Hughes Scholars

The Georgetown Hughes program is among a select group of programs in the country that have garnered continuous support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) university grants initiative since its inception in 1993. The program is co-directed by Professor Maria Donoghue ( and Professor Joseph Neale ( The Georgetown University Howard Hughes Program includes a four-year research intensive curriculum for Georgetown undergraduates who intend to pursue a career in research and an innovative precollege program that supports progress of underrepresented DC high school students toward enrolling in college science programs.

Georgetown’s main HHMI-supported program is our Research Scholars program. This program provides a research-intensive 4-year course of study for Georgetown undergraduates, notable for its strong mentoring, advanced coursework, and extensive undergraduate research opportunities in the sciences. The Research Scholars program utilizes the cooperative efforts of research scientists in the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Medical Center at Georgetown University. Georgetown students with strong academic backgrounds and substantial commitment to the pursuit of a career in biomedical research and/or teaching are encouraged to apply. Students from a local community college, Montgomery College, also participate in our research scholars program, working alongside Georgetown Hughes Research Scholars in academic research laboratories. Another undergraduate program, Hughes Teaching Scholars, exposes students to teaching philosophy in the spring semester of junior year and teaching practice in the senior year. Overall, Georgetown Hughes Undergraduate Scholars act as members of diverse academic teams, often presenting their work with mentors at professional meetings and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Georgetown's YouTube video showcasing the HHMI Program and Scholars


Qualifications for Georgetown Hughes Research Scholars

The Georgetown Hughes Scholars Program encourages applications from Georgetown students who have demonstrated significant potential for careers in biomedical research by virtue of their achievements in science courses and/or in previous research experiences.

Incoming first year students who have been accepted to Georgetown College and who have indicated Biology, Chemistry, or Physics as their choice of major are invited to apply to the Georgetown Hughes Research Scholars Program by downloading and completing the application form. Students will be interviewed by program directors during the fall semester and notified of the outcome of their application to the program during the first year. In addition, any science major may apply to the program at any time during their undergraduate years as interest in pursuing Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D. degrees after college emerge.

Program Highlights for Georgetown’s Hughes Research Scholars

During the school year, Georgetown-Hughes Undergraduate Scholars participate in regular monthly group dinners and intellectual gatherings (Hughes salons). The goal of gatherings is to promote connections with faculty, a sense of intellectual community and academic cooperation among the scholars while fostering their interest in careers as research scientists and/or teachers in casual and fun settings.

During the summers following the first, second, and third years, Georgetown-Hughes Scholars remain on campus for 11 weeks from mid-May through the end of July to pursue mentored research in Georgetown University research laboratories. Housing and a stipend are provided to scholars during the summer session. While some Scholars begin research during their first academic year, the summer after freshman year typically marks the beginning of a three-year research experience.

Coursework is a part of the summer program. During the first summer, students enroll in BIOL-110: Critical Readings in Life Sciences and learn how to critically digest primary literature. BIOL-110 is team taught by faculty spanning diverse areas of the life sciences. In the second or third summer, Scholars can enroll in BIOL-379: Genomics and Bioinformatics, providing insight into understanding the value and accessibility of genomic information. Under an agreement to promote the training of future scientists, the University provides both courses tuition-free to Hughes Scholars.

MC Hughes Research Scholars

In the latest iteration of funding from HHMI, Georgetown initiated a partnership with a local community college, Montgomery College (MC) ( MC students with aptitude and interest in research were selected and enrolled in a Georgetown seminar in the spring. These MC Scholars then join the Georgetown Hughes Research Scholars the following summer, experiencing mentored research and housing together. The goal of this program is to expose students from nontraditional backgrounds for science careers, often members of unrepresented populations in science, to a life in research. Some Georgetown Research Scholars are partnered with MC Hughes Scholars, forging meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships.

Georgetown Hughes Teaching Scholars

In a program directed by Professor Heidi Elmendorf (, Georgetown students with an interest in teaching participate in a program developed to train students in teaching methods and practice. This program includes a formal course in the spring term of the third year, followed by an optional summer interval to prepare teaching materials and develop teaching portfolios before gaining practical teaching experiences in a public urban secondary school during the senior year as part of Georgetown’s RISE program. Teaching Scholars often go on to careers in education or medicine.

Outcomes of Georgetown’s Hughes Program

In mentored environments, Georgetown’s Research Scholars' intellectual and technical skills are developed in preparation for advanced study in Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs. Georgetown Hughes Research scholars present their research at scientific meetings and publish papers with their research groups. Past Georgetown Hughes Research Scholars have been accepted to many of the country's most highly recognized Ph.D., and M.D./Ph.D. programs. MC Scholars, having been exposed to sophisticated scientific research, are encouraged to join strong four year science programs. Georgetown Hughes Teaching Scholars are well-trained to communicate science and often join teaching or medical programs after graduation.