Greater Milwaukee Foundation: Awards support 2 UW-Madison scientists


Rob Guilbert, VP of Communications and Marketing


Milwaukee, WI – May 22, 2013 – The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Shaw Scientist program selected two University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists as this year’s winners of the prestigious award. Randall Goldsmith, assistant professor in University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Chemistry, and Rupa Sridharan, assistant professor in UW-Madison’s Department of Cell & Regenerative Biology, each won a $200,000 unrestricted prize to use toward their research.

The annual award supports young scientists at critical stages in their careers who are engaged in groundbreaking research in the fields of biochemistry, biological sciences and cancer research. With federal spending cuts that went into effect this past spring, scientific researchers are among the many individuals that have been hardest hit. Unrestricted awards, like that provided through the Shaw Scientist program, are all the more valuable.

“It is a godsend for me,” Sridharan said. “Because of the sequestration, a lot of the funding to research in the sciences has been affected. As a person who has just started their career and their lab, this is a significant amount of money that gives me a lot more freedom to really forge ahead with my research plans.”

Randall Goldsmith

Randall Goldsmith, a self-described “single molecule zealot,” studies how single molecules move and contort. Individual molecules have different behaviors, but much of this behavior is hidden when many molecules are studied at the same time. But by isolating a single molecule at a time, particularly through a special tool that immobilizes the molecules while they are still dissolved, scientists can discover more about how they work.

With the financial support of the Shaw Scientist Award, Goldsmith specifically will study a protein called Tau, which he describes as one of the “villains in Alzheimer’s disease.” By learning more about how Tau works and what properties make it toxic, Goldsmith said new potential therapeutic pathways can be created.

“What really excites me is being able to see that really intimate perspective on what is happening at the molecular scale,” Goldsmith said. “And then potentially, can I go from not just seeing one molecular narrative but actually being able to see the molecular narrative of Alzheimer’s disease?”

Goldsmith graduated with degrees in chemistry and biology from Cornell University, earned his Ph.D. from Northwestern University and completed postdoctoral research in biophysics at Stanford University. Earlier this year he won the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award, which supports promising assistant professors and helps them establish broad foundations for their future research. He also has won the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award.

Rupa Sridharan

As part of her research, Rupa Sridharan studies what determines a cell’s fate and how a cell can be reprogrammed to have a different function. As a postdoctoral student at the University of California-Los Angeles, she worked in a lab that was one of a few at that time that were working on the reprogramming of somatic cells to stem-like cells. Cell reprogramming is a challenging field of study, Sridharan explained, in that less than .1 percent of somatic cells, or cells that make up an organism, actually are successfully converted into pluripotent stem cells, or reprogrammed cells that are like embryonic stem cells in nature. But by studying the barriers to conversion and then improving the efficiency of the conversion process, her research can lead to the creation of a greater number of pluripotent stem cells, which can then lead to more potential applications for regenerative therapy.

Sridharan graduated with a bachelor’s in science from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India. She earned her master’s in science from the M.S. University of Baroda, India and her Ph.D. from UCLA in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics. In 2011 she was awarded the Amgen Postdoctoral Recognition Award, which honors academic excellence in chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology at UCLA. She was one of five postdoctoral scholars chosen by UCLA in 2009 to receive its Chancellor’s Award for Postdoctoral Research.


The awards program started in 1982 thanks to a $4.3 million bequest from Dorothy Shaw, widow of James Shaw, a prominent Milwaukee attorney. In addition to $2 million in special grants, Shaw’s fund has awarded more than $12 million in grants to 63 scientists from UW-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee over the past three decades. An advisory panel with scientists representing major U.S. research institutions selects the winners.


The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is a family of more than 1,100 individual charitable funds, each created by donors to serve the local charitable causes of their choice. Grants from these funds serve people throughout Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties and beyond. Started in 1915, the Foundation is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the world.