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 funds 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: In addition to medical research activities, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's funding priorities include 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: Created in 1953 by Howard Hughes, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a major funder devoted entirely to science. The institute seeks to promote “human knowledge within the field of the basic sciences (principally the field of medical research and medical education) and the effective application thereof for the benefit of mankind.” Although the large majority of its grantmaking supports science research—with the unique tactic of putting scientists fully on the foundation's payroll—it has a lesser programs for education.

HHMI prioritizes medical research but also awards millions in science and STEM grants to targeted, specific programs at colleges and universities around the country. For postsecondary institutions, these two priorities often overlap.

HHMIs Science Education: Developing Scientists program funds STEM education programs at four year colleges and universities and seeks to “spur innovation in education, enable large-scale implementation of evidence based practice, and encourage outcomes assessment and the dissemination of effective strategies.” While funding priorities are subject to change, HHMI currently awards colleges and universities five-year, $1 million grants to “support efforts of inclusive science education.” HHMIs website regularly announces new funding phases.

HHMI also funds 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 from underrepresented groups in science. Students receive up to three years of support during their dissertation research. Compensation varies but averages around $50,000 per year.

Medical Research Fellows Program funds 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 receive a $1 million grant over five years and teams of two professors from the same institution receive a five-year, $1.5 million grant.

New grantseekers should review HHMI’s programs and grants database, its current work, and its Science Education News updates before applying. Determine eligibility for a potential program 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).


  • Janet Carlson, Science Education Advisory Board member
  • Vicki L. Chandler, Science Education Advisory Board member