Posts about HHMI

HHMI on Science 2.0: Information Revolution

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute does great things for science and for open science. They have an excellent article in their HHMI Bulletin – Science 2.0: You Say You Want a Revolution?

Cross-pollination among research disciplines is in fact at the core of many other popular science blogs. Michael Eisen, an HHMI investigator at the University of California, Berkeley, is an avid blog reader who particularly enjoys John Hawks’ site on paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolution. A recent post there discussed a new sequencing of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA. “It’s like a conduit into another whole world,” says Eisen.

The current extreme of collaboration via Science 2.0 is OpenWetWare.org. Begun in 2003 by Austin Che, who was then a computer science and biology graduate student at MIT, this biological-engineering Website uses the wiki model to showcase protocols and lab books: everything is open and can be edited by any of its 4,000 members.

“Most publishers wish open access would go away,” says Brown. It won’t. Major research-funding organizations, including NIH, HHMI, and the Wellcome Trust, now require their grantees to post their findings on openaccess Websites such as PLoS or PubMed Central within 12 months of publication in traditional journals. Publishers are pushing back, however, and in September, the House Judiciary Committee began holding hearings on whether the federal government should be allowed to require grantees to submit accepted papers to a free archive.

Related: $600 Million for Basic Biomedical Research from HHMITracking the Ecosystem Within UsPublishers Continue to Fight Open Access to Science$1 Million Each for 20 Science Educators

MicroRNAs Emerged Early in Evolution

New Research Shows MicroRNAs Emerged Early in Evolution

“MicroRNAs have been available to regulate and shape gene expression as far back as we can go in animal evolution—they might even predate animals,” says Bartel, a leader in the discovery and functional study of microRNAs. “They might have helped to usher in the era of multi-cellular animal life.”

First discovered in 1993, microRNAs are strands of RNA that are 21-24 nucleotides in length. They dampen gene expression by intercepting messenger RNA before it can turn the cellular crank that translates a gene into a protein. Earlier, Bartel’s research team showed that each microRNA can regulate the expression of hundreds of genes.

The ability of microRNAs to silence gene expression likely evolved from a more ancient defense against viruses, bacteria, and other mobile genetic elements that can mutate host DNA.

The scientists determined that the starlet sea anemone has both microRNAs and piRNAs. In addition, the anemone makes proteins resembling those that interact with these small RNAs in humans. Both types of small RNA were also found in the sponge. The third target of their search, Trichoplax, did not contain any microRNAs, though Bartel suspects they may have existed in ancestral forms and later disappeared.

Related: Scientists discover new class of RNARNA related postsNobel Prize in Chemistry – 2006

Alumni Return to Redesign High School Engineering Classes

Prince George’s County High School Alumni Return to Redesign Classes

Cressman joined nine fellow graduates of the elite science and technology magnet program every day for six weeks to create top-flight engineering courses for high school students. The class at the Greenbelt, Maryland, school will teach the latest in computer programming and drafting with software used by college professors and professional engineers. And since engineering teachers can be hard to find, the curriculum is designed to be taught by a non-expert.

All freshman in the science and technology magnet program are already required to take two introductory engineering classes, but the curricula for those classes were originally designed in 1976. “There has been some revamping through the years, but we knew we needed a major overhaul. Things have changed so much,” explains Jane Hemelt, coordinator of the science and technology program, which serves about 900 of the school’s 2,700 students. The problem was that there wasn’t an easy way to get the expertise to fix it.

Hemelt talked about the problem with Rocco Mennella, a mathematics professor at Prince George’s Community College and Catholic University who teaches science and math at Roosevelt. For several years, Mennella had been recruiting Roosevelt graduates as tutors for his summer precalculus class, and he told Hemelt that his recruits—who were science, math, and engineering majors—might serve double duty by redesigning the engineering curriculum.

Mennella’s college recruits came from Caltech, MIT, Brown, Johns Hopkins, Georgia Tech, and the University of Maryland, where they have been exposed to some of the best science and engineering teachers in the country. In addition, Cressman contacted about 80 engineering professors at universities and colleges around the country to find out what they would like their incoming students to know; almost 50 responded.

