UTA receives $1.1 million grant to train researchers in mathematical and computational methods for health

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded The University of Texas at Arlington a $1.1 million grant to train and mentor three multi-level cohorts of interdisciplinary researchers in mathematical and computational techniques to address questions in cancer biology, computational neurology and vector-borne diseases.

Led by Hristo Kojouharov, principal investigator and professor of mathematics, the research team plans to recruit and mentor nine undergraduate students, six doctoral students and two postdoctoral researchers.

Joining Kojouharov on the project are a group of 10 UTA mathematics faculty and researchers from UTA's College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the departments of Bioengineering, Biology and Psychology. Collaborators also include faculty from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas; University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth; and the VA North Texas Health Care System, which has locations throughout the Metroplex and North Central Texas.

This program integrates mentoring, interdisciplinary research and coursework. The program's research, guided by experimental work, will advance mathematics by developing state-of-the-art stochastic modeling and optimal control frameworks for the dynamics of cancer biomarkers, neuronal physiology and immunological interactions between co-circulating vector-borne viruses."

Hristo Kojouharov, principal investigator and professor of mathematics

The project also aims to integrate modern data science and machine-learning methods for analyzing data to solve problems, he said.

The investigators plan to recruit a wide range of scholars into the program with the hope of increasing the number of historically underrepresented individuals involved in science research. UTA is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, and one of the best universities in the country for veterans and veteran-connected students.

Selected scholars will train in mathematical theory and computational methods to diagnose, assess, prevent and treat chronic and infectious diseases. The experienced faculty mentors will use best-practice models of multi-level mentoring, where faculty and trainees at all levels work together to share their own levels of expertise. This type of training helps produce researchers who can also function as mentors and prepares them for future careers with biotechnology companies, health organizations and/or academia.

Co-principal investigators of the project at UTA include Souvik Roy, assistant professor of mathematics; Pedro D. Maia, assistant professor of mathematics; Keaton Hamm, assistant professor of mathematics; and Christopher Kribs, professor of mathematics and curriculum & instruction.

"This program will build naturally on several federally funded mentoring and training programs at UTA, and it aligns well with institutional goals of enhancing interdisciplinary research, education and community engagement in health and the human condition," Kojouharov said.

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