Isaac Agbeshie-Noye serves as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion as The Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Thursday the science philanthropy organization announced a new effort to make labs more equitable and inclusive. (Photo Courtesy of Tim Coburn Photography)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a science philanthropy that advances biomedical research and science education, on Thursday committed $1.5 billion to launch the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program for early career scientists who are dedicated to creating equitable and inclusive lab environments. 

Applications are now open and will close on Sept. 28.

The new program is a part of HHMI’s broader commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that seeks to build a scientific workforce that wholly reflects the racial, ethnic and gender demographics of the U.S. 

“Achieving diversity in science really gives us an opportunity to make sure that everybody sees themselves in these solutions, and everybody understands that these solutions were designed with them in mind,” said Isaac Agbeshie-Noye, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at HHMI. 

The Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program is named after University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) President Freeman Hrabowski, who transformed the school’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum so more students, particularly those of color, could succeed and flourish in STEM fields. 

Hrabowski announced his retirement from the university back in August after 30 years of transformative leadership, and HHMI chose to honor and carry on his legacy through this new program. 

“His passion and his fervor for science education, and his ability to then work at UMBC and build a program that is an established pathway and a national model for achieving diversity in science, particularly scientists from underrepresented and historically marginalized backgrounds, has just been unparalleled,” said Agbeshie-Noye. 

For the program, HHMI is targeting scientists who are in their first four years of a tenure-track research position. In the application, they are asked to chronicle their journey in science, share their philosophy surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion and describe the research they are looking to perform in their lab. 

Scholars selected for the program will initially be appointed for a five-year term, which can be renewed once, and they will receive up to $8.6 million over 10 years, which includes a full salary, benefits, a research budget and scientific equipment. 

They will also have access to mentorship and professional development opportunities through HHMI’s expansive network of scientists, investigators and professors. 

“It will take us a while to see what the lesson learned are, but we are excited because [the program] is going to bring together all of our network so everybody is actually having this conversation about how we advance [diversity, equity and inclusion] in science together,” said Agbeshie-Noye.

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