For example, all agreed that the classes should focus on the practical aspects of engineering, including computer-aided design and computer programming, while exposing the high school students to electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering. But the curriculum designers also wanted their younger peers to have fun while learning, so they put in many hours on computers creating lessons that would challenge students to redesign the Taj Mahal, build an SUV, or guide a robot.

Eleanor Roosevelt High School will test some of the modules as part of other classes this fall, which will reach 30 students or more, and the team hopes to roll out the other classes full time in coming years. The Prince George’s school district’s other two science magnet schools, Oxon Hill and Charles Flowers, also plan to use the curriculum. But Mennella and Hemelt hope it will spread even wider, including to schools that don’t specialize in science and math. Those schools might just use parts of the curriculum, or spread a semester-long class out over a year. “Who knows, this could become a model for the state and maybe a model for the country,” Hemelt says.

I am looking into how people can see the curricula, and any other material that may be available.

Related: Center for Engineering Educational OutreachKids in the Lab: Getting High-Schoolers Hooked on ScienceMiddle School EngineersTechnology and Fun in the ClassroomEducation Resources for Science and Engineering

Fold.it – the Protein Folding Game

Foldit is a revolutionary new computer game enabling you to contribute to important scientific research. This is another awesome combination of technology, distributed problem solving, science education…

Essentially the game works by allowing the person to make some decisions then the computer runs through some processes to determine the result of those decisions. It seems the human insight of what might work provides an advantage to computers trying to calculate solutions on their own. Then the results are compared to the other individuals working on the same protein folding problem and the efforts are ranked.

This level of interaction is very cool. SETI@home, Rosetta@home and the like are useful tools to tap the computing resources of millions on the internet. But the use of human expertise really makes fold.it special. And you can’t help but learn by playing. In addition, if you are successful you can gain some scientific credit for your participation in new discoveries.

Related: Expert Foldit Protein Folder, JSnyderResearchers Launch Online Protein Folding GameNew Approach Builds Better Proteins Inside a ComputerPhun PhysicsProtein Knots

The site includes some excellent educational material on proteins and related material. What is a protein:

Proteins are the workhorses in every cell of every living thing. Your body is made up of trillions of cells, of all different kinds: muscle cells, brain cells, blood cells, and more. Inside those cells, proteins are allowing your body to do what it does: break down food to power your muscles, send signals through your brain that control the body, and transport nutrients through your blood. Proteins come in thousands of different varieties, but they all have a lot in common. For instance, they’re made of the same stuff: every protein consists of a long chain of joined-together amino acids.

structure specifies the function of the protein. For example, a protein that breaks down glucose so the cell can use the energy stored in the sugar will have a shape that recognizes the glucose and binds to it (like a lock and key) and chemically reactive amino acids that will react with the glucose and break it down to release the energy.

Proteins are involved in almost all of the processes going on inside your body: they break down food to power your muscles, send signals through your brain that control the body, and transport nutrients through your blood. Many proteins act as enzymes, meaning they catalyze (speed up) chemical reactions that wouldn’t take place otherwise. But other proteins power muscle contractions, or act as chemical messages inside the body, or hundreds of other things.

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$60 Million for Science Teaching at Liberal Arts Colleges

HHMI Awards $60 Million to Invigorate Science Teaching at Liberal Arts Colleges

A year ago, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute issued a challenge to 224 undergraduate colleges nationwide: identify creative new ways to engage your students in the biological sciences.

Now 48 of the nation’s best undergraduate institutions will receive $60 million to help them usher in a new era of science education. This includes the largest number of new grantees in more than a decade; more than a quarter have never received an HHMI grant before.

Colleges in 21 states and Puerto Rico will receive $700,000 to $1.6 million over the next four years to revitalize their life sciences undergraduate instruction. HHMI has challenged colleges to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experiences to students, and increase the diversity of students who study science.

