From cutting-edge pedagogical models to state-of-the-art equipment, the sciences at Barnard just keep growing. Last month, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced that Barnard will receive $1 million over the next four years to continue and expand efforts to keep students in the science pipeline from elementary school through four years of college. This award is part of a broader HHMI initiative that will distribute over $50 million to 47 small colleges and universities in the United States, enabling these schools to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experience to students, and increase the diversity of students who study science.   

This grant is Barnard’s sixth consecutive award from HHMI, which has provided the College with more than $7 million over 25 years of continuous funding. The recent award is one of 11 special Capstone Awards, which HHMI has given to longtime awardees. According to HHMI, its Capstone recipients are among the best in the country at producing graduates who pursue careers in science.

“There is no doubt that this program has transformed the culture of science at Barnard,” said Paul E. Hertz, acting provost and professor of biological sciences, who is the founding director of Barnard’s HHMI-funded program.

Throughout the last quarter century, the Hughes Science Pipeline Project (HSPP), as the initiative is known, has improved Barnard’s science facilities and enhanced science curricula across many academic departments. New courses have been developed, guest lecturers have visited campus, and hundreds of Barnard students have participated in substantive scientific research through the HSPP Research Internship program. First-year students are able to participate in Research Apprenticeship Seminars, and in 2012-2013, a new Research Methods Seminar will be implemented for sophomores. The College will also launch an e-portfolio initiative to help students create a longitudinal record of their science coursework and research.

Beyond Barnard’s own students, HSPP has also expanded science offerings for students of all ages around New York City. The Science in the City Seminar program pairs Barnard undergraduate students with current elementary school teachers in NYC Public Schools, to develop new science curricula that use the city’s scientific institutions like the American Museum of Natural History and the Inwood Park Nature Center.

Barnard also sponsors the Intercollegiate Partnership with LaGuardia Community College. The program offers special summer programs, courses during the academic year, and Research Internships for LaGuardia students who aspire to study science at four-year colleges. The acceptance rate for these students applying to four-year schools is over 75 percent, signifying the success of the program. And, Prof. Hertz notes, Barnard has reaped some of the benefits: “Over the years we’ve had nine students who started at LaGuardia, participated in the Intercollegiate Partnership, and later graduated from Barnard.”

This fall, Barnard will expand its HSPP offerings by piloting a math enrichment program with a local middle school. Under the supervision of the College’s faculty, Barnard students will provide tutoring support to sixth graders as they use public health data to explore mathematical concepts.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to continue making science interesting and accessible to students at all stages of the science education pipeline,” said Hertz. “That is what the HSPP is all about.”