Akif Uzman, interim dean of the College of Sciences and Technology at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD), recently was named as one of 40 national Vision and Change Leadership Fellows by the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE).
PULSE, a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), selected Uzman from a competitive pool of 250 candidates to identify and implement systemic changes needed to improve undergraduate life sciences education across the country. All fellows are post-secondary life sciences faculty members who are department chairs or former department chairs and will serve as leaders in catalyzing reform in undergraduate biology education.
“The fellows represent a diverse group of extremely capable faculty,” said Judith Verbeke of NSF. “They bring a variety of experiences that will inform the development of an implementation framework that will transform undergraduate education in the life sciences.”
The fellows come from 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands and represent research universities, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive/regional universities and two-year colleges.
In 2006, NSF and the American Association for the Advancement of Science launched a multi-year dialogue among the scientific community regarding the need for reform in the way biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty and how curricular decisions are made. This initiative resulted in the 2011 report, “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action,” funded by NIH and HHMI.
“The strong response we received to the call for applications reflects broad consensus in the community that change is needed,” said HHMI’s Cynthia Bauerle. She notes that biology education must change to spark student interest in science and prepare them to answer challenging 21st century problems. “The time is now,” said Bauerle.
PULSE will stimulate universal change in undergraduate life sciences education by focusing on strategies that drive institutional change. Because a change in institutional culture in needed, PULSE activities are focused on academic departments and not individual faculty members.
Uzman serves on the editorial board of Biochemical and Molecular Biology Education and was a finalist for UHD’s Excellence in Teaching Award. A former Regent’s Fellow at the University of California, he received a bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree in zoology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively.
“I am tremendously honored to be recognized for my advocacy in biology education and to be selected as a PULSE Vision and Change Leadership Fellow,” said Uzman. “It is exciting to work alongside some of the nation’s leaders in the field as, together, we help to reshape the future direction of life sciences education.”