Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 3, 1994

Hopkins Receives $1.8 Million Hughes Grant

         Arts and Sciences, Engineering
         will buy computers, improve labs

By Emil Venere

Undergraduates who take Harry Gold-berg's course on the
neurophysiology of vision find themselves pursuing the kind
of real-science research usually reserved for graduate
students. It is no ordinary classroom experience.
    "The best way to describe it is that, after college it
will be the one course that you remember," said Yonatan Grad,
a chemistry major who took the course the first semester it
was offered, last spring.
    It caught on quickly with students, who learned to use
creativity and critical thinking instead of just textbooks to
devise their own research projects. 
    "For the first time in my Hopkins career, students were
actually getting together outside of class to discuss it ...
which is unusual," said Grad, an 18-year-old junior from
Rochester, N.Y.
    Scoring well on tests is not the only gauge of whether
students will excel in the real world, said Dr. Goldberg, a
research associate at the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain
    "If the students cannot apply what they have learned, I
would argue that the students really don't understand the
material," he said. "I like them to think about what they're
learning and think about how that information can be used."
    The neurobiologist had his students probe how different
cells in a frog's retina respond to different visual stimuli.
Various stimuli, such as a dark spot or vertical bars moving
from left to right, were produced on a computer-driven
television monitor. As the frog's retina cells responded to
the different stimuli, electrical signals from the cells were
amplified and recorded. 
    The course is an example of the kind of teaching that
helped earn Hopkins a $1.8 million grant from the Howard
Hughes Medical Institute this fiscal year, which started Oct.
1, said Shin Lin, associate dean of the School of Arts and
    The four-year grant, announced this week, was issued
through the institute's Undergraduate Biological Sciences
Education Program. Nearly every item on the grant proposal,
including the physiology of vision course, was approved for
funding. In the past,  Goldberg's course has been funded  by
the Biology Department and a previous Hughes grant.
    "The reason we received everything we asked for was
because our proposal was so highly rated," said Dr. Lin,
director of the program at Hopkins.
    The money will enable Hopkins to double its number of
summer fellows, to 25. Undergraduates who are selected for
the program spend the summer working with veteran scientists,
gaining valuable research experience.
    "We are also expanding the program to include students
from historically black colleges," Dr. Lin said. About 60
students have completed the fellowship program since it began
in 1989.
    The largest chunk of the money, $1.2 million, will go
toward equipment including sophisticated computer hardware
for biophysics students and a special teaching version of a
nuclear magnetic resonance system for the Chemistry
    Another innovation is the addition of Introduction to
Laboratory Research in Biophysics. The new course, which will
be taught by Dr. Lin, fills a void in undergraduate education
by giving students a firm working knowledge of advanced
laboratory techniques.
    Undergrads usually learn advanced laboratory skills by
joining a research laboratory. Unfortunately, it might take a
full year for the student to become proficient while working
in a lab.
    "It's inefficient," Dr. Lin said. "I will introduce the
students to a solid core of modern basic research techniques.
After this intensive training period, when they get into a
lab, they will already be able to do a lot of things. It
makes them a lot more valuable to research laboratories.
    "Secondly, instead of a cookbook type of laboratory
course, which we have plenty of, this one kindles research,"
he added. "They will do experiments that are modeled after
classic research experiments."
    The grant money will also be used to upgrade instruments
and replace equipment at a time of increasing undergraduate
    "It couldn't have come at a better time," Dr. Lin said.
"We are accepting more undergraduates, and we have to spend
more money on them. This is really a boost."
    Grant funding extends well beyond the Biology
Department, since it is used to finance programs in other
departments, such as Physics, Chemistry and Engineering,
which provide courses in subjects related to biology.  
    The grant represents an increase in annual funding of
$250,000, spreading $1.8 million over four years, compared
with a $1 million five-year grant issued to Hopkins in 1989.
This year the Hughes Institute issued a total of $86 million
in grants to 62 universities. Individual grants ranged from
$1 million to $2 million.

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