Skip to main content

Shaw Family Pioneer Award

The Shaw Family Pioneer Awards provide funding for sex-inclusive research, focusing on sex-based mechanisms and determinants of health and disease. One project will be funded at $15,000 in direct cost support over a 12-month period.  Only one submission per PI will be accepted for review.

2019 Awardee Matthew Major
Marla Mendelson, MD, Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD,  2019 Awardee Matthew Major, PhD, Robert Shaw ('70, '81), and Charlene Shaw ('70).

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

Applicants must be early career investigators (Assistant Professor) or research track faculty at Northwestern. Proposals must be to conduct sex-inclusive research, focusing on sex-based mechanisms and determinants of health and disease.

Specifically, this program:  

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

CRS Co-Director Julie Kim, PhD was recently profiled in the NU Medicine Breakthroughs article, Exploring Sex in Preclinical Research!

2021 Award Recipient 

This year's Shaw Family Pioneer Award was presented to Hong Zhao, PhD, MD. Dr. Zhao is a Research Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her project title is: "Estrogen Signaling and Brain Function: Potential Link of Women’s Vulnerability to Alzheimer’s Disease." Dr. Zhao’s proposal was chosen as the winner because it directly addresses sex differences and serves as an important foundation to her future research. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) disproportionally affects women but the molecular mechanisms underlying these sex differences are not well understood. In this innovative proposal, Dr. Hong Zhao will merge the fields of reproductive science and medicine and neuroscience to examine the role of estrogen in driving sex differences in neurodegeneration and memory function. Dr. Zhao’s consideration of sex as a critical biological variable in AD has the potential to improve women’s health.


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 Shaw Family Pioneer Awards were established by Robert Shaw ('70, '81), and Charlene Shaw ('70). These awards advance the Center for Reproductive Science’s mission to enhance and coordinate research in the reproductive sciences at Northwestern, to promote the application of this research toward human welfare, and to optimize the training of future researchers, educators and clinicians in the reproductive sciences. 

Previous award recipients and their projects can be found here.


The 2021 application cycle is now closed. Please check back in spring 2022 for updates.

To submit your application, send the completed submission packet in an email as a PDF to CRS Program AdministratorLauren 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 3 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 2 pages) including the following: Amount of funds requested, not to exceed $15,000; An itemized budget and rationale for resources needed; Additional current and pending sources of funding for the proposed research

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


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. 

 Key Dates 

  • May 1, 2021 – Applications open 
  • July 15, 2021 – Applications due 
  • August 15, 2021 – Awards announced  
  • September 1, 2021 – Project period begins 
  • August 31, 2022 – Project period ends

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

Lauren Ataman-Millhouse, MA 

Research Project Manager, Center for Reproductive Science