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$400K gift to CSHL, MIT, UCSF, Davidson for advanced technology courses for biological scientists

Princeton Professor David Botstein pledges funds awarded to him from 2013 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Dr. David Botstein, until recently director of Princeton’s Lewis-Sigler Institute, announced today his decision to donate $400,000 to four U.S. academic institutions that offer innovative advanced technology courses in the field of biology.  Dr. Botstein was one of 11 recipients of the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, announced earlier this year by Internet titans Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri Milner.  He has pledged $100,000 awards each to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), MIT, UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Davidson College.

“With these awards, I want to recognize the successes of these four institutions in the development and delivery of educational programs that are furthering the field of biological research by training, in technologically advanced teaching laboratories, the next generation of breakthrough scientists,” said Dr. Botstein. “I have had the opportunity to participate in the development of such organized laboratory-based programs and salute the institutions and the program leaders who have achieved thereby the highest standards in science education.”

botstein_largeDr. David Botstein, until recently Director of Princeton's Lewis-Sigler Institute will donate $400,000 to four institutions for advancing technology courses for biological students. CSHL is recognized by Dr. Botstein for its advanced technology course program, based on the philosophy of Nobel Prize winner Max Delbruck who in 1945 organized the first postgraduate course in bacterial viruses at Cold Spring Harbor. The annual summer “Phage course” led by Delbruck, Salvador Luria and others, taught young biologists from diverse backgrounds the fundamentals of phage biology, while instilling rigorous quantitative thinking and inspiring a highly collaborative cadre of researchers who lay much of the groundwork for modern molecular biology.  Learning science by rapid immersion in the concepts and techniques of a new field has remained a cornerstone of the CSHL postgraduate course program. The CSHL course program covers an array of topics in molecular biology, neurobiology, structural studies and bioinformatics. The primary aim remains to teach scientists the latest advances that can be immediately applied to their own research, while the intense environment fosters enduring collaborations and networking.  

“David Botstein’sgenerous gift to the CSHL postgraduate course program reflects his belief that this program is highly impactful on the future careers of many scientists,” said Dr. David Stewart, executive director of CSHL Meetings & Courses.  “In the current climate of tight federal funding of research and research education, David’s gift is a strong signal that innovative educational programs need ongoing support. We hope that federal agencies, private foundations and philanthropists take note of David’s generosity and see the tremendous value in supporting this type of program in the future. “

MIT is receiving the Botstein award for the Department of Biology’s innovative Project Lab program, which began in 1970. Dr. Botstein provided crucial leadership in establishing this program and many members of the MIT Department of Biology have taught Project Labs since that time. MIT’s Project Labs engage undergraduate students in cutting-edge research projects within a highly supportive undergraduate laboratory setting and are constantly redesigned. Students learn the principles of experimental design and scientific interpretation in the context of exciting research projects on the frontiers of modern molecular and cellular biology. Students who take a Project Lab emerge with a strong sense of the real world of research, from the conception of ideas to the planning and execution of critical experiments, to the communication of their results to others.  MIT Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Graham Walker, who followed in David Botstein's footsteps teaching Project Labs, says that "David's wonderfully generous and thoughtful gift will help sustain continuous innovation in our Project Lab program."

UCSF’s award supports The Integrated Program in Complex Biological Systems that was created to address the acute need for interdisciplinary graduate training in the context of quantitative biology and biomedical research.  The past decade has witnessed exponential increases in our technological abilities to acquire massive quantities of feature-rich data. As a result, biomedical research is rapidly becoming an information and engineering science that will rely not only on fundamental organizational principles, but also on predictive modeling. The complexity and magnitude of data now demands an interdisciplinary approach, where tightly knit teams of researchers integrate their respective expertise in various disciplines to synthesize new approaches. 

According to Professor Joe DeRisi, who leads the UCSF program, “the course is built on an entirely new foundation focused on the observation, modeling, and manipulation of complex biological systems.  The ipCBS represents a novel approach to solving the critical sociological and linguistic problems associated with training scientists to be simultaneously conversant in the languages of biology, mathematics, physics, and engineering.”

Davidson College is receiving the Botstein award in recognition of educational programs that meld basic research and undergraduate teaching. Dr. A. Malcolm Campbell directs undergraduate-driven science and pedagogy research, in which project-based labs that originate in his laboratory are used in his undergraduate classes. First-year students in the introductory biology course conduct original research by characterizing short genetic sequences for use in synthetic biology. Motivated students are eligible to take three advanced core courses in Genomics,  Laboratory Methods in Genomics and  Bioinformatics.

According to Dr. Campbell, “these laboratory programs strive to provide students with a more complete sense of the process of discovery while an accelerated pace of experimental analysis requires them to think about more challenging aspects of genetic analysis.”  Campbell also initiated the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT), training more than 360 undergraduate faculty in how to conduct DNA microarray experiments with their students. The program recently trained more than 150 faculty, many of whom represented minority-serving institutions, in the interdisciplinary field of synthetic biology to help bring cutting-edge methods to their students.

About Davidson College

Davidson College, a highly selective independent liberal arts college located north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C., seeks out intellectually curious students committed to developing their talents for lives of leadership and service. Small classes enable our renowned faculty to work closely with students, engaging them directly in original research and creative work. Davidson cultivates students' compassion, creativity, resilience, and moral courage in a community founded on trust as articulated by the Honor Code and on free, unfettered inquiry. The Davidson Trust supports our campus-wide commitments to access and equal opportunity. Nearly one-quarter of our students compete in Division I athletics, and 80 percent of our students study or work internationally. These rich and distinguished offerings enable Davidson graduates to thrive in a global society and exert disproportionate impact for good.

About MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) admitted its first students in 1865. MIT’s mission is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. MIT is a world-class educational institution; teaching and research continue to be its primary purpose. Research at MIT aims to develop innovative solutions to the world’s most daunting challenges. From addressing the energy needs of tomorrow to improving cancer therapies, MIT’s research efforts are enhanced through creative collaborations with leading research institutes and consortia around the world. The MIT community includes more than 1,000 faculty members and 700 other teaching staff, and 11,000 students. Seventy-eight present and former members of the MIT community have won the Nobel Prize. For more information, visit

About UCSF

UC San Francisco is the leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide, through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic biomedical, translational and population sciences, as well as a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. CSHL is ranked number one in the world by Thomson Reuters for the impact of its research in molecular biology and genetics. The Laboratory has been home to eight Nobel Prize winners. Today, CSHL's multidisciplinary scientific community is more than 600 researchers and technicians strong and its Meetings & Courses program hosts more than 12,000 scientists from around the world each year to its Long Island campus and its China center. Tens of thousands more benefit from the research, reviews, and ideas published in journals and books distributed internationally by CSHL Press. The Laboratory's education arm also includes a graduate school and programs for middle and high school students and teachers. CSHL is a private, not-for-profit institution on the north shore of Long Island. For more information, visit

Written by: Dagnia Zeidlickis, VP of Communications | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 516-367-6846