Xandra Breakefield with Past President Larry Swanson at Neuroscience 2013.
Each year at its annual meeting, SfN presents more than $500,000 in prizes, awards, and honoraria to celebrate outstanding individuals and programs in neuroscience. Nominations are now open for SfN awards recognizing young scientists and science education, promoting women in neuroscience, and highlighting outstanding career and research achievements.
Among the awards last year, SfN recognized Xandra Breakefield, professor of neurology at Harvard University’s Massachusetts General Hospital, with its Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award. Established in 2000, this honor recognizes individuals with an outstanding career in neuroscience who take the time to actively promote women’s professional advancement in neuroscience.
Breakefield’s efforts to identify human disease genes in the early 1990s led to the discovery of the first genetic mutation underlying hereditary dystonia. She now researches the characterization of microvesicles released by tumor cells. In addition to conducting research, Breakefield mentors the next generation of scientists in her lab, serves as an advisor to junior female faculty, and advocates for fellowships to support early career scientists.
“I had no idea I was being nominated for this award, so when I won it I was amazed and deeply humbled,” Breakefield said. “[I was] amazed by the kindness of my trainees who would do me such a great honor as to nominate me, and humbled by their gratitude for my conscientious, if not always spot-on, mentoring. It is certainly a lifetime achievement to have won this prestigious award.”
D. Christopher Bragg, assistant professor of neurology and director of the Neuroscience Center Imaging Core, wrote in his nomination letter of Breakefield’s “many pioneering ‘firsts’” in neuroscience and “tireless efforts” to promote the accomplishments of those who work for her.
“If there is one lesson that she has tried to teach [her trainees], it is that the focus of any lab should be on discovery, with all perspectives and contributions respected equally and all persons given equal opportunity and resources to succeed,” Bragg wrote.
The Salpeter Award is just one of four prizes SfN gives each year to those who have made significant contributions to advance women in neuroscience. Jane Roskams, zoology professor at the University of British Columbia, received the Bernice Grafstein Award for her efforts to increase the number of women hired at UBC, and for brain awareness outreach at local elementary and high schools. Kathie L. Olson, an associate neuroscience professor at George Mason University, received the Louise Hansen Marshall Special Recognition Award for efforts throughout her career to encourage girls to consider careers in science. The family of Rita Levi-Montalcini received the Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor, a posthumous award for a neuroscientist who was dedicated to advancing women in neuroscience.
Nominations are now open for these and other SfN prizes. If you would like to honor a colleague, support an up-and-coming neuroscientist, or help a worthy student attend Neuroscience 2014, go to SfN.org/awards. SfN has a variety of individual, chapter, and program awards available to both honor and inspire excellence in neuroscience.