Duke’s Willard Named Howard Hughes Professor
DURHAM, N.C. -- Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
announced today that Huntington Willard, Ph.D., director of the
Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, has been named
a HHMI Professor. He is one of 20 scientists selected in a
national competition to receive $1 million each to support
activities to improve undergraduate science education.
"The scientists whom we have selected are true pioneers—not
only in their research, but in their creative approaches and
dedication to teaching," said HHMI President Thomas R. Cech.
"We are hopeful that their educational experiments will
energize undergraduate science education throughout the
Willard has authored or co-authored more than 300 scientific
papers, primarily on topics involving the sequence and
organization of the human genome, as well as on the molecular
structure and function of chromosomes, the structures that
carry and organize the estimated 25,000 human genes.
The HHMI funding will be used to create and support programs
to expand research opportunities for Duke undergraduates in the
study of genomes, beginning with an intensive small group
seminar program for incoming freshmen on "The Genome
Revolution", which Willard began in 2004. The Genome Revolution
seminar explores the genome project and its consequences from
For Willard, the freshman seminar represents a golden
opportunity to engage Duke students as they walk in the door.
"Why are we doing it?" he asks. "Because freshmen are the
greenest, widest-eyed kids on our campus; they're the ones we
want to connect to first."
As an HHMI Professor, Willard will link the FOCUS course to
open-ended, multiyear research opportunities in laboratories in
the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, involving
interdisciplinary teams of students. New advanced courses in
the genome sciences will be developed for juniors and seniors
Willard received an A.B. in biology from Harvard University
and a Ph.D. from Yale University. He has held research and
academic posts at Stanford University, the University of
Toronto and Case Western Reserve University, where he was
chairman of the Department of Genetics. He joined the faculty
at Duke University in 2003.
In 2005, HHMI invited 100 research universities with
outstanding track records in sending graduates to medical or
graduate schools to nominate up to two faculty members to
compete for its professorships. A panel of distinguished
research scientists and educators, including some HHMI
professors selected in the most recent competition, reviewed
150 applications. The panel based its selections on evaluations
of the potential impact of the proposals on undergraduate
science education, on the quality of the applicants' research
and educational accomplishments, and on the potential for the
proposed programs to serve as models elsewhere.