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Room to Explore

The Welch Foundation backs life-changing discoveries on the Forty Acres.
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Over the past two years, vaccine development has taken center stage in both the scientific community and the public consciousness. The University of Texas at Austin, with its world-class professors and researchers and generous support from The Welch Foundation, is well- positioned to lead the charge in this field.

Associate Professor Jason McLellan, the newly appointed Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry, has become an international star in the sciences after his team developed the stabilized spike protein that serves as the basis for the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines.

“Becoming the Welch Chair in Chemistry this year has given me room to explore what comes next out of UT in the global fight against this pandemic.” PROFESSOR JASON McLELLAN

“Earlier support for scientific research was really key to our preparedness when the pandemic started,” he says. “The Welch Foundation’s backing of basic research allowed me and other scientists to realize a career dream in making a real difference through our research. Becoming the Welch Chair in Chemistry this year has given me room to explore what comes next out of UT in the global fight against this pandemic — or even a future one.”

The Houston-based Welch Foundation, one of the United States’ oldest and largest private funders of chemistry research, is no stranger to life-changing discoveries. Over the last six decades, The Welch Foundation has generously given more than $178 million to UT to fund groundbreaking research (including 70 currently active projects), endow eight faculty chairs and support graduate students.

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DOCTORAL STUDENT STEPHANIE VALENZUELA credits The Welch Foundation’s support with enabling her research around controlling molecular systems. “This research is the foundation to develop and improve smart materials,” she explains. “For example, a thin film could be applied to windows to reflect heat on hot days and allow heat to penetrate through the windows on cold days.” Her work could prove to be revolutionary in drastically reducing energy demands. “Due to this funding, I was able to fully focus on my research projects and courses,” Stephanie says. “The Welch Foundation Fellowship allowed me to succeed.”

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