Undergraduate Science Education Grants to Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (2012)

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University (W&L) will prepare science majors for leadership in scientific research and medicine by expanding apprentice-based student research in all science and math departments and programs. Innovative courses will increase persistence of all students in science or prepare scientifically curious and literate leaders in society, regardless of career emphasis. To achieve these goals, we will expand capacity and capabilities that draw more students into science and math through an enhanced interdisciplinary, collaborative, and quantitative program of integrated research and teaching that will be accessible to nonmajors as well as majors.

The Integrative and Quantitative Science Center (IQ Center), a newly renovated space within the Science Center, will create innovative learning capacities in a technology- and instrument-rich teaching and research environment that will be the locus for most HHMI program activities. Design and programming for the IQ Center will incorporate evidence-based best practices for pedagogy, and will foster cross-disciplinary and quantitative approaches to inspire creativity and problem solving in teaching and research. Key features include sophisticated instrumentation and computational power, technology-rich teaching and meeting spaces, a full-time coordinator, and integration with library resources.

To address the first goal, which focuses on majors, we will expand our two-year HHMI Fellows program and continue to transmit the competencies that underpin professional success in science. We will provide enhanced extracurricular program elements to develop broad leadership potential in the context of science; e.g., as IQ Center leaders, in student-led discussion groups, as peer mentors, in student-run organizations, and in community outreach to enhance the potential for W&L graduates to become not just participants, but leaders in science. Our program will use IQ Center facilities to promote course-based research methodologies, enhance use of technology in inquiry-based courses, and encourage research collaborations. The second goal flows naturally from the first because of degree requirements for all students that include three courses in science and math, including one lab course. Course-based research will expose all students to transferable skills in problem solving and creative thinking. In addition, we will design rigorous, innovative, and accessible courses for nonmajors to develop their scientific curiosity, literacy, creativity, and the confidence to speak knowledgeably about science issues.

These approaches will inform the best ways to increase student interest in science and math careers and to enhance scientific literacy in all citizens. We expect increases in new courses and modules that focus on student-centered innovative teaching strategies and that incorporate research methodologies and enhanced use of technology; research projects that are more interdisciplinary, quantitative, and collaborative; summer and academic-year student research participation; student and faculty research presentations and publications; student enrollment in science and math courses beyond the basic requirements; and students in leadership roles in research groups and student science and math organizations. In addition to documenting the above, we will document student-specific gains in confidence with science and math, student perceptions of science and the role of math in modern society, and students' valuation of their research experience. For this we will use pre- and postcollege self-evaluation questionnaires, including RISC, Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE), and SURE, and the addition of appropriate questions to first-year entrance and senior exit surveys. We will document the graduates whose jobs involve problem solving and creativity as measures of leadership in their careers. The long-term expectation is that our HHMI program will prepare and motivate graduates to be leaders in academic and scientific communities, and informed citizens.

For More Information

Helen I'Anson, Ph.D.
Washington and Lee University
Biology and Neuroscience
204 W. Washington Street Howe Hall
Lexington, VA 24450-2116
540/458-8974
iansonh@wlu.edu

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