Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


September 30, 2002

David Lynn receives $1M grant

By Beverly Clark

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 across disciplines.”

“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 HHMI-sponsored
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 strategies.”

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.”