Unity professor’s grant helps spark website for ‘biomath’

Dr. Diaz Eaton helped win five-year $2.9M National Science Foundation award to build QUBES website

UNITY, Maine — The collaboration between a Unity College professor and colleagues at other institutions has led to creation of a virtual hub where mathematicians and biologists can share information and ideas on best practices.

The hub – found at https://qubeshub.org/ — uses support from a five-year, $2.9 million National Science Foundation grant awarded in August 2014, and was developed by the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) Consortium “to develop a collaborative workspace for improving undergraduate biology education” through five major initiatives:

  • coordinating effort and resources among disparate communities for promoting quantitative biology education;
  • supporting faculty;
  • increasing the visibility, utility, and adoption of existing educational materials;
  • quantifying and tracking faculty contribution in the scholarship of teaching and learning; and
  • studying and disseminating the features of QUBES that increase implementation success.

Unity College Associate Professor Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton and collaborators from five other colleges and universities have been coordinating the initiatives.

The official website launch is Oct 8. Diaz Eaton said educators from secondary schools to colleges can use these materials in their teaching plans.

The QUBES Consortium is an alliance of professional societies and academic institutions united around common goals in quantitative biology education. Currently, it includes the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Biology Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America, the National Institute for Mathematical Biology and Synthesis, and the BioQUEST Consortium.

Unity College has already been using QUBES Hub as a tool for the education research group led by Dr. Jennifer Cartier, which was involved in this summer’s new MaineLands Bridge Program. The QUBES leadership team also includes Sam Donovan (University of Pittsburgh), M. Drew LaMar (College of William and Mary), DorothyBelle Poli (Roanoke College), Jeremy Wojdak and Robert Sheehy (Radford University), and Stith “Tom” Gower and Kristin Jenkins (University of Wisconsin).

Diaz Eaton will continue to lead and grow the QUBES leadership team.

She said she is optimistic that, by lowering the participation barrier and fostering a national valuation and promotion system for teaching, the project will encourage faculty to implement curricular reform and integrate quantitative skills into biological science programs.

“We are pleased that Unity College has the opportunity to take a leadership role on such an important issue facing not only biology education, but sustainability science education,” said Diaz Eaton. “To keep up with advances in science in the 21st century, we need educators to have access to the right tools, and the support to teach with them.”

“Unity College is offering a curriculum that prepares graduates to become the environmental leaders of this century, and faculty such as Dr. Diaz Eaton are pushing the boundaries of their fields,” said Unity College Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Melik Peter Khoury.

“Those who are choosing to support Unity College are confident that their dollars will make a significant difference in part because of achievements like this by Dr. Diaz Eaton,” Khoury said. “She is part of a strong group of collaborative academics with a vision that earned NSF support.  There is no better validation of quality than receiving support to advance ideas that will positively impact several fields.”

Separately, Diaz Eaton is one of the co-Principal Investigators of a $49K National Science Foundation grant led by Dr. Gordon Uno at the University of Oklahoma that will fund a summit at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Headquarters.

The purpose of this summit will be to bring together programs funded by the National Science Foundation, which focus on networks of undergraduate biology educators. This summit will enable these investigators to make new connections and share important information about disseminating best educational practices and other ideas.

About Unity College
Unity College proudly celebrates its 50th year in 2015. The first institution of higher education in the nation to divest from fossil fuel investments, Unity is committed to educating the next generation of environmental professionals. Sustainability science lies at the heart of its educational mission, with 16 environmentally focused undergraduate majors. For more information, visit unity.edu.

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