Yale nets $2.1 million for sciences

For the fourth time in 14 years, Yale has received a multi-year grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support undergraduate science education and New Haven science outreach programs.

Yale’s application was one of 189 reviewed by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or HHMI, and Yale was one of 44 research universities nationwide to receive funding, which was distributed in blocks ranging from $1.2 to $2.2 million. Yale’s award totaled $2.1 million.

The institute, which conducts biomedical research at colleges across the country, also awards grants for science education on all levels.

At Yale, these grants generally fund the exploration of new ideas in science education, said Robert Wyman, a biology professor who has been a co-director of the grant program administration since its inception.

“In the past, the grant has started a number of things on an experimental basis,” Wyman said. “It’s like an incubator for experimental education, and if something works, we incorporate it into the overall framework of Yale, and if it doesn’t, we try something else.”

Programs initially funded by the HHMI grant in the past include the residential college science and math tutors program and the Perspectives on Science freshman curriculum, Wyman said.

This year’s grant will fund undergraduate research, the launch of the Future Scientists Program, the design and implementation of science courses for non-scientists, and a program to train graduate students as teaching assistants. The new grant will also support an array of undergraduate and outreach science education programs started with money from past grants.

“The grant allows us to capitalize on the educational inspirations of both students and faculty that wouldn’t be easily accommodated in the normal Yale College budget,” Wyman said.

The Future Scientists Program is among the new grant-funded programs, said Yale professor William Segraves, a research scientist and the Yale College Dean’s Adviser on science education. Feedback from Perspectives on Science students convinced administrators of the need for an upperclass equivalent. Students will gather at Yale for summer research and participate in a series of symposia the following fall. Segraves said the program aims to support students who will go on to graduate school, medical school or research.

“Creating research opportunities was one of our first priorities, but we also wanted to provide the experience of being part of research group — of having that mentorship relationship with a faculty member,” Segraves said. “During the summer we can get students together to establish a sense of scientific community.”

Both the Yale teacher preparation program and the Science, Technology, and Research Scholars program, STARS, which aims to make science more accessible to minority students at Yale, are among programs that have received funding from the grant and will continue to receive these funds.

Yale College Associate Dean Judith Hackman, who directs the graduate teaching fellows program, said STARS has been a success.

“A lot of students are now staying in the sciences who might have been frightened out of them before by their introductory courses,” Hackman said.

The money will also help fund some of Yale’s longstanding community outreach programs, like a residential summer science program for New Haven students from Hill Regional Career High School.

“These programs establish thick and rich relationships between the New Haven public school teachers and the Yale faculty, enabling them to have a more meaningful dialogue about science education,” said Claudia Merson, coordinator of public school partnerships for the Yale Office of New Haven and State Affairs.

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