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SEPA Project Descriptions, October 2008

Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) are designed to incorporate inquiry-based learning experiences to stimulate interest in science, further public understanding of health issues, and encourage the next generation of health professionals. With an emphasis on reducing health disparities, the program's K-12 projects target minorities and students in rural and underserved communities. The awards support enhanced training for science teachers; the development and distribution of hands-on science curricula; and websites for students, teachers, and the general public.


American Museum of Natural History

New York

Human Health and Human Bulletins: Scientists and Teens Explore Health Sciences
Five-Year Award: $1.09 million

Principal Investigator
Monique Renee Scott, Ph.D.
Email: mscott@amnh.org

Description:

This project has three complementary components: the development of new productions for the American Museum of Natural History's digital media and documentary exhibition program, "Human Bulletins," featuring the newest health-related research; a mini-course entitled "Hot Topics in Health Research," covering genetics, epidemiology, research ethics and human health and evolution; and a "drop-in" science club where students and museum visitors meet monthly to watch a Human Bulletins news program and engage in informal discussions with significant researchers in the fields of evolutionary science and human health. Ultimately, the project aims to give students the means to critically process the information they receive about public health, see the relevance of human health science to their lives and pursue careers in health science.


American Physiological Society

Bethesda, Md.

Six Star Science for Student-Centered Learning
Three-Year Award: $794,500

Principal Investigator
Marsha Lakes Matyas, Ph.D.
Email: mmatyas@the-aps.org

Description:

This project will develop and test a new model summer research program for teachers based on the American Physiological Society's Frontiers in Physiology program and Six Star Science, an APS research-based framework for supporting excellence in science education for diverse students. Major products from the project will include science lessons and activities designed to promote student-centered learning, "Bench to Bedside" primers, podcasts and interactive units covering topics in basic and clinical research, research ethics and public health benefits. The products developed through this project will be accessible online to teachers, students and the public in free, easy-to-access formats. It will also be promoted through the American Physiological Society website and the National Science Digital Library.


Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver

Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health — Community Lab and Education Programs
Three-Year Award: $655,000

Principal Investigator
Bridget Crowley Coughlin, Ph.D.
Email: Bridget.Coughlin@dmns.org

Description (provided by grantee):

This project brings real scientific research into the public domain by establishing a research laboratory in a museum setting where visitors not only enroll in the study, they help shape it through their work as citizen scientists. Findings from the study will increase the public understanding of how genetic research translates into meaningful personal information that can be used to better understand personal health risks and opportunities. In a community-based participatory research laboratory, school-aged children and their families will participate in an authentic research project on the genetics of taste. In a series of simple but highly specific taste tests, participants will learn which gene variations they possess and how these variations influence how they taste foods.

Taste function has been increasingly linked to human health, in that variability in taste sensation correlates with, and may in part be causal for, major health problems, including cardiovascular disease and obesity. Interactive exhibit components will inform participants about the scientific process, the principles of genetics, the human genome project and genetic variation. Teaching the public about their genetic profile and its influence on taste may have a positive impact on major health threats such as cardiovascular disease and obesity. The data collected from museum visitors who choose to enroll in the study will be sent to the museum's academic partners for further analysis and inclusion in their ongoing research analysis and publications. This laboratory experience not only engages and educates the public, but also advances the research enterprise and offers a vivid model for how to translate research into the public domain.


East Carolina University

Greenville, N.C.

FoodMASTER: Impacting K-12 Learning Environments — Phase II
Two-Year Award: $504,000

Principal Investigator
Melani Wilson Duffrin, Ph.D.,R.D., L.D.N.
Email: duffrinm@ecu.edu

Description:

This project will collect research on the impact of SEPA-funded, multi-media FoodMASTER materials promoting science education along with collecting information about the logistics of the best way to disseminate materials, such as these in the K-12 systems. The FoodMASTER initiative is a compilation of programs aimed at using food as a tool to teach basic research methods, including science and math concepts to K-12 students. The project is intended to demonstrate that K-12 students engaged in hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities using food as a tool to teach basic scientific research concepts are better prepared to demonstrate and apply scientific knowledge and understand clinical and basic research to extend healthy life.


Georgia State University

Atlanta

Helping K-12 Students Become Fluent in the Language of DNA
Three-Year Award: $760,000

Principal Investigator
Barbara R. Baumstark, Ph.D.
Email: bbaumstark@gsu.edu

Description:

This project will generate a set of activities to help young students gain fluency in the language of DNA through the Georgia State University Bio-Bus program, which travels to Georgia schools and presents hands-on, inquiry-based activities designed to get K-12 students enthusiastic about science. Members of the Bio-Bus program will seek to determine whether presentation of DNA as a molecular language to students at an early age facilitates their ability to understand genetic principles that are presented in subsequent years. Principles of DNA structure and function will be introduced in the primary grades using a variety of models, puzzles and direct laboratory experiences. Additional activities that build on these principles will be implemented in later elementary and middle school classes. After evaluation and revision, successful activities will be offered to additional school districts located in urban, suburban and rural regions of Georgia. The ultimate goal of the project is to disseminate the DNA language program as a method for producing young learners with the knowledge and skills to understand DNA and to appreciate the impact that advances in molecular genetics are having on society.


Harvard Medical School

Boston

Opening the Pipeline for Native High Schools: Phase II
Two-Year Award: $538,000*

*Funding for this award was provided by six NIH institutes, including the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Principal Investigator
David D. Potter, Ph.D.
Email: david_potter@hms.harvard.edu

Description:

The primary goal of this project is to increase the probability that students at high schools in four Native American communities will pursue undergraduate and graduate training in biomedical sciences and medicine at leading institutions. Teams of 10 students and two teacher-chaperones, selected by each of the four participating Native communities, attend a three-week Native American High School Summer Program at Harvard University that examines abuse of alcohol and cocaine or methamphetamine through lectures, conference sections, and small-group tutorials, after which the students produce a presentation for their home communities. This project will improve the understanding of these teams about the neuroscience and clinical psychology of drug abuse and alcoholism, making them more interested and more effective in helping to reduce this serious problem in their communities. At the same time, expectations will be raised for the students, their teachers, parents and communities with respect to undergraduate and graduate professional training.


Iowa State University

Ames

Meta!Blast: An Immersive Interactive Learning Module for Cell Biology
Three-Year Award: $771,500

Principal Investigator
Eve S. Wurtele, Ph.D.
Email: mash@iastate.edu

Description:

This project will result in Meta!Blast, an interactive software module on cell biology that will immerse students in a three-dimensional, biologically accurate plant cell. Individual biological concepts will be parsed into student tasks, while keeping these tasks in the context of the whole environment. Meta!Blast will combine sophisticated simulation technology with accurate biological information, allowing students to explore and interact with a cell to discover concepts such as cellular energetics, gene function, cellular defenses against pathogens, and the consequences of compartmentalization. The application will dynamically illustrate modern concepts in cell and metabolic biology, prepare students for their public role, and stimulate students to join the biological and medical teaching and research professions.


Kansas University Medical Center

Kansas City

PathOlogical Life Sciences Training Program for Students and Families
Five-Year Award: $1.25 million

Principal Investigator
Patricia A. Thomas, M.D.
Email: pthomas@kumc.edu

Description:

Inequality or differences in the burden of disease remains a persistent and growing public health problem for the United States. To help address this problem, it is important to increase the public's knowledge of and access to reliable information about life sciences and the newest medical treatments. At the same time, disease inequalities can be addressed by increasing the number of scientists and doctors who are representative of the groups experiencing these differences in disease.

To help reduce disease inequalities, the Kansas University Medical Center (KUMC), through the Office of Cultural Enhancement and Diversity and the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine will develop the Kansas PathOlogical Life Sciences Training Program. This program will create activities that will improve area high school students' knowledge about clinical research and life sciences; improve life science and health literacy in communities; and increase community awareness of clinical research and the clinical trial process in order to improve the participation by underrepresented communities. The overall goal of this project is to develop programs that will increase knowledge of and access to life sciences and clinical trial information for students and communities in Kansas City.


