Saint Thomas Mount, Virgin Islands - US

University of the Virgin Islands
Saint Thomas Mount, Virgin Islands - US

The University of the Virgin Islands is a public university located in the United States Virgin Islands. The university is a member-school of Thurgood Marshall College Fund. UVI's President Hall announced on October 22nd, 2014, UVI currently has the highest Alumni giving rate among Historical Black Colleges and Universities at 52.49% for the fiscal year of 2014, in October 2014 Wikipedia.

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Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 630.25K | Year: 2016

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) has identified evidence-based leadership and professional development of faculty as one of its priorities and is committed to funding innovative models to enhance the understanding of the barriers that hinder and factors that enhance our ability to broaden participation in STEM. With support from the National Science Foundation, the Collaborative for the Advancement of STEM Leadership (CASL) aims to broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM through a targeted focus on leadership. This collaborative project embraces a more expanded position of creating new knowledge about the relationship between leadership and broadening participation, and transferring that knowledge into institutional practices that can be promulgated through a national community of practice. Initially, the impact of the Collaborative will be among select HBCUs, but, because of its broad reach into mainstream STEM reform communities, these efforts will eventually impact all institutional types and address the growing need for quality leadership for broadening participation in STEM. As a result, tens of thousands of underrepresented minority STEM students, enrolled at both HBCUs and non-HBCU campuses, will experience the kind of academic environments that are most conducive to their learning and persisting as STEM majors.

The goal of CASL is to establish the foundational tenets of the research and practice of leadership for broadening participation in STEM. The Collaborative will achieve this mission through: 1) research activities that will contribute to an increased knowledge base on leadership development for broadening participation in STEM; 2) knowledge translation activities that will use an evidence-based approach to leadership development to increase the number of HBCU leaders with culturally responsive competencies and capacities; and 3) outreach activities that will develop a national Community of Practice to define, codify, and promulgate design principles and practices for broadening participation and thereby increase the visibility/influence of HBCUs at the center of STEM higher education reform. The distributed structure of the Collaborative lends itself to the development and sustainability of an integrated discovery analytical framework that serves two primary purposes: 1) it provides robustness and flexibility in facilitating exploratory and emergent lines of inquiry that directly address research questions about the relationship between leadership and broadening participation in STEM; and 2) it facilitates an iterative and dynamic approach by supporting the integration of new insights and research questions that emerge over the projects duration into the Collaboratives ongoing activities, and vice versa.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 195.28K | Year: 2012

The overarching goals of this project are to establish a culture of research in materials science at the University of the Virgin Islands, and to contribute to enhancing the infrastructure for integration of research and education at this undergraduate institution. The research objectives of the project are to understand doping mechanisms in graphene, to perform annealing studies to investigate if the microstructure of graphene can be modified to determine conditions that lead to more permanent doping effects in the material for device applications, and to develop a quantitative understanding through computational modeling and simulations. The research on understanding electrochemical and electronic doping mechanisms in graphene will advance the knowledge of properties of graphene for electronic and sensor device applications.

This project will demonstrate p-type doping of graphene by surface modification with tetrafluorotetracyanoquinodimethane (F4-TCNQ). F4-TCNQ has been widely used in organic light-emitting diodes to reduce the hole injection barrier by forming a narrow space-charge region near the metal contact, thereby improving device performance. Modifying the graphene surface with F4-TCNQ is therefore expected to favor electron transfer from graphene to F4-TCNQ molecules, leading to an electron accumulation layer in F4-TCNQ and a depletion layer in the graphene, thereby achieving p-type doping of the graphene.

The second task of this project is to investigate the effects of transition metals (TM) as potential electronic dopants in graphene using a chemical vapor deposition system. The doping studies will be complimented with carrier transport measurements. The project intends to find a correlation between the desired amount of doping, the concentration of atoms and their arrangement on the surface. A series of annealing experiments will be performed in order to determine whether or not the doping effect is still present. Lastly, it will be determined which mechanism is best suited for n-type and p-type doping and which set of conditions are most favorable for graphene to maintain its doped state.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: NSF INCLUDES | Award Amount: 249.08K | Year: 2016


A non-technical description of the project test explains its significance and importance.

The goal of this project is to help students easily identify themselves as science or engineering professionals and increase the proportion of the local population, dominantly minorities, who pursue science and technology careers. Experience has demonstrated that students are most engaged in technical fields when they can participate in active, hands-on learning around problems with application to their local community. The focus of the effort is in marine science, which has local relevance to both the environment and the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The project will use interventions at three crucial stages: middle school, high-school-college transition, and master-PhD transition, to engage students with specific active-learning and research-oriented programs. Community partners comprise a wide-ranging local organization that leverages the resources of other successful collaborations.

