Hellman Fellows Program to permanently fund UC junior faculty research

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The Hellman Fellows Program established a permanent fund Tuesday to support junior faculty research in the UC system.

Founded in 1995, the Hellman Fellows Program offers funding for the research of early-career faculty members across the UC system as well as several private universities. Since its founding, the Hellman fellowship has provided $125 million in funding for junior faculty research throughout the UC system. This funding will continue with the recent creation of the permanent endowments.

According to a press release from the UC Office of the President and the Hellman Fellows Program, the agreement will create endowments at each UC campus, allowing the schools to decide how the awards are directed and managed. Winners of the fellowships receive $10,000 to $65,000 in funding to support their research, the press release states.

“Being a junior faculty member is hard, and given the landscape for funding, it can be hard to get grant applications accepted,” said Courtney Dressing, a campus researcher and Hellman fellowship recipient. “Early seed funding, which the Hellman Fellows Program provides, is critical for successful research programs.”

Dressing added that the Hellman fellowship has given her greater flexibility in her research projects and allowed her to employ more undergraduate and graduate students. According to Rebecca Herman, another campus Hellman fellowship recipient, the funding from the Hellman Fellows Program has helped her in “juggling the demands” of teaching, research and parenthood as an assistant professor.

Hellman fellowship recipient Jason Okonofua said in an email that the funding he received from the Hellman Fellows Program has facilitated his research into ways to mitigate racial disparities in primary education. Okonofua added that he believes providing additional funding for junior faculty allows young researchers, including faculty of color, to have greater security in their work.

“During these times these are some of the most important uses of funds and means to acquire additional funds for this most exceptional public school system in the world,” Okonofua said in an email. “The junior faculty is the future with a productive taste of the past.”

Fellowships are available to researchers in a variety of academic disciplines, including arts and humanities, social sciences and STEM fields.

According to the press release, about 125 former Hellman Fellowship recipients are involved in “groundbreaking” research related to COVID-19, including public health researchers studying the spread of the disease, engineers converting sleep apnea machines into ventilators and statisticians designing surveillance methods to help stop the disease from spreading.

“With dwindling federal funding and a critical need for UC research, especially during the coronavirus era, this generous gift could not come at a better time,” said UC President Janet Napolitano in the press release. “We will be forever grateful to the Hellman family for this enduring, impactful program.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.