The HHMI professors are accomplished research scientists who also are deeply committed to creating effective ways to engage undergraduates in science.
The HHMI Professors Program empowers research scientists who can convey the excitement of science to undergraduates. The professors model fundamental reform in the way undergraduate science is taught at research universities through innovative teaching that demonstrates the rigor and value of scientific research. HHMI professors are committed to expanding and enhancing research opportunities for undergraduates and are encouraged to share ideas and collaborate with their peers to improve science education.
Sixty-nine scientists have been named HHMI professors since the program began in 2002. In addition to their commitment to student learning, these highly visible scientists have developed new educational resources and implemented novel mentoring programs to support students.
Here are a few examples of the lasting impact HHMI professors are having:
• Students in HHMI Professor Utpal Banerjee’s functional genomics course at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted original research on the fruit fly’s genes and development. Their work led to publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals with more than 250 student authors.
• A bootcamp-style curriculum developed by HHMI Investigator and HHMI Professor Cathy Drennan at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helped biology and chemistry graduate student teaching assistants learn how to build inclusive learning environments for students.
• Student participants in a mentoring program developed by HHMI Professor Isiah Warner at Louisiana State University showed higher average GPAs and graduation rates—despite their underperformance in first-year science coursework—than other LSU students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
• Rapid-cycling, self-compatible Brassica plants developed by HHMI Professor Richard Amasino at the University of Wisconsin are being used by high school students for genetic experiments that reveal how traits that affect plant development are inherited.
• HHMI Professor Jo Handelsman pioneered the scholarship of “scientific teaching” and has focused on faculty development. In addition to writing the Entering Mentoring handbook used by colleges and universities across the nation, Professor Handelsman, together with colleague Bill Wood, created the Summer Institute for Scientific Teaching, which has grown from a single Institute to several regional institutes, reaching hundreds of faculty every year.
• HHMI Professor Graham Hatfull created the “phage hunters” PHIRE research project at the University of Pittsburgh. The PHIRE project, which was originally envisioned to involve 10-12 students a year, exploded in scale so that now, the HHMI SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genetics and Evolutionary Science) program involves close to a hundred institutions and thousands of students each year.
• Individual professors receive a five-year, nonrenewable HHMI grant totaling $1 million to support innovative approaches to linking research and education activities.
• Teams of two professors from the same institution receive a five-year, nonrenewable HHMI grant totaling $1.5 million.
• The Society of HHMI Professors comprises all HHMI Professors to date and encourages sharing ideas and collaborating with peers to improve science education.
To be eligible, an applicant must meet the following requirements:
• Be affiliated with an institution classified as “R1: Doctoral Universities, Highest Research Activity,” according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
• Be a full-time, tenured faculty member of a baccalaureate degree-granting natural science department, with the teaching of undergraduates as part of his or her responsibilities. If the applicant’s institution does not award tenure, the applicant must hold a full-time faculty appointment that reflects significant institutional commitment.
• Hold a full-time faculty appointment in his or her current department for at least three consecutive years prior to applying.
• Be a principal investigator on one or more active, national peer-reviewed research awards of at least three years duration.
There is not an open competition at this time.
Richard M. Amasino, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of Wisconsin
Richard Amasino studies how plants use seasonal cues such as changing day-length and temperature to determine when to initiate flowering. A recent focus is the pathway through which plants’ perception of cold winter temperatures leads to flowering in the spring – a process known as vernalization. He teaches biochemistry to undergraduates, providing research opportunities to work with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and a course on the nature of science to non-science majors to stimulate their interest in science.
Ariel D. Anbar, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Arizona State University
Ariel Anbar is exploring Earth’s past and future as an inhabited world and the prospects for life beyond our world. He and his team study topics ranging from the origins of Earth’s atmosphere to detecting life on other worlds, with a focus on the development of an O2-rich atmosphere on Earth and potential Earth-like worlds. Anbar directs Arizona State University’s Center for Education Through Exploration, which is reinventing digital learning around curiosity, exploration, and discovery using adaptive simulations and virtual field trips.
Winston A. Anderson, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Howard University
Winston Anderson has devoted the last 45 years to investigating mechanisms of estrogen signaling in oncogenesis and the correlation of cell structure with function. His research focused on the subcellular localization of signal transduction activity for proto-oncogene proteins, growth factors, and growth factor receptors and “cross talk between estrogen and growth factors” in uterine endometrium and breast cancer cell lines. Anderson’s Howard Hughes Medical Research Scholars program selects talented science and math majors and immerses them in a research-intensive, mentored curriculum designed to give them a competitive edge for pursuing PhD degrees in the biomedical and related sciences. He has actively trained generations of African Americans to further pursue meritorious research careers.
Eric Anslyn, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of Texas at Austin
Eric Anslyn and his lab members apply the principles of physical organic chemistry toward creating practical diagnostic systems for medical and industrial applications, generating smart materials that respond to environmental conditions, and exploring nature’s stepwise transformation. In collaboration with Andrew Ellington, PhD, Anslyn is working to establish a unique training experience for undergraduate and graduate chemistry and biochemistry majors, aimed at creating the next generation of both scientist-leaders and scientist-entrepreneurs.
