MTBI/SUMS: A History
For eleven years, the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute / Institute for Strengthening the Understanding of Mathematics and Science (MTBI/SUMS) has mentored over consecutive summers a highly diverse group of students who had not yet been tracked into selective mathematics programs. Established at Cornell University by Carlos Castillo-Chavez in 1996, the programs are designed to provide the best quality support and research based education to individuals that are underrepresented in the mathematical sciences by fostering the academic and professional development of its participants. This dedication to increasing the number of U.S. educated students, particularly members of underrepresented minority groups and women pursuing advanced degrees in the mathematical sciences, is achieved by providing a supportive and diverse environment where mentorship, cooperative learning and leadership training play a critical role.
Upon his arrival to Arizona State University in 2004, Dr. Castillo-Chavez became the Executive Director of a long-standing program at the university, The Institute for Strengthening the Understanding of Mathematics and Science (SUMS). After eleven years of directing MTBI, Dr. Castillo-Chavez had a vision for integrating these two programs in an effort to mentor high school students through the post-doctoral level at ASU. His initiative was realized in 2006 when the two programs were unified to create MTBI/SUMS. His mission to create the world’s best mathematical scientists has been the driving philosophy behind his programmatic objectives.
Created as an REU (research experience for undergraduates) summer institute focusing on the applications of mathematics to problems at the interface of the natural and social sciences, MTBI/SUMS has been held in conjunction with Cornell University (1996 - 2003), Los Alamos National Laboratory (2003 - 2005), and Arizona State University (2004 - ). Aimed at increasing the participation of students from diverse educational, cultural, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, the programs support the development of students through instructive, research and a mentorship guided curricula. Sequential summer research experiences and recurrent mentor services are further designed to increase the recruitment of participants and overall retention of its alumni. By providing students with the long-term support and the encouragement needed to succeed in their academic pursuits, mentoring relationships are a vitally important component to the guiding philosophy.
The goals of the program include:
providing comprehensive research experiences for undergraduate students;
introducing students to the basis of research, such as conducting literature
reviews, forming research questions and models, analyzing models and
conducting simulations; exposing students to current issues of mathematical
and theoretical biological research; fostering interdisciplinary
collaboration between researchers, graduate students and undergraduate
students; and increasing the number of U.S. underrepresented minorities and
women pursuing Ph.D.’s in the mathematical and biological sciences. These
goals are accomplished by structuring the program in a manner which allows
participants to set the research agenda. Students are also encouraged to
network with participating faculty, graduate students, post-doctoral
researchers and visiting scholars as they learn to conduct research and
scientific inquiry. Working relationships between students and faculty are
further supported by participation in conferences and seminars, individual
instruction, social activities and an environment of collaborative learning.
The support of alumni is a critical component of the design of the program. The role of MTBI/SUMS does not end once a student enters graduate school. Part of the responsibility is to see that students excel in their graduate programs and become contributing members of the scientific community. The activities of the program and their staff continuously support those who plan to, or have entered graduate programs, and involve its graduates as resources for the summer research program, often bringing them back as advanced participants and mentors. Thus, staff monitors student progress for at least ten years or longer after their participation in the SummerProgram in order to ascertain their success in graduate and/or professional programs and to provide encouragement and support.
MTBI/SUMS has sent 112 students from underrepresented minority groups to graduate school over its eleven years of existence, and a total of 178 students overall. Furthermore, 52% have been females, including 66 minority graduate students in all citizenships. MTBI/SUMS has sent 120 of its alumni into Ph.D. programs, including 71 of which are U.S./permanent residents and underrepresented minorities, 25 U.S./permanent residents and 24 foreign nationals. As of this time, 27 alumni have earned a Ph.D. in the mathematical sciences, of which 14 are from underrepresented minority groups. With the close of the 2006 cohort, MTBI/SUMS has mentored and supported 277 undergraduate students, and 31 graduate students, of which 14 had participated previously as undergraduate students. Members of the 2006 class are already contributing towards the success of the program, as eight alumni will be attending graduate school in the fall of 2006 or spring 2007 academic year. Additionally, in 2006, MTBI/SUMS alumni received 10 Ph.D.’s in the mathematical sciences, seven of which were awarded to members of underrepresented minority groups. The efforts of MTBI/SUMS has significantly increased the national rate of production of U.S. Ph.D.’s since the inception of the institute, and recognizes the need for programmatic change and scholarly environments which support and enhance underrepresented minority success in the mathematical sciences.
