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July 9, 2002

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Awards $2 Million to UMBC

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded a $2 million grant to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) aimed at developing new approaches to prepare students for careers in biomedical research.

UMBC is one of 44 research universities in 28 states and the District of Columbia to receive a four-year grant. HHMI awarded $80 million in total grants, ranging from $1.2 to $2.2 million each.

"UMBC is fortunate to continue being recognized by HHMI for outstanding undergraduate biology education and research" said Scott Bass, Dean of the UMBC Graduate School. "This generous grant will give a new generation of young biologists unparalleled research experience as undergraduates."

The HHMI grants are designed to improve undergraduate biology education by supporting programs that encourage graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to hone their teaching skills. Other programs will bring emerging disciplines such as genomics and computational biology into undergraduate curricula and encourage minorities to pursue careers in science. A panel of scientists and educators reviewed proposals from 189 institutions before awarding the grants.

"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."

According to Michael Summers, UMBC Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and HHMI Investigator, the program will give HHMI Undergraduate Scholars early, hands-on research experience at UMBC and HHMI laboratories around the country. Participating scholars will prepare for doctoral studies and academic careers and improve their research and communication skills by taking part in local and international scientific conferences, mentoring disadvantaged high school students and other activities.

Each year, Summers mentors a group of undergraduates working in his lab, some of whom have been first authors and co-authors of papers published in such refereed journals as Science and the Journal of Molecular Biology. HHMI Undergraduate Scholars will also receive financial support to defray tuition and other costs associated with their education at UMBC. The grant also supports efforts in the UMBC Biology Department to integrate bioinformatics into the undergraduate biology curriculum.

About HHMI at UMBC:
UMBC biochemist Michael Summers, Maryland's only HHMI Investigator at a public campus, directs UMBC's HHMI Laboratory, which is determining the three-dimensional structures of key components of the AIDS virus and developing new therapeutic approaches for treating AIDS. A number of recent UMBC graduates who have worked in Dr. Summers' lab are now in M.D., Ph.D., and joint M.D./Ph.D. programs at Harvard, Yale, Washington University (St. Louis), the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan.

In recognition of his outstanding work with students in his lab, Dr. Summers received a 2002 U.S. Presidential Award for Science, Mathematics, & Engineering Mentoring. Also, Dr. Summers has developed active partnerships with several companies and agencies, from Maryland's Guilford Pharmaceuticals to the National Institutes of Health.

About Chemistry and Biochemistry at UMBC:
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) ranks UMBC among the leading producers of chemistry and biochemistry degrees, especially those awarded to minority students. A 1998-99 ASBMB study ranked UMBC first nationally in the total number of undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry degrees awarded to African-American students (21), well ahead of any other institution. UMBC ranked second nationally in the total number of undergraduate degrees in chemistry and biochemistry awarded to minorities. More than 60 percent of UMBC graduates earning bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biochemistry go on to pursue graduate or professional education, many at such schools as Harvard, Princeton, Cal Tech, and Johns Hopkins.

About UMBC:
Founded in 1966, UMBC is a medium-sized, selective, public research university situated on 500 acres between Baltimore, Md. and Washington, DC. UMBC has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences and engineering. A campus community rich in cultural and ethnic diversity, UMBC promotes cutting-edge research and creative activity. The campus is home to the nationally known Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, the Shriver Center, and a number of major research centers. UMBC is a member of the University System of Maryland and is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

Posted by dwinds1 at July 9, 2002 12:00 AM