Lehigh University
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Keck Foundation grant supports Applied Life Science program

Lehigh recently received a grant of $400,000 from the W.M. Keck Foundation to develop a new program that explores the impact of science on public policy, economics, health care, commerce, and law.

The new undergraduate Applied Life Science program is expected to attract students with diverse interests spanning the natural sciences and including such non-science disciplines as ethics, sociology, economics, international relations, and philosophy.

“The Applied Life Science program will build on Lehigh’s foundation of intellectually innovative programs that transcend disciplinary boundaries and provide students with real-world experiences,” says Gregory Farrington, president of Lehigh. “With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Applied Life Science program will advance undergraduate education and create new generations of innovators and thoughtful citizens in the life sciences who will help define the effects of the life science revolution on society and the world community.”

Farrington said that the new program is a response to an academic challenge for programs that functionally integrate scientific and technological literacy with diverse fields that are traditionally viewed as separate from science and engineering.

“The Applied Life Science program represents a new educational paradigm that will produce a new kind of graduate – one who has the skills and critical capacities to analyze issues that arise from the ripple effects of the human genome and proteome projects, for example, to create knowledge at the intersection of disciplines.”

This program is part of a broader $15 million bioscience and biotechnology initiative that was launched at Lehigh during the 2000-01 academic year and which includes several components: a 50 percent expansion of the biological sciences department, several additional faculty appointments, and significant investments in both teaching labs and research infrastructure.

The Applied Life Science program will offer a flexible curricular design for students interested in social science, humanities, and business applications of the bioscience revolution, as well as those who wish to work at the intersections among the natural sciences, according to Carl Moses, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The need for integration in bioscience education extends beyond the borders of any university,” says Moses. “The Applied Life Science program will feature a substantive partnership between the university, health care providers, corporations, and the public sector.”

Mohamed El-Aasser, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, agrees. “The Keck grant for Applied Life Science, along with the recently funded National Science Foundation grant for the implementation of non-traditional curricula in bioengineering, will provide important resources and assets for building a world-class program at Lehigh,” he says. “Our task is how to leverage these awards, to maximize their impact on the field of life science education and research for the benefit of our students and faculty. This should be easy given the excellent teams we have in place.”

Students in the Applied Life Science program will experience an environment that features integrative practices on four levels:

-- It will unite traditionally separate academic disciplines.

-- It will bridge theory and practice through classroom and project-based experiential learning.

-- It will allow undergraduate and graduate students to work together with faculty in research environments to foster a team approach to problem-solving and an understanding of professional responsibility.

-- It will encourage students to study and practice strategic alliances by working with faculty, clinical, and private and public sector partners.

“The Applied Life Science program will offer an important option for talented students seeking non-traditional careers at the interface of life science and other fields,” says Moses. “We believe that the program will encourage scientific study among students who may not have considered life science as an integral component of their education.”

Neurobiologist Neal Simon, professor and chair of biological sciences, co-designed the program along with a team that included Moses; Daniel Ou-Yang, professor of physics; Linda Lowe-Krentz, professor of biological sciences and associate dean of the college; and faculty representing the departments of chemistry and mathematics. Prof. Simon will serve as program director.

The W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Established in 1954 by the late William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company, the Foundation's grantmaking is focused primarily on the areas of medical research, science, and engineering.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, March 04, 2004

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