Society in Science: The Branco Weiss Fellowship

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Society in Science – The Branco Weiss Fellowship was founded in 2002 by the late Swiss entrepreneur, Dr. Branco Weiss. The aim is to provide researchers a platform to extend their scientific work in the natural sciences and engineering. The foundation is coordinated by ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). The advisory board consists of international scholars from a wide array of disciplines, directed by Professor Peter Chen and Professor Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach. When Dr. Branco Weiss passed away in 2010, he increased his donation to the fellowship through his will, ensuring that the fellowship can continue to expand for decades to come.

The Society in Science Fellowship has taken a fresh approach to research, offering junior scientists throughout the world a generous personal grant of up to five years to pursue novel scientific projects. Applicants are required to provide evidence of outstanding scientific achievement, outline a compelling research project at the interface between science and society, and be prepared to look beyond their own scientific horizon.

Branco WeissProfessor Ralph Eichler, president of ETH Zurich, says: “Branco Weiss’s donation opens up new dimensions for the promotion of young researchers. What is even more important to us than the amount is the tremendous power we gain from this fellowship. Society in Science is a unique organisation that allows us to test new research fields and meet young, highly talented researchers with a limited institutional downside risk. The fellows get an opportunity to pursue their research ideas and benefit from a maximum of academic freedom.”

This year, The Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellowship has awarded eight young scientists in a wide range of disciplines across the world. They are:

  1. Dr. Cheemeng Tan – Born in Malaysia and currently at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Dr Tan received his PhD degree from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University. Dr. Tan will construct antibacterial artificial cells using a synthetic biology approach. His work could fundamentally improve antibacterial treatment, advance the predictive engineering of artificial cells and bring new insights into the application of computational algorithms in synthetic biology.
  2. Dr. Nita Bharti – Born in the USA, Dr Bharti received her PhD in Biology from Penn State University and is currently at Princeton University. Dr. Bharti develops satellite-based methods to quantify human density and movement patterns to assess their impact on human health, particularly in low-income nations.
  3. Dr. Karim Bschir – Born in Switzerland and currently at ETH Zurich, Dr Bschir research aims at understanding how science deals with different kinds of uncertainty. He intends to present a classification of scientific uncertainty against the background of a model of predictions in science.
  4. Dr. Zi Chen – Born in China and currently at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Chen received his PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. Dr. Chen will investigate how one-dimensional information coded in DNA translates into three-dimensional shapes.
  5. Dr. Michael Fabinyi – Born in Australia, Dr Fabinyi is currently at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland after obtaining his PhD from the Australian National University in Canberra. He will provide a novel anthropological perspective on the consumption of seafood in China. The research will greatly increase our understanding of an important influence on the livelihoods and environments of the Asia- Pacific region.
  6. Dr. Lea Haller – Born in Switzerland and currently at ETH Zurich, Dr. Haller is working to examine the global commodity trade in 20th century Switzerland. Her project aims at understanding the entanglement of political and economic spaces from a historical perspective.
  7. Dr. Michael Nash – Born in the USA and having received a dual PhD degree in bioengineering and nanotechnology from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2010, Dr Nash is currently at Ludwig- Maximilians University in Munich. He will undertake research to develop artificial bio-hybrid nanostructures that would convert agricultural wastes into sugars, providing a new approach to biofuel production.
  8. Dr. Julia Sacher – Born in Austria and currently at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Dr. Sacher will examine how subtle hormonal changes impact mood regulation by using the menstrual cycle as a model. Her findings will help prevent and treat severe premenstrual mood change, and elucidate the link between sex hormones and depression.

The Society in Science Fellowship 2013 is now open for application. Deadline for online application is February 1, 2013, 11.59 p.m. CET. Online application form and fellowship eligibility is available at

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