Henry Grass, MD Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award

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We are now accepting applications and nominations here for the Henry Grass, MD Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award. Applications and all supplementary materials are due February 1, 2022 at midnight.

There are many wonderful programs aimed at enhancing diversity in science by recruiting underrepresented groups to science and offering initial entry to a research career. However, far fewer programs focus on retention and promotion to encourage diverse scientists at postgraduate levels to persevere in academic research. The diversity gap in research will inevitably persist unless the innovative work, and continuing participation, of underrepresented populations are recognized and incentivized during the period between receiving the PhD and gaining tenure-track employment. The Grass Foundation has a long history of creating impactful change in neuroscience, especially through the Grass Fellowship Program at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) which supports early career scientists.

Building on this tradition, the Henry Grass, MD Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award seeks to increase the visibility of postdoctoral scientists from groups under-represented in neuroscience. The Trustees will offer up to three awards to neuroscientists applying in winter 2021-2022, who meet the following qualifications:

  • are between the third and seventh calendar year after defending their dissertation,
  • self-identify as women or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), and
  • are not yet employed in a tenure-track position, at the time of application,
  • are U.S. citizens (regardless of their location) or permanent residents of the U.S.

The recipients will be awarded a $10,000 prize, and invited to attend the July 2022 annual meeting of the Foundation in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. There, they will be celebrated at the annual Forbes Lecture, attend a reception and dinner, and showcase their work at the Marine Biological Laboratory. The Trustees, at their discretion, may additionally award up to five Grass Trustees Recognition Awards, carrying a prize of $1,000, as well as mentorship and professional support from the Foundation’s network of Grass Fellowship alumni.

The Henry Grass Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award targets a key career stage when individual recognition and support are particularly significant. By recognizing individual scientists, the Award is intended to contribute to a critical reshaping of the demographics of research faculty. Its focus is on researchers at a crucial career stage, when many are, or soon will be, ready to apply for faculty positions. Independent research projects are taking shape, but few opportunities exist to garner outside recognition. During this vulnerable period, BIPOC and women scientists frequently opt out of academia. With the protracted length of academic training, the years following the dissertation may discourage gifted and highly qualified trainees from continuing in a research career track, as they intersect with concerns about career prospects, lack of support and recognition, job insecurity, financial concerns, and personal life changes, including family commitments and increasing related costs, such as childcare. The effects are well documented. While the number of BIPOC scientists graduating from PhD programs has increased almost ten-fold in the past decade, the diversity of faculty applicant pool and hires at most universities and medical schools has been little-impacted. Likewise, while women make up roughly half of biology PhDs, they hold less than 29% of tenure-track faculty positions, a number that has changed little over two decades.

Applicants may be nominated or self-nominated, with nominees in any case responsible for completing the application, which will consist of:

  • a narrative of not more than 4,000 characters (about 600 words), describing how they have served as a role model for diversity based on their personal experiences or advocacy / outreach efforts,
  • a description of their research accomplishments and scientific vision, not to exceed 4,000 characters (about 600 words)
  • a biosketch in the format described by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),
  • three letters of recommendation to be sent to grassrisingstars@gmail.com.

We are now accepting applications. The competition will close, and all materials must be received, by midnight on February 1, 2022.

Resources to learn more about diversity in neuroscience:

https://elifesciences.org/articles/48774

https://elifesciences.org/articles/21393

https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(20)31223-X