Campus: Cal Poly Pomona -- May 26, 2004


Students will learn biology in new ways at Cal Poly Pomona thanks to a generous $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

HHMI is helping colleges meet the challenges in teaching science today. New fields that blur the lines between disciplines are emerging, and biologists, chemists, physicists and mathematicians are forging interdisciplinary collaborations. Scientists must be trained to be both outstanding researchers as well as teachers. More minorities must be encouraged to pursue scientific careers.

“Receiving this award is recognition of the outstanding work our faculty has done in enhancing the way students learn biology here at Cal Poly Pomona,” said Dr. Donald Straney, dean of the College of Science at Cal Poly Pomona. “With this grant, we will be able to give our students an even stronger, hands-on preparation for successful careers in the life sciences. And we will make connections with other universities that are also deeply committed to improving the quality of undergraduate education.”

Cal Poly Pomona’s four-year grant will support a wide range of programs to improve undergraduate science, from new courses in hot fields such as bioinformatics and computational biology to research-apprenticeship programs that increase opportunities for students to conduct original research. The university will also work with teachers of underrepresented and disadvantaged students from low-performing schools to enhance science education and teacher preparation through week-long workshops and training programs.

Undergraduate biology is not well-funded nationally, noted Stephen Barkanic, director of HHMI’s undergraduate science education program. “Public and private funders tend to focus their support on research programs, infrastructure and graduate training, but undergraduate biology tends to be neglected. Smaller colleges and universities, in particular, often are overlooked in the intensive competition for grant dollars.”

Cal Poly Pomona was among 198 public and private baccalaureate and master’s institutions invited by HHMI to compete for the new awards. The invited institutions were selected for their record of preparing students for graduate education and careers in research, teaching or medicine. A panel of distinguished scientists and educators reviewed proposals and recommended the 42 awards approved by HHMI’s Board of Trustees on May 4.

Contact: Uyen Mai, (909) 869-5331,

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