The Pittsburgh Foundation

$2.1 million awarded for scientific research

Awards include $300,000 for program pairing undergraduates with innovative scientists

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Aug. 30, 2018 – To stimulate innovative collaboration among young scientific researchers and later-career investigators, The Board of the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, a supporting organization of The Pittsburgh Foundation, has awarded 10 scientific research grants totaling $1.9 million. These grants will support research in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh; at the University Park campus of Pennsylvania State University; and in Philadelphia at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Sciences.

This year, the Foundation has created a new pilot initiative, the Integrated Research-Education Grant (IREG) program, to support a research process that places undergraduate students alongside innovative scientists engaged in basic, fundamental research in Pennsylvania. In this inaugural round, the Foundation awarded $100,000 to the University of Sciences. But two additional proposals were so compelling that they were consequently reviewed and recommended for funding through The Pittsburgh Foundation. Each of the additional proposals funded by The Pittsburgh Foundation – one at the University of the Sciences and one at Gettysburg College – were awarded $100,000.

Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King acknowledged the fundamental role the Kaufman awards play in fostering a culture of interdisciplinary scientific research and innovation at Pennsylvania universities. “Charles Kaufman recognized that extraordinary scientific breakthroughs are possible only when our society invests in research,” King said. “His vision for funding curiosity-driven science is helping to revolutionize the fields of biology, physics and chemistry and the areas in which these disciplines intersect.”

The Kaufman grants go to institutes of higher learning in Pennsylvania for scientists pursuing research that explores their field’s essential questions and/or crosses disciplinary boundaries.

Charles Kaufman, a respected chemical engineer, left $40 million to The Pittsburgh Foundation when he died in 2010 to continue his life-long commitment to scientific research with the potential to improve human life. Since 2013, the Foundation has awarded 53 grants totaling $10.9 million.

For this awards program cycle in the New Investigator and New Initiative funding streams, Kaufman’s Scientific Advisory Board reviewed 216 letters of intent from scientists at 35 colleges and universities and, from that pool, solicited 30 full proposals for consideration. A total of 41 applications were received for consideration in the inaugural IREG program. Both programs support research that could lead to new discoveries. They also support an expansion of scientific knowledge through peer-reviewed publications in the areas of biology, physics and chemistry, and a mix of those disciplines.

Grants in the New Initiatives category are awarded to teams examining questions that are beyond the capacity of any one scientific discipline and which require researchers to have a novel approach to the topic in question. New Investigator grants are generally awarded to scientists transitioning to independent appointments and are meant to empower promising scientists at the beginning of their careers. Both categories support work in either the fundamental principles of the researchers’ field or interdisciplinary research examining the interaction and overlap of two or more fields.

New Initiatives grants totaling $300,000 for two years ($150,000 per year) were awarded to:

  • Jianhua Xing, Ph.D. (PI), associate professor of computational and systems biology, and Yang Liu, PhD (co-investigator), associate professor of medicine and bioengineering, at the University of Pittsburgh for research on the "Characterization of dynamic nanoscale chromatin reorganization during induced cell reprogramming."
  • Seema Lakdawala, Ph.D. (co-PI), assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, and Nara Lee, PhD (co-PI), assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, at the University of Pittsburgh for research on "Exploring and exploiting influenza viral genomic architecture."
  • Jun Zhu, Ph.D. (PI), associate professor, and Chaoxing Liu, Ph.D. (co-investigator), assistant professor, in the Department of Physics at Pennsylvania State University for research on "Direct evidence for non-abelian anyons in an interferometer."

New Investigators grants of $150,000 for two years ($75,000 per year) were awarded to:

  • Eric Yttri, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University for research on "Cortical-basal ganglia interactions underlying trial-and-error movements."
  • Bo Zhen, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania for research on "Creating anyons in optical fibers."
  • Joseph Cotruvo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University for research on "Illuminating transition metal homeostasis in pathogenic bacteria through fluorescent sensors."
  • Sarah Hainer, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh for research on "Building a network of ncRNA regulation."
  • Anna Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Temple University for research on "Unraveling the molecular mechanisms of neuronal plasticity."
  • Iain Mathieson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania for research on "Complex traits in human evolution."

Integrated-Research and Education grants of $100,000 for two years ($50,000 per year) were awarded to:

  • Roberto Ramos, Ph.D., associate professor in physics in the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Statistics at the University of the Sciences for research on “Undergraduates investigating quantum effects in multi-gap superconductivity in novel superconductors.” This project was funded by the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation fund.
  • Margaret M.P. Pearce, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology and neuroscience at the University of the Sciences for research on “Elucidating phagocytic glial responses to protein aggregation in neurons.” This project was funded through The Pittsburgh Foundation.
  • Véronique A. Delesalle, Ph.D., professor of biology in the Department of Biology at Gettysburg College for research on “What genetic and ecological factors determine the evolutionary path of viral pathogens as they adapt to their bacterial hosts?” This project was funded through The Pittsburgh Foundation.

The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation fund’s scientific advisory board: The Kaufman scientific advisory board, which selects grant awardees, is made up of seven appointed members who are experts in a diverse array of scientific fields. Advisory board members are:

  • Advisory board chair Dr. Graham Hatfull, the Eberly Family Professor of Biotechnology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Dr. Stephen Benkovic, the Evan Pugh Professor and Eberly Chair in Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University.
  • Dr. Keith M. Derbyshire, director, Division of Genetics, Center for Medical Science, Wadsworth Center, NYSDOH and professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, University at Albany.
  • Dr. Melissa Hines, professor of chemistry and director of the Cornell Center for Materials Research at Cornell University.
  • Dr. Jeremy Levy, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Dr. Ravi K. Sheth, professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Dr. John L. Woolford, professor and co-director, Center For Nucleic Acids Science and Technology in the Department of Biology at Carnegie Mellon University

Further information about the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation is available at http://kaufman.pittsburghfoundation.org/

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Contact: Kitty Julian

The Pittsburgh Foundation

juliank@pghfdn.org or 412.394.2643