In 2016, the Novak Djokovic Foundation launched the Djokovic Science
and Innovation Fellowship at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
The aim of the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship is to develop the next generation of academic change agents who will both contribute to advances in science and leverage those advances to inform, inspire, and mobilize key actors in the field of early childhood towards new solutions that yield breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.
A group of advanced level doctoral fellows, each with a faculty sponsor, is selected annually and convened monthly at the Center through the course of one academic year. This deepens the fellow’s capacity to understand the impact and implications of their work on real world challenges faced in relevant communities and among populations who grapple with daily adversity. In the same manner, each fellow also participates in an immersion experience with the Center’s science-based innovation team so as to experience firsthand the complexities and possibilities associated with the systematic practice of using science as a source of inspiration for new ideas and ways of working in the field of early childhood.
In the latter half of the year, each fellow integrates their insights and lessons learned to convene and host an academic roundtable and present her or his
work to a small group of hand-picked faculty from across Harvard University.
The objective of this capstone experience is to engage in a supportive, constructive, and highly rigorous discussion about the scientific substance and potential applicability of the fellow’s research to enhance the development of children, with a particular focus on the needs of those facing significant adversity.
At its core, the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship infuses translational science and knowledge development with peer-to-peer learning and high-touch mentoring in a vibrant and collaborative science driven community to intentionally scaffold the experiences of advanced doctoral students at a formative moment in their career development.
The Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship is open to Harvard University
students who are in the advanced stages of their doctoral studies.
Candidates must have excellent academic records along with well-defined
research interests related to early childhood development.
“I am delighted we are investing in the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and incredibly excited to launch the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship under the guidance of Jack Shonkoff -- a leading authority on early childhood development. We look forward to meeting the inaugural cohort of Djokovic Fellows in 2017 and, through their research, to furthering the body of knowledge in this field. We believe in facilitating the very best in early childhood development and education, always striving to provide a strong foundation for every child. Our project work on the frontlines is informed by the latest academic thinking and now we will also be in a position to contribute to that body of knowledge for the benefit of practitioners and academics alike, in Serbia and globally.”
“The Novak Djokovic Foundation understands that healthy development in the early years builds a strong foundation for thriving societies. They also know that the world needs a pipeline of new, innovative leaders with deep knowledge about how adversity disrupts child development and what can be done to prevent that disruption. By launching the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship at the Center on the Developing Child, the Foundation is investing in a new generation of champions for young children who will lead the way in driving science-based strategies to produce breakthrough impacts on the lives of those who are facing the enormous stresses of poverty, violence, and social exclusion.”
At the Novak Djokovic Foundation we are fiercely devoted to furthering the field of study surrounding Early Childhood Development and Education because knowledge really is power, and if we can acquire as much scientific knowledge as possible about the ways children grow, about the fundamental importance of their early years, about the best, most compelling strategies to guide and nurture them, then we are given the very real and very essential power to change lives in mighty ways. We want to contribute to the body of research that has proven, undisputedly, to be so critical to improving children’s lives, particularly those lives that come from marginalized backgrounds. It’s an area that is gaining momentum and traction in academic circles but still very much requires pioneers in the field to further explore and illuminate existing research as well as forge new branches of study. It’s exciting and relevant and we’re getting on board. And we’re doing it in a big way.
Schools, teachers, children, parents, families: it’s who and what we’re passionate about here at the Novak Djokovic Foundation, and we endeavour to support these networks, and the people that
navigate their lives within them, in real and tangible ways.
School builds and classroom refurbishments, community outreach initiatives, teacher-training seminars- these programs are powerful and important and all share a common theme that thrums throughout each of them, informing and improving them: the relevance and necessity of the study of Early Childhood Development, and, by extension, the implementation of practices developed from that study.
A school cannot be as instrumental in nurturing young minds and characters, a guardian cannot parent as effectively, and a teacher cannot teach with the same depth of understanding for the pupil unless we fully comprehend the nuances of the architecture of a child’s brain, the incredible neurological and psychological infrastructure of their persons. That awareness is all the more relevant and necessary when working with and engaging children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who for reasons of poverty, violence or socio-economic status often lead vulnerable lives.
