Three MSU scientists land NSF collaborative research grants

  • Sep 12, 2016
  • Faculty & Staff, Research, CMSE

Three Michigan State University assistant professors in the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering (CMSE) each recently received a collaborative research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Tong (Tony) Gao

Tong (Tony) Gao

Tong (Tony) Gao is the lead principal investigator on a three-year, $435,000 grant through NSF’s Computational Mathematics program. MSU receives $195,000 of that funding.

“This collaborative research will reveal how higher-order aspects of assembly and organization are built in living cells,” said Gao, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “It also provides a quasi-first-principle basis from which to study, design and optimize the new generation of biological/synthetic active materials.”

Soft autonomic materials made from active matter could provide valuable new technologies such as self-healing materials, new sensors that can adaptively change the morphology in response to external signals—such as light or force—and biomimetic soft carriers for molecules with various functionalities.

Collaborating with Gao’s team are Michael Shelley, The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, New York University; and Matthew Glaser and Meredith Betterton, University of Colorado (CU Boulder).


Jose Perea

Jose Perea

Jose Perea is the lead principal investigator for MSU on a three-year, $299,783 grant through NSF’s Computational and Data-Enabled Science and Engineering in Mathematical and Statistical Sciences program. MSU receives $105,000 of that funding.

The researchers will seek to understand and formulate the foundations of machine learning methods, when the important features of a dynamical system (objects whose state changes over time) are summarized by topological properties of its state space.

“Michigan State has one of the most interdisciplinary and collaborative research environments I have ever been part of,” said Perea, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Mathematics. “This is fundamental for the exploration of new ideas involving several fields. And since the research we propose has a high computational component, the resources provided by MSU’s Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research (iCER) will be invaluable.”

Collaborating with Perea are Elizabeth Munch, University at Albany, SUNY; and Firas Khasawneh, State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly).


Yuying Xie

Yuying Xie

Yuying Xie is the co-investigator on a five-year, $277,442 grant through NSF’s Neural and Cognitive Systems program.

Partnering with MSU’s Neuroscience Program, Xie’s lab will determine whether, how and with what statistics recent and remote memories are interleaved in the neocortex (NC) at rest. The aim is to determine how the statistical structure of resting-state and task-related NC activity changes after acquisition of substantial knowledge.

“Our research will provide a better understanding of how knowledge is extracted from experience and how brain dynamics are shaped by the development of an internal model of the world,” said Xie, who holds a joint appointment in the Department of Statistics. “The sophistication and complexity of this model is arguably the basis for ‘cognitive reserve,’ which is a significant factor in protection from age- and disease-related dementia, and so a deep understanding of how it is created and expressed is potentially of high societal impact.”

The new knowledge will guide future work in both neural and cognitive systems and impact the field of machine learning, which draws inspiration from neuroscience.

Collaborators include Mark Reimers, associate professor in MSU’s Neuroscience Program; and Ping-Shou Zhong, MSU assistant professor of statistics and probability.

“We are excited about the success of these young faculty members,” said Andrew Christlieb, MSU Foundation Professor of mathematics and chair of the CMSE department. “Their work is being positively acknowledged by their peers very early in their careers, and we’re looking forward to seeing where their work takes them and how they will grow as scientists.

“We are pleased with this collaborative success, because collaborative science is at the heart of CMSE’s mission,” he added.

CMSE is jointly administered by the College of Natural Science and the College of Engineering.