First Mellon Scholars Appointed to The Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

April 25, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - April 25, 2013 - The Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has named Stephen Maricich, MD, PhD, and Timothy Sanders, MD, PhD, as the first two physician-scientists in its Mellon Scholars Program, which enables promising physician-scientists in the early stages of their careers to pursue potential breakthrough research projects in biomedicine.

Scholars are selected on the basis of work that is highly innovative, delivering new expertise to the biomedical research community; likely to lead to major breakthroughs; and capable of having a long-lasting impact on the practice of medicine. Both scholars were chosen for their traditional science, which potentially could garner support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as what Dr. Kolls calls "high-risk dream science."

"The recruitment of two such promising scientists is an important milestone for the Mellon Institute and is further evidence of Pittsburgh's role as one of the leading centers in the world for pioneering pediatric research," said Jay Kolls, MD, director. "We're extremely grateful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for its vision in partnering with us to establish the institute and for its ongoing support."

Dr. Maricich is a child neurologist whose research focuses on understanding sensory system development. His work on the sense of touch is funded by the NIH and centers around the development and function of Merkel cells, which are a critical component of touch receptors involved in the detection of object curvature shape and size.  Deranged growth of these cells is also thought to cause a type of cancer that is resistant to chemotherapy. Dr. Maricich's lab also studies development of neurons in the brain that are important for hearing, and how disruptions of development lead to reorganization of connectivity and function of the auditory system. Dr. Maricich graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo and received his medical and doctoral degrees from Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Sanders is a neonatologist who conducts research on the control of neural and limb development, having worked on molecular mechanisms of signaling and patterning within the vertebrate limb. One of the technologically advanced tools Dr. Sanders uses to study development is high-end cell imaging using real-time video-microscopy that can visualize organ development as it happens. Dr. Sanders graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and received his medical degree from Weill Medical College of Cornell University and doctoral degree from the University of Chicago.

Both Drs. Maricich and Sanders are assistant professors of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Established through a groundbreaking gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Institute is an incubator for research that challenges conventional wisdom and can lead to paradigm shifts in pediatric medicine. This kind of high-risk, high-impact investigation is not typically funded through government or conventional sources, placing Children's Hospital in a unique realm of pediatric research centers. Dr. Kolls' goal is to recruit a total of five scholars.

Located within the John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center on Children's main campus, the Institute's faculty and programs are a part of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. For more information on The Richard King Mellon Foundation Institute for Pediatric Research, please visit

Andrea Kunicky, 412-692-6254,

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,