Short description of image contentCaption: Maria Linder, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and former student Aleeza Roth at work in the summer of 2006. Photo: Patrick O'Donnell Download Photo

For Science and Math Education

$1.2 Million Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant Funds Program

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is awarding Cal State Fullerton a four-year, $1.2 million grant to continue efforts to bring real-world research experiences to undergraduates, high school students and science teachers.

“The overarching goal is to promote and encourage the flow of undergraduates from our diverse and disadvantaged population into science and math careers as leading researchers and teachers by identifying, developing and preparing those with exceptional potential,” said Maria C. Linder, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and recipient of the grant award.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) selected 47 universities and small colleges in the United States — from an initial pool of 215 invited schools — as the recipients of grants totaling more than $50 million for its science education initiative. .

The focus of the new grant project is to attract high school, community college and Cal State Fullerton students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines in efforts to increase the diversity of those who study science and pursue careers in these fields, Linder said.

“What this grant means is that we will be able to continue reaching students who are thinking of careers in STEM fields and providing them research experiences, even before they come to Cal State Fullerton,” said Robert A. Koch, acting dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Research opportunities are vital to developing future scientists and other STEM professionals, Koch added.

“We know that having a research experience correlates strongly with increased persistence in, and more rapid graduation from, science and math undergraduate degree programs,” he said. “We think this grant is essential to our efforts to increase the number of students, especially from underrepresented groups, entering careers in science and mathematics, and this includes new high school teachers who will be able to help their students approach learning science with an inquiry-based perspective.”

Long-term expected outcomes for the program are to produce:

  • Leading Ph.D.s and M.D./Ph.D.s with research careers in STEM
  • Leading science teachers for K-12 and community colleges
  • Increased numbers of individuals from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds entering STEM careers as leaders in the workforce.

“Strategies to accomplish these goals have evolved from our initial HHMI Research Scholars Program, which has influenced a lot of students in wanting to study science,” said Linder, a veteran researcher who has taught at the university for 35 years and received the Outstanding Professor Award in 1985. “We're very excited that we can continue to grow this program, which is important for the research culture of our university.”

The new grant project will build upon the Cal State Fullerton HHMI Research Scholars Program, launched in 2008 as a result of an earlier HHMI award of $1.2 million. This effort has focused primarily on boosting careers in biomedical research.

Now in its fourth year of funding, this program has implemented three successful initiatives to introduce young students to the wonders of scientific research. To date, the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program has offered 14 undergraduates the opportunity to be involved in intensive faculty-mentored study for two years. Through this initiative, Cal State Fullerton students also participate in weekly seminars and enrichment activities to prepare them for doctoral programs and biomedical research careers.

Additionally, during the last three years of the program, local community college students, high school students, and high school math and science teachers have participated in campus research experiences through grant-sponsored activities. Partner institutions are Fullerton College, Saddleback College, Santa Ana College and Mt. San Antonio College.

The Weekend Research Experience, held in the fall semester, allows young students to engage in supervised experimental work on a specific research project with faculty members. During the last four years, 64 community college students, 12 high school science teachers and 33 high school students have participated, Linder said.

Through the Summer Research Experience, to date, 18 promising undergraduates from the partner community colleges and Cal State Fullerton, as well as 24 high school students and 12 high school teachers have worked on faculty-mentored research during either an intensive 10-week or five-week session in faculty laboratories.

Expanded and integrated versions of these innovative research experiences, which have the support of 25 faculty members from the departments of Biological Science, Chemistry and Biochemistry and Mathematics, are at the core of the programs supported by the new grant award, Linder said.

Media Contacts:
Maria C. Linder, 657-278-2472 Chemistry and Biochemistry
Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

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