East Saint Louis, IL, United States

Northeastern Illinois University

www.neiu.edu
East Saint Louis, IL, United States

Northeastern Illinois University is a public state university located in Chicago, Illinois. The main campus is located in the community area of North Park with three additional campuses in the metropolitan area. Tracing its founding to 1867, it was first established as a separate branch of a public college in 1949. NEIU serves 12,000 students in the region and is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution.NEIU has one of the longest running free form community radio stations, WZRD Chicago 88.3 FM. Wikipedia.

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Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Cellular Dynamics and Function | Award Amount: 443.85K | Year: 2014

Many living organisms sense and respond to light, primarily through a large family of proteins known as photoreceptors. This Research in Undergraduate Institutions proposal will provide insights into fundamental, light-induced mechanisms in biological systems by addressing the role of photoreceptors in unique microorganisms, the myxobacteria, which are distinguished by unusual light-controlled morphogenesis of fruiting bodies. This project will advance the understanding of microbial light perception and the evolution of photoreceptors, engaging undergraduate and Masters level students (including members of groups under-represented in science) in interdisciplinary research in microbial genetics, spectroscopy and structural biology.

This project addresses the physiological role of red-light photoreceptors known as bacteriophytochromes in the non-photosynthetic myxobacteria Stigmatella aurantiaca and Cystobacter fuscus which form fruiting bodies under starvation conditions. Fruiting bodies are markedly stimulated by red and blue light but the exact role of the bacteriophytochromes that are encoded in the genomes of these species in controlling morphogenesis is unknown. This project will investigate the role of bacteriophytochromes through integrated studies of myxobacterial genetics, high-throughput RNA sequence analysis, time-resolved spectroscopy, and elucidation of bacteriophytochrome structures by X-ray crystallography.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 426.74K | Year: 2014

This project is designed to advance the research skills of undergraduate majors in STEM. This will be accomplished through the inclusion of hands-on research activities, the expansion of computer simulations, and most importantly, the use of peer mentors to facilitate these activities in the introductory 200-level courses in Chemistry, Earth Science, Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. The development of a well-trained cadre of peer mentors is critical to the success of the program. A new 300-level interdisciplinary lab-based course, Research Workshop in Physical and Computational Sciences, will be designed to provide this preparation. The course will be structured around a series of modules that exposes students to topics drawn from different STEM disciplines through hands-on, open-ended laboratory exercises. These students will, in turn, serve as peer mentors in the introductory 200-level courses, into which similar research components have been embedded. The combination of curricular changes through experiential research will strengthen the STEM programs at the university and will improve retention of these students. The expected long-term outcomes of this project include strengthening the curriculum, improving student learning and retention, increasing student satisfaction in STEM, developing and strengthening a culture of research for undergraduate students, and increasing the overall number of STEM students, particularly those from underrepresented groups. The recruitment and retention of students in STEM is an important issue in our society, since jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow faster than those in other fields. The project will also provide a transferable model for growing our future STEM workforce at universities nationwide.

The project will build on the undergraduate research activities initiated at the university in 2009-2011 by a Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education. That project resulted in the formation of a Student Center for Science Engagement to provide academic support for STEM majors, as well as a structured undergraduate summer research program in the sciences, which has been institutionalized since 2012 and impacts approximately 50 STEM majors each summer. The new project will expand the results through a scale up, scale down approach, engaging a larger group of students in laboratory-based guided research activities in a classroom setting through mini-research projects incorporated into the curriculum. The goals of this project are to introduce inquiry-based elements and computational tools in the introductory and intermediate-level courses in the sciences and mathematics; to develop new discipline-specific and interdisciplinary courses that are in line with NSFs STEM workforce development objectives; and to provide students with research opportunities within the classroom setting. Examples of projects that will be incorporated into the new curriculum are computational dynamical mechanics, mathematical modeling of disease, geological modeling of hazards, and surface chemistry.

While implementing the program, the investigators will examine questions of effectiveness such as the following: (1) Does participation in the reformed courses lead to measurable change in students interest, aspirations, and preparation to persist in their discipline? (2) Does participation in the reformed courses lead to measurable change in students learning, especially mastery of course content and understanding of the research process? (3) Do the reformed courses contribute to increased persistence in the major? (4) Does participation in the reformed courses lead to increased retention rates for women and minorities?


