Howard Hughes Grant To Fund Science Education At Case Western Reserve University

September 21, 1998

Science education in the Cleveland area got a booster shot this week, as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced a $1.4 million grant to Case Western Reserve University over the next four years to revitalize science education.

CWRU is among 58 universities to share $91.1 million of the highly competitive grants. Some 191 universities applied for the funds to spark interest in the life sciences. This is the University's third grant from Howard Hughes; the first came in 1989.

The grant continues many programs initiated with prior grants. It will enhance science classrooms on and off campus with increased resources and opportunities for students and teachers.

"These awards have encouraged creative thinking by the CWRU faculty," said John Bassett, dean of CWRU's College of Arts and Sciences.

CWRU undergraduates will benefit from research opportunities, new equipment in laboratories, courses restructured for active learning and ethics, and a variety of tutoring and support services for science students.

Bassett added that the HHMI awards have made it possible to strengthen the College of Arts and Sciences commitment to outreach programs for middle and high schools. Area middle and high school teachers will have help for their classrooms with additional science workshops and an enhanced equipment lending resource center.

Charles Rozek and Norman Rushforth, professors of biology, are the HHMI program director and co-director, respectively.

"We appreciate the renewed support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for our undergraduate science education programs," said Rushforth, chair of the Department of Biology and project director for the prior grants.

Rozek said the focus of this HHMI grant will be to support increased opportunities for active learning experiences and to help integrate ethics into the science curriculum.

Several biology courses will be reorganized to incorporate team work with students experiencing leadership and supportive roles in lab situations, he added.

CWRU will use HHMI funds for 20 computers to equip a new 1,000 square-foot computer laboratory in the new Roger Clapp Hall, which is under construction as part of CWRU's $26 million reconfiguration of its chemistry and biology buildings into a new science center.

The computer lab will support interactive labs for many biology lecture and laboratory courses and introduce biology students at the earliest point to active learning, now found in upper-level classes.

The new science center also will house a microscope lab. "We are trying to get away from prepared slides and want to present our students with an opportunity to use state-of-the-art research equipment. Having an early experience with up-to-date equipment prepares them for building successful careers in research," Rozek said.

One of the most successful components of the HHMI grants has been the Summer Program in Undergraduate Research (SPUR). Undergraduates from CWRU and other colleges work with mentors in arts and sciences departments and at the medical school on research projects. According to Rozek, the program has grown from five students from 31 applicants in 1990 to 40 students from 463 applicants in 1997.

HHMI-supported undergraduate research during the academic year also reflects an increased interest by CWRU students in biology. While 13 students participated in 1988-89, 42 undergraduates conducted this research in 1996-97.

HHMI -- a medical research institution in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which employs researchers in genetics, immunology, cell biology, neuroscience, and structural biology -- has provided more than $425 million since 1988 to revitalize U.S. science education.

The grants have sparked interest in the sciences and encouraged more than 30,000 undergraduates to undertake scientific research.

Case Western Reserve University

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