Florian Engert, Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is a recipient of the 2006 McKnight Scholar Award. The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience seeks innovative research in the field of brain function and diseases; its prestigious three-year award is targeted specifically to young neurobiologists whose laboratories are in their early stages. Only a handful are selected each year. Engert comments: “It is really a great privilege to be selected as a McKnight Scholar”, and adds that “what’s particularly nice about the McKnight fellowship is that it sponsors high risk/high rewards projects and doesn’t necessarily require a lot of preliminary data. This makes it possible to explore exciting projects that would otherwise be hard to fund.”
A part of the McKnight Foundation, the McKnight Endowment Fund was established according to the wishes of 3M Corporation founder, William L. McKnight, who, according to the Foundation website, “had a personal interest in memory and its diseases. He chose to set aside part of his legacy to bring hope to those suffering from brain injury or disease and cognitive impairment.”
Nonetheless, the Scholar Award endows basic science, not direct medical research. Engert is excited by the perspectives opened by the Award: a “big advantage is that the funds are pretty much unrestricted, which considerably increases your flexibility in where you want to take the project.” As Engert’s research has focused on synaptic plasticity, especially in its relevance to learning and memory, the latitude afforded by the McKnight Endowment Fund’s award should offer Engert a great opportunity to enjoy the very facility he will be studying.