ORANGEBURG, SC — Dr. Ananda Mondal vividly recalls how he learned he was the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Early CAREER Development Award.
“Dr. Verlie Tisdale called and requested I come to her office right away,” said Mondal, an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at Claflin University. Tisdale is the dean of Claflin’s School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Her call sent my mind racing. I thought I had done something wrong. She more than calmed my nerves after I arrived when she told me the NSF had contacted her to announce I had won the award and the grant.”
Mondal received a grant for $550,000 to support his research on how proteins interact and bond to contribute to causing cancer. The project is titled CAREER-RUI: NetDA—Protein Network-Based Software for Disease Analysis Using Cliques, Bipartite Graphs, and Diffusion Kernels. His research will investigate and analyze the complex phenomena of disease progression at the protein network level. A software tool, NetDA (Network-based Disease Analysis), is being used to dissect the essential mechanisms of disease progression as transitions between disease stages are developed. The outcome of this study will be significant in the early diagnosis of a disease. The research could also contribute to developing of drugs designed to effectively treat diseases during a specific stage. The project began on June 1 and it will continue until May 31, 2022.
“I had contacted Dr. Mondal earlier when NSF notified us of one simple process we needed to complete when his proposal was submitted,” said Tisdale. “I believe he thought my call was related to that. He was overwhelmed with joy when I told him the news. I am extremely happy for him because he worked so hard on this proposal,” said Tisdale.
The project will also integrate research into the undergraduate curriculum by assigning projects, in courses already developed by the principal investigator, to solve problems in the proposed work. The project will provide research experience for undergraduate students using focused short projects during both the academic year and the summer. Two undergraduate students will be recruited as interns to work on the project. One graduate student will also be recruited and mentored by the PI to develop the proposed software NetDA.
The grant includes a critical outreach component that allows high school students to work on the project. In addition to providing these students an opportunity to become familiar with computer science and proteomics – the large scale study of proteins – he hopes the project will help develop a pipeline for students interested in STEM.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Mondal and his innovative and consequential research,” said Claflin President Henry N. Tisdale. “This project is consistent with the University’s emphasis on STEM and research that heightens the awareness of our STEM programs, especially to high-achieving middle and high school students.”
Mondal was also announced as the recipient of the Attorney William H. and Annette B. Johnson Endowed Faculty Award for Innovative Scientific Research during Claflin’s 147th Commencement in May. He is the second Claflin faculty member to receive the Early CAREER Development Award. Dr. Nick Panasik, associate professor of biology/chemistry, received the award in 2011.
“This really benefits Claflin and the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics,” said Mondal. “It’s very rare that a liberal arts university receives this type of award – it’s almost unheard of. We are conducting the type of research that’s done at larger institutions.”