$1.3 Million Grant From Howard Hughes Medical Institute Expands Science Education

$1.3 Million Grant From Howard Hughes Medical Institute Expands Science Education
A $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will allow Cal Poly Pomona students to learn biology in new ways. The four-year grant will support a wide range of programs such as bioinformatics and computational biology.

Cal Poly Pomona students will learn biology in new ways thanks to a generous $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

HHMI is helping colleges meet the challenges in teaching science today. New fields that blur the lines between disciplines are emerging, and biologists, chemists, physicists and mathematicians are forging interdisciplinary collaborations. Scientists must be trained to be both outstanding researchers as well as teachers. More minorities must be encouraged to pursue scientific careers.

?Receiving this award is recognition of the outstanding work our faculty has done in enhancing the way students learn biology here at Cal Poly Pomona,? says Donald Straney, dean of the College of Science. ?With this grant, we will be able to give our students an even stronger, hands-on preparation for successful careers in the life sciences. And we will make connections with other universities that are also deeply committed to improving the quality of undergraduate education.?

The HHMI grant was the result of a collaborative effort involving an advisory committee of 19 members drawn from the Biological Sciences, Chemistry and Physics departments as well as CEEMaST. Members of these groups met to discuss the project?s possibilities beginning in May 2003 and continued to meet regularly throughout the summer to solidify their ideas into a comprehensive proposal that was submitted in October 2003. Their hard work paid off when HHMI announced Cal Poly Pomona?s $1.3 million grant on May 18.

?With this funding from HHMI, students and faculty will be brought together in a collective effort of learning through inquiry, assisting us to achieve our vision as a learning-centered university,? says Tina Hartney, associate professor of Biology.

Cal Poly Pomona?s four-year grant will support a wide range of programs to improve undergraduate science, from new courses in hot fields such as bioinformatics and computational biology to research-apprenticeship programs that increase opportunities for students to conduct original research. The university will also work with teachers of underrepresented and disadvantaged students from low-performing schools to enhance science education and teacher preparation through week-long workshops and training programs.

Undergraduate biology is not well-funded nationally, noted 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.?

Cal Poly Pomona was among 198 public and private baccalaureate and master?s institutions invited by HHMI to compete for the new awards. The invited institutions 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 HHMI?s Board of Trustees on May 4.