Manuel Ares Jr., PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of California, Santa Cruz
Protein coding information in eukaryotic genes is broken and scattered along the chromosome but is patched together by RNA splicing once the gene is turned on. Manuel Ares Jr. is asking how cells manage this strange barrier to gene expression. Answering this question must bring to bear genetics, biochemistry, genomics, and computational biology. Because current undergraduate curricula interfere with developing interdisciplinary thinking in students, Ares is also studying how inclusive and interdisciplinary educational interventions enhance students’ ability to work on interdisciplinary teams. To encourage the development of scientist-teachers, he recruited undergraduates to participate in a research group that conducted genomic studies of splicing in humans and Plasmodiumspp., the causative agent of malaria.
Avery August, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present Cornell University
Avery August is interested in the role of Tyrosine Kinases (TKs) in regulating the immune response, with the goal of using this information to manipulate immune responses. He developed a research program aimed at supporting students transferring from community colleges, often a pipeline for students seeking to earn STEM degrees and major destinations for low-income, first-generation, women, and minority students. Because these students face various barriers, including obtaining undergraduate research experience, that can make academic success difficult, Avery’s program includes three stages: a pre-summer research exposure program, research mentoring and preparation, and peer mentorship to enhance preparation for laboratory research for two-year transfer biology students.
Utpal Banerjee, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of California, Los Angeles
Utpal Banerjee identifies basic molecular strategies that are conserved in development across species. His primary research areas are blood stem cell maintenance, stress response systems, metabolic control of cancer pathways, and metabolic control of early mouse development. Banerjee also developed several education projects for large numbers of early-stage undergraduates and high school students through the University of California, Los Angeles’s Undergraduate Research Consortium in Functional Genomics. These projects provide inquiry-based science instruction and opportunities for course-based research. In a separate course, he developed as part of the program, students “deconstruct” research presentations in a guided process that helps them learn about the concepts and techniques of experimental science.
Paul Barber, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of California, Los Angeles
Paul Barber integratesgenetics, genomics, ecology, and oceanography to understand the evolution of marine biodiversity with the aim of promoting marine conservation. He does his research largely inthe context of innovative education programs focused on increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities in science. Barber’s Diversity and Health Disparities Program synthesizes marine and environmental research in the context of health disparities and social justice in an effort to increase the success of underrepresented minority and underserved premedical students.
Bonnie Bartel, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Rice University
Peroxisomes, small organelles in the cell, isolate oxidative metabolic pathways, thereby protecting the rest of the cell from oxidative damage. Bonnie Bartel’s research focuses on the biogenesis, function, and turnover of this vital organelle using the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana. She developed a course, Freshman Seminar in Local Biology, aimed at introducing freshmen to the excitement of biological research. Small groups of freshmen spend several weeks exploring an article from a local research group in preparation for visiting the lab, meeting the authors, and learning about how to get involved in research as undergraduates.
Julia Clarke, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of Texas at Austin
Julia Clarke studies birds and other theropod dinosaurs to better understand major transitions in the history of life. She is particularly interested in how structures in living animals developed and how novel ways of moving evolved. In order to prepare undergraduates for scientific careers, Clarke developed an initiative with three goals: developing authentic research design skills within and across traditional disciplines in course and lab settings; evaluating modules focused on strengthening scientific self-efficacy; and recruiting and retaining more traditionally underrepresented groups in the geosciences. She also created the University of Texas Curiosity to Question (CtQ) course model, which provides a supported context for open-ended inquiry and training in research mentorship skills for graduate and postdoctoral students.
Victor G. Corces, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Emory University
Victor Corces’s research focus is gene expression and the role of chromatin structure and nuclear organization in the control of eukaryotic gene transcription. In particular, he and his lab members research the mechanisms by which chromatin architectural proteins affect gene expression by establishing the three-dimensional organization of the genome. Corces also developed an educational program called Research Internship and Science Education (RISE) to train and mentor Atlanta public high school students, involving graduate students and postdocs as mentors, with the ultimate goal of having them graduate from Emory University and go on to graduate science programs.
Brian R. Crane, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Cornell University
Brian Crane’s research focuses on the chemistry underlying the transmission of signals in biological systems. He is particularly interested in poorly understood sensing mechanisms, such as those involving light signaling, reactions of unstable intermediates, and conformational changes within large molecular assemblies. In order to prepare more underrepresented minorities to be well-trained, research-ready undergraduates with a passion for science, Crane developed a pre-freshman preparatory (PSP) program to provide disadvantaged students with supplemental training in quantitative thinking so that they can succeed in general chemistry courses. He also created a pre-sophomore organic/biochemistry preparatory course based on the PSP model with an introduction to laboratory work and an independent summer research component to encourage students into careers in science.
