Smith College Forms Center for Molecular Biosciences
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College will use a portion of a $1.3-million Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant to establish a Center for Molecular Biosciences that will expand opportunities for interdisciplinary research and teaching.
The college named the center’s interim director, Wen Li, to lead the initiative, which supports several decades of curricular reform that has focused on increasing opportunities for exploratory, hands-on science learning and student-faculty research collaborations.
Plans for the center include funding 20 undergraduate research fellowships each of the next several summers, hosting workshops on molecular research techniques, and expanding outreach to local schools to facilitate the entry of biotechnology into classrooms.
“The Center for Molecular Biosciences will bring together the expertise, equipment and technical support needed to facilitate interdisciplinary teaching and research,” said Christine White-Ziegler, associate professor of biological sciences and a member of the center’s faculty steering committee.
“Experience with sophisticated instrumentation is fundamental to the curriculum as students work with faculty on increasingly complex research questions and report results to professional audiences.”
In addition to White-Ziegler, the faculty steering committee includes Stylianos Scordilis, professor of biological sciences, and Steven Williams, the Gates Professor of Biological Sciences. Li previously served as a research associate to Williams and earned her doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has expertise in the areas of molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics.
Li will both maintain the technology, located in the Clark Science Center, and train members of the scientific community in its use. Experiments involving DNA sequencing, DNA fingerprinting and microarrays, which measure gene expression, will be coordinated through the center.
“Significantly, we are finding that a molecular approach to questions initiated or identified by faculty members in one traditional discipline are best answered through a collaborative approach and by using techniques common to faculty across disciplines,” said White-Ziegler.
Smith is one of the top four-year colleges sending women to doctoral studies in the sciences. Thirty percent of Smith students major in the sciences – more than three times the national average for women.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.
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