Discovery Fellows Shine as Ambassadors for Science

Discovery Fellow and PhD candidate D’Juan Farmer in the McManus lab. Farmer has spoken with state legislators about the importance of funding for graduate research. Photo by Steve Babuljak

Discovery Fellow and PhD candidate D’Juan Farmer in the McManus lab. Farmer has spoken with state legislators about the importance of funding for graduate research. Photo by Steve Babuljak

The UCSF Discovery Fellows Program frees basic science PhD students to pursue their deepest questions and encourages them to advocate for the importance of basic science. Our PhD students are delivering research that may yield new therapies for placental infections, uncover what constitutes “good” and “bad” gut bacteria, determine how a single small RNA can control tears and perhaps solve dry eye, and much more.

Sir Michael Moritz, KBE, a venture capitalist, writer, and philanthropist, and his wife, novelist Harriet Heyman, set the Discovery Fellows Program in motion with a $30 million commitment in 2013. They kicked off a fundraising challenge that was matched by UCSF institutional funds and contributions from more than 1,000 alumni and friends. Gathering so much momentum that it inspired a second phase of matching funds, in just three years the Discovery Fellows Program built an $80 million endowment. The program has instilled a new culture of private giving for basic science graduate students and their foundational role in fueling groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

Our collective goal is to ensure the future of graduate education in the basic sciences at UCSF.

ELIZABETH WATKINS, PhD, Dean, Graduate Division; Vice Chancellor for Student Academic Affairs

Discovery Fellows in such fields as biochemistry, cell biology, and neuroscience are selected to serve as ambassadors for science based on the excellence of their research as well as their communication skills, community spirit, and scientific advocacy and leadership. 

At the UCSF Discovery Fellows Michael Page, PhD, Research Symposium in April 2016, five students presented their findings on research projects ranging from cell behavior to placental malaria. D’Juan Farmer discussed a single microRNA in mice that inhibits lacrimal gland function, which may lead to treatment for such disorders as dry eye and Sjogren’s syndrome. Farmer also accompanied Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor for Student Academic Affairs, to speak with state legislators in March about the importance of graduate research and funding to support it. Like the other fellows in this program, he demonstrates passion for his work, articulating why basic science research matters and making the case for broad public support.
 
Efforts will continue to keep growing the fund. “Our collective goal is to ensure the future of graduate education in the basic sciences at UCSF,” says Watkins.

Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman
Poster session
Presentation
Symposium attendees
01 / 04 Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman flanked by this year’s speakers at the Discovery Fellows Program Michael Page, PhD, Research Symposium. Photo by Sonya Yruel
02 / 04 Poster session at the Discovery Fellows Program Michael Page, PhD, Research Symposium. Photo by Sonya Yruel
03 / 04 Presentation at the Discovery Fellows Program Michael Page, PhD, Research Symposium. Photo by Sonya Yruel
04 / 04 Keith Yamamoto, PhD, (right) at the symposium poster session. Photo by Sonya Yruel

Discovery Fellow and PhD candidate D’Juan Farmer in the McManus lab. Farmer has spoken with state legislators about the importance of funding for graduate research. Photo by Steve Babuljak

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