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Programs supported by gift will create pipeline for the next generation of scientific leaders

Colby College has received a major contribution to support programs that will prepare the next generation of innovators in the sciences through funded experiences at renowned partner institutions on the leading edge of discovery.

The initiatives funded by Karen Linde Packman and Jeff Packman—the creation of the Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation and permanent funding for the Colby Achievement Program in the Sciences and the Champlin Scholars program—create a pipeline for the most ambitious and talented students from all backgrounds to pursue College-funded research, internship, and global opportunities in preparation for careers in fields such as biotechnology, biomedicine, biochemistry, ocean sciences, genomics, and bioinformatics.

Jocelyn Thomas, a former CAPS student and Champlin Scholar at Colby, is now a research assistant at The Jackson Laboratory.

“This is a golden age for the biosciences,” said President David A. Greene. “The discoveries made now will have an enormous impact on human health and prosperity and the health and vitality of our planet. It is essential that we draw on the talents of this generation of students to lead the way in scientific research and the innovation that emerges from that work. The Packmans’ vision and generosity will strengthen the pipeline of scientific leaders by making Colby a place where students can benefit from the best of the liberal arts tradition while also having access to the instrumentation, infrastructure, and large-scale scientific collaboration available through the world’s leading research laboratories.”

Both alumni from the Class of 1988, the Packmans currently hold key leadership roles at the College. Jeff Packman is vice chair of the Colby College Board of Trustees, and Karen Linde Packman is chair of the Colby College Museum of Art’s Board of Governors.

CAPS Students on Allen Island with Professor of Biology Catherine Bevier.

By supporting the Colby Achievement Program in the Sciences (CAPS) in perpetuity, the Packmans’ gift ensures that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to pursue careers in the sciences. Originally established as a pilot program through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institution, CAPS helps students from under-resourced and traditionally underrepresented groups persist in the sciences. CAPS students spend six weeks with faculty in the classroom and Colby’s laboratories the summer before their first year, preparing them for the rigor of the natural sciences and providing them with a support system for when they experience challenges. Since the program’s inception, Colby has seen a marked increase in African-American, Latino/Latina, and Native American majors in the sciences, and their average grade point averages have climbed during the same period.

Through the Champlin Scholars program, students will receive College funding to support their summer or January term research and internship experiences, which opens those opportunities for students who may not otherwise be able to pursue them. The Champlin Scholars program is named in honor of longtime biology professor Art Champlin, who collaborated with The Jackson Laboratory for decades and was Mr. Packman’s mentor during his student years at Colby.

Funding available through the Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation will allow Colby to expand on its connections to leading research institutions, which already include The Jackson Laboratory, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and others. The College will also continue to broaden its network of companies that are innovating in the biosciences and offer students funding to pursue internships to prepare them to make an impact in their fields.

Students from a broad range of disciplines will have access to funded experiences that allow them to tie their academic work to innovative approaches to opportunities around the country and the world. The Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation will bring students and faculty from the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences together around complex issues, adding richness to each student’s perspective and approach.

“We are honored to be able to support such critical and innovative programs at Colby,” said the Packmans. “We are acutely aware of the disparate access to educational opportunities that exist in the biosciences. We are proud that Colby is setting itself apart from its peers in its dedication to ensuring academic support, options, and funding for all students who wish to pursue careers in the field.”

The inaugural director of the Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation, the J. Warren Merrill Associate Professor of Biology Andrea Tilden, believes that the opportunities created through this new funding will place Colby students at the vanguard of bioscience discovery.

“We’re very excited to be able to create a network of opportunities and collaborations for our students with our own bioscience faculty at Colby and with world-class research institutions—some of which happen to be here in Maine,” said Tilden. “A student who launches a genomics project with a scientist at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, for example, may use Jackson Laboratory genomic sequencing resources, and then Colby’s cyberinfrastructure platform for computational analysis of large genomic datasets. With this extraordinarily generous funding, all of this can be orchestrated to provide unique, innovative, and rich experiences for our students in the most groundbreaking fields in the biosciences.”

Tilden was a founding faculty member of the CAPS program, which has proven successful at helping students from underrepresented backgrounds stay engaged in the scientific disciplines at Colby and now serves as a model for colleges and universities working to address issues of persistence in the sciences. She also has been instrumental in developing opportunities for Colby students in genomics at Jackson Laboratory, including a January-term course funded through the Champlin Scholars program. She is currently helping to develop Colby’s new program in computational biology, which includes a multi-institution cyberinfrastructure collaboration with Jackson Laboratory and the University of Maine.

The initiatives funded by the Packmans’ gift support efforts by Colby to connect students’ academic pursuits to meaningful opportunities that are available to all—regardless of their financial means. In December 2017 Colby announced the creation of the Buck Lab for the Environment and Climate Change, which supports internships, research, and global experiences; and earlier that year the College launched DavisConnects, which, among other things, will guarantee students at least one global experience beyond study abroad.