Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship

The Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship supports the dissertation research of Harvard University doctoral students whose independent research aligns with the mission of the Center, which is to drive science-based innovation that achieves breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity. It provides a stipend and a series of thematic and skill-building workshops to help students grow both intellectually and professionally, with the goal of preparing the next generation of leaders to catalyze innovation that impacts the early childhood field. Award decisions are made in the Spring, and the fellowship begins the following Fall.

Dual logo of Novak Djokovic Foundation and Center on the Developing Child
Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship logo

Introducing the 2018-2019 Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellows

CAMBRIDGE, MA – April 23, 2018 – The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and the Novak Djokovic Foundation announced today that three Harvard doctoral students have been awarded the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship for the 2018-2019 academic year.

April Boin Choi, Scott Delaney, and Zhihui Li will each receive a grant to support her or his independent dissertation research, focusing on ground-breaking topics such as the relationship between caregiver responsiveness and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), how childhood poverty can affect brain development and behavior, and the effects of prenatal exposure to sand and dust storms on child health.

Their research will cover:

  • April Boin Choi – investigating neural and behavioral development in infants at risk for ASD and early interventions that can promote positive long-term outcomes in children with or at risk for ASD
  • Scott Delaney investigating the social determinants of health and child development with an emphasis on neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcomes
  • Zhihui Li investigating the impact of prenatal exposure to sand-dust on fetal and child health and development, with sand and dust storms a worldwide phenomenon affecting roughly two billion people in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, Central and North Africa, and Australia

The Center and the Novak Djokovic Foundation launched the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship in 2016, with the aim of creating a new generation of leaders who will leverage science for innovation in early childhood policy and practice settings. The Fellowship program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and builds each Fellow’s capacity to design, conduct, and translate research into practices and policies that will improve outcomes for children facing adversity.

Since its launch, the Fellowship program has already supported four emerging scholars whose research is focused on a range of factors that can affect early childhood development, with a view to finding novel solutions to persistent challenges.

This feeds directly into the mission of the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which is to promote healthy child development and high-quality early education by empowering and training teachers and supporting innovative academic research. The Foundation believes in giving every child the opportunity to grow up, play, and develop in stimulating, creative, and safe settings.

Commenting on the announcement, Alberto Lidji, Global CEO, Novak Djokovic Foundation said:

“We are pleased to welcome this year’s cohort of Djokovic Fellows to our family. They are truly remarkable, inspiring, and have embraced research areas that are highly consequential for the field of early childhood development – an issue which must be tackled as a social and economic imperative. We must also recognize the intellectual curiosity and hard work of last year’s Djokovic Fellows, who are making great strides in their research and will shortly become the first alumni of this program. We are fortunate to be working with Jack Shonkoff, his team at the Center on the Developing Child, and everyone at Harvard University, as we celebrate excellence in early childhood development and inspire the next generation of champions in this field.”

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director of the Center on the Developing Child, added:

“To conquer the debilitating effects of poverty, discrimination, violence, and maltreatment on the lives of young children, the world needs a pipeline of innovative leaders who understand the science of early childhood development, how adversity undermines well-being, and what can be done to promote positive outcomes for all children. We’re delighted to continue our partnership with the Novak Djokovic Foundation by investing in a new cohort of Fellows who will lead the way in driving science-based strategies to produce breakthrough impacts on the lives of those who are facing adversity.”

The three 2018-2019 Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellows will participate in a number of the Center’s activities including: training in innovation methods and communicating science effectively, invitations to Center-sponsored events, and sessions on leadership and policy strategy.

2018-2019 Djokovic Fellows

April Boin Choi is a doctoral candidate in Human Development, Learning, and Teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research interests lie in investigating neural and behavioral development in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and early interventions that can promote positive long-term outcomes in children with or at risk for ASD. April received a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Cornell University, and an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Charles A. Nelson III, Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience, Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Professor of Education, Harvard University; Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research, Boston Children’s Hospital.

Scott Delaney is a doctoral candidate in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research investigates the social determinants of health and child development with an emphasis on neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcomes. His research aims to identify risk and protective factors that can be leveraged directly through innovative public health policy and programming to support children and families facing adversity. Scott received his B.S. in Finance at the University of Illinois College of Business, his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. He also earned a M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Laura Kubzansky, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Co-Director, Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Read an interview with Scott by ATP World Tour.

Zhihui Li is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Zhihui’s dissertation investigates the impact of prenatal exposure to sand-dust on fetal and child health and development. Sand and dust storms (SDS) are a worldwide phenomenon affecting roughly two billion people living in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, Central and North Africa, and Australia. Her research aims to understand the mechanisms of how SDSs affect child health, so that interventions can be designed and implemented to mitigate the negative effects. Zhihui received dual Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Engineering Degrees from Peking University, along with a M.S. in Global Health and Population from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her mentor will be Jessica Cohen, Associate Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Photo of April Boin Choi by Mark Wilson Images

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