Chico, CA, United States
Chico, CA, United States

California State University, Chico is the second-oldest campus in the 23 campus California State University system. It is located in Chico, California, about ninety miles north of Sacramento. As of the Fall 2012 semester, the university had a total enrollment of 16,470 students. The university offers 126 types of Bachelor's degrees, 35 types of Master's degrees, and four types of teaching credentials. The university does not confer Doctoral degrees. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 798.70K | Year: 2012

Improved observations of the detailed spatial structure of low-level airflow over areas on the order of ten square kilometers or more and for extended time periods are needed to advance research in the atmospheric sciences and related applications. This project will develop and evaluate the ability of a ground-based, scanning, eye-safe elastic backscatter LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) observing system coupled with two candidate numerical motion estimation algorithms to determine vector wind fields above the reach of typical portable meteorological towers (i.e., heights of 50-150 m AGL) in the optically-clear atmosphere and over periods of several months. The project will utilize an NSF-developed asset, the transportable Raman-shifted Eye-safe Aerosol Lidar (REAL), as the elastic backscatter lidar. The two numerical wind retrieval techniques that will ingest image-type lidar data are an existing cross-correlation method as well as a wavelet-based optical flow approach. The latter has been recently developed by French collaborators. Both techniques will be implemented via software optimized to take advantage of the massively parallel yet compact, energy efficient, and affordable power of graphical processing units. This will result in a significant enhancement of the elastic lidar system by enabling it to produce wind-field observations in real-time. Both modes of airflow estimation will be compared with independent wind measurements from a small, eye-safe Doppler lidar operating at the same infrared wavelength as the elastic lidar. The Intellectual Merit of this project centers on the development and evaluation of improved and reliable means for retrieving the structure and evolution of small-scale boundary layer flow features. Broader Impacts of this effort will include strengthened collaborations for critical characterization of the resulting flow fields and use of the flow fields to advance understanding of boundary layer processes (e.g., airflow in stable nocturnal boundary layers) as well as enhanced undergraduate education involving students drawn from a wide variety of majors, who will be assigned to tightly-focused tasks in support of this projects stated goals. Hands-on training for a graduate-student and mentorship of a post-doctoral research associate will be provided to ensure successful outcomes. Results will be disseminated via peer-reviewed literature and a combination of domestic and international conferences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 207.48K | Year: 2015

This award will provide funds to acquire a compact Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to support a new collaborative Geobiology Research Group, consisting of current and new faculty in Biology and Geosciences. This groups mission is to facilitate cross-disciplinary research, with the primary goal of training undergraduate researchers. Geobiology is a rapidly-growing research area that focuses on the interaction of microorganisms with their mineral environment, and SEM is a critical tool to study both organisms and mineral analysis. The SEM to be acquired is a new compact but full-featured, low-cost instrument that is well suited as a cross-disciplinary microscope for a primarily-undergraduate institution.

The instrument will be used to characterize both prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes, minerals produced by microbial activity, and the geochemical and microstructural attributes of fossil biosignatures and host rock lithology. Designed for simplicity and ease of maintenance, this compact, research-grade SEM is ideal for an institution focused on fostering independent undergraduate research projects to explore both the current and past evolution of microbes and their environment.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 50.00K | Year: 2014

United States building codes have been very successful in protecting life safety during earthquakes, but they do not aim to protect against damage and high repair costs. Despite societal concerns over economic disruption after a future earthquake, a buildings susceptibility to damage is almost never analyzed during the structural design process. This leaves us with a building stock that is vulnerable to damage, monetary loss, and possible closure after an earthquake. This I-Corps teams research activities and long-term vision focus on enabling engineers to consider damage/loss reduction in the building design process.

The teams plan is to create a commercial software tool that enables engineers to predict seismic damage and loss as part of the design process. This design approach will be new to many engineers, so the tool will be created to also provide Probable Maximum Loss (PML) analyses results (which engineers are accustomed to doing for the mortgage industry). If successful, this new design approach and the enabling software tool could revolutionize the way that buildings are designed in seismic areas. Specifically, this software tool (and the theory implemented in the tool) will give engineers a clearer understanding of the extent to which buildings will be damaged in earthquakes and provide an estimate of the cost to repair the buildings; this will enable engineers to design buildings in such a way as to reduce the seismic damage and repair costs, instead of using the current approach of only designing buildings to protect the life safety of building occupants.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCHAEOLOGY | Award Amount: 149.10K | Year: 2013

