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Scholar Awards

The McKnight Scholar Awards support neuroscientists in the early stages of their careers.

The McKnight Scholar Awards are given to exceptional young scientists who are in the early stages of establishing an independent laboratory and research career. The intent of the program is to foster the commitment by these scientists to research careers that will have an important impact on the study of the brain. The program seeks to support scientists committed to mentoring neuroscientists from underrepresented groups at all levels of training. Applicants for the McKnight Scholar Award must demonstrate their ability to solve significant problems in neuroscience, which may include the translation of basic research to clinical practice. They should demonstrate a commitment to an equitable and inclusive lab environment.

McKnight Scholars have generated some key findings about neuroscience, including:

  • The discovery of receptors that encode the senses of smell, taste, and thermal pain.
  • The first crystal structure of one of the ion channels that control the excitability of neurons.
  • The discovery of neurotrophic factors that promote neuronal survival.
  • The identification of molecules that promote axon growth and regeneration in the nervous system.
  • The discovery of proteins in the nerve terminal that mediate the release of neurotransmitters.
  • The identification of genes that control short- and long-term memory.

Each year, up to ten scholars are selected to receive three years’ support. Currently, awards are $75,000 per year. Funds may be used in any way that will facilitate development of the Scholar’s research program, but not for indirect costs.

Intellectual Property rights resulting from the research—including patents, copyrights, processes, or formulae—will be the rights of the sponsoring institution to the extent required by such policies. The information derived from the research will be published in a form that is available to the interested public and made available to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

The Scholar Awards have been given annually since 1977. They were the McKnight Foundation’s earliest means of supporting neuroscience research. In 1999, in revising the awards program, the Endowment Fund board continued the Scholar Awards but with the new goal of addressing problems with imminent clinical implications.