North Carolina Central University (NCCU) will receive a $1.4 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) over four years to support Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) and increase the number of students who are attracted to the sciences, retained and graduate competitively prepared for success.
The goal of the funding is to: introduce research to all biology majors through a research-focused lab modeled after the HHMI-Science Education Alliance; assist faculty in developing curriculum revisions that will permit research; and create an interactive learning environment for non-major courses so students are equipped to be scientifically curious and critical thinkers. The grant will enable NCCU to develop research infused curriculum which is an effective mechanism for enhancing retention rates in undergraduates, providing a gateway for interdisciplinary training and helping teach students to solve problems that cross disciplinary boundaries.
At NCCU, the funds will be used to expand the HHMI Science Education Alliance innovative genomics research course to all first-year science students, integrating authentic research modules throughout the curriculum. Initially the course was offered to 24 beginning freshman biology majors.
“What happens during the undergraduate years is vital to the development of the student, whether she will be a scientist, a science educator, or a member of society who is scientifically curious and literate,” said Sean B. Carroll, HHMI’s vice president of science education. “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. We know these schools have engaged faculty. They care deeply about teaching and how effectively their students are learning about science.”
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 a four-year program of supplementary science education to students from 11th grade through their second year of college, should they attend NCCU. The students that were part of the previous program will serve as peer teaching leaders for the new initiative.
“The HMMI grant will allow NCCU to revolutionize our biology curriculum with state-of-the-art teaching including innovative mechanisms delivered through research modules in the classroom,” said Dr. Sandra L. White, director of the Center for Science, Math and Technology Education at NCCU. “This is an important opportunity to learn how to effectively provide all students with a course-based authentic research experience.”
The university is at the forefront of creating curriculum, generating opportunities and helping students excel in STEM careers. As with the prior HHMI program, the current initiative will continue to be led by Dr. White and Dr. Gail Hollowell, assistant professor in NCCU’s department of biology.
HHMI is a leader in biomedical research and science education, and one of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations. Since 1988, the institute has awarded more than $870 million to 274 colleges and universities to support science education. Those grants have generally been awarded through two separate but complementary efforts, one aimed at undergraduate-focused institutions and the other at research universities.