Society for Neuroscience 2023 Promotion of Women in Neuroscience Awards
WASHINGTON – The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will honor six researchers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of women in neuroscience. The awards will be presented during Neuroscience 2023, SfN's annual meeting.
“SfN proudly recognizes these neuroscientists for their outstanding scientific achievements and efforts to support other researchers,” said SfN President Oswald Steward. “Their dedication to scientific excellence and inclusion of women along the length of the research pipeline results in a stronger, more relevant field of neuroscience.”
Bernice Grafstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring: Karen Froud
The Bernice Grafstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring recognizes individuals dedicated to developing the careers of female neuroscientists. Named after the first female president of SfN, the award recognizes leaders who have aided the early careers of women neuroscientists and facilitated their retention in the field. The award includes a $2,500 prize and travel to SfN’s annual meeting.
This year’s awardee is Karen Froud, associate professor of neuroscience and education, director of the Neurocognition of Language Lab, and program director of the Neuroscience and Education program at Teachers College at Columbia University. Her cross-disciplinary academic career weaves together neuroscience, linguistics, speech-language pathology, international service, and more. This rich tapestry of expertise provides a broad perspective that allows her to guide trainees from diverse educational and professional backgrounds to become rigorous and ethical professors and researchers.
Froud has directly mentored 38 masters students, 19 doctoral students, and four postdoctoral fellows in her lab, the majority of whom are women. She has mentored many more trainees across other research groups, including all masters students in her institution's Neuroscience and Education program since 2020. Her former mentees say she has a remarkable ability to motivate and guide, and that she fosters an inclusive and collaborative work environment where everyone feels valued and heard. For her mentees who are new mothers, she established an especially supportive environment, with a portable play yard and space to store baby supplies in the lab.
Beyond her mentoring at Columbia University, Froud has worked with several international organizations and charities in Cambodia as a therapist and instructor for local organizations. She included speech-language pathology students on some of these trips, during which the team helped establish local support services and understanding among the urban and rural communities of the nature of disability in children and adults, again primarily working with women and mothers in their local communities. She has further provided international mentorship through training in Sri Lanka and workshops in Jordan, organized by UNICEF, Save the Children, and others.
Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement: BJ Casey
The Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes neuroscientists with outstanding achievements in research who have significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in neuroscience. The award includes a $5,000 prize and travel to the SfN annual meeting.
This year’s Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is BJ Casey, a professor of neuroscience at Barnard College-Columbia University and a member of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School. Casey is renowned for her work in developmental cognitive neuroscience, which has directly informed juvenile justice reform and the treatment of mental illness in youth. Casey is also a tireless mentor and advocate for her mentees, many of whom have grown into notable leadership positions in developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Casey is a leader in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, which she helped found with her trailblazing use of fMRI to study the developing brain starting in the 1990s. By combining human neuroimaging with mouse studies, developmental neurobiology, and experimental psychology, she developed models connecting behavior, cognition, and neurobiological changes in several mental health problems affecting young people. She has published more than 230 scientific articles that have been cited over 69,000 times, and she has presented her research on Capitol Hill, to federal judges around the country and to the Washington State Supreme Court. The importance of her scientific contributions has been noted with many honors, including elected membership in the American Academy of Arts of Sciences, the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions, and the George A. Miller Prize from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society.
Even among all these achievements, her former mentees say they felt prioritized above all. Casey has mentored 20 predoctoral mentees and 13 postdoctoral fellows, and dozens more undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students. Many of Casey’s former mentees have gone on to successful independent research careers at institutions such as Harvard, Brown, NYU, Columbia, UCLA, and Yale. She challenges her mentees to develop independent research while providing unwavering support, including financial backing, staff resources, and lab space, as well as her consistent efforts to celebrate mentee successes. Her dedication to mentorship has previously been acknowledged with an Association for Psychological Science Lifetime Achievement Mentor Award.
Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development: Caroline Robertson and JungA "Alexa" Woo
The Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award promotes successful academic transitions prior to tenure by recognizing early‐career professionals who have demonstrated originality and creativity in their research. The award is supported by the Trubatch Family and includes a $2,000 prize.
One of this year’s awardees is Caroline Robertson, whose research helps us understand how people perceive and remember the visual world, and reveals new pathways for understanding, diagnosing, and treating autism. As a PhD student, she worked jointly at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., and the University of Cambridge in England. She showed that known challenges in the neural integration of visual information in people with autism may arise from degraded sensory information in the early stages of visual processing. As a postdoctoral fellow at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she found a link between the neurotransmitter GABA and atypical perception abilities in autistic people, potentially revealing a biomarker for the condition. Now as an assistant professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, she is studying how people perceive and remember visual environments. By using virtual reality headsets modified to track the user’s central gaze, she has shown that most of us have sharp spatial limits in perceptual awareness in our peripheral vision. In separate experiments using fMRI, she has identified distinct brain networks for scene perception and memory, offering a new understanding of how we link our ongoing perceptual experience with our memory of the surrounding environment and memory-guided visual behaviors, including navigation.
