Packard Fellows

Ankur Jain was among the 2019 cohort of David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellows for Science and Engineering. (Packard.org photo)

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation recently announced its 2019 class of Packard Fellows for Science and Engineering, which included one Indian American honoree.

This year’s class features 22 early-career scientists and engineers, who will each receive $875,000 over five years to pursue their research.

Among the Fellows named was Ankur Jain, assistant professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s biology department.

“A single human cell contains several billion macromolecular building blocks. We investigate the design principles that cells use to organize their contents, and how defects in the cellular organization can contribute to human disease,” Jain said in his Fellow bio.

According to MIT, Jain joined Whitehead Institute and MIT in 2018, after conducting postdoctoral research in the lab of Ronald Vale at the University of California at San Francisco. He earned a doctorate in biophysics and computational biology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013, and received his bachelor’s degree (with honors) in biotechnology and biochemical engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in 2007.

The Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering are among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used, according to the foundation’s Oct. 15 news release.

Since 1988, the program has supported the blue-sky thinking of scientists and engineers with the belief that their research over time will lead to new discoveries that improve people’s lives and enhance our understanding of the universe, it said.

Fellows have gone on to receive a range of accolades, including Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics, the Fields Medal, the Alan T. Waterman Award, MacArthur Fellowships and elections to the National Academies.

The Fellows also gather at annual meetings to discuss their research, where conversations have led to unexpected collaborations across disciplines, the foundation noted.

“This new class of Fellows is about to embark on a journey to pursue their curiosity down unknown paths in ways that could lead to big discoveries,” Frances Arnold, chair of the Packard Fellowships Advisory Panel, 2018 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and 1989 Packard Fellow, said in a statement.

“I can’t wait to see what direction the work of these brilliant scientists and engineers will take. Their efforts will add to this beautiful web of science that connects us all to a better understanding of the world around us,” Arnold added.

The Fellowships program was inspired by David Packard’s commitment to strengthen university-based science and engineering programs in the United States, the release said.

He recognized that the success of the Hewlett-Packard Company, which he co-founded, was derived in large measure from research and development in university laboratories.

Since 1988, the Foundation has awarded $429 million to support 617 scientists and engineers from 54 national universities. This year’s Fellowships are also supported in part by the Ross M. Brown Family Foundation, the release said.

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