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Dec. 8, 2011
Social Media for Science
Trinity Professors Use New Method to Raise Research Funds
By Andrea Davis '12
SAN ANTONIO - Two Trinity University professors are using a new method for raising research funds: social media.
Jennifer Mathews, professor of sociology and anthropology, and Kelly Lyons, associate professor of biology, are participating in the #SciFund Challenge, an experiment that started in California and uses crowd-funding, via social media, to gather monetary aid for their research.
Mathews is assisting John Gust, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Riverside, in raising money to cover Gust's fieldwork costs in Quintana Roo, Mexico, as he works to piece together a 19th century view of the area, both ethnographically and geographically, to complete his degree. His project is titled "Send John to the Jungle."
Mathews has helped, financially and academically, in Gust's research and co-presented information with him earlier this semester on the project. She first became involved when she received word from her former adviser at UC-Riverside.
"His adviser was my previous adviser, so we share an adviser," she said, adding that the adviser asked her to oversee the student's project because they had similar interests.
Lyons is using #SciFund to raise money for botanical research, which will culminate in a field book on weeds and plants in San Antonio. She also intends to go a step further with social media and develop an app for people using smartphones to identity plants they see on walks on during outdoor activities. Her project is titled "What's that Weed?"
"You could structure the information for a botanist in a phylogenetic way - through evolutionary grouping of species - or you could do it by colors of flowers," she said. "The app will allow you to organize information in different ways to suit different people."
Through RocketHub, Mathews and Lyons have raised $790 out of a $1,000 goal and $910 of a $1,715 goal, respectively. The deadline for donations is Thursday, Dec.15.
When asked about using #SciFund to fund projects, both agreed that it could be useful for others at Trinity. Moreover, it's a program that can be beneficial to both faculty and staff.
"Individual students could ask friends and family for help, particularly for smaller projects," Mathews said. "I'd love to see more people doing it."
To learn more about the #SciFund Challenge, click here.
Text provided by Andrea Davis of Farmington, N.M., a candidate for graduation from Trinity University in May 2012 with a degree in history and English. She is a student worker in the Office of University Communications.