New grant allows early-career UC Berkeley faculty to pursue STEM research

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In an effort to support early-career faculty, UC Berkeley launched a program Tuesday to help fund budding research projects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Managed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the Rose Hills Innovator Program will select four to five early-career faculty members in STEM disciplines whose projects are scientifically promising. Recipients will get grants of $50,000 per year for up to three years to conduct their research in related fields, after which they can seek other funding.

The money for the program comes from the Rose Hills Foundation, a Pasadena-based organization born out of Rose Hills Memorial Park, one of the largest cemeteries in the United States. The foundation supports many other educational endeavors, including the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at UC Berkeley.

“The Rose Hills Innovator Program provides a unique opportunity to support the cutting-edge research of our early-career faculty in the STEM disciplines,” said Vice Chancellor for Research Graham Fleming in an emailed statement. “It is increasingly important for our faculty to obtain flexible funding that can support the truly innovative early stages of their research, since currently many funders, including federal agencies, tend to focus on efforts that are already quite far developed.”

In addition to reinforcing UC Berkeley’s reputation as a world-class research and academic institution, the program aims to “support the excellence of (UC Berkeley) faculty,” said Kaja Sehrt, senior director of development in Fleming’s office.

Eligible applicants to the program are limited to UC Berkeley assistant and associate professors who are on the tenure track. But nominated Rose Hills Innovators may choose to utilize the grant to bring student and postdoctoral research assistants on to their projects.

Chris Dames, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, believes this is a valuable opportunity for early-career faculty such as himself.

“The federal funding field is competitive, and you need to invest a lot of time to get enough preliminary results to win a full-scale grant,” said Dames, who is considering applying to the program. “Seed programs like this are beneficial because there is going to be a faster turnaround and they’re restricted to the UC Berkeley campus.”

The Bakar Fellows Program, which aids projects with commercial and economic promise, also funds research endeavors of early-career faculty members throughout UC Berkeley.

Once interested applicants submit their proposals online by the March 23 deadline, the applications will be reviewed by the program’s academic advisory committee, which consists of various UC Berkeley faculty members in STEM departments.

Those accepted will be notified in April or May and will receive the grants in July.

Contact Ivy Kim at [email protected].