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Hughes Institute Awards $1.3-Million Grant

August 06, 2008

Aware of growing concerns among U.S. leaders that the country’s global leadership in the sciences may be waning, Lewis & Clark faculty members are finding ways to attract more students into the sciences, strengthen the relationships between science fields, and prepare educators to teach K-12 science more effectively.

This spring, the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) endorsed Lewis & Clark’s interdisciplinary approach to the sciences by awarding the college a landmark $1.3-million grant. Lewis & Clark was the only liberal arts institution in Oregon–and one of only six institutions on the West Coast–to receive an HHMI grant during this round of competition.

“If the United States wants to stay competitive in the global market and be a leader in solving some of the biggest science questions of our time, it is critical that we improve our science education system,” says Deborah Lycan, professor of biology and program director for the HHMI-funded project.

Lewis & Clark’s project will enhance an interdisciplinary approach among the sciences and expand the pipeline of students heading into the field through a comprehensive series of programs and partnerships with Portland-area educational institutions. The project is designed to:

  • Develop curricula in interdisciplinary science, with special attention to bioinformatics, biophysics, and neuroscience.
  • Broaden access to research opportunities for undergraduate students, who will work in laboratories at Lewis & Clark and, through a collaborative arrangement, at Oregon Health & Science University.
  • Develop innovative interdisciplinary science courses for nonscience majors.
  • Launch a K-12 outreach program for science education in collaboration with Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling.
  • Establish an international outreach program for science education, with special attention to collaboration with institutions in East Africa.
  • Host a teaching postdoctoral fellows program in the sciences.

“Ultimately, we hope to provide a prototype for how science education can be made more relevant and more attractive to students,” says Lycan, “so they can see how to put their intellectual skill sets to work to solve problems they care passionately about.”

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