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HHMI Announces $65 Million in Grants for Research Universities

Summary

HHMI has invited 203 research universities to apply for new science education grants aimed at helping improve persistence of students studying STEM disciplines and reinvigorating introductory science courses.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is announcing a new round of science education grants aimed at helping research universities improve persistence of students studying STEM disciplines and reinvigorating introductory science courses.

The excellence in science in the United States today is due in large part to the work of research universities, which are home to many of the world’s best scientists and attract large numbers of the nation’s most talented students. “In the United States, sustaining excellence in science depends on research universities, which are small in number but large in impact,” said Sean Carroll, Vice President for Science Education at HHMI. “HHMI wants to encourage these excellent institutions to achieve more.”

HHMI has invited 203 research universities from across the country to apply for the grants, which will total $65 million over five years. The Institute expects to make up to 35 awards of up to $2.5 million each. It will announce the recipients in late spring 2014.

In the United States, sustaining excellence in science depends on research universities, which are small in number but large in impact.

Sean B. Carroll

The new grants for research universities complement two initiatives launched by HHMI this spring that focus on investing in the best science education programs at leading research universities. Earlier this year, HHMI announced a $22.5 million partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative to enable 10 research universities to train a new generation of K-12 science and math teachers. In March, the Institute also opened a $15 million competition for 15 new HHMI Professors, leading scientist-educators who are deeply committed to making science more engaging for undergraduates.

HHMI’s objective with these initiatives is to enable research universities to address critical challenges in undergraduate science education. According to David Asai, Senior Director in Science Education at HHMI, one challenge looms particularly large – how to keep students engaged in STEM studies. “To sustain this scientific excellence in the future, it is essential that the nation’s universities focus their attention on the improvement of science education so that more talented students remain in science,” Asai said.

The 2012 “Engage to Excel” report from the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST), singled out a troubling trend among students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines: Today, fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college with the intention of majoring in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. Even more concerning because of the rapidly changing racial demographics of the nation’s talent pool, only about 20 percent of students from underrepresented ethnic groups persist in STEM.

“We know that many of the students who transfer out of STEM majors perform well in other disciplines,” Asai says. “But they describe the teaching methods and atmosphere in introductory STEM classes as ineffective and uninspiring. We want to help change that.”

For more than one-quarter of a century, HHMI has provided grants to support undergraduate education at colleges and universities. These grants to colleges and universities—HHMI’s longest running science education program—have focused on transforming science education in the United States by encouraging science teaching that is hands-on, research-oriented, and interdisciplinary.

Since 1988, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded more than $870 million in grants to 274 public and private colleges and universities to support science education in the United States. Those grants have generally been awarded through two separate but complementary efforts, one aimed at undergraduate-focused institutions and the other at research universities. HHMI support has enabled more than 80,000 students nationwide to work in research labs and developed programs that have helped 95,000 K-12 teachers learn how to teach science more effectively.

HHMI’s approach to these science education grants differs from that of many other organizations, including the federal government, because its awards are made at an institutional level and not to individuals. As a result, a single HHMI grant can support a diverse spectrum of educational activities. HHMI requires science faculty and administrators at research universities to work together to develop a common educational goal for programs or initiatives in their grant proposal—something they might not do otherwise.

Applications are by invitation only, and each university is allowed to apply once. Applicants must register and submit proposals using HHMI’s online competition system. Institutions must register their intent to submit an application by 2 PM EDT., June 4, 2013. The deadline to submit the completed proposal is 2 PM EDT., October 1, 2013. More information about this initiative can be found in the program announcement: http://www.hhmi.org/grants/pdf/2014-hhmi-universities.pdf

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The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit www.hhmi.org.