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July 8, 2002

Emory gets $1.8M Hughes grant

By Beverly Clark

Emory is one of 44 research universities in the nation to receive a share of $80 million in grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) that will help address the challenges of a rapidly changing and increasingly complex interdisciplinary science field.

Emory received a four-year, $1.8 million grant that will be used to support ongoing undergraduate research, mentoring and education programs, and new program development. This is the fourth consecutive time since 1989 that Emory has received the HHMI grant, one of only a few universities to do so, according to HHMI.

The four-year grants to universities in 28 states and the District of Columbia range from $1.2 million to $2.2 million each. A panel of scientists and educators reviewed proposals from 189 institutions.

“Receiving this grant is critical to the continued development of our undergraduate science program,” said Pat Marsteller, director of Emory’s Center for Science Education and the Hughes Science Initiative. “With the help of these grants, we are achieving our goals to attract and retain more students in the biological and biomedical sciences, particularly underrepresented minorities and women. We also are better preparing them for careers in science through a research-rich curriculum and enhanced research opportunities.”

At Emory, the grant will be used to continue the development of new interdisciplinary courses, including courses or concentrations in bioinformatics, biotechnology, biostatistics, molecular modeling, biophysics and intelligent systems. The University also plans to develop an internship program for undergraduates, including an emphasis on science writing and teaching, and expand its professional development outreach to local high school teachers.

Nationwide, the new grants support programs that can become models for bringing undergraduate teaching and research closer together. The funds help expose undergraduates to emerging fields in biology and to the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the life sciences. The grants also support efforts to attract minorities to science and to encourage them to choose scientific careers.

“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 Cech, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist. “Through these grants, the institute is providing resources to help universities bring their undergraduate science teaching up to the level of their research programs.”

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