Colorado State University Awarded $1.6 Million by Howard Hughes Medical Institute to Foster Undergraduate Biomedical Education

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has given Colorado State University a $1.6 million, four-year grant to improve life-sciences instruction on campus, involve undergraduates and public-school teachers in research and help students prepare for 21st century careers in the life sciences.

The grant is the second given to Colorado State by the institute, a medical research organization that conducts research nationwide. The institute also supports undergraduate education in the biological sciences, awarding more than $91 million to American universities this month.

The grant will support eight major university initiatives in advising, undergraduate education, faculty development and outreach programs to public schools. These programs will assist the more than 25 percent of Colorado State’s undergraduate student body majoring in basic life sciences or life-science related fields.

"The Hughes Medical Institute grant builds on our recognized academic strengths in the life sciences and matches our commitment to focusing on what our students learn and can do," said Albert Yates, president of Colorado State. "In many ways, the purpose of this important grant mirrors what we as a university are committed to. This grant recognizes and supports diversity, and seeks to bring out the potential contributions of each individual, a commitment we as a university share. Also, this grant supports the sharing of knowledge through outreach efforts to not just university students and faculty but to schools throughout Colorado. This obviously matches our own long and proud land-grant tradition."

According to Thomas Gorell, a biologist and director of the Hughes Undergraduate Bioscience program at Colorado State, more than 3,000 undergraduate students are majoring in one of 14 basic science fields in five of the university’s eight colleges. Another 2,000 students major in studies closely related to the life sciences. The Hughes program will help Colorado State recruit talented high-school students.

"In addition, we are interested in encouraging students from under-represented populations, and women, to study the life sciences," Gorell said. "Colorado State is a place where minority students are coming to learn to do science, and we want to encourage, support and enhance that. The Hughes program can help with the university’s undergraduate opportunities."

Specifically, the Hughes Undergraduate Research Program will recruit about 10 high school seniors annually, providing intensive training in biosciences and encouraging students to pursue research careers. Hughes Undergraduate Scholars will undertake individual research under the guidance of a life-sciences faculty member, including an on-campus summer program before their freshman year.

Colorado State Provost Loren Crabtree has committed the university to sustaining Hughes-initiated programs even after the institute’s funding winds down in 2002.

"We will continue to support these efforts because they are sound educational programs that do match so well with our priorities as a university," Crabtree said. "This grant gets us started on new paths and innovative teaching and support that will affect a third of our undergraduate students, as well as faculty, school teachers and others.

"It is in the spirit of the entire Hughes program, and in the tradition of Colorado State, that we find ways to keep doing what is successful, useful and educationally solid."

Components of the proposal include:

  • a Life Science Center that will bring together academic counseling, career counseling and support programs designed to help students understand and meet the rigors of university-level study in the sciences;
  • a program to help faculty improve their undergraduate teaching efforts and use new, cutting-edge classroom technologies;
  • the undergraduate research program, which will include faculty and undergraduate mentors;
  • curricular reforms, including a new biosciences core that will offer basic instruction to freshmen and sophomores upon which they can build more specific courses of study;
  • outreach programs, which include bringing teachers from rural school districts and Front Range systems to campus to conduct biomedical research and take innovative teaching and hands-on research skills back to their classrooms; improving training for future biology teachers; and sending Colorado State faculty members to middle and secondary school teacher workshops in rural and small districts throughout the state.

Gorell, who will be advised by a committee of faculty members and public school teachers, said the program details remain flexible. Aside from meeting mutual goals, both the Hughes Institute and the university are looking for ways to build upon Colorado State’s strengths and improve existing and new programs.

"We developed additional ideas and implementation strategies after we started the previous Hughes grant, and the Institute gives us a broad mandate, so we have the flexibility we need to achieve excellence," said Gorell, who directed the earlier program.

Since 1988, the Institute has given more than $425 million to research universities and doctorate-granting institutions to strengthen the quality of college-level education in the biosciences across the nation. This year’s program is the largest since the undergraduate program began.

Colorado State, a Carnegie Foundation-designated Research I university and the state’s only land-grant institution, was one of 58 institutions – including Yale, Cal Tech, Michigan State, Berkeley and UCLA – to receive grants this year. The University of Colorado at Boulder was the only other Colorado university to be funded with a $1.8 million grant.

The project’s official website is at