Pennington, NJ, United States
Pennington, NJ, United States

The College of New Jersey, abbreviated TCNJ, is a public, coeducational university located in the Trenton suburb of Ewing Township, New Jersey, United States. TCNJ was established in 1855 by an act of the New Jersey Legislature. The institution was the first normal school in the state of New Jersey and the fifth in the United States. Originally located in Trenton proper, the college was moved to its present location in adjacent Ewing Township during the early to mid-1930s. Since its inception, TCNJ has undergone several name changes, the most recent being the 1996 change to its current name from Trenton State College.TCNJ's stated mission is to keep New Jersey's most talented students in-state for higher education. The College is a selective institution, with less than 43% of students admitted. According to US News, TCNJ is recognized as the #1 public institution in the "Regional Universities" Northeastern United States category. It is known for its programs in business, education, engineering, humanities, nursing and science.According to the college's mission statement: The institution aims to combine the best practices of private institutions with a public mission, resulting in an innovative and unique model for undergraduate education. The College encourages free inquiry and open exchange, offering a wide range of learning opportunities in its classrooms, laboratories, and studios, and throughout the campus, as well as at various off-campus locations. TCNJ faculty members provide a blend of accomplished scholarship and practical, applied experience.The institution is organized into seven schools, all of which offer four-year bachelor's degree programs, and several of which offer targeted master's degree programs. Emphasis is placed on liberal arts education via the college's general education requirements. Much of TCNJ is built in Georgian colonial architecture style on 289 tree-lined acres. Wikipedia.

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Wund M.A.,The College of New Jersey
Integrative and Comparative Biology | Year: 2012

In the past decade, there has been a resurgent interest in whether and how phenotypic plasticity might impact evolutionary processes. Of fundamental importance is how the environment influences individual phenotypic development while simultaneously selecting among phenotypic variants in a population. Conceptual and theoretical treatments of the evolutionary implications of plasticity are numerous, as are criticisms of the conclusions. As such, the time is ripe for empirical evidence to catch up with theoretical predictions. To this end, I provide a summary of eight hypotheses at the core of this issue, highlighting various approaches by which they can be tested. My goal is to provide practical guidance to those seeking to understand the complex ways by which phenotypic plasticity can influence evolutionary innovation and diversification. © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 635.57K | Year: 2013

The College of New Jersey, a public, primarily undergraduate, residential, comprehensive institution of higher education, is improving access to, and is increasing success of, financially-needy students who seeking a bachelors degree in Biology or Chemistry with plans go to graduate school or enter the STEM workforce. Building on experiences and outcomes from a prior award, the PERSIST program includes a well-defined application process (with a required interview), peer and faculty mentoring, tutoring, mini-bridge component, and career development programming. Over the 5-year project, 34 unique individuals are receiving scholarship support including two cohorts of freshmen, one cohort each of five sophomores or five juniors, as well as 6 seniors (for just the first project year). The project is increasing the retention and graduation rates of students from underrepresented groups by thoughtfully addressing academic disadvantages that otherwise talented and motivated students from low-performing high schools bring with them. In addition, PERSIST is designed to allow carefully chosen students, the time and academic support necessary to improve basic skills, leading to a reduction in an artificially acquired achievement gap. The project is documenting and disseminating effective peer and faculty mentor strategies for students, is increasing student-faculty interactions, is improving the effective use of math and science tutoring, and is sharing, through presentations and publications, the findings. By deliberate design, PERSIST practices are having a halo effect and are benefitting far more students than just those who receive scholarships.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: PHYSICAL & DYNAMIC METEOROLOGY | Award Amount: 134.82K | Year: 2015

The role of cirrus clouds in the radiative balance of the climate system is still a poorly constrained problem. The successful modeling of cirrus coverage, cloud evolution, and response to a changing climate has been limited by fundamental uncertainties in the microphysics of the constituent ice particles. Important questions remain regarding cirrus ice particle nucleation, growth and sublimation efficiency, and particle morphology. This project will address two of these fundamental uncertainties through novel use of modern nanotechnology tools. First, do ice crystal facets in cirrus clouds exhibit roughened surfaces at the nanoscale and microscale, and if so, what factors affect the degree and character of roughening? Secondly, does the presence or absence of roughened surfaces alter predicted rates of water vapor-ice phase exchange?

