computational Biology Summer Program can be found at
ccib.camden.rutgers.edu/reu.

Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse
(856) 225-6759
E-mail: ejmoor@camden.rutgers.edu