University of Pittsburgh
September 18, 2002

Pitt Researcher Named Howard Hughes Medical Institute ProfessorOne of 20 faculty members nationwide selected to receive $1 million grant to create inventive science education programs

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John Fedele

412-624-4148

Cell: 412-225-6384

September 18, 2002

PITTSBURGH—A University of Pittsburgh professor is one of only 20 university faculty members from throughout the United States selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to receive a $1 million grant in a nationwide effort to create inventive science education programs.

Graham Hatfull, Eberly Family Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Pitt, will receive the grant as an HHMI Professor, the Institute has announced. HHMI approached more than 80 research institutions last year to solicit nominations for the program, which the organization hopes will "break the mold" in science education and strengthen the ties between researchers and undergraduates. Hatfull was selected from a group of more than 150 nominees.

"Research is advancing at a breathtaking pace, but many university students are still learning science the same old way, by listening to lectures, memorizing facts, and doing cookbook lab experiments that thousands have done before," says HHMI President Thomas R. Cech. "We want to empower scientists at research universities to become more involved in breaking the mold and bringing the excitement of research to science education." Cech is a biochemist who continued teaching undergraduates at the University of Colorado at Boulder even after he won a Nobel Prize.

Hatfull will use his grant to develop a program in which undergraduate and pre-college students will isolate new bacteriophages—viruses that infect bacteria—and then determine their genetic sequence, comparing it to known genomes.

"Bacteriophages are the most abundant organisms in the biosphere, but we know little about their diversity or the mechanisms of their evolution," Hatfull says. " The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professorship will enable me to develop a project that combines rich educational experiences with the joys of scientific discovery for students."

"By rewarding great teaching and supporting a synergistic interaction between research and undergraduate education, we hope to sow seeds of a fundamental change in the culture of research universities," says Peter J. Bruns, vice president for grants and special programs at HHMI. "We want the HHMI Professors to demonstrate that active, productive scientists can be effective teachers, too."

As researchers recognized in their fields, the HHMI Professors will participate in HHMI investigators' scientific meetings at Institute headquarters in Chevy Chase, Md. They also will serve as a resource for scientists striving to improve undergraduate education nationwide.

HHMI is a private philanthropy dedicated to biomedical research and science education. The Institute employs 324 investigators who conduct basic medical research in HHMI laboratories at 69 of the nation's leading research centers and universities. Through its complementary grants program, HHMI supports science education in the United States as well as a select group of researchers abroad.

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See www.hhmi.org/news/091802.html for profiles and downloadable photos of HHMI Professors.