November 16, 2007

VUMC’s ‘Science High’ gains support from federal grant

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Virginia Shepherd, Ph.D.

VUMC’s ‘Science High’ gains support from federal grant

Vanderbilt University will receive nearly $790,000 from the federal government during the next three years to continue development of its innovative School for Science and Math.

The grant was one of 10 Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA) announced Tuesday by the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health.

Launched this fall, the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt is a collaborative project of the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach (CSO) and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. It is hosted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The part-time school is designed for public high school students from Nashville who “enthusiastically seek” an advanced, challenging curriculum that will prepare them for 21st century careers.

“The goal of this program is to immerse students in a research-centered approach to better prepare them for careers in science and related fields,” said CSO director Virginia Shepherd, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and the grant's principal investigator.

“We are already off to a great start,” added school director and co-principal investigator Glenn McCombs, Ph.D.

“We have full-time Ph.D. scientist instructors leading a high-powered cross-disciplinary curriculum. In addition, a number of research faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students have served as guest speakers, led laboratories and opened their facilities for a first-hand view. The university support has been tremendous and is crucial to our success,” he said.

Twenty-five ninth- and eight 12th-graders enrolled in the school this year. Criteria for admission included high state science and math test scores and course grades, and recommendations from teachers and counselors.

The seniors completed summer research projects at Vanderbilt, and entered them in the Siemens (formerly Westinghouse) national science competition. Uyen Pham, who was mentored by Daniela Drummond-Barbosa, Ph.D., assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, was one of seven semifinalists from Tennessee.

The ninth-graders receive instruction in the classroom and the laboratory from scientists at Vanderbilt one day a week. The remaining four days of each week, they attend their regular high schools.

Ninth-graders are expected to commit to all four years. New ninth- and 12th-grade classes of up to 25 students each will be selected during the next two years until all four grades are filled.

SEPA grants support enhanced training for science teachers, and the development of hands-on science curricula and Web sites for students, teachers, and the general public.

For more information about the school, visit