Catherine Drennan, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cathy Drennan is interested in determining the structures of metalloproteins. As a professor, she trains graduate students and postdocs to be teacher-scholars and lectures in large freshman science classes. Drennan co-authored the teacher training guide What Every Teacher and Mentor Should Know: A Guide to Identifying and Reducing Stereotype Threat to Maximize Student Performance. She is also a producer of the 2-minute video series Behind the Scenes at MIT that relates concepts from textbook chemistry to current MIT research and applications in medicine, the environment, and energy.
Sarah C.R. Elgin, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Washington University
Sarah Elgin is a professor of biology, genetics, and education and a molecular biologist, whose research focus is on the role of chromatin structure in gene regulation. She and her research team have developed new techniques to study how DNA is packaged in the cell nucleus, particularly differentiating heterochromatin. Elgin founded the Genomics Education Partnership, a collaboration of faculty from primarily undergraduate institutions nationwide with the biology and computer science departments,and The McDonnell Genome Institute of Washington University in St. Louis, which aims to provide students with an opportunity to participate in a large-scale genome sequencing and annotation research project, contributing to scientific discovery.
Andrew Ellington, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of Texas at Austin
Andrew Ellington and his lab members use synthetic biology tools to augment living systems with novel chemistries. He is especially interested in expanding the genetic code to make new types of proteins and developing orthogonal neural receptors that can be used to probe and modulate pathways in the brain. In collaboration with Eric Anslyn, PhD, Ellington is working to establish training experiences for undergraduate and graduate chemistry and biochemistry majors, aimed at creating the next generation of scientist-leaders and/or scientist-entrepreneurs. He advocates for experiential and entrepreneurial education, especially the development of point-of-care diagnostics, where student-led approaches can result in new ways of monitoring for Zika virus and other pathogens, especially in resource-poor settings.
Irving R. Epstein, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Brandeis University
Irving Epstein’s research focuses on the study of pattern formation in space and time – e.g., oscillations, waves, and chaos – in chemically reacting systems. This research could provide insight into phenomena such as morphogenesis, nerve impulse propagation, dynamical diseases, and the origin of life. Epstein founded the STEM Posse, a cohort-based program that identifies, recruits, and mentors students from disadvantaged backgrounds. He recently received an HHMI Inclusive Excellence award to explore larger-scale student cohort models as well as faculty cohort structures aimed at creating a more inclusive environment.
Robert Full, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of California, Berkeley
Robert Full’s research interests include comparative physiology and biomechanics. He and his team quantify whole animal performance and address its mechanistic bases, with a focus on locomotor performance. Full seeks to expand the STEM workforce and established the i4’s Toward Tomorrow Program to provide undergraduates with an early, inspirational, and interdisciplinary experience fostering inclusive excellence. His program inspires students toward involvement, imagination, invention, and innovation (i4) by establishing culturally sustaining connections and removing artificial disciplinary boundaries within STEM fields to include designers, social scientists, and entrepreneurs collaborating in diverse teams.
Marla Geha, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present Yale University
Marla Geha uses the world’s largest telescopes to study the universe’s smallest galaxies. She uses her research into these small galaxies to understand the nature of dark matter and the underlying cosmology of the universe. Geha is working to increase recruitment and retention of U.S. enlisted military veterans into undergraduate science majors through the Warrior-Scholar Project. The Warrior-Scholar Project runs weeklong college-preparatory “bootcamps” on university campuses aimed at giving enlisted veterans the skills and confidence needed to succeed in college.
Hilary A. Godwin, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of Washington
Hilary Godwin’s research focuses primarily on elucidating the molecular toxicology of engineered nanomaterials and the heavy metal lead. She has also worked on the impacts of conservation programs and policies on the health of indigenous populations and on community-based approaches to addressing environmental health problems. Godwin created a program at Northwestern University to recruit and retain students in the sciences, including underrepresented minorities, through a summer workshop, which targets entering freshmen who plan to enroll in general chemistry. In the workshop, students participate in collaborative research projects and build skills that will help them excel in general chemistry and subsequent science courses.
Bob Goldberg, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of California, Los Angeles
Bob Goldberg’s research focuses on how to make a seed. He is using a novel plant, the Scarlet Runner Bean, which has giant embryos, to identify the genes required to program seed development. To show undergraduates how research is carried out, Goldberg combined a unique, integrative lecture course – Genetic Engineering in Medicine, Agriculture, and Law – for non-science undergraduates that uses senior science majors as teaching assistants with a laboratory experience that uses state-of-the-art genomic technologies to uncover genes that are responsible for seed formation.
Susan S. Golden, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of California, San Diego
Susan Golden and her lab members ask how a circadian clock functions at the molecular level as a timekeeping mechanism, and how it is integrated at the cellular level to control gene expression and metabolism. She works with the only developed model organism for circadian rhythms in a prokaryote, the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus, and applies tools of genetics, genomics, biochemistry, and structural biology. Golden developed the BioClock Studio, a course that pairs undergraduate students with graduate and postdoctoral mentors to create publicly available educational videos, graphics, and electronic texts for circadian biology topics.
