News Highlights - College of Mathematics & Science

The Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center

College of Mathematics and Science and Forensic Science Institute
University of Central Oklahoma

The Building is unique and novel
• The UCO Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center is the first interdisciplinary education facility in the State of Oklahoma.
• It is the only building in the state with an emphasis on STEM interdisciplinary undergraduate research.
• It is a building designed to uniquely integrate research and teaching spaces.
• This is a building with a focus on development of Oklahoma’s STEM workforce

The Building is interdisciplinary
• The Betz STEM Building provides research and teaching spaces for faculty and students from all STEM disciplines.
• It is the home for the Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Education and Research (CIBER) and the Center for Research and Education in Interdisciplinary Computation (CREIC), as well as a place for collaboration between Forensic Science and STEM disciplines

The Building provides integrated research and teaching spaces across disciplines
• The Cellular and Molecular Biology, Microbiology, and Biomedical Engineering research laboratories will be in the same complex.
• The Nanotechnology Research Laboratory and the Biomedical Engineering Teaching Laboratory will be next to each other.
• The Forensic Impression Evidence and Digital Evidence research laboratories will be in the same complex as the Molecular & Evolutionary Biology teaching and research laboratories.
• The Supercomputer in the building can be accessed by people at educational institutions across the State of Oklahoma for high performance computation in all STEM fields.
• The equipment and instruments in the building’s core facilities (Biomedical Equipment Core Facility, Cell Culture Core Facility, and Microscope Room) can be used by researchers as well as for laboratory classes.
• A Computational Classroom will be used for various classes such as Engineering Computing, Statistics, and Bioinformatics.
• The Supercomputer can be accessed by people at educational institutions across the state for high performance computations in all STEM disciplines.

The Building provides opportunities for interdisciplinary research.
• Forensic scientists and geneticists will work on intertwined puzzles in science and for law enforcement.
• Biologists, chemists, and food scientists will work on the same benches.
• Mathematicians, computer scientists, and biologists will form teams to provide solutions to a broad range of issues in biology and medicine.

The Building is a place where faculty and students will work side-by-side to conduct cutting-edge research in different fields. For example:
• They will use the cutting-edge deep learning and other artificial intelligence techniques to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, such as reducing the risk of pressure ulcers, effectively guiding them in indoor navigation, assist effective knee injury recovery, etc. (Jicheng Fu)
• They will work to inhibit scars, fibroses, and contractures, using in vitro methods and materials. (Mel Vaughan)
• They will work to revolutionize the protection and conservation of threatened and endangered animals, through local and global applications of innovative techniques in Wildlife DNA Forensics. (Dwight Adams)
• They will develop quantitative image quality assessment and enhancement methods to improve medical imaging diagnostic accuracy. (Yuhao Jiang)
• They are developing nanomaterials to replace human joints and for use in other biomedical devices. (Morshed Khandaker).
• They will develop laser-based immunotherapy to treat late-stage, metastatic breast cancer, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer. (Wei Chen)
• They will develop distributed indexing methods for big-data platforms and develop a method to simply deep convolutional artificial neural networks. (Gang Qian)
• They will use genetic data to study how geckos move across UCO’s campus, and compare that to other areas like OU. (Allison Fenwick)
• They will use mathematical modeling, computing, and statistics to study biological problems ranging from ecology to physiology. (Sean Laverty)
• They will provide statistical consulting for other faculty on campus or businesses and organizations in the community. (Tracy Morris – Project SCHOLAR)
• Project SCHOLAR provides students, through NIH grant funding, with an opportunity to do statistical consulting for UCO faculty as well as industry and non-profit organizations in the community. (Drs. Morris, Murray, and Cook)
• They will use mathematical models to understand how blood clots degrade, in order to propose safer, more effective stroke treatments. (Brittany Banish)
• They will use DNA to address a variety of questions related to mammalian evolution and conservation (Michelle Haynie).
• They will design and test inhibitors of enzyme which will be a lead compound for antibiotic design. (Lilian Chooback).
• The faculty and students are advancing the field of Wildlife Forensics through the development novel whole genome sequencing techniques and automated analysis using high performance computing. (James Creecy).
• They will use the most recent advances in nanotechnology and bacteria’s natural predators to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Hari Kotturi)
• They will cell and tissue models to understand the biomechanics of wound healing and cilia-related diseases. (Gang Xu)
• They will work towards the development of microscale fluidic sensors and devices for diagnostics and treatment of vascular diseases. (Robi Hossan)
• They will study host-pathogen interactions which includes MRSA, tick-borne illnesses, and antibiotic resistant bacteria in waste water. (Bob Brennan)
• The art Nursing Simulation & Practice Lab will allow students to practice clinical decision making and skills in a more real life environment. (Linda Rider)
• They will work to understand how maternal exposures during pregnancy effect heart development in the baby using animal and cellular models. (Nikki Seagraves)

The biggest beneficiaries of the Building are the students at UCO
• They will be exposed to interdisciplinary knowledge and the value of considering the approaches and perspectives of many disciplines
• They will participate in cutting-edge research
• They will gain research skills
• They will gain teamwork experience and collaboration skills
• They will develop problem-solving capacity in all STEM fields
• They will be ready to contribute to Oklahoma’s much-needed STEM workforce

In summary, the Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center will become a critical facility for UCO. More importantly, it will help enable UCO to fulfill its mission as Oklahoma’s only metropolitan university and to become the powerhouse of the STEM workforce in the State.


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