Johns Hopkins has received a $1.6 million, four-year grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to strengthen undergraduate education programs and research opportunities in the biological sciences. This is the third time Hopkins has received funding from this Hughes program, which this year has made $91.1 million in grants to 58 universities for a total of more than $425 million since the program began in 1988.
The institute is a medical research organization, located in Chevy Chase, Md., whose primary purpose is to conduct biomedical research.
"This grant helps us continue a longstanding Hopkins tradition of undergraduates working with faculty on ongoing research projects," said Gary Ostrander, associate dean for research in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "And typical for Hopkins, we had many more projects than we could fund under this grant."
Ostrander said that about a third of the grant funds will be used to continue the Howard Hughes Summer Fellows Program, through which a stipend is given each summer to 35 undergraduates, who work with a faculty mentor on a research project. Ostrander said that about 50 percent of participating students have contributed significantly enough to research projects to have their names appear on peer-reviewed journal articles.
The majority of the remaining funds, according to Ostrander, will be used to support the development of new courses and to purchase equipment to support those courses.
"Over the next four years, we anticipate completing a comprehensive revision of some aspects of the Hopkins undergraduate curriculum to include restructuring of calculus to incorporate Web-based technologies; developing a digital resource kit for our cell biology course; and introducing new courses in functional anatomy, microscopy and computational biology," Ostrander said. "The HHMI funding also will allow us to purchase new equipment for our undergraduate chemistry, physics and biology labs as well as to upgrade and enhance our undergrad computer labs."
Funds also will be used to support student projects such as Germbusters.
Germbusters is a biological theater club that was formed by three undergraduates in the spring of 1997. The students got the idea to produce plays for elementary school children as a creative approach to teaching biology and to show children that biology can be fun and exciting. Their debut performance was a general introduction to the immune system, a sort of a Ghostbusters/ Power Rangers action-adventure. Germbusters has about 25 undergraduate members with a wide range of majors.
More information about the Howard Hughes Medical Institution grants can be found on the Web at www.hhmi.org/undergrad98.