Templeton World Charity awards $550,000 to global STEM initiative

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | July 27, 2018

"The Spirit of Ramanujan initiative aims to break the mold and find brilliant outliers who may not be thriving in the system, so we can match them up with the resources they need," says Emory mathematician Ken Ono, one of the founders of the initiative. Emory Photo/Video

The Templeton World Charity Foundation awarded $550,000 to Emory mathematician Ken Ono, for a global program to identify and nurture gifted students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program, now known as the Spirit of Ramanujan STEM Talent Initiative, began in 2016 with pilot funding of $100,000 from the Templeton Foundation.

“This additional funding will allow us not only to continue the program, but to expand its mission and impact,” says Ono, Asa Griggs Candler Professor Mathematics at Emory and the vice president of the American Mathematical Society.

The pilot Spirit of Ramanujan program, or SOR, focused on finding exceptional young mathematicians, and awarded grants to 16 grade-school students from across the United States as well as from China, Egypt, India, Kenya and Qatar. SOR matched the mathematicians with mentors and the grants funded summer research and enrichment activities.

SOR will now also offer similar opportunities for individuals showing exceptional promise for STEM fields in which mathematics plays a prominent role, such as computational chemistry, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, mathematical biology, mathematical physics and statistics. Up to 30 eligible people each year will be awarded Templeton-Ramanujan Fellows Prizes (financial grants up to $5,000 per award to cover summer enrichment/research programs) or Templeton-Ramanujan Scholarly Development Prizes (educational materials such as STEM books).  

“We are looking for brilliant, creative people who have ideas and abilities that will drive the future of science,” Ono says. “Young people with great promise are often outliers, so far ahead of their classes that teachers don’t know what to do with them. Genius cannot be taught, it can only be nurtured.”  

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