Mark Goldman, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of California, Davis
Animal behavior typically involves interactions among networks of large numbers of interconnected neurons, but experimental techniques in most systems are limited to the direct measurement of single or small numbers of neurons. Mark Goldman’s laboratory uses computational modeling to bridge the gap between single-neuron measurements and hypothesized network function to study various systems ranging from cellular and network dynamics to sensory coding to memory and plasticity. He developed a revised undergraduate program in the biological sciences that offers both a new interdisciplinary quantitative biology major and early training in experimental design, quantitative data analysis, and computational modeling.
Elizabeth Hadly, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present Stanford University
Elizabeth Hadly’s research is focused on finding out the ecological and evolutionary responses of vertebrates to environments of the Holocene. She and her lab members use various techniques, including phylochronology, phylogeography, population genetics, morphology, field monitoring, geographical information system mapping, and remote sensing data. To support undergraduates, especially underrepresented minorities in science, Hadly developed a program in which students have the opportunity to master the integration of essential skills that are usually excluded from STEM programs: field work, lab work, data analysis, project synthesis, publication, community outreach, science communication, and team-building inside and outside of an academic setting. The program immerses students and instructors in common, yet internationally diverse field station environments.
Jo Handelsman, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of Wisconsin
Jo Handelsman focuses on the genetic and functional diversity of microorganisms living in communities with particular emphasis on the role of small molecules such as antibiotics in microbial interactions. Handelsman has developed several education initiatives that focus on training faculty in use of scientific teaching methods in the classroom and in mentoring students in research. She created Tiny Earth, an initiative that unites her research and education interests in a research course focused on antibiotic discovery and includes a global network of approximately 10,000 undergraduates per year. Handelsman also developed a research course for freshmen that involves hunting for new antibiotics among soil bacteria, using the research activity as the foundation for motivating learning about fundamental biology.
Graham F. Hatfull, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of Pittsburgh
Graham Hatfull is interested in the molecular genetics of the mycobacteria and their bacteriophages. He and his lab members use techniques such as mutagenesis, transcriptomics, and ribosomal profiling to resolve the mysteries about gene function, regulation, and evolutionary mechanisms of these mycobacteriophages. His HHMI Phage Hunters Advancing Research and Education (PHIRE) program – now having national impact as the SEA-PHAGES program – uses bacteriophage discovery and genomics (phage-hunting) to engage undergraduate and high school students in authentic scientific research. This inspires young students with the thrills of scientific discovery and generates a large dataset of thousands of phages with sequenced genomes, revealing the extent of viral diversity and insights into their evolution.
Ronald R. Hoy, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Cornell University
Ronald Hoy’s research interests are broad, from developmental and cell biology to behavioral genetics, neuroscience, and evolutionary neurobiology, with a particular focus on communication behavior and sensory neurobiology. This is reflected in his work in acoustic communication. Hoy takes a model systems approach by studying communication acts in insects such as crickets and flies to investigate how the act of communication is controlled by simpler neural systems and how these systems develop and evolve. He designed four undergraduate courses in neuroscience and biomedical engineering for science and non-science majors in order to attract students to study biology and neurogenetics, develop educators, and provide authentic laboratory research experiences.
Christopher D. Impey, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of Arizona
Christopher Impey studies the evolution of distant galaxies as well as science literacy, instructional technology, and online pedagogy. Impey and his team use large telescopes in Arizona and Chile to investigate the supermassive black holes at the center of remote galaxies. He also aims to implement evidence-based instructional strategies and assessments in online classes such as massive open online classes (MOOCs). Impey’s development of “flipped” or “hybrid” course models is bridging the gap between formal university-based learning and informal lifelong learning.
Joseph M. Jez, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Washington University
Joseph Jez wants to understand how environmental changes re-model biochemical pathways in plants at the molecular, cellular, and organism levels with the aim of engineering these systems to address agricultural and environmental problems. Jez establishedthe Biotech Explorers Pathway – a new two-year academic program that builds connections between science, business, technology, and engineering at the start of undergraduate studies. The project highlights how discoveries lead to applications and engages curiosity through team-based inquiry. He also provides undergraduate teams experience in his lab through an upper-level protein chemistry lab course with the aim of easing the transition from mentee to mentor by reinforcing scientific knowledge, providing peer teaching experiences, and developing interpersonal skills.
Tracy L. Johnson, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of California, Los Angeles
Tracy Johnson’s research program is focused on understanding the mechanisms of gene regulation, particularly RNA processing and chromatin modification. She developed the University of California, Los Angeles/Howard Hughes Medical Institute Pathways to Success program, a comprehensive strategy to provide students with an authentic research experience early in their academic careers while creating a rigorous, but supportive learning community. Johnson’s program has three key components: a research-based laboratory course called The Collaborative Undergraduate Research Lab (CURL), a mentoring network that integrates peer and hierarchical mentoring called the Pathways Mentor Network, and intensive learning communities called Academic Achievement Workshops.
