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Pitt earns $1.5 million grant to educate, retain science students
Date:5/29/2014

PITTSBURGHThe Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced today that the University of Pittsburgh has received a $1.5 million, five-year grant to continue, develop, and create new lab-based biology courses aimed at retaining students in the sciences.

Pitt is one of 37 schools to receive funding through the HHMI's Sustaining Excellence competition geared toward improving science teaching nationwide. More than 170 applicants underwent three rounds of peer review before HHMI decided on the 37 recipients.

Graham Hatfull, the University's Eberly Family Professor of Biotechnology as well as an HHMI professor, is leading the charge to expand and develop course-based research experiences in the Department of Biological Sciences within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. The effort will build upon science educational activities funded by HHMI for the past eight years.

"In the past, and this will continue, students learned to 'do' science through an apprentice-based approach, working with a faculty member or a graduate student," Hatfull says. "What HHMI is aiming at is the sort of approach where you can develop a course-based research experience that can engage many more students and can do so at an early point in their college careerin other words, freshmen."

In its press release, HHMI reports that nearly 40 percent of the 3 million students who enter college annually intend to study science or engineering, but 60 percent of that cohort fail to earn their degree in a science or engineering field. Hatfull is optimistic that the HHMI funding will help reverse this national trend.

"Research indicates that it is effective to get students involved in lab work," he says. "If we can get to students in their freshman year and get them invested in research that will promote retention in the sciences. The earlier we get them, the bigger the impact it will have."

Nancy Kaufmann is the assistant program di
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Contact: Joe Miksch
jmiksch@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh
Source:Eurekalert

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