FOCUS Newsletters

Summer 2020

Grant Deadlines

Career Awards at the Scientific Interface
Five-year awards for $500,000 Interdisciplinary Ph.D.s 
Deadline:  1 SEP 2020

Career Awards for Science and Mathematics Teachers 
$175,000 over a period of five years Science and Mathematics Teachers in North Carolina
Deadline:  30 SEP 2020

Career Awards for Medical Scientists
$700,000 over five years Opportunities for early career medical scientists at US or Canadian degree-granting institutes 
Deadline: 1 OCT 2020

Next Gen Pregnancy Initiative 
$500,000 over a four-year period Awards designed to bring together diverse groups of scientists to address preterm birth issues
Deadline: 1 DEC 2020


In this Special Edition of FOCUS In Sound, we meet with the CEO and President of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Dr. Louis Muglia, who will guide us through the Fund’s multi-faceted response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will discuss the Fund’s stance on Social Justice.

Grant Awardee partnership bears new and surprising fruit

Staying connected has proven challenging for many, these last few months. But in spite of it all, two Burroughs Wellcome Fund awardees - one outstanding scientist and one outstanding educator - have come together during COVID to show the power of a simple act of kindness.

Beverly Owens and Antenor (AJ) Hinton met during the Burroughs Wellcome Fund STEM Awardee Conference, after being selected for the Career Awards for Science and Mathematics Teachers (CASMT) and Postdoctoral Enrichment Program (PDEP), respectively. When Hinton’s lab ran short of essential protective gear for students, Beverly answered the call. Now they are working together on a summer e-learning program for schools throughout North Carolina, and plan to scale the model for schools nationwide.

In this edition of FOCUS In Sound, we meet a Burroughs Wellcome Fund grantee who is not only an accomplished scientist, but also a published children’s book author.

Dr. Theanne Griffith has just had the first two of her three-book STEM-themed chapter book series called The Magnificent Makers released, with number 3 scheduled to come out in September 2020.

Griffith is an instructor in the Department of Physiology, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience at Rutgers University. She is a neuroscientist with a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She completed her postdoc at Columbia University in 2019. In 2017 she was recognized in the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s Postdoctoral Enrichment Program. The PDEP provides a total of $60,000 over three years to support the career development activities for underrepresented minority postdoctoral fellows.

In 2015, a benchmark science communication study by Science Counts (supported by Burroughs Wellcome Fund) brought some truly welcome news: for the vast majority of the American public, the word “science“ represents hope, optimism, and a path to a better future.

Now fast-forward to November 2019 - to new problems, new policies, and an apparent explosion of “anti-science” sentiment online. Should the same group pose the same questions, you might presume a quite different result. Yet when Science Counts did just that, they found that the same general truth still holds: the public value science, and the public value scientists.

My term starts, however, against a backdrop of unprecedented and troubling events that affect us all. First and foremost, we are living during an historic pandemic with a morbidity and mortality rate none of us has experienced in our lifetimes; because of this, personal and professional lives have been upended and most of the world’s economies are in recession. In the United States, three-quarters of Americans believe that the nation is on a wrong path, and we are facing a historic election to decide the character of the nation.

At the same time, massive worldwide protests demanding racial justice and social change were ignited by the callous murder of George Floyd and the long list of killings of innocent African American men, women, teenagers—and even children—that preceded it. It is in these very turbulent times, yet crucial period of significance for immunology, that I am humbled to assume this important leadership role on behalf of my AAI colleagues.

Spring 2020

Coronavirus has shut down the global economy and reduced employment with tragic efficiency. Even as epidemiologists see the echo of the 1918-1919 pandemic influenza epidemic, economists invoke the Great Depression as their referent for current trends. Moving quickly and lethally through the global population, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its attendant COVID-19 disease are playing out in Asia, Europe, and North America now, with the rest of the Americas and Africa to follow in a matter of weeks.

Researchers cope as labs go quiet

Research labs across the country, and the world, are being shuttered in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result, hundreds of thousands of researchers have been forced to put their studies on hold and find a way to cope with an uncertain future.

For Paul Brindley, watching the current public health crisis unfold brought back memories of a time when his own lab – and career trajectory – was altered by forces outside his own control. “I thought this is going to be tough, it’s going to be like what happened in New Orleans,” he said, referring to the days after Hurricane Katrina hit Tulane University, where he had a research appointment at the time.

Like Brindley, other BWF awardees have had their labs closed as a result of natural disasters. Though no one has experienced anything quite like the current viral pandemic, their experiences do offer lessons for scientists as they navigate this new reality.

Suddenly, you're teaching online

As school closings related to COVID-19 expand at all levels of education, those who teach are grappling with moving courses online midway through a semester.

In 2017, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s Career Guidance for Trainees program supported Thomas Jefferson University, a private research university in Philadelphia with a focus on experiential professional education, to do pilot work on preparing postdocs to become online educators. We asked the grant’s co-director, Mary Gozza-Cohen, PhD, Director of Academic Programs at The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health, and Julie Phillips, PhD, Assistant Provost for Faculty Development: Curricular and Instructional Design, what thoughts they have for those now hurrying to move their courses online. Every institution is different, but their advice will ring true at most places.

January 2018

Winter is here in the Research Triangle Park, but the Fund is gearing up for a new slate of grant programs coming your way in 2018.  A few programs are open and accepting applications:

  • Collaborative Research Travel Grants | Deadline: Feb. 1, 2018
  • Career Guidance for Trainees | Deadline:  March 6, 2018
  • Student STEM Enrichment Program | Deadline: April 18, 2018

Stay tuned as more programs will be announced in the spring by signing up for our newsletter, FOCUS.

