First major scientific research grant awards from The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Charles E. Kaufman fund

$1.6 million to researchers at five Pa. universities

Posted: Jul 25, 2013

PITTSBURGH, Pa., July 25, 2013 -- The Charles E. Kaufman Foundation, part of The Pittsburgh Foundation, today announced its first series of grants – amounting to almost $1.6 million – to support cutting-edge scientific research at institutions across the State of Pennsylvania.

A total of eight grants were awarded to leading researchers at five Pennsylvania universities: Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Philadelphia’s Drexel and Temple universities.

The new grantmaking program, which becomes one of the major resources for scientific research in the State of Pennsylvania, will award funding annually and has been made possible through the biggest bequest to The Pittsburgh Foundation in its 68-year history.

Charles Kaufman passed away in September 2010, shortly after his 97th birthday, leaving his estate of almost $50 million to the Foundation, of which approximately $40 million was assigned to the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation to support new research initiatives at Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning in chemistry, biology and physics “for achievement in and contribution to the field and humanity.”

A former chemist, Mr. Kaufman amassed most of his wealth following his retirement, all of which he dedicated to his heartfelt ambition for his philanthropy to one day help fund breakthrough scientific research and, he hoped, Nobel Prize-winners whose scientific accomplishments would contribute significantly to the betterment and understanding of human life.

“The Pittsburgh Foundation worked with Mr. Kaufman on this incredible idea to use science and the power of research to drive innovations for humankind,” said Grant Oliphant, The Pittsburgh Foundation’s President and CEO. “Mr. Kaufman was truly remarkable, his gift was extraordinary and we are privileged to carry forward his vision to advance the scientific frontiers in a variety of fields.”

Under the leadership of a seven-member Board of Directors, supported by a specially-appointed seven-member Scientific Advisory Board, systems and processes have been established to administer the Kaufman Foundation’s grantmaking program. More than 170 applications were received from institutions throughout Pennsylvania when the first requests for funding were invited earlier this year.

In this, its first series of grants, the organization awarded funding to five initiatives in a New Investigator Research category and three grants in a New Initiative Research category.

In the New Investigator category, grants of $150,000 over two years ($75,000 per year) were awarded to each of the following:

  • Joel McManus, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University for research on “High-Throughput Probing of Human IncRNA Structure.”
  • Aditya S. Khair, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Depatrtment of Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University for research on “Charges, Forces and Particles in Ionic Liquids.”
  • Michelle Dolinski, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Drexel University for research on “Solid Xenon Bolometers for Radiation Detection.”
  • Sheereen Majd, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Penn State University for research on “Functional Studies of Multidrug Resistance Transporters at Single-Protein Level.”
  • William M. Wuest, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Temple University for research on “The Development of Chemical Probes to Study Nucleoside Signaling in Bacterial Biofilms.”

New Initiative grants were awarded to: 

  • Sergey M. Frolov, Ph.D., Assistant Professor & W. Vincent Liu, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh receive $242,310 over two years ($121,155 per year) for research on “Topological Quantum Wire Emulators.”
  • Veronica Hinman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, & Jonathan Minden, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biological Sciences; Bruce Alan Armitage, Ph.D., Professor, & Danith H. Ly, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University receive $300,000 over two years ($150,000 per year) for research on “Developing a Sea Star Model for Regenerative Biology.”
  • Christine D. Keating, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry & Theresa Mayer, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering & Materials Science & Engineering, Penn State University receive $300,000 over two years ($150,000 per year) for research on “Probing the Role of Interparticle Forces in the Collective Behavior of Particle Assemblies.”

(A full list of grantees and further explanations of their research projects is attached.) 

“These grants come at a critical time due to the constrained funding environment throughout the United States for scientific research programs,” said Dr. Graham Hatfull, Chair of the Charles E. Kaufman Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board and Professor of Biotechnology and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. 

“Many institutions are folding their research programs because of a shortage of funding support. It is our deepest hope that this is a first step in realizing the dream of the late Mr. Kaufman to inspire new research in basic science that will lead to broad impact, maybe very significant impact, for the benefit of humankind.” 

For further information contact:
John Ellis, V.P. Communications
The Pittsburgh Foundation
412-394-2647 ellisj@pghfdn.org

Ken Walters   --  412-268-1151                     
walters1@andrew.cmu.edu               
Chriss Swaney – 412-268-5776
swaney@andrew.cmu.edu
Carnegie Mellon University

B. Rose Huber                                                                                                           
University of Pittsburgh                                            
412-624-4356                                                             
rhuber@pitt.edu                                                         

Jill Shockey    
Penn State University
814-865-7517
jss140@psu.edu

Niki Gianakaris                                                          
Drexel University                                                       
215-895-6741                                                             
ngianakaris@drexel.edu                                                                                

Eryn Jelesiewicz
Temple University
215-204-8878
eryn.jelesiewicz@temple.edu

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