Newsletter Article

The Retirement of Ilene Bernstein: A Career Marked by Distinguished Research

Photo of Ilene Bernstein
Photo: Ilene Bernstein

After nearly 40 years at the University of Washington, Professor Ilene Bernstein will be retiring in June 2011. Ilene came to the University of Washington as an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Psychology in 1972.  Prior to her arrival, she had earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Ilene has had great ‘taste’ in research — a joke she surely has never heard before as one of the field’s most important researchers in the neurobiology of taste.  For example, in a well-known study with direct clinical applications, she ingeniously employed a novel-tasting ice cream as a conditioned stimulus and demonstrated that the clinical dilemma of anorexia in both child and adult cancer patients receiving radiation/chemotherapy was due to taste aversion learning and therefore can be alleviated via applying learning theories.  In recent years, Ilene has astutely applied functional cellular imaging techniques to delineate neurochemical correlates and neuroanatomical substrates of conditioned taste aversion and fear memory traces in the brain.

Throughout her career, Ilene has attracted some of the best of our graduate students to her laboratory, many of whom have gone on to distinguished academic careers. In the classroom, her courses were always hugely popular with undergraduate and graduate students. At seminars and journal clubs, Ilene is well known for asking difficult and unexpected questions an in unassuming manner, which encouraged students to participate and enlivened the discussion. While most scientists, nearing their retirements, decrease their research productivity, Ilene is an exception and has recently published a number of outstanding studies mentioned in national research news.  Although retiring very soon, we are very fortunate that as a Professor Emeritus Ilene Bernstein, with her originality, enthusiasm and great charm, will continue to provide her valuable services to the Psychology Department and UW.