CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has received a grant of $1.5 million from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Chevy Chase, Md., to bolster science education at all grade levels throughout the state.
This four-year award will support initiatives for undergraduate students at OSU, including summer research experiences and enhancements to the life sciences curriculum, as well as OSU’s outreach and educational programs for elementary and high school students.
Edward J. Ray, president of Oregon State University, says investing in science education at all grade levels is essential. “For the United States to maintain its position as the world leader in science and technology, we must cultivate a passion for the study of science from elementary school through college,” Ray said. “This grant will provide many young Oregonians with experiences that will propel them into careers as scientists, which is good for Oregon and for the nation.”
The grant will support several specific programs at OSU:
- Each year, 35 to 50 undergraduate students will work in the laboratories of leading OSU researchers on projects ranging from the synthesis of proteins in Dengue fever to studying DNA mutations in colon cancer.
- The undergraduate sciences curriculum will be strengthened by incorporating additional laboratory components and purchasing additional laboratory equipment.
- The Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences program, know as SMILE, will receive funding to cultivate interest in math and science among underrepresented populations in elementary through high school.
- Science Education Partnerships (SEPS), a program created by OSU scientists with children in the schools, will connect faculty with local science teachers to improve the K-12 curriculum.
- The Science Connections program will receive funding to bring OSU scientists to Portland-area schools for classroom visits, lectures and mentoring over e-mail.
According Dan Arp, chair of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and director of the project, meaningful experiences that connect scientific theory to the “real world” are key to stimulating students’ interest in science and maintaining it throughout their education.
“All three aspects of the grant—the curriculum development, the undergraduate summer research experiences, and the outreach programs in the schools—are designed to spur students’ interest in science through relevant, hands-on approaches,” Arp said.
He added that the summer research program, which places undergraduate students in paid, eight- to 10-week internships, is particularly effective in shaping undergraduates into future scientists. “This is often the first time many of our students see how this knowledge they are acquiring can be applied and used,” he said. “It can be a career-shaping experience.”
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is an operating medical research organization. The Institute's science education grants program, the largest privately funded education initiative in U.S. history, enhances science education for students at all levels, from the earliest grades through advanced training. The Institute has awarded nearly $693 million in undergraduate science support to 247 colleges and universities in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
The grants are helping to strengthen science education and encourage talented young people to pursue research and teaching careers. In the current 2006 universities grant competition, 158 institutions submitted proposals. Of these, 50 institutions received awards totaling $86.4 million.