Two dozen UC Merced undergraduates will be able to do firsthand research in computational biology with the help of a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Masa Watanabe, director of student success for the School of Natural Sciences, and Professor Michael Colvin last month were awarded the $994,999 grant, the largest UC Merced has received to support undergraduate research.
The program will engage students in research projects with the goal of sparking and fostering their interest in computational biology careers. In addition to conducting interdisciplinary research, students will learn about what it's like to be a researcher by writing proposals and presenting their scientific findings.
"This program gives students a lot of the experiences they might not otherwise get until graduate school," Colvin said.
The award will support a total of 24 students, who will receive classroom and hands-on training in an array of computational biology methods during their first summer with the program. Ten faculty members are participating in the program.
Each student researcher will spend two years working in a computational biology lab, which Colvin said is enough time to understand the computational tools and also to do meaningful research. The grant will allow for $14,000 per year to help with living expenses, so they won't need to work other part-time jobs.
The undergraduate students will be encouraged to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and explore graduate degrees. The research program will also include information nights, so family members can understand the importance of pursuing doctoral degrees.
Computational biology is focused on quantitative analysis using mathematical modeling, which represents a shift in the way scientists approach biology. It can be used for basic science, such as studying why some proteins fold and why others do not, and also for practical applications, such as designing better cancer drugs.
"We want to create a foundation of quantitative skills that students can use throughout their careers," Colvin said.
In the wake of an economic crisis and deep budget cuts to the University of California system, the Associated Students of UC Merced (ASUCM) are encouraging the campus community to engage in government and hold the state accountable for maintaining the quality of the UC.
It is with that in mind that ASUCM will host the two candidates for the state's 12th Senate district in separate appearances on the UC Merced campus in the coming days.
Republican Anthony Cannella will hold a meet-and-greet from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, while Democrat Anna Caballero will hold one from noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 8. Both events are open to the public and will take place in the California Room.
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