New Bedford, MA, United States

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
New Bedford, MA, United States

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is one of four campuses and operating subdivisions of the University of Massachusetts . It is located in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, United States, in the center of the South Coast region, between the cities of New Bedford to the east and Fall River to the west. It became a UMass campus in 1991 when Southeastern Massachusetts University was merged into the University of Massachusetts system.The campus has an overall student body of 9,155 students, including undergraduate, graduate students, and continuing education students. In Spring 2008, there were approximately 4,173 students living on campus. Approximately 61 undergraduate programs of study and 32 graduate programs are offered. There are more than 300 full-time faculty.UMass Dartmouth is best known for its programs in engineering, nursing, marine science, business, visual and performing arts, and also its Portuguese studies programs. UMass Dartmouth is host to one of the nation's most extensive undergraduate and graduate programs in Portuguese language and literary studies, offering both a BA and an MA in Portuguese studies, as well as a Ph.D. program in Luso-Afro-Brazilian studies and theory. The campus also has the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture which sponsors numerous publication series, as well as international conferences in Portuguese and Portuguese-American studies. The university is home to the Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives, located in a special section of the Claire T. Carney Library, and the UMass-Dartmouth Summer Program in Portuguese.The school also hosts the University of Massachusetts School of Law, as the trustees of the state's university system voted during 2004 to purchase the nearby Southern New England School of Law, a private institution that is accredited regionally but not by the American Bar Association. This proposal was rejected at the time and lay dormant for several years, but was revived in October 2009 with an offer by SNESL to donate its campus and resources, valued at over $20 million, to the university. The proposal was approved unanimously by the state Board of Higher Education on February 2, 2010. UMass School of Law at Dartmouth opened its doors in September 2010, accepting all current SNESL students with a C or better average as transfer students, and achieved ABA accreditation in June 2012. Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 223.30K | Year: 2016

Much of the flow in the ocean, down to scales of around ten kilometers, is found to be near an equilibrium where horizontal pressure gradients are balanced by an acceleration that arises from the rotation of the Earth. These flows are mostly confined to the horizontal plane and are not very efficient at mixing the warm, lighter water near the surface with the colder, denser waters below. At smaller scales of a kilometer or so, the so-called submesoscale, this balance begins to break down and vertical motions become more energetic. Bulk of the existing literature on submesoscale physics has concentrated on fronts within deep, order 100 meter wintertime mixed layers. In this study, high-resolution large-eddy simulations will be used for a systematic study of sharp fronts in shallow, order 10 meter mixed layers and the instabilities capable of extracting the available potential energy from such fronts. These fronts are often found in subtropical latitudes. These high-resolution simulations will complement our existing knowledge of frontal instabilities in deep wintertime mixed layers. The simulations will also document the effects of surface waves on the onset of instabilities. Fronts are vital to the dissipation of the large-scale oceanic kinetic energy through small-scale turbulence. An improved understanding of frontal instabilities in shallow mixed layers, the theme of this project, contributes directly to our knowledge of the large-scale circulation. Frontal mechanisms also promote the supply of nutrients from deeper layers where they are abundant to the surface layers where they are consumed by planktonic plants. The project will also enable continued outreach efforts to convey the scope of this research to general audiences at the Ocean Explorium events in New Bedford, MA and to high school students through the Massachusetts Marine Educators Association.

Shallow, salinity-controlled fronts are often generated in subtropical latitudes by local precipitation or the stirring of river runoff into filaments by large mesoscale eddies. The shallow mixed layers raise important questions regarding the likelihood of occurrence of various submesoscale instabilities observed and documented previously at fronts in deep mixed layers. Earlier observations in the wintertime Gulf Stream and numerical simulations of the same suggest the absence of a preference of one over the other. One of the central tasks in this project will be to examine whether the combination of a smaller Coriolis parameter in the subtropics and shallow mixed layers lead to a preference for symmetric instability over ageostrophic baroclinic instability. Such a preference has important implications as coarse-resolution climate models currently have a parameterization for baroclinic instability in the mixed layer but none for symmetric instability. This project also includes an analysis of the effects of Stokes drift, within the Craik-Leibovich framework, on the instabilities accompanying shallow mixed-layer fronts. Together, the set of proposed simulations have the potential to greatly enhance our knowledge of submesoscale frontal mechanisms in shallow mixed layers, thus building on our current knowledge of such mechanisms in deep wintertime mixed layers.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 381.37K | Year: 2016

The Beaufort Gyre is circulation pattern in the Arctic Ocean. Observations have documented that in 2003 to 2014, the Beaufort Gyre region accumulated more than 5000 km3 of liquid freshwater relative to the climatology of the 1970s. Recent results suggest that the Beaufort Gyre system may be entering a period of freshwater release. The release of so much freshwater to the sub-Arctic seas of the North Atlantic region has the potential to modify processes in this region, which is important for the climate system. This project will investigate how the Beaufort Gyre accumulates and releases freshwater and how this influences processes in the Arctic Ocean and in the sub-arctic seas of the North Atlantic.