Darcy B. Kelley, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Columbia University
Darcy Kelley is interested in the neurobiology of voice – the complex acoustic cues used in vocal communication to convey sex, age, reproductive state, and social intent – and the genetic changes that underlie the evolution of vocal circuits. Kelley’s research focuses on the neurobiology of vocal communication using Xenopus laevis, the South African clawed frog, as an experimental model system she developed to investigate voice using molecular, cellular, developmental, and systems neuroscience approaches. She co-founded Frontiers of Science, an innovative core science course for first-year students, which includes an African field research component, to foster experimental design and big data skills.
Jane Kondev, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Brandeis University
Jane Kondev’s research in the physical biology of the cell focuses on three distinct areas: regulation of gene expression, structure of chromosomes and their function, and dynamics of the cytoskeleton. He employs a combination of theory and experimentation on single molecules and single cells. Kondev established the Quantitative Biology Research Community (QBReC) that consists of undergraduate researchers who, while majoring in different fields of science, conduct collaborative research on specific biological problems and function as a single interdisciplinary research group. The QBReC program includes a freshman year lab and lecture course, which introduces students to science in an integrated fashion, combining physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, and collaborative research and mentorship opportunities.
Leslie A. Leinwand, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of Colorado
Leslie Leinwand’s research focuses on how cardiac and skeletal muscle adapt to stimuli, particularly the pathways involved in heart enlargement in response to exercise and disease.Her goal is to translate her lab’s research findings – from the fundamental understanding of the myosin motors and how mutations in them cause disease to the investigation of sex differences in cardiac physiology – to improve human health and disease. Using the issue of human health and disease to connect the concepts of bench research and medicine, Leinwand developed an interdisciplinary science course and a laboratory research program for undergraduates, a mentor training program, a lecture series open to the public, and workshops for high school teachers.
Mary E. Lidstrom, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of Washington
Mary Lidstrom’s research is focused on molecular and metabolic manipulations of bacteria that grow on one-carbon compounds. She is especially interested in research of both laboratory cultures and environmental communities of these bacteria, with applications to greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable energy. Lidstrom created a program to integrate inquiry-based life sciences into the engineering curriculum, including expanding the class Biological Frameworks for Engineers and recruiting students for research at the life sciences/engineering boundary.
Richard M. Losick, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Harvard University
Richard Losick studies gene control in bacteria, including RNA polymerase, gene transcription and its control, and development in microorganisms, with a special interest in the developmental process of spore formation in the soil bacterium B. subtilis. Losick created two programs, Increasing Diversity and Education Access to Sciences (IDEAS) and Life Sciences 100, for hands-on learning and increasing diversity in science by engaging students from disadvantaged backgrounds in long-term research projects. He teaches an interdisciplinary course integrating molecular and cellular biology with chemistry for freshmen entering the life sciences and hopes to encourage colleagues at other colleges to teach similar courses with the help of an open-access eBook that he co-created.
Yi Lu, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign
The overall goal of this project is to increase recruitment and retention of undergraduate students in science career pipelines by developing a novel education model called iScience, and implementing the best iScience practices in undergraduate course instructions. The aim is to improve undergraduate students’ understanding of science concepts and methodologies, and their ability to carry out scientific research by using students’ interests as the starting points to guide the content of the course.
David G. Lynn, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Emory University
David Lynn has contributed to systems chemistry, molecular recognition, synthetic biology, and chemical evolution. He has developed chemical and physical methods for analyzing supramolecular self-assemblies, signal transduction in cellular development and pathogenesis, and designing molecular skeletons for storing and reading information for the evolution of biological order. To combat the increasing divide between graduate and undergraduate educational structures and the growing polarization in public opinion on scientific theory and the use of primary evidence, Lynn established a freshman seminar, called On Recent Discoveries by Emory Researchers (ORDER), which engages near-peer mentors and recent Emory University discoveries to expose first-semester freshmen to the diverse programs available in a research university.
Susan K. McConnell, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Stanford University
The goal of Susan McConnell’s research is to understand how neurons in the developing cerebral cortex are produced, assigned specific phenotypes, and wired together into functional circuits. In order to strengthen undergraduate biology students’ communications skills, McConnell created two programs focused on engaging biology students in written and artistic forms of expression. In one, students either learn to write for a scientific audience about their laboratory research or for a broad public audience about a biology topic of personal interest.In the second program, students produce personalized creative projects, in an artistic form, centered on an aspect of the life sciences that affected their education.
Margaret McFall-Ngai, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Margaret McFall-Ngai, a pioneer in symbiosis research for almost 30 years, has developed the squid-vibrio model as the first genetically tractable, natural animal-microbe association. Leveraging this leadership, she hopes to transform biology education by developing a new curriculum that incorporates an evolved view of the biosphere and promotes the integration of microbiology and macrobiology into a single, comprehensive “systems biology.” As a result of technology-enabled, low-cost, and high-throughput DNA sequencing, biologists now know that all life forms exist as nested ecosystems, and that interactions with microbes are integral drivers of health and homeostasis in the biological world.
