AT BROWN UNIVERSITY, the “Phage Hunters” course gives first-year students a chance to find, name, and analyze the DNA of undiscovered viruses. “This is how science operates,” said Professor Peter Shank, with student Alex Hadick. The hope is to hook students early.
PROVIDENCE – Brown University will be one of eight project sites in a new national initiative to revamp and create innovate curricula in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, the university announced Tuesday.
The effort is led by the 62-member Association of American Universities, which selected Brown along with the University of Pennsylvania and six public universities to pilot the program. It will be funded by a $500,000 grant from the associate, which Brown will match with its own money.
The three-year initiative at Brown will begin with a set of seven engineering, neuroscience and physics classes for first-years and sophomores, in which faculty members will shape their courses to place a greater emphasis on group work, hands-on engagement and original student research.
Based on the outcomes of those efforts, the initiative will expand to other STEM departments and courses the following two years, according to the university.
The plan also includes increased collaboration between science and math faculty members to ensure that students’ gaps in basic math skills are recognized and addressed.
The funding will provide faculty support, including work with Brown’s Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning and its Science Center, and backing for graduate students who will help design curricula. It will also provide for a system to assess the course methods.
A new online network will allow Brown and the other seven universities, which were chosen from 31 applicants, to share best practices with the rest of the association’s member schools.
For Brown, the new effort comes in the midst of the school’s strategic planning process, which began last fall under new President Christina H. Paxson and is expected to yield a broad university plan next year. “This grant comes at a critical time in our strategic planning, when we want to focus attention on something Brown has long been known for, which is innovation in education,” Katherine Bergeron, dean of the College at Brown, said in a statement.
The Association of American Universities launched the initiative in 2011, and it was bolstered by a $4.7 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust last October.