Alesandra Rodriguez (middle) with Julianne Han, PhD, (left) and Andrew Ward, PhD, (right). Photo Credit: Jon Torres

Scripps Research professor Andrew Ward made key scientific contributions to the development of the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and subsequently received a share of the commercial royalties, which were also shared with the institute. His next step: work with the Philanthropy team at Scripps Research to create and endow the Education Outreach Fund, thereby helping the next generation of scientists pursue their own research successes.

The endowed fund supports high school and undergraduate interns at Scripps Research, especially those from groups historically underrepresented in science. Proceeds from the endowment provide $25,000 per year for up to two years to help offset tuition and other education expenses associated with attending a four-year university.

“The scholarship should empower students to enroll in four-year degree programs without the significant financial barriers currently in place. It will enable them to focus wholly on their studies instead of worrying about multiple other jobs to make ends meet.” 

-Andrew Ward, PhD
Scripps Research professor and founder of the Education Outreach Fund

The inaugural recipient of the fund is Alesandra Rodriguez, who began working in the Ward lab as a high school intern. When she realized that she couldn’t afford to attend a four-year university, Rodriguez enrolled in a community college instead and continued working in the Ward lab, this time as a paid research assistant. Recognizing her potential, Ward offered her his newly established scholarship.

“When he told me about the scholarship, I was in complete awe; my brain couldn’t process it,” says Rodriguez. “But knowing I had made my family proud was even more emotional. When I called my mom to tell her, she immediately started crying.” With funding in place, Rodriguez plans to transfer to UC San Diego to pursue her undergraduate degree in general biology.

Upon completion of this first two years of funding, Ward intends to identify new recipients of his Education Outreach Fund based on nominations from the Scripps Research faculty. “I view this as a long-term investment in the future of those students from underrepresented communities,” says Ward. “I hope it serves as an example of the impact this kind of philanthropy can have.

A note of gratitude to employee donors

Our scientists know the power of our work. They see the enormous potential for global impact that lies within each discovery. They understand the importance of ensuring life-changing science continues without interruption.

In the past five years, more than 100 Scripps Research employees have supported our institute through personal philanthropic gifts—totaling more than $24 million in donations. Gifts of every size and type fuel our labs to continue pursuing groundbreaking science. To all who’ve supported our shared mission with your time, talents and funds, thank you.