Anne J. McNeil, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of Michigan
Anne McNeil and her research team focus on efforts toward synthesizing materials with precise control over macromolecular structure and investigating the complex relationship between macromolecular structure, solid-state organization, and bulk properties. Because early engagement in research is a key factor in retaining students in the STEM disciplines, McNeil aims to transform the way students are recruited, educated, and retained in chemistry, biochemistry, and biomolecular sciences by providing Research Experiences in Authentic Laboratories (REAL) for entering freshman, community college, and high school students.
Jeffrey S. Moore, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign
Jeffrey Moore’s research, motivated by the technological need for safer materials that last longer, integrates ideas from physical organic chemistry and engineering with molecular design and polymer synthesis to construct new functional materials. Dedicated to the development of next-generation scientists and educators, Moore has also recently combined his passion for teaching with his expertise in the lab to study and change the way students learn in the classroom. He is developing a sequence of chemistry courses for pre-health students as a pathway to biochemistry that builds a strong foundation of molecular understanding and scientific reasoning skills and promotes curiosity-driven learning.
Andrew Murray, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Harvard University
Andrew Murray and his lab members use genetic and physiological perturbations, synthetic biology, and collaborations with theorists to try to understand how cells reproduce, respond to their environment, and evolve. His group works on experimental evolution using the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In education, he is interested in breaking interdisciplinary barriers without sacrificing discipline. Murray’s Integrated Science curriculum introduces motivated freshmen to the concepts and methods needed to attack the life sciences in the 21st century. For both semesters, students take the equivalent of two courses, meeting for formal instruction every day, performing hands-on, original research, and using modern computer methods to simulate scenarios and analyze data.
Claudia M. Neuhauser, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of Houston
Claudia Neuhaser is interested in how mathematical models can shed light on the complex behavior of biological systems and wants to engage more undergraduate students in the life sciences with quantitative training. Neuhauser’s research focuses on various spatial stochastic models with the goal of characterizing the behavior of interacting agents, especially desirable behavior such as viruses eliminating cancer cells. Neuhauser is the author of the textbook Calculus for Biology and Medicine, currently in its fourth edition, and develops materials for students and faculty to increase the level of quantitative proficiency for undergraduate biology majors.
Diane K. O'Dowd, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of California, Irvine
Diane O’Dowd is interested in the cellular mechanisms underlying human epilepsy. O’Dowd and her lab members study epilepsy-causing mutations in genetic models in knock-in flies, mice, and induced human pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Cellular changes conserved in the different models provide important insight into patient-specific mechanisms underlying genetic epilepsy. To support faculty and engage undergraduates in science, she develops strategies that allow faculty to build and maintain successful research programs while creating dynamic learning environments in large introductory biology classes.
Baldomero M. Olivera, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of Utah
Baldomero Olivera initiated the characterization of predatory cone snail venoms. His research focuses on the individual molecular components present in cone snail venoms, which are mostly relatively small, highly structured peptides (“conopeptides as conotoxins”). Olivera’s Chemistry to Biodiversity project engages elementary school students in hands-on experimental science that encourages them to explore local biodiversity and cultural traditions through a module called From Chemistry to Biodiversity and provides students with undergraduate mentors. He is adapting the module to be used in diverse educational settings in the U.S. and the Philippines.
Aydogan Ozcan, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present University of California, Los Angeles
Aydogan Ozcan wants to create cost effective and compact solutions to global health challenges while promoting academic diversity in STEM-related fields. Ozcan and his team develop integrated self-learning systems and networks to improve and simplify computational biophotonics, imaging, sensing, and diagnostics technologies for biomedical use. As part of his interdisciplinary undergraduate research and training program, students with highly diverse backgrounds participate in a unique yearlong program, which promotes and facilitates the innovation, design, and translation of technologies for telemedicine and global health applications.
Pavel A. Pevzner, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of California, San Diego
Pavel Pevzner’s research focuses on combinatorial algorithms in computational molecular biology. In order to introduce biologists to computational foundations of modern bioinformatics, he developed three programs: an introductory bioinformatics course for all biology students; a research course in bioinformatics in which undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty collaborate on the same research project; and a residential summer program for gifted high school students. Pevzner co-authored the textbook Bioinformatics Algorithms: an Active Learning Approach and an online Bioinformatics specialization on Coursera.
Rebecca Richards-Kortum, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Rice University
Rebecca Richards-Kortum’s research and teaching focus on developing low-cost, high-performance technology for low-resource settings. Her group is developing miniature imaging systems to improve early detection of oral, esophageal, and cervical cancer and their precursors and has integrated advancements in nanotechnology and microfabrication to develop low-cost sensors for infectious diseases at the point-of-care. Richards-Kortum also founded the Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB) program, in which undergraduate students from multiple backgrounds learn to think beyond geographic and disciplinary boundaries to solve challenges in global health.
