University of La Verne Receives $1 Million to Establish Endowed Chair in Computational Biology

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The University of La Verne this month received a $1 million grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation to recruit and fill an endowed chair faculty position in computational biology, allowing the University to expose its students to new approaches in biological research.

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“The new position and curriculum made possible by this grant will expand the training and career opportunities we offer our students and further elevate the solid reputation of the sciences at the University of La Verne.” - Dr. Christine Broussard

The University of La Verne this month received a $1 million grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation to recruit and fill an endowed chair faculty position in computational biology, allowing the University to expose its students to new approaches in biological research. An endowed chair brings significant recognition and visibility to the University and the Natural Science Department.

La Verne plans to launch a nationwide search in 2015 to fill the position, and the professor selected will work with faculty from the Natural Science Department to develop new courses in biology. The first new course will be offered to junior and senior undergraduates in two years. The University will match the grant, bringing it to $2 million.

“The new position and curriculum made possible by this grant will expand the training and career opportunities we offer our students and further elevate the solid reputation of the sciences at the University of La Verne,” said Dr. Christine Broussard, Chair of La Verne’s Natural Science Division.

Computational biology is a relatively new scientific discipline, involving a mix of biology and computer science. It provides new ways scientists can conduct research and analysis using large amounts of data.

Sustainable food production, environmental protection and renewable energy are among the issues the National Research Council of the National Academies recommended be the primary focus of biologists for the 21st century. Introducing computational biology into La Verne’s curriculum will help the University address such global issues, faculty wrote in the grant application.

“The Fletcher Jones Foundation’s generosity enhances and continues the University’s commitment to lifelong learning,” said University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman. “I am proud of the caliber of our students and faculty. This endowed chair will bring additional knowledge and expertise to our curriculum and entire campus.”

The new faculty member will incorporate examples and techniques of computational biology into physics, mathematics, computer science and chemistry curriculum.

The addition also allows the Biology Department to enhance and broaden student and faculty research, including senior research projects.

“We are grateful to the Fletcher Jones Foundation for giving us the means to keep our students on the cutting edge of the natural sciences. This chair is an opportunity to delve into an emerging and vital field through curriculum and research,” said University of La Verne Provost Jonathan Reed.

It is the second $1 million Fletcher Jones endowed chair grant La Verne has received since 1994, said Denise Gutierrez, Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. Fletcher Jones also awarded La Verne a $250,000 grant in 2010 to develop a complex dynamical systems lab for the physics department.

Faculty members instrumental in authoring the grant proposal include Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Science Dr. Jerome Garcia; Dr. Kat Weaver, Director of the La Verne Experience and Associate Professor of Biology; Biology Professor Dr. Stacey Darling Novak; Dr. Todd Lorenz, Assistant Professor of Biology; Dr. David Chappell, Associate Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Program; and Dr. Michael Frantz, Professor of Mathematics and Chair of the Math, Physics and Computer Science Departments.

The Fletcher Jones Foundation was established in 1969 by Fletcher Jones, entrepreneur extraordinaire and co-founder of Computer Sciences Corporation, a thriving worldwide business technology firm. The Foundation’s primary mission is the support of private, independent colleges and universities in California.

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