This project would contribute to STEM workforce development by providing support for the training of a graduate student. The project also would provide support to a young, female scientist during the formative years of her career. The project will continue and enhance a productive collaboration that the PI has established with Shanghai Ocean University (SHOU) and leverage computational resources in Shanghai. Additionally, it benefits from a collaboration between SHOU and the Norwegian research company Akvapan-niva AS, Norway, allowing access to field observations collected by this group. Outreach to the K-Gray community will be achieved through leveraging existing infrastructure and activities at the PIs respective institutions.

Recent studies do not agree on the major causes of freshwater accumulation in the Beaufort Gyre region, or the consequences of freshwater release from this region to the North Atlantic. This project will fill that gap by applying the high-resolution, unstructured grid Arctic Ocean - Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (AO-FVCOM), complemented by analysis of historical observational data sets from the region, to investigate:
1) processes and mechanisms of freshwater accumulation and release in the Beaufort Gyre region;
2) roles of major sources contributing to the freshwater content changes in the Arctic Ocean;
3) pathways of fresh water and sea ice from the Beaufort Gyre to the subpolar North Atlantic; and
4) consequences of this release on hydrography, deep convection and circulation.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ARCTIC NATURAL SCIENCES | Award Amount: 290.61K | Year: 2016

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas in the troposphere and an ozone-depleting substance in the stratosphere, yet its sources and sinks in the ocean are neither well-quantified nor well understood. Nitrous oxide is both produced and consumed by microbial processes; it is produced by different processes dependent upon the amount of oxygen present locally. The Arctic Ocean may represent an important source of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere. High nitrous oxide saturations were recently observed in productive shallow Arctic shelf waters. The proposed research will test the hypotheses that productive shelf regions of the Western Arctic Ocean (e.g., Chukchi and Beaufort seas) stimulates nitrous oxide production and contributes to offshore transport of nitrous oxide toward the central Arctic.

Besides developing an important baseline data set for the Arctic science community, this project will contribute to STEM workforce development in numerous manners. It will support an early-career female scientist during the formative years of her career. It will provide summer educational research opportunities to undergraduate students. It will develop seminars for elementary school teachers and provide short classroom presentations at a local public school and contribute to an afterschool non-profit effort devoted to providing high quality educational programs to at risk youth.

The primary goal of this proposed research is to evaluate nitrous oxide cycling in the Western Arctic Ocean from its concentrations, stable isotopes and isotopomers. The project will use isotopic and isotopomer measurements from both shelf and offshore waters to constrain estimates of nitrous oxide cycling in the Arctic. The data will be used to evaluate 1) the pathways of nitrous oxide production from either nitrification following organic matter decomposition in the water column or coupled nitrification-denitrification in the sediments and 2) how these processes influence nitrous oxide exchanges between the surface layer and the atmosphere. Comparisons of observations at coastal and shelf stations in the Bering and Chukchi seas with those offshore in the Deep Canadian Basin will allow the evaluation of the effects of mixing and long-range transport on geochemical signals. The measurements will also serve as a baseline for future assessment of change. The project profits from leveraging of other investments by NSF and the principal investigators? international collaborators, benefitting from measurements and samples collected during the U.S. GEOTRACES Arctic section and the 2016 CHINARE Arctic cruises.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 343.07K | Year: 2015

This REU Site award to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, located in North Dartmouth, MA, will support the training of 10 students for 10 weeks during the summers of 2016-2018. Students will be mentored by faculty whose research projects illustrate collaborative, interdisciplinary, and integrative approaches to the study of marine biology, ranging from the genetics of marine organisms to their ecology and behavior, as well as fisheries science and management and coastal ecosystem dynamics. Students will also be introduced to the historical, economic, and cultural contexts of marine biology through visits to the port city of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Weekly workshops will focus on research proposal development, research ethics, career preparation, and presentation of research results in poster format. Student skills and mindsets regarding conducting and communicating research will be assessed through poster presentations, writing, and surveys. Applications from first-generation and under-represented minority students at community colleges and liberal arts colleges with limited research opportunities are strongly encouraged. Applications and instructions will be available online at

It is anticipated that a total of 10 students, primarily from schools with limited research opportunities, will be trained in the program. Students will learn how research is conducted, and many will present the results of their work at scientific conferences as well as at a poster symposium at the end of the summer. Students will attend career-oriented professional development workshops and historical and cultural workshops where they will learn about relationships between marine biology and the social sciences and humanities. Students will also write about their research for a general audience through poems and blogs.

