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Washington and Lee Receives $1 Million in Second Hughes Grant

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has selected Washington and Lee University as one of 47 small colleges and universities in the country to share in grants totaling more than $50 million.

According to the institute, the grants “enable the schools to work together to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experience to students, and increase the diversity of students who study science.”

W&L will receive $1 million to support continued work in two primary areas:

  • Increasing apprentice-based student-faculty research opportunities for all science and mathematics majors
  • Extending efforts to prepare all undergraduates to become scientifically curious and literate leaders in society, regardless of career emphasis.

Last April, HHMI invited 215 institutions to apply for the competition and received 182 proposals, from which it made 43 awards to the 47 different schools, based on the recommendation of a panel of 23 leading scientists.

This is the second major award that Washington and Lee has received from HHMI. In 2008, the University won a $1.3 million grant.

“Winning a second HHMI award in four years provides compelling evidence that W&L is providing innovative and effective instruction in the sciences and mathematics and that our plans for the improvement of that instruction merit foundation support and national recognition,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio.

Helen I’Anson, professor of biology and head of the Biology Department, has directed the HHMI program. She said that the new grant will allow the University to continue its strategy of developing “an interdisciplinary, collaborative and quantitative program of integrated research and teaching that will be available to non-majors as well as majors.”

A centerpiece of the plan will be the establishment of the Integrative and Quantitative Science Center as part of Telford Science Library.

“We are folding the IQ Center into a more modern definition of a library,” I’Anson said. “This space will be devoted to data acquisition, data storage, computation, visual imaging and collecting experimental data. It will be rich with technology and instruments for both teaching and research.”

I’Anson described the IQ Center as a place that will tie “powerful analytical and imaging equipment to traditional teaching, and will make the traditional teaching more student centered.”

I’Anson said that a substantial amount of the funding for the center will come from the University, while the HHMI grant will fund some of the construction as well as the initiatives.

In making the grants to the 47 small colleges and universities, Sean B. Carroll, vice president of science education at HHMI, said, “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.”

Since 1988, HHMI has awarded more than $870 million to 274 colleges and universities to support science education. HHMI support has enabled nearly 85,000 students nationwide to work in research labs and has developed programs that have helped 100,000 K-12 teachers learn how to teach science more effectively.

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Jeffery G. Hanna
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