Intellectual Merit:
Improved modeling of cirrus clouds is of widely acknowledged strategic importance for climate modeling, and there is broad agreement that a paucity of laboratory measurements of ice microphysics is among the most significant constraints on progress. Aircraft probes and cloud chambers are making advances, but one avenue of potential discovery remains largely untapped: modern materials imaging and analysis tools have yet to be fully applied to ice surfaces under atmospherically relevant conditions. Such analysis can be expected to reveal new information about ice crystal surface structures and kinetics. Preliminary data acquired by Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) have already demonstrated the ubiquitous presence of ice surface roughness in lab-grown crystals, and revealed growth rates that deviate from classical predictions. However, the ice crystals already analyzed by ESEM have been made on a substrate in a pure vapor environment; the relevance of these findings to the atmosphere cannot be fully established without a revised experimental approach. This project aims to address this question head-on by conducting laboratory experiments under gaseous conditions more representative of the atmosphere and through balloon-borne capture, retrieval, and analysis of actual cirrus particles. Successful completion of the project will firmly establish the character of surface roughness on cirrus particles, contribute to improved modeling of vapor deposition/sublimation, and provide the clearest, highest-resolution images of cirrus ice particles ever acquired.

Broader Impacts:
This project will be conducted by physics department faculty and students at a primarily undergraduate institution, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), in Ewing, NJ. Undergraduate research has proven to be a highly effective tool for recruiting outstanding students into careers in the field of atmospheric science. Largely because of the relative scarcity of undergraduate programs, the atmospheric sciences lag behind other natural sciences in developing this pipeline. This project will help to more firmly establish atmospheric science within the physics department at TCNJ, a large and growing department. By providing cutting-edge research opportunities to outstanding physics undergraduates, the project will pave the way for an under-utilized path into careers in atmospheric science. In addition, during each year, two of the undergraduate researchers in the program will be dual science/secondary education students who will carry the excitement of scientific discovery into their high school classrooms. These future teachers will engage high school students from the high-need school districts of Trenton and Ewing, New Jersey in inquiry-centered laboratory experiences based on the scientific questions being addressed in the proje

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 628.10K | Year: 2014

This project at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) improves mentoring and student support structures within the Departments of Computer Science, and Mathematics and Statistics. Dissemination of these results both within TCNJ and in the respective disciplines is leading to improved advising and mentoring practices by other departments and institutions.

This project forms the basis of a sustainable initiative to recruit, retain and graduate more students in computer science and mathematics at TCNJ. All students in the program engage in research, belong to a learning community, and are focused on computational science. These experiences form a common theme for the students in the program. Students are organized into project teams that work on research problems as part of their coursework from the start of their college career. The projects are structured to create a sustainable learning community that improves students self-efficacy. The project provides significant advising, mentoring, and tutoring services that supplement those already provided by the college. The project funds approximately 27 scholarships per year for computer science and mathematics students at TCNJ.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MAJOR RESEARCH INSTRUMENTATION | Award Amount: 994.37K | Year: 2015

The Major Research Instrumentation award supports the development of a novel cost-efficient electron microscope capable of imaging the top-most layers of surfaces with high spatial resolution at the College of New Jersey. The scope of the project is to combine the fundamental concepts of scanning electron (SEM) and scanning probe microscopies (SPM) into a single instrument called Near Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (NFESEM). The use of low energy electrons NFESEM will have an impact over many areas including biological, medical, data storage, computing and renewable energy. The device will immediately provide an alternative, high resolution surface imaging device to researchers in both New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. The results from this project will be incorporated in course curricula at The College of New Jersey. Undergraduate students involved in the project will be trained and acquire expertise in these techniques. The instrumentation will help underpin forthcoming technological developments especially in the area of ultra large scale integrated circuits and spintronics. Furthermore, the collaboration scheme which includes early career and well-established scientists and engineers will impact research on superconductivity, low energy electron spectroscopy, nano-device characterization, nanoparticle enabled drug delivery and more. Involvement of industrial partners will enhance the training and transfer of knowledge. The researchers will also use this as an opportunity to introduce underrepresented middle school and high school students from Trenton to basic microscopy and its applications.

