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Mathematics Department receives National Security Agency grant
ETSU Foundation Carillon and Alumni Plaza

JOHNSON CITY (Feb. 5, 2016) – East Tennessee State University’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics is the recipient of a $125,000 grant from the National Security Agency for the project “Strengthening Minorities Achievements via Research Training in Mathematics.” 

The project will provide a research opportunity in the mathematical modeling of diseases such as type 2 diabetes for undergraduate students in mathematics and related quantitative fields. Students from underrepresented minorities will be especially recruited to participate. The nine-week summer Research Experience for Undergraduates will run from June 6 until August 5 of this year. Additional funding comes from the National Science Foundation.

“We have selected type 2 diabetes as our primary disease of interest because of the significantly higher occurrence of this disease among the African American population in the United States,” said project principal investigator Dr. Ariel Cintrón-Arias, an ETSU mathematical epidemiologist.

Cintrón-Arias has extensive experience in directing undergraduate research projects, some of which were previously funded by the Tennessee Board of Regents Access and Diversity Initiative. He currently serves as co-principal investigator in Research Experience for Undergraduates and S-STEM scholarship grants funded by the National Science Foundation.

ETSU’s Dr. Debra Knisley, co-principal investigator, is a graph theorist whose research uses graph-theoretic modeling of biological networks. She was principal investigator for four projects funded by the Mathematical Association of America’s SUMMA Program—Strengthening Underrepresented Minorities in Mathematical Achievement.

“Biological networks, protein-protein interaction networks in particular, are a fundamental tool for topics in systems biology,” Cintrón-Arias said. “This program of study is unique in that it pairs Network Science with pharmacokinetic models in an attempt to address a number of unknowns regarding the physiological basis for diseases. Students who take part in the project will be introduced to cutting-edge research.”

The grant from the National Security Agency will partner up with a well-established summer program at ETSU, directed by Dr. Anant Godbole for over 15 years. Godbole directs ETSU’s Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education. The partnership will increase the number of summertime participants from 10 to 17, while offering research opportunities in two areas: Combinatorics and Mathematical Modeling. 

Publishable papers often grow out of Research Experience for Undergraduates projects. Past participants have published in The Journal of Combinatorial Theory; Statistics and Probability Letters; and the Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, among others. Over 75 papers have been written by students in the program.

For more information, call 423-439-4349. 

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