Wittenberg is one of 13 universities and 13 partner institutions, including Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), involved in the Ohio Consortium for Bioinformatics. The consortium received $4.475 million in Choose Ohio First (COF) Scholarship Program funds to attract and graduate an estimated 345 STEM students from Ohio high schools over a five-year period.
Of that total, Wittenberg will have $338,400 to award in scholarships over the next five years.
"This award will provide a critical boost to collaborative efforts for education in biology and health sciences," said Wittenberg's Director of Computational Science Eric Stahlberg. "Problems in these areas are so challenging that they can only be solved with combined input from many different perspectives and skill sets."
More than $22.7 million for student scholarships in STEM fields and STEM education were directed to 21 Ohio public and private colleges and universities across the state in the first round of COF funding. Wittenberg was one of just four private universities to gain funding.
The consortium's goal is to make Ohio a leader in bioinformatics, the field of science in which biology, computer science and information technology merge to form a single discipline. Already a recognized leader in the field, this award recognizes Wittenberg's strong established programs in biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and computational science.
Wittenberg is a pioneer in computational science, building upon the work of Professor Emeritus of Computer Science Jim Noyes, who was instrumental in the development of technological resources at Wittenberg in the 1990s, long before computational science was on most schools' educational radar.
"The award provides a nice boost to the leading computational science efforts at Wittenberg," Stahlberg said. "The scholarships provided through this award will give new Ohio students the opportunity to learn how technology can be combined with individual creativity to address some of the most difficult problems in biology and medicine."
The university became one of the first in the nation to offer a formal program in computational science in 2003, made possible by the opening of Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center, which provides state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and laboratories, including a 64-bit WARP (Wittenberg Advanced Research Processors) cluster of computers. The cluster has been instrumental in student research and internships that have worked to solve challenging science problems in materials, chemistry, biology and other applied disciplines that cannot be easily solved on regular workstations.
Computational science is becoming increasingly recognized as a critical tool across many disciplines that combines the methodologies of computer science with the techniques of applied mathematics to model and solve problems in the natural and social sciences. Computational science has led to advances in technological innovation and scientific inquiry, enabling Wittenberg students to explore new materials for future batteries, study pediatric cancer, visualize complex systems and identify promising leads for new drugs through experiential educational opportunities.
The reach of the program expanded in 2007 through a collaborative virtual minor program coordinated by the Ralph Regula School of Computational Science (RRSCS). Students at nine Ohio college and university campuses are linked together by the RRSCS, a virtual school that is a collaborative effort of these institutions, OSC, the Ohio Board of Regents and the Ohio Learning Network. The RRSCS virtual minor program provides Wittenberg students with an even broader range of computational science opportunities to blend with their on-campus experience.
Seven of the 28 proposals submitted for COF funding consideration were accepted after review by a seven-member panel of STEM educational experts appointed by Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut. Competition for the remaining $27.3 million available under COF began immediately, with each of the 21 proposals previously submitted eligible to be considered again.
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Robert Gantt
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