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Shaw Family Pioneer Award

The Center for Reproductive Science Shaw Family Pioneer Awards provide funding for sex-inclusive research, focusing on sex-based mechanisms and determinants of health and disease. Every award cycle, two projects will be funded at $12,500 each in direct-cost support over a 12-month period. Applicants must be early-career investigators (assistant professor), research-track faculty or postdoctoral fellows at Northwestern University, and only one submission per PI will be accepted for review.

This year the Center for Reproductive Science is partnering with the Potocsnak Longevity Institute and special priority will be given to applications that focus on sex differences and aging. Studies confirm that men and women experience biological aging differently. The partnership between CRS and PLI will explore these differences and together we will make an impact towards expanding and improving the human lifespan.

The Pioneer Awards are not designed to provide ongoing support for a long-term project. Rather, they are intended to assist in obtaining pilot data required for larger grant applications.  Funds can be spent on supplies, services and salary/stipend support.

Established in 2018, the Shaw Family Pioneer Awards were previously sponsored by the Women’s Health Research Institute. The Center for Reproductive Science is honored to now administer these awards. The awards were established by Robert Shaw ('70, '81) and Charlene Shaw ('70).

Program Goals

  • To support Northwestern University investigators who conduct or are interested in sex-based research
  • To enable early-career investigators to conduct pilot studies that will help build their portfolio, thereby enhancing their ability to compete for large federal grants
  • To provide a mechanism for senior investigators to mentor young scientists who are interested in sex-based research
  • To promote sex-inclusive science through collaborative and innovative research

How to Apply for Pioneer Awards

Applications for the 2024 awards cycle are now open!

To submit your application, send the completed submission packet in an email as a PDF to CRS program administrator Lauren Ataman-Millhouse, MA.

Please include in the subject line: Shaw Family Pioneer Award Application

Materials required for submission:

  • An abstract limited to 250 words
  • A proposed research plan (limited to three pages, 0.5 margins, Arial font, type size 11) including the following: introduction, goal and objectives, approach, project timeline, relevance to sex-based discoveries
  • An NIH biographical sketch
  • A budget summary (limited to two pages) including the following: amount of funds requested, not to exceed $12,500; an itemized budget and rationale for resources needed; additional current and pending sources of funding for the proposed research

2024-2025 Application Timeline

  • June 20, 2024 - Applications open
  • August 15, 2024 – Applications due 
  • September 1, 2024 – Project period begins 
  • August 31, 2025 – Project period ends

Proposal Review Criteria  

A panel will review and evaluate award proposals and select the most commendable projects based on the reviews and specific criteria requested. CRS will not provide individual critiques of submitted proposals. Award proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:   

  • Impact of the project
  • Innovation of the project
  • Approach of the project
  • Relevance to sex-based discoveries

Pioneer Awardee Expectations  

The awardee will be required to:

  • Submit a stewardship report upon completion of the project period.
  • Present their research at the annual CRS Reproductive Science and Medicine Summit.
  • Cite the Center for Reproductive Science and the Shaw Family Pioneer Awards as a source of support in presentations, publications or grants resulting from their proposed research project. It is the responsibility of the awardee to notify the Center for Reproductive Science of these relevant activities. 

Questions regarding the Shaw Family Pioneer Awards or the application process should be directed to:

Lauren Ataman-Millhouse, MA
Program Administrator, Center for Reproductive Science

Previous Recipients & Projects

Year Recipient Project Title
2023 Julia Cox, PhD; Research Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Northwestern University "Neural mechanisms of cost-benefit decision making in males and females"
2023 Dominik Kentrup, PhD; Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, Northwestern University "Role of FGF23 on cardiac outcomes in male and female mice with autosomal recessive hypophosphatemia”
2022 Jennie Lin, MD, MTR; Assistant Professor of Medicine (Nephrology & Hypertension), Northwestern University "Sexual Dimorphism of Aging and Immune-Mediated Kidney Injury"

Heather Mahoney, PhD; Postdoctoral Fellow, Schmidt Lab, Department of Neurobiology, Northwestern University

"Sex differences in visual modulation of mood and nicotine abuse"
2021 Hong Zhao, MD, PhD; Research Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Northwestern University "Estrogen Signaling and Brain Function: Potential Link of Women’s Vulnerability to Alzheimer’s Disease"
2020 Erin Hsu, PhD; Research Associate Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Northwestern University "Elucidating sex-based differences in bone regenerative response of spinal fusion"
2020 Steven J. Schwulst, MD, FACS, FCCM; Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery (Trauma & Critical Care), Northwestern University  “Sex Influences on the Microglia Response to Traumatic Brain Injury"
2019 Matthew J. Major, PhD; Associate Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Feinberg School of Medicine;  Department of Biomedical Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering, Northwestern University   "Characterizing the gait biomechanics of women with leg amputation for improving evidence-based rehabilitation practice"
2019 Bria Coates, MD; Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics (Critical Care), Northwestern University "Impact of sex and NOD-like receptor activation in prepubertal influenza A virus infection"
2018  Aline Martin, PhD; Associate Professor of Medicine (Nephrology & Hypertension), Northwestern University "Sex-Dependent Mechanisms of Cardiac Injury During Chronic Kidney Disease"
2018 Jelena Radulovic, MD, PhD; Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science, Albert Einstein College of Medicine "Effect of Oxytocin Receptor Function on Hippocampal Neuronal Activity"

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