How to Nab a Simons Foundation Explorer Award

Sure, a Simons Foundation Explorer Award might be small, but remember: It's fast, too. The one-year, nonrenewable awards come in a tidy, one-size-fits-all $60,000 package, and they're designed to be handed out throughout the course of a year to just-starting-out scientists or researchers doing work that could offer tangential insights into autism.

The Simons Foundation is big on tangents. It likes to go beyond autism, seeking insights that apply not only to this specific (yet widespread) disorder but also to the bigger picture of what is occurring inside a functioning human brain. Especially with its Explorer Award, Simons is looking for newcomers to the field, scientists who've been out there studying Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis, say, and suddenly hit upon something promising that might yield an unexpected autism breakthrough. Despite being a common disease, autism is barely understood, so these sorts of eureka moments are surely out there waiting, ready to ambush unsuspecting scientists as they go about their research. That's exactly who the Simons Foundation wants to lure in with the Explorer Award. (See Simons Foundation: Grants for Brain Research and Treatment.)

Paul Lombroso, PhD, of Yale, was immersed in a study of proteins linked to Alzheimer's and schizophrenia when he hit upon a way that such proteins apply to autism. Anne Marion Taylor, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was studying traumatic brain injury and how the synapses change and adjust in the months following injury. She was able to apply much of the knowledge she'd gained toward understanding autism. These are the kind of accomplished scientists working around the periphery of autism that SFARI favors. If you're one of them, hop on the money train: SFARI's Explorer Awards have a rolling deadline, and if your project is selected for support, you could receive your money within a month. (Read SFARI Director Louis Reichardt's IP profile.)