Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Grants for Science Education

OVERVIEW: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) is one of the wealthiest foundations in the United States, and gives to both biomedical research and science education. It has a multi-billion-dollar endowment and has given upwards of $1 billion a year in total annual awards.

IP TAKE: The Howard Hughes Medical Institute's research interests are not limited to medical research activities; it also cares about improving STEM instruction, attracting and retaining underrepresented and underprivileged groups, and increasing student persistence in STEM. Several of its initiatives are open but highly competitive.

PROFILE: HHMI is a monster of a funder, and it's all devoted to science. Although the large majority of its giving goes to science research—with the unique tactic of putting scientists fully on the foundation's payroll—it has a lesser program for education.

HHMI awards the majority of its grants towards a number of targeted, specific programs at colleges and universities around the nation. The institute is a huge funder of medical research but also awards millions in science and STEM grants to universities and colleges around the country. For postsecondary institutions, these two priorities are often intertwined or overlapping.

HHMIs Science Education: Developing Scientists program aims to “spur innovation in education, enable large-scale implementation of evidence based practice, and encourage outcomes assessment and the dissemination of effective strategies.” The institute awards grants to four year colleges and universities for STEM education programs.

While funding priorities are subject to change, HHMI is currently awarding colleges and universities five-year, $1 million grants to “support efforts of inclusive science education.” New funding phases are announced regularly on HHMIs website.

HHMI also awards grants to individuals through its Exceptional Research Opportunities (EXORP) and fellowships programs. EXORP gives students from disadvantaged backgrounds $5,000 in addition to “10 weeks of full-time research in the lab of an HHMI scientist,” “participation in a local summer research program,” and covers travel and housing costs to work on and present their findings at two meetings at HHMI headquarters. The institute’s fellowship programs are as follows:

Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study are open to PhD students who are from underrepresented groups in science. Students receive up to three years of support during their dissertation research. Compensation may vary and is currently $46,000 per year.

International Student Research Fellowships are offered to international grad students pursuing their PhDs in the U.S. Supported fields of study include “biomedical and related sciences, including physical and mathematical sciences.” The current award amount is $43,000 for each year of the fellowship.

Medical Research Fellows Program one year of full-time “mentored laboratory research training to medical, dental, and veterinary students,” who are not currently enrolled in an MD, PhD, or equivalent program. Fellows receive a $32,000 stipend, a $5,500 allowance for “research related enrichment activities,” and a $5,500 allowance for health insurance, as well as education and moving expenses.

HHMI Professors Program is geared toward HHMI professors who are “deeply committed to creating effective ways to engage undergraduates in science.” Individual professors are awarded a $1 million grant over five years and teams of two professors from the same institution receive a five-year, $1.5 million grant.

If you are considering applying, a good place to start is by reviewing HHMI’s programs and grants database, in addition to its current work and its Science Education News updates. Once you’ve identified a potential program, confirm your eligibility by reviewing the program’s FAQ’s link, usually found on the right-hand side of the page for that program (under the heading Eligibility or Downloads).

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