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Natural Sciences and Mathematics has a new identity on campus

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Kellan Barr

Strategic plan outlines forward movement with new health and biophysics initiatives

Press Release  •

This summer, the University of Denver Board of Trustees approved the renaming of DU’s last remaining academic division, effectively reintroducing the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to campus. The change was made official in the midst of the unit’s strategic planning process which spanned October 2018 through June 2019.

With a new identity and a new strategic plan in place, the College Natural Sciences and Mathematics has met the new academic year with a focused commitment to securing the future of work, the future of health and addressing global change through basic research and innovative education.

“Science and mathematics have always been future-focused,” said Andrei Kutateladze, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “These days, our focus is more critical than ever, given the rapid pace of technological advances and the exponential progress of just about everything around us. The very nature of scientific inquiry makes it ideally suited for educating the citizens of tomorrow to deal with the unknown and the unexplored.”

The renaming of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics comes at a pivotal time for STEM education at DU. Rapid growth of the molecular and cellular biophysics PhD program and the pre-health advising program has opened doors toward new opportunities in biomedical research and health education.

To aid the trajectory of the biophysics PhD program toward the establishment of Colorado’s first Biophysics Institute, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics hired three new faculty this September with expertise in neurobiology, disease biomarkers and medicinal chemistry. This brings the total number of interdisciplinary faculty to twenty participating professors from the Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Physics and Astronomy with a combined external funding in excess of $17 million.

Program growth within the College is widespread. Future directions include two new undergraduate degree programs including a minor option in human health science and systems and a new Bachelor of Science in foundational mathematics for artificial intelligence.

Additionally, the success of the Equity in STEM (E-STEM) initiative, in partnership with the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, is evident as the program enters its third year with a new cohort of 33 incoming students this fall.

Opportunities for undergraduate summer research experiences also continue to expand with an additional $10,000 grant from the Colorado-Wyoming Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (CO-WY AMP) which funded two more students, for a total of seven CO-WY AMP positions, in summer 2019.

Through all of these developments, one tenet remains fundamental.

“We firmly believe that each step we take toward a more inclusive environment will have future repercussions in helping to curb health disparities and accelerate scientific discovery,” said Kutateladze.

New strategic initiatives toward inclusive excellence include the establishment of five new funds – one in each department within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics – to provide scholarships and to aid recruitment of top graduate students from historically underrepresented populations in STEM.

Other initiatives included in the plan mention a campaign to fund research experiences for many more undergraduate majors, a focus on expanding project-based education for non-majors, and a commitment toward improved instructional and core instrumentation facilities in preparation for the new STEM quandrangle as a part of DU’s Campus Framework Plan.

Historically, the University of Denver had three divisions: 1) Social Sciences; 2) Arts and Humanities and 3) Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In 2018, the former divisions of Social Sciences and Arts and Humanities were combined into the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, thus joining five other named colleges on campus (Daniels College of Business, Sturm College of Law, Morgridge College of Education, Colorado Women’s College and University College).

As the newest College to join the ranks, Natural Sciences and Mathematics leadership is optimistic about future strategic directions. One department in particular is excited about the historic name change occurring before another major milestone – the Department of Geography and the Environment turns 75 in 2020.

“We’ve come a long way in 75 years. Our program has grown in terms of the types of degrees that we offer – they’re timely,” said Michael Keables, chair of the department. “We were one of the first universities to offer an environmental science program. We were one of the first to offer a geographic information science online program. We have a very solid sustainability program. And we’re anticipating doing more of the same moving forward.