Science Faculty Advise on Funding Research

Members of the Upper School Science Department traveled to the University of Chicago Center in Paris as part of the 2022 France And Chicago Collaborating in The Sciences (FACCTS) program, which seeks to foster a broad range of networks and productive partnerships between Chicago-based researchers and France-based colleagues and institutions.

Parker teachers Kara Schupp and Xiao Zhang attended the conference with Daniel Weissbluth MD and program benefactor and Parker parent Tem Horwitz, while teacher George Austin participated remotely. Prior to the event, the FACCTS committee sent detailed proposals for careful review.

During the conference, committee members from the “Chicago Team,” composed of University of Chicago faculty, took turns with those from the “French Team,” represented by members of the French education ministry and staff from the French Embassy in Washington DC and Chicago Consulate responsible for promoting scientific research and collaboration to present unique proposals for scientific projects competing to receive seed funding through the FACCTS program.

Participants listened to the committee’s discussions and evaluation of the proposals. After ranking the proposals, an additional $100,000 in funding was dedicated to the four applicants. The experience to meet with the Committee and participate in the proposal review process provided those involved with a unique window on the funding process for scientific research. The four proposals will receive funding:
  • Daniel Weissbluth—HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Access Retention and Education Research (HIV PrEP-ARER)
  • George Austin—Holography in Quantum Gravity
  • Kara Schupp—Water Decontamination Using a Plasma-in-Liquid Technique: Application to PFAS Treatment (WIPE-PFAS)
  • Xiao Zhang—Single-Chain Magnets Encapsulated in Molecular Frameworks
Zhang shared, “Through the connection with the FACCTS program, climate scientists Dr. Elizabeth Moyer and Dr. Sergey Khaykin presented their joint research and their journey becoming climate scientists to the students in the Climate Science elective at Parker last year. They gave two pieces of advice worth sharing with all students: Don't be afraid of getting involved in research as early as possible and be a team player.”

Austin offered, “Not only am I able to pursue a scientific passion that I have, the FACCTS program allows us to connect researchers with our students so they can transfer their knowledge directly to the students, which can spark a similar passion in them as well. This is what Clay Cordóva and Eric Perlmutter did regarding special relativity and causality for the students in my Modern Physics and Astronomy class last year.”

The conference location alternates between Paris and Chicago each year, with faculty members serving a two-year term to experience the conference locally as well as overseas. COVID disrupted this flow, but all welcomed the return to in-person gatherings for this annual event.

As a faculty member involved in the FACCTS program since the first year of Parker’s involvement, Bridget Lesinki said, “I attended five years ago, and what struck me the most was the collaborative nature of science. It was inspiring to see what scientists from both the United States and France were able to accomplish together. I loved visiting some of the scientists’ labs and learning firsthand about their research. As a science teacher, I was able to bring some of their exciting stories and research back to my classes. I enjoyed experiencing firsthand how scientific projects get funded.”

Parker is excited for future opportunities to connect the four funded projects with the school and Parker students. Past presentations by researchers not only showed students research topics of interest, but also valuable perspectives on research and scientific careers.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.