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part | Award Amount: 898.56K | Year: 2015

Computing has become an integral part of everyday practice within modern fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As a result, the STEM+Computing Partnerships (STEM+C) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning. Making is an emerging movement in which kids use technological tools to create hardware and software that solves personally relevant problems, using things like programmable circuit boards, arts and craft materials, and computers. Building on a broad set of maker spaces in Chicago, the Assessing Computational Thinking in Making Activities (ACTMA) project will develop curricula and assessments to see how kids can learn physics and computation through making. Experts in educational measurement, in broadening STEM participation, and in instructing makers will work together with kids to design materials that are culturally responsive to girls, Hispanic-Americans, and African-Americans. By building and testing these curricula, the project will further our understanding of what kids are actually learning in informal maker spaces; how better to link maker activities to computer science and physics education; and will help provide actionable assessments that parents, informal educators, and researchers can use to help improve learning environments like maker spaces.

The intellectual merit of this project lies in two thrusts; first, the project will help to better understand existing student practices around physics and computation, in a culturally diverse, mature set of maker-oriented informal learning environments. Qualitative analysis based on Weintrops computational thinking framework and Lewins generalized qualitative analysis codes will identify target curricular goals through Charmazs grounded theory process. The second thrust will provide both iterated curricular designs and learning assessments that are culturally responsive, based on the practices and learning goals identified in the first thrust. The curriculum will be iteratively designed using youth informants to ensure cultural responsiveness and validity. The assessments will also be iteratively developed, relying on practitioner observations which can target moments of notice in which an educator-friendly rubric would allow instructors to observe evidence of learning (both in the subject domain knowledge, and in computational thinking practices, aligned with emerging standards from ISTE and CSTA). An external evaluator will gauge the use and cultural sensitivity of the curriculum and assessments. The broader impacts of the project will relate to the use of the curriculum and assessments in the Center for College Access and Success partners around Chicago, and potentially its uptake in makerspaces across the country. An additional potential broader impact is increasing our ability to design and assess the success of makerspaces for STEM learning, and even broadening participation in STEM by providing learning activities that are specifically designed to appeal to a number of underrepresented groups (girls, racial minorities, and ethnic minorities.)


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: TUES-Type 1 Project | Award Amount: 196.69K | Year: 2012

This project is advancing undergraduate STEM education through the expansion of the well-established Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) model, which has proven to be successful in the natural sciences, into courses in the social sciences. The work is being conducted at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) with a highly diverse student body, in which 56% of the students are minorities and roughly 60% of incoming freshmen are first-generation college students. NEIU is a commuter school with a sizeable number of non-traditional students who work full- or part-time, and have difficulty getting to campus outside of regular class periods.

The psychology department is one of the largest departments on campus and is challenged to meet the needs of the numerous students and the diverse body of majors and minors in the department. Within the psychology courses and major, some of the most acute challenges include retaining minority students, creating common learning spaces and communities, and making course support accessible to all students. This project is evolving a modified PLTL model that relies on online technology to address the departmental challenges. Further, this project is allowing the faculty to determine whether the modified PLTL model is successful in expanding access for the many non-traditional students that comprise the NEIU student body. The project builds upon an existing Peer Mentor program in the STEM fields and now piloted in psychology. Ultimately, the work will add in-person and online PLTL-style workshops to three entry-level psychology courses and inject the careful use of technology to augment access, communication, and learning groups. In addition to enhancing access, the project team expects the small-group, peer led interactions - both in-person and online - to improve student retention via the development of collaborative learning communities.

Project proposal objectives are to:
- design, implement and disseminate a modified PLTL model that is tailored for psychology courses and may be easily adapted for other social sciences;
- design Peer led workshops that can be delivered online in order to increase access for non-traditional students;
- investigate and evaluate the success of online Peer led interactions and small group activities; and
- evaluate the programs effectiveness for improving student performance, retention and increasing participation of non-traditional students.

