The National Eye Institute, an NIH agency dedicated to vision research, recently announced the winners of their Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation, or the Audacious Goals Challenge for short. The competition was open to professionals and members of the public and called upon them to think big and bold about vision research goals for the next decades. The prize money was nominal ($3,000) but included an invitation and travel money to attend and present their ideas at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting in Maryland later this month. The real prize, of course, was the opportunity to help set research and funding goals for the next 10-12 years. Of the 500 or so proposals submitted, 10 visionaries were selected as winners.
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Dr. Gary Michelson is a retired Los Angeles surgeon who made a lot of money ($1.35B) from a spinal surgical invention in 2005. Since then he's devoted himself and his considerable resources to philanthropy. One of his most passionate causes is reducing the rate of euthanasia for unwanted pets by promoting spaying and neutering, along with shelter adoption, training, and good vet care through the Los Angeles group Found Animals. Not content with the usual invasive practice of sterilizing pets, he also created the Michelson Prize and Grants to challenge research scientists to come up with a cheap, safe, and effective one-dose pill for cats and dogs to induce permanent infertility. The winner of the Michelson Prize in Reproductive Biology will take home $25M and the satisfaction of knowing that fewer pets will be put down because of overpopulation.
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In the David and Goliath world of science research funding, young scientists who lack the experience and PI status to pull in funding from sources like the NIH and NSF now have a new resource at petridish.org. The website, just launched in a beta version, allows scientists to appeal to ordinary folk for funding to support their research, with typically modest goals of $10,000 or less. The nine projects that debuted on petridish.org are almost all led by PhD candidates, post-docs, and staff researchers from top universities, and most are looking to travel to do data collection for life science projects. These could be tomorrow's big names in science research, getting innovative about moving their research forward now.
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Led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the six-week MyHeartMap Challenge is a trial science research project that uses crowd-sourcing to locate and gather information about automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in Philadelphia. The challenge runs from January 31 to March 13, during which time participants can use a free app on their iPhones or Android phones to take pictures and document the location of publicly accessible AEDs in Philadelphia.
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The National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program has just announced the 2012 winners of its prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who are exceptional both as teachers and researchers. The University of Colorado Boulder boasts two winners this year from the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology deparment (EBIO). Together their awards bring over $1.5M in new funding to their research on amphibian and avian biology. The laboratory aspects of Drs. Safran and Johnson's research involve genetics, stable-isotope analysis, and the study of microscopic disease-causing parasites.
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