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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI women scientists, engineers receive incentive awards

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 28, 2005 -- Women represent merely 22 percent of the science and engineering workforce and less than 20 percent of science and engineering faculty in four-year institutions. In response, the University of Rhode Island embarked on the ADVANCE program designed to diversify the scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce at URI by increasing the number of women faculty in those fields. A five-year, $3.5-million National Science Foundation grant awarded to URI in 2003 funds the effort.

In addition to its strong recruitment efforts, URI’s ADVANCE program provides faculty development and research opportunities. For example, STEM faculty members who seek to strengthen or “kick start” a new research program, or who are engaged in activities that promote women in STEM, can compete for an ADVANCE Incentive Award.

This year seven URI faculty members were presented with incentive awards totaling $40,000. Those awarded are:

• Mayrai Gindy of North Kingstown, ADVANCE assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to obtain and study geographic information systems (GIS) software and infrastructure sensing technologies for the development of a standardized visual approach to monitor, assess, and manage bridge performance. The incentive award will enable Gindy to launch a new research program by providing the funding necessary for the appropriate software and training, as well as a comprehensive review of various sources.

• Donna Meyer, of Cranston, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to develop and write a proposal for submittal to NSF. Meyer proposes to design and fabricate a biosensor to detect illness-causing contaminants in Rhode Island’s beach and fishing waters, particularly Escherichia coli and fecal coliforms.

• Carol Thornber, of Wakefield, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with Scott Nixon, of Wakefield, professor at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, to measure the impacts of natural and anthropogenic (from sewage) nitrogen sources on algal growth in Narragansett Bay. The approaches proposed are a field survey of algae and growth of algae in the laboratory. Research findings will provide important information to local establishments as they deal with nutrient pollution in Narragansett Bay.

• Mirang Yoon, of Wakefield, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, proposes an experimental study to quantify the effect of strain on the stability of nanoscale facets on silicon surfaces. As a recipient of a previous ADVANCE Incentive Fund award, Yoon plans to attain her objectives by utilizing her preliminary data set and her current more systemic research proposal.

• Rebecca Brown, of West Kingston, ADVANCE Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, to network and develop national and international collaborations with other scientists whose studies overlap her own at two international turf grass meetings in Aberystwyth, Wales this summer. This will enable Brown to develop collaborative projects and will initiate her first round of grant proposals in the area of the genetics of cool-season grasses.

• Araceli Medina Bonifant, of North Kingstown, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics, for the theoretical study and high precision numerical computation on the dynamics of self-maps of complex projective spaces. Bonifant plans to focus on the dynamical properties of the invariant elliptic curve and in deciding in which cases or under which conditions, the invariant elliptic curve could be or could not be an attractor and which kind of attractor it could be.

• Yana Reshetnyak, of West Kingston, ADVANCE assistant professor in the Department of Physics, to design and construct a spectrograph imager to study the folding of membrane peptides. The study of protein folding and structure is not only a fundamental problem, but is also directly related with human health, as the majority of diseases are associated with altered functions of proteins that result in altered protein structure. The research will provide the necessary data collection for Reshetnyak’s submission of grant proposals to the NSF and NIH.