NFESEM will provide a means of overcoming the limitations of conventional scanning electron microscopes (SEM) and opens the possibility to use lower primary beam energies (< 100 eV). In essence, NFESEM is an intermediate technique in which electrons are emitted from a needle tip via field electron emission, and then impinge on and interact with the sample. As a result, electrons are ejected from the sample surface and detected and an electron spin detector will be incorporated into the system for polarization analysis of ejected secondary electrons. The NFESEM coupled with a spin polarimetry will enable SEM with polarization analysis capable of nanometer magnetic imaging, in particular low dimensional magnetic systems. The microscope will be equipped with a cryogen-free electro-magnet that is constructed to magnetize the sample of interest with a magnetic field up to 3,000 Gauss. The design and the control unit added to the scanning probe microscope will allow for high speed imaging, which is essential to simulate the imaging capabilities of standard scanning electron microscopes. The unique operating mode of the microscope, coupled with the polarimeter, generates three characteristic signals: 1) field emission current; 2) variations in the backscattered and secondary electron signal; and 3) a three dimensional surface spin asymmetry. This ensemble will enable nanometric imaging of magnetic materials; in particular, low dimensional magnetic systems. The NFESEMPA will be the first of its kind, and the proposed research team will be able to determine the advantages and/or disadvantages of using lensless scanning electron microscopy, c.f. contemporary SEMPA. Accordingly, this project will present an alternative method to generate a fine electron beam for high resolution imaging of atomically smooth surfaces.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PGM | Award Amount: 1.20M | Year: 2016

This project, which will produce thirty new physics teachers over five years, is addressing a major problem facing high schools in the United States, a crisis of availability of well-qualified high school physics teachers. For every three national openings, only one qualified teacher is trained each year. More than 60% of high school physics classes are now taught by teachers who do not have appropriate training in physics content, and this problem is even more acute at high-need schools. The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program in Physics at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is designed to increase the number of outstanding physics students who are being recruited and certified to become new secondary physics teachers. The TCNJ School of Education and School of Science is collaborating with public secondary schools within the established 18-district TCNJ Professional Development School Network (PDSN), with concentrated training occurring within five local high-need school districts. The project will provide outstanding training and support to new physics teachers, while increasing the number and diversity of physics teacher graduates. The number of new physics teachers directly supported by this project will be regionally significant, and includes a commitment to service in high-need schools. Furthermore, the project will establish a model that is feasible to reproduce at other institutions across the nation.

The TCNJ project is motivated by a dire shortage of highly qualified physics teachers in New Jersey and nationally, and by a severe lack of diversity and lack of access to physics teacher expertise in high-need schools. In response to these needs, the major goals of the project are to: a) attract, retain, and sustain a minimum of six physics-certified graduates per year through the period of support and beyond; b) substantially improve science education in the region, especially by increasing teacher diversity and availability of expert physics teachers to high-need local schools; and c) contribute new knowledge to physics education research through faculty research, enabled by novel programming linked to systematic assessment of student outcomes. Benefits include the preparation of highly qualified physics majors that will become the thirty new physics teachers. With respect to propagating the outcomes broadly, this project will: a) provide a compelling model for growth, especially for primarily undergraduate institutions, which is where most physics majors train; b) disseminate gained knowledge in physics teacher education research through publications and presentations; and c) substantially increase physics expertise, diversity, and resources to high-need schools. Statistics on physics teacher demand and average physics teacher preparation are very worrying. This shortage is still growing because many new state standards are requiring greater numbers of high school students to take physics. Only ~40% of HS physics teachers have a physics degree (lowest of any HS subject). This project is tackling this challenge head-on by starting to recruit in high schools and every step along the academic curriculum. There will not only be the immediate benefit of the thirty new physics teachers, but other institutions may learn from the model being established at TCNJ.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: POP & COMMUNITY ECOL PROG | Award Amount: 300.00K | Year: 2013

