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WIU Biology Professor Takes Part in Prestigious Workshop

April 2, 2013

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MACOMB, IL - Western Illinois University Assistant Professor Andrea Porras-Alfaro took part in a March conference to help shape a new science institute being developed by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Porras-Alfaro, who teaches medical mycology and molecular ecology and studies fungi, was one of 24 scientific researchers nominated for, and invited to, the Santa Barbara, CA conference to brainstorm about the new institute. The workshop was also held to help determine "grand challenge" problems of scientific and social interest to steer the work of the Institute of Sustainable Earth and Environmental Software (ISEES).

"This is a multi-disciplinary group of people who are trying to define challenging scientific questions that need an answer," Porras-Alfaro said.

One of the main goals to come from the workshop, Porras-Alfaro said, is to define the new institute's roles, such as providing training on how to interpret scientific data, use of software and how to combine and analyze data from diverse sources.

Additional meetings are planned and a guide for the institute will eventually be published.

"Attending the workshop was meaningful, especially when I realized Western was the only primarily undergraduate institution represented on the panel," she added.

In addition to the California workshop, Porras-Alfaro will take part in another NSF workshop in Panama April 8 – 11, which is a joint venture between the NSF and the Panamanian government.

In addition to meeting with fellow researchers in Panama, Porras-Alfaro will present a seminar to establish new potential lines of research. One area of interest is a project that would study coral fungi in Panama.

Once the collaborations are in place, Porras-Alfaro said the new research partners would have to apply for funding for their research.

For more information on the forming institute, visit

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