With National Science Foundation support, Drs. Jelmer Eerkens and Eric Bartelink will examine how prehistoric populations in Central California responded to environmental change and population growth. The research will reconstruct ancient human health, diet, weaning practices, and mobility patterns using stable isotope and paleopathological analyses of human burials from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region. The project is a collaboration between faculty members, and graduate and undergraduate students from two institutions, representing specialties in bioarchaeology, archaeology, archaeometry, stable isotope ecology, and geochemistry. Central California is an area of significant interest because the region experienced exponential population growth during the late Holocene (~3500 years before present until Spanish contact in the 1700s). The central issue focuses on the rate of demographic change, and uses multiple lines of evidence to explore whether population growth was stable or if it fluctuated in concert with environmental changes (e.g., extended periods of drought reported in climatic records). In this respect, the research will examine how ancient human populations responded to climatic change and social stress such as warfare.

Human skeletons provide a unique window into the past because they represent the life history of particular individuals. The study will merge those individual life histories into a broader picture of cultural adaptation to population growth, climatic fluctuations, nutritional stress, warfare, and disease. Based on existing anthropological theory, the researchers expect to find three patterns. First, they expect an increase in nutritional stress and disease indicators over time, reflecting greater consumption of poorer quality diets, especially during periods of environmental stress such as regional drought. Stable isotope analysis of human bone and teeth will provide information regarding the source of dietary protein, carbohydrates, and fats acquired from different ecosystems (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine), which will be compared with skeletal and dental indicators of stress and disease. Second, the researchers expect that periods of increased social and environmental stress will correlate with decreased parental investment in offspring, as measured by earlier weaning of children and poorer childhood diet. This will be evaluated using stable isotope signatures in serial sections of first molar tooth dentin, which forms in infancy and early childhood. Third, the researchers expect decreased residential mobility with increasing population growth, evaluated using strontium and oxygen isotope analysis of early forming teeth vs. later forming bone. To provide temporal control a large number of radiocarbon dates will be obtained.

The broader impact of this research will provide a unique dataset documenting hunter-gatherer transitions in prehistory. The study will shed light on how changes in climate influenced health, diet, weaning, and mobility patterns. In addition, Drs. Eerkens and Bartelink have worked closely with members of the Native American community to ensure that the results of this research are widely disseminated, including to the public and research communities. The research will contribute toward educating and training archaeology and physical anthropology students, and the research will be presented in both scientific and public forums, including national and regional conferences, lecture series, and museum exhibits.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: PETROLOGY AND GEOCHEMISTRY | Award Amount: 180.61K | Year: 2014

Subduction zones are important sites of volcanism, continental crustal growth, and mass transfer from the mantle, through the crust, to the surface. The Cascade Arc in western North America is located above a subduction zone and encompasses some of the most active volcanic sites in the contiguous US. Previous investigations of the evolution of magmas in the Cascades focused on large-scale complexities in geochemistry, using individual primitive (or mantle-derived) basalts that erupt there to characterize the mantle. However, the geochemical array of primitive basalts erupted in close proximity to one another suggests that heterogeneous mantle domains may exist on a much smaller scale than previously recognized. Furthermore, many basalts that fit the definition of primitive also have geochemical characteristics typical of some crustal or magmatic processing. The project will be conducted at two PUIs (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and California State University, Chico) and will train 3-5 undergraduate students per year. The wide range of compositions and small area of the PLC will provide numerous small-scale research questions that can be answered with geochemical techniques, thus preparing undergraduate students for graduate study and careers in STEM. This work is transformative for its important implications for future work in the Cascades and other complex arcs where large-scale variations of a single volcanic center, across arc segments, and along entire arc systems are investigated.

The goal of this project is to identify and characterize small-scale heterogeneities in the sub-Cascadian mantle using compositional variations in a suite of basalts in the Poison Lake chain (PLC) near the Lassen Volcanic Center (LVC) in California. Detailed study of the geochemical variations in the PLC will shed light on the nature of mantle diversity beneath the LVC, the Cascades and other complex subduction zone systems. Given the restricted time and space represented by PLC primitive basalts (~110-100 ka and 50km2), this work is unique because it concentrates solely on the variable of composition. Proposed work focuses on two working hypotheses: 1) Small-scale heterogeneities exist in the mantle and are represented by those PLC basalts that have not been processed; and 2) a variety of post mantle processes can be recognized in other PLC basalts, which do not represent direct mantle melt compositions. Geochemical and petrologic compositions of the most primitive PLC basalts will be used to characterize heterogeneous mantle domains and the scale of chemical variation there (Hypothesis 1). Compositions of modified (less primitive) samples from the PLC will provide insight into crustal processes that may modify mantle melts on their traverse from mantle to surface (Hypothesis 2). In this way, the project will result in models that reflect the scale and composition of mantle heterogeneity and subsequent intracrustal modification processes based on a very isolated section of the LVC.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 35.01K | Year: 2014