The second awardee of the 2023 Trubatch award is JungA “Alexa” Woo, whose career demonstrates a steadfast commitment to understanding and treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative diseases. AD is believed to be caused by abnormal levels of two proteins in the brain: amyloid beta, which forms sticky plaques around brain cells, and tau proteins, which form fibrous tangles inside the cells. Throughout her graduate studies, postdoctoral work, and time as an assistant professor at the University of South Florida School of Medicine, Woo has delved into the complex network of structural and signaling proteins influencing neurodegeneration. She has particularly focused on the roles of G protein-coupled receptors and beta-arrestins in tauopathy, unveiling insights that are expected to aid future research and treatment methods. In her current role as an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve in Ohio, Woo identified a potential explanation for the observed gender disparities in AD prevalence. AD affects women more than men, with women accumulating more tau protein in their brain cells over their lifetimes. Woo revealed that an enzyme that slows down the healthy recycling of tau proteins is far more abundant in women than men and is highly abundant in brains from AD patients. Mouse studies suggest that using a drug to block the activity of this enzyme could one day lead to a treatment.
Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor: Nadia Chaudhri
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 family of the honoree receives travel to the SfN annual meeting.
The late Nadia Chaudhri held the position of Professor of Psychology at Concordia University and served as the Director of the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology in Montreal, Canada. Throughout her forty-three years of life, she made profound scientific advancements in the areas of the behavioral and neural mechanisms of alcohol and drug addiction. Additionally, she made invaluable contributions to her university department and research center, all while nurturing and guiding the next generation of behavioral neuroscientists.
Chaudhri emigrated from Pakistan at the age of 17 to pursue higher education in the United States, culminating with a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. During her postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco, Chaudhri extended her work in drug addiction to the realm of alcohol reward and relapse. Her groundbreaking research program unraveled the complex interactions between environmental context and the impact of Pavlovian cues on reward-seeking. She made significant strides in identifying key reward circuit nodes and understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying responses to alcohol-associated cues. Her attention to behavioral variables led to her discovery that cue-alcohol extinction in multiple contexts can “break” the context-dependency of responding to alcohol cues, a fascinating clue to possible behavioral therapies.
Upon joining Concordia University as an assistant professor in 2010, Chaudhri established a vibrant and productive laboratory while providing exceptional scientific mentorship to undergraduates, masters and doctoral candidates, and postdoctoral fellows. Her work at Concordia continued to focus upon reward-seeking behavior. Her research program reached new heights as her lab integrated sophisticated behavioral studies with cutting-edge circuit manipulation approaches such as optogenetics and chemogenetics. Unfortunately, her research career was cut short when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June 2020.
Chaudhri never forgot the challenges she faced in academia as a woman of color from Pakistan and devoted her final year to supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds and immigrants. After receiving her cancer diagnosis, Chaudhri harnessed social media to chronicle her journey. She established two legacy funds and shared her fund-raising goals with her many followers, leading to nearly $1 million in contributions. The Nadia Chaudhri Rising Scholars Award provides travel grants to the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcohol for students who are traditionally underrepresented in the psychological and neural sciences and the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award establishes an endowment at Concordia University to support underrepresented graduate student training. In September 2021, she was promoted to the position of full professor, a milestone she celebrated from her hospital room. Her impact extended beyond the scientific community, ultimately leading to the recognition of her inspirational courage and accomplishments with the Medal of the National Assembly of Quebec.
Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Recipient: Susan Masino
The Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award honors individuals who have significantly promoted the professional development of women in neuroscience through teaching, organizational leadership, public advocacy, or other efforts. The award includes travel to the SfN annual meeting.
Susan Masino, professor of neuroscience and psychology of Trinity College, is a creative and rigorous researcher, enthusiastic and dedicated mentor, and passionate environmental advocate. Masino leads an internationally recognized research program examining the relationship between metabolism, brain activity, and behavior. Her mechanistic studies on the impact of high fat, low carbohydrate ketogenic diets for treating epilepsy, chronic pain, and autism have been fundamental to now widely accepted notions of the metabolic underpinnings of disease.
Masino has also made great contributions to the field of neuroscience through her mentorship of many undergraduate students, junior faculty, and graduate students. In her lab, Masino is a dedicated mentor who rolls up her sleeves and works alongside her students with contagious enthusiasm. She is noted for bringing students to conferences to present their work and expand their scientific network, and for finding and creating research opportunities to build mentee careers. In the past five years, two of her former undergraduate mentees received NIH fellowships, and one received an NSF predoctoral diversity fellowship. Further, Masino has pioneered research education and training for undergraduates and graduate students both at Trinity College and the University of Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut. As a first-generation college graduate herself, she promotes financial aid and equal opportunities for all students.
Finally, Masino is an advocate for parks and forests in New England. With the perspective of a neuroscientist, she brings an interdisciplinary approach to environmental public policy work by articulating the link between green spaces and mental health in public lectures at environmental events. She is an old growth forest coordinator for Hartford County, and a co-founder and spokesperson of Keep the Woods, an education and advocacy group focused on natural forest ecosystems, clean water, and relevant public policies.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 35,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.