North Carolina Central University is the first historically black college or university to be selected as a full member in the Science Education Alliance (SEA) of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). More than 100 university applications were reviewed, but only 12 were invited to participate in the 2009 cohort.
NCCU faculty members, Drs. Wendy Heck and Gail Hollowell, have been competitively selected to represent NCCU. Heck and Hollowell are assistant professors in biology and members of the Center for Science, Math and Technology Education (CSMTE). Through their participation, Heck and Hollowell will involve students in scientific discovery on a national scale through the SEA innovative genomics research course. Genomics is the identification and sequencing of the DNA of organisms. Twenty-four students will have the opportunity to conduct research on bacteriophages – viruses that infect bacteria. The data will be analyzed at the Joint Genome Institute – Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico. HHMI will provide research and laboratory supplies, and the support of their research staff. The course will be aimed at beginning freshman biology majors.
NCCU is committed to building a continuum of science education that engages students in actual laboratory work early in their academic careers. In 2008, NCCU received a $900,000 grant from HHMI to provide supplementary science education to 11th grade high school students through their second year of college, should they attend NCCU. Hollowell was instrumental in bringing the grant to NCCU. This summer, two NCCU students will serve as research fellows, participating in summer internships at HHMI – a highly coveted and competitive opportunity.
HHMI is a leader in biomedical research and science education, and one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations, distributing $101 million in grant support in 2009. SEA is seeking to significantly impact science education by bringing leading scientists and educators together to develop, implement, and/or disseminate methods, technologies, and practices that can broaden scientific understanding and participation. Two prior cohorts of 12 universities and colleges were selected to participate in SEA, beginning in 2007.