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CofC Supports Honors Student’s Interdisciplinary Approach to Education

What first attracted Joseph Brennan, an Honors College rising senior, to the College of Charleston was the opportunity for interdisciplinary studies. As a first-generation college student, however, it was the time faculty and staff took to help him navigate the application process that convinced him to attend CofC.

“I liked that the College is a liberal arts institution as that would help foster an interdisciplinary education,” explains Brennan, “but it was when CofC sat down and walked me through what I needed to do that I knew I would be supported.”

Since coming to CofC, Brennan has taken full advantage of all the College has to offer. He has maintained his focus on mathematics but has looked at it from various angles including education, health, biology, ecology and evolution.

As a summer orientation intern, Brennan discovered he didn’t have to major in education to teach. He realized he was teaching the incoming students and that education could be through outreach, not just in a classroom.

It was after an internship focusing on behavioral neuroscience at a Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) lab that Brennan realized his real interest lay in the math of biology with a focus on ecology and evolution.

After he landed on majoring in mathematics and biology, Brennan tackled applying for scholarships through Cougar Scholarship. He prepared targeted applications for each scholarship, and his efforts di lui paid off. He received three: the Horatio Hughes Memorial Scholarship in Mathematics, the Susan Prazak Mathematics Endowed Scholarship and the Herb Silverman Secular Humanist Scholarship.

All these scholarships went directly to cover Brennan’s tuition, giving him peace of mind and the freedom to explore other CofC opportunities, including the SC INBRE grant. The grant aims to increase the number of CofC alumni enrolling in graduate programs in biomedical sciences and enable them to acquire independent National Institute of Health funding for their biomedical research programs.

Brennan saw a posting on the Honors College hub by Kris Ghoshassistant professor of the Department of Computer Science for a math or biology major for an INBRE grant.

“I was interested in broadening my knowledge of math and computational biology,” says Brennan. “Professor Ghosh and I collaborated on a topic and came upon evolution and how to model it accurately. For example, how a parasite and a host evolve together. “

The INBRE grant is a 10-week program, but Brennan’s project will last throughout the academic year as the project is his bachelor essay, which is similar to a thesis for a graduate student and required of all Honors College students. He will also present his findings of him at the fall School of Mathematics and Sciences poster session.

In addition, Brennan is applying for Ph.D. programs – all very interdisciplinary. He plans to marry his math and biology skills, with a focus on math models and applications in ecology and conservation biology.

With all that Brennan has explored at the College, he serves as a perfect example of how a liberal arts and sciences education gives the freedom to delve into all interests and figure out how to wed passions.

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