Dan Belsky Named Jacobs Foundation Early Career Research Fellow

Assistant Research Professor Daniel Belsky has been named a Jacobs Foundation Early Career Research Fellow for 2016–18. Fellowships are internationally competitive, and awarded to the most highly talented and innovative scholars working on issues related to child and youth development.

A global program, the Jacobs Foundation bestows fellowships to both early and mid-career researchers. The foundation also awards the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize and Best Practice Prize to outstanding scholars at a more advanced stage in their careers.

Notably, Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt, two Duke scholars Belsky has worked closely with during his career, were awarded the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize in 2010.
Belsky’s Fellowship award includes 150,000 Swiss francs for a funding period of 3 years, access to the Jacobs Foundation’s Marbach Castle at Lake Constance in Germany, and networking and alumni events sponsored by the Foundation.

Fellows are expected to engage with the research network through Jacobs-sponsored events and organize symposia in the scientific areas of interest to the Foundation, namely child and youth development. Drawing from the fields of science, policy, society and economics, the Foundation unites researchers under their mission of creating social change through innovative research.

“It’s very gratifying to have won this [early career award] in particular because it is perhaps most aligned with the kind of interdisciplinary work that I do” Belsky said.

An Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine and at SSRI, Belsky’s work is located at the intersection of genetics, the social and behavioral sciences, and public health.
His work brings together discoveries from the cutting edge of genome science and longitudinal data from population-based cohorts to identify mechanisms that cause accelerated health decline in older age. Through his life-span approach, Belsky’s research includes cohorts of children, young and middle-aged adults as well as older adults.

“This award from Jacobs means I get to spend some of my time trying to figure out how we get put together and I think that’s a really important question to know the answer to,” he said. “Particularly if we want to understand how people fall apart and what we can do to slow that process down or prevent it.”

The idea, Belsky described, is to identify targets for interventions that can be applied broadly in the population to help all young people achieve successful developmental outcomes. It’s a research idea that Jacobs finds compelling.

Looking ahead, the Jacobs research network will serve as an incredible resource for his future work. This summer, he plans to attend a conference in Sicily with the other recently named Fellows.
“I’m looking forward to meeting and working alongside the other Jacobs-funded investigators,” Belsky said. “I think in particular there’s a lot of expertise in the developing brain in the Jacobs Foundation that I can benefit from and it also exposes me to more of the human development research community.”