Inaugural Kavli Scholars

Program helps scholars transition to new work environments to continue scientific research

The Kavli Foundation today announced a new program, Kavli Scholars, to aid individuals seeking new work environments due to extreme circumstances that interrupt their scientific research. Interruptions include civil unrest, geopolitical strife, climate change catastrophes, natural disasters, and other factors that disrupt daily life and severely impact societies.

“This is an ongoing challenge that affects many scholars worldwide,” remarked Kavli Foundation President Cynthia Friend. “Scholars transitioning to a new work environment can have a life-changing impact, and fortunately we can help this talent continue their important research and their contributions to science globally.”

The Kavli Foundation will provide bridge support for scholars in partnership with its Kavli Institutes and other affiliates, including Kavli Prize Laureates. Kavli Scholars are selected based on their need and promise for transitioning to new work environments and must perform work in the foundation’s areas of interest, including astrophysics, theoretical physics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

The inaugural program welcomes two remarkable Kavli Scholars, Abraham Amiri and Kateryna Vovk.

Amiri is a science communicator and studying to be an astronomer. He fled Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, when he came under threat due to his national visibility in Afghan science outreach. Spending many months in a refugee camp awaiting official paperwork, Amiri sought opportunities to further his education and his pursuits in science. He was accepted by UCLA to pursue a master’s degree in planetary science. His university sponsor and advisor is David Jewitt, a 2012 Kavli Prize Laureate in Astrophysics, and professor of astronomy in UCLA’s Earth, Planetary, and Space Science Department.

“I fled Afghanistan in 2021 due to the fear of persecution, imprisonment or death by the Taliban,” stated Amiri. “I really wanted to continue promoting science and communicating science with the public, and to pursue a master’s in astronomy. I didn’t know if it was possible. Thanks to my current advisor, David Jewitt, Kathie Bailey while she was working with the National Academy of Sciences before joining The Kavli Foundation as Director of The Kavli Prize, and now Kavli’s financial support, I can continue my passion.”

Vovk is a Ukrainian astrophysicist, currently living in Japan. Shortly after the war in Ukraine broke out, Vovk’s grant funding was canceled, and she became detached from community and research. She sought opportunities to continue her study of active galactic nuclei. Jia Liu, a professor at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, encouraged Vovk to apply for the Kavli Scholars program. She is sponsored by University of Tokyo professors John Silverman and Jia Liu.

“My environment changed suddenly, and I was detached completely from the science community I had been working with, unable to continue my research on host galaxies and black holes,” shared Vovk. “Dr. Jia Liu of Kavli IPMU at University of Tokyo learned of my situation and invited me to work with her and her colleagues, with support from The Kavli Foundation. This made me feel whole again.”

Astrophysics