The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Celebrates 60 Years of Enabling Freedom of American Research and Innovation

March 7, 2017

Foundation Identifies and Supports PhD Students on Their Path to Life-Changing Discoveries


LIVERMORE, CA – March 7, 2017 – The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering America’s most brilliant minds, is celebrating 60 years of identifying and supporting the leaders, shapers and disruptors of science, engineering and mathematics. The Hertz Foundation recognizes the critical role the PhD plays in the process of innovation and is driven by its commitment to ensure America continues to be the world leader in technological and scientific advancement. This collaborative community of cross-disciplinary peers has helped catapult early-stage research endeavors to solutions for real-world problems. From Google Street View and self-driving cars to battling human disease and cybersecurity, Hertz Fellows have long been among the drivers of innovation.

“The PhD experience is a transformative process that instills a qualitative intellectual change in the candidate. The intensity of the training, the discipline, the toughness needed to persevere, and the resulting sharper analytical view are critical to innovation, said Stephen D. Fantone, Hertz Fellow, and founder and CEO of Optikos Corporation. “When those skills are supported by the incredible freedom to learn that a Hertz Foundation Fellowship offers, Fellows can dedicate themselves—unencumbered—to tackling the most difficult challenges. The choices students have today have never been greater—where to go to school, what to study, what to do after they graduate—and the Hertz Foundation supports those who push the limits and help extend the boundaries of what our future may hold.”

Over the past 60 years the Hertz Foundation has invested more than $200 million (current value) in Hertz Fellows chosen for qualities that are essential to transforming research and discovery into life-changing innovation, including exceptional intelligence, creativity and strength of character. The Hertz Fellowship grants Fellows the freedom to pursue the most compelling research issues in their fields and provides them with the opportunity to partake in unique learning experiences with alumni scholars, entrepreneurs and scientific leaders. The Foundation is the only organization in the United States that fully supports PhD candidates in science, math and engineering. To date, Hertz Fellows collectively possess more than 3,000 patents, have founded more than 200 companies and have received more than 200 major national and international awards, including Nobel Prizes.

“Just as the day it was founded, the Hertz Foundation has remained steadfast in its conviction to support budding innovators during the critical early stages of their research,” said Dr. David Galas, Hertz Fellow, chairman of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation’s board of directors, and preeminent leader in biology and medicine. “As a Hertz Fellow, I speak from experience when I say that the Hertz Foundation truly understands how important the PhD research stage is to the developing scientist or engineer and to the world of research. The Hertz Fellowship allowed me and my colleagues to focus on our own research and now continues to provide a richly creative and vibrant community whose support is incredibly valuable."

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, Big Think, an organization committed to highlighting the top thinkers and doers from around the globe, is featuring a selection of Hertz Fellows’ stories in a variety of fields, from intelligent technology to astronomy and biotechnology. Their stories will be available on Big Think via videos, articles and blog posts. These interviews will give Hertz Fellows the opportunity to tell the story of their personal journey from research to innovation in their own words. To view this special series dedicated to Hertz Fellows, please visit:

“The Hertz Foundation has been honored to support so many of this country’s brightest, most promising students for the last 60 years,” said Robbee Baker Kosak, president, the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation. “We could not be more proud of the incredible contributions the Hertz Fellows have made to society, such as cementing the Big Bang Theory, revolutionizing electricity, creating optogenetics and developing simulations that have the potential to eradicate diseases like malaria and polio. We are now excited to tell the incredible stories of many of our Fellows over the next few months and help the world better understand the person behind the genius.”