ASU postdoctoral scholars to benefit from NSF grant

April 29, 2014

A new grant will boost postdoctoral scholars at Arizona State University with professional training, mentorship, career development and travel funds to attend professional meetings.

The National Science Foundation, through Computing Research Association, will provide $892,350 over a three-year period for a unique new postdoctoral program for ASU, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona. Download Full Image

The Computer Science and Engineering Postdoc Academy will begin with 15 postdocs at ASU in the first year, all in computer-related sciences. The model will eventually be extended to the more than 380 postdoctoral scholars at ASU.

“With grants like this, we’ll be able to generate new research combinations and new teaching configurations as we train the next generation of postdoctoral scholars,” says Eric Wertheimer, associate vice provost of Graduate Education.

The new training addresses several challenges in postdoctoral scholarship, according to the grant proposal. Postdocs are often over-focused on research at the expense of career development and personal advancement. Academic infrastructure can lack mechanisms to support postdocs. Advisers and mentors are overloaded with responsibilities that include mentoring several graduate students, as well as their own teaching and publishing.

The Postdoc Academy will encompass three new methods of postdoctoral training:

• A physical and virtual center where postdocs can network, collaborate and access resources.

• Faculty members (Champions) who volunteer to supply additional career advice and mentoring to the postdoc.

• A curriculum of activities and events focused on multidisciplinary perspectives, challenges and innovations, future trends, and political and legal aspects of research.

Partners who will provide support and resources for the new program include ASU Graduate Education, Science Foundation Arizona and the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering (SCIDSE) in the Ira A Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Co-principal investigators for the grant are Chitta Baral and Partha Dasgupta, professors in SCIDSE, and Pamela Garrett, academic program manager in Graduate Education.

“This grant will do more than just transform the experience of postdocs and their mentors in computer science,” says Wertheimer. “It represents a critical moment for postdocs at ASU, as it enables us to begin to make ASU a more dynamic and supportive place for them to work and learn.”

Computer science and engineering students have been identified as recipients of the first year training. Additional computer science postdocs are needed to fill the additional slots. Contact Pamela Garrett for further information.

Editor Associate, University Provost

ASU center naming honors visionary mathematician Simon A. Levin

April 29, 2014

Arizona State University announced today that the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be renamed as the Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center.

In a private ceremony to be held May 1 on the Arizona State University Tempe campus, Simon A. Levin, George M. Moffett Professor of Biology at Princeton University, will be honored for his accomplishments in mathematics and insights into fundamental group dynamics. portrait of Princeton professor Simon A. Levin Download Full Image

“Dr. Levin and the ASU center named for him promote intellectual fusion and solution-based approaches to complex challenges in health, environment and the human condition,” said ASU Provost Robert E. Page Jr., who will preside over the renaming ceremony. “Shared, too, is a passion to promote diversity in the next generation of mathematical scientists. ASU has become a leader in the production of U.S. Hispanic doctorates in mathematics because of the center’s efforts.”

As part of the ceremonies, the center will host a series of panel discussions, featuring ASU’s President Michael Crow, Regents’ Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Foundation Professor of Anthropology Sander Van der Leeuw and other distinguished speakers from the U.S. and Canada, including the center’s honoree, professor Levin.

"I started as a mathematician who wanted to use math to make the world a better place," said Levin. "Environmental degradation was a huge concern for me. Eventually, I realized the complexity we see in nature can offer incredibly valuable lessons for more than individual environmental problems; this work also translates to everything from the relationships among banks to the prospects of international collaboration to addressing climate change."

Over the last six years, the center has pioneered interdisciplinary research, including undergraduate, doctoral and mentoring programs, such as the Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences program in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. This program blends competencies in mathematics with natural and social sciences, engineering, business, government and economics, and is designed to advance students interested in developing the critical thinking skills needed to make innovative contributions to global challenges. The doctoral program has produced 22 students, 17 of whom are from underrepresented minority groups, and 15 of whom are Latinos/as, according to Castillo-Chavez.

Castillo-Chavez, founding director of the center and the Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor of Mathematical Biology, said he looks forward to advancing the goals of the center as it assumes its new identity: bridging the gap between the biological, environmental and social sciences and the mathematical sciences; establishing flexible research and training cross-disciplinary programs driven by global and dynamic perspectives; and offering students from all backgrounds pathways to achieve their dreams.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost