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Physics and Astronomy

Marc Favata discussing his research

Marc Favata

Professor, Physics

It began harmlessly enough in early June when a New Jersey fisherman brought a dime-sized jellyfish from Barnegat Bay to a nearby aquarium. The aquarium, in turn, contacted biology professor and director of Montclair State University's Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences program Paul Bologna.

A leading jellyfish authority, Bologna took the jellyfish back to campus, where biology professor Jack Gaynor's DNA analysis confirmed suspicions that it was Gonionemus vertens, or clinging jellyfish. This was the first time the tiny – but toxic – jellyfish had been sighted in New Jersey waters.

Learn more in the full article, Clinging Jellyfish Arrive at Montclair State about the recent research regarding the jellyfish in our area.

I've been teaching at Montclair State since 2001 and love its thriving academic environment that offers students abundant opportunities both in and out of the classroom. I especially enjoy teaching small classes where I can really get to know a diverse group of students who have a lot of interesting ideas and enthusiasms.

My Transitions to Advanced Math course focuses on problem-solving and communication skills by showing undergraduates how to use technology to apply their formal calculus training to real world probability situations - even ones as simple as mortgages or the lottery. I'm also teaching an upper level Differential Equations course that's focused on the mathematical models - or building blocks -- used in different scientific disciplines to predict solutions to everything from the weather to stock market performance.

My own field is Applied Mathematics. I create mathematical models that describe real world situations, predict what happens when parameters change over time, and control outcomes. For example, my work in Mathematical Epidemiology can help predict outbreaks of diseases. These predictions can alert health workers to get ready to control the infections. Since eradication or extinction of a disease is the ultimate goal, this information is critical in developing vaccination strategies.

In August, my department colleague Eric Forgoston and I were awarded a three-year, $278,966 National Science Foundation grant that supports our project, "Understanding the Dynamics of Stochastic Disease Spread in Metapopulations." We're looking to determine the conditions that promote the outbreak, spread, and eventual extinction of disease in randomly connected population networks. We hope to develop innovative ways of analyzing new complex mathematical models - so that scientists wills be able to predict, control and develop strategies to eradicate specific disease.

Montclair State students will be involved in this project, as our grant funds a research group that includes two undergraduate students, one masters' degree student, and one doctoral candidate.

Our collaborative efforts impact our lives. We supply the innovative mathematical models that will be useful tools for other scientific researchers and engineers who are looking for solutions that will make a positive difference.

Distinguished Teacher Program

The University Distinguished Teacher Program recognizes faculty members who are distinguished teachers. A faculty member identified as a University Distinguished Teacher receives an honorarium and prepares a course in an area of special interest and expertise. Where possible, the course is of wide interest, at the 100 or 200 level and meets a general education requirement. The course is widely advertised by the Administration and taught during the academic year following receipt of the award. During the year in which the course is offered, the Distinguished Teacher has available to him or her a budget to be used for enrichment in the area of the course at his or her discretion for travel to meetings, for a student assistant, for scholarly materials, for supplies, or for other relevant purposes.

I'm David Rotella, the Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor of Chemistry. I joined the College of Science and Mathematics faculty in July 2011 after working as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years.

Making a the switch to teaching has been stimulating and rewarding. I enjoy interacting with my students and watching them light up when they "get" the material. It's rewarding to know I've made a positive impact on students when they come back to me and tell me they are applying things I taught them in other courses.

This year, I'm teaching Chemistsry 130 -- Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry, which is a required course for students in the Nutrition and Food Science program.

I am also supervising four undergraduate students taking Chemistry 199 and Chemistry 499, who are doing research in my lab. In addition, two post-doctoral fellows are gaining additional training and experience by working in my lab.

The research I do is broadly based on drug discovery. By necessity, this research depends on collaboration - in my case I'm working with colleagues on campus as well as outside of the University. Right now I am involved in two research projects.

As the Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor of Chemistry, I receive funding for research. I'm working on a project with colleagues Elena Petroff and Vladislav Snitarev who are assistant professors in the College of Science and Mathematics Department of Biology and Molecular Biology, as well as with scientists at the University of Rochester Medical School. By discovering how the protein HSP90 works, we can learn how to inhibit it to combat disease. Potential applications of for HSP90 inhibitors include treatment for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and parasitic diseases.

I'm also collaborating with my fellow Montclair State chemistry and biochemistry professor John Sierkierka and researchers at Celgene Incorporated on research that we hope will lead to drug treatments for parasitic diseases. With our one-year, $160,000 grant from Celgene, we are looking to inhibit a protein kinase enzyme in the parasitic worm that causes leishmaniasis filariasis - a tropical disease affecting millions throughout the world. By doing this, the disease could be treated and its sufferers could be cured.

