A collaboration between a Unity College professor and colleagues at other institutions has attracted significant support from the National Science Foundation.

Unity College Associate Professor Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton and collaborators from five other colleges and universities were awarded a 5-year, $2.9 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in August 2014. The grant will support coordinated initiatives of the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) Consortium. The product of an earlier NSF incubator grant, the QUBES Consortium is an alliance of professional societies and academic institutions united around common goals in quantitative biology education. Their first initiative was to articulate a vision for a collaborative workspace–QUBES Hub–that will be the virtual site of the larger project.

“This National Science Foundation grant marks an impressive achievement for a group of faculty members who are quite literally on the leading-edge of reframing higher education to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” noted Unity College President Stephen Mulkey, an internationally regarded scientist.  “Dr. Diaz Eaton and her colleagues have worked diligently to remove barriers between the disciplines.  She has brought distinction to Unity College, just as her colleagues involved in this NSF grant have distinguished themselves as scholars at the top of their profession.”

Dr. Michael Evans, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, says that Dr. Diaz Eaton and her colleagues on the Unity College faculty are creating numerous opportunities for students to participate in their research. “Undergraduates are excited to learn because they see the value of collaborative scholarship and what it can become, this NSF grant being a perfect example of that concept,” Evans said.  “In every sense of the word Dr. Diaz Eaton is a role model to Unity College students through her teaching, scholarship, and personal example.”

The most recent award will enable the QUBES Consortium to build a framework for improving undergraduate biology education through five major initiatives: (1) coordinating effort and resources among disparate communities for promoting quantitative biology education, (2) supporting faculty, (3) increasing the visibility, utility, and adoption of existing educational materials, (4) quantifying and tracking faculty contribution in the scholarship of teaching and learning, and (5) studying and disseminating the features of QUBES that increase implementation success.

“Unity College is not only offering a curriculum that prepares graduates to become the environmental leaders of this century, but faculty like Dr. Diaz Eaton are pushing the boundaries of their fields,” noted Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, Executive Vice President and Liaison to the Board.  “Those who are choosing to support Unity College are confident that their dollars will make a significant difference in part because of achievements like this by Dr. Diaz Eaton.  She is part of a strong group of collaborative academics with a vision that earned NSF support.  There is no better validation of quality than receiving support to advance ideas that will positively impact several fields.”

Dr. Carrie Diaz Eaton will continue to lead and grow the QUBES Consortium, which currently includes groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Biology Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America, the National Institute for Mathematical Biology and Synthesis, and the BioQUEST Consortium. The new Director of Education at Unity College, Dr. Jennifer Cartier, will join the QUBES leadership team as an assessment expert, and Secondary Education students will have opportunities to utilize the materials available on QUBES Hub to forge connections with other educators around the world.  The expanded leadership team will also include Sam Donovan (University of Pittsburgh), M. Drew LaMar (College of William and Mary), DorothyBelle Poli (Roanoke College), Jeremy Wojdak and Robert Sheehy (Radford University), and Stith (Tom) Gower and Kristin Jenkins (University of Wisconsin-Madison).

The QUBES leadership team is optimistic that by lowering the participation barrier and fostering a national valuation and promotion system for teaching, this project will encourage faculty to implement curricular reform and integrate quantitative skills into biological science programs. “We are pleased that Unity College has the opportunity to take a leadership role on such an important issue facing not only biology education, but sustainability science education,” said Diaz Eaton. “To keep up with advances in science in the 21st century, we need educators to have access to the right tools, and the support to teach with them.”

Friday, September 05, 2014