A common web-based assessment tool used by all REU programs funded by the Division of Biological Infrastructure (Directorate for Biological Sciences) will be used to determine the effectiveness of the training program. Students are required to be tracked after the program and must respond to an automatic email sent via the NSF reporting system. More information is available by visiting, or by contacting the PI (Dr. Nancy OConnor at or the co-PI (Dr. Tara Rajaniemi at

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ADVANCES IN BIO INFORMATICS | Award Amount: 491.68K | Year: 2015

The dynamics of microbial communities play a fundamental role in the functioning of many natural, engineered and host-associated systems. Even though the application of DNA sequencing technologies has allowed profiling the response of these communities to external perturbations, the important knowledge resulting from this approach stems from descriptive and correlation-based analysis of these data. This strongly limits the understanding of the ecology (e.g. how the microbes interact) of these systems and, more importantly, hinders the ability to make quantitative predictions. This project will deliver new theoretical methods and related computational algorithms that, for the first time, allow forecasting microbiome dynamics that are typically constrained with sequencing surveys. This will benefit researchers working on host-associated and environmental microbiomes as it will enable them to computationally explore scenarios that are difficult to set-up experimentally. The tools developed in this project will be delivered as an open-source, freely downloadable and upgradable package, and will encourage and enable end-user contributions with the novel scripts and algorithms provided. Multiple graduate and undergraduate students will be included in the project and will benefit from interdisciplinary hands-on training in mathematical and computational biology, statistics, and microbial genetics. As the proposed methods combine concept from multi-linear regression and solution of large systems of differential equations, they will perfectly integrate with coursework in Biostatistics and Theoretical Biology at UMass Dartmouth.

This research will deliver the first computational suite that allows for simulating and predicting microbiome dynamics consistent with metagenomics observations. This will be achieved by: 1) the development of new time-reverse engineering inference methods solved by a combination of regularized regression and quadratic programming for the estimation of an optimal set of model parameters, and 2) the application of computational tools for metagenome reconstruction based on modeling predictions. This research will also include the development of explicit and implicit numerical methods for the solution of large systems of differential equations to predict microbiome transient dynamics and the use of linear stability analysis to determine all possible microbiome predicted configuration states in response to different sets of perturbations. Method testing and validation against data from simple in silico and in vitro microbial ecosystem of known ecological structure will allow accuracy testing of the proposed approaches both for predicting temporal dynamics and in recovering the correct microbial interaction network in response to external perturbation. Method application (and validation) on diverse datasets will allow testing of fundamental hypotheses about the role of the intestinal microbiome in resisting colonization by foreign bacteria and in shaping host immunity. More information about this project can be found at:

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 156.39K | Year: 2017

Over 5.4 million of the U.S. public school students are identified as English language learners (ELLs), with 4.4 million being Spanish-speaking. Despite the increasing ELL population and growing demands for STEM jobs, research has noted mounting disparities in ELLs science achievement and their substantial underrepresentation in the STEM workforce. Addressing the growing disparities between ELLs and their counterparts in STEM fields remains a national priority. This CAREER project examines the empirical nexus between ELL students language identity and science identity development. The project addresses the pressing need for empirical studies that combine theoretical perspectives from second language education, linguistics, and science education to understand science identity development among ELLs. Based on social positioning theory, the research argues that ELLs disadvantaged positioning in their educational experiences (due to their limited language proficiencies) undermines their developing educational identities. The proposed research takes place at a STEM Summer Out-of-School (OST) Program in a university setting in Southern Massachusetts. The project includes ELL middle school students, who come from ethnically/racially, linguistically diverse and a low-income urban educational context from Gateway cities in Southern Massachusetts. NSFs CAREER Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundations most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Using longitudinal mixed-methods and experimental research design, the projects central hypothesis is that interventions that support boosting ELLs language identities, such as positioning them as cognitively advantaged, will positively interact with ELLs learning and identifying with science, namely their science identities. The research will generate understandings about the role language-based perceptions have in ELLs language identities, and more specifically, will measure the impact of advantaged positioning on ELLs science identity development over time. Further, the project will formulate new and innovative methods teachers can use to recognize and promote competent science performance and language identity development among ELLs. Results will help educators, policy-makers, and researchers design effective instructional programs that support long-term educational achievement and identity development among ELLs. This project is funded by the Division of Research on Learnings Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12), which seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by PreK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of STEM education innovations and approaches.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Mechanics of Materials and Str | Award Amount: 291.95K | Year: 2016

