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Howard Hughes Medical
Institute to fund science education, outreach programs
Life Sciences Editor
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. An
ongoing, multi-faceted science education and outreach program, which
benefits undergraduates as well as elementary through high school teachers
and students across Illinois, is among 44 proposals nationwide that
will receive funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Maryland-based HHMI announced today (Tuesday) that the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will receive $1.7 million over four years.
In all, $80 million in grants were awarded for 44 proposals that had
been submitted by 189 institutions.
"We are absolutely thrilled to receive another HHMI grant,"
said Susan Fahrbach, a professor of entomology and campus director of
the HHMI-funded programs. "I believe we were chosen because of
the strength of our existing programs. Without the infrastructure support
provided by HHMI, none of these programs would exist on our campus."
The new grant allows for the continuation of four HHMI-supported programs:
the Hughes Undergraduate Research Fellows (HURF); Prairie Flowers; the
Biotechnology Outreach Program known as BEOP; and the BOAST Academy.
The Illinois campus has received HHMI funding for these undergraduate
science education programs, in their present form, since 1993, Fahrbach
said. The programs are a joint activity of the School of Integrative
Biology and the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology. The programs
include a substantial outreach component, she added.
Since summer 1993, 402 undergraduates about two-thirds of them
from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have gone
through the nine-week HURF summer internship. This summer, 31 students
are participating. Participants live together in campus-approved housing,
attend weekly career workshops and work 40 hours a week in research
laboratories. Some students continue in the program during the subsequent
HURF participants may work in any campus unit, choosing their research
mentors through a guided matching process. HHMI funding covers stipends
and housing for the students. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
contributes tuition waivers, but individual faculty members contribute
research costs out of their own budgets. Hundreds of faculty members,
many on a repeating basis, from a variety of fields have participated.
"In the usual undergraduate science curricula, most students never
experience using the scientific method," said crop scientist Michael
Plewa, who mentors HURF students.
"Laboratory courses primarily
teach procedure. I want students to understand that science is a creative
process akin to the arts, music, poetry, writing, etc. I tell my students
that their palette is the question at hand, their canvas the laboratory
bench and their creativity is expressed by the elegance of the experimental
Prairie Flowers provides on-campus workshops, led by Illinois faculty,
to upper elementary and middle school teachers in Illinois. In 2001-2002,
a total of 340 teachers participated by attending the workshops or by
using specially designed Prairie Flowers science-teaching kits to help
them with hands-on teaching projects in their classrooms.
BEOP trains high school teachers in biotechnology issues and provides
lending kits that allow their students to do hands-on molecular biology
experiments. Program participants this past year developed a course
specifically for Chicagos public schools, and they designed biotechnology
lessons for use in grade schools. High school teachers also borrowed
BEOP-created science kits to teach more than 5,000 students.
The BOAST Academy is a science-enriched after-school program for academically
at-risk children at Champaign's Kenwood Elementary School. Last year,
27 students benefited. HHMI support allows for a low child-to-staff
ratio. The children also get to present posters of their work, alongside
the entries of HURF members, many of whom mentor the children, at a
special session where HHMI-supported work is displayed.
(EDITORS NOTE: This release complements
one by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
For a copy of the HHMI release, contact Jim
Barlow or Jennifer Donovan at HHMI, (301) 215-8859.