Donald French

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) awarded Oklahoma State University a $1.5 million grant to implement a multi-disciplinary track for undergraduate research in the life sciences.  The grant originated from the 2014 HHMI Competition, the institute’s challenge to research universities to develop effective strategies that will lead to significant and sustained improvement in the persistence in science by all students, including those students who belong to groups underrepresented in science.

OSU’s program will be led by zoology professor Dr. Donald French with Drs. John Gelder, John Gustafson, Gilbert John, Wouter Hoff and Janette Steets serving as key personnel to help meet that challenge.  Oklahoma State University students will be provided research experiences suited to their level of skill and interest starting with introductory biology and continuing throughout introductory courses offered by the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, botany, chemistry, microbiology and molecular genetics, and zoology.  Other portions of the grant will help develop a life-sciences research scholar program to accelerate entry into research and help recruit Native American students into the life sciences and support them along a research path through collaborations with other programs on campus.

“The funding will enable faculty from multiple departments to revise and assess introductory science courses and create a new and exciting research track for our students, with multiple entry points to accommodate the diverse needs and interests of our students,” French said.  “We want to introduce them to the research and researchers at OSU and to get them involved in related experiences as early as possible allowing them to make the best decision about their academic and career choices.”

HHMI will award a total of $60 million over five years to 37 research universities, selected from a pool of 170 and after three rounds of peer review.  Since 1988, the HHMI has awarded more than $935 million in grants to 274 public and private colleges and universities to support science education in the United States.

French says OSU’s award will have an immediate impact.

“We plan to create an outstanding freshman experience in the life sciences for majors, which will lead to an increase in life science graduates, especially among Native Americans, ready for research, teaching, or health-related careers, and for non-majors, whose preparation for careers and decision-making in the 21st century will all depend on STEM knowledge and skills.”

About HHMI

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays an influential role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the United States, have made important discoveries that advance our fundamental understanding of biology and its relation to human disease. In a complementary program at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus in Loudoun County, Virginia, leading scientists are pursuing long-term, high-risk, high-reward research in a campus designed to bring together researchers from disparate disciplines. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit

The Institute’s endowment at the close of fiscal 2013 was about $16.9 billion. HHMI’s headquarters are located in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

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