Howard Hughes Medical Institute Takes Hands-On Learning to a New Level
College students often visit warmer climates during spring break, but Yale’s Sun Lee ’09 and Jocelyn Keehner ’08 trekked to the jungles of Peru.
Their adventure was part of a new course, Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory, funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Developed and taught by Scott Strobel, chair of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale and one of twenty educators nationwide honored as 2006 “HHMI professors,” the introductory course challenges students to think like working scientists and to have a personal stake in the outcome of their projects.
The course has three parts. A spring-semester class lays groundwork in science and technology, with particular emphasis on evolution, ecology, and molecular and structural analysis. During spring break, students take part in a working trek to a rainforest to collect local branches and twigs, along with their associated microbes. Upon return, they spend a rigorous summer session classifying their finds—true “unknowns”—and begin to identify new bioactive compounds.
(May 5, 2007)