$1.4M HHMI Grant Will Benefit the Sciences at Wesleyan

Posted 05/01/08
Wesleyan is the recipient of a new $1.4 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The four-year grant will help Wesleyan fund and enhance its undergraduate science education.

The Wesleyan Hughes Program, directed by Professor of Biology Michael Weir, will support curricular development, student and faculty research, and outreach to local middle and high schools. Support of undergraduate summer research and introductory courses in the life sciences will be major components of the program.

“We wish to incorporate into our curriculum new ways of thinking from neighboring disciplines such as mathematics and computer science to add to and complement our current conceptual frameworks in the life sciences. Systems biology is a field of growing importance in the life sciences and one of our goals is to nurture quantitative and systems analytical approaches in our curriculum and research,” Weir says.

The Wesleyan Hughes Program also plans to continue and expand its exploration of bridges between dance choreography and scientific thinking both in the university curriculum and in outreach to middle and high schools as a way to inspire pre-college interest in science.

HHMI invited 224 colleges with a track record of preparing undergraduate students for research careers to submit proposals. The 2008 grant winners were selected through a stringent review process by distinguished scientists and educators that narrowed the 192 applicants down to 48 winners. A total of $60 million will be divided among the 48 undergraduate institutions. Wesleyan has received continuous funding from HHMI to support undergraduate education since 1988.

“This diverse pool of grant recipients and large number of first-time awardees shows that HHMI is committed to fund new ideas and new ways of approaching science education,” said Peter J. Bruns, HHMI’s vice president for grants and special programs. “We want to help create successful models for teaching science that can spread throughout the higher education community.”

HHMI is the nation’s largest private supporter of science education. It has invested more than $1.2 billion in grants to reinvigorate life science education at both research universities and liberal arts colleges and to engage the nation’s leading scientists in teaching.

One of the world’s largest philanthropies, HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization that employs hundreds of leading biomedical scientists working at the forefront of their fields. HHMI has an endowment of approximately $18.7 billion. Its headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

By Corrina Kerr, associate director of media relations