Director, Life Sciences

The successful candidate must have a degree in life sciences and possess the capacity and experience to develop a compelling view of the future of science and a strategic vision to guide the life sciences program, focusing on outcomes that align with the foundation’s mission and values and leverage the synergies with physical sciences and other foundation work. In this endeavor, the candidate must maintain strong relationships with current partners and grantees, have a track record in innovation, evaluation and strategic funding and strong team management and collaboration skills. The director of life sciences oversees the Kavli Institutes in neuroscience, scientific society partnerships, foundation convenings and initiatives such as the US BRAIN Initiative Alliance, International Brain Initiative and Neurodata Without Borders.

The director of life sciences will be involved in high-priority initiatives with other departments at the foundation, particularly the public engagement with science program and physical sciences. In this capacity, the successful candidate will appreciate the methods and processes that contribute to a healthy and thriving enterprise of science such as a strong relationship between science and the public, prospective ethical considerations of new scientific discoveries and technologies, convergence across disciplines, diversity and inclusivity in science, and more.

The successful candidate must have a solid understanding of budget management and the ability to make strategic funding decisions, administrative management experience in a scientific enterprise, excellent organizational and communications skills, exceptional relationship building and both domestic and foreign diplomacy skills. S/he will cultivate relationships around the world with a broad range of stakeholders, including academics, public and private funding organizations, institute leaders and government. In this capacity, s/he will need to be skillful in coalition building and bringing people together from different cultures and have demonstrated success in influencing without formal authority.

Strategy setting and program management

  • Works with president and director of physical sciences to develop, facilitate and execute the foundation’s mission and the vision and strategic objectives for science-related programs.
  • Assesses opportunities that align with the foundation’s priorities while retaining the flexibility to act quickly and opportunistically.
  • Provides the president with in-depth analyses on key issues and opportunities related to the foundation’s life sciences program.
  • Proactively plans for the science program’s future, proposing annual goals and objectives for the overall program in partnership with the director of physical sciences as well as for life sciences.
  • Works closely with finance and accounting to develop funding projections and agreements, while actively managing the program budget.
  • Leads and manages life sciences program team members, including science program officers and administrative team members, embracing a management style that promotes transparency and empowers individuals to excel while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
  • Supports staff members by helping to craft their goals, inspire creative thinking, encourage continued education and establish well-defined opportunities for team building.
  • Communicates the vision, strategy, direction and current status of the life sciences program to the board of directors of the foundation.
  • Ensures that the life sciences programmatic operations progress toward long­term goals and defined outcomes.

Partnership building and relationship management

  • Acts as an ambassador for the foundation’s science program, effectively articulating and communicating the various aspects of the work internally and externally.
  • Collaborates with other foundation teams (e.g., public engagement with science, Kavli Prize, communications).
  • Works in concert and regularly engages with other foundations and organizations, such as members of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, US BRAIN Initiative Alliance and International Brain Initiative, to champion the support of fundamental research and science collaboration globally.
  • Creates and enhances meaningful partnerships with relevant actors in the field internationally.
  • Cultivates an environment that embraces collaboration, innovative ideas, diverse perspectives and working styles.

International Brain Initiative strategic thought partnership

  • Advises and collaborates on the International Brain Initiative, including engaging with leadership across global neuroscience to promote and foster international coordination and providing guidance and advocacy in partnership with the IBI program director, especially for long-term strategic planning.

Close collaboration in joint work across the foundation

  • Partners closely with the director of public engagement with science on shared foundation initiatives in ethics, science and the public; public engagement in science at Kavli Institutes; and science policy.
  • Maintains a landscape view of critical gaps, opportunities and emerging trends within the science enterprise, especially as experienced by scientists in these three areas.
  • Collaborates with the communications director to ensure the science strategy, approach and accomplishments drives, and is supported by, the foundation-wide strategic communication efforts.
  • Works with the prizes and special programs team to connect to key scientists and new discoveries.


  • Ph.D. in a life sciences field, preferably in neuroscience with a minimum of 5+ years of demonstrated programmatic and people management experience beyond postdoc including of full-time, direct reports.
  • Prior experience in working in cross-disciplinary fields with successful cross-team collaboration.
  • Exceptional relationship building and international diplomacy skills.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, particularly in drafting and editing a variety of materials with scientific content (letters, white papers, summary documents) and preparing presentations with scientific content (PowerPoint).
  • Prior experience in convening, facilitating and developing trusted relationships with internal and external stakeholders: university presidents, deans, institute directors and government agency leadership such as OSTP.
  • Strong organizational and program management skills.
  • Ability to synthesize and analyze information.
  • Ability to travel within the U.S. and internationally; approximately 20-30% travel.

Application process

The Kavli Foundation is actively seeking to identify the best candidates. To that end, please submit your comments, inquiries, applications and nominations, which may be submitted via an e-mail message with supporting materials to:

The Kavli Foundation is committed to providing fair and equitable consideration of all employees and applicants without regard to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, place of birth, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, genetic information, or status as a member of the armed forces or veteran of the armed forces, or any other category protected by federal, state, or local law. Diversity is a source of strength for the institution. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) achieves and sustains our commitment to diversity.

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