Thursday, May. 24, 2012 7:30 pm | Contact: Des Moines Register; e! Science News; Iowa Higher Education

Grinnell College has received a $1 million science education “capstone award” from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), one of the nation’s largest private funders of biomedical research and education.

The four-year HHMI grant recognizes Grinnell for “sustained excellence and important contributions to undergraduate science education” and will support curricular reform and advising activities to benefit intermediate-level science students, building on already successful introductory and advanced research programs.

“One of the key opportunities we have with this generous grant is to develop intermediate-level undergraduates’ abilities to become scientific leaders,” said Leslie Gregg-Jolly, professor of biology and program director for the HHMI grant.

“Often students at the intermediate-level begin to question their own commitment and ‘fit’ in the scientific community, so we will use grant funds to assess student learning and attitudes, develop opportunities to work in teams outside of traditional disciplinary boundaries and offer employment to increase their involvement and success in science departments.”

The grant will also have impact for science education nationally. Grinnell’s Center for Science in the Liberal Arts will analyze and disseminate information about students’ performance, development and persistence to improve the STEM pipeline, using a nationally recognized research method developed by Grinnell Professor of Psychology David Lopatto.

“We are very grateful to HHMI for recognizing Grinnell’s national leadership in undergraduate science education,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. “The grant will further our institutional commitment to widening access and promoting success for all students as we respond to the nationwide call for science education reform and the need to develop a large and diverse pool of scientists.”

The 2012 HHMI grant is the fourth to Grinnell since 2000 and recognizes the college’s development of a “mature and successful program.” In 2011, the White House awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring to the Grinnell Science Project, a program to promote success among students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

Approximately one-third of Grinnell students graduate with a major in science. Nearly 70 percent of the college’s science graduates enter graduate programs; in fact, Grinnell ranks eighth on a per-capita basis among all U.S. higher education institutions whose graduates pursue Ph.D.s.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.