"The undergraduate science classroom can be an uninspiring, boring, even a hostile environment," Handelsman observes. "How can college and university professors motivate and engage students in science, especially freshmen and students from disadvantaged backgrounds? The excitement of scientific research and discovery is a powerful stimulant that can spark the fireworks of curiosity in even the most disinterested students."
On Sunday, February 20, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Handelsman, a plant pathologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Graham Hatfull, a University of Pittsburgh microbiologist, and 14 other HHMI professors describe the educational revolution they're leading at research universities across the country.
The revolution is taking many forms. For example:
Convinced that undergraduate science education needed transformation, as recommended in the National Research Council's report, Bio2010, HHMI named its first 20 HHMI professors in 2002, giving each one $1 million over four years and challenging them to do something innovative to make science more engaging for undergraduates. The HHMI professors are leading research scientists who also are deeply committed to improving science education. Their innovative approaches to teaching are infusing undergraduate science with the excitement and rigor of scientific research. The program is becoming a model for fundamental reform of the way undergraduate science is taught at research universities.
"An objective of the HHMI professors program was to develop a group of scientist-educators at research universities around the country who are leaders in research, who also excel in undergraduate teaching," said Peter J. Bruns, HHMI vice president for grants and special programs.
A competition for a new group of HHMI professors was just announced this month. Up to 20 research professors will be chosen after review by a panel of scientists and educators. Each will receive $1 million over four years to bring research and innovations in teaching into the undergraduate classroom. Current HHMI professors will be eligible to compete for renewal grants to continue the most successful elements of their programs, to develop institutional support for their educational innovations after HHMI support ends, and to disseminate their curriculum or materials to other universities. For more information on the new competition, see www.hhmi.org/news/021505.html.
Hatfull, a researcher who brings not only undergraduates, but high school students to work in his lab, believes that exposing students early to true scientific discovery will capture their attention and rev up their enthusiasm for science. Hatfull, Handelsman and others will chronicle their educational experiments as HHMI professors, as part of part of the AAAS topic track, Teaching and Learning in Science. Symposium Title: When is a Classroom Not a Classroom? Transformation in Undergraduate Education
When: 10:30 a.m.-noon, Sunday, February 20, 2005
Speakers: Ron Hoy, Cornell University
Darcy Kelley, Columbia University
David Lynn, Emory University
Graham Walker, MIT
Isiah Warner, Louisiana State University
Jo Handelsman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Symposium Title: Rising to the Challenge: Scientific Educators and Educator Scientists
When: 1:45-4:45 p.m., Sunday, February 20, 2005
Speakers: Peter Felten, Vanderbilt University (for Ellen Fanning)
Sarah Elgin, Washington University in St. Louis
Graham Hatfull, University of Pittsburgh
Rebecca Richards-Kortum, University of Texas, Austin Utpal Banerjee, University of California, Los Angeles
Hilary Godwin, Northwestern University
Bob Goldberg, University of California, Los Angeles
Manny Ares, University of California, Santa Cruz
Yi Lu, University of Illinois
Richard M. Losick, Harvard University
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute was established in 1953 by the aviator-industrialist. HHMI's principal mission is conducting basic biomedical research, which it carries out in collaboration with universities, medical centers and other research institutions throughout the United States. Its more than 300 investigators, along with a scientific staff of more than 3,000, work at these institutions in Hughes laboratories. The Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus, now under construction in Loudoun County, Virginia, will be a unique biomedical research complex where resident and visiting scientists can collaborate on cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary projects. HHMI has a philanthropic grants program that is strengthening science education and training, from elementary school through graduate and medical school. It also supports the work of biomedical researchers in many countries around the globe.
HHMI is one of the largest philanthropies in the world, with an endowment of more than $13 billion. Its headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.