Human activity profoundly transforms the natural landscape, with dramatic consequences for biological communities. Across the eastern United States many species are relegated to forest fragments embedded within cities and sprawling suburbs. These forests typically exhibit a striking lack of native plants (including tree seedlings), but have thriving populations of non-native plant species and dense populations of white-tailed deer. This project will examine how these phenomena are related, by investigating the joint effects of two important co-invading plant species and deer on the invasion process and the native plant community. The plants are garlic mustard and Japanese stilt-grass, two co-occurring species that pose serious threats to the native community. The study will address key questions concerning plant invasions in the suburban landscape: do invasive plants facilitate each others invasions, and is invasiveness promoted by intensive deer impact on the native plant community, by their strong competition with natives, or by both acting together? The study will be a multi-year field experiment in 240 plots spread across six forests of central New Jersey. Half of the plots will be unfenced, and half will be fenced to exclude deer. Experimental treatments will include addition of seeds of garlic mustard, stilt-grass, both species, or neither species added. All invasive plants in the plots will be removed at the end of the study. The response of the plant community will be studied in each plot for five years, by measuring garlic mustard and stilt-grass population growth and changes in the herb layer plant community.

Most people live in or near cities and towns, so this study of suburban forests will be of interest to many citizens, including the many conservation groups and local agencies that need to manage suburban forests to conserve native biodiversity. It also will enhance plant science and ecology education at a primarily undergraduate public college. Eighteen students will each engage in mentored research teams for two years and one summer, which will encourage them to pursue ecology and conservation-related graduate school and professions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 538.90K | Year: 2016

FIRSTS (Foundation for Increasing and Retaining STEM Students) is an extended summer bridge program for incoming students that continues through their first semester at college. The overall goals of this program are to help students from underserved populations transition to the rigors of the STEM curriculum and gather both qualitative and quantitative data on the reasons financially needy students elect to leave STEM disciplines. Rather than simply filling content gaps, FIRSTS will use the remediation of study skills in a interdisciplinary summer course, extensive mentoring, and the development of a science identity to improve success in STEM disciplines. In addition to student-focused strategies, the program also will incorporate faculty development in the improvement of teaching methods and mentoring through participation, training, interdisciplinary interactions, and discussions.

FIRSTS will leverage the existing college-funded programming that is focused on predominantly underrepresented minority students from regions of historic poverty and will carefully pilot an expansion to include School of Science students with similar profiles. This program will deploy best practices for at-risk students, while focusing the research on understudied questions related to the impact of socioeconomic status, intersecting science and other identities. As such, FIRSTS will represent the unique data-driven collaboration between the School of Science and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences on pedagogy and research. If successful, the data from this project will allow other departments, colleges, and universities to incorporate a developmental philosophy in their existing STEM retention strategies.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 200.00K | Year: 2013

Introduction/Motivation: Synthetic Biology moves beyond conventional genetic manipulation to construct novel biological components which do not originate in nature. There still exists though a big gap of knowledge between genomic sequence and function. To enhance understanding of gene expression, researchers have constructed and evaluated libraries of gene variants, which traditionally have limited size due to synthesis costs, and random or biased composition. Valuable insights have been gained, but precise control of expression in redesigned synthetic genes remains elusive.
The proposed algorithmic research involves combinatorial design of synthetic gene variants to aid the construction of large scale, purposed libraries. The aim is to assay the most important sequence features which determine gene expression, while minimizing experimental cost and maximizing the exploration of the coding landscape. Proposed design, synthesis and wet-lab evaluation of reporter gene variants with modified characteristics will help determine their quantitative effect on expression in a model organism and validate our algorithmic designs.

