Getting Rid of the Stink
The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) at Rutgers received $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to look into developing methods for eradicating an invasive species—the brown marmorated stink bug—that has severely damaged crops in New Jersey and mid-Atlantic and southern states. Ever since the Asian stink bug was accidentally introduced in the United States in 1996, NJAES pest-management teams have been tracking, studying, and devising plans to contain the insect, which causes billions of dollars in lost crops.
The National Science Foundation has given $1.4 million to two researchers—Martin Farach-Colton, a professor in the Department of Computer Science in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Paul Kantor, a professor in the Department of Library and Information Sciences in the School of Communication and Information—to develop ways to conduct fast and massive analyses of “big data,” which are enormous collections of information from sources such as social media, business transactions, digital images, and scientific instruments. The ability to probe enormous amounts of data quickly, akin to a Google search of subjects on a far grander scale, would allow, for example, a utility company to analyze millions of meter readings to predict power consumption or allow companies to improve their products by studying consumer sentiments as reflected in tweets and blog postings.
Sleep, My Pretty
Effectively evaluating the impact that sleep has on our mood and memory is the research interest of Mark Gluck, the director of the Rutgers Memory Disorders Project at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers–Newark. He was recently given a three-year $552,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate what the cumulative effect of fluctuations in sleep patterns has on cognitive and emotional well-being and what effect sleep has on accumulating the memory required to learn tasks that take days to master. Gluck believes he will get more effective results by evaluating subjects sleeping in their homes, instead of a lab, while wearing a wireless brain monitor that interfaces with a smartphone.
Lessons for Learning
Armed with a two-year $7.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Rutgers has been asked to develop a merit pay system that identifies, trains, and rewards effective teachers and principals in the impoverished school districts of Asbury Park, Hillside, Lakewood, and North Plainfield. The Teacher Incentive Fund grant, one of only 35 grants issued nationwide to improve educator performance, is part of a five-year $40 million commitment to the School System Improvement project, which is being administered by the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers–New Brunswick.
The National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education awarded Rutgers its 2012 Leveraging Excellence Award for the development and national influence of a program that helps colleges and universities evaluate themselves and implement measures to improve performance. The program is based on the guidebook Excellence in Higher Education: An Integrated Approach to Assessment, Planning, and Improvement in Colleges and Universities, which was written by Brent D. Ruben, the executive director of the Rutgers Center for Organizational Development and Leadership. More than 50 universities nationwide, including the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin, have implemented the program.
Helping Where Help Is Needed
The Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, based at Rutgers–Camden, received $4 million from the Pascale Sykes Foundation, a nonprofit based in Sea Bright, New Jersey, to evaluate whether organizations designed to aid lower-income families in southern New Jersey are effective. The counties of Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem rank among the worst in the state for poverty, child abuse, early childhood education, and teen pregnancy. Representatives from the initiative will conduct extensive interviews of community organizations through 2016.