Two Trinity College professors recently received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support their scholarship. Assistant Professor of Mathematics Lina Ma was awarded a $100,000 grant from the NSF to support her independent research and her collaboration with colleagues in the field of computational mathematics. Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael A. Grubb has spent the summer on a three-month visiting researcher appointment at Yale School of Medicine funded by an NSF Research Opportunity Award (ROA).
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Lina Ma
Ma’s project, titled “Consistent Multi-Scale Treatments of Ion Transport in Biological Environments,” is a mathematical pursuit which can be applied to biology. Ma will study diffusion, ion transport, and heat flow, which occurs in various ion channels throughout the human body. The abnormal behavior of ion channels can contribute to various diseases such as Type II diabetes or as poison reactions to puffer fish.
“In this project, there’s a real-world application and a mathematical realization,” Ma said. “The real-world application here is modeling.” The mathematical realization is finding accurate and efficient numerical methods to simulate the proposed model.
The biggest challenge, Ma said, is that biological processes, which usually happen in microseconds, can sometimes be controlled by a few atoms. Using traditional differential equation systems to represent the processes may lose too many details. However, she added, modeling things on the particle level and showing tremendous detail, like protons and atoms, can have a high computational cost. Ma’s work will be directed toward developing a method that can bridge the macro and micro scales.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Michael Grubb
Grubb has partnered with Yale Associate Professor of Comparative Medicine and of Neuroscience Ifat Levy, the principal investigator of the NSF grant being supplemented as part of the ROA, “Decision-making under uncertainty across the lifespan: Cognitive, motivational, and neural bases.” Grubb’s research will contribute the larger goals of Levy’s grant, which aims to understand age-related changes in learning and decision-making.
Building on a project started in his lab at Trinity, the primary goal of Grubb’s summer work is to assess interactions between decision-making under uncertainty and selective attention to distinct features of the choice problem. Using his expertise in manipulating and measuring the effects of selective attention on perceptual processes, Grubb’s research with Levy will address new questions concerning the impact of selective attention on reward learning and decision-making.
Grubb’s role in this study is particularly significant given the special opportunity for collaboration between institutions like Trinity and Yale provided by the NSF. The ROA mechanism supports collaborations between NSF grantees at research-intensive institutions and visiting faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions.