UC Davis awarded Hellman Faculty Foundation awards to 13 up and coming scholars on August 18th, 2008. Dr. Haj was selected as a Hellman Fellow and was awarded $26,000 for his work on the role of protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B in diabetes.

“These grants are for newer professors who show the capacity for great distinction in their research,” said Bruce White, interim vice provost for academic personnel. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for younger faculty, many of whom can use it as a springboard to larger funding in the years ahead.”

This spring, the foundation notified UC Davis it would receive $1.25 million in grant funding during the next five years. The goal is to provide support for the research of promising faculty at the assistant professor rank. At this career stage, faculty often do not have the research track record to establish themselves in the all-important grant world.

“There is less money available at this level, and many professors are competing for it,” White said.

Under the guidelines, the Hellman Fellows must have completed at least two years as an assistant professor and submitted a compelling research proposal. All the foundation asks in return — beyond adding to society’s knowledge base, of course — is that the recipients have lunch next spring with Warren and Chris Hellman, the philanthropists behind the foundation. Warren is an investment banker and UC Berkeley alumnus.

The foundation has supported similar programs at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UC San Diego — but not every university is chosen for this kind of support. What does getting Hellman funding mean for UC Davis? Above all, White said, it reflects highly on the institution’s academic pedigree.

“UC Davis is in the big leagues of attracting world-class young faculty,” he said. “We attribute this to the intellectual draw of the campus itself and the fact that the city of Davis is a very attractive place to live.”

One benefit of the funding is that UC Davis decides how to allocate it. The university, not the foundation, chose the specific research to be supported, White explained. The Academic Senate was instrumental in establishing a review panel to sift through 48 research proposals and select recipients and how much they would receive from the Hellman Foundation. “Everybody moved efficiently to make all this possible,” he noted.

And everybody on the receiving end welcomed the grants with great fanfare. The professors found out via e-mail that they had been selected as Hellman fellows.