Victor Corces, a professor in the Biology Department at The Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, has been named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.
Corces is one of 20 research scientists at 18 universities across the country to be selected for this honor, which includes a $1 million grant to fund unique approaches to igniting and inspiring undergraduate students in the sciences.
"The scientists whom we have selected are true pioneers — not only in their research, but also in their creative approaches and dedication to teaching," said Thomas R. Cech, HHMI president. "We are hopeful that their educational experiments will energize undergraduate science education throughout the nation."
As an HHMI Professor, Corces will spearhead a program called Research Internship and Science Education, or RISE, which aims to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds studying biology. Under the auspices of the program, promising students from Baltimore City public schools will work (full-time in the summer and part-time during the school year) in Corces' lab. Johns Hopkins graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will supervise the students, who will develop projects directly related to Corces' research.
"There are many intellectually gifted students out there, but they lack the kind of mentoring and role models that could really make a difference," said Corces, who also plans to have the high school students take a lecture course designed for them. "In addition, they don't always know what careers are available in the sciences. Students need the inspiration of tangible career goals to pursue biomedical research when they reach college."
Corces hopes that RISE will eventually motivate five seniors each year to apply for the Baltimore Scholars Program, a Johns Hopkins program that provides a full, four-year scholarship to Baltimore City public school graduates who gain admission to the university.
"We need to increase the pipeline of underprivileged students in research," Corces said. "Some students' financial or social situations may make this seem like an impossible goal. I'm trying to reach those students and show them what is possible."
The HHMI "million-dollar professor" program began in 2002, when the institute awarded $20 million to the first 20 professors committed to bringing the excitement of scientific discovery to the undergraduate classroom. In addition to the 20 new professors added to the program this year, HHMI will give smaller renewal grants to eight of the original 20 professors to help them find ways to sustain the parts of their programs that work best.
Other new recipients include researchers at Brandeis University; Duke University; Howard University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Rice University; Tufts University; the University of Colorado at Boulder; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, San Diego; the University of California, Irvine; the University of Georgia; the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; the University of Utah; and Yale University.
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