The purpose of the Aisiku Interdisciplinary STEM Research Team Initiative is to enhance undergraduate research in STEM through the development of interdisciplinary research teams at Worcester State University. Funding for this initiative (1) provides a one-year opportunity for students (Aisiku Interdisciplinary Research Project Scholar) to work closely with faculty mentors from multiple disciplines, (2) supports research supplies, (3) offsets travel costs to regional conferences where teams will present findings, and (4) provides a faculty stipend for student mentoring. These funds will be administered through University Advancement, allowing for access to these funds without the typical constraints of the fiscal year budgeting and reporting process.
Who Can Apply
Team members will develop and propose a research focus, timeline, and budget. The lead PI(s) will be responsible for the general oversight of the project, coordinating activities, periodic progress reports, and a final report. Students should be recruited from the disciplines during their Sophomore or early Junior year; each faculty member associated with the project is expected to mentor 1-2 students as part of this initiative.
What it Entails
The proposal should include a proposed budget and justification. A proposal that supports research directed by two faculty is eligible to apply for a maximum of $22,000; a proposal that supports research directed by three or more faculty is eligible to apply for a maximum of $44,000. A one-page budget justification is required. Please use the accompanying budget spreadsheet. The research plan and proposed budget should contain the following components:
Plans for research that span at least one semester and the summer, and incorporate compensation for both the faculty and the students:
Faculty can request a course release or a summer stipend (To maintain consistency across all Aisiku STEM Center funded projects, a faculty stipend
should not exceed $4,000 per summer.)
Students should plan for summer work (up to 29 hours per week)
Plans for regular meetings both team meetings and meetings with other Aisiku Interdisciplinary Research Teams (from same and overlapping years)
Plans to present the results at a regional or national conference
- Project Description
- Background (literature review and project justification)
- Must identify the intellectual merit and the broader impacts of the proposed research.
- The role of the faculty and students, and why members of the research team are uniquely qualified to participate in the proposed research should be clearly articulated
- Research Plan
- Timeline (1 page)
- Dissemination Plan (conference, journal publication, plans for seeking future funding) (1 page)
- Project goals and assessment plan (1 page)
- Justification (1 page)
- Detailed spreadsheet
Proposals will be reviewed by a three-person review committee including the Dean of School of Education, Health, and Natural Sciences, Dr. Aisiku or his designee, and a third reviewer from the STEM Center Board. For additional information, please contact email@example.com
Proposals for 2024 are due TBA. Check back for more information.
Water Quality and Biological Diversity Along an Urbanization Gradient
Land-use change, and in particular, urban development, can strongly impact the health and biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems. This project examined temporal and spatial variability in water quality and biodiversity in the Tatnuck Brook watershed along an urbanization gradient. We measured a variety of land-use, physiochemical and biological metrics at 10 sites around Cooks, Patch, and Coes Reservoirs and their tributaries over the course of seven months (May to Nov 2022). Our more than 3000 individual data points on water quality preliminarily show that some aspects of water quality (conductivity, nitrates, ammonia) appear to be associated with land use dynamics, while other aspects are controlled by other factors. Data on fish and macroinvertebrate community composition are still being collected, but analyses will focus on disentangling the relative importance of land use and water quality variables on the diversity and abundance of taxa, and on examining how proportions of ecologically-sensitive taxa vary along this urbanization gradient.
This project provided 4 undergraduate students with paid summer field experience, and 10 undergraduate students with independent study projects for Fall 2022. Throughout this project, we closely collaborated with academic, municipal, nonprofit, and community groups and are working to summarize the data to provide our partners with usable, actionable data on the sources of water quality impacts in this watershed.
Diana Sharpe, Department of Biology
Laura Reynolds, Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics
William Hansen, Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics
Allison Dunn, Department of Earth Environment, and Physics
Meghna Dilip, Department of Chemistry
Partridgeberry reproduction: An interdisciplinary study of the biotic and abiotic drivers
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry) is a small understory plant commonly found in pine and hemlock dominated woods in New England. To promote outcrossing, partridgeberries come in two floral forms, pins and thrums, that require reciprocal pollen transfer for successful fertilization to occur. Our work study has determined that partridgeberry populations do not always contain both floral morphs and the other morph can be located several meters away. This requires pollinators that are able to fly the distance between the populations and a way for the plants to attract the pollinators. Our work has shown that at our study sites the main pollinators are flies (Toxomerus spp and unidentified species) as well as bees (Tiphia spp and Bombus spp.) Both of these pollinator groups preferred younger flowers. Previous studies had only observed bumblebees visiting the flowers and did not have information about floral age preference. Bumblebees were an infrequent visitor to our flowers which has implications for long-distance pollen movement at our plots.
Partridgeberry flowers are small but produce a complex floral bouquet. The cyclic monoterpenes ɑ-pinene and d-limonene have been identified as the major floral VOCs. Our data also suggests the VOC peak areas change as the flowers age.
Dr. Aleel Grennan, Department of Biology
Dr. KC Murphy
Dr. Doug Kowalewski
Using Augmented Reality Techniques to Provide Virtual Reality Field Experiences for Persons with Disabilities
The primary goal of the project was to create various teaching tools employing cutting-edge technologies involving virtual reality, 3D visualization and rendering to allow students with an immersive experience in the field exploration from the classroom as well as tactile experiences with 3D objects. We used virtual reality tools to make the field work accessible and more efficient. Over the summer of 2019, we conducted various field trips around Massachusetts to collect data using drones, mapping tools, 360 degree cameras, Google Cardboard camera and satellite remote sensing datasets as well.
Our team explored the New England landscape including geologic and glacial features, forest disturbance and successional changes and natural communities in New England to better understand the human- environment interaction. We gathered imagery on the evolution of the New England landscape, looking at processes such as reforestation, hydrologic alteration and the role of conservation efforts to restore features such as meadows, wetlands and forests.
In addition, we also extended the approach to the identification of vertebrate and invertebrate fossils. The virtual-reality tools have been used in various environmental geoscience classrooms to orient students and educators about the field visits to make an efficient field trip experience. Thanks to the grant, four undergraduate students received summer research experience who helped collect and analyze the datasets. As a result, some of the students were able to present the work in local, and national conferences.
We have introduced these data into courses in Environmental Science, Earth Science and Biology. The data were particularly helpful in providing visual information during the pandemic and the resulting shift to online teaching.
Dr. William Hansen, Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics
Dr. Nabin Malakar, Department of Earth, Environment, and Physics
Dr. Steven Oliver, Department of Biology
Synthesis of Thielavin Derivatives as Antimicrobial Compounds for Disease Treatment
Dr. Weichu Xu, Department of Chemistry
Dr. Margaret Kerr, Department of Chemistry
Dr. Roger Greenwell, Department of Biology