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Major grant to fund Math and Physics Summer Institute

In less than a month, APSU has received two prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. In August, the NSF funded a high-performance computer cluster to support research in physics, mathematics, chemistry and computer science.

On Sept. 11, 2007, the NSF awarded a grant of $582,740 to fund the project, STEM Scholarships in Mathematics and Physics at Austin Peay State University. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The grant will be used to establish the Mathematics and Physics Summer (MaPS) Institute at APSU.
In less than a month, APSU has received two prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) grants. In August, the NSF funded a high-performance computer cluster to support research in physics, mathematics, chemistry and computer science.

On Sept. 11, 2007, the NSF awarded a grant of $582,740 to fund the project, “STEM Scholarships in Mathematics and Physics at Austin Peay State University.” STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The grant will be used to establish the Mathematics and Physics Summer (MaPS) Institute at APSU.

The recent Congressional report, “The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,” indicates Americans are not prepared for rapid technological changes. Saying the U.S. soon may lose its position as a technological leader, the report emphasizes the need to increase the number of citizens earning bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

MaPS is part of APSU's answer to this dilemma. Dr. Jaime Taylor, professor of physics and chair of the department of physics and astronomy, is the principal investigator. Taylor, who earlier helped APSU secure the Governor's School in Computational Physics, said, “This National Science Foundation grant is going to have a huge impact on the recruitment and retention of physics and mathematics majors at APSU.”

Co-principal investigators in the institute are Dr. Alex King, associate professor of physics, Dr. Kevin Schultz, assistant professor of physics, Dr. Matt Jones, assistant professor of mathematics, and Dr. Loretta Griffy, associate professor of mathematics.

Shirley Hagewood, associate professor of math, Dr. Harriett McQueen, dean of enrollment management and academic support, and Sally Allen, admissions manager, will serve as senior personnel for the institute.

Griffy will serve as director of the institute. According to her, students selected to attend will receive both financial and academic assistance.
“The accomplishments of our students and recent graduates showed NSF that our mathematics and physics programs provide the foundation to further study and employment,” Griffy said. “In addition, our math and physics faculty show a commitment to student success.”

The primary goals of MaPS are to help the students acclimate to the college environment, strengthen their academic foundation and promote their success at APSU. A five-week residential program, the inaugural MaPS Institute will be held on campus next summer.

“For the students, it will be an intense structured experience with challenging formal academic assignments coupled with opportunities to interact informally with physics and math faculty as well as with their peers majoring in math and physics,” Griffy said. “This living and learning environment will provide students opportunities to form a social network of support.”

Beyond the five weeks spent on campus prior to beginning classes next fall, the students selected for the MaPS Institute will receive focused academic support during their first year of college and financial support for their undergraduate careers at APSU. Additionally, carefully chosen physics and mathematics upperclassmen will serve as peer mentors for freshman math and physics majors, thus building a community of learners.

All of these opportunities are designed to support student success at APSU and beyond by helping students further their accomplishments in the sciences in graduate school or their chosen careers. Griffy said, “It is a vehicle for lifelong learning for these students.

“And Austin Peay will benefit from increased interaction between students and faculty, which may provide opportunities for collaboration in research and community service.”

Applications for the Summer 2008 Mathematics and Physics Summer Institute will be accepted, beginning in January 2008.

For more information, contact Dr. Loretta Griffy by telephone at (931) 221-1451 or by e-mail at griffyl@apsu.edu. A Web site for the institute is under construction. -- Dennie B. Burke