Colby College Establishes Pulver Science Scholars Program with $5-million Commitment

Announcements4 MIN READ
After a research experience at The Jackson Laboratory as a student, Jocelyn Thomas '16 is now a full-time research assistant at the leading biomedical research institution.
February 1, 2019

At a time when competition for federal grant funding has never been greater, Colby College has established the Pulver Science Scholars Program, designed to create a pipeline for the most ambitious and talented students from all backgrounds to pursue research at the nation’s top biomedical laboratories. Trustee David Pulver and his wife, Carol, made the $5-million commitment to help ensure future discovery, leading to treatments and cures in critical areas of human health.

The program will provide selected students with a set of experiences to prepare them to be scientific leaders and innovators. Working in tandem with the recently launched Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation, the Pulver Science Scholars Program will fund and facilitate high-level student research with Colby faculty at places like The Jackson Laboratory, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, among others.

For the first time in the post-World War II era, the federal government no longer funds the majority of the basic research done in the U.S. Federal funding dipped to just 44 percent of the research dollars awarded in 2015, down from more than 70 percent in the 1960s and ’70s. By training the most talented science students, the program will have a positive impact on potential life-saving discoveries and cures that could otherwise be delayed.

“Funding challenges for research labs have led to constraints on research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Colby President David A. Greene. “These research assistantships are critical learning experiences for science students and are essential to scientists’ ability to make life-altering discoveries that could have immediate impacts on human health. The Pulvers’ vision allows us to create a private solution to this serious challenge while encouraging and educating the next generation of scientific leaders.”

The Pulver Science Scholars Program will provide funding for science research by training the most promising liberal arts undergraduates to work alongside—and eventually become—world-class scientists tackling pressing health challenges such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Adding to Colby’s well-established undergraduate research program, Pulver Scholars will be given the opportunity, often in their first year, to work collaboratively with Colby science faculty. Students will ultimately join top research teams in the fields of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, computer science, statistics, computational biology, and other relevant disciplines.  

Research scientists report that funding challenges have restricted the number of research assistants they can employ. This program establishes a direct pathway that will supply a steady stream of high-achieving, well-trained students to ensure the productivity of important research labs.

David Pulver, who graduated from Colby in 1963 and went on to run major national clothing brands, was inspired to establish the program by his own experience with bladder cancer. Pulver, cancer free for ten years, is the author, with his sister Fran and the expert guidance of Mark Schoenberg, M.D., of a guide for bladder-cancer patients.

He sees the cross-disciplinary education offered at Colby as key to achieving significant progress on cancer and other public health challenges.

“Carol and I are thrilled to contribute to Colby in this way,” said David Pulver. “We know Colby will recruit remarkable students for this program and are fully confident in the College’s ability to create opportunities that will prepare them to become leaders in the scientific world.”

The program’s investments in scientific exploration will capitalize on Colby’s recent upgrades in high performance computing infrastructure, aided by a grant from the National Science Foundation. As medical research becomes increasingly data-driven, students must be able to work efficiently with large, complex data sets in rapidly evolving scientific fields. Pulver Scholars will have the tools and analytical skills necessary to achieve high levels of performance, reliability, and predictability for science applications.

In addition to on- and off-campus research opportunities, the Pulver Science Scholars Program will fund a network-in-residence program to bring industry leaders to campus to engage and collaborate with the scholars. Events designed to build intellectual exchange and collaboration among the Pulver Science Scholars will also be offered.

In 2018, Colby announced the Linde Packman Lab for Biosciences Innovation, which supports programs for students to pursue College-funded research, internship, and global opportunities in preparation for careers in fields such as biotechnology, biomedicine, biochemistry, ocean sciences, genomics, and bioinformatics. A year earlier, the Buck Lab for the Environment and Climate Change was established at Colby to support internships, research, and global experiences in issues broadly related to climate disruption.

These initiatives, including the Pulver Science Scholars Program, support ongoing efforts by Colby to connect students’ academic pursuits to meaningful opportunities that are available to all—regardless of their financial means.

About Colby College

Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America’s most selective colleges. Serving only undergraduates, Colby offers a rigorous academic program rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 58 majors or developing their own. Colby’s innovative and ambitious campaign, Dare Northward, will support deeper connections between the College and the world and a fully inclusive experience for all Colby students. Colby is home to a community of 2,000 dedicated and diverse students from more than 80 countries. Its Waterville, Maine, location provides unique access to world-class research institutions and civic engagement experiences.