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Spelman Receives $1 Million HHMI Grant to Support Science Education

For Immediate Release

Media Contact(s):  Spelman College
Terrilyn Simmons 

ATLANTA, (June 14, 2012) -- Spelman College has been selected to receive a four-year,  $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support undergraduate science education, create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experiences to students, and increase diversity among students who study science.

“We are extremely pleased that HHMI has awarded this grant to Spelman which is an acknowledgement of the strength of our student research training infrastructure and our curricular innovations across the disciplines,” said Lisa Hibbard, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at Spelman and who has served as program director for the past three years.  “This grant will provide a platform for an interdisciplinary academic and research experience that develops and prepares our students from their first year to become innovators and leaders in science.”  

Of the 187 institutions to apply, Spelman was among 47 small colleges and universities in the United States to receive one of the competitive grants. Spelman’s grant, one of 11 Capstone Awards made to long-time recipients of HHMI funding, is focused on apprentice-based student research.

“HHMI is investing in these schools because they have shown they are superb incubators of new ideas and models that might be replicated by other institutions to improve how science is taught in college,” said Sean B. Carroll, vice president of science education at HHMI.  

 Spelman students will be introduced to research practices and critical thinking through structured early training and the use of interdisciplinary instructional strategies. They will also participate in faculty-mentored research and activities that encourage innovation and teamwork. Capstone Award recipients will assess which elements of their various approaches to science education have been successful and why.

“There is an enormous trove of know-how and wisdom at these [Capstone] schools, and we would like to see how that information can be shared more broadly,” said David J. Asai, director of HHMI’s precollege and undergraduate program. “We are looking forward to seeing how the Capstone awardees can provide leadership to some of the other grantees who are new to HHMI, as well as to advise HHMI about our efforts in undergraduate science education.”

Recognized as one of the nation’s leading producers of Black female medical students and doctoral candidates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Spelman’s program will have a broad impact by introducing STEM students early in their college careers to science. Directed by Dr. Hibbard and Aditi Pai, Ph.D., associate professor of Biology at Spelman, this program will increase awareness of Spelman students and faculty among researchers and institutions across the nation. Students will gain the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully matriculate through graduate school and ultimately impact the science workforce by increasing the number of African-American women scientists.

Spelman College has a long-standing relationship with HHMI which has provided funding to the College for more than 20 years. The science and research initiatives funded have resulted in a 50% increase in the number of Biology graduates pursuing doctoral degrees since 1992.  HHMI has supported over 250 student research trainees, giving some the opportunity to work with African-American women scientists at local and national institutions. HHMI has also supported major curricular revisions in biology, provided funding for technology upgrades, and supported faculty professional development. 

 In addition, HHMI has funded a number of outreach activities, including a summer science program for high school students and a mentor network that links Spelman science alumnae with local area high school students.  With HHMI funding the documentary Root to STEM featuring Spelman graduates discussing their paths to graduate and professional school was produced.

 Since 1988, HHMI has awarded more than $870 million to 274 colleges and universities to support science education. Those grants have generally been awarded through two separate but complementary efforts, one aimed at undergraduate-focused institutions and the other at research universities. HHMI support has enabled nearly 85,000 students nationwide to work in research labs and developed programs that have helped 100,000 K-12 teachers learn how to teach science more effectively.


About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a highly selective, liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, Ga., the college’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Outstanding alumnae include Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman; Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer; JPMorgan Chase Foundation President Kimberly Davis; former acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley; Harvard College Dean Evelyn Hammonds; author Pearl Cleage; and actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson. For more information, visit www.spelman.edu.


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