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UMass Dartmouth Mathematics Department Receives $788,985 National Science Foundation Grant to expand research opportunities for undergraduate students

A National Science Foundation grant of $788,985 aims to help UMass Dartmouth educators better prepare undergraduate students for careers in fields that require strong math skills.

A National Science Foundation grant of $788,985 aims to help UMass Dartmouth educators better prepare undergraduate students for careers in fields that require strong math skills.

The five-year award provides computational science training for students and engages them in research experiences during their four years of undergraduate study.

Professor of Mathematics Sigal Gottlieb is project leader. Co-leaders are Gary E. Davis, professor, Steven J. Leon, chancellor professor, Jae-Hun Jung, visiting professor at UMass Dartmouth and assistant professor, SUNY Buffalo. Director of Assessment and Data Management is Saeja O. Kim, associate professor.

"This grant is important because it allows us to begin the process of teaching mathematics differently, in a way that is more relevant to the needs of 21st century science, engineering and business," Davis said.

"Computational power is revolutionizing mathematics. The increasing power of computers affects all areas of mathematics, from pure and applied mathematics through statistics," Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb explained that computational mathematics is comprised of two aspects: coming up with computer codes that help solve real-world problems and analyzing these algorithms mathematically to make sure that the results they give us are reliable, fast and accurate.

"Students trained in both the art and science of scientific computing will be able to solve a wide array of problems which require computer simulation rather than, or in addition to experimentation," Gottlieb said. Examples of these problems include the simulation of air flow around airplane wings to help design better planes or blood flow in arteries to design better stents, the cleaning up of noisy images taken from satellites and simulation of the behavior of black holes in space.

Specificially, the grant allows the department to expand its program in undergraduate research and create a supportive, positive and diverse research environment for students. Selected undergraduates receive monetary incentives to participate more fully in research both during the semester and summer months.

Freshmen and sophomores will develop their skills through smaller, pre-research projects, while juniors and seniors will be provided with year-long, significant research experiences. Allowing students to engage in research as undergraduates will better prepare them for graduate studies or work in any industry that relies on scientific computing.

"These grants will allow undergraduate students to work at a deeper level," Davis said. "Additionally, the grant enables the department to develop innovative methods of teaching computational mathematics to students, beginning in their first year, that emphasize interactive project-based learning."

Traditionally, research projects have led to presentations at professional meetings and to refereed journal publications.

"Computational mathematics is at the heart of many recent developments in biology, chemistry, engineering and finance and this grant allows us to begin teaching mathematics in a more interactive way that holds promise for better engaging students," Leon said.

More information is available at

Author:  "John Hoey"
Date:  29-Jan-2009
Department:   Mathematics

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