Today’s news:

Queensborough College gains major research partner

Bayside’s Queensborough Community College has become the first community college in the nation to be selected by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an associate member of its Science Education Alliance research initiative.

In mid-December, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute chose Queensborough to be part of its major research project, which was created in 2007 and currently has 24 colleges and universities as participants. The initiative is designed to provide more biomedical research and science education for undergraduate students.

“As a biologist, I know how crucial it is for students to engage in authentic, innovative research,” said Eduardo Marti, president of Queensborough. “I am very pleased that the alliance understands the vital importance of science education and honored that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute recognizes that Queensborough’s achievements in undergraduate research are at the level of a private, four-year institution.”

The school is one of 12 new members and four new associate members, all of which were chosen through a competitive application process. Brooklyn College is the only other school in the state to be chosen as part of the program.

Patricia Schneider, professor of biology and director at Queensborough for the research project, will work collaboratively with a group of 20 students from the college beginning in the fall of 2010 on the first Science Education Alliance program, the National Genomics Research Initiative.

The students will work on a two-part, yearlong course that will replace their traditional introductory biology laboratory class. They will be making real discoveries, identifying and naming bacterial viruses, extracting DNA and using bioinformatics tools to analyze and annotate genomes, which comprise the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information, Schneider said.

“This is a life-changing step in the development of our science students,” Schneider said. “The science experiment is a natural extension of curriculum innovations and research opportunities in biology that have been offered for years at Queensborough.”

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute will provide faculty training as well as curriculum materials to the school. Students will present their findings at Queensborough and at an annual symposium held at the institute’s headquarters in Chevy Chase, Md.

Peter Burns, vice president for grants and special programs at Howard Hughes, said the Science Education Alliance and Queensborough would learn from each other’s findings.

“The sharing of resources and ideas is a novel and exciting development,” he said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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