Urayama receives NSF grant for cellular biophysics programSep 24, 2010
Paul Urayama, associate professor of physics,
has been awarded a $141, 556 grant from the National Science Foundation
(NSF) to develop a cellular biophysics program that will involve
undergraduate students in all stages of the research process.
The award will support the project “Cellular NADH Fluorescence as a Metabolic Indicator under Pressure: Piezophysiological Studies at a Predominantly-Undergraduate Physics Department.”
Urayama’s research will focus on cellular and biophysical studies at high hydrostatic pressures. The project emphasizes research mentoring of undergraduate students and integration of research discovery elements into biophysics courses for STEM and non-STEM majors.
At Miami, physics majors are heavily involved in research with faculty. According to Michael Pechan, chair of Miami physics department, two-thirds of physics majors participate in research with faculty members.
Last year the American Institute of Physics (AIP) ranked Miami first in the number of physics bachelor’s degrees awarded annually, among universities with master’s programs in physics as the highest degree. Miami averaged 15 physics bachelor’s degrees per year for the classes 2005 to 2007 (the latest available data for the AIP survey). In 2010 Miami awarded 12 physics bachelor’s degrees.
Urayama has been mentor to 30 undergraduates from a variety of majors — including zoology, mathematics, microbiology and biochemistry — since he joined Miami in 2003. The average length of involvement of undergraduates in his research laboratory is 3.3 semesters.
“Despite being a small department, our students have been competitive in nationally prestigious awards and scholarships. I think getting involved in research early, and then staying involved, makes a positive contribution towards this,” Urayama said. “But every student can benefit from hands-on research experience. It builds confidence from having developed expertise, and it engages students in a critical-thinking way you can’t get from classroom learning alone.”