Funding new faculty's risky ideas

“A relatively small amount of money at a critical time in a scientist’s career can make a major difference.”

— Matt Winkler ’74, Ph.D. ’79

For the past seven years, biotech entrepreneur Matt Winkler ’74, Ph.D. ’79 (pictured) has sat down at the kitchen table with his wife and three sons to have an important family conversation. The topic? Groundbreaking research conducted by Berkeley’s brilliant new faculty.

Every year, the Winkler Family Foundation has awarded a pair of $50,000 grants — with no strings attached — to two of Berkeley’s newest faculty members in the College of Natural Resources and the College of Letters & Science’s Biological Sciences Division. Recipients can use the funds to set up a lab, hire graduate assistants, or do whatever’s necessary to embark on their research careers at Berkeley.

“I’m really sensitive to this being the most delicate part of a professor’s career,” says Winkler, who has launched a string of successful biotech ventures. “This money gives you the financial security to explore risky ideas,” recalls Lin He, a molecular and cell biologist who won a prestigious MacArthur fellowship just one year after her 2008 Winkler award.

Winkler grew up in Berkeley, where his father was a professor. In selecting scientists to support, Winkler also sees an opportunity to engage his own children in the practice of philanthropy.

“I wanted to get my kids involved in how they can thoughtfully make a difference,” Winkler says.

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Matt Winkler’s story, in his own words

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