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A Neuroscientist and a Philanthropist: Catherine Dulac’s Work with the Richard Lounsbery Foundation

A Neuroscientist and a Philanthropist: Catherine Dulac’s Work with the Richard Lounsbery Foundation

One of the many hats MCB faculty Catherine Dulac wears is serving on the Board of Directors of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation. Established in 1959, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation is a grant-giving organization that promotes science and technology by supporting outreach and policy efforts.

The application process for Richard Lounsbery Foundation grants is by invitation only, so Dulac encourages community members who have ideas for initiatives that might be a good fit for the Foundation to reach out to her.

“The Richard Lounsbery Foundation supports many activities that are close to my heart,” Dulac says. “For example, as one of the Directors of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, I can help support new opportunities for science and science education directed at underserved communities, an aspect that has become particularly critical in this pandemic period. Also, the Foundation helps support really interesting projects that are at the intersection between disciplines—for example, combining Science and Art by taking advantage of advances in biology to learn more about the origin and history of a painting or a particular piece of art.”

“The Richard Lounsbery Foundation also appealed to me because it emphasizes joint French-American projects, as well broader international exchanges in the Sciences, Political Sciences, and Humanities,” she adds. “As a Frenchwoman who immigrated to the United States to pursue a scientific career, I feel it is important to strengthen ties between the two countries.”

Initiatives with MCB ties that have been funded by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation include the educational nonprofit Science Club for Girls, which has a Harvard chapter led by Neuroscience concentrators; The Journal of Emerging Investigators, which publishes research papers authored by K-12 students; Letters to a Pre-Scientist, which connects students with scientist penpals; and BioBus, a nonprofit that develops STEM education activities and has hosted hundreds of events in the NYC area.

The Richard Lounsbery Foundation’s areas of giving also include Research & Exploration, French-American Cooperation, Science Diplomacy, History of Science, and Biology in Art. Many of these areas encompass funding for scholarly research projects and policy initiatives, such as contributing to the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Program and supporting marine biology expeditions. More details on these interest areas can be found in the Foundation’s giving reports here.

“Another very large effort launched by the Foundation over the last few years is to help scientists in South America,” Dulac says. “Funding for science has been terribly reduced and, in some cases, has entirely disappeared in countries such as Venezuela, Argentina, and many other countries of South America. These countries have very vibrant science communities that are now seriously endangered, so we are trying our best to help them survive to the extent we can, while waiting for better circumstances.”

Dulac first connected with the Richard Lounsbery Foundation in 2006 when she garnered the Richard Lounsbery Award, which celebrates exceptional researchers with connections to both France and the United States. She joined the Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2017.

“Whenever funding is on the line, there are inevitably long discussions about how best to allocate funding but, amazingly, the Directors of the Foundation typically enthusiastically agree on what and whom to support, and each member of the board brings up useful suggestions to improve the proposal,” Dulac says. “The other Directors of the Foundation are all deeply committed to furthering science and maximizing the impact of our grants, and the staff is extremely supportive and diligent, so it’s a pleasure to work with everyone.”

Dulac’s duties as a member of the board include seeking out promising initiatives, working with potential applicants and the Foundation’s staff to finalize proposals that best fit the goals of the Foundation before they are presented to the full Board of Directors, and finally discussing quarterly grant proposals with the rest of the Board.

Since our local community is full of students, postdocs, faculty and staff who lead creative outreach efforts, Dulac encourages people seeking funding for initiatives that pertain to the Foundation’s mission to reach out to her. “If you are interested in putting these ideas into action, don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss what you have in mind,” she says. “If your idea fits with the goals of the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, or if you know someone who does, I’ll help you lay out an attractive proposal.”


by Diana Crow

Catherine Dulac

Catherine Dulac