This project has potential interest for social science departments that would like to draw upon the success of the PLTL model and for institutions serving non-traditional students.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCHAEOLOGY | Award Amount: 50.64K | Year: 2013

Among indigenous populations of Central America, over 70% of the human diet consists of plants. Plants are also preferred sources of fuel, medicine, and construction material. Existing evidence suggests this pattern has been consistent for at least 1600 years. One might think that the archaeological identification of ancient seeds, fruits, flowers, and wood (macroremains) is robustly developed and has revealed a much about ancient daily life. The current reality, however, is that with the exception of a handful of species, a great deal more is known about the variety of animals in the ancient Maya diet than about plants. The list of plant species and genera represented by the archaeological recovery of seeds, fruits, flowers, and wood numbers between 150 and 200 - this is in contrast to over 1500 species used and recognized by Maya populations studied by cultural anthropologists.

The largest obstacle to understanding ancient plant use in Latin America is a lack of comprehensive reference and plant identification resources, particularly online databases. With National Science Foundation support, Dr. Jon Hageman will, with his colleagues, complete a Mesoamerican Online Ethnobotanical Database (MOED), an online ethnobotanical reference for over 1400 plant species.

The intellectual merit of the proposed project lies primarily in compiling data currently published in a variety of venues, many of which are out of print or prohibitively expensive to obtain, and making these data available to a broad audience of researchers. Ethnobotanical information and scaled color images of plants, wood, seeds, fruits, flowers for over 1400 plant species currently do not exist in one published source. The MOED database will remove the largest barrier to the study of ancient plant use by others in Central America and adjacent areas where the habitats of various plant species extend. This may also assist in facilitating more comprehensive studies of diet as well as help enable an understanding of ancient plant use in relatively unexplored topics such as ancient medicine.

Broader impacts of this project include making available resources of the Field Museum of Natural Historys Searle Herbarium (known for its New World tropical plant collections) to traditionally underserved scholars, particularly those in smaller US institutions located far from large herbaria and in Latin America. This easily-accessed resource goes beyond the publication of an expensive book - such volumes with color photos and lengthy printed descriptions are out of reach for many individuals and institutions. Instead, this resource will be available to anyone with internet access, anywhere in the world. Plant identification can be taught to undergraduate and graduate students in classrooms using this resource. Archaeobotanists can compare images from MOED to their recovered macroremains in the field lab. Underserved scholars will have a bounty of information to help train new generations of students and foster novel research in the area. This database will serve scholars and train students in archaeology, cultural anthropology, and botany.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: COMPUTATIONAL MATHEMATICS | Award Amount: 179.98K | Year: 2016

The aim of this project is the development of regularization theories, robust numerical algorithms, and a software package for problems that are known to be highly sensitive to data perturbations. Some of the fundamental problems in algebraic computation that remain at the frontier in numerical analysis, and where reliable algorithms and software are in demand, are of this nature. Extending on novel theories and algorithms/software developed under previous NSF support, the PI proposes to design algorithms for defective eigenvalue problems, to develop a numerical elimination strategy for polynomial systems, to validate the regularization theories, and to produce software, NAClab.

This research attempts to bridge scientific fields of numerical analysis, computer algebra, algebraic geometry, and differential topology. Hypersensitive problems are known to be formidable challenges in practical computation particularly when empirical data are inevitably used. Advances in attacking those problems will enable wide range of applications. The intellectual merit of this project lies in an innovative geometric analysis, proven regularization theory and an effective computational methodology for striking out the dreaded hypersensitivity in fundamental algebraic problems. This project is multidisciplinary in nature along with a major outcome in a robust, blackbox-type, and publicly available software toolbox NAClab to solve highly sensitive algebraic problems arising in sciences/engineering and to serve as building blocks for future algorithmic development. The software will supply critical tools for application areas such as robotics, molecular conformation, chemical equilibrium, Nash equilibria, automatic control, as well as other branches of mathematics such as algebraic geometry.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Part | Award Amount: 700.61K | Year: 2016

