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June 21, 2007

Purdue veterinary school receives funding to support precollege science education

Dean Willie M. Reed
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Middle school students will get a boost in learning science from Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine through a $749,755 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Purdue is the only veterinary school among 31 institutions selected for this award.

"This represents a huge vote of confidence in our veterinary sciences because the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a well-known leader in human medical programs," said Dean Willie M. Reed. "Our research has shown similarities between animals and humans in many diseases, so it's logical to anticipate the possibility of even more support in the future."

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a nonprofit medical research organization with laboratories across the United States and grant programs throughout the world. The grant is spread over five years and incorporates campus resources to develop a series of comparative biology electronic field trips.

J. Paul Robinson
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"Middle school students will have the opportunity to interact with Purdue scientists in their laboratories without leaving their school grounds," said J. Paul Robinson, SVM Professor of Cytomics in the School of Veterinary Medicine. "We will pay special attention to selecting topics, visuals and scientists that appeal to a wide range of audiences, with particular emphasis on helping girls and minorities see science careers as both attainable and exciting."

The field trips will help middle school students:

* Relate to science through presentations of comparative biological issues.

* Better understand the role and relevance of science in society and increase potential to function as scientifically literate citizens.

* Learn about career opportunities in science and the academic preparation pathways to becoming a scientist.

Purdue will feature a host and one or two guest scientists from areas such as veterinary medicine, biology and agriculture, and will combine preproduced videos and animations, live demonstrations and experiments, discussions and question-and-answer sessions with working scientists.

"Electronic field trips are similar to traditional field trips," Robinson said. "They require advance preparation and a certain amount of schedule modification, but with the advantage of saving transportation costs and travel time. This can be a significant addition to middle school science education programs, especially for small, rural school communities that are often overlooked when it comes to science enrichment opportunities."

The project will take advantage of Purdue's library of biology concept animations, video production expertise and facilities in the Department of Agriculture Communication Service and learning science expertise of the Discovery Learning Center.

"This project provides a perfect opportunity to examine the role and impact of electronic media on learning and the learning process," said Wilella Burgess, managing director of the Discovery Learning Center. "At the same time, we are going to be able to take science and discovery to kids who may not have ever thought a career in science was possible."

Teacher preparation sessions will take place through a network of videoconference sites already in existence within the statewide Purdue Extension offices. Teachers will be provided with materials, content and curriculum so they can enhance the learning opportunity concurrent to the broadcast.

The electronic field trips will be accessible through the Internet. For more information about the project, contact Burgess at (765) 494-0668.

Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432,

Sources:  Willie M. Reed, (765) 494-7608,

J. Paul Robinson, (765) 494-0757,

Wilella Burgess, (765) 494-0668,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

PHOTO CAPTION: J. Paul Robinson, a Purdue professor of veterinary medicine, makes an adjustment on the multispectral analysis instrument in his laboratory at Discovery Park's Bindley Bioscience Center. Robinson received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for a project that helps middle school students learn about science. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger).

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