Houston, TX – October 23, 2023 -- The Welch Foundation introduced four new programs at the start of the Welch Conference today. Ushering in a new age for the Foundation, the programs – Welch eXperimental (WelchX) Collaboration Retreats, Catalyst for Discovery Program Grants, Welch Postdoctoral Fellows of the Life Sciences Research Foundation Grants, and Equipment Grants – signify an exciting time for chemistry research in the state of Texas.
“As one of the nation’s largest private funding sources for chemical research, it is our job to ensure we support the advancement of this field in increasingly innovative ways. The introduction of these new programs allows us to further the creation of real change not only for chemistry, but also in the lives of those receiving the funding.” said Douglas Foshee, Chair and Director, The Welch Foundation Board of Directors. “We are eager to see what future breakthroughs result from the addition of these programs.”
Welch eXperimental (WelchX) Collaboration Retreats
WelchX aims to bring together Texas researchers to topically focused chemistry meetings and stimulate them to ideate on challenging issues of our time. Early-to-mid career tenured faculty are invited to the fully in-person, summer retreat to stimulate collaborations that foster lasting connections among the participants, thus increasing the density of research ties across Texas and spurring the growth of basic research in the chemical sciences. WelchX retreat participants will develop the collaborative concepts they design at the retreat into proposals to be considered for Welch Foundation collaboration pilot grants. The budget includes $500,000 in funding for five one-year grants of $100,000 each.
The inaugural WelchX retreat took place in July in Houston. The theme was “Chemistry for Sustainability” and the following grants were awarded:
- “Chemical Recycling of Polystyrene to Value-Added Polymers and Chemicals” Collaborators: Kami Hull of The University of Texas at Austin and Megan Robertson of the University of Houston.
- “Embedding Lewis Superacids into Covalent Organic Frameworks: Recyclable Heterogenous Metal-Free Catalysts” Collaborators: Caleb Martin of Baylor University and Anindita Das of Southern Methodist University.
- “Detection and Extraction of Hot Carrier Dynamics in Silicon using Ultrafast Electron and Rational Surface Functionalization” Collaborators: Michael Rose of The University of Texas at Austin, Ananda Amarasekara of Prairie View A&M University, and Aditya Mohite of Rice University.
- “Printing Therapeutics: Architecting Tandem Catalysts for Fine-Chemical Systems” Collaborators: Ron Smaldone of The University of Texas at Dallas and David Powers of Texas A&M University.
- “Soft Lewis Acid Directed Reductive C-C Bond Formation for the Generation of Platform Chemicals from CO2” Collaborators: Zachary Tonzetich of The University of Texas at San Antonio and Anthony Cozzolino of Texas Tech University.
Catalyst for Discovery Program Grants
The Catalyst for Discovery Program Grants serve to accelerate progress in fundamental chemical research. Two grants of up to five million dollars each will be awarded annually to highly meritorious proposals aimed at significant problems at the leading edge of chemistry. The level of support is calibrated to reduce barriers to discovery and provide flexibility in the manner of experimentation with minimal administrative burden.
The 2023 Catalyst for Discovery Program Grant Recipients are as follows:
- Jeffrey Rimer, University of Houston “Welch Center for Advanced Bioactive Materials Crystallization”
- Deepak Nijhawan, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center “A Platform for the Rapid Discovery of Novel Small Molecules for Chemical Biology”
- Megan Robertson, University of Houston “Enabling Polyolefin Circularity via Chemical Functionalization, Compatibilization, and Upcycling”
- Michael Rosen, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center “Biochemical Specificity and Function of Biomolecular Condensates
Welch Postdoctoral Fellows of the Life Sciences Research Foundation Grants
The Postdoctoral Fellows Grant Program provides three-year fellowships to recent PhD graduates from around the world to support the development of their chemical research careers in Texas. The aim is to fund fellows who intend to tackle important problems in chemistry in interesting and novel ways in laboratories that provide world-class training.
The program will support three-year fellowships at $100,000 per year, and will award three fellowships per year for a total of $900,000 a year total dedicated to the program after a ramp-up to nine fellows.
Heidi Pak, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, is the program’s inaugural fellow. Her research focus is the “Role of Feeding Entrainment in Mediating Health and Lifespan.”
The Equipment Grant Program provides supplemental funding to Departmental Grants, allowing these programs to acquire equipment to support laboratory research. This support is intended to improve a department’s capabilities in chemical research and to give faculty and students a richer laboratory experience by placing high-value, modern research equipment into Departmental Grant schools. Bolstering the infrastructure in these small chemistry departments, transforming their research programs, and expanding the training opportunities for their students has tremendous value for the advancement of chemical research in Texas.
The Welch Foundation will grant up to 15 awards per year, valued at $75,000 for a single year, with possible matching funds from the awardee institutions. Institutions receiving grants in 2023 are as follows:
- Abilene Christian University
- Angelo State University
- Hardin-Simmons University
- Jarvis Christian University
- Lubbock Christian University
- McMurry University
- Midwestern State University
- St. Mary’s University
- Tarleton State University
- Texas Wesleyan University
- The University of Texas at Tyler
- University of Houston-Clear Lake
- The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
- Wayland Baptist University
“We have seen incredibly exciting work come out of the programs that have already begun, which makes us all the more optimistic for what is to come once all four programs are fully activated,” said Adam Kuspa, President of the Welch Foundation. “The future of chemistry research in Texas is even brighter and stronger with these additions, and we are honored to work with the chemistry research community to bring them forward.”
Laura Jones/Dancie Perugini Ware Public Relations