Research administration services at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences last week named nine Harvard researchers as the 2019 winners of the Star-Friedman Challenge for Promising Scientific Research.
The Harvard researchers selected for awards were Benjamin de Bivort, James Crall, Jennifer Hoffman, Noel Michele Holbrook, David Keith, Boris Kozinsky, Samuel Myers, Ann Pearson, and Joost Vlassak.
The award provides seed money for high-risk, high-reward research that is unlikely to be funded through traditional grant programs in the physical, life, and social sciences because it is seen as too novel or risky.
“It’s important to do something that provides the opportunity to do more, to think differently, to take risks, [and] to do innovations that aren’t right at the edge of ongoing normal science, but that open the door for a bigger potential leap,” said Lawrence Bobo, the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and dean of social science, at the award ceremony for the fund in University Hall. “That, I think, is the inspiration and the beauty and the success of the Star-Friedman Challenge.”
The researchers are working on four projects, which range from making one of the world’s smallest flying machines to opening a new lane of research in the study of climate change to developing groundbreaking technology that conducts electricity with 100 percent efficiency to an investigation into how environmental change affects bees.
“The kind of projects that are selected are chosen because of their tremendous opportunity, not because they look like anything that’s been done before,” said Randy Buckner, a professor of psychology and neuroscience in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Medical School and chairman of the faculty review committee that selects the projects. “In celebrating the winners today and hearing about their proposals, we’re telling our students —we’re telling our community —that we value innovation.”
The Challenge was created in 2013 by the Star family with a $10 million gift at the suggestion of James A. Star ’83. It was formerly known as the Star Family Challenge for Promising Scientific Research and awarded funds to researchers from FAS and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS).
This year, with support from a $10 million gift from Josh Friedman ’76, M.B.A. ’80, J.D. ’82, and Beth Friedman, the Challenge expanded to include faculty at both Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and changed its name to the Star-Friedman Challenge.