Swarthmore Awarded Largest-Ever HHMI Grant

Nancy Nicely

Swarthmore Receives Largest-Ever
Grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute

$1.6 Million Will Support Wide Range of Science Education Initiatives

by Nancy Nicely
04/23/2008

A new four-year $1.6 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) will help Swarthmore fund a wide array of initiatives in the sciences and engineering, including student summer research opportunities, new science education programs in the surrounding community, and other improvements to its undergraduate science programs. HHMI announced the grants to Swarthmore and 48 other colleges and universities yesterday.

HHMI grant  

The largest portion of the grant will be used to bolster the College's Science Associates program, which works to retain a diverse population of students as science majors, and to support initiatives that promote interdisciplinary teaching in biology, computer science, and mathematics. Another large segment will support 30 science and engineering students per year who conduct laboratory research over the summer in close contact with professors.

"The new grant will support a variety of programs that contribute to the development of the future scientists and engineers who study at Swarthmore," says biology professor and HHMI grant program director Kathleen Siwicki. "As the single largest source of support for student summer research, it will allow us to continue to emphasize student-faculty research as a central component of our academic program. It will also support initiatives to develop new interdisciplinary courses in mathematical and computational biology, which are emerging as essential tools for research in biology."

The grant will also expand the College's "Science for Kids" program. With HHMI support since 2005, Swarthmore faculty, lab instructors and students have offered workshops in chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science/robotics to children from the Chester Children's Chorus during the summer, then bring these experiments into elementary school classrooms during the academic year.

HHMI invited 224 undergraduate institutions to compete for the awards, and awarded $60 million in grants ranging from $700,000 to $1.6 million to 42 colleges in 21 states and Puerto Rico. Swarthmore is the only college to be funded at $1.6 million. This is the sixth HHMI grant Swarthmore has received in as many competitions, bringing HHMI's total support of Swarthmore's science program since 1988 to $6,550,000.