Uncovering a critical link between COVID-19 mortality and pollution. Changing the way climate scientists understand rising sea levels. Making and modeling the world’s smallest flying machines. These are only a few of the breakthroughs advanced by the Star-Friedman Challenge for Scientific Research.
The Star-Friedman Challenge has been providing seed funding for high-risk, high-impact work in the life, physical, and social sciences for the past seven years. Nearly 35 cross-disciplinary projects from across the University have been supported through the program.
Established in 2013 with a gift from James A. Star ’83 and expanded in 2019 with support from Josh Friedman ’76, M.B.A. ’80, J.D. ’82, and Beth Friedman, the program greenlights ambitious, original research that may not receive funding from traditional grants. The Challenge was endowed recently through additional support from the donors, helping to sustain Harvard’s investment in scientific innovation for years to come.
Call for adventurous minds
“We received last year an amazing set of proposals across very diverse fields of scholarship, some of them specifically aimed at tackling the devastating consequences of the current pandemic,” said Catherine Dulac, chair of the Star-Friedman Challenge faculty selection committee, Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
Following Dean Claudine Gay’s call for new proposals, Dulac said she is confident the program will receive “outstanding applications for exciting high-risk, high-impact projects,” and she emphasized the unique opportunity the grants afford. Challenge winners receive prizes ranging from $80,000 to $150,000, as well as access to Bok Center resources to help with the presentation of their research plans.
As a new crop of projects will be soon be considered, the Gazette reached out to last year’s recipients for updates on the impact their research is having and to hear how the grants have catalyzed progress.