Allegheny College Receives $1.5 Million HHMI Award

May 24, 2012 – Allegheny College received a $1.5 million undergraduate science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

This grant will be used to build a global health program.  It will support the establishment of an interdisciplinary major, creation of two tenure-track faculty positions, resources for faculty and curriculum development, collaborative research opportunities for students on and off campus, and opportunities for students to engage in health-related study-away experiences abroad and domestically. Lee Coates, professor of biology and neuroscience, is the project director.

“This grant demonstrates HHMI’s confidence in Allegheny’s leadership role in higher education and our faculty’s strength in cultivating creative and innovative researchers and practitioners in the science and medical fields,” said James H. Mullen, Jr., Allegheny president. “Our students have educational, collaborative research and experiential learning opportunities in the natural sciences that are second to none, and this grant recognizes that fact. We are honored to have been selected and look forward to sharing the expertise and knowledge we gain with other educational institutions.”

Allegheny's HHMI grant will provide support for faculty collaborative research, such as the work Dosalyn Thompson '13, a biology major and psychology minor, has done with Lee Coates, professor of biology and neuroscience, on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Allegheny is one of 47 colleges and small universities in the United States to receive grants totaling over $50 million. Each four-year grant is in the range of $800,000 to $1.5 million – an amount that can have a big impact at these schools, collectively described as “primarily undergraduate institutions.” The small size of most of these schools can make them more nimble than larger research universities and better able to quickly develop and test new ideas. Allegheny was one of only three schools to receive grants of $1.5 million.

“What happens during the undergraduate years is vital to the development of the student, whether she will be a scientist, a science educator, or a member of society who is scientifically curious and literate. HHMI is investing in these schools because they have shown they are superb incubators of new ideas and models that might be replicated by other institutions to improve how science is taught in college,” said Sean B. Carroll, vice president of science education at HHMI. “We know that these schools have engaged faculty. They care deeply about teaching and how effectively their students are learning about science.”

Last April, HHMI invited 215 schools to apply for the competition. Of those invited, 187 schools submitted 182 proposals (two proposals were for joint programs). After two rounds of peer review, David Asai, director of HHMI’s precollege and undergraduate program, and his team convened a panel of 23 leading scientists to discuss and rank the 84 final proposals. “Based on the reviewers’ comments and the panel discussion, we recommended 43 awards to 47 schools. One of those is a joint award,” Asai said.

Since 1988, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded more than $870 million to 274 colleges and universities to support science education. Those grants have generally been awarded through two separate but complementary efforts, one aimed at undergraduate-focused institutions and the other at research universities.

Allegheny is a national liberal arts college in Meadville, Pa., where 2,100 students with unusual combinations of interests, skills and talents excel. One of the oldest colleges in the nation, Allegheny will celebrate its bicentennial in 2015.