Public Release: 

Society for Neuroscience honors scientists dedicated to advancing women in the field

Society for Neuroscience

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will honor individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of women in neuroscience during Neuroscience 2018, SfN's annual meeting and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

"SfN is happy to recognize these talented neuroscientists, not only for their research contributions but also for their efforts to increase the representation of women in science," SfN President Richard Huganir said. "Their dedication to mentoring and encouraging the next generation of female neuroscientists will ultimately strengthen the field and lead to discoveries that advance the field."

Bernice Grafstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring: Elaine Del Bel and Herbert Geller

The Bernice Grafstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring recognizes an individual or individuals who have shown dedication to mentoring female neuroscientists and to facilitating their entry into or retention in the field. Established in 2009, this award is supported by Bernice Grafstein, PhD, who was the first female president of SfN.

One of this year's honorees is Elaine Del Bel, PhD, professor and leader of the Laboratory of Cellular Neurobiology at the University of São Paolo at Ribeirão Preto Dental School. She is also president of the Federation of Neuroscience Societies in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Iberian Peninsula. She has successfully trained and mentored more than 130 undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral fellows, including 84 women and many young scientists from Central and South America.

In addition to her pioneering work on degenerative diseases of the nervous system, Del Bel has instituted a host of programs to foster equality among students, especially female students, in Latin America. Del Bel's longstanding commitment to mentoring future generations of female leaders in neuroscience is reflected in her participation in science outreach programs and committees around the world. These include serving on the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) Women in World Neuroscience Leadership Committee and organizing Women in World Neuroscience meetings in 2011 and 2012.

Herbert Geller, PhD, director, Office of Education and chief, Developmental Neurobiology Section at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of NIH has also been selected to receive this year's award. Since the early 1980s, Geller has mentored dozens of students and fellows, including 30 female neuroscientists. He has mentored countless others through SfN programs and as program director for NIH Training Programs. Even in the earliest stages of his career, Geller focused on promoting the training and retention of female neuroscientists. He is well-regarded throughout the field for tailoring his guidance to individuals to cultivate their unique talents and assets as well as for remaining in touch with and available to former trainees and colleagues.

Geller is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and his contributions to teaching and mentoring have been recognized with an NHLBI Director's Award for Promoting Diversity.

Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award: BethAnn McLaughlin

The Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award honors an individual who has significantly promoted the professional development of women in neuroscience through teaching, organizational leadership, public advocacy, or other efforts not necessarily research-.

BethAnn McLaughlin, PhD, assistant professor of neurology and pharmacology at Vanderbilt Medical School, will receive this year's award for her efforts to promote the professional development and success of women in neuroscience. In addition to mentoring trainees in her own lab, McLaughlin has undertaken projects to encourage the equitable participation of underrepresented groups in science and to communicate science to the broader public.

Among her many accomplishments is directing a program called Edge for Scholars that provides advice and resources to trainees on all aspects of a scientific career, including grants and funding, publishing, science advocacy, faculty life, diversity in science, and work-life balance. Through Edge for Scholars, McLaughlin has advocated for the equitable treatment of women in science, Title IX reform, and accountability in gender and race parity.

Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award: Erin Schuman

The Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual with outstanding career achievements in neuroscience and who has significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in neuroscience and includes a $5,000.

Erin Schuman, PhD, is director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and an internationally recognized leader in the research area of synaptic plasticity. Her fundamental contributions to the field of neuroscience include the study of neurotrophins as chemical modulators of brain plasticity. Schuman's work has helped to transform our understanding of how learning and memory work in the brain.

Schuman is not only a pioneering researcher but also a dedicated teacher in the classroom and an engaging mentor for trainees in her laboratory. She continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to promoting women in neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute, where she made it a condition of her recruitment that a new child care facility be built on campus and spearheaded an initiative outlining changes in recruitment practices aimed at increasing the percentage of female directors from 10 to 20 percent by 2020.

Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor: Vivien Casagrande

The Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor posthumously recognizes a neuroscientist who pursued career excellence and exhibited dedication to the advancement of women in neuroscience.

The late Vivien Casagrande, PhD, was an internationally known neuroscientist with a remarkable record of groundbreaking research on sensory systems and development. She joined the Vanderbilt University faculty in 1975, where she was a professor of biology and psychology. Her research, which mapped the visual brain circuitry in a variety of species, has advanced the understanding of the development and evolution of the mammalian visual system.

Casagrande published 130 research papers in neuroscience and authored or coauthored an additional 30 chapters and reviews. She received numerous awards for her research, including the American Association of Anatomists' C.J. Herrick Award for contributions to comparative neuroscience, the Vanderbilt Chancellor's Award for Research, and election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Casagrande was a past president of the Cajal Club, the nation's oldest neuroscience society, and served twice as president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. Her teaching and mentoring contributions were recognized by her receipt of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 2015.

Casagrande passed away in 2017 from cancer. Vanderbilt has honored her memory by establishing an endowed lecture series and an endowed, annual travel award for an outstanding graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. In addition, funds from Casagrande's estate have been used to endow a scholarship in neuroscience at Vanderbilt.

Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award: Aryn Gittis and Biyu He

The Society for Neuroscience will present the Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Award to Aryn Gittis, PhD, of Carnegie Mellon University and Biyu He, PhD, of New York University Langone Medical Center. Supported by The Trubatch Family, the award recognizes early-career professionals who have demonstrated originality and creativity in research and promotes success during academic transitions prior to tenure.

Aryn Gittis, PhD, associate professor of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, has quickly established herself as an emerging leader in the study of the basal ganglia, an area of the brain involved in, among other things, voluntary movement. In addition to her basic science research, Gittis is working with a team of neurosurgeons at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh to translate her discoveries into new therapeutic interventions for patients with advanced Parkinson's disease.

Biyu He, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of Neurology, Neuroscience and Physiology, and Radiology at New York University Langone Medical Center, has advanced the study of human neural dynamics and perception, with her discoveries supporting a better understanding of neurological and psychiatric disorders where perception and information processing are abnormal. Since joining the faculty at NYU, she has been recognized for her research with the Kligenstein-Simons Foundation Fellowship Award in the Neurosciences, a Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellowship, and a Faculty Early Career Development Program Award from NSF.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.

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