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Howard Hughes Medical Institute Awards University of Miami $1.5 Million to Improve Science Education

Companies mentioned in this article: University of Miami

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The University of Miami (UM) is one of only 37 research universities in the United States to receive a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant to improve how science is taught. The initiative enables schools to focus on significant and sustained improvement in retaining students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The grant will support Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

UM’s five-year grant of $1.5 million will focus on course-based research experiences, building on previous grants from HHMI that created innovative biology labs to engage freshman students in “discovering knowledge, not just being receptacles of knowledge,” according to program director Dr. Michael Gaines, professor of biology in the UM College of Arts and Sciences. Undergraduate students who participated in these early research experiences are twice as likely to do independent research later and have a 15% higher persistence rate in STEM courses than students who take traditional lecture and lab courses, Dr. Gaines said.

“STEM education continues to grow in importance, at every level,” said Dr. Leonidas G. Bachas, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Projects of this kind, focusing on how we teach our STEM courses, not just what we teach in them, are critical to making sure that undergraduate research takes place early on among our students — a necessary strategy if we want to yield the scientists and educated workforce we need for an innovative tomorrow.”

At the completion of this five-year grant, UM will have 25 years of continuous funding from HHMI. In addition to funding those early-engagement biology labs, previous funding has been used to develop strong partnerships with Miami Dade College and to work with Miami-Dade County public middle schools to engage students in science education early on, with hopes of increased participation at the undergraduate level. The current project will focus on integrating chemistry and biology in the early-engagement research-based lab model, Dr. Gaines said.

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