SEAS Assistant Professor Brian Weeks receives Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering
(Los Altos, CA)—The David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced today the 2022 class of Packard Fellows in Science and Engineering. This year’s class features 20 innovative early-career scientists and engineers—including University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) Assistant Professor Brian Weeks—who will each receive $875,000 over five years to pursue their research.
“Each of the Fellows in this year’s class is exceptional, and we’re excited to support them as they push the boundaries of discovery and innovation in their fields,” said Dr. Richard Alley, Chair of the Packard Fellowships for Science & Engineering Advisory Panel, and 1991 Packard Fellow. “We welcome them to the community of Packard Fellows, and look forward to learning from them and helping them advance the frontiers of science and engineering for the good of all of us.”
The Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering are designed to encourage innovative, blue-sky thinking by providing maximum flexibility and support to scientists and engineers early in their careers. This flexibility allows Fellows to pursue trailblazing experimental research into critical issues like COVID-19 and climate change. Fellows have gone on to receive the highest accolades, including Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics, Fields Medals, Alan T. Waterman Awards, Breakthrough Prizes, Kavli Prizes, and elections to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
Weeks' discipline is ecology and evolutionary biology. Humans are changing the climate at an unprecedented rate, and the ways that species adapt to these novel conditions will fundamentally reshape ecosystems. The Weeks lab uses museum specimens and field biology to understand how bird morphology responds to changing temperatures and to develop broader understanding of biotic responses to global climate change.
“The Packard Fellowship is so important—it's one of the nation's largest non-governmental fellowships and it's fully unrestricted. That means that the Fellows themselves can tackle whatever barriers they may have in their lives and labs to better explore their research,” said Dr. Celeste Nelson. This year, Nelson came full circle: She first joined the Packard Fellowship Program in 2008 as a Fellow herself, and in April 2022 joined the Advisory Panel, paving the way for the next generation of scientists.
Fellows can use the unrestricted funds however they like, including on things like child care. For Fellows, this freedom can open the doors to uncharted research territory and allow them to explore new approaches over longer timelines.
Nelson added, “As a woman, I've seen first-hand that the obstacles to doing good work are too often based on gender, and it's programs like this that put amazing researchers from all backgrounds in the driver’s seat to help them get where they want to go. I'm so glad to see that half of this year’s Fellows class are women.”
“The Packard Fellows embody the Foundation’s commitment to science as vital to progress and cross-fertilization across academic disciplines,” said Walt Reid, the Packard Foundation’s Vice President of Environment and Science. “The breakthroughs we see in the Packard Fellows community provide not just hope for the future, but also real paths forward for some of the most critical challenges we face in healthcare, climate change, technology, and more.”
The Packard Fellowships were inspired by David Packard’s commitment to strengthening university-based science and engineering programs in the United States. He recognized that the success of the Hewlett-Packard Company, which he co-founded, was derived in large measure from research and development in university laboratories. Since 1988, the Packard Foundation has awarded $481 million to support 675 scientists and engineers from 54 national universities. The Packard Foundation also continues to be committed to supporting Fellows as they undertake a variety of self-directed initiatives to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM through additional targeted grants.