Creating interdisciplinary science classes and incorporating more mathematics into the biology curriculum were among the major themes proposed by the schools. Many schools will also allow more students to experience research through classroom-based courses and summer laboratory programs.

HHMI is the nation’s largest private supporter of science education. It has invested more than $1.2 billion in grants to reinvigorate life science education at both research universities and liberal arts colleges and to engage the nation’s leading scientists in teaching. In 2007, it launched the Science Education Alliance, which will serve as a national resource for the development and distribution of innovative science education materials and methods.

Related: $60 Million in Grants for Universities (2007)Genomics Course For College Freshman Supported by HHMI at 12 Universities$600 Million for Basic Biomedical ResearchFunding Medical Researchposts on science and engineering funding

HHMI Nurtures Nation’s Best Early Career Scientists

New HHMI Program Aims to Nurture Nation’s Best Early Career Scientists

HHMI will invest more than $300 million in this first group of scientists and plans a second competition in 2011.
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HHMI is focusing on researchers who have led independent laboratories for two to six years at one of the approximately 200 U.S. medical schools, universities, and research institutes that are eligible. Those who are selected by HHMI will receive six-year, non-renewable appointments including full salary and research support while remaining affiliated with their home institution.

HHMI is seeking scientists from a wide variety of fields, including all areas of basic biological and biomedical research, and areas of chemistry, physics, computer science and engineering that are directly related to biology or medicine.

Scientists who wish to be considered for this competition must indicate their intention to submit an application by April 30, 2008. The deadline for completed applications is June 10, 2008. Panels of distinguished biomedical researchers will evaluate the candidates’ applications. Final selections are expected to be made by February 2009.

HMMI is an incredible source of funding for science.

Related: $600 Million for Basic Biomedical Research from HMMINSF CAREER Award WinnersHoward Hughes Medical Institute Takes Big Open Access StepFunding Medical Research$1 Million Each for 20 Science Educators

Howard Hughes Medical Institute Takes Big Open Access Step

HHMI Announces New Policy for Publication of Research Articles that will require

its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

Great news. Some, including me, would prefer a shorter time but this is the limit on the slowest time that will be acceptable not a goal. I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised if HHMI is the largest source of research funds outside of the federal government in the USA. This is one more sign the tactics of the old school journals are failing.

HHMI and Public Access Publishing policy

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has long viewed the sharing of research materials and tools as a fundamental responsibility of scientific authorship. That principle also extends to ensuring that original, peer-reviewed research publications and supplemental materials are freely accessible within six months of publication

Well put; it is amazing how out of touch with the basic concepts of advancing scientific ideas the old style journals are.

Related: The Future of Scholarly PublicationOpen Access Legislation$600 Million for Basic Biomedical Research from HHMI$60 Million in Grants for Universities from HHMI

$1 Million Each for 20 Science Educators

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Names 20 New Million-Dollar Professors – Top Research Scientists Tapped for their Teaching Talent:

“The scientists whom we have selected are true pioneers—not only in their research, but in their creative approaches and dedication to teaching,” said Thomas R. Cech, HHMI president. “We are hopeful that their educational experiments will energize undergraduate science education throughout the nation.”

The Institute awarded $20 million to the first group of HHMI professors in 2002 to bring the excitement of scientific discovery to the undergraduate classroom.

The experiment worked so well that neurobiologist and HHMI professor Darcy Kelley convinced Columbia University to require every entering freshman to take a course on hot topics in science. Through Utpal Bannerjee’s HHMI program at the University of California, Los Angeles, 138 undergraduates were co-authors of a peer-reviewed article in a top scientific journal. At the University of Pittsburgh, HHMI professor Graham Hatfull’s undergraduates mentored curious high school students as they unearthed and analyzed more than 30 never-before-seen bacteriophages from yards and barnyards. And Isiah Warner, an award-winning chemist and HHMI professor at Louisiana State University, developed a “mentoring ladder,” a hierarchical model for integrating research, education, and peer mentoring, with a special emphasis on underrepresented minority students.