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About the Discovery Prize

The Discovery Prize was established in 2013 with a generous donation from the Stony Brook Foundation’s Board of Trustees as a way to advance pioneering scientific breakthroughs at a time when the primary source of support for basic research (i.e., the federal government) is dwindling. It is a pathway to capitalize on new technologies, new innovations, new ideas and the urgency to move discovery driven knowledge forward by investing private dollars in basic research that is free of commercial or political pressures.

The Discovery Prize is also a means to support the career of a rising star on the Stony Brook faculty whose ideas may be so revolutionary and so contrary to convention that funding agencies would be unlikely to provide support.

Stony Brook's reinvigorated mission of funding fundamental research was inspired by the new  Science Philanthropy Alliance. Recently formed by seven U.S. foundations, including the Simons Foundation, the Alliance aims to mitigate the federal government’s disinvestment in pioneering scientific investigation. Stony Brook’s Discovery Fund contributes to the Alliance’s goal to generate philanthropic funds totaling at least $1 billion annually within five years.

Stony Brook has a history of encouraging untethered pursuit of scientific discovery, as demonstrated by the paradigm shifting work of Nobel Laureate Professors Paul Lauterbur and C.N. Yang. In keeping with our goal of supporting early-career faculty, eligibility is open to faculty members who — at the time of application — have a tenure-track assistant professor appointment or are no more than five years beyond tenure and promotion at the associate professor level.

The $200,000 award, free of indirect costs, is given to a scholar in the STEM disciplines whose research project embraces risk and innovation and embodies the potential of discovery-driven research — the catalysts for scientific advances. This type of high-risk, high-reward research enhances all aspects of campus culture, creating an environment where the relentless pursuit of knowledge informs the classroom and laboratory.

The proposed research project may emerge from a single discipline or may be interdisciplinary involving multiple Stony Brook faculty. The lead PI, however, must fit the eligibility criteria described above. It must be basic research that is discovery driven and creates new knowledge. Research that is primarily translational in nature (i.e., seeks to apply existing knowledge) or that has been funded in the past is not eligible.

In its inaugural year, the Discovery Prize was conferred on Laurie T. Krug, associate professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and one of four outstanding finalists, for her dynamic proposal researching herpes viruses that are associated with cancer.  Read More.

This year, the Discovery Prize was awarded to Thomas Allison, assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, for research aimed at recording the movement of molecules and their electrons to ultimately develop better high-tech devices. Read More. 

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