This project is funded by the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of computing in STEM teaching and learning and broadening participation in computing and computing-intensive fields. This project will contribute to that effort by integrating computer science and computational thinking with science and mathematics coursework in a teacher preparation program for elementary and middle school teachers of science and mathematics. This curriculum integration will be accomplished through two initiatives: 1) incorporating computing and computational thinking into mathematics and science courses for pre-service elementary and middle grades teachers; and 2) developing two new courses required for teacher licensure: An introductory computer science course that will focus on using a variety of technologies combined with computational thinking and coding to teach science and mathematics concepts, and a capstone course where students will develop a project using computational thinking concepts concepts from previous courses. The goal is to enable pre-service teachers to later incorporate computational thinking, coding, and use of various technologies into their own teaching of science and mathematics in grades 1-8. The Science and Engineering Practices described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include using mathematics and computational thinking as one of the eight practices that are essential for students to learn, and this project will enable new teachers to facilitate that learning. The biology, physics, and mathematics courses in this teacher preparation program are part of an interdisciplinary undergraduate bridge program linking a community college to a university. An important aim of the partnership is to recruit diverse minority, non-traditional, and other underrepresented student groups whose backgrounds mirror those of the urban students they will be teaching. This program is additionally well aligned with the priorities of the White House Computer Science For All initiative, and has the potential to influence teacher preparation programs nationwide.

This design and development project will modify both the curriculum and the classroom learning environments of a teacher preparation program for elementary and middle school teachers. Computational thinking will be integrated into five existing courses for pre-service teachers: biology, physics, algebra, geometry and a science teaching methods course. Two new courses will be developed for the teacher preparation program: An introductory computer science course and a capstone course that will increase engagement with computational thinking by providing a coherent sequence of learning opportunities, with pre-service teachers learning the basic concepts of computational thinking and coding in the introductory course, learning various applications in the disciplinary courses, and applying what has been learned in a capstone experience where students will develop their own projects with educational applications. The classroom environments for all the courses in the teacher preparation program will be modified by including use of the same technologies, coding procedures, and computational thinking concepts introduced during the initial computer science course. The basic tools that will be used throughout the program include robots built using Lego Mindstorm kits during the initial computer science course, the Scratch programming language, and various Android applications that will be used on tablet devices in each course. During that development process, the project will seek answers to two research questions: 1) What strategies for teacher preparation in computational thinking and coding are most effective for teachers and students from diverse backgrounds, and 2) How can we best use different technologies to help visualize mathematical and scientific concepts?


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES | Award Amount: 74.00K | Year: 2016

This REU site will engage students in research related to water resource management issues in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Science and engineering undergraduate students will work with faculty mentors from Northern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the Yucatán Center of Scientific Research on projects related to groundwater recharge, groundwater contamination and public health, and groundwater geophysics. The goals of this REU site include: develop scientific skills in the field and laboratory, install in students a global perspective of water resource issues, develop communication skills in the participants, and develop appreciation for international scientific collaborations. The student projects will be interconnected to better understand the water issues in Yucatán within a cultural and historical context. Because the research project is in Mexico and encompasses a cultural aspect, it is expected that students interested in the region will be attracted to apply. In addition to carrying out research, the participants will produce materials for online platforms to share information with the public, make presentations in Mexico to local officials about the research findings, and publish the results in open access journals.

During an eight-week period, the program will provide a high quality research environment and mentoring to a diverse group of 8 undergraduate students that may not otherwise have the opportunity to be engaged in scientific activities in an international context. The summer experience will consist of: (1) two weeks at Northern Illinois University where participants will define the research they will pursue in the field, participate in ethics training, discuss the relationship between culture and water issues in Yucatán, receive safety and travel information, and virtually meet the team members from Mexico; (2) the next four weeks will be spent in Mexico sampling and collecting field data; the participants will stay in local neighborhoods, away from the tourist areas to gain more in-depth appreciation for the culture. During this period, participants will be working side by side with Mexican scientists and students; and (3) the last two weeks participants will return to Northern Illinois University to continue with data analyses and synthesis.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANALYSIS PROGRAM | Award Amount: 138.00K | Year: 2012