Support of MTBI/SUMS year round efforts are provided by grants from the National Science Foundation, The National Security Agency, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (through the ASU-Sloan National Pipeline Program in the Mathematical and Statistical Sciences) and the Office of the Provost of Arizona State University. Additional support has been provided by Cornell University, Los Alamos National Laboratory (T-Division) and the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University.
The SUMS Institute at ASU coordinates the Math-Science Honors Program (MSHP). MSHP is an intense academic program that provides motivated students an outstanding opportunity to begin college mathematics and science studies before graduating from high school. Since its inception in 1985, MSHP has created a successful transition from the students’ high school level structure to the university undergraduate environment. The structure of the MSHP facilitates interaction among culturally diverse students in an academically challenging environment. MSHP has succeeded in increasing the enrollment and the graduation of students from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in the fields of mathematics, sciences and engineering. SUMS have the distinguished honor of receiving a 2003 Presidential Institutional Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, and have mentored 2095 students since its creation.
The SUMS (now MTBI/SUMS) Math-Science Honors Program is an intense academic program that provides motivated students an outstanding opportunity to begin college mathematics and science studies before graduating from high school. Participants are selected on the basis of their academic achievement, financial need, and personal/career objectives. During the first eleven years of its existence, participants of the Math-Science Honors Program (MSHP) were students from underrepresented minority groups exclusively. In 1996, the program broadened its focus and participation was opened to all Arizona high school students meeting the program’s academic and socio-economic criteria to include students who are underrepresented in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering.
Professor Joaquín Bustoz Jr., a faculty member within the Department of Mathematics, founded the MSHP in an effort to address the underrepresentation of minority students in the areas of mathematics and science. In 1985, 32 minority students from Phoenix area high schools were brought to the ASU campus and immersed in an intense learning experience in mathematics. Encouraged by the students’ responses, the program content was strengthened to challenge participants with a college-level mathematics course for credit the following summer. Today, high school students from across the state of Arizona, including the surrounding Native American reservations, compete for participation in the MSHP. As of the summer of 2006, 2,095 students have attended the MSHP with a freshman class of 48 entering ASU in the fall of 2006.
The philosophy of the MSHP is that success in mathematics is predicated on discipline and hard work. Each summer, high school students from across the state are brought to the ASU Tempe campus and enrolled in a university level mathematics or science course for college credit. Classes are intense and rigorous and standards are high. Features of the program include instruction in a traditional format, daily problem solving sessions, frequent testing, and one-on-one tutoring. Participants reside on the ASU Tempe campus for the entire duration of the program. All program expenses are provided by ASU.
The structure of the MSHP facilitates interaction among culturally diverse students in an academically challenging environment. Students join a diverse community of peers with similar interests. The program structure also includes dedicated and experienced faculty and staff that interact frequently with the participants and closely monitor their progress.
Students who participate in the MSHP learn about commitment, self-discipline, and perseverance. Many participants enroll at ASU after graduation from high school. As of fall 2006, over 57% of MSHP alumni have attended ASU. They enter the university with increased self-confidence and an awareness of the opportunities available to them. The MSHP continues to support and encourage these students to maintain high academic standards as they pursue their educational and career choices.
In 1993, the SUMS Institute developed as an outgrowth of the MSHP. Programs such as the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Program, funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (CSEMS) Scholarship Program funded by the National Science Foundation were partnered with the SUMS Institute.
Professor Joaquín Bustoz Jr. continued to lead the SUMS Institute and the MSHP until his untimely death on August 13, 2003. Professor Carlos Castillo-Chavez took over the program’s leadership in 2004.
Since its inception in 1985, 2,095 high school students have participated in the MSHP. Sixty percent of the student participants have been female, while Hispanic and Native American students account for the largest ethnic minority group percentage, at fifty-one and eighteen percent, respectively. Thirty-one percent of the students who participated in MSHP attended two or more summers consecutively, earning up to twelve credits in the three summers prior to attending ASU as freshmen.
