The Conclusion of the Sloan Research Fellowships in Computational & Evolutionary Molecular Biology

July 15, 2020

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announces that we are formally ending the Sloan Research Fellowships in Computational & Evolutionary Molecular Biology.  The last cohort of fellowships will be awarded in February 2021.  The nomination deadline for this cohort is September 15, 2020.

Though these fellowships are ending, the Foundation will continue to recognize important early career scholarship in advanced computational methods through the Sloan Research Fellowships in Computer Science.  Appropriate candidates are encouraged to apply for that fellowship in future years. 

The Sloan Foundation was an early advocate of the transformative power computing and advanced computational methods can have on scientific practice and discovery. During the late 1980s and through the 1990s, in response to the increased availability of computers, the Foundation began making investments to help incentivize researchers in molecular and evolutionary biology to begin introducing computational methods into their research. At the time, evolutionary biology was dominated by morphology, and the computational resources available to molecular biologists was a fraction of what it is today. What biology transformed by computing would look like, what training and tools were needed to do it, and where it would be published was still, at that point, unclear.  What was necessary was a funder who was willing to support risk-taking researchers who were eager to explore the potential of untried methods and technologies. Sloan decided it would try to fill that role, and in 2002, as part of that commitment, we created the Sloan Research Fellowships in Computational and Evolutionary Molecular Biology.

Nearly two decades later, Sloan’s initial vision of a biology transformed by the power of modern computing has come to pass in ways even we did not anticipate. The digital revolution has come to biology. It is now difficult to find examples of first-rate research in molecular or evolutionary biology that are not computational in one form or another. Computation has become an integral part of mainstream training and practice throughout molecular and evolutionary biology. With the purpose of the fellowships fulfilled, our Trustees decided to discontinue them in 2021.

Over the past twenty years, the fellowships have attempted to stimulate fundamental research by identifying and supporting young researchers at a pivotal stage, providing them early funding and recognition that would serve as a launchpad for careers of scientific influence and significance. By all measures, we have succeeded. The first cohort of Sloan Fellows have had impressive careers. Anna Krylov won the Dirac Medal; Magnus Nordborg is now the scientific director at the Gregor Mendel Institute in Austria; Lior Pachter and Dmitri Petrov hold endowed chairs at Caltech and Stanford. We have little doubt that the young scholars awarded fellowships in recent years will go on to have careers of similar prominence. 

The Foundation wishes to thank the senior scholars, too many to name individually here, who have served on the Foundation's fellowship Selection Committee over the past two decades and who all gave generously of their time and counsel to ensure that the Sloan Fellowships in Computational and Evolutionary Biology recognized the very best young scholars in the field.  We wish to thank all the department chairs and senior researchers who nominated their junior colleagues for fellowships, taking the time out to ensure that quality work was recognized and rewarded.  Lastly, we want to thank our Fellows, who have, year in and year out, astonished us with the depths of their insight, imagination, and determination to advance the the bounds of the known.  It has been our honor to be able to support your work. 

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