Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for Minnesota Advancement

STEMMA (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for Minnesota Advancement)

Stemma is a Latin root word that designates a tree-shaped representation of relations. Here we propose to build a tree of multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional faculty from four colleges that will interact towards a common objective (i.e., the trunk of the tree).

The STEMMA program was incepted in 2014 as part of the MnDrive initiative. “Stemma” is a Latin root word that designates a tree-shaped representation of relations. We proposed to build a tree of multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional faculty from four colleges that will interact towards a common objective (the metaphorical trunk of the tree).

Our aims were illustrated with a tree, representing the stemma. The selected tree was an Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), which is considered one of Minnesota's rarest and most imperiled trees. Tsuga canadensis currently receives no legal protection in Minnesota, having only been listed as special concern in 1984, and elevating its status to endangered species is currently being considered.

The STEMMA crew included people from a variety of countries, cultural backgrounds, and languages who believe science may help improve the quality of life for all societies. The tree has grown and the group formerly known as STEMMA has evolved into a number of new units and initiatives both within and outside the University of Minnesota.

Andres Perez, DVM, PhD, former director of the STEMMA laboratory, is now a professor and Endowed Chair of Global Animal Health and Food Safety, and director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (add link)–a World Animal Health Organization (OIE) collaborating center that leads a number of research and outreach programs inspired by STEMMA, including the Data Analytics Response Team (DART). Perez is an expert in the field of veterinary spatial epidemiology and modeling, with more than 150 peer-reviewed publications in those disciplines. Over the past 15 years, he has served as advisor for more than 20 graduate students and led a number of educational, research, and outreach activities on quantitative epidemiology in 20 countries. He is an advisor on epidemiology for the Argentine Animal Health Service and for the Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. He received his DVM from the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina, and his PhD from Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Kim VanderWaal, PhD, was previously a researcher in STEMMA. She is now an assistant professor at the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine (VPM)–STEMMA's home–with a focus on big data. VanderWaal's lab focuses on disease ecology, data analytics, network analysis, and animal health, primarily at the population, landscape, or regional scale. Her research aims to understand factors mediating pathogen transmission processes and to model the spatial and temporal dynamics of the spread of infectious diseases. Current projects focus on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and porcine epidemic diarrhea in US swine, as well as food and mouth disease in Africa and Asia. 

Julio Alvarez, DVM, PhD, formerly a STEMMA researcher, is now a researcher at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, in Spain. He still holds an adjunct professor position in VPM, and helps promote an active collaboration between both universities, including the exchange of students and joint submission of grants and papers. Alvarez’s research group in Spain focuses on the application of quantitative tools for studying the epidemiology of diseases and health emergencies occurring at the human/animal/environmental interface, including animal tuberculosis, brucellosis, and antimicrobial resistance.

STEMMA has grown bigger and stronger. Support from STEMMA and MnDrive has allowed for a trans-Atlantic collaboration with Madrid, as well as the combined forces of VanderWaal and Perez in Minnesota, which includes three post-doctoral fellows, eight graduate students, and many analysts. We are also funded by a variety of sources—both internal and external—that allow us to focus on data analysis applied to research and surveillance.

STEMMA was a unique experience for many of us. We thank the MnDrive initiative for helping us to plant the seeds of our tree.