David Lynn, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry and Biology,
has been selected as one of 20 inaugural Howard Hughes Medical Institute
(HHMI) professors who will receive $1 million over the next four
years to bring scientific research into undergraduate classrooms.
The grants are believed to be the largest of their kind, according
to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
As an HHMI professor, Lynn plans to establish a new training program
for undergraduate science students. Research-intensive universities
such as Emory have the means and the responsibility to link their
dual research and education missions, he said.
“Mentoring of independent undergraduate research has proven
to be the single most important and influential educational experience
in encouraging students to pursue careers in science,” Lynn
said. “Our principal, long-range goal is to build a collaborative
science curriculum, characterized by integration of faculty research
into education, and the linkage of content, theory and practice
“Science is an enterprise based on experience and experiment;
it is not just a body of facts but a way of questioning the world
around us so that it gives back answers in which we can have confidence,”
said Emory College interim Dean Bobby Paul. “With proper guidance
from more senior scientists, undergraduates can participate in this
exciting and open-ended enterprise right from the start, and indeed
it is the best way for them to develop real engagement with the
process of scientific investigation. David Lynn’s leadership
as both a researcher and as an educator is a great asset to Emory
College students, and it now will be even more effective thanks
to this well-deserved HHMI award.”
A key component of Lynn’s plans is to use graduate students
as peer role models for undergraduates and create opportunities
for graduate students to demonstrate the excitement and opportunities
available in science careers, Lynn added. A research competition
is planned for graduate students that will allow undergraduates
to learn more about the diverse avenues research has to offer.
The grant money also will be used to support and expand ongoing
programs such as the Summer Undergrad-uate Research Experience,
which brings sophomores and juniors to Emory for a summer-long research
program. Undergraduate lab visitations and research opportunities
during the school year also will be expanded.
“Emory University is a great place to do science,” Lynn
said. “Research and teaching are seamlessly unified, and it
is possible to freely experiment, adjust and evolve new learning
Lynn’s own research involves analyzing the self-assembly of
biological organisms. “The complex structures of biology seem
remarkably, almost magically, to self-assemble,” he said.
“We hope to understand the structures and forces that enable
supramolecular self-assembly—that is, how chemical information
can be stored and translated into new molecular entities.
“Such research can play a role in new drug design and genetic
engineering, and can provide a better understanding of the origins
of living systems,” Lynn added.
HHMI invited 84 research universities to nominate faculty members
for the professorships. A panel of scientists and educators reviewed
150 proposals and eventually selected 20 HHMI professors at 19 universities
in 13 states.
“Research is advancing at a breathtaking pace, but many university
students are still learning science the same old way—by listening
to lectures, memorizing facts and doing cookbook lab experiments
that thousands have done before,” said HHMI President Thomas
Cech. “We want to empower scientists at research universities
to become more involved in breaking the mold and bringing the excitement
of research to science education.”