Jasper Rine, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of California, Berkeley
Jasper Rine’s current research interests include the epigenetic inheritance of transcriptional states in Saccharomyces, cofactor remedial genetic variation in humans, and the genetic basis of some common birth defects. Rine developed a new approach to teaching introductory biology lab classes that makes the experience more similar to a true research experience, demands the use of mathematical tools for analysis of large data sets, and better integrates biology with the principles that the students are leaning from their chemistry and physical studies.
Robert L. Sah, MD, ScDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of California, San Diego
Robert Sah’s research focuses on the biomechanical function and failure of articular cartilage in joints and on the development of biological restoration therapies. In addition to his research, he developed a collaborative research program in which undergraduates work with graduate students, medical students, postdoctoral fellows, and academic and industry researchers to study, fabricate, and test cartilage and biological joints. Sah worked to create new courses and instructional materials in regenerative medicine for undergraduates, including instructional models and research opportunities with practical laboratory tools for tissue engineering. He is also increasing the awareness of joint bioengineering in the community by engaging K–12 students and teachers through field trips, hands-on bench experiences, and summer courses or internships for high school students.
Alanna Schepartz, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present University of California, Berkeley
Alanna Schepartz’s research reflects broad interests within chemical biology. She seeks to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms that control interactions between proteins, the trafficking of peptide mimetics, and the process of compartmentalization in living cells.
Schepartz is also providing undergraduates with early, hands-on exposure to chemical biology through a pair of year-long courses – Chemical Biology and Chemical Biology Laboratory – that begin in the second semester of the sophomore year. The lecture course provides a sophisticated survey of the field, with case studies and articles from primary literature, while the laboratory course is open-ended and research-driven. An essential component of both is contact between undergraduates and graduate student mentors.
Beth Shapiro, DPhilHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of California, Santa Cruz
Beth Shapiro and her team are improving the technical efficiency of DNA extraction from poorly preserved organismal remains to link ancient genotypes to ancient phenotypes through the analysis of paleogenomic data. In collaboration with Robert Wayne, PhD, Shapiro co-created a program called Environmental DNA for Science Investigation and Education (eSIE), which gets a broad undergraduate constituency involved in field sampling environmental DNA by leveraging social media, smart phone apps, field trips, and short educational videos. The program also includes a multidisciplinary curriculum, authentic research experiences, and career guidance with the aim of improving scientific literacy and recruiting diverse students.
Keivan Stassun, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present Vanderbilt University
Stassun and his research team are making the most precise measurements to date for millions of stars in order to propel the discovery of “Earth 2.0.” He believes that innovation is fueled by diversity and aims to set the example for inclusive excellence in all its dimensions, including gender, race, ethnicity, and neurodiversity, through local- and national-scale efforts. Stassun established a model undergraduate program for early and sustained research immersion and mentoring support to increase the retention of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in physical sciences majors.
Tim Stearns, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present The Rockefeller University
Tim Stearns’s research focuses on cell biology, particularly the microtubule cytoskeleton, a dynamic network of filaments and associated motors and organizing factors found in all eukaryotic cells. He created a new education program, the Pre-Grad Program, to train undergraduates to be the next generation of leaders in biological research. Stearns’s program provides students with the chance to do real research with current technology and participate in elements of experimental design, all through close interaction with faculty members in course work, research, and advising. Central features of the program include a project lab course designed especially for students with an interest in pursuing research and the opportunity to attend a national science meeting.
Scott A. Strobel, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Yale University
Scott Strobel’s group explores gene regulation through RNA elements responsive to small molecules called riboswitches. His group does both structural and biochemical analysis of these RNAs and the gene control networks that they control, which has led to discoveries in fluoride biology, second messenger signaling, the origins of biological catalysis, and the evolutionary landscapes of molecular fitness. Strobel has promoted intellectual curiosity and project ownership in undergraduate education by leading students into the South American rainforests in search of microbial biodiversity in his Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory course.
Graham C. Walker, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Graham Walker and his lab members conduct research on mechanisms cells use to tolerate DNA damage and the symbiosis between legumes and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia. His HHMI Education Group, in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty and MIT’s Office of Educational Innovation and Technology software developers, developed a suite of internationally used, freely available educational software called Software Tools for Academics and Researchers (STAR). The suite includes biology software tools such as StarBiochem, a three-dimensional protein viewer that enables students to learn key concepts in structural biology in an interactive manner, StarGenetics, a genetics experiment simulator, and StarCellBio, a new cell and molecular biology experiment simulator.