a non-technical explanation

Stromatolites, the macrofossil evidence of microbial activity, are an important biosignature in the search for life on early Earth and in extraterrestrial missions. Although it has become increasingly important to place value on organic biomarkers to define a record of past life, stromatolites remain the most readily visible microbial macrofossil. Yet, the taphonomic effect of diagenesis and metamorphism on stromatolites is poorly known, hampering their utility as a faithful recorder of past life.
The project proposes to develop a new collaboration to describe and quantify the effects of contact and regional metamorphism and fluid-induced diagenetic changes on biogenic stromatolite beds of the 1,878 Ma Biwabik-Gunflint iron formations of the Lake Superior region. This target has been chosen because it offers a phenomenal natural laboratory setting that is accessible, samples can be carefully and accurately plotted in a three-dimensional framework, and the geologic history is complex and covers several divergent taphonomic pathways.

The full study will be significant to researchers studying paleontological and biogeochemical patterns in other altered sediments both on early Earth and extraterrestrial targets. The research will provide critical primary research experience for two undergraduate students at a primarily undergraduate institution, enhancing their careers with opportunities not available at their host institution. The teaching methods of the PI will be enhanced with a greater understanding of coupled petrologic and geochemical information. Most critically, by creating a new collaboration, there will develop additional opportunities for interdisciplinary project-based learning which forms an integral component of the PI?s pedagogy.

a technical description

The focus of this CNIC proposal is to work in a world-class laboratory at the Université of Brest, France. During this visit, the new collaborative team will analyze samples for iron isotope and trace element geochemical proxies that will integrate with the PI?s extensive database on mineralogic and petrographic changes throughout the metamorphic gradient of a biogenic stromatolite layer. This specific collaboration will both complement and challenge previous research on the geochemical imprint of iron formations and the preservation of original geobiochemical signatures in ancient fossil deposits. The implications will be of major importance to researchers in fields as diverse as astrobiology, geochemistry, mineralogy, economic geology, and paleobiology.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 544.34K | Year: 2016

An award is made to California State University (CSU), Chico to acquire a Fluorescence- Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) machine, an essential scientific instrument in modern biology that provides fast, objective, and quantitative recording of signals from individual cells as well as their physical separation. The FACS machine will enhance the mission of the Department of Biological Sciences and stimulate an interdisciplinary program with the Departments of Chemistry and Computer Science by allowing hands-on, high impact research between undergraduate students, Masters students, and faculty members. This scientific instrument will prepare biology majors for careers in the biological sciences and enhance educational opportunities for students at the undergraduate and Masters level by being utilized in multiple lower- and upper-division classes, advanced research-focused classes, and for individual student research projects outside of the classroom. Importantly, the FACS will catalyze an interdisciplinary effort between scientific departments, improving the educational experience of biology, chemistry, and computer science students by allowing authentic research projects for students to collaborate on. These collaborations are essential; the ability to work together as an interdisciplinary team to solve complex problems is an essential aspect of modern research that many students do not have adequate exposure to. Additionally, acquisition of a FACS machine will establish CSU Chico, a Hispanic- serving public university with a service area that spans 21% of rural California, as a leading undergraduate institution in Northern California for immunology, chemical biology, and bioinformatics. Allowing our diverse student population with different scientific backgrounds to perform interdisciplinary research activities with their peers will build their enthusiasm for research, encouraging students from this traditionally underserved rural population to pursue further studies that combine these research fields. This investment in research capital will also allow faculty and students to attain more research grants, allowing more hands-on, practical, high-impact learning that benefits the community.

