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April 23, 2008

 

 

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Awards $1.5 Million Grant

To Trinity University for Expanding Science Education Programs


SAN ANTONIO – Using part of a $1.5 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) science education grant, Trinity University plans to invite hundreds of middle school students from the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) to campus to learn what it is like to be a scientist.

 

The grant was announced Tuesday, April 22, by the Institute, which awarded $60 million to 48 of the nation’s best undergraduate institutions to help them usher in a new era of science education. The Institute had challenged colleges and universities to submit proposals identifying creative ways to engage students in the biological sciences.  

 

Trinity’s program will bring 200 seventh graders to campus from four inner city San Antonio schools that have high numbers of Latino students. Students will visit Trinity once each quarter for day-long workshops that tie in with their school science classes. A fourth workshop will include an overnight stay and ecology field research at Bamberger Ranch, a 5,500 acre facility that hosts one of the largest habitat restoration programs in Texas. During these workshops, pairs of students – with guidance from their teachers and Trinity science students and faculty – will be encouraged to come up with their own questions to research, based on what they have been learning in class. Past projects have included studying the types of bacteria that grow inside football helmets – and the best way to eradicate them, the feeding behavior of fish species at Bamberger Ranch, and the effects of sports drinks on exercise activity in mice.

 

At the end of the year, each student will prepare a poster detailing his or her favorite project from the Trinity program, and the University will host a poster reception for students and their parents.

 

“We want to involve parents,” said Mark R. Brodl, the George W. Brackenridge Distinguished Professor of Biology and program director for the HHMI grant. “In Latino communities, having parents understand what college is about is an important influence on whether students go on to college.”

 

Trinity is developing another HHMI-supported outreach program, the Science Curriculum Writing Institute, which will bring teachers from throughout the SAISD to campus for a week during the summer. Teachers will work with Trinity science and education faculty members to build science curricula that make the most of limited classroom time.

 

“We've found in previous projects that these teachers' time constraints in the classroom are significant,” Professor Brodl said. “They have a huge amount to do in very little time, so they have to be efficient.”

 

In addition to these initiatives, Trinity is adding a neurobiophysicist and a specialist in science education to its faculty. The University is also expanding its summer research program for undergraduates and has earmarked two student fellowships for research abroad with HHMI international research scholars.

 

The 2008 grant recipients were selected through a stringent review process by distinguished scientists and educators that narrowed the 192 applicants down to 48 winners. HHMI invited 224 colleges with a track record of preparing undergraduate students for research careers to submit proposals. Trinity received $1 million from HHMI in 2004 to enhance interdisciplinary studies in the sciences. The funds were used to establish a minor in scientific computing and a major in neuroscience.

 

HHMI is the nation's largest private supporter of science education. It has invested more than $1.2 billion in grants to reinvigorate life science education at both research universities and liberal arts colleges and to engage the nation's leading scientists in teaching. One of the world's largest philanthropies, HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization that employs hundreds of leading biomedical scientists working at the forefront of their fields. HHMI is headquartered in Chevy Chase, Md., just outside Washington, D.C.

 

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