The objective of this award is to fabricate natural fiber composites that are highly durable and multi-functional. Fiber-reinforced polymer composites are made by combining a polymer together with strong reinforcing fibers. Both glass and carbon fibers are relatively expensive, man-made fibers. However natural fibers are abundant, recyclable and cheap. There is a growing trend to use natural fiber reinforced composites in several commercial applications such as automobiles, building construction, sporting goods, and electronic goods. Although natural fiber composites are already used in several industrial applications, their use in load bearing applications is very limited due to their poor durability and mechanical properties such as stiffness, strength, crack initiation and propagation resistance. Multi-functional properties such as stiffness, strength and crack resistance, and damage sensing will be achieved by coating natural fibers with graphene and embedding short carbon fibers between the laminates. In addition, research will be performed to understand the damage evolution of the natural composites under various mechanical loads using the three-dimensional electrical conductive network generated by the embedded graphene and short carbon fiber elements. This project will provide training opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students on embedding graphene into natural fibers, fabrication of composites, and multi-scale electro-mechanical characterization. The research activities will also promote the recruitment and mentoring of underrepresented students in cutting-edge scientific techniques through outreach in local public high schools.

A comprehensive experimental study will be conducted to investigate damage evolution at different length scales in multi-functional natural fiber reinforced composites. To accomplish this objective, novel and challenging experiments incorporating the electro-mechanical response of three dimensional electrical conductive networks will be performed under quasi-static mechanical loading conditions. Highly sensitive conductive networks will be generated by embedding graphene in natural fibers laminates along in-plane directions, and by flocking short carbon fibers along the thickness direction between the laminates. It is hypothesized that the generated conductive network will undergo changes during mechanical loads to reflect damage mechanisms such as fiber pulling from the laminates, matrix cracking, delamination between laminates, and crack bridging. In addition to macro-scale experiments, nano-scale experiments will also be performed using a micro-tensile tester embedded, conductive mode atomic force microscope to capture change in current profile under tensile and shearing loading conditions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 738.34K | Year: 2016

Proportions are a critical topic in mathematics that is simultaneously complicated and over-simplified in typical instruction. Current research undertaken by the research team suggests that the over-simplification is related to limitations in teachers understandings of proportional relationships. Presenting proportions in a dynamic environment offers teachers the opportunity to create key developmental understandings related to this area of mathematics. This project focuses on the creation of the initial functionality for a dynamic microworld, Proportions Playground, designed to support teachers in developing a coherent understanding of proportional reasoning. Proportions Playground is conceptualized as a tool for supporting the development of coherent understandings by allowing teachers to interact in concrete ways with otherwise abstract ideas and by allowing teachers easy access to dynamic objects and other representations. It is meant to address the significant limitations for reasoning about the relationships between measurable aspects of two objects as well as in manipulating those relationships. Building from work currently underway, Proportions Playground will explore key areas in which there are opportunities for engaging teachers in the development of a coherent and robust understanding of proportional reasoning that extends beyond the typical 3 given, 1 unknown proportion problem. This approach attempts to engage teachers in an array of dynamic, visually-rich sets of tasks designed to challenge teachers preconceptions of proportions and to strengthen their connections between proportions and related areas of mathematics. This project is funded by the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) and EHR Core Research (ECR) Programs. the DRK-12 program supports research and development on STEM education innovations and approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment. The ECR program emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field.

The Proportions Playground project seeks to both develop a unique pilot software application for the iPad and explore how it supports teachers in developing a coherent, robust definition of proportions. The software will be designed to support either numeric manipulation (e.g., graphing software) or geometric constructions (e.g., dynamic geometry software). Specifically, for this project the mathematics of interest will include the relationships between similarity and proportion and the nature of covariation. The research will focus on how teachers are developing a robust and coherent understanding of proportions and how the dynamic environment promotes such understandings. Working with six teacher advisors, the project will develop three task sets. Using teaching experiments and individual interviews, results will be used to refine the task sets. The revised task sets will be piloted with 40 teachers. Data will be collected on participants thinking and any changes seen in the knowledge resources they are using. The researchers will be looking for factors that seem to impact teachers thinking as well as evidence to support or deny the assertion that the Proportions Playground activities engage teachers in (a) different ways of reasoning about proportions and (b) support them in drawing from a wide array of resources so that coherence may be developed were the teachers to have a prolonged engagement with the tools. The project will rely on Epistemic Network Analysis to identify the connections between knowledge resources.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ITEST | Award Amount: 457.75K | Year: 2016

