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Maria Linder and grad students working in a chemistry lab

Maria Linder, right, works with grad students Yu-Hsiang Chu, middle, and Ben Rojas.

Recruiting Future Biomedical Researchers

CSUF Professor Lands $1.2 Million Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant

A $1.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has been awarded to Cal State Fullerton to engage young minds in the wonders of scientific research.

The Maryland-based organization analyzed and judged proposals from 224 undergraduate institutions from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico - all seeking a piece of a $60 million pie the institute was offering to those who came up with the best creative new ways to involve students in the biological sciences.

Forty-eight awards were made, including one to veteran researcher Maria Linder, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

In her proposal, Linder stressed the challenges faced by many of Cal State Fullerton's more than 36,000 students: many were born outside the United States and more than half from families where neither parent graduated from college.

At times, those factors present unusually tough challenges. Among other hurdles to clear, Linder pointed out, "the college actively encourages its undergraduates to seek first-hand research experience, but financial support for these positions has been extremely limited.

"Many talented students must devote significant portions of their time to off-campus jobs," she said, adding that leaves them with little time to pursue the inquiry-based science that could launch their careers.

"I wish we could do something for all of them," she said."But these are the ones we can reach, and this is certainly going to help."

Linder is taking a three-tiered approach targeted not only to students on campus, but also to those at community colleges and in high school. The program also offers high school teachers credit for their participation.

The high school component focuses on 16 Orange County teachers, each with two of their students. The teacher-student teams will be on campus for five weeks next summer to conduct research in the lab of a campus faculty member. During the school year, the teacher-student teams, as well as some other high school students, will come to campus for two weekend-long research projects that focus on interdisciplinary, real-world science issues.

"We hope this part of the program will gradually build a community of research interest at the high school level," Linder said. "Teachers will get credit for the program. It's a new venture and, depending on how it goes, we may expand it."

At the community college level, Cal State Fullerton will expand its next summer research program to include community college students. Over the length of the four-year grant, a total of 64 community college students will join the participating high school students and teachers for weekend research programs during the academic year.

"This won't be cookbook research," Linder emphasized. "These will be new things they'll be working on."

To reach its own students, Cal State Fullerton will choose four undergraduates each year for an intensive two-year program that involves mentored laboratory research, weekly workshops and poster presentations at local and national meetings. Each scholar will write a senior research thesis.

"That part of the program will focus on motivated students who have overcome adversity and are committed to earning a graduate or professional degree in the biomedical sciences," Linder said.

Participants will receive stipends and, if they travel to make a presentation, travel compensation. Only the community college weekend-only research students will receive no funds. Their compensation, Linder said, is "the experience that will help them with their future studies and with their future careers.

"I'm excited about the integrated nature of the projects," she added. "The objective for us and for the medical institute is to recruit more students into the biomedical sciences as researchers, and we're trying to attack this in three or four ways at the same time."

Linder, a recipient of the university's Outstanding Professor Award, earned her doctorate at Harvard and joined the CSUF faculty in 1977.

Photos: Available online at

Media Contacts:
Maria Linder, Chemistry and Biochemistry, 657-278-2472 or
Russ L. Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007 or