Good Genes: U Genetic Science Learning Center Wins Howard Hughes Grant

Good Genes: U Genetic Science Learning Center Wins Howard Hughes Grant

Jun 20, 2007 6:00 PM

Center will use funds to update Web site materials for students, teachers

SALT LAKE CITY - The University of Utah's Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) has been awarded a $750,000 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant to enhance its award-winning Web site and educational outreach programs.

"The grant focuses on basic education for an important topic-how genetics affects people's lives," said Louisa A. Stark, Ph.D., center director.

The GSLC staff will work with teachers to redesign basic genetics section of the Learn.Genetics Web site (http://learn.genetics.utah.edu), with new 3-D animations, interactive experiments, and in-class learning experiments for students in grades five to 10. Called "Genetics for Your Life," the project also will provide resources and professional development materials for educators.

The project will directly address national and state teaching standards for genetics and reproduction, some aspects of cells, natural selection, and science as a method of inquiry. Both the curricula and Web site also will address contemporary topics, using examples relevant to 21st Century students' lives, according to Stark. Anyone who wants to learn more about genetics is welcome to use the site.

One of 31 awarded nationally, the grant is part of a $22.5 million HHMI initiative to help research universities connect with local schools to stimulate interest in studying science. The Genetic Science Learning Center (GSLC) will receive $150,000 annually for five years.

Knowledge in the science of genetics has grown remarkably in recent years. By updating its Web site and curricula, the GSLC wants to help people understand the impact of advances such as the Human Genome Project (which mapped every human gene), proteomics (the study of the expression, function, and interactions of genes in relation to proteins), and personalized medicine (in which drugs can be tailored to an individual's genetics).

The GSLC Web site receives approximately 8 million visits a year from people in 160 countries and has been named among the 50 best science and technology Web sites by Scientific American online. The GSLC received its original funding from HHMI and employs its own science educators, curriculum developers, multimedia artists, and Web developers.

The largest privately funded education initiative of its kind in the United States, HHMI's grants program is enhancing science education for students at all levels, from the earliest grades through advanced training. Since 1988 HHMI has awarded approximately $1.5 billion in grants. Ten of this year's awardees received a grant from HHMI during the Institute's community outreach grant competition in 2003.

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