A technical description of the project

This project will create a transferable model that uses innovative partnerships among universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations, a professional society, and businesses, to create a local backbone organization with a shared vision for change and common success metrics to broaden participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This project addresses the critical challenge of building scientific identity to increase interest and engagement of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The plan includes targeted interventions at three significant times in the student career pathway (middle/high school, early college, and graduate school) that comprise: (1) field experiences in the marine sciences for middle/high school students, (2) early field research experiences for college freshmen and sophomore students, (3) bridge programming to a Ph.D. partnership with Pennsylvania State University, and (4) an intensive mentoring program. The model is grounded in social innovation theory through a framework that meets the five conditions for collective impact: common agenda, shared measurement of data and results, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 1.79M | Year: 2016

Achieving Competitive Excellence Implementation Projects in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Undergraduate program provide support to design, implement, study and assess comprehensive institutional efforts to increase the numbers of students and the quality of their preparation by strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and research. This project at the University of the Virgin Islands seeks to develop a growth mindset and creativity through specific evidence-based interventions. The project will be validated with a carefully designed educational research study which focuses on the novel use of growth mindset training. The project is guided and informed by an on-going evaluation.

Specific objectives of the project are to: increase by 15% the retention and persistence rates for those STEM students who struggle early in their college careers; increase by 10% overall persistence and graduation rates for STEM students; increase the self-efficacy of STEM students as measured by validated, reliable instruments; establish a summer bridge program focused on mathematics for incoming freshmen; have summer and academic year research experiences; conduct mindset training in the freshman development seminar; and develop a sustained, comprehensive evidence-based faculty development program, which will give faculty the skills and tools necessary for the success of the overall model. This project will provide a validated replicable model that can be used by other open admissions or low selectivity universities and community colleges throughout the Nation.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 2.03M | Year: 2011

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) HBCU-UP project is designed to increase retention and persistence in STEM and strengthen student preparation for graduate school and the workforce. The project intends to build a strong foundation for incoming UVI STEM students through activities to increase pass rate in developmental courses and to increase student preparedness for Calculus by a Math Behind the Science Summer Bridge Program including course-taking in computer programming and mentoring and training of students to understand the expectations for success in STEM education and careers. Strategies selected to achieve these objectives resulted from a thorough literature review of evidenced-based practices and tailored for the specific context of the institution. Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) will be employed as a strategy to increase pass rate in developmental courses. The project has specific targets for STEM retention and graduation rate increases. A comprehensive set of strategies to achieve the retention and graduation rate goals include creation and/or delivery of 1. A special STEM freshman development course, 2. Summer Sophomore Research Institute (SSRI), 3. Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), 4. Academic year HBCU-UP Research Scholar (AHRS), 5. Faculty professional development in STEM student advising and mentoring, and 6. A STEM Resource Center.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Cooperative Agreement | Program: | Phase: RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROV | Award Amount: 8.38M | Year: 2014

Non-technical Description

The project Mare Nostrum Caribbean (Our Caribbean Sea) implements coral reef science in service to ecological stewardship, with the goal of understanding how best to improve coral reef sustainability in a region threatened by overfishing, marine pollution, sedimentation, invasive species, and climate change. High-resolution coastal oceanographic models are being developed to increase understanding of how ecological patterns and processes are influenced by natural and anthropogenic disturbances. These efforts are creating a comprehensive understanding of the effects of climate change on coral reefs and associated ecosystems, and assisting in the development of potential climate change mitigation strategies.

The project is increasing the intellectual involvement of Virgin Islanders with coral reef ecosystems and the stewardship of natural resources. The Virgin Islands Institute for STEM Education Research and Practice uses five strategies to understand and develop best practices for formal and informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the Territory.

Technical Description

The research will investigate factors that enhance or reduce a coral reef?s tolerance to environmental stress and its resistance to transitions to alternate ecological states (i.e., ecological resilience). Understanding these complex relationships is of paramount importance, especially considering that within the last decade corals in the U.S. Virgin Islands have experienced nearly 50% mortality due to climate-induced stress from warm-water bleaching and disease. Reef degradation increases the risk of coastal flooding, reduces fishery resources for local communities, is linked to reduced human health, and represents a tremendous loss of yet-undiscovered biological diversity. Studies integrate ecological, oceanographic, environmental, and socio-economic factors to investigate the complex relationships found within coral reef ecosystems.

