The college received the first installment of a five-year $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  The grant, intended to enrich the work of the biology department and to extend the department’s influence into the Poughkeepsie community.  Specifically, it funded: student research and fellowships, both in Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) and through travelling grants; four high-quality fluorescent microscopes with computer imaging and faculty training in fluorescent microscopy, computer imaging and laser optics; three community outreach programs—teaching internships for Vassar students in local high schools and summer science programs on campus for both high school science teachers and local community college science students—and a new tenure track in biology to accommodate curricular development in both the biology department and the interdisciplinary program in science, technology and society of bioinformatics—a developing field combining biology, chemistry, computer science and mathematics.  Associate Professor Bill Strauss, the principal writer of the grant explained that the new field was “developing computing resources to deal with the massive amount of information that is generated by genomic projects and proteomics, which is the study of protein structure and function and their relation to genetics.”

“We’re all quite excited about the influence that this grant can have on our academic lives and the curriculum,” Professor of Biology Robert Suter said, adding, “I am particularly delighted that the grant will support another of Vassar’s efforts to interact fruitfully with people in our surrounding community.”      The Miscellany News

Chartered in 1953, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was the realization of the aircraft pioneer’s longstanding interest in philanthropy serving society through biomedical research and science education.