Newswise — The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced today that 15 leading scientist-educators have been named HHMI professors. Each will receive $1 million over five years to create activities that integrate their research with student learning in ways that enhance undergraduate students’ understanding of science.
HHMI professors are accomplished research scientists who are making science more engaging for undergraduates. By providing HHMI professors with the funds and support to implement their ideas, HHMI hopes to empower these individuals to create new models for teaching science at research universities. The newly selected group – who represent 13 universities across the country -- will join the community of HHMI professors who are working together to change undergraduate science education in the United States.
“Exceptional teachers have a lasting impact on students,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “These scientists are at the top of their respective fields and they bring the same creativity and rigor to science education that they bring to their research.”
Much of the responsibility for sustaining excellence in science falls on the nation’s research universities, home to some of the world’s best scientists, and attended by some of the nation’s most talented students. The quality of universities depends on their faculty.
In an era of new business models for higher education, increasing pressures on research funding, new emphases on student enrollment and retention, and new technologies for delivering education, science faculty members are challenged to navigate a complex course. While the traditions of science often emphasize the singular accomplishments of an individual scientist, each faculty member is expected to excel simultaneously in multiple arenas, balancing the demands of research and teaching.
“Science faculty members who can successfully advance their research and teaching goals through creative integration of the two are both a valued asset to their departments and important models for their colleagues,” said Sean B. Carroll, vice president for science education at HHMI.
The 40 scientists (two are now deceased) who have been named HHMI professors since the program began in 2002 have introduced innovative approaches for teaching science in the classroom, expanded and enhanced student research opportunities, developed new educational resources, and implemented novel mentoring programs for student support.
Some examples of their impact include:
• University of California, Los Angeles, students in HHMI professor Utpal Banerjee’s functional genomics course have conducted original research on genes and development of the fruit fly, leading to publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals with more than 250 student authors.
• At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, HHMI investigator and HHMI professor Cathy Drennan developed a boot camp curriculum that teaches graduate student teaching assistants in the biology and chemistry departments how to build inclusive learning environments for students.
• Students who participated in HHMI professor Isiah Warner’s mentoring program at Louisiana State University show higher average GPAs and graduation rates than other LSU students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields—despite underperforming during their first-year science coursework.
• And the rapid-cycling, self-compatible Brassica plants developed by HHMI professor Richard Amasino at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are being used by high school students for genetic experiments that reveal how traits that affect plant development are inherited.
“Students benefit most when scientists draw on their own interests and expertise in their educational activities,” said David J. Asai, senior director in science education at HHMI. “And many of the HHMI professors have told us that their research programs have benefited from their educational efforts.” To support that synergy, the new professors can apply up to 25 percent of their HHMI funding to support research activities in the context of student learning.
In the 2014 HHMI Professors Competition, which was announced in April 2013, HHMI stated it was seeking scientists who think broadly and creatively about important challenges in science education. Natural science professors at the 106 research universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as having “very high research activity” were invited to apply.
In response to the competition announcement, 173 scientists submitted proposals to HHMI. A panel of distinguished scientists and educators reviewed the proposals, and finalists presented their proposed activities at a symposium at HHMI in May 2014.
Ariel D. Anbar Arizona State University
Brian R. Crane Cornell University
Susan S. Golden University of California, San Diego
Mark Goldman University of California, Davis
Christopher D. Impey University of Arizona
Joseph M. Jez Washington University in St. Louis
Tracy L. Johnson University of California, Los Angeles
Jané Kondev Brandeis University
David R. Marchant Boston University
Susan K. McConnell Stanford University
Anne J. McNeil University of Michigan
Jeffrey S. Moore University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Andrew Murray Harvard University
Aydogan Ozcan University of California, Los Angeles
Muhammad H. Zaman Boston University
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays an influential role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the United States, have made important discoveries that advance our fundamental understanding of biology and its relation to human disease. In a complementary program at HHMI's Janelia Research Campus in Loudoun County, Virginia, leading scientists are pursuing long-term, high-risk, high-reward research in a campus designed to bring together researchers from disparate disciplines. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit www.hhmi.org.
The Institute’s endowment at the close of fiscal 2013 was about $16.9 billion. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.