By Ashlyn Johnson
On May 22nd, 2019, the Neuroscience Graduate Program held its 7th Annual Awards Ceremony. Students and faculty came together to celebrate another year of accomplishments and successes, while also enjoying drinks and delicious food from Alon’s Bakery and Market. Nominations for each award are solicited from all members (both students and faculty) of the Neuroscience Graduate Program. The recipients of each award are chosen by the Awards Committee, which is comprised of Neuroscience graduate students, Alejandro Lopez and Elizabeth Heaton, as well as Neuroscience faculty members Drs. Sam Sober, Gordon Berman, Arthur English, Ellen Hess, and David Weinshenker. Congratulations to all of the award recipients!
Scientific Outreach Award: Erica Akhter
For four years, Erica engaged middle school and high school students around Atlanta in the most exciting neuroscience-themed competition: the Brain Bee. First as a Brain Bee Workshop Coordinator and Lead Instructor, Erica was instrumental in helping students prepare for the competition. Then, as the Brain Bee Chair and Lead Coordinator, Erica organized workshops, promoted the competition, and coordinated with the International Brain Bee organization to ensure that the event went off without a hitch. In addition to her work with the Atlanta Brain Bee, Erica has developed and taught neuroscience lessons at over 7 schools to over 650 students and has served as a judge at over 8 regional and state science fairs in Georgia. Erica has consistently demonstrated a commitment to sharing science with the public!
University Service Award: Alejandro Lopez
The University Service Award is given to a student that has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to service within the Emory community. Alejandro has served as both Vice President and President of the GDBBS Involved in Volunteerism at Emory (GIVE) organization, where he has led other Emory graduate students in volunteering in the Atlanta area. He has also dedicated his time and talents to the Neuroscience Program as a recruitment coordinator for the program, as well as a student representative on the Neuroscience Awards Committee. As a rising third year in the program, Alejandro wasted no time in giving back to his Emory community, and we are grateful for his service!
Outstanding Early Achievement Award: Alejandro Lopez
The Outstanding Early Achievement Award is given to a pre-candidacy student who has demonstrated excellent scholarship during the first year of study. Since joining the Neuroscience Program, Alejandro has hit the ground running. He already has one first-author and another co-author publication in review. He has earned travel awards from the American Society for Neurorehabilitation and a 1st Place Travel Award Winner from the GDBBS Student Research Symposium. Alejandro is also a Neuroscience Scholars Program Associate and was accepted into the Summer Program in Neuroscience, Excellence, and Success (SPINES) at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Additionally, he gave a Nanosymposium presentation at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience meeting on the influence of descending cortical projections on spinal reflex excitability in post-stroke individuals. Alejandro has a lot to be proud of, and we can’t wait to see what he achieves next!
Excellence in Teaching Award: Andrea Pack
Andrea has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to teaching at multiple institutions including Emory, Phillips State Prison in Buford, Georgia, and the Whitworth Women’s Facility in Hartwell, Georgia. Through her work as the Science Education Coordinator for Common Good Atlanta, Andrea has taught several courses covering neuroscience topics ranging from the neurobiology of mindfulness to systems neuroscience at multiple prisons in Georgia. At Emory, Andrea was a teaching assistant for the fall neuroscience course for first-year graduate students, as well as a guest lecturer for an undergraduate neurobiology course. Andrea’s teaching efforts are extensive, impactful, and wide-reaching.
Excellence in Mentorship Award: Arielle Valdez-Sinon
Arielle has demonstrated a strong commitment to mentorship through mentoring three undergraduates, four rotation students, and two graduate students. Just this year, she was the primary mentor for two rotation students from the Neuroscience Program. Most notably, one of her mentees received a summer fellowship for the National Fragile X Foundation and was selected as a Barry Goldwater Fellow. Arielle prioritizes training her mentees in technical skills as well as professional development with instruction in writing research proposals and preparing poster presentations. Outside of Emory, she has served on career panels for students at Georgia State University who are interested in applying to MD/PhD programs, and has mentored several students through the MD/PhD application process. Arielle has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to multi-faceted mentorship.
Leadership Award: Erin King
The Leadership award is presented to a student who exhibits exceptional leadership within the Neuroscience Program and goes beyond the expectations of a Neuroscience Program member. As a testament to her leadership, Erin is the current president of our Graduates In Neuroscience (GIN) organization. Last year, she received the GIN Student Service Award for her participation in and support of the program while not formally holding GIN office. She has organized poster sessions for recruitment, led town halls, helped organize retreat, organized GIN coffee hours, and many other events as president and member of GIN. She has consistently demonstrated a commitment to leading and supporting the program in both an unofficial and official capacity. We are grateful for her leadership!
Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award: Pernille Bülow
Pernille, or Penny, is most certainly deserving of the Outstanding Scientific Achievement Award. Penny discovered a new form of homeostatic plasticity and identified two kinds of disrupted homeostatic plasticity in a culture model, the details of which can be found in her first-author publication in Cell Reports. Additionally, she is a co-first-author on a book chapter on homeostatic plasticity in the central nervous system, as well as a co-author on two other publications. She has been invited to give talks at the National Fragile X Foundation International Conference and the Emory Frontiers in Neuroscience Series, and she has given poster presentations at Society for Neuroscience meetings and the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference on Fragile X and Autism Related Disorders. Most excitingly, she was awarded the Junior Investigator Award from the National Fragile X Foundation in 2018. Congratulations, Penny!
GIN Faculty of the Year Award: Victor Faundez
The GIN Faculty of the Year Award is presented to a faculty member who exhibits outstanding mentorship qualities that set them apart from their peers. Victor Faundez has been an outstanding mentor to many students and an excellent teacher to all who have come through the Neuroscience Program. Since 2011, Victor has been director of the cell biology module in IBS 514. His lectures are exciting, interactive, and always thought-provoking. He has also lectured and directed modules in courses at Emory College, the medical school, as well as the graduate school. Outside of the classroom, he has been the thesis advisor for ten students and has served on 105 dissertation committees. Finally, he was junior director of graduate studies (DGS) for the Neuroscience Program for 6 years. His service as DGS was instrumental in helping students have a smooth and strong start to graduate school. Victor has consistently shown a strong and unwavering investment in the development and success of students. We are so grateful to have him in the Neuroscience Program.
GIN Student Service Award: Kamyra Edokpolor
The GIN Student Service Award is given to a student for outstanding participation in and support of Neuroscience Program activities while not formally holding a GIN Office. Kamyra has consistently supported GIN events through activities such as volunteering to help set up the recruitment party, and being present to assist wherever needed at GIN events. She has even driven the vans for recruitment (which requires van certification)! Additionally, Kamyra has continued to provide thoughtful and constructive feedback to the program whenever asked, which has served to improve our program over all. Kamyra’s presence and efforts make the Neuroscience Program better, and we are grateful to have her in our program!
Editor: Kristie Garza