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Children’s Book Feature: “The Rocket Boys of NIH”

Children's Book: The Rocket Boys of NIHEveryone who is into research work knows how tough it is to get funding for a research project. Tell me about it. I’ve worked in the academia for 10 years before I became a WAHM.

So how can a 9-year old convince the highly esteemed members of a funding review committee at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to grant him research funds? Terence Boylan of Snyder, N.Y. did just that 52 years ago and was granted a $10 grant so that he and his friend, 14-year old Bruce Cook could build their first rocket ship. Because NIH believed in investing in kids, in science, in the future.

What happened more than half a century ago is now written in a book called “The Rocket Boys of NIH: How NIH Gives Health and Hope to Kids and the World.” The book tells the story of the two young researchers and is written at a reading level for 4th or 5th graders though I wouldn’t mind reading it myself.

NIH is one of the biggest sources of research funds in the US, supporting “more than 325,000 scientists at more than 3,000 universities, medical schools and other research institutions across the country and around the world.” To be granted research funds, a research proposal has to go through a very tough screening and review process.

The rocket boy Boylan is older now and has gladly agreed to share his story for the book. He didn’t grow up to be a scientist but became a recording artist who toured and worked with the likes of Steely Dan, the Linda Ronstadt band and the Eagles. Yet, he never forgot his $10 NIH research grant which he has paid back many times over now as he runs Boylan Foundation for International Medical Research in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The foundations give grants to medical students and postdoc researchers in the field of biomedical research. Boylan is also chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, in Salisbury Cove, Maine, which is is a non-profit marine and biomedical research facility.

The book is part of NIH education program for children, the formation of which was inspired by Boylan’s research application.

The book is in paperback form and is for free. You send a request to

Rocket Story, NIH Center for Scientific Review
6701 Rockledge Dr., Room 3030
Bethesda, MD 20892.

E-mail requests can be sent to

It is also available in Spanish: “Los Chicos, el Cohete y NIH: Como los Institutos Nacionales de Salud dan esperanza y salud a todos los niƱos y al mundo.

Or in electronic form at

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