The MSHP has partnered with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at ASU in an effort to attract academically talented students who are underrepresented in the mathematics and science fields to attend ASU. Since 2004, ASU has targeted the following Phoenix Metropolitan school districts: Phoenix Union High School District, Tolleson Union High School District, Glendale Union High School District, Mesa Unified School District, and Tempe Union High School District. These school districts lie in urban and traditionally lower income areas and have some of the highest drop-out rates in the State of Arizona. Thirty six percent of MSHP participants attended school within these districts, with the Phoenix Union High School District encompassing the highest number of participants at fifteen percent. The MSHP also has a commitment to the Native American Reservation and its populations across the state of Arizona. Representation among the various reservations has also been strong to include fourteen percent of all MSHP participants.
Almost sixty percent of MSHP participants have attended ASU after high school graduation. There are currently over 350 MSHP students attending ASU, with fifty-six female students and forty nine percent Hispanic students representing the largest gender and ethnic group respectively. The Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering has the highest percentage of enrolled MSHP students at thirty four percent, followed by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at twenty four percent. Students who participate in MSHP tend to have higher grade point averages and retention rates than those who did not participate in it. The standard grade point average (GPA) for a current non-MSHP ASU student is 3.01 while the average GPA for a current MSHP ASU student is 3.15.
Over 50% of MSHP students who have attended ASU have received a degree. 534 undergraduate degrees have been earned at ASU while 45 students have received graduate degrees. Thirty four percent of the degrees earned have been through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences while thirty percent of degrees earned have been through the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. 71 MSHP students have earned multiple degrees at ASU. The highest percentage of students who earned ASU degrees were female at 63% and the highest ethnic minority group represented were Hispanic students at fifty six percent. The average graduating GPA for a non-MSHP ASU student was 3.19 while the average graduating GPA for a MSHP ASU student was 3.21. Many MSHP students have also graduated with honors, including 18 students who have graduated from the Barrett Honors College, 37 MSHP have graduated summa cum laude, 51 have graduated magna cum laude and 64 have graduated cum laude.
MSHP students have garnered and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in both national and local merit based scholarships. Some of these scholarships acquired among participants include the Gates Millennium Scholarship, National Merit Scholarship, Flinn Foundation Scholarship, and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), Intel Corporation Scholarship, the Ronald McDonald House Charity Scholarship, and the Computer Science Engineering Mathematics Scholarship (CSEMS). In September 2004, MTBI/SUMS sent six MSHP undergraduate alumni to participate in the AbiTUMath Program in Munich, Germany and Novacella, Italy sponsored by the Technische Universität (TU) München with funding received from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This program exposed 25 students from the United States, Germany, and Austria to mathematical modeling research. Students were paired with mathematics professors to present complex mathematics problems to consortium of globally diverse mathematics students and faculty.
MSHP students have also held some of the nation's most prestigious and highly competitive internships. Former participants have interned and worked in both the public and private sector with companies such as Intel Corporation, Motorola, Boeing, Disney Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA), along with various local and national government positions. MSHP students have attended and received degrees from prestigious universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Stanford University, Princeton University, John Hopkins University, and Harvard University. These students have become medical doctors, science researchers, lawyers, educators, engineers, and politicians.
The MSHP has succeeded in increasing the enrollment and the graduation of students from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in the fields of mathematics, sciences and engineering. The MSHP has created a successful transition from the students’ high school level structure to the university undergraduate environment. The MSHP has also done a tremendous job in exposing students to exciting new research developments and career possibilities in within the fields of mathematics, science and engineering. With the help of MTBI/SUMS/SUMS, the MSHP will continue to expand and enhance the continuum of services available to students of diverse gender, ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds, clearly supporting the university’s commitment to provide a high quality education to all students.
MTBI/SUMS was established with the encouragement and the support of the National Security Agency, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the Office of the Provost at Cornell University.
MTBI/SUMS model has instigated the establishment of two REU minority programs including the Summer Institute for Undergraduates in Mathematics (http://cuhwww.upr.clu.edu/~simu/) and the newly established Applied Mathematics Science Summer Institute (http://www.amssi.org/).
Year round efforts have been supported through grants by the National Security Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the offices of the provosts of Cornell University and Arizona State University.
Students enrolled in either MS or Ph.D. programs.
MTBI/SUMS has also mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate students throughout the regular academic year at Cornell University and Arizona State University.
Winner of a 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring
Winner of a 1996 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring: Joaquin was a member of the inaugural class of recipients of this prestigious award.