Dear Members and Friends of Science Philanthropy Alliance,

Nobel Prizes! MacArthur Fellowships! Headlines across the globe are heralding the impact of basic scientific research. The early weeks of October have been memorable weeks for basic science.

These awards tell a story about the role philanthropy plays in bringing prominence to basic science—and in advancing the careers of promising scientists of all backgrounds. To that end, we are proud to observe that these headlines have shone a spotlight on the role that women have played to accelerate scientific discoveries.

For example, this is the first time in history that three women in a single year have won the Nobel Prize in the sciences: one in physics and two in chemistry. In 2011, three women co-won the Nobel Peace Prize—meaning that, in fact, this is the first time three women in one year have won the Nobel Prize across different categories. 

This is a moment to celebrate how far we have come—and to contemplate how much farther we have to go. To date, no Black scientist has ever been awarded a Nobel prize in science and women have a long way to go before achieving equity in the scientific community, from the highest levels of scientific achievement to adequate support throughout their careers in science.

Philanthropists know how important it is that the scientific community reflects the community it serves and that the best way to grow our scientific capital is to invest in our human capital. These steps are not only ethically just but scientifically necessary. They make for a better world and for better science.

We share these triumphs and reflections with you to illustrate how philanthropy and equity have shaped these important discoveries and scientific achievements.

Stay healthy!


Valerie Conn | President
Science Philanthropy Alliance

We are delighted to highlight the stories of the scientists who were awarded the Nobel Prizes and MacArthur Fellowships this month. Of course, each is funded by philanthropy from the Nobel Foundation or the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Many of the prize winners received additional significant philanthropic support from members of the Science Philanthropy Alliance.

During this pandemic, when the focus is on the prevention, diagnosis, and cure of a novel coronavirus, we are reminded that basic scientific research is necessary to gain the knowledge that can help defend against a deadly virus. These three scientists are honored for their foundational work leading to the discovery of Hepatitis C virus—a landmark achievement in the ongoing battle against viral diseases. 

Opening a new window into the universe, the physics prize goes to scientists who have made significant discoveries about black holes. We are proud that co-winner Andrea Ghez—the fourth woman ever to win this distinction—is a friend of the Alliance. Ghez’s next-generation vision for adaptive optics technology will further our understanding of black holes and other structures in our universe.

One of the prequel stories of basic science knowledge that has accelerated our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 is the discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. 

To learn more about CRISPR, view the documentary Human Nature. The film features Doudna and co-winner Emmanuelle Charpentier as well as Alliance senior science advisor and Nobel laureate, David Baltimore.

We were honored to have Jennifer Doudna speak at our May 2020 Alliance members’ meeting about how she transformed the Institute for Genomics Innovation at UC Berkeley to accelerate testing technologies for COVID-19.
Of the 21 MacArthur Fellowships granted last week, six were awarded to basic natural science researchers. We applaud the MacArthur Foundation for the diverse group of recipients they selected for these generous and career-transforming awards.

Paul Dauenhauer

Title: Chemical Engineer 
 University of Minnesota
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Age: 39

Nels Elde

Title: Evolutionary Geneticist 
 University of Utah
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Age: 47

Damien Fair

Title: Cognitive Neuroscientist 
 University of Minnesota Medical School
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Age: 44

Polina V. Lishko

Title: Cellular and Developmental  Biologist
Affiliation: University of California, Berkeley
Location: Berkeley, CA
Age: 46

Monika Schleier-Smith

Title: Experimental Physicist
Affiliation: Stanford University
Location: Stanford, CA
Age: 37

Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost

Title: Biological Chemist
Affiliation: Princeton University
Location: Princeton, NJ
Age: 41

Thank you for your continued investment in equitable basic science. Early October was stellar for philanthropic foundations recognizing the importance of basic science research and the talented, diverse scientists who lead the research. With your help, we look forward to making each week, month, and year in this decade better than the last—by addressing the scientific challenges by investing in basic science, by championing the changing face of scientific success, and by putting equitable science at the center of all we do.
Copyright © 2023 Science Philanthropy Alliance, All rights reserved.

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