2021 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prizes

For the first time and in context of the global pandemic, the Jacobs Foundation bestows two Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prizes in one year. Two outstanding recipients have each been bestowed with a prestigious prize, each endowed with one million Swiss Francs, for their outstanding scientific achievements.

Together their work offers a more complete view of the foundations of early brain development, how early adversity impacts later learning and cognition, and how a better understanding of healthy cognitive functioning can inform educational success at all ages.

Harvard Medical School Professor Charles A. Nelson receives one 2021 Jacobs Research Prize for his groundbreaking research on the impact of childhood adversities on brain development, behavioral disorders, and social stability. In the next five years, Professor Nelson will continue to study the neural underpinnings of critical periods in childhood development and how and whether critical periods lost to adversity can be restored through therapeutic intervention.

“My work on early adversity has woven itself into the policies and practices of both educators and lawmakers such that both professions now pay careful attention to children’s early environments.”

Professor Daniel L. Schwartz from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education receives the other 2021 Jacobs Research for his studies addressing cognitive questions through innovative learning experiments, bringing new insight to areas of educational research such as lecturing, transfer — where learners can apply knowledge or skills mastered in one context to a different context — and assessment. In the next five years, Professor Schwartz plans to extend his research on an artificial intelligence-based technology called a Teachable Agent (TA), a graphical computer character that students teach, to support learning to reason between data and claims.

“Many people think of learning as strengthening a brain muscle, but when it comes to gaining new ideas, a better analogy might be teaching the brain to dance.”

As of 2019, the renowned Klaus J. Jacobs Awards are bestowed alternately every two years, starting with the 2019 Research Prize. The Best Practice Prizes will be awarded in 2022.