NSF for Undergraduates

In November 1960, a report by the President's Scientific Advisory Committee, discussing federal aid to science education at the graduate level, digressed to say, "To attract more talented young people to science as a career, both undergraduate colleges and the Federal Government should give urgent attention to the quality of collegiate instruction in the sciences. Here [as at the graduate level] research and teaching need to be connected whenever possible, so that both teachers and students may have the opportunity for learning by scientific inquiry."

The report, drafted mainly by McGeorge Bundy, and Glenn T. Seaborg, then Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley and now chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had considerable effect at the University in directing attention to this "critical need" and apparently has influenced people on the government side of federal aid.

From Washington last week came an announcement of a National Science Foundation program, which in its first year will grant $5 million to colleges for undergraduate education in the sciences. The program is just a start but represents the most ambitious step thus far to improve scientific education of undergraduates.

The NSF grants will go to colleges, mostly smaller institutions, that can match the governmental aid and will finance equipment used in undergraduate instruction. Harvard may not itself profit from the monetary rewards of this first step, but can take note that this "critical need" realized by its former Dean of the Faculty and by many others in the community has been recognized in Washington.

Since the Bundy-Seaborg report was released by the White House last fall, the government has shown other indications that undergraduate education in science is no longer neglected. NSF has also made available $5 million to encourage the use of undergraduates as research assistants and has established programs to improve the training of college science instructors and the content of college textbooks.

These programs represent a new approach to bridge a gap that has developed between science education in colleges and in graduate schools, the Bundy-Seaborg report on "Scientific Progress, the Universities, and the Federal Government" has contributed greatly to this new awareness.