New HHMI program challenges research scientists to 'break the mold' in undergraduate science education

CHEVY CHASE, Md. - The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has issued a challenge to science professors across the United States: Show the same ingenuity in your undergraduate teaching that you do in your scientific research.

HHMI announced that it plans to award $1 million each to 20 research scientists on the basis of their plans to transmit the excitement and values of scientific research to undergraduate education. Those selected will become "HHMI Professors" and receive 4-year grants of $250,000 annually to apply their creativity and enthusiasm to undergraduate teaching. HHMI has invited 84 research universities to nominate tenured faculty members to compete for the grants, which it will award in the fall of 2002. Institute President Thomas R. Cech explained why HHMI has issued the challenge. "Research is advancing at a breathtaking pace, but many college students are still learning science the same old way, by listening to lectures in large classes and memorizing facts from textbooks," he said. "We wish to empower scientists at research universities to become more involved and come up with really innovative ideas that 'break the mold' and take a fresh look at science education."

HHMI has kept the guidelines for the new awards flexible, to encourage applicants to be as creative as possible. The nominated scientists might propose, for instance, to teach freshman science courses in a laboratory setting, use the Internet to create new learning materials, establish interdisciplinary research teams that include undergraduates, mentor postdoctoral fellows in how to teach undergraduates effectively-or something else entirely.

"HHMI seeks to develop a cadre of scientist-educators who will become leaders in undergraduate teaching as well as research," Cech explained. "The HHMI Professors and their teaching strategies will serve as models for fundamental change both on their own campuses and elsewhere, helping to support and encourage research

Contact: Jennifer Donovan
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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