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HHMI To Fund New Va. Biotech Magnet Program

April 05, 2004

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced last month a partnership with the Loudoun County, Va., school district to donate $1 million per year to establish a biotech magnet program for area high school students.

The nonprofit’s support of the Loudoun district was made in connection with a tax break for a new research campus at Janelia Farm, scheduled to open in 2006. The district is hoping some of the nearly 300 scientists expected to work at the new facility will also sponsor student research programs and act as mentors.

An empty wing of the district’s new Dominion High School will house the program that will be open to students through a competitive application process. Students will attend the program every other day, while remaining at their home high school for other classes and extracurricular activities.

Two other initiatives included in the partnership are:

  • College scholarships of $7,000 for two outstanding science students from each Loudoun County high school, beginning with the 2004 graduating class. Fourteen students will receive scholarships in 2004 for a total of $98,000 in awards.
  • A summer science academy program offered to 36 middle school teachers annually. The program will help the teachers develop hands-on learning programs within their classrooms, providing support and equipment as needed.

According to HHMI, research has indicated that a student’s interest in science tends to peak around middle school and declines from there because of a perceived dullness in classroom teaching. The hands-on learning experience is intended to help bolster interest in the science field.

Included in the 2005 Loudoun County school district budget is $100,000 to hire a coordinator who will plan the curriculum and application process for the new program.

Since its inception in 1988, HHMI has invested more than $1.4 billion in activities for students across the country. More information on the partnership with Loudoun County is available at: http://www.hhmi.org/news/032504.html