Meet the Southern California Researchers Raking in the Big Bucks from the W.M. Keck Foundation

Sure, the W.M. Keck Foundation supports its fair share of undergraduate education and youth causes in Southern California, but what it's best known for is its research grants. Although Keck's research grantmaking extends nationwide, Southern California researchers have been stealing the spotlight lately (See: W.M. Keck Foundation: Los Angeles Area Grants). Check out these recent grant recipients who are promising big things in the world of research.

Angelique Louie, professor and vice chair in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering, received a$1 million medical research grant from the Keck Foundation. The grant will help fund her project "In Vivo 3D Imaging Using Bioluminescent Gene Reporters and MRI," which will help detect gene expression in deep, opaque tissues. Through this project, she hopes to use noninvasive imaging in a variety of biomedical applications. Sounds cool to us. 

Keck has shown it isn't afraid to take risks and fund cutting-edge technological pursuits like this one. "Such daring often won't be embraced by government funders or foundations, and I applaud the Keck Foundation for its devotion to bold ventures that can have a positive impact on the entire world,” said Enrique J. Lavernia, Dean of the College of Engineering. "I'm equally thankful for the Keck Foundation's appreciation for high-risk, innovative research," Louie echoed. "This funding will play a significant role in providing personnel and resources that will be crucial to the success of our project."  

Another SoCal researcher, Professor Denise Montell was recently awarded a $1 million science research grant from Keck as well. Montell's lab discovered a biological process that may lead to the implementation of regenerative medicine to combat the growth of tumors and cancers. Again, neat stuff. 

“It was a fairly simple experiment,” Montell explained. “We induce cell death by adding a toxic chemical such as ethanol and then when the cells are right on the brink of death, we exchange the medium and observe them.”

“Denise Montell’s research group has made the sort of fundamental discovery that opens up unexplored scientific territory,” said Michael Witherell, UCSB’s vice chancellor for research. “We are pleased that the Keck Foundation recognized this as an opportunity and moved quickly to support this groundbreaking research.”

Anthony James and John Hemminger, two UC Irvine researchers, each received $1 million research grantsto further their groundbreaking studies. James, who is a microbiology and molecular genetics professor, will be using the grant to test models for controlling the spread of malaria, which is the leading cause of death in Africa. Hemminger, who is a chemist and vice chancellor of research, will be using his grant to study chemical reactions on the surfaces of liquids using x-ray beams. His goal is to better understand the chemistry of the air that leads to smog pollution.

Besides their location, what do all these researchers have in common? A novel approach, a drive for innovation, a willingness to take risks, the potential to break open new territory in their fields, and the practical global application of their studies. Keck loves that kind of stuff. (Which is why we love Keck.)

The Keck Foundation awards medical, science, and engineering research grants to major universities, independent research institutions, medical schools between $500,000 and $5 million in size. To learn more, check out IP's profile of Keck in our guide to Science Research funding