Marc Favata and some of his students discuss their experiences with research. Dr. Favata's research focuses on gravitational waves, and his students participate on different projects related to that focus.

I'm Safanah Abdulsalam and I'm a senior majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. I immigrated to the United States from Baghdad, Iraq when I was 17.

I chose Montclair State because of its diversity, quality teaching, friendly atmosphere, and convenient location. I'm a commuter, so I stay connected to my friends and family who are my energy to keep going! They support me, but so does my Red Hawk family right here on campus.

While the English language was one of the biggest obstacles that I faced upon moving to the U.S., Montclair State - and the Center of Academic Development and Assessment and the Writing Center -- provided all the help I needed to help me adjust and excel in my path of study.

It's easy to get involved at Montclair State. I am a member of Alpha Lamda Delta, a national honor society, as well as the Biology Club. Since I am a certified CPR and AED healthcare provider, I was able to volunteer at Montclair State Emergency Medical Services during my junior year.

I'm getting the best education, while gaining experience and preparation for the future. I am currently working with Dr. Elena Petroff on neurophysiology research that can help us better understand many neurological diseases.

After graduation, I plan to go to dental school, so that I can achieve my goal of providing free dental care to new immigrants and others who can't afford it.

Montclair State University provides everything you need to excel. I encouraged my brother Mohammed and my sister Maryam - who are also majoring in Biology - to come here. Like me, they are proud to be Red Hawks.

Anum Aftab CSAM Student from Mike Peters on Vimeo.

After taking a psychology course, Anum was fascinated by the topics and relationship to biology, specifically in neurology. This combination has allowed her to understand the mind from a biological perspective as well as in terms of how it functions.

Anum chose Montclair because of the diversity and plethora of opportunities in the sciences. She feels greatly supported by the faculty she works with, researches with and learns from. In the future Anum intends to attend medical school and specialize in neural pathology.

I'm Ariel Casner and I am a Red Hawk.

I chose Montclair State because it is an ideal fit for me. As a commuter I can stay connected with family and friends from home. Plus, I am very active in various organizations on campus, like the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, where I am the Executive Vice President.

I also have a scholarship from the University thanks to my strong SAT scores and a high GPA in high school. As a Molecular Biology major with a minor in Chemistry I am currently involved in my own animal behavior research in the Science Honors Innovation Program.

I'm hoping to have my research published before graduation. I've had the opportunity to present my research not only to faculty, but also to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in our area.

After Montclair State I plan to attend medical school and eventually perform reconstructive plastic surgery specializing in Pediatric Cranial Facial Reconstruction.

Being at Montclair State has also been advantageous for my career path. Centrally located in Northern New Jersey I am in easy reach of some of the world's best medical institutions.

Montclair State offers a great experience for everybody, whether they are interested in business, musical theatre, education, or medicine - like me. All in all, I am happy to be a Red Hawk.

I chose Montclair State because I wanted to get my degree from a school that would prepare me for my next step in my academic career through small classes, well equipped labs and dedicated faculty. I'm from Middlesex, New Jersey, so by choosing Montclair State I'm also incurring minimal debt by taking advantage of in-state tuition rates.

I'm currently a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, scholar. LSAMP is an NSF funded program aimed at increasing the quality and quantity of students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. I was selected as a participant in the College of Science and Mathematics' SHIP, the Science Honors Innovation Program where student participants are assigned a faculty mentor and receive a scholarship, summer stipend and financial support for research, and travel to conferences and workshops.

I had originally planned tco go to pharmacy school after graduation, but my participation in one of chemistry and biochemistry professor Nina Goodey's research projects spurred my interest in pursuing a PH.D. in Biochemistry and becoming a research scientist. This choice was solidified when I participated in Rutgers University's summer RISE - or Research in Science and Engineering - program.

Right now, I am working with Dr. Goodey on research focused on understanding the complex structure and function of enzymes. Using pharmaceutically relevant dihydrofolate reductase -- or DFHR -- enzymes as a test case, we are attempting to validate a new predictive method developed in Dr. Goodey's lab that could have applications in drug development.

I hope to eventually pursue an upper-level management career in the pharmaceutical industry.

While it's important that the University is always making advancements, for me, the best part of my Montclair State education is the fact that my professors are accessible and that I can easily communicate with them.

I am proud to be a Red Hawk.

Trina Wooten is a doctoral student in the Math Education program. Trina is working with a NSF grant with goal including training teachers to effectively teach mathematics at the K-6 grade levels. From a student level Trina hopes to diminish the math phobia that exists among students. Trina finds tha faculty very helpful, and really enjoys the diversity and the colleagues she has worked with while at Montclair.