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Grant aids undergrad science education

MIT has been awarded $2 million for undergraduate biology education from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), which awarded a total of $80 million to 44 research universities.

The grants will support programs that help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows hone their teaching skills. Other programs will bring emerging scientific disciplines such as genomics and computational biology into the undergraduate curriculum and encourage minorities to pursue careers in science.

"We're very excited about the opportunities that this new HHMI grant will provide for our undergraduate educational programs and are highly appreciative of the support that HHMI has provided," said Robert T. Sauer, professor of biology and department head.

The four-year grants range from $1.2 million to $2.2 million each. A panel of scientists and educators reviewed proposals from 189 institutions.
"Biology is progressing so rapidly and interfacing with so many other disciplines that undergraduate teaching runs the risk of substituting quantity for quality," said HHMI president Thomas R. Cech, a Nobel prize-winning biochemist. "Through these grants, [HHMI] is providing resources to help universities bring their undergraduate science teaching up to the level of their research programs."

The new grants support programs that bring undergraduate teaching and research closer together, as well as those that expose undergraduates to emerging fields in biology and to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the life sciences. They also aid efforts to attract minorities to science. The funding supports interdisciplinary laboratory courses in areas such as bioinformatics, proteomics and tissue engineering, as well as new faculty, laboratory equipment, curriculum development and student research opportunities.

This is the 10th round of HHMI grants to enhance undergraduate science education and the fifth competition targeting research universities. Since 1988, HHMI has awarded $556 million to 236 colleges and universities in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

HHMI's principal mission is biomedical research. It employs 336 HHMI investigators who conduct basic medical research in HHMI laboratories at 70 medical centers and universities nationwide.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 17, 2002.

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