This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by designing, developing, implementing, and studying a socio-technological system for group-centered STEM teaching and learning consistent with a nationally recognized pre-service program. The project will use results from more than 30 years of research to demonstrate how network supported, group-based learning grounded in principles of Generative Design can improve learning for all learners, across racial/ethnic backgrounds. The project will also offer detailed analyses of activity designs and implementation strategies that will help pre-service teachers to develop more fully participatory and socially-supported approaches to classroom learning, using authentic STEM practices in group-centered learning environments. This work will be particularly important to advancing knowledge in the field for pre-service teacher preparation, since few pre-service programs use this approach in preparing teachers for today?s classrooms. Through a focus on the initial implementation of twelve model activities taught by pre-service teachers in K-12 classrooms nationwide, this study will also provide concrete and quantitative evidence that group-based learning is both appealing to early-career and induction-years teachers, and that it is feasible to implement in real classrooms.

The project takes a design-based research approach to creating and studying technologies and materials that support generative teaching and learning in STEM. Sites associated with a nationally recognized and expanding approach to STEM teacher preparation and certification will serve as incubators and testbeds for the project?s innovation and development efforts. Computational thinking, including agent-based modeling, and simulation across STEM domains as well as geo-spatial reasoning about personally meaningful learner-collected data will provides an important scientific foundation for the project. This will be achieved by developing a highly-interactive and group-optimized, browser- and cloud-based, device-independent and open-source architecture and by integrating and extending leading computational tools including the NSF-funded NetLogo Web agent-based modeling language and environment. The project will also achieve this outcome by publishing its technology-mediated activities and materials in the public domain and by capturing extensive qualitative and quantitative data on the intensity and nature of use of these technologies and materials. Collectively, the project will foster the growth of educational infrastructures to enable the dissemination and effective adoption of generative teaching and learning in STEM.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: MARINE GEOLOGY AND GEOPHYSICS | Award Amount: 347.29K | Year: 2016

The element nitrogen is a fundamental component of all living things and its cycling through the environment is an important component of Earths biosphere. As a vital nutrient, the availability of nitrogen in a biologically usable form often limits the growth of plants both on land as well as in the ocean. Paradoxically, nitrogen is very abundant as dinitrogen gas (N2) in both the Earths atmosphere and dissolved in seawater. However in this chemical form, nitrogen cannot be used by most living things. Only a small subset of microbes has the ability to fix N2 gas, that is, to convert it into a biologically usable chemical form. Thus, these N2 fixing organisms provide a critical environmental function sustaining life on this planet. In the ocean, N2 fixation is a major control on the total amount of biologically available nitrogen, balancing over the time losses back to N2 gas. The amount of biologically available nitrogen in turn controls the growth (productivity) of photosynthetic organisms (phytoplankton) in the sunlit region of the surface ocean which form the base of the food chain and contribute to oceanic control of the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases.

This project concerns itself with understanding the fundamental, large-scale controls of oceanic N2 fixation and how they are influenced by climate change over time. N2 fixing microbes themselves appeared to be limited by the availability of other nutrient elements such as phosphorous and iron. While it is known in which parts of the ocean there is at present greater or lesser availability of phosphorous and iron, it remains unclear if either is of overriding importance or if changes in the past produced significant variations in N2 fixation. Past changes in N2 fixation may have been an important feedback on oceanic control of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Understanding these past changes and their controls will provide the knowledge base for improving prediction of how ocean N2 fixation may respond to future changes in climate. This is of great societal relevance as changes in oceanic N2 fixation will ultimately impact marine ecosystems and living resources as feedback on the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

To address these questions, the research team will undertake a study the climate-sensitivity of N2 fixation in the southeast Pacific gyre over the last glacial cycle as well as its plausible master controls. This oligotrophic region experiences little modern N2 fixation despite proximity to a large supply of excess phosphate from the adjacent Peru-Chile oxygen minimum zone. This is consistent with modern iron limitation due to low aeolian supply that would have been relieved during past dusty conditions. The research team will use the natural experiment of the last full glacial cycle, captured in the foraminiferal-bound N isotopes of gyre sites as well as sites at its southern margin, to probe controls on the marine N cycle exerted by variable dust inputs and changes in N-loss in the adjacent oxygen minimum zone, and relate these to known changes in greenhouse forcing of climate. Through numerical modeling, the research team will also consider whether past variations in N2 fixation in this region may have impacted the global ocean N cycle and budget.

This project will also fund the training of undergraduate and graduate students and support participation of high school students from underrepresented groups in original research. The research team will continue their outreach efforts through established partnerships with elementary, middle, and high schools, engaging a diverse school population and their families with exciting and relevant science.

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