UCLA has been awarded a five-year $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as part of its Inclusive Excellence initiative. The effort aims to help colleges and universities encourage participation and cultivate the talent of students in the natural sciences, especially underrepresented ethnic minorities, first-generation college students and working adults with families.
UCLA will use the funding to reinvigorate undergraduate education, especially for transfer students, so that larger numbers of undergraduates receive an “authentic research experience” in which their education is collaborative, interactive and evidence-based, with a focus on problem-solving, said Tracy Johnson, a professor who holds the Maria Rowena Ross Chair of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, an HHMI Professor and director of the new program.
“We are revitalizing the life sciences curriculum and enabling more undergraduates to be motivated and engaged in science while working side-by-side with faculty and graduate students,” Johnson said. “Hands-on research experience for undergraduates in the sciences is crucial, and we are developing new ways to make sure the best and brightest students — and UCLA has many of the best undergraduates in the country — receive the world-class education they deserve.”
With the HHMI grant, Johnson wants UCLA to offer more research-based courses that enable students to learn science by doing science. UCLA will also use funding from the grant to expand workshops in which faculty in the life sciences and physical sciences learn highly effective, interactive teaching practices that will help to retain more students in the sciences. Undergraduates who engage in research stay in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields at a higher rate than students who do not. Transfer students have participated in research at a substantially lower rate than other undergraduates, Johnson said. Ensuring the success of transfer students in STEM fields is a major goal of UCLA’s HHMI-funded program.
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