PAGE 1 OF 2
All in the (Science) Family
by Nancy Volkers
HHMI investigator Michael Summers encourages students such as Leila Njimoluh (left) and Adjoa Smalls-Mantey even before they begin their freshman studies at UMBC.
With its 49,600 students and 1,251 buildings, it would be easy for a newcomer to feel disoriented, or even a little lost, on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. Science for Life, the university's new HHMI-funded program, aims to prevent that from happening, at least for some ambitious science-oriented freshmen.
“We have these remarkable incoming classes of freshmen,” says Randy Duran, an associate professor of chemistry and director of Science for Life, which received a four-year, $1.5 million grant. “We want to capture large numbers of these very talented students who otherwise may be lost in the system.”
The program, which aims to build a kind of “science family” at the university, will be centered at the new HHMI Undergraduate Core Laboratory, where each year up to 100 freshmen will participate in interdisciplinary research. These students will then move on to pursue their own independent research projects, mentored by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members.
The grant has also allowed the university to establish, in conjunction with historically black Morehouse College, more than 300 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia, a teaching fellows program for postdocs. “Morehouse provides a very good, diverse, nurturing atmosphere for learning about mentoring and teaching,” Duran explains.
The schools' postdocs will spend a year at each institution, teaching and doing collaborative research. “This background will give them experience in teaching, mentoring, and research both at undergraduate and research-intensive institutions,” says Duran. As an incentive to continue their teaching and mentoring, the University of Florida will pay them $20,000 when they sign on as new faculty members at any college or university.
Photo: Paul Fetters