Montclair State University

Montclair, N.J.

Epidemiology and the Energy Balance Equation
Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
Mark A. Kaelin, Ed.D.
Email: kaelinm@mail.montclair.edu

Description:

This project will result in a curriculum called "Epidemiology and the Energy Balance Equation," which is intended to develop middle school students' understanding of epidemiology by exploring the health consequences of physical activity and diet patterns. The curriculum will be field-tested by 10 pairs of science teachers from the Montclair State University Network for Educational Renewal with groups of 10 students each from the university's Academically Gifted and Talented Youth Program as well as with after-school epidemiology and public health clubs. The project will test the hypotheses that exposure to the curriculum will improve scientific literacy, abilities in scientific inquiry, understanding of epidemiology, and knowledge of the health consequences of physical activity and diet, as well as increasing student interest in science and careers in public health. The final curriculum will be disseminated through an Epidemiology and the Energy Balance Equation website, presentations at professional meetings, and professional development workshops.


New York Hall of Science

New York

Evolution and Health Traveling Exhibition and Education Programs
Five-Year Award: $1.35 million

Principal Investigator
Martin M. Weiss, Ph.D.
Email: mweiss@nyscience.org

Description:

This project will result in a 1000-square-foot interactive traveling exhibition intended to engage middle and high-school students, educators and the general public in inquiry-based learning about the role of evolution and natural selection in health, illness, prevention and treatment. In addition, teacher development programs and online activities focusing on health issues seen from an evolutionary perspective will be developed and disseminated with the exhibition on a national tour. While there are many museum exhibitions on health, this will be only one of two to take an evolutionary perspective, and the only one to explore the relationship between health and natural selection. The exhibition will increase visitors' comprehension of their own health issues by fostering a better understanding of evolution and natural selection.


Northwest Association for Biomedical Research

Seattle

Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics (CURE)
Five-Year Award: $1.35 million

Principal Investigator
Jeanne Ting Chowning, M.S.
Email: jchowning@nwabr.org

Description:

While members of the general public enjoy the health benefits of biomedical research, they are usually unaware of the process that generates new treatments and cures, or the ethical standards that help ensure that research is responsibly conducted. NWABR's multi-faceted education outreach program, "Collaborations to Understand Research and Ethics" (CURE), increases understanding of these important aspects of research. Students and teachers learn about "translational research" - the process of applying basic research to the development of clinical therapies - as they connect with scientists in their laboratories and experience how ethical guidelines shape scientific progress.

The CURE program will provide teacher professional development and curricular resources for middle and high school life science educators that target the science and ethics of translational research; create learning experiences for students that increase their understanding of translational research and ethics; and disseminate CURE resources and materials through an online teacher course, hands-on workshops and via the Web.

This SEPA is partnering with the University of Washington Institute of Translational Health Sciences, also funded by ORIP's Clinical and Translational Science Award Exit Disclaimer program.


Penn State College of Medicine

Hershey, Pa.

Investing in the Future: Collaborative Research Experiences for Students and Teachers
Five-Year Award: $1.31 million

Principal Investigator
Judith S. Bond, Ph.D.
Email: jbond@psu.edu

Description:

The Collaborative Research Experiences for Students and Teachers (CREST) program addresses systemic changes needed to overcome the difficulty of attracting young students to the study of science and, ultimately, to pursue careers in research and health care. The CREST program targets minority students from the Capital Region of central Pennsylvania, who have historically been underrepresented in science and medicine.

Selected 9th grade students will participate in summer research experiences for three consecutive years. The first two summer sessions will serve as an introduction to inquiry-based biomedical science. The program will culminate in a supervised research project in the third year. Students will work with faculty and undergraduate assistants from Lincoln University (designated a Historically Black University) and Penn State College of Medicine.

The CREST program also will target high school science teachers by providing professional development programs through Summer Science Academies at Penn State Harrisburg. During these sessions the teachers will learn how to incorporate laboratory experiences into their daily teaching programs while earning graduate credit.


