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The Claremont Colleges Receive $3.6 Million Grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to Prepare Leaders in Science and Medicine

Professor Jonathan Matsui and Kelsey Jensen '12 worked together on the project "Light Treatment Causes Damage to the Retinas of Hypopigmented Zebrafish" last summer.

Professor Jonathan Matsui and Kelsey Jensen '12 worked together on the project "Light Treatment Causes Damage to the Retinas of Hypopigmented Zebrafish" last summer.

The Claremont Colleges have been awarded $3.6 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to support efforts that prepare undergraduates to become leaders in science research and medicine.

The five undergraduate colleges (5C)—Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona and Scripps—submitted a joint proposal to the 2012 HHMI Colleges Initiative outlining a plan to instill quantitative and computational approaches in their life science courses and increasing the persistence of all students in the sciences. Of the 182 proposals received by HHMI, only 43 were funded.

“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, vice president of science education at HHMI. “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 that these schools have engaged faculty. They care deeply about teaching and how effectively their students are learning about science.”

The grant comes to the Claremont Colleges at a perfect time for the five undergraduate colleges, which have each expanded their programs in the life sciences considerably over the last 20 years. The HHMI funding will allow the Claremont Colleges to leapfrog toward new heights in five areas.

New courses and laboratories. A 5C Curricular Working Group will lead efforts to develop and distribute teaching resources at the interface of math, computer science and biology for use at local and national levels.

• Summer research fellowships. An integrated 5C Summer Undergraduate Research Program will be created, with a focus on cross-campus, collaborative and interdisciplinary projects. Towards this goal, each of the campuses has agreed to fund five of their HHMI scholars each year to pursue research at one of the other institutions.

• Academic support. The 5Cs will develop and strengthen summer programs for incoming students, with the shared goal of supporting the persistence and academic success of all students in science.

• Peer community for underrepresented students. An integrated 5C support community will focus on social integration and professional development for students from traditionally underrepresented groups.

• K–12 outreach. All of the institutions will promote opportunities for undergraduate participation in science outreach programs to support the broader educational community.

At Pomona, the grant will support 16 students each year in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program and be used to develop programs that will support a peer community of students majoring in the sciences who are from groups underrepresented at the Colleges and in the sciences in general. Central to these efforts will be the High Achievement Program (HAP) at Pomona. HAP will begin with a pre-freshman, four-week summer component involving mentored research and coursework. The program will continue through the students’ freshman year with mentoring, advising, workshops sponsored by the Office of Black Student Affairs and the Office of Chicano/Latino Student Affairs, and the building and nurturing of a supportive peer community across the five colleges.

“Unlike other ‘bridge’ programs,” explains Pomona Pres. David Oxtoby, “HAP will not end on the first day of classes – there will be continued interaction with the head faculty mentors, training workshops and integrative student-life experiences with other science students from underrepresented populations at HMC and the Keck Sciences. This consortial component will build a network of intercollegiate connections in the sciences that may well develop into a lifelong professional network.”

In announcing the grant awards, HHMI President Robert Tijan noted that, “Collaboration is a vital activity that drives science forward. We believe that collaboration among institutions can have a similar catalytic effect on science education, and we look forward to seeing these schools work together to develop new science and teaching programs that inspire students.”

“This HHMI funding represents an exciting opportunity for the Claremont Colleges to be at the very forefront of curricular innovation at the intersection of biology, computer science and mathematics,” said Rob Drewell, associate professor of biology at Harvey Mudd College, who will serve as program director. “In addition, the creation of an integrated summer undergraduate research program across the five Claremont Colleges is very significant, as it will build on the existing interactions between research groups on the different campuses."