New fellowship established to fund chemistry graduate students' research| Mar 8, 2016
Professor of chemistry emeritus Edward Taylor has established funds to the chemistry department to provide a full fellowship for all third-year graduate students in chemistry.
Taylor said that the funds for his donation come from his invention of the anti-cancer drug Alimta, which is used to treat lung cancer and mesothelioma. Taylor discovered the cancer-fighting compounds while active in a lab at Princeton and worked with the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to invent Alimta.
“I think it’s only right, and I’m glad that I could work it out this way, to give back to the University and to the chemistry department, something really truly substantial because that comes from work that which I did in the chemistry program,” Taylor said.
Despite the fact that he has been retired for 18 years, Taylor still keeps in touch with the chemistry department. He said that the idea for the fellowship came from Tom Muir, chair of the Department of Chemistry.
Muir was not available for comment.
Taylor said that he was particularly interested in funding the third year of graduate studies because it was a crucial time for graduate students in chemistry.
“The third year is just that time when students are launching themselves totally in research, that’s when they concentrate, those are the critical times in doing, starting, maintaining and embedding themselves into a research program. And you don’t want to break that intensity and make it difficult to do that by fragmenting your time by trying to find outside funding.”
According to Daniel Novoa GS, it is usually the responsibility of the chemistry graduate student to find external funding for the last three years of study. Many funding opportunities require a proposal that takes a considerable amount of time and devotion to build. Moreover, some sources of external funding may require additional work during the funding period, such as extra teaching or regular progress reports, Novoa said.
“It is very difficult to find sufficient funding to support a research group," Taylor said. “That is one of the major problems, always has been.”
This often puts students in a difficult position of having to choose a position of financial security and one where they are very interested in the research.
“You take a graduate student who is trying to look around at the faculty and their research projects, gets pretty excited about one of the new faculty members, but then there are no research grants that have come to this new faculty member yet because they’re just starting out,” Taylor noted.
He added, “There is kind of an inherent block, or difficulty of making a choice, of working for a young, promising, gung-ho faculty member who hasn’t yet received any research grant support. And that’s going to make life very tough,” Taylor said.
This insecurity is very detrimental to graduate students. Michelle Hofman GS, third-year graduate student in chemistry said, “Sometimes when your advisor doesn't have money to pay you, then you have to teach again in your third year and that prevents you from getting as much research done.”
Concerning the new fellowship, Hofman said, “I think it’s a great opportunity for the incoming students and the younger graduate students right now because they don’t have to worry about funding.”
Martin Rauch GS also noted that this grant is a huge help to both graduate students and faculty at the University.
Now that chemistry graduate students are funded through their first three years, Rauch explained, this means that advisers don't have to pay for student's tuition and stipend for the third year, which "frees up" the lab's money to be used on equipment and supplies instead, thus increasing the productivity of the lab.
" It can hardly be stated in a brief manner how much pressure these new grants will relieve," Novoa added.
The grant also means that graduate students will likely not have to teach beyond the program requirements unless they want to, Rauch said.
"It will directly benefit my career by enabling me to get more research done and in a better funded lab which will translate into a more impressive resume," Rauch said.
Novoa similarly noted that Taylor's gift is essential for graduate students to produce "good science."