David R. Walt, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Harvard Medical School
David Walt pioneered the use of microwell arrays for single-molecule detection and analysis. Walt’s research applies his ultrasensitive single-molecule array technology to pressing diagnostics problems, including cancer, infectious disease, and neurological disorders. He and his lab members are investigating single-molecule enzymology to provide insight into enzyme mechanisms. Walt brings inquiry-based genomics and bioinformatics experiments to high school and college students. These experiments engage students through peer mentors using hands-on genetics protocols followed by data processing and analysis.
Isiah M. Warner, PhDHHMI Professor / 2002–Present Louisiana State University
Isiah Warner is an analytical/materials chemist with research in fluorescence spectroscopy, organized media, and ionic liquid chemistry, particularly as applied to solid phase materials. His educational philosophy emphasizes mentoring and focuses on the premise that students can learn science if they function at higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Warner has created a “hierarchical mentoring” model that fuses research, education, and mentoring to give undergraduates an opportunity for advancement in STEM disciplines.
Susan R. Wessler, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of California, Riverside
Susan Wessler’s research concerns the interaction between transposable elements and plant genes. She and her lab members have pioneered the use of genome-wide approaches (both bioinformatic and wet bench) in transposable element discovery and analysis. To address the concerns of the large population of first-generation students who are often unaware of the rigor demanded by STEM professions, Wessler developed the student-centered Dynamic Genome (DG) course. The hands-on bioinformatics/wet lab course, taught in the state-of the-art Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory, teaches undergraduates to navigate computational and experimental methodologies applied to transposable elements in plant genomes through authentic research experiences and an introduction to bioinformatics and experimental tools.
Jennifer L. West, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present University of Virginia
Jennifer West’s research focuses on the design of novel synthetic biomaterials that function within the body or biological systems. Much of her research is within the realm of bionanotechnology, using nanomaterials for diagnostic or therapeutic applications. West developed four programs to encourage students to be successful members of interdisciplinary biomedical research teams, including: a summer academy for high school students to encourage participation in science; freshman seminars in bionanotechnology; a biology course for physical scientists and engineers; and a summer internship program for engineers and physicists involving intensive training in cellular and molecular biology as well as participation in bionanotechnology research.
Carl Wieman, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present Stanford University
Carl Wieman is a physicist whose current research focuses on the investigation of expert thinking in science, particularly physics, and how this can be effectively taught and assessed. His group primarily focuses on the use of Physics Education Technology (PhET) simulations used in K-16 classrooms, identifying student inquiry skills, teaching and learning in instructional physics labs, and evaluating learning in undergraduate research experiences. The goal of Wieman’s research is to provide a framework for answering how prepared students at various levels and in different disciplines are able to transfer knowledge into new scientific disciplines and use newly learned information.
Huntington F. Willard, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Geisinger
Major areas of Huntington Willard’s research include genetic and genomic studies of X chromosome inactivation, functional genomics of human and other mammalian centromeres, creation of human artificial chromosomes as a tool for genome exploration, and the epigenetic basis of gene silencing. He developed a four-year research program that provides undergraduates interested in a research career with a coherent research experience in the genome sciences. The program consists of a series of interdisciplinary courses that combine genomics and its implications for science and society, laboratory research experiences, a literature-based course, and a course in scientific writing.
Muhammad H. Zaman, PhDHHMI Professor / 2014–Present Boston University
Muhammad Zaman’s research is focused at the interface of cell biology, mechanics, systems biology, and medicine – specifically in understanding and decoupling the integrated chemical, biological, and mechanical basis of tumor invasion that precedes metastasis. He also aims to develop technologies and solutions to improve the quality and practice of medicine in the developing world. To further this goal, Zaman created a biomedical engineering educational program, Q-EPIC, that focuses on training engineers with a rigorous global focus and a deep understanding of challenges in emerging markets and resource limited settings. The program creates the opportunity for engineers to create solutions that are focused, targeted, and scalable, potentially having a transformative impact on healthcare in developed countries.
Richard N. Zare, PhDHHMI Professor / 2006–Present Stanford University
Richard N. Zare is a professor and scientist whose research area is in physical and analytical chemistry. Zare and his lab members focus on nanoscale chemical analysis with various interests ranging from elementary chemical reactions to chemical analysis of interplanetary dust particles. He teaches a laboratory course in the life sciences for undergraduates that examines light and photosynthesis in an interdisciplinary way and an undergraduate biochemistry course aimed at motivating students to pursue a research career.
Erika Zavaleta, PhDHHMI Professor / 2018–Present University of California, Santa Cruz
Erika Zavaleta studies cross-scale ecological responses to climate and biodiversity changes. Her teaching emphasizes inquiry-based, experiential learning. Zavaleta founded and directs the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, the goal of which is to diversify U.S. conservation. In 2018 she founded the Center to Advance Mentored, Inquiry-Based Opportunities (CAMINO) to expand inclusive undergraduate research experiences and inspire and prepare students for scientific careers. While most inquiry-based teaching emphasizes prescribed lab experiences, Zavaleta’s teaching emphasizes collaborative, field-based engagement in the start-to-finish process of scientific research – from generating the research question and study design to communicating findings.