University of Alaska Fairbanks

Biomedical Partnership for Research Education Pipeline in Alaska (Alaska BioPREP)
Five-Year Award: $1.35 million

Principal Investigator
George M. Happ, Ph.D.
Email: george.happ@alaska.edu

Description:

This project is intended to infuse molecular biology into the classrooms of rural Alaska secondary schools, encouraging students to choose biomedical and health careers and increasing biomedical literacy in Alaska communities. The project's community-based model will blend the talents and facilities of local school teachers and health providers to create venues where secondary school students can pose biological and biomedical questions, find answers using molecular approaches, and gain an appreciation of the importance of modern Western science to the practice of medicine and health policy in their daily lives. An immediate aim of this project will be to keep students in high school through graduation because their science courses are focused, challenging and relevant. Simultaneously, the project will seek to enrich the learning atmosphere for teachers and, through parents and local health providers, bridge to the community. Once out of high school, students will have the opportunity to continue their research education through the ORIP Institutional Development Award Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence program already in place in Alaska.


University of California, San Francisco

Pathways: Promoting Access to the Health Sciences through Partnership
Five-Year Award: $1.33 million

Principal Investigator
Rebecca L. Smith, Ph.D.
Email: rebecca.smith@ucsf.edu

Description:

Pathways seeks to address two critical issues that are local and national in scope — promoting diversity in the scientific workforce and closing the achievement gap. It does this by combining robust science learning opportunities for high school students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences with an intensive professional development program for San Francisco Unified School District teachers and UCSF scientist volunteers. This professional development program will focus on research-based strategies to promote equity in the classroom and student academic success in science.

The project brings teachers and scientists together in a year-long, classroom-based partnership that will use current discoveries in biomedical research to develop high school students' understanding of the concepts in the California Science Content Standards; the dynamic nature of scientific progress; and how modern biology relates both to their own lives and to advances in patient care. In its five years, Pathways will provide about 2,000 high school students with opportunities to investigate scientific questions while developing sustained relationships with scientist role models. Project outcomes will be assessed through rigorous evaluation.


University of Georgia

Athens

Learning Biological Processes through Animations and Inquiry: A New Approach
Five-Year Award: $1.3 million

Principal Investigator
J. Steve Oliver, Ph.D.
Email: soliver@uga.edu

Description:

Learning Biological Processes through Animations and Inquiry: A New Approach is a partnership among scientists and science educators at the University of Georgia and Augusta State University; science teachers in high schools; and the Biological Science Curriculum Study organization. Its purpose is to entice high school students to consider careers in science. Using 3-D animations of physiological processes, high school students learn about the life-threatening effects of diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body has problems producing or using insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Students will identify, describe and quantify details and changes that characterize the effects of diabetes. Through on-site visits to colleges of veterinary medicine and pharmacy, they also will learn how veterinarians and physicians evaluate kidney function; how research using models of disease are translated to human medicine; and how clinical trials are performed in veterinary and human medicine to evaluate the effectiveness of new treatments.


University of Hawaii at Manoa

Honolulu

Pacific Education and Research for Leadership in Science (PEARLS)
Five-Year Award: $1.31 million

Principal Investigator
Kelley Withy, M.D., Ph.D.
Email: withy@hawaii.edu

Description:

The Pacific Education and Research for Leadership in Science (PEARLS) project has been developed to increase science knowledge and career interest in underrepresented minority students and those from rural and underserved areas. Its goal is to inspire science interest in 7th- and 8th-grade students by developing a fun, inquiry-based science curriculum that also informs students about science careers. The curriculum will consist of culturally appropriate hands-on activities, field trips, classroom visits by scientists and intriguing laboratory experiments. Also, program specific teacher training, coordination of science career resources, science center exhibits, and innovative mentoring for teachers and students are built into the program.

Through complementary partnerships including science center staff, researchers, healthcare workers, curriculum experts and educators from Hawaii and the six U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, PEARLS will create a full-science curriculum that will help students develop scientific inquiry skills and better understand medical research and science career opportunities.​

This page last reviewed on May 10, 2017