In modern biology, deciphering an organisms genome and understanding the effects of changes in the gene expression of a given tissue, organ, and individual cells is now standard methodology, requiring the isolation of individual cells before interrogating changes in their gene expression. Specific research projects enabled by the FACS machine are focused on understanding the genes responsible for the proliferation and maturation of blood stem cells, understanding the differences in gene expression that make blood cell populations heterogeneous, investigating the effects of chemicals on these processes, and elucidating the evolution of the vertebrate immune system. Additionally, the FACS machine will be utilized to study microbial ecology in diverse geological locations in Northern California, to analyze how microbial and viral pathogens infect a wide variety of cells, and to understand plant and animal cell cycle control, the regulation of cell death, and protein expression. Importantly, data generated from these studies requires combining knowledge of biological processes, chemical signaling, and computational analyses, necessitating that biologists, chemists, and computer scientists work together to solve complex problems.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ALGEBRA,NUMBER THEORY,AND COM | Award Amount: 42.70K | Year: 2016

This award provides funding for the West Coast Number Theory Conference (WCNT) for three years, from 2016 through its 50th anniversary. Since its founding by Emma and Dick Lehmer at University of California, Berkeley, WCNT has been held each December on or near the West Coast of the United States. Nearly 50 years later, WCNT continues to be a welcoming venue for young researchers and established mathematicians alike to share their work in an egalitarian environment. Number theory is an ancient discipline that is still flourishing as an active and important branch of modern mathematics. Current applications of number theory include high-speed computation and data encryption.

At WCNT each talk receives equal time and every participant receives equal access to funding. The daily talks span many different areas within number theory, fostering cross-pollination of ideas and collaboration across standard borders. The conference includes formal problem sessions as well as informal evening group work sessions. With permission of the presenter, open problems from these sessions are collected and published on the conference website. Graduate students, postdocs, junior researchers, women, and minorities are especially encouraged to apply for funding. The conference website can be found at

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: TUES-Type 1 Project | Award Amount: 199.96K | Year: 2013

When one considers science writing in undergraduate classrooms, the formal lab report is generally the first thing that comes to mind. However, mastering this genre is of little benefit to non-majors, who are unlikely ever to encounter, read, or write a scientific research report beyond the confines of a science course. In addition, most undergraduates are completely unaware that a scientists research report is the product of a range of informal writing that happened along the way (scribbles in a notebook, notes in the margins of papers, presentations at lab meetings and conferences, e-mails to colleagues, etc.). Therefore, this project asks: How can science instructors engage undergraduates in authentic writing and literacy practices that offer skills that can be leveraged in settings beyond the science classroom? Can students eventually develop the academic language, precision, inscriptions, and argumentation patterns common to communication in professional scientific research and science writing communities without relying on the lab report as the only model? How can science instructors, who rarely receive any training in writing instruction, be better prepared to teach students to write well in science?

Building on prior work done under a CCLI Type 1 grant (NSF Award No. 0837058, Student-Generated Scientific Inquiry), this project is addressing the above-mentioned questions and challenges by partnering science and English faculty to improve instruction in an inquiry course for future K-8 teachers and to develop an instructors guide, Writing in the Inquiry Classroom: A Facilitators Guide to Scientific Writing, for use by science faculty. The instructors guide will provide concrete pedagogical strategies for implementing best practices in writing instruction within the context of any undergraduate course where students engage in scientific inquiry.

In addition, the project is analyzing the authenticity of students discourse patterns compared with those found in professional communities of scientists. For example, do students use notebooks and diagrams like scientists do? Do they develop precision in their use of language? Do they use writing as a tool for learning, not just as a demonstration of what was learned?

The investigators are employing a mixed-methods evaluation, drawing from data sources including videotapes of class sessions, copies of students written work, lesson plans, teaching logs, students online discussions, surveys, and student interviews.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: WORKFORCE IN THE MATHEMAT SCI | Award Amount: 265.00K | Year: 2016

The REU/RET program in mathematics at California State University, Chico hosts secondary teachers with a strong interest in mathematics or statistics and undergraduate students who have completed their junior year. For seven weeks each summer, twelve participants, including three teachers, will work in three research teams on problems in Mathematical Modeling, Statistics, and Number Theory. Depending on the field, projects may be appropriate for students from scientific disciplines other than mathematics.

The research experience is intended to give participants an appreciation for the breadth and depth of mathematics and its applications, while providing undergraduates an opportunity to improve their communication skills and in-service teachers an experience that will deepen their understanding of mathematical content and inspire pedagogical innovation. By working on open problems in mathematics, participants will experience the excitement of exploration, discovery, analysis, proof, and systematization that are part of the mathematicians world. While much of mathematics is accessible only after years of study, the field is rich enough to allow for a full mathematical experience at the undergraduate level.

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