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Lou GrossPart of a national effort to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics undergraduate education is being directed by a UT professor.

Three five-day National Science Foundation Ideas Labs —one for biology, one for engineering, and one for geosciences—are being held this month through April 4 in the Washington, D.C., area. Each lab involves participants from various disciplines and backgrounds, as well as prospective employers and representatives of scientific and professional societies. The goals of the labs are to incubate innovative approaches to improve undergraduate STEM education and produce research agendas that address workforce development needs.

Louis Gross, director of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at UT, will serve as director of the Biology Ideas Lab, to be held March 30 to April 4 in Leesburg, Virginia.

“A well-prepared and innovative STEM workforce is critical to our nation’s health and economy,” said Gross, also a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics. “NSF’s priorities of educating students to become leaders and innovators in STEM fields and of encouraging the public to be scientifically literate depend on the quality of undergraduate education.”

The biology lab aims to improve quantitative and computational skill sets of the future biological science workforce. The engineering lab will look at ways to develop a more diverse workforce. The geosciences lab seeks to improve access to related education.

“These labs will be intensive, engaging, and free-thinking so that the participants are able to fully immerse themselves in the dialogue in order to come up with novel and bold approaches,” said Gross, whose role as director will be to help define topics and aid discussions at the event.

Both President Barack Obama and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam have targeted STEM education as key to the nation and state remaining competitive and prosperous.

NSF invests in research-based and research-generating approaches to understanding STEM learning and developing and disseminating best practices for STEM instruction. To learn more about the Ideas Labs program, visit the NSF webpage.

The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis is an NSF-supported center that brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries in investigating solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences.

To learn more, visit the NIMBioS website.


Catherine Crawley (865-974-9350,