WMU Home > WMU News

WMU News

WMU News on Twitter

WMU gets $1 million to train science teachers

May 20, 2010

KALAMAZOO--A $1 million grant to Western Michigan University from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will put prospective high school science teachers to work in the laboratory as scientists to help them learn how to translate science into practical experiences for their future students.

The grant, announced today by the institute, is one of a round of awards totaling $79 million made to research universities around the United States to strengthen undergraduate and precollege science education. HHMI, the nation's largest private funder of science education, has spent $1.6 billion since 1985 to reform life sciences education from elementary through graduate school.

In the current round of funding, 50 research universities in 30 states and the District of Columbia have been awarded a total of $70 million through HHMI's Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program. An additional $9 million will be shared by 13 leading research scientists through the HHMI Professors Program to support their efforts to make science more engaging to undergraduates.

"HHMI is committed to funding education programs that excite students' interest in science," says HHMI President Robert Tjian. "We hope that these programs will shape the way students look at the world--whether those students ultimately choose to pursue a career in science or not."

The four-year award to WMU will focus on building cohorts of prospective high school science teachers who are trained first as scientists and will then learn how to turn their own research experiences into practical tools that will help them convey scientific principals to their students.

"We're out to create scientists who choose the profession of teaching," says Dr. Susan Stapleton, WMU's HHMI grant project director who is also associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of chemistry and biological sciences at the University.

Beginning in fall 2010 Stapleton and her project colleagues will recruit a group of 15 students who are interested in teaching high school science, chemistry, physics or biology. Those 15 students will spend the summer of 2011 working in a campus research lab, building their own scientific skills and credentials. During the following academic year, they will take a newly developed course aimed at helping them translate their laboratory experience into practical tools. In summer 2012, they will use those new teaching tools in a summer science camp WMU offers annually for middle school students. A new group of students will be recruited in each of the four years of the project, so as many as 60 prospective science teachers will be part of the HHMI-funded initiative.

"School districts should find these students attractive as teaching interns and incredibly desirable as future teachers," Stapleton says. "We're really building on our past successes in making sure undergraduates have strong summer research experiences."

The WMU award grew out of an invitation from HHMI last fall asking 197 national research universities to submit proposals for grants to improve science education at the undergraduate and K-12 levels. The proposals were reviewed by a panel of distinguished scientists and science educators before HHMI selected 50 projects to be funded.

"By selecting these 50 grantees, we highlight areas and approaches that we think are particularly powerful," says David Asai, director of HHMI’s precollege and undergraduate programs. "We hope that universities across the country--even those that are not HHMI grantees--will turn to these programs when they think about improving science education."

WMU is one of five research universities to receive first-time funding from the HHMI this year. The others are Florida International University, Northwestern University, the University of North Texas and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Additional WMU scientists involved in the WMU effort will be Dr. William Cobern and Dr. Renee Schwartz of the University's Mallinson Institute for Science Education and Dr. Leonard Ginsberg, professor of biological sciences.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and fundamental understanding of biology. The institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit the Howard Hughes Medical Institute online.

Share |

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400