Rensselaer Receives $1.2 Million for Science Education
Troy, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has received
$1.2 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to
improve undergraduate science education through the development
of new biotechnology-related courses and student and faculty
exchanges with other universities. A total of $80 million was
given to 44 research universities across the country.
“We’re very pleased that HHMI is once again supporting science
programs at Rensselaer. Our new program in biotechnology is
truly exciting and an opportunity to develop new
interdisciplinary educational experiences for our students,”
said Joseph Flaherty, dean of science.
“Biology is progressing so rapidly and interfacing with so
many other disciplines that undergraduate teaching runs the
risk of substituting quantity for quality,” said HHMI President
Thomas R. Cech, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist. “Through
these grants, the Institute is providing resources to help
universities bring their undergraduate science teaching up to
the level of their research programs.”
Funds from the HHMI grant will support development of a new
biotechnology-oriented track in the biochemistry/biophysics
program that will focus on biocatalysis and metabolic
engineering, and creation of a new major in tissue engineering.
These programs will cross boundaries between departments and
will involve biology, chemistry, biomedical engineering,
chemical engineering, and other disciplines. The
biochemistry/biophysics degree program was established in 1989
with a previous award from HHMI, and the bioinformatics program
was initiated with the help of a 1998 HHMI grant.
In addition, new undergraduate courses in biology will be
developed to introduce engineers, mathematicians, and computer
scientists to modern concepts in the biological sciences. The
first of these courses should be available to students by the
2003-2004 academic year, according to John Salerno, professor
of biology and principal investigator of the HHMI grant at
The HHMI grant also will support an exchange program, already
in its pilot phase, with two historically black colleges,
Hampton University and Virginia Union University. Between four
and six undergraduate students from HU and VUU will spend a
summer at Rensselaer for each of the four summers supported by
the grant. In addition, one or two faculty members from those
institutions will be part of the exchange. The exchange will
also include shared curricula and research.
The grant will also provide students in Rensselaer’s
Undergraduate Research Program with funding for research in
life sciences. Undergraduate research supported under previous
awards has been a valuable component of the student experience,
and has often resulted in student publications and increased
competitiveness for jobs and graduate education opportunities.
In addition, the HHMI grant will fund new equipment for
laboratories that will be used specifically for tissue
engineering and biocatalysis/metabolic engineering.
Contact: Patricia Azriel
Phone: (518) 276-6531