Stimulating Attitudes of Inquiry

a grant to the University of Delaware from the

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education Program


Student Research and Broadening Access

Our very best students will be encouraged to apply to become "HHMI Undergraduate Research Scholars." Approximately 12 sophomore and 4 junior Scholars will be selected each year by an interdisciplinary faculty committee. In addition to academic performance, letters of recommendation, and a research proposal, the selection committee will look closely for clear evidence of research aptitude as displayed in exploratory laboratories now being introduced into General Biology and other courses (See later). Under-represented ethnic minorities and students aspiring to become teachers will be encouraged to apply. Scholars will be supported with a summer stipend and laboratory supplies, and can receive funds for travel and publication costs related to their research. In a new initiative, two "HHMI Undergraduate Visiting Scholars," one each from nearby historically black institutions, will join local Scholars during the summer. Our highly successful program for recruitment, retention, and placement of under-represented ethnic minorities, "NUCLEUS" (Network for Undergraduate Collaborative Learning Experiences for Under-represented Scholars), will be continued with special emphasis on peer mentoring and involvement in research projects.

Faculty and Curriculum Development

A major focus of faculty and curriculum development will be on instructional reform through the involvement of existing faculty in transforming existing biology, biochemistry, and introductory chemistry courses - especially the laboratory component. Each year, approximately five "HHMI Faculty Fellows" in the biomedical sciences will participate in an intensive summer institute (ITUE) which emphasizes active-learning strategies and pedagogically sound uses of instructional technology. As incentives, Fellows may request funds for educational software and hardware, travel to educational conferences, and student assistance related to their instructional activities. To promote inter- and intra-institutional dissemination of innovative teaching and learning strategies, scholars from other institutions will present their work in regularly scheduled departmental seminar series to which educators in other science disciplines will be invited. When appropriate, these talks will be advertized widely among local K-12 teachers and held at a time when the teachers can attend. In the area of undergraduate use of problem-based learning, we plan to assist the expansion of this widely acclaimed effort by supporting and training a cadre of undergraduate peer tutors who, we have shown, significantly increase the effectiveness of problem-based learning in larger classes.

Laboratory Equipment

In an effort to transform existing high-enrollment courses, special emphasis will be on introducing up-to-date, engaging, exploratory experiments into laboratories and supporting them with state-of-the-art instrumentation and computer technology. This initiative involves coordination of computers and equipment among many different biology laboratories to ensure maximum efficient use. Our expectation is that from this effort significantly more students will come to appreciate the process of science and that some of them will discover their exceptional research aptitude and be attracted to the HHMI Undergraduate Research Scholars program. We plan to initiate similar computer-based improvements in the general chemistry course that virtually all biology majors take.

Precollege and Outreach Programs

Coupled to recent innovations in the laboratory portion of a Human Heredity and Development course for non-science majors, a major outreach program in DNA fingerprinting analysis is emerging. This effort involving the Department of Biological Sciences, the University's Math and Science Education Resource Center, and the state-sponsored Science Van will provide a show-case "Virtual Van" project for communicating individual genetic variation, DNA methodology, and statistical analysis to high school students throughout the state. Under the supervision of the Science Van staff, high school students will perform several experiments with DNA and isolate DNA from cheek scrapings. The laboratory facilities and scientific expertise at the University will be used to amplify certain DNA sequences using the polymerase chain reaction and provide electrophoretic analysis of confidentially encoded DNA samples from students. The results will be scanned and then posted on an Internet site where they will become available to all students. A number of follow-up exercises associated with analyzing large data sets are planned for teachers and students. Associated with the Virtual Van will be an intensive teacher training program and a program to involve pre-service science teachers (University of Delaware science education undergraduates) in the project. Thus the "Virtual Van" project is a multi-dimensional education effort that will provide a means for training pre-service teachers, interesting high school students in biological science, and attracting under-represented ethnic minority students to our NUCLEUS program.

Project Director

Harold B. White, a professor of biochemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry who has a strong background in biomedical research and a long-standing commitment to excellence in undergraduate science education on and off campus, will be the Project Director. He will be responsible for implementing the proposed projects in a timely manner within the budget and oversee various advisory committees. Based on experience with several federal grants in science education, he is fully aware of the importance of documentation and the challenges of assessment. In the Department of Biological Sciences, the Director will be assisted by Prof. David Usher, an immunologist who will evaluate and coordinate activities in undergraduate biology laboratories and the related Virtual Van project. A full-time staff assistant will handle clerical work, process and monitor financial transactions, maintain a new HHMI WEB site, and track students. Approximately half of the assistant's time would be devoted to clerical work associated with events and activities related to the NUCLEUS program. In collaboration with the University of Delaware's Office for Institutional Research and Planning, undergraduate research students and under-represented ethnic minorities will be tracked to monitor the recruitment, retention, and placement of students. In addition, HHMI programs and supported laboratories will be evaluated regularly by the affected students and faculty.

Previous Program Activities

In July 1992 the Howard Hughes Medical Institute awarded the University of Delaware a five-year one million dollar grant for its undergraduate initiative. The termination date for that grant was extended to February 1998 to sustain certain elements of our program. The award supported three main activities which will be addressed in order.