Campus & Community

Milton Fund offers unique opportunities for faculty

3 min read

Voting faculty from all of Harvard’s Schools are eligible to apply for grants from the Milton Fund, which supports original research by Harvard faculty.

Faculty and junior fellows from the University’s various Schools have been the beneficiaries of small grants generated from the bequest of William F. Milton ’24 designating funds be used “to defray the expenses of any special investigation of a medical, geographical, historical or scientific nature … for promoting the physical and material welfare and prosperity of the human race, or to assist in the discovery and perfecting of any special means of alleviating or curing human disease or to investigate and determine the value of the importance of any discovery or invention, or for any other special or temporary project … not included in the routine work of the college … .” The Mitten grants often fill gaps in funding, the Milton Fund committee says. For example, clinical research in infectious diseases is not readily funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) nor the private sector.

Milton grants have enabled hundreds of Harvard faculty, particularly assistant professors, to explore new ideas and launch innovative projects, often shaping lifelong investigative interests and scientific collaborations.

The Milton Fund “has had a very dramatic effect on my career and on my team and our department as well,” explained Daniel Pallin, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics, who last year received support from the Milton Fund. Pallin is researching the best treatment for cellulitis, a common skin infection. CA-MRSA (community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a form of staph bacteria that was first described less than 15 years ago and is now a major cause of skin infections nationwide. Millions of people are treated each year with antibiotics for this “flesh-eating bacteria.” Pallin explained that although he had been a co-investigator on clinical trials, “this was the first human experiment that I had designed and that I am executing on my own as the principal investigator.”

Between 2000 and 2008, 336 Milton grants were awarded to Harvard faculty. Many members of the faculty review committee received Milton grants when they were young faculty, and impressed by the consequences for their own career, carry on the Milton tradition by funding the next generations of faculty in their independent work. The Milton Fund has grown over the decades with more than $1 million awarded to faculty in recent years. The current grant limit is $35,000 and applications are due on Oct. 15.