For the second consecutive Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) undergraduate science grant cycle, Haverford College has received the maximum four-year award to improve undergraduate science. In 2000, the College received $1.7 million, and this time, $1.6 million. Haverford now has received HHMI funding in some form for more than 15 years.
“Haverford’s continued success with HHMI is a testimony to the collaboration of our highly successful and interdisciplinary-minded faculty,” says Tom Tritton, president. “The faculty are dedicated to collaborative learning, to preparing the scientific leaders of the next generation.”
Karin Åkerfeldt, associate professor of chemistry, is Haverford’s HHMI program director. “Haverford’s approach to the natural sciences is integrated and collaborative,” she says. “This grant will support a variety of programs within our new state-of-the-art facility, the Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center.”
Haverford’s grant proposal process began last June, when John Mosteller, director of foundations and corporate relations; Kate Heston, HHMI program administrator and instructor in biology; and Julio de Paula, professor of chemistry and director of the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center began coordinating ideas and structure for the proposal and commenced with the actual writing of the document. The proposal was submitted to HHMI in October 2003. As director of the HHMI program, Åkerfeldt, along with program administrator Heston and a faculty committee, is charged with implementing the initiatives described in the proposal.
Colleges face a number of challenges in teaching science today. The separation between fields is blurring and biologists, chemists, physicists, psychologists, and mathematicians are increasingly engaging in interdisciplinary collaborations. Scientists need to be more broadly trained. Considerable efforts are also being made at increasing the diversity of science and ways must be found to encourage less-represented groups to pursue a scientific career.
To help colleges meet these challenges, the HHMI is awarding $49.7 million in grants to 42 baccalaureate and master’s degree institutions in 17 states and Puerto Rico. This brings HHMI’s investment in undergraduate science to more than $606 million.
The four-year grants, ranging from $500,000 to $1.6 million, support a variety of programs to improve undergraduate science, from new courses in hot fields such as bioinformatics and computational biology, to fellowships for postdoctoral researchers that include teaching experiences and ways to bring science opportunities to disadvantaged and minority students.
Although the major research is conducted at universities and medical schools, HHMI also recognizes the importance of colleges because they also play a vital role in education. According to Peter Bruns, vice president for grants and special programs at HHMI, “Good science can be done in different settings, in colleges as well as universities. Colleges are a better learning environment for some students, and they serve underrepresented minorities extremely well.”
Undergraduate biology is not well-funded nationally, notes Stephen Barkanic, director of HHMI’s undergraduate science education program. “Public and private funders tend to focus their support on research programs, infrastructure, and graduate training, but undergraduate biology tends to be neglected. Smaller colleges and universities, in particular, often are overlooked in the intensive competition for grant dollars.”
The new grants encourage collaboration among recipients. Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges in Minnesota, for example, are collaborating with Michigan’s Hope College to create faculty teams from biology, the physical sciences, and mathematics who will work together on research and develop interdisciplinary courses and labs.
The grants also support training in teaching for postdoctoral fellows in science. City University of New York Queens College, Occidental College in Los Angeles, and North Carolina’s Davidson College, for example, will establish postdoctoral fellowships that provide training and experience in teaching as a component of a strong research program.
Several of the new grants address the ongoing under representation of some minorities in the sciences. Bryn Mawr and Haverford will bring their strengths in science to a partnership with Philadelphia area schools. Undergraduates and faculty from both colleges will mentor middle- and high-school students, providing laboratory experiences and writing workshops. The colleges also will offer summer workshops for Philadelphia-area teachers.
In the lower Rio Grande Valley, where the population is 88 percent Hispanic and the unemployment rate is triple the national average, the University of Texas-Pan American will equip a mobile teaching laboratory staffed with scientist-educators to bring contemporary biology to students and teachers throughout the region. And Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, a historically black institution, will develop after-school and summer science and technology programs to attract the mostly African-American students of the Leon County South Side Schools.
HHMI invited 198 public and private baccalaureate and master’s institutions to compete for the new awards. They were selected for their record of preparing students for graduate education and careers in research, teaching, or medicine. A panel of distinguished scientists and educators reviewed proposals and recommended the 42 awards approved by the Institute’s Board of Trustees on May 4.
$1.3 million Barnard College $1.5 million Bates College $1.2 million Bowdoin College $800,000 Bryn Mawr College $1.2 million California State Polytechnic University-Pomona $1.3 million Canisius College $800,000 Carleton College $800,000 City University of New York City College $1.3 million City University of New York Hunter College $800,000 City University of New York Queens College $800,000 College of Wooster $800,000 Davidson College $1.3 million Florida A & M University $1.2 million Grinnell College $1.4 million Harvey Mudd College $1.2 million Haverford College $1.6 million Hiram College $1.2 million Hope College
$1.5 million Humboldt State University $1.3 million Kalamazoo College $1.1 million Kenyon College $1.5 million Knox College $1 million Mount Holyoke College $1.2 million Occidental College $1.5 million Point Loma Nazarene College $800,000 Pomona College $1.3 million Saint Olaf College $1.4 million Smith College $1.3 million Spelman College $1.3 million Swarthmore College $1.5 million Trinity College $800,000 Trinity University $1 million Union College $1.6 million University of Louisiana at Monroe $1 million University of Puerto Rico Cayey University College $500,000 University of Richmond $900,000 University of Texas-Pan American $1.3 million Wellesley College $1.2 million Wesleyan University $1.3 million Williams College $1.6 million Xavier University of Louisiana $1.3 million