How early STEM programs and mentors paved the way for a career in science

When Ishmail Abdus-Saboor was 14, he turned the third floor of his parents’ Philadelphia home into his personal laboratory. There in Germantown, he carefully tended to his experimental subjects, hundreds of freshwater crayfish, which he kept in dozens of shoebox-sized plastic containers. He clipped off various appendages of the unlucky crustaceans, then plied them with ginseng to see if the popular herbal remedy helped them regenerate their lost limbs or claws faster. The experiment took his entire freshman year at Central High School to complete, and earned him first place in the Citywide Science Fair.

John Burris and A View from Philanthropy on the Future of Science Communication

On November 16, 2017, Burroughs Wellcome Fund President Dr. John Burris addressed the future of science communication at the Arthur Sackler Colloquia on the Science of Science Communication inWashington, DC. Burris emphasized the need for scientists to better communicate with other scientists and have a better understanding of their audience and goals, particularly in the area of oral presentations. Video of the talk and Twitter highlights of the conversation are at the link below. You can follow the Fund on Twitter at @bwfund.

Navigating a key component of a successful research program

Historically, science communications was the responsibility of the media and institutional press offices. But, with the continued growth of new and social media and the dramatic changes to traditional media, knowing how to navigate communications will be a boon to your research. The purpose of this article is to help you understand why communicating your science is important, and give you steps you can take to communicate your story effectively.

Burroughs Wellcome Fund an integral part of the global science conversation

Coming from 73 different countries, nearly 1,400 science journalists and writers gathered in San Francisco, California, this October for the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ 2017). The conference was made possible in part by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and BWF programs and grantees were an integral part of this global conversation.

FOCUS - August 2016

As summer comes to a close at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, there are still a few deadlines to consider.  See for complete details.  The Preterm Birth Initiative is now open and ready to accept applications.

  • Career Awards at the Scientific Interface - Deadline:  Sept. 6
  • Career Awards for Science and Mathematics Teachers - Deadline:  Sept. 15
  • Career Awards for Medical Scientists - Deadline:  Oct. 3
  • Preterm Birth Initiative - Deadline:  Dec. 1.

In this issue of FOCUS, read about BWF researchers studying the Zika virus, listen to an audiocast with Pardis Sabeti, and learn about how N.C. teacher Andi Webb travels the world for education.

We, at the Fund, hope you have a wonderful rest of the summer.

The Zika virus has triggered worldwide concern as it spreads across the Americas, leaving thousands of cases of the severe birth defect microcephaly in its wake. Several BWF awardees are working hard to predict the path of Zika, understand how it infects human cells, and identify ways to combat its most devastating effects. Science writer Marla Broadfoot interviewed six of these researchers about their efforts to combat this enigmatic disease.

In this edition of FOCUS In Sound, we meet Dr. Pardis Sabeti, a geneticist who won a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences in 2005, and has gone on to enjoy a distinguished career, culminating this year in being named one of the 100 Most Influential People in America by TIME magazine.  That recognition follows her inclusion as one of TIME’s Persons of the Year in 2014, celebrating her role as an Ebola fighter.  Although Pardis has a long list of accomplishments in her years of research on the genetics of infectious diseases, for this edition of Focus In Sound we want to concentrate on the incredible story of her work on Ebola. 

When educators create a positive emotional climate in the classroom, where children feel safe—both physically and emotionally—almost anything can happen.  That’s the general philosophy of Andi Webb, a math coach at Alderman Road Elementary School in Fayetteville, N.C., and recipient of the 2015 Career Award for Science and Mathematic Teachers from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

FOCUS - May 2016

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is gearing up for another award cycle, beginning with the Investigators in the Pathegenesis of Infectious Diseases (pre-proposal deadline: 7/15).  

Other deadline for the grants cycles are:  

As a reminder, these programs are now open nomination to researchers at degree-granting institutions in the United States or Canada.  This, of course, does not apply to CASMT which is open to public school teachers in North Carolina. 

Another important thing to note is that the awards are now open to temporary residents in the United States and Canada.  Please check the program's eligibility for further details since the Fund has reduced citizenship restrictions.

We have also released our annual report and audited financial reports, which are available for download.  

also in this issue...

By the mid-1990’s, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund identified the interface of biology and the quantitative sciences as an area in need of funding.  The Fund’s initial foray into the field began with the creation of interdisciplinary training programs.  The Institutional Awards at the Scientific Interface funded 10 programs from 1996-2000, which supported 367 trainees.

What is research? In his book on experimental design, David Glass of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, puts it this way: Scientific research is the process of determining some property Y about some thing X, to a degree of accuracy sufficient for another person to confirm this property Y.

If you’re a new academician launching an independent research lab, it’s no secret the key to your success is focus. Concentrating on your goals is imperative for achieving a promotion or tenure.

Dr. Andrea Goforth is a chemist who explores materials at the nanoscale. Join Burroughs Wellcome Fund to bring her Science In Focus.

As materials are made smaller and smaller, their properties change. Materials at the nanoscale act quite different from their macro-sized molecular counterparts. Dr. Andrea Goforth from Portland State University investigates various materials, like silicon and bismuth, to discover the possible new technologies that these differences may unlock for medical science.

The Fund's meeting professional Lori Hedrick received a Pyramid Award from the Promotional Products Association International for best Internal Communications Program for the promotional items provided for the Fund's 60th anniversary in 2015.  Gephart Marketing Solutions nominated the 60th anniversary materials for the award.