The University of Texas At Austin Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) recently received a $2.4 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a science philanthropy organization based in Chevy Chase, Maryland that supports the advance of biomedical research and science education, to promote and expand their early student’s research projects.
The FRI, based at UTA’s College of Natural Sciences, is focused on research related to the relationship between biology and its connection to human diseases. The organization’s main goal is to help individual students in their early academic careers to engage in their own research projects. Every year, the FRI offers 800 first-year students the possibility to conduct original, publishable research on science as the key component of a “year-long, project that fulfills degree requirements for the student,” according to a UT Austin news release.
“Our nation’s research universities are absolutely critical to sustaining our scientific excellence,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian in the press release. “Simply put, we are challenging these universities to focus their attention on improving science education so that a greater number of talented students remain in science.”
Since 2005, the Freshman Research Initiative has involved more than 2,000 freshmen in faculty research in biology, biochemistry, mathematics, physics, textiles & apparel, chemistry, computer science, and astronomy. FRI believes that students who conduct research with them have improved academic performance, stay in college, and go on to earn graduate degrees.
Erin Dolan, the first executive director of the Texas Center for Science Discovery, noted that, “through the Freshman Research Initiative, students develop the passion, skills and sense of community they need to persevere in getting a science degree and become a successful scientist or engineer.”
The Inaugural Director of the Texas Center for Science Discovery also stated his gratitude to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “We’re thrilled that HHMI is endorsing our approach by giving us the resources to grow this important and effective program.”