Intellectual merit: Upon successful completion, this project will make major advances in the computational and life sciences, through new algorithmic results in combinatorial design of diverse gene libraries with minimized cost, and fundamental discoveries regarding gene expression. PIs expect their design methodologies to fuel an array of new discoveries by enabling high throughput cost effective experiments to study the effects of sequence features of genes and pathways, and help gain important insights by comparing experimental observations with long standing computational and theoretical models.

Broader Impact: The algorithms and software developed with this award will be used to design the next generation of large-scale synthetic construct experiments, which will enable optimized redesign of genetic elements to be transferred from one organism to another, adapting to an altogether different environment. The primary impact will ultimately rest with the science done using these techniques, such as drug and chemical synthesizing microorganisms with improved yields, rapidly produced vaccines, and CO2 transforming micro-algae. The educational impact includes active promotion of computational and synthetic biology in lectures towards graduate and undergraduate students, and dissemination of research findings and data through web accessible repositories.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 149.99K | Year: 2015

Creating and retaining a robust workforce of highly-skilled engineers is very important for sustaining and improving the United States and global economies, which are increasingly reliant on technical innovation that comes from the field of engineering. Equally important is the development of highly ethical and professional standards within this group of innovative practitioners. The School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) has formulated a well-balanced liberal arts core integrated with a solid and robust engineering curricular sequence that promises to: (1) improve the retention of engineering students, (2) instill highly ethical and professional standards throughout the four years of the engineering curriculum, and (3) for alumni: a) inspire and strongly encourage them to enhance their engineering knowledge and skills, and b) strive for setting challenging professional goals and achieving them in a timely manner. The architects of this curriculum model have joined forces with faculty from the Department of Sociology to construct the necessary surveying tools and procedures for a comprehensive examination of the degree of effectiveness and the timing of the different interventions and reinforcements built into this promising model. The findings from these evaluations would enable this multi-disciplinary research team to develop a much deeper understanding for further calibration of this curriculum for optimal results. The techniques, surveying tools, and procedures used for conducting this two-year study, along with a summary of the results, will be made available at the national level for potential adoption, examination of similar models, and future collaborations.

The School of Engineering at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), in close collaboration with faculty from the Department of Sociology, has initiated a research program that assesses the effectiveness of a liberal arts core program combined with a strong vertical engineering professional sequence on the professional formation of engineering students. In this study, the multi-disciplinary team examines the influence of a number of curricular and extracurricular education interventions such as engineering-specific ethics case studies, lessons on professional licensure, interaction with alumni through a formal mentoring program, liberal arts coursework, solving open-ended design problems, internships, and/or undergraduate research experiences. The project consists of two phases: (1) creation of the instruments based on existing measures and development of new measures using qualitative methods in Year 1, and (2) pilot studies in Year 2 that are designed to validate the created instruments. Formative evaluation during these phases allows for modification of measures and timing, and may influence the delivery interventions, based on early analysis of data collected. Summative evaluation provides the validity of the instruments that can then be applied to larger populations. The objective of this initial study is to create and validate instruments that can be used to assess the effectiveness of this promising model. The instruments may be used in future research programs to evaluate the effectiveness of various factors postulated to influence professional development in engineering students.

An additional area of interest focuses on how professional formation is influenced by demographic factors, and how professional formation is related to persistence and post-graduation success. Results of the planned research program provides insight into the connection between professional formation and individual characteristics that have been demonstrated elsewhere to predict persistence and post-graduation success in populations underrepresented due to gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The assessment instruments developed in this study enable professional formation within these cohorts to be better understood, potentially leading to specific interventions that strengthen professional identity for these special populations. Dissemination of the results to the engineering education community will spread the impact of the results nationally.

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