In the fall of 2012, Macalester received a $1.3 million, four-year grant from the Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). One of only 47 U.S. small colleges and universities to receive an HHMI award in this round, Macalester is using the funding to promote curricular innovation and to provide local and global research experiences for students.
Macalester's proposal, titled “Transforming Data into Knowledge: Curricular Innovations in the Era of Big Data,” emphasizes the computational skills scientists must develop to access, analyze, and draw dependable conclusions from large and increasingly complex data sets.
Students who begin scientific careers in the coming decades will confront data in multiple formats from multiple sources. They must be able to judge the quality (precision, completeness, and accuracy) of data, comply with evolving practices of use (property, privacy and security, access), and select and execute appropriate computational strategies to analyze the data and convey to others the knowledge derived from it.
To prepare students for such future challenges, Macalester faculty will infuse computational principles and data fundamentals into the science curriculum, encouraging students to take on the challenges of "Big Data." Because data and computation cross disciplinary boundaries, this undertaking is multidisciplinary, involving 17 courses/labs and 24 faculty members from Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology, Mathematics/Statistics/Computer Science, Neuroscience Studies, Physics, and Psychology.
APPLICATIONS to participate in the 2015 Macalester-HHMI Research Initiative are being accepted through 5:00 PM on February 16, 2015. Guidelines and information.