For eleven years, the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (MTBI) 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.
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 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 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 Summer Program in order to ascertain their success in graduate and/or professional programs and to provide encouragement and support.
MTBI 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 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 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 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 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 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.
MTBI 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 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 has also mentored dozens of undergraduate and graduate students throughout the regular academic year at Cornell University and Arizona State University.