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$2.2 Million Hughes Grant for Biology Education

Story by
Nancy Joseph

The UW recently won a four-year, $2.2 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for programs to support undergraduate biology education, prepare future faculty, and develop K-12 outreach programs—including the Summer Institute in Life Science. 

One new program made possible through the grant is the Biology Fellows Program, through which up to 24 promising students will be recruited and receive academic, social, and financial support during their freshman and sophomore years. 

The grant will also enable all biology majors to apply for research internships with up to eight quarters of support, an increase from the current three quarter maximum. And those interested in working for one quarter—full-time—as part of a research team at Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island can apply for the new Research Apprenticeship program. 

“That’s baptism by fire, but it’s life changing,” says Robin L. Wright, associate professor of zoology. “The students learn what it’s like to build the intense camaraderie that you have when you do science as a member of a team.” 

The grant also will create a Future Faculty Fellows program, aimed at giving senior graduate students and post-doctoral researchers a firmer grounding in teaching skills. 

The Hughes Institute has supported biology education and programs at the UW for the last 12 years. “That support has allowed 400 students at the UW and other institutions to conduct independent research,” says Wright, who wrote the recent grant proposal and administers the grant. “I expect the new grant to expand on those results. I think it’s a complete package that promotes undergraduate biology education but also emphasizes what our students do in service to the community.”