The U.S. Virgin Islands ability to enhance environmental stewardship and implement economic change relies on an informed public, trained workforce and improved educational system. Specific broader impacts include an increase in 1) the numbers of K-12 through graduate students in STEM research activities and educational advancement; 2) underrepresented minorities in STEM fields; 3) opportunities to improve STEM teaching at all levels; and 4) the knowledge of and participation in coral reef science by the general public and students of all levels.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 472.90K | Year: 2014

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) is providing training and financial support for 20 academically talented, but financially challenged students in Caribbean natural resource conservation and management in its Masters of Marine and Environmental Science (MMES) program. The MMES program is responding to a demonstrated need for professional training in this region with serious threats to its natural resources and whose economic viability is closely tied to the state of the local environment. UVI students and the U.S. Virgin Islands population are comprised predominantly of groups underrepresented in STEM related fields. Many individuals in these groups find that financing education to the level of Masters of Science impossible and therefore move into other careers. UVI is helping to fill the need for professionals with understanding of Caribbean natural resource conservation and management by recruiting students from under-represented groups and providing financial support, academic tutoring, faculty mentors, and funding for research and travel to professional meetings. The intellectual merit of UVIs S-STEM project is based in the MMES programs success in involving students from under-represented groups early in locally-relevant research and developing novel approaches to the conservation of the natural resources of the Caribbean. This project has broad impacts within the territory and beyond through its training of a diverse cadre of future scientists who will ultimately be stewards of the natural resources of the Virgin Islands and similar environments around the world.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 194.04K | Year: 2015

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Research Initiation Awards (RIAs) provide support to STEM faculty at HBCUs including junior faculty who are starting to build a research program and mid-career faculty returning to the faculty ranks after holding an administrative post or who need to redirect and rebuild a research program. Faculty members may pursue research at their home institution, at an NSF-funded Center, at a research intensive institution or at a national laboratory. The RIA projects are expected to help further the faculty members research capability and effectiveness, to improve research and teaching at his or her home institution, and to involve undergraduate students in research experiences. With support from the National Science Foundation, the University of The Virgin Islands (UVI) will conduct research and enhance its Physical Chemistry curriculum, which will aid in enhancing UVIs research capabilities and the educational experiences of undergraduates. The goal of the project is to increase the retention and graduation rates of undergraduate students in STEM at UVI by involving them in world-class, pioneering scientific research. The combined research and educational efforts are expected to expand the participation of groups underrepresented in STEM and support the nations efforts in building a robust STEM workforce.

The goal of this project is to study transition metal-ethylene cations of the form TM(C2H4)n+ using infrared photo-dissociation spectroscopy and computational chemistry. Findings from this project will provide insight into the bonding, structure, coordination and reactivity of TM(C2H4)n+ complexes. These species are key intermediates and products in reactions that are important to both the chemical industry and fundamental science. This knowledge can facilitate the exposition of reaction mechanisms and provide the first spectroscopic evidence for cyclization and oligomerization reactions of these species in the gas phase. This project will offer early immersion in innovative scientific research for undergraduate students. Research will be conducted at the University of Georgia during the summer and continue at UVI during the school year.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 92.71K | Year: 2014

The predicted 2014-2015 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event may develop into one of the strongest in recent history, presenting a unique and urgent opportunity to investigate the impact of this extreme thermal anomaly on the resilience of coral reef ecosystems. Building on baseline data from >40 years of research in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), this team of researchers is uniquely poised to test hypotheses about coral reef resilience to the third strong event to hit this region. Ecological resilience is defined as both the ability of an ecosystem to continue functioning while under stress as well as the ability of a system to bounce back or restore structure and function following a disturbance. This project is guided by the overarching hypothesis that many ETP coral reefs are becoming more resilient in the face of multiple major ENSO disturbances as a result of adaptive processes. If the investigators are correct that reef systems can develop more tolerance and recover more rapidly when subjected to sequential thermal disturbances, this will drastically change predictions of the fate of global coral reef ecosystems over the next 100 years of climate change. The Broader Impacts of this proposal include mentoring, outreach, and education. To engage a broad audience, all participants will contribute to a project Facebook page, which will be linked to a blogging website where the public can interact with the scientists.

