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Pomona College Professors in Group Receiving $480,000 Grant to Develop Educational Materials

Pomona College geology professors Eric Grosfils and Linda Reinen are co-investigators on a new $480,000 National Science Foundation multi-institutional grant to develop and disseminate computational science educational materials at the undergraduate level.

Computational science is an emerging area of research that seeks to integrate computing, mathematical modeling and visualization to help students explore complex problems in physical, natural, behavioral, and social sciences.

“The use of computational capabilities,” explains Grosfils, “allows us to explore interesting problems that would otherwise be intractable, or much more shallowly accessible, for students.” The modules can also expose students to advanced mathematical, computational and scientific techniques they might not otherwise see until graduate school. This helps stimulate more sophisticated inquiry and, it is hoped, students’ long-term interest in science.

One of the modules Grosfils will develop focuses on landslides and slope stability. Geology students would go into the field and gather data, for example along the Malibu coastline or the cliffs eroding into the grounds of San Onofre – home of a nuclear power plant. Once the measurements are taken and observations made, students return to the lab and, using a numerical model they develop, gain deeper insight into where landsliding occurs and why slope stability varies from location to location.

The NSF Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement grant involves more than 25 collaborators from 15 colleges and universities. Modules under development range from math, engineering, biology and geology to economics and finance. The grant continues work funded by the Keck Foundation.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. The College is known for the close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.