University of Pittsburgh
September 15, 1998



PITTSBURGH, Sept. 16 -- Undergraduate science education initiatives in a variety of arts and sciences departments at the University of Pittsburgh have been awarded $1.8 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as part of $91 million in grants to 58 universities nationally.

"Getting this grant is just spectacular," said Lynne A. Hunter, program director for the HHMI undergraduate research grants and director of undergraduate programs in the Department of Biological Sciences. "Our proposal to HHMI was truly a collaborative effort between the departments of biological sciences, chemistry, neuroscience, computer science and physics. This will help us continue to build on our established programs in undergraduate education and outreach and to expand into new areas as well."

The money will go to further undergraduate research fellowships in both the summer and traditional academic year, to fund an undergraduate internship program and to continue outreach activities to local high school science teachers. Funds will also be used to initiate curriculum in biophysical chemistry, to buy equipment, renovate student labs, fund a joint-use computer lab in chemistry and biology and support undergraduate curriculum and research in computational biology at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC).

"Collaborating with the PSC is an incredible opportunity," said Hunter. "We'll be developing courses in computational biology, encouraging undergraduate research using supercomputers, and having PSC staff teach courses."

Outreach activities will also get a major boost from this HHMI grant, allowing biological sciences to continue and expand its successful High School Teacher Workshop Program. "This is a fabulous opportunity for teachers," said Hunter. "By spending time at our Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology, or in labs on our Oakland campus, teachers get a view of what's current in science, the most up-to-date technologies and methods in molecular biology." The workshops also show teachers how to incorporate the new information into their curriculum and provides them with science kits to be used in the classroom. During the last school year more than 1,000 students used Pitt DNA science kits. Biological sciences, in association with the Carnegie Musuem and the Graduate School of Public Health, has also proposed summer science camps for local middle and high school students as part of its outreach program.

"The Howard Hughes Medical Institute's undergraduate grants program, which is now entering its second decade, is having a major impact on how biology and related disciplines are taught at the college level," said Purnell W. Choppin, president of the Institute. "Large numbers of students are getting involved in original research projects, they're experiencing themselves why biology is so exciting and important. It's an experience that will serve them well even if they decide to pursue careers in other fields."

HMMI is a medical research organization whose principal purpose is the conduct of biomedical research. It employs scientists in cell biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience and structural biology. Through its complementary grants program, HHMI supports science education in the United States and a select group of researchers abroad.

HHMI Contact: David Jarmul (301) 215-8857

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