The Novak Djokovic Foundation is delighted to welcome the Djokovic Fellows and extends heartfelt congratulations to them
Jacob Beckerman is a doctoral candidate in population health sciences, a program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research interests lie in early childhood nutrition, obesity prevention, and the social determinants of health. His current research focuses on the timing of weight gain in early childhood to inform when is best to intervene, as well as the relationship between neighborhood context and early childhood obesity. Jacob is also investigating the impacts of a peer-led health promotion program for the parents of preschool-aged children in low-income communities. Jacob received a B.S. in biology with a minor in Spanish from Georgetown University, and an M.P.H. in community health sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles. His mentor will be Kirsten Davison, Donald and Sue Pritzker Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan Departments of Nutrition and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Emily Hanno is a doctoral candidate in education policy and program evaluation, a program offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in collaboration with the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Through her research, Emily seeks to unpack the processes of common professional development interventions aimed at improving caregiver practices, to understand what about coaching interventions works and what doesn’t. Emily received a B.A. in economics and international relations from Tufts University, and an Ed.M. in human development and psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Dana Charles McCoy, Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Gabriel Schwartz is a doctoral candidate in population health sciences, a program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research in social epidemiology examines links between neighborhoods, social policy, and racial and health inequities. Currently, Gabriel's work explores the impact of eviction on children's well-being and the relation between discriminatory policing regimes and birth outcomes. Gabriel received a B.A. in human biology and sociology from Brown University. His mentor will be Lisa Berkman, Director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Director of the Ph.D. Program in Population Health Sciences, and Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy, Epidemiology, and Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Michele Zemplenyi is a doctoral candidate in biostatistics, a program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research examines the intersections of genomics, environmental science, and children’s health. Michele wants to explore how prenatal exposure to toxins can affect long-term health outcomes for children. Michele received a A.B. in statistics and a Secondary Field in chemistry from Harvard College, and an A.M. in biostatistics from Harvard University. Her mentor will be Brent Coull, Professor of Biostatistics, Associate Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
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. Photo of April Boin Choi by Mark Wilson Images
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.
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.
Sonia Alves is a doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research examines the longitudinal associations of adverse experiences, specifically of childhood community violence exposure on children’s academic trajectories. Sonia’s research aims to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms and protective factors that can drive the strategic targeting of interventions to help youth manage their exposure to trauma, resulting in better outcomes overall. Sonia holds a B.A. in Psychology and Education & Child Study from Smith College. She expects to receive an Ed.M. in Prevention Science and Practice, Adolescent Counseling, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in May 2017. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Stephanie M. Jones, Marie and Max Kargman Professor in Human Development and Urban Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Joshua Jeong is a doctoral candidate in Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research seeks to understand how fathers’ parenting practices and paternal roles within families relate to children’s early development outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. His research aims to inform programs and policies that support both mothers and fathers and strengthen families for promoting early childhood development. Joshua holds a B.S. in Human Development and Psychology from Cornell University, and an M.P.H. in Global Health and Population from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His mentor will be Aisha Yousafzai, Associate Professor of Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Rebecca Lebowitz is a doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Education department at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rebecca’s research explores instructional coaching in early childhood education, particularly the development of adult capabilities through professional development, and the impact of such programs on caregiver and student outcomes. Her dissertation seeks to identify best practices in instructional coaching, and investigate the extent to which an instructional coach builds relationships with early childhood educators to facilitate adult learning. Rebecca seeks to identify innovative intervention strategies to enhance early childhood caregiving and integrate the findings to design effective professional learning interventions for early educators. She hopes to conduct and apply research with early childhood practitioners in order to promote system-level improvements in early childhood outcomes. Rebecca holds an A.B. in Urban Studies and Hispanic Studies from Brown University, and an Ed.M. in Education, Language and Literacy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Dana Charles McCoy, Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Linda Zhao is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Linda’s research explores inequality in birth outcomes, including time-sensitive pathways that precede preterm birth, connecting individual risk factors, social environment, and biological indicators of preterm birth. Her research seeks to determine the extent to which neighborhoods are indicators or causes of low birth weight, and whether different neighborhood contexts might increase or diminish certain types of individual risk. Her research will further investigate whether different social risks translate to different types of pregnancy abnormalities leading up to preterm birth, helping to translate knowledge between sociology and clinical medicine. Her novel approach may help guide policymakers on specific actions or interventions to improve child health. Linda holds a B.A. in Economics from Princeton University, and expects to receive an A.M. in Statistics from Harvard University in 2017, while simultaneously pursuing her Ph.D. Her mentor will be Jason Beckfield, Professor in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University.
Find out more about the Center on the
Developing Child at Harvard University