The Pittsburgh Foundation

Announcing $1.8 million in scientific research grants

From the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation at The Pittsburgh Foundation

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Aug. 3, 2017 – In an era when federal funding for basic scientific research is increasingly under threat, The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, a supporting organization of The Pittsburgh Foundation, has awarded eight grants totaling $1.8 million to support research at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, The Pennsylvania State University, Swarthmore College and University of Pennsylvania.

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

When he died in 2010, Charles Kaufman, a respected chemical engineer, left $50 million to The Pittsburgh Foundation of which $40 million is earmarked for continuing his life-long commitment to scientific research with the potential to improve human life. Since 2013, and including 2017, the Foundation has awarded 43 grants totaling $9.1 million. This cycle, its scientific advisory board reviewed 250 letters of intent from scientists at 37 colleges and universities and, from that pool, solicited 26 full proposals.

“Charles Kaufman recognized the potential of scientists, particularly those at the beginnings of their careers to achieve breakthroughs in the core scientific disciplines of biology, physics and chemistry and where those fields intersect,” said Maxwell King, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “His bequest demonstrates the importance of fostering a culture of scientific innovation and interdisciplinary research,” said King.

Grants are awarded in two categories: grants to New Investigators and grants for New Initiatives. Grants in the New Investigator grant category are generally awarded to scientists transitioning to independent appointments and those newly pursuing independent research. The grant empowers scientists at the beginning of their careers as they seek to make a mark in their fields. New Initiatives Grants are awarded to teams reexamining questions beyond the capacity of any one individual researcher. Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, those grants require that each researcher have a novel approach to the topic in question. 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 Investigators grants of $150,000 for two years ($75,000 per year) were awarded to:

  • Dawn Carone, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of biology, Swarthmore College, for research on “Locus-specific regulation of pericentric satellite sequences.”
  • Noa Marom, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of materials science and engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, for research on “Singlet Fission: Deriving Fundamental Insights from Computation.”
  • Mikael Rechtsman, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, Pennsylvania State University, for research on “Four-dimensional quantum Hall physics with light.”
  • Eric Joyce, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of genetics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, for research on “Deconstructing the molecular basis of condensin-mediated chromatin folding.”

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

  • Tia-Lynn Ashman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Pittsburgh, and James Pipas, Ph.D., Herbert W. and Grace Boyer Chair in Molecular Biology, University of Pittsburgh, for research on “Pollen as the next viral frontier: Unrecognized threat to food security and native biodiversity.”
  • James Marden, Ph.D., professor of biology, Pennsylvania State University, and Scott Medina, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Pennsylvania State University, for research on “Defining the Glycan-Specificity and Mechanisms of Action for Antitumor Lectins.”
  • Michael Hatridge, Ph.D., assistant professor of condensed matter physics, University of Pittsburgh, and Roger Mong, Ph.D., assistant professor of condensed matter physics, University of Pittsburgh, for research on “Protecting quantum wires for quantum computing.”
  • Ekaterina Grishchuk, Ph.D., associate professor of Physiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and Ben E. Black, Ph.D., associate professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, for research on “Reconstitution and Dissection of Chromosome Segregation.”

For the first time in the post-World War II era, the federal government no longer funds a majority of the basic research carried out in the United States, according to a 2017 Science Magazine report.

The draft 2018 federal budget will further weaken the federal government’s support of research, according to The Atlantic, which reported that the administration plans to cut 18 percent from National Institutes of Health funding, $102 million from NASA and $250 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as funding for federal laboratories, cleanup of hazardous waste sites, and the program that addresses the use of chemicals like BPA.

About 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. This year, the board includes Dr. Graham Hatfull, who serves as Chair and Dr. Jeremy Levy of the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Stephen Benkovic of Penn State University, Dr. Keith M. Derbyshire of the University at Albany, Dr. Melissa Hines of the Cornell Center for Materials Research, Dr. Ravi K. Sheth of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. John L. Woolford of Carnegie Mellon University. More information about the advisory board is available at

Further information about the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation is available at

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