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April 22, 2008

Smith College Awarded $1.3 Million for ‘Developing the Modern Scientist’

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Smith College received a four-year $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to support a package of initiatives aimed at improving science education for females from the earliest grades through their college years.

The plan takes into account a substantial body of research about the recruitment of women for science careers that indicates the learning continuum of positive experiences in the sciences must began at an early age, according to Thomas Litwin, director of the Clark Science Center and director of the grant.

“Powerful social factors influence a young woman’s decision to pursue an education and career in science,” said Litwin. “Smith’s science and engineering departments, resource centers and outreach programs counter factors that limit the recruitment and retention of women in science.”

Smith is one of 48 undergraduate institutions to receive HHMI grants totaling $60 million for efforts that “usher in a new era of science education.” The college’s plan, called “Developing the Modern Scientist,” is a unifying strategy that will enhance Smith’s cornerstone strengths in several key areas, including student research and collaboration, outreach initiatives and state-of-the-art research equipment in resource centers.

Student research

A critical strength of science education at Smith is the ability to connect academic-year coursework and summer student-faculty research through the Summer Research Fellows Program. Undergraduate summer research was supported by Smith’s first HHMI grant for colleges in 1988 and that has continued since. Each of the next four years, the grant will provide stipends and supplies to 25 students.

Funding will also support academic-year research stipends and programming, including a January-term course for undergraduates exploring science teaching. Further, the grant will expand a new initiative for underrepresented women in the sciences at Smith. Called Achieving Excellence in Mathematics, Engineering and Sciences (AEMES), the program enrolled 20 students its first year.

Community Outreach

Smith’s network of student development programs also supports high school students and regional educators. To coordinate those efforts, the college will use a portion of the grant to establish a Center for Science Education Outreach, which can function as a hub for activities.

Facets of the grant that will support the pre-college population include funding for a K-12 science teaching specialist who will support professional development for area educators. In addition, the grant will support Partners in Health, a collaboration between Smith and the Northampton Public Schools that focuses on teen health issues, and a summer institute for educators focusing on professional development opportunities in science education.

Curriculum, equipment and laboratory purchases

Facilitating undergraduate use of sophisticated instrumentation is a critical strategy at Smith for enabling student-faculty teams to pursue increasingly advanced questions. The grant will fund the purchase of such equipment as imaging software to enhance the ability to visualize and critically analyze data, and a camera and monitor to transform images into user-designed pages for classroom use and group demonstrations.

HHMI, a non-profit medical research organization that ranks as one of the nation’s largest philanthropies, plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the U.S.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. By linking the power of the liberal arts to excellence in research and scholarship, Smith is developing leaders for society’s challenges. Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country, enrolling 2,600 students from nearly every state and 61 other countries.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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