January 24, 2001

C.U. Prof Accepts Position at Institute

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Its a long way from Cornell University to Chevy Chase, MD. Just ask Prof. Peter Bruns, molecular biology and genetics, who now spends half his time in the Washington, D.C. suburb, fulfilling his duties as the new Vice President for Grants and Special Programs at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Bruns is to lead the grant program, the largest privately supported science education initiative in the history of the United States.

The Institute awards more than $100 million annually to support science education efforts at institutions across the nation, as well as renowned biomedical scientists abroad.

“[HHMI] is a wonderful organization, small but well funded with a sincere desire to do good things,” said Bruns. “The new leadership is also terrific.”

Bruns accepted the position in order to implement his ideas and programs on a national scale, he explained.

“We need science education for everyone … Science literacy is not just memorizing the facts, but understanding the discovery,” he said.


Developmental teaching programs involving graduate students and post-doctorates and cutting-edge research courses as well as support of innovative teaching will be Bruns’s main focuses.

A faculty member at Cornell since 1969, Bruns will be dividing his time between the university and the institute until June of this year.

“It is interesting,” said Bruns of his dual life. “Theoretically, I’m [part] time there and retired here but really it is more like full time there. It’s busy, but exciting.”

At the end of the semester, Bruns will move permanently to HHMI’s headquarters in Chevy Chase, MD to pursue his work.

“We would like to continue an intellectual connection after [Bruns] leaves in June,” said Prof. David Shalloway, biological sciences. “He has the opportunity to be provided with an office and his lab research [at Cornell] will run for another year, headed by his senior researchers.”

“It’s an honor to Cornell to have one of our own chosen for such an important position, but we’re sorry to lose him,” Shalloway said.

Bruns’ involvment with the HHMI started several years ago. Through the Institute, he established many scienctific educational programs. He initiated the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers, which brings together New York state high school teachers for summer lectures on the teaching of molecular biology through field trips, hands-on laboratory activities and computer training. Subsidiary programs were also established in Cleveland, Boston, Hartford and New York City.

Beyond his desire to bring science into the life of the average person, Bruns provides opportunities for scientific discoveries as the director of Cornell’s Presidential Research Scholars program, which assists Cornell students interested in doing original research in biology and other fields.

Under Bruns’ leadership, Cornell received three grants totaling $6.2 million from HHMI’s Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education Program.

“Peter is energetic and full of innovative ideas,” said HHMI President Thomas R. Cech. “He has a team building approach to working with his staff that already has them very enthusiastic.”

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag