Gruber Science Fellowships: Moving research forward through education

Throughout January and February, hundreds of applicants to the Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences were notified of their acceptance. For top applicants in a handful of science and engineering programs — including astronomy and biological & biomedical sciences — this letter contained a special offer. Thanks to the establishment of The Gruber Foundation at Yale in 2011, approximately 20 incoming students each year are offered Gruber Science Fellowships.

The foundation-funded programs at Yale — the Gruber Science Fellowship and the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women's Rights at Yale Law School — are the result of Peter and Patricia Gruber’s goal to promote excellence in science, law, and social justice. The Gruber Foundation honors individuals whose work enables fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. The foundation has an international emphasis and a commitment to gender balance, especially in the sciences. It annually awards $500,000 Gruber Prizes to top scientists in cosmology, genetics, and neuroscience as part of its mission to promote excellence in research.

The partnership between the Grubers and Yale began in 2011 with the incorporation of The Gruber Foundation as one of Yale’s supporting organizations. The Gruber Foundation was created to succeed The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation as part of the couple’s succession plan for their philanthropy. According to the philanthropists, pairing with a university was a natural extension of their goal to encourage educational excellence and highlight fields that have the potential to improve the world.

“Supporting the education of young outstanding students will ultimately result in better scientists who are positioned to make significant advances in their field. We can help move research forward through education, and we may very well see today’s Gruber Fellows on tomorrow’s Gruber Prize rosters,” said Sarah Hreha, executive director of the Gruber Foundation.

Financial support for Gruber Science Fellows includes an augmented stipend for two years, a portion of their tuition, and a $2,500 research account. Gruber Fellows are also invited to lectures given by world-renowned scientists and interact closely with these speakers during their visits.

These financial and educational benefits also help Yale stand out even more to top applicants, especially international students.

 “The fellowship, along with my interactions with the faculty, convinced me to come here over Harvard, ” said Ravi Dinesh, a 2012 Gruber Fellow in immunology. Emilio Salazar, a 2013 Gruber Fellow, said receiving the fellowship also played a role in his decision to attend Yale.

Carl Hashimoto, assistant dean of the Graduate School and director of the Gruber Science Fellowship program, noted that the Gruber Fellowship is a helpful recruiting tool because it signals to applicants that Yale truly wants them.

The Gruber Fellowship impacts more than just the individual; it also benefits whole research groups. “The fellowship is good for them, it is good for me, it is good for the lab” said Damon Clark, an assistant professor in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, who currently advises three Gruber fellows, including Emilio Salazar. Like other fellows, Salazar is using his foundation-sponsored research fund to attend an international neuroscience conference in Milan. Attending this European conference will allow the Gruber Fellows to build a global networks and gain perspectives on research that ultimately can improve how they approach their graduate work, said Clark.

While the Gruber Science Fellowship has already had a positive impact at Yale, the fellowship is still evolving. Hashimoto is striving to make the program more enjoyable and useful for fellows, and more attractive to future applicants, and is considering the addition of research symposiums and social or outreach events designed to keep fellows engaged in the program and Yale in the minds of future top-ranked applicants.