Waltham, MA -- Brandeis neuroscientist Gina Turrigiano has been awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Pioneer Award, a five-year grant totaling $2.5 million. She is one of 12 recipients nationwide to win the highly competitive award.
According to NIH, the award is designed to support individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research. The term "pioneering" is used to describe highly innovative - potentially transformative - approaches that have the potential to produce an unusually high impact, and the term "award" is used to mean a grant for conducting research, rather than a reward for past achievements.
Turrigiano will use her Pioneer Award to develop a super-resolution cryo-microscopic method for probing the structure of the synapse, which is one of the most complex molecular machines. This method will make it possible to determine how synapses are impaired by neurodevelopmental and neurological diseases.
"Potentially, this new technology will allow us to peer inside synaptic structures, see how these nano-machines are built, and understand how they malfunction in neurodegenerative diseases," says Turrigiano.
NIH selected the award recipients through special application and evaluation processes that engaged 262 experts from the scientific community in identifying the most highly competitive individuals. The Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, performed the final review and made recommendations to NIH director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., based on the evaluations by the outside experts and programmatic considerations. The program is part of an NIH Roadmap for Medical Research initiative that tests new approaches to supporting research.
The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research is a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside. It provides a framework of the priorities the NIH must address in order to optimize its entire research portfolio and lays out a vision for a more efficient and productive system of medical research. For more information about the NIH Roadmap, please visit the Web site at http://nihroadmap.
Turrigiano is a professor of biology at Brandeis University. She received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, in 1990. She studies how experience rewires neural circuits within the brain's cortex, with a particular focus on synaptic changes that stabilize circuit activity. Turrigiano's honors include a Sloan Research Fellowship, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and a McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award.