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Spelman Biologist Receives Funding from the National Science Foundation

December 2015

Hong QinDr. Hong Qin, associate professor of biology, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to support “A Strategic Planning Workshop to Explore Quantitative Biology as a Vehicle for Broadening Participation.”

On March 11 and 12, 2016, Spelman will serve as the host of this workshop designed to identify challenges and barriers to quantitative biology research and teaching at HBCUs, and potential ways to address them.

Practitioners, educators and academic leaderships from the Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University will explore the possibility of building a quantitative biology community in the Atlanta area to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in science.

Collaborations among these schools may serve as a model to promote computational biology training at other HBCUs and promote development of HBCUs as reservoirs of computational expertise. Spelman professors Mentewab Ayalew, Marta Dark and Brandeis Marshall will serve as Co-PIs on this award.

About the Workshop

NSFDr. Qin, the principle investigator for the grant, is an expert in systems biology, a field of biology that argues that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that true understanding of complex and dynamic biological systems requires the incorporation and integration of fundamental principles derived from mathematics, physics, engineering and computer science.

This understanding is thought to be necessary for harnessing the full potential of biology to sustain life on earth. The workshop will explore and develop a strategy for implementing a novel educational framework that would prepare diverse student populations for collaborative research at the intersection of disciplines.

The workshop is also motivated by the realization that underrepresented groups might gravitate more naturally toward the computational areas. As such, this workshop offers significant broader impacts through inclusion of several minority-serving institutions and regional research one institutions.

According to the NSF grant abstract, "This project is based on a novel way of thinking about training a future workforce in times where the convergence and integration of disciplines becomes the new standard. This direction is characterized by the recognition that emergent properties of biological systems are unlikely to be realized through reductionist approaches that generally reveal details about individual components, but contribute little toward an understanding of how these components interact to sustain live under ever-changing conditions."

This workshop also represents a new model for how to advance education and research training at the intersections of disciplines, with a strong emphasis on a broader involvement of underrepresented groups in the "new biology" academic setting.

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