Princeton awarded $2.2 million for biology education

June 1, 2006 1 a.m.

Princeton has been awarded $2.2 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to support the University's efforts to improve education in the biological sciences.
The Undergraduate Science Education Initiative grants are awarded competitively every four years. Princeton has been funded continually since the grants began in 1989, and is one of only five institutions to receive the maximum possible award this year.
Fred Hughson, incoming director of the Princeton/HHMI Undergraduate Research Education Program, said that the award will help the University further expand its efforts to improve biology education in secondary schools and create new opportunities for undergraduates.
"Almost half of the funds are dedicated to outreach efforts targeting high school and middle school science education," said Hughson, an associate professor of molecular biology. "The essential element is an annual summer workshop that brings secondary school teachers to Princeton, where they interact with faculty and develop laboratory experiments to share with their students."

The summer workshops have engaged 450 teachers and more than 300,000 students in most New Jersey school districts since funding began in 1990. The new funding will provide the opportunity for Princeton to partner with the school district of Philadelphia in order to train teachers and provide equipment and materials for the creation of satellite learning centers in Philadelphia high schools.

Some of the remaining funds will be used for a summer research program for Princeton students and others selected from a nationwide pool of undergraduates attending small colleges with limited resources for research. The rest will be devoted to developing a new upper-level undergraduate course in biological imaging.  This course, cited by HHMI as a "particularly creative and innovative aspect of the proposal," will center on the construction -- from scratch -- of research-grade microscopes and their use in student-designed experiments.