This RAPID funding will provide an unprecedented opportunity to further our understanding of the potential for increased resistance to, and accelerated early recovery from, the third major ENSO to hit the ETP. The investigators have developed hypotheses that can be tested by targeted sampling and experiments in the critical stages before, during and after this ENSO on reefs in Panamá (Uva, Saboga) and Galápagos (Darwin Floreana). These reefs span a gradient in aragonite saturation that provides a real-world model system for conditions expected throughout the tropics in a high-CO2 world. Key mechanisms/hypotheses that the investigators will evaluate that may increase resilience, and therefore reduce mortality and limit the loss of ecosystem functioning following this ENSO, include: (1) increases in the relative abundance of thermotolerant symbionts will result in higher survival and faster recovery of multiple coral species across all depths; (2) recovery will be inversely rated to pCO2 with a threshold level beyond which recovery does not occur; (3) the maintenance of strong top-down control by intact herbivore communities will limit algal proliferation, and (4) the strengthening of nutrient-limitation in shallow regions will limit algal competitive abilities and aid coral recovery. At each site where there is a record of recovery the research team will make the following ovservations: (1) in situ measurement of physical parameters (temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, photosynthetically active radiation, chlorophyll, turbidity, inorganic nutrients); (2) in situ measurement of carbonate chemistry and net ecosystem metabolism (calcification, production); (3) In situ measurements of coral and reef community responses including coral bleaching and mortality and the population responses of corallivores, bioeroders, herbivores, and benthic algal cover; (4) quantification of symbiont communities in major coral species before, during and after the bleaching event to compare with archived samples from the 1997-98 event; (5) bioassays of the strength of top-down (herbivory) and bottom-up (nutrient limitation) effects that may promote ecosystem resilience with critical limits. To further explore these limits, in the southern Galápagos, where there is a lack of resilience, the investigative team will deploy temperature loggers, conduct surveys of bleaching and mortality of remnant coral communities, and conduct bioassays of the strength of herbivory and nutrient limitation.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 33.03K | Year: 2017

Coral diseases have increased significantly throughout the past 30 years. Climate change and other detrimental environment factors are likely to blame. Unhealthy coral reefs cannot support the fish and other life that make the reef a vibrant and diverse ecosystem. Corals reefs in the Caribbean Sea are disease hotspots and many reefs have experienced population collapses due to outbreaks of disease. Importantly, coral species vary in their susceptible to disease, but the reasons behind this variation are unknown. This project will quantify coral susceptibility to disease by examining coral immunity using several novel approaches and experiments. Seven species of coral that differ in disease susceptibility, growth rates, growth form and reproductive strategies will be used. Immune responses of each species of coral will be measured by exposing the corals to bacterial immune stimulators. Susceptibility to white plague disease, a prevalent disease affecting many species of corals, will also be measured by exposing the corals to active white plague disease and calculating disease transmission rates. The immune response and disease transmission data for each coral species will be used to develop a predictive model to determine how different coral communities will respond to disease threats under climate change scenarios. This project will support graduate students at University of Texas, Arlington (Hispanic-serving Institution) and University of Virgin Islands (Historically Black University) and many undergraduate students at all three institutions (Mote Marine Laboratory). This research will be highlighted at outreach events at all three institutions which take place regularly and include Earth Day Texas in Dallas, TX, Motes Living Reef Exhibit and Aquarium in Sarasota, FL and Reef Fest and Agricultural fairs in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Environmental changes, such as ocean warming, have led to an increase in the prevalence of coral diseases, causing region-wide population collapses in some locations. However, not all coral species, or even populations within species, are affected by disease equally. Some species are host to many different types of diseases, but have limited mortality. Other species suffer significant disease-related mortality. How and why disease susceptibility differs among species and the effects of this differential susceptibility on reef community structure and composition are currently unknown. This project will use immune-challenge experiments that will quantify novel components of the innate immune system of corals, coupled with the application of a trait-based model, to fulfill three goals: 1) Determine variability of coral immune traits in seven common coral species found on Caribbean reefs, 2) Determine the variability in resistance to white plague disease transmission in the same coral species 3) Develop a predictive model of coral community assemblage that incorporates immune traits. Quantification of coral immunity will also incorporate unique approaches, such as combining full transcriptome sequencing with protein activity assays for a gene-to-phenotype analysis. Data will be mapped onto immune pathways for comprehensive pathway evaluation between coral species and these will serve as trait inputs into a traitspace model. These traits will provide continuous data within the model, which will create a probability density function (PDF) for the trait distributions of each species. These PDFs will then be used to determine the probability of species under different disease exposure scenarios. Model analyses will determine which traits influence community structure and characterize how disease exposure and the immune response will predict community assemblages through space and time. The completion and application of a trait-base model that incorporates extensive immunity parameters (none of which have been applied to trait models within coral ecosystems) is a distinct product from this project.

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