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HHMI Awards $86.4 Million for Undergraduate Science Education

Summary

HHMI is investing $86.4 million in innovative science undergraduate education programs at 50 research universities across the country.

Biology is evolving rapidly, with more and more discoveries arising from interaction with other disciplines such as chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. Undergraduate biology education is having a hard time keeping up. To address this challenge, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is investing $86.4 million in bold and innovative science education programs at research universities across the country.

HHMI—the nation's largest private supporter of science education—continues to strengthen and enrich undergraduate science teaching at research universities with the new grants, which range from $1.5 million to $2.2 million. They will support programs at 50 universities in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The universities selected include six that have never before received an HHMI undergraduate science education grant: Georgia State University, New Mexico State University, the University of California, Riverside; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Florida; and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Individualized mentoring and early research experiences with working scientists are vital components of a university education that prepares undergraduates for graduate school and careers in science.

Peter J. Bruns

"We believe it is vital to bring fresh perspectives to the teaching of established scientific disciplines and to develop novel courses in emerging areas, such as computational biology, genomics, and bio-imaging," said Thomas R. Cech, HHMI president. "Our grantee universities are providing hands-on research experiences to help prepare undergraduates, including women and minorities underrepresented in the sciences, for graduate studies and for careers in biomedical research, medicine, and science education. We also hope these grants will help the universities increase the science literacy of their students, including non-science majors."

Some of the newly funded programs will develop courses that reflect the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research today, melding computational and physical sciences and engineering with the life sciences. Others aim to hone the teaching and mentoring skills of present and future scientists. A key goal is to attract and retain minorities who have been traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Another is to reach out into the high schools and middle schools to engage and prepare future science majors. Science literacy—preparing non-science majors to understand the complex scientific issues that affect their lives—is another objective.

For example:

  • Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, is creating a program that will give postdoctoral fellows instruction and experience in how to teach science. The Hughes Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowships will provide mentored research and teaching experience. Fellows in the two-year program will teach three courses. A one-year pilot program developed through Dartmouth's Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) will support the development of the Fellows' teaching skills. In the final two years of the grant, DCAL's teaching program will be open to all Dartmouth postdoctoral fellows.
  • East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, plans to integrate mathematics and biology—fields in which specialists traditionally work at arm's length from one another— to encourage students to approach biological questions as research scientists address them. One ambitious goal for the project is to retool the math and biology faculty so that they become literate in each other's discipline.
  • Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, will develop a series of activities to attract and retain young students in the sciences, including Native Americans, who are among the most severely underrepresented in scientific fields. At the center of these activities is the Montana Apprenticeship Program—funded by an earlier HHMI grant—that has enabled a significant number of women and underrepresented minority students to live on campus during the summer, while they take science classes and participate in research with faculty members. Moresmall arrow
  • North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, will develop a new introductory biology course for non-science majors. Based on hands-on experiments and problem-solving, the course will focus on timely, multidisciplinary scientific issues, such as genetic engineering, evolution, and cloning. The university expects the course to provide up to 1,000 students annually with an understanding of the scientific method and the relevance of science to their lives.
  • Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, created a new molecular biology laboratory with an earlier HHMI grant that has provided hands-on laboratory experience to more than 3,500 students. With its new grant, Princeton will take these initiatives further by creating a new curriculum that will expose biology students to courses now only taught to engineering and physics students. As part of the program, undergraduates will build sophisticated microscopes and use them to study such areas as Drosophila or fruit fly developmental genetics, neurobiology, and microbiology.
  • Rice University in Houston, Texas, is creating Beyond Traditional Borders, a program that will train a new generation of students to reach beyond traditional disciplinary borders to understand, address, and solve global health disparities. Rice will collaborate with medical schools, schools of public health, and research institutes to develop the program. Beyond Traditional Borders builds on a course developed by HHMI professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum to increase students' scientific literacy by analyzing media reports of medical discoveries. Moresmall arrow
  • The University of Florida's Science for Life program will equip a core lab where students from freshman year on can conduct mentored research. The university will address the need for more well-trained science teachers through postdoctoral teaching fellowships, in collaboration with Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Moresmall arrow
  • The University of Maryland, Baltimore County's HHMI Scholars Program will focus on students from diverse backgrounds, providing a summer "bridge" program to give entering freshmen a head start on success on college, and math and science tutoring for inner-city minority elementary and high school students in Baltimore. HHMI scholars can also spend their junior year doing research with HHMI investigators at other universities. Moresmall arrow

"Summer bridge programs—a component of several of the new grants—are particularly important in helping minority students make a successful transition to the world of the research university," said Peter J. Bruns, HHMI vice president for grants and special programs. "Individualized mentoring and early research experiences with working scientists also are vital components of a university education that prepares undergraduates for graduate school and careers in science. The universities want to offer their students these opportunities, and HHMI is pleased to help them do so."

