MPE 2013+ Workshop on Education for the Planet Earth of Tomorrow

September 30 - October 2, 2015
NIMBioS, University of Tennessee

Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Arizona State University, ccchavez at
Midge Cozzens, DIMACS, Rutgers University, midgec at
Eugene Fiorini, Muhlenberg College, eugenefiorini at
Holly Gaff, Old Dominion University, hgaff at
Suzanne Lenhart, NIMBioS, University of Tennessee, lenhart at
Fred Roberts, DIMACS, Rutgers University, froberts at
Kelly Sturner, NIMBioS, University of Tennessee, ksturner at
Presented under the auspices of the DIMACS Special Program: Mathematics of Planet Earth 2013+.
Workshop Announcement

The issues facing the planet call for a new type of workforce, trained in multidisciplinary and multi-national communication and collaboration. To function in this rapidly changing world, math students will need to appreciate the most important concepts at the interface between their discipline and others. They will need to develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the ways that disciplines interact, the new knowledge that is created through this interaction, and the new educational and career opportunities in an increasingly multidisciplinary world. Students from non-mathematical disciplines will benefit from observing the importance of mathematical sciences tools for their discipline. There has never been a more crucial time to ensure that we train the next generation of scientists, engineers, and decision makers to be able to think broadly across disciplines. Multidisciplinary education should start at a young age, and there are the beginnings of materials and approaches at the K-12 level (see e.g., There are also opportunities for postdoctoral programs and mid-career programs. While we will allow for the possibility that discussions will lead us in any of these directions, we plan to put our main emphasis at the undergraduate and beginning graduate levels, and concentrate primarily on education of mathematical scientists. The workshop will discuss existing materials for MPE undergraduate and beginning graduate education, e.g., the Earth Math Project ( and the MPE Sustainable Planet Education Project ( that DIMACS co-led.

How do we connect mathematical sciences with other disciplines? Do we develop multidisciplinary courses? Do we inject multidisciplinary topics into existing curricula? Are case study courses a good medium? Do we put more emphasis on multidisciplinary projects as part of existing courses? Does it matter what the "other" discipline is, or is some multidisciplinary experience sufficient? How do we prepare mathematical sciences students to work in disciplines that they might not encounter until later in their careers? What is the role of team experiences? Could increasing emphasis on MPE topics early in undergraduate education improve retention of STEM majors? Do MPE topics provide opportunities for involvement of undergraduates in research, e.g. because of the availability of large data sets about the state of the planet? How do we prepare faculty for multidisciplinary education in MPE topics? Given that problems facing the planet do not stop at national borders, do international experiences play a role? We will address these questions, some of which are addressed in the context of computer science in [Rob11a].

Each of the five MPE 2013+ research workshops will include an Education Chair and several participants with expertise in the workshop's research area and in undergraduate education (including Community College education). These participants will be invited to the education workshop to communicate findings from the research workshops to each other and to additional participants. The education workshop will synthesize the education output from the research workshops and develop recommendations for new programs and new initiatives. These could include: models for introducing MPE topics in the curriculum for community colleges, four-year colleges, and early graduate school; conception of interdisciplinary degree or certificate programs; and initiation of faculty development programs and materials development programs. A resulting MPE education plan will be disseminated through a report shared with the wider mathematical sciences community and those interested in undergraduate education.

Workforce development will be a primary focus of discussions at the workshop and of the MPE education plan. We expect to highlight MPE-related jobs requiring either an associate degree, a four-year degree, or graduate education. The workshop will include speakers with expertise in green jobs, including those who have written reports on green jobs, especially for jobs where a mathematical sciences background is required. It will also include leaders in graduate education to better understand how graduate schools can be responsive to applicants with MPE backgrounds and multidisciplinary interests.

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Document last modified on February 19, 2015.