News Release

Susan Hockfield receives prestigious Charles L. Branch BrainHealth Award

President Emerita of MIT recognized for a career “from lab to leadership”

Grant and Award Announcement

Center for BrainHealth

Branch Award Recipient: Susan Hockfield

image: Honorable Dan Branch, Alfred Branch, Sandra Chapman, Charles Branch Jr., Susan Hockfield, Sylvia Branch, Richard Benson view more 

Credit: Jason Voinov

DALLAS (November 4, 2021) – Tuesday evening, the Center for BrainHealth® brought together a who’s who of academic leaders, scientists and philanthropists to honor Dr. Susan Hockfield as the 10th recipient of the Dr. Charles L. Branch BrainHealth Award – the Center’s highest science honor.

Dr. Hockfield is President Emerita, Professor of Neuroscience, and member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She served as the sixteenth president of MIT from 2004 to 2012 and was the first woman and the first life scientist to lead the institute. Previously, she was the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Provost at Yale University. She recently authored The Age of Living Machines: How Biology Will Build the Next Technology Revolution, which describes how a convergence of biology and engineering is fueling a new technology revolution to overcome some of the greatest humanitarian, medical and environmental challenges of our time.

“No one is more deserving of this award than Susan Hockfield,” said Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Chief Director of the Center for BrainHealth. “She has been a category breaker her entire career, promoting the convergence of interdisciplinary collaborations to maximize any single discovery. Welcome to the BrainHealth family!”

The evening’s theme was “A life from lab to leadership”. The program featured a conversation between Dr. Hockfield and Dr. Mark D’Esposito, Distinguished BrainHealth Scientist and Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley, during which Dr. Hockfield shared insights about her personal journey as well as thoughts about a future that enables problem-solving and purpose-driven activities like promoting brain health.

The evening was made possible thanks to The Eugene McDermott Foundation, with Mary McDermott Cook in attendance. Also at the event were Stacey and the Honorable Dan Branch with other members of the Branch family, Robin and Eric Bennett, Jean Ann Brock, Jordan Cowman, Peggy Dear, Ann and Chuck Eisemann, Debbie Francis, Marena and Roger Gault, Carol and Don Glendenning, Debbie and Carlos Hernandez, Lyda Hill, Marissa and Michael Horne, Kim Noltemy, Dan Patterson, Jennifer and Peter Roberts, Mary and Tim Rooney, and UT Dallas President Richard Benson.


About the Dr. Charles L. Branch BrainHealth Award

Created in 2010 and offered jointly by Center for BrainHealth and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at UC Berkeley, the Branch Award honors neuroscientists who have made tremendous breakthroughs in brain discoveries and are luminaries advancing brain health research. Past recipients include Dr. Michael Merzenich, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga and Dr. Donald Stuss (for a full list, visit

The award’s namesake, Dr. Charles L. Branch (1926-2013), was a leading scholar, neurosurgeon, and humanitarian. He completed his neurosurgical residency at the Montreal Neurological Institute under the guidance of Dr. Wilder Penfield and Dr. Theodore Rassmussen. Following a prolific career in Texas, in retirement he continued to make the world a better place, dedicating an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and support to notable medical missions in Haiti, Guyana and Nigeria.

The Branch Award is embodied by a unique blown glass sculpture created by David Gappa of Vetro Art Glass, which features a white, star-shaped object in the center as an artistic representation of a neuron.


About the Center for BrainHealth

The Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, is a research institute committed to enhancing, preserving and restoring brain health across the lifespan. Major research areas include the use of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neurobiology supporting cognition and emotion in health and disease. This leading-edge scientific exploration is translated quickly into practical innovations to improve how people think, work and live, empowering people of all ages to unlock their brain potential. Translational innovations build on Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Tactics (SMART™), a proprietary methodology developed and tested by BrainHealth researchers and other teams over three decades.


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