HHMI invited 214 research universities that have a proven track record in preparing students for graduate education and careers in research, teaching, or medicine to compete for the undergraduate science education awards. The Institute received 158 applications. A panel composed of leading scientists and educators, including HHMI professors and an HHMI investigator, reviewed the applications.

HHMI has supported undergraduate science education at the nation's colleges and universities since 1988. Through its undergraduate grants, the Institute has provided 247 institutions of higher learning with nearly $700 million for programs that include undergraduate research opportunities; new faculty, courses, and labs; teaching and mentoring training; and work with precollege students and teachers.

A nonprofit medical research organization, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was established in 1953 by the aviator-industrialist. The Institute, headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland, is one of the largest philanthropies in the world, with an endowment of $14.8 billion at the close of its 2005 fiscal year. HHMI spent $483 million in support of biomedical research and $80 million for support of a variety of science education and other grants programs in fiscal 2005.

HHMI is dedicated to discovering and disseminating new knowledge in the basic life sciences. HHMI grounds its research programs on the conviction that scientists of exceptional talent and imagination will make fundamental contributions of lasting scientific value and benefit to mankind when given the resources, time, and freedom to pursue challenging questions. The Institute prizes intellectual daring and seeks to preserve the autonomy of its scientists as they pursue their research.

At Janelia Farm, HHMI's first freestanding campus, small research groups will explore fundamental biomedical questions in a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary culture. The $500 million campus, now under construction in Ashburn, Virginia, will open in the fall of 2006. When the campus is fully operational, there will be 24 group leaders and a permanent research staff of about 300 scientists.

2006 Undergraduate Science Education Program Grant Awards

Institution

City, State

Award Amount

Arizona State University

Tempe, Arizona

$1,800,000

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

$1,500,000

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

$1,500,000

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, Ohio

$1,500,000

Clemson University

Clemson, South Carolina

$2,000,000

College of William and Mary

Williamsburg, Virginia

$1,800,000

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York

$1,600,000

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

$1,500,000

Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

$1,900,000

East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tennessee

$1,700,000

Emory University

Atlanta, Georgia

$1,900,000

Georgetown University

Washington, D.C.

$1,800,000

Georgia State University

Atlanta, Georgia

$1,500,000

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

$1,500,000

Lehigh University

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

$1,800,000

Louisiana State University
and A & M

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

$1,600,000

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

$1,800,000

Montana State University-Bozeman

Bozeman, Montana

$1,600,000

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, New Mexico

$1,500,000

North Carolina State University

Raleigh, North Carolina

$1,500,000

Oregon State University

Corvallis, Oregon

$1,500,000

Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

$2,200,000

Rice University

Houston, Texas

$2,200,000

Stanford University

Stanford, California

$1,500,000

SUNY at Stony Brook

Stony Brook, New York

$1,800,000

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas

$1,500,000

University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

$1,500,000

University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas

$1,500,000

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

$1,600,000

University of California, Davis

Davis, California

$1,800,000

University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

$2,200,000

University of California, Riverside

Riverside, California

$1,600,000

University of California, San Diego

La Jolla, California

$2,100,000

University of California, San Francisco

San Francisco, California

$2,100,000

University of Colorado at Boulder

Boulder, Colorado

$1,900,000

University of Delaware

Newark, Delaware

$1,500,000

University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

$1,500,000

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Baltimore, Maryland

$2,200,000

University of Maryland, College Park

College Park, Maryland

$2,000,000

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Amherst, Massachusetts

$1,600,000

University of Miami

Coral Gables, Florida

$1,900,000

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

$1,500,000

University of Montana

Missoula, Montana

$1,500,000

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

$2,100,000

University of Texas at Austin

Austin, Texas

$1,900,000

University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso, Texas

$1,500,000

University of Washington

Seattle, Washington

$1,600,000

Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, Virginia

$1,500,000

Washington University

St. Louis, Missouri

$1,600,000

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

$2,200,000

For More Information

Jim Keeley
[ 301-215-8858 ]
Cindy Fox Aisen
[ 317-843-2276 ]