Lavin Bernick Foundation donates $5 million to support professor research

Tess Riley, Staff Reporter

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Tulane faculty will have $5 million more to support their research and interdisciplinary programs thanks to a donation from the Carol Lavin Bernick Family Foundation.

To show her gratitude and appreciation for the Tulane faculty, board member Carol Bernick is donating $1 million per year over the course of five years.  This money will be available in the form of grants which will allow faculty to pursue new research projects.

“The whole idea was to let the faculty tell us what they would do with the money,” Bernick said. “Let the deans and the faculty help create innovative new programs. It’s all to be tied to useful opportunities to build the strength of the university and to build the interconnectedness between the faculty and the students.”

According to Tulane Chief of Staff and Vice President Tania Tetlow, the faculty was asked to help Tulane during times of financial difficulties, such as after Hurricane Katrina and during the economic crisis of 2008. She said these funds hope to recognize them for their patience and the importance of the work that they do.

“What’s so special about this gift is that it is dedicated exclusively to the group of individuals who are the heart, soul and mind of our academic mission — our award-winning faculty,” President Michael Fitts said. “This gift will support our faculty as they pursue innovative research, teaching and mentoring that spans various disciplines and fields of knowledge.”

According to Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Sarah Lindsey, the funding rate for the National Institutes of Health has steadily decreased over the last 15 years, making it extremely difficult for new scientists to get funded. 

“This money comes a critical time, especially for junior faculty like myself,” Lindsey said. “This gift will increase faculty productivity and ensure that Tulane continues its scientific success.”

Other professors already have ideas as what areas they would research with this money, ranging from RNA sequencing, obesity and kidney disease. Money designated for faculty research can allow for newer, more expensive and higher-risk studies that may not have received funding otherwise.

“The funds could be used by Tulane scientists to support high-risk research that is in preliminary stages of development,” Professor of Psychology Jill Daniel said. “This type of exciting science has potentially high reward, but federal grant funding agencies are hesitant to fund such high risk work.”

According to Tetlow, there will be an application process through which faculty can access these funds for their research. They can also propose their own ideas as to how the funds can be used, specifically through interdisciplinary studies that create relationships between different schools of study. 

“I think that it will both be a large investment in our faculty in terms of their own research and what they’re able to accomplish so that will be a big deal to Tulane’s reputation and to rewarding and fostering the kinds of amazing work that our faculty does,” Tetlow said. “I also think it’s some seed money for interdisciplinary work that will bear fruit in all sorts of ways we can’t predict.”