The sixth year of an assistant professor’s career at Rockefeller is a promising time. By then, investigators have been able to get their labs up and running, to formulate core questions, to develop methods to examine them, and to demonstrate their potential to make an impact. It is also when they are considered for promotion to associate professor. But as lab heads approach the six-year mark, they are also likely to find themselves in a funding crunch.
A $7 million gift from the Jensam Foundation is making possible a new Rockefeller program that supports tenure-track scientists during this critical period. Known as the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Early-Career Innovation Award, the program is designed not only to provide an influx of funding when other grant money is often in short supply, but also to encourage lab heads to take on bold projects and develop novel approaches to their research.
All newly promoted associate professors are eligible for the award, which consists of a research grant of $250,000.
“At this point in their careers, their startup funds might be depleted, and they may no longer qualify for the ‘young investigator’ grants that originally helped their labs launch ambitious initiatives,” says Michael W. Young, vice president for academic affairs. “This unique award will support our early-career scientists as they move forward on the path to tenure, allowing them to pursue creative, novel, or high-risk work that might not easily attract funding from conventional sources.”
To be considered for the award, newly promoted associate professors must submit short concept papers outlining how the funds would allow them to enhance and accelerate their research. A five-person committee—comprised of standing members President Richard P. Lifton, Dr. Young, and Cori Bargmann, as well as two invited faculty members—reviews the papers and meets with the candidates. If the committee endorses a proposal, Dr. Lifton confers the award and releases the funds.
Joelle Kayden, who is president of the Jensam Foundation, created the award in memory of her late parents, Drs. Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden. Dr. Reem was an internist and professor of pharmacology at NYU Langone Medical Center, where Dr. Kayden was a cardiologist and professor of medicine. Both physician-scientists served on The Rockefeller University Council and took an active interest in the university’s investigators, including Dr. Bargmann, Torsten N. Wiesel Professor and head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior, with whom they were friends. In addition, in 2012, Ms. Kayden’s father endowed the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Assistant Professorship, which is held by Vanessa Ruta, head of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior.
“My family and I couldn’t be more excited to help stimulate the research of Rockefeller’s young…