New Grants Advance the Sciences at NWU

Three new grants involving Nebraska Wesleyan University will promote minority student involvement in science and mathematics, explore clues to Alzheimer’s disease, and help other universities teach the field of bioinformatics.

Candice Howell, assistant to the provost for student success and diversity, is the NWU campus director for the IINspire LSAMP Alliance based at Iowa State University. This alliance promotes and supports minority students enrolled in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields at 16 institutions in Iowa and Nebraska. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the five-year project seeks to increase underrepresented minority students’ access to research opportunities and mentoring on their own campuses.

Marilyn Petro, associate professor of psychology, and NWU student Ben Siemsen (’13) are studying the impact of a plant compound called resveratrol on the brains of mice. Resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes and is present in wine. The compound may help prevent brain inflammation associated with the cognitive deficits of aging.

Petro was one of four state recipients of a Nebraska EPSCoR grant for undergraduate research.

Garry Duncan, professor of biology, is a key figure in an NSF-funded curriculum development project based at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). He and O. William McClung, NWU professor of computer science, are helping UNO create data sets and teaching materials that will incorporate bioinformatics into the undergraduate biology curriculum on a national basis.

Bioinformatics applies the power of computer science to puzzles in genetics, ecology and other areas of biology. Bioinformatics has led to some of the most important discoveries of recent decades. Summer 2012 work for the four-year project involved NWU students, Jaclyn Lange (’12) and Travis Freeburg (’15).