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Population Geneticist awarded NSF Grant

FSU professor and population geneticist Peter Beerli and mathematician Somayeh Mashayekhi, assistant professor at Kennesaw State University (GA), have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant that will help them study how to curb the effects of pathogens or improve the survival of endangered or commercially exploited species. Their research proposal focuses on and challenges the assumption that number of offspring in species remains constant across generations and is independent of the environment; the resulting improved population modelling will increase accuracy and decrease bias of population size estimates.

Professor Peter Beerli, NSF grant recipient

Natural populations live in heterogeneous environments, and individuals in these populations have different chances to produce offspring. In contrast, current inferences of population genomic data are coalescence-based and assume environmental homogeneity within a population. Additionally, the commonly used coalescent framework assumes a variance of relatively narrow numbers of offspring.

“These assumptions sometimes lead to interesting disconnects between theoretical expectations and observations. For example, the genetic variability of a population may suggest there are some number of individuals, but observational data show that there are many more individuals than the theory allows,” Beerli said.

The grant will help Beerli and Mashayekhi study the effect of dissimilarities in offspring production of a population using a new theoretical framework that can handle heterogeneity. These new methods will be incorporated into Beerli’s widely-used open-source computer software, MIGRATE. MIGRATE uses genomic data to infer population genetic parameters, such a population size, immigration rates, and population divergence times.

Somayeh Mashayekhi, co-PI

Beerli is enthusiastic about this work and about continuing the collaboration with Mashayekhi who was a postdoc in his group before she moved to Kennesaw State. “I hope this is a long and fruitful collaboration. We envision that our method - the fractional coalescent - may lead to many improvements of the standard population genetic theory.”

Beerli and Mashayeki’s grant, Reproductive heterogeneity in the structured coalescent framework, was funded by the National Science Foundation through DBI, the Division of Biological Infrastructure. The division advances fundamental biological research to transform the future by investing in innovation and capacity-building cutting edge research infrastructure for fundamental biological science.

For more on Beerli, go to peterbeerli.com
For more on the NSF grant awarded to Beerli and Mashayekhi, go to FSU News.

Shanbhag to appear on Ask a Scientist

This week, Professor Sachin Shanbhag will appear as a guest with host Professor Ken Hanson from the FSU Department of Chemistry. Now in it’s seventh year, Ask a Scientist has been recently transitioned to an online platform, and to a new name and focus. The show’s new name - Ask a Scientist Gaming – combines game play with expert science. Shanbhag and Hanson will be live streamed while playing video games and answering questions.

You’ll find information about and links to the upcoming live-stream [8pm on Wednesday, July 21, 2021] at Twitter and Twitch.

To learn more about Shanbhag’s research, visit his group’s website.

To learn more about Hanson and his research group, go to this link.

For more on the Department of Scientific Computing, go to sc.fsu.edu.

Arts & Sciences launches new grad major

The College of Arts and Sciences recently announced a new degree program in Interdisciplinary Data Science. The new program is a collaborative, cross-departmental effort between Scientific Computing, Statistics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Department of Scientific Computing Chair Gordon Erlebacher conceptualized, then spearheaded the effort to implement the major.

The data science major will feature a range of current and new courses – many in the student’s chosen focus area – that span the four collaborating departments. The new program's emphasis will be a focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence, along with the necessary support tools, including issues such as data cleaning, feature construction, statistical analysis, database management, data privacy, regression, and a multitude of machine learning artificial intelligence techniques.

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Emeritus Prof publishes new research

Professor Michael Navon

Professor Emeritus Michael Navon has always had a very wide research circuit. With formal training in mathematics, physics and meteorology, Navon used much of his career to apply sophisticated data, statistical and mathematical models -- advanced 4-D variational data- assimilation methods, large-scale minimization, ensemble Kalman filter methods, as well as others -- to study oceans, climate, weather, and atmosphere. Scholars from all over the world continue to seek his mathematical expertise and research acumen, and despite having retired years ago, he continues as senior scholar and chief scientist for projects in the U.S. and Europe.

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Scientific Computing Ph.D. Studies Parkinson's and Tango

It takes two to dance the Argentine Tango, and as researchers at Florida State University are learning that’s all it takes to change a life.

University researchers are proving the tango may have benefits well beyond the dance floor. They’re finding it can help those living with balance disorders, like Parkinson’s Disease, reducing their risk of falling and improving their quality of life.

As they tap and turn, tango dancers move through a series of deliberate, rhythmic movements. Each spin is blend of symmetry and the power of healing.

“You’re in the arms of your partner, you’re supporting one another,” said Florida State’s Dr. Nathan Crock. “It’s a nice analogy for what it’s like to have someone supporting you as you take that first step.”

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