Newsletter Article

Recent research awards and fellowships

The Psychology Department continues its tradition of strong government funding support and world renowned scholarship. Recent research awards and fellowships include:

Sapna Cheryan received a one year Visiting Scholar Fellowship from the Russell Sage Foundation to study how anti-American stereotypes constrain the success and well-being of U.S. immigrant groups.

Cheryl Kaiser received a one year James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award to further her research and training in civil rights law.

Kevin King received the Jacobs Foundation Young Scholars Award which includes a one year, $50,000 grant to further his research on adolescent behavior and psychopathology.

Brains LogoIn recent months, our faculty have received two additional awards from the National Institutes of Health. They include a $1.1 million grant to Professor Eliot Brenowitz to study “Hormones and Brain Protection” and a $1 million grant to Professor Sheri Mizumori entitled “BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroSciences.”

Eliot Brenowitz's research seeks to understand the seasonal regression of brain regions involved in the control of birdsong by investigating the mechanisms regulating neuronal degeneration and protection associated with naturally occurring variation in steroid hormones, and the functional consequences of neuroprotection for a learned sensorimotor behavior. The birdsong system excels as a model for studies of hormonal mechanisms of neuroprotection. It is a well-defined and tractable neural circuit that shows extreme seasonal patterns of hormone-regulated neuronal regression and protection. These processes of neural degeneration and protection occur with breeding-related hormonal cycles and thus can be studied in vivo without invasive manipulations.

Sheri Mizumori's grant has as co-investigators Ana Mari Cauce (UW Provost), and Joyce Yen (Research/Program Manager). This grant will develop a mentoring program to foster diversity and innovation in scientific research. Neuroscience assistant professors and postdoctoral scholars from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds, face three major challenges in their career development. First, comprehensive professional development during this career stage is often overlooked. Thus, early career neuroscientists are underserved and often lack skills that are critical for advancement to tenure. Second, people from underrepresented backgrounds are often most at risk of leaving science because they tend to have less access to peer support networks, mentors, and advice on how to succeed in faculty careers. Third, they may also lack role models for exposure to potential career paths. To fill these gaps, we propose to create BRAINS: Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroSciences, a national program to accelerate and improve the career advancement of neuroscience postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from underrepresented groups. The BRAINS program creates unique, life-transforming experiences for 50 participants, who may be at higher-risk of leaving the profession. BRAINS participants will become more dedicated to their scientific career, better able to direct their careers, and more likely to achieve success in academic neuroscience. The goal of the BRAINS program is to increase engagement and retention of academic early-career neuroscientists from underrepresented groups by reducing isolation; providing tips, tools, and skills development to prepare for the tenure track; and increasing career self-efficacy. This goal will be met via three complementary BRAINS activities: A) National Symposia; B) facilitated Peer Mentoring Circles; and C) Invent your Career teams. Together, these activities will:

1. Increase the diversity of neuroscience faculty by providing mentoring, training and skills to under-represented postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors in the neurosciences so they have increased access to resources, feelings of preparedness, and sense of community and connectivity.

2. Reduce isolation of neuroscience postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors from underrepresented groups through the establishment of long-standing peer networks and informal mentoring relationships.

3. Increase career self-efficacy so postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors from underrepresented groups in the neurosciences will have more productive and satisfying careers.