Hughes Medical Institute awards $1.3 million grant for science education

Bates College has received a $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the nation’s largest private supporter of science education from elementary school through postdoctoral studies.

The HHMI grant will support a broad range of activities, including summer fellowships for students conducting science research with Bates faculty; students conducting applied science outreach projects such as water-quality work for municipalities; the development of new science courses and teaching laboratories; and curriculum development projects between Bates students and local K–12 science teachers.

The grant will also fund science education initiatives aimed at encouraging more Bates math and science students to consider careers in K–12 teaching. Two colloquia for Bates faculty and Maine K–12 teachers on precollege science education and the Maine Learning Results are being planned, and new Bates courses on the methodology of teaching science will be developed.

“I am particularly excited about the portion of the award earmarked for the development, in collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Education, of programs that will encourage our students to become involved in secondary level teaching,” said T. Glen Lawson, a biochemist, associate professor of chemistry at Bates and a member of the HHMI grant planning committee.

“This support will provide Bates with a tremendous opportunity to become actively involved in meeting one of the most serious and widely spread challenges currently faced by our education system, a shortage of adequately prepared high school and middle school science teachers.”

Bates’ global information system and lab instrumentation for courses in the life sciences will be upgraded, and weather stations will be installed on the Bates campus and at the 574-acre Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area, in Phippsburg. The Bates Science Education Outreach Grant program, supported by the recent HHMI grant, will continue to fund science education improvements in underresourced K–12 schools in Maine.

“The colleges and universities receiving these grants contribute greatly to the education of both scientists and nonscientists,” said HHMI President Thomas R. Cech. “These grants will help them do what they do best: provide undergraduate research opportunities and build bridges between the sciences and the humanities. I expect that these programs will serve as models for other undergraduate institutions.”

The Bates grant is among $50.3 million that HHMI recently awarded to 53 colleges and universities to support science education programs. HHMI invited 224 U.S. colleges and universities to submit grant proposals. The recent $1.3 million grant, among the largest HHMI awarded this year, is the fourth grant that Bates has received from HHMI in the past decade.

HHMI’s grants program supports science education in the United States and a select group of researchers in other countries, complementing its principal mission: research in cell biology, computational biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience and structural biology with its own scientific teams. About 350 investigators are employed in HHMI laboratories at 72 academic medical centers and research institutions across the United States. Altogether, the Institute has awarded more than $850 million in grants, primarily to enhance science education from preschool through postdoctoral studies.

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