Mathematical models that describe the physical reality often exhibit erratic behavior, and include small noise accounting for external perturbations. A fundamental problem is to understand the long term behavior of such systems. The origins of this problem go back to one of the oldest questions in dynamics- Is the Solar System stable?-which remains largely unsolved to this day. Instability turns out to be a rather typical regime. A conjecture formulated by V.I. Arnold in 1964 asserts that even simple mechanical systems, modeled as integrable Hamiltonian systems, start to exhibit chaotic and unstable behaviors when they become subjected to small, external perturbations. Despite recent progress in the understanding of this problem, a comprehensive chart of the routes yielding instability and chaos is far from completion. Most current approaches apply only to perturbations of special types, and of very small sizes. This limitation makes it difficult to analyze realistic models. The objective of this project is to develop new methods to analyze the effects of realistic perturbations on integrable Hamiltonian systems. The proposed research considers general types of perturbations, which are not necessarily of an extremely small size, and aims to formulate rigorous results that can be applied to concrete models. Particularly, the conditions considered on these systems are explicit and verifiable, rather than of generic type. The approach intends to expand and innovate techniques from differential, algebraic, low dimensional, and symplectic topology. This machinery will be used in tandem with methods based on normal hyperbolicity, perturbation theory, KAM and Aubry-Mather theories, pseudo-holomorphic curves, and random dynamics.

A significant strength of the proposed approach is its applicability to practical situations. This research yields recipes to increase the energy of physical systems with small forcing, with potential applications to particle accelerators, plasma confinement devices, chemical reactions, astrodynamics, and dynamical astronomy. The results from the proposed investigation on instability in the three-body problem can be applied to design fuel efficient trajectories for spacecrafts to explore the Solar System, or to change the orbits of satellites in specific fashions. As an example, one of the methods discussed in this research has been used to design the trajectory of the current NASAs GRAIL mission to the Moon, which begun on January 1st, 2012. The study of random perturbations of deterministic systems proposed in this project plays a key role in modeling of climate change. In addition, this project will pro-actively engage students, including members of underrepresented groups, in educational and research activities, and will contribute to the professional growth of K-12 educators.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PALEOCLIMATE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 86.59K | Year: 2015

This awards goal is to assess controls on Rocky Mountain forest health during the Eemian-interglacial (beginning ~130,000 and ending ~ 115,000 years ago), the most recent period in Earth?s history when growing season temperatures exceeded those of today. Since the Eemian warming occurred in the context of pre-industrial partial carbon dioxide (pCO2) concentrations, the research aims to isolate the response of dominant tree species to growing season temperatures that are comparable to those predicted to be normal by AD 2100.

The project takes advantage of recently recovered and well-preserved Eemian-age wood samples from Snowmass, Colorado available to this project through collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The Eemian wood samples provide a rare opportunity to explore how forests in the western U.S. have responded in the past to summer temperatures ~3-5°C higher than today?s.

Boreal forests play a critical role in the global carbon cycle and provide important macrofaunal habitat and ecosystem services. The simultaneous and coupled influences of warming, changes in mountain hydrology (such as the timing of snowmelt) and elevated pCO2 that are predicted to occur over the next century have led to widely disparate projections on the response of this ecosystem to global change.

The researchers will make sub-seasonally-resolved delta oxygen-18 and carbon-13 (d18O and d13C) isotopic measurements on modern and Eemian wood samples from species in the southern Rocky Mountains that were common during the Eemian and remain dominant today. These wood samples will be used to test how growing season length, water utilization (i.e., summer rain versus snowmelt) and Water Use Efficiency during the Eemian (i.e., warm temperatures and low pCO2) compare to today (i.e., cool temperatures and high pCO2).

This analysis will provide clarity on whether recent changes in a plant?s Water Use Efficiency is a product of the CO2 fertilization effect or from coupled changes in CO2 and temperature. In addition to the isotope measurements, the researchers will generate nested (50 km resolution) isotope-enabled general circulation model (GCM) simulations under Eemian and modern forcings to provide climatic inputs for the ecohydrological and ecophysiological process models used to interpret the proxy data.

The products of this research will be an assessment of how temperature-driven shifts in surface hydrology (snow and soil processes), atmospheric circulation (North American Monsoon extent and duration), and surface/leaf temperatures combine to improve or disintegrate forest health, including increases in large wildfires and rates of tree mortality in the western U.S.

The project will support two early career scientists working at the intersection of paleoclimatology, ecology, and climate dynamics. The Chicago-based multi-institutional collaboration will facilitate undergraduate and graduate research opportunities in stable isotope geochemistry and climate modeling that are leveraged between institutions and are fundamental for twenty-first century scientific training. Additionally, there is a strong collaboration with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for research and education.

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