Honoring Our Inaugural NINDS Landis Mentoring Award Winners in San Diego

Honoring Our Inaugural NINDS Landis Mentoring Award Winners in San Diego

For so many reasons, I always look forward to the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), taking place in San Diego this year from November 3-7, 2018. The meeting is the largest scientific conference on brain and nervous system research, with ~30,000 attendees annually. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the latest neuroscience advances, to catch up with colleagues and collaborators, to speak with NINDS grantees, and to meet trainees and investigators as they enter the field.

This year, a satellite event will celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Ben Barres, who passed away late last year. The event will be an opportunity to share stories, hear tributes, talk about glia (a topic near and dear to Ben’s heart), and discuss inclusion in science. Ben was an exemplary neuroscience researcher, making fundamental discoveries about the role of glia in the nervous system, and his unwavering dedication to mentoring and training was truly outstanding. As an openly transgender scientist, Ben was also a fierce advocate for women and underrepresented groups in the neuroscience community.  I had the very good fortune to train with Ben in the laboratory of David Corey and was the frequent beneficiary of his sage advice on everything from science to diets.

With gratitude, NINDS will participate in this event, where we will honor Ben’s contributions to neuroscience by recognizing the accomplishments of the six inaugural winners of the NINDS Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship. Ben would have been especially proud of this group, who have been in their faculty positions for just 5-12 years, and yet have demonstrated a keen devotion to mentorship and advancing the careers of others. Inasmuch as strong mentoring was of paramount importance, the selection of these investigators also hinged on their commitment to principles of rigorous research, as evident in their own scientific works and in efforts to instill a culture of rigor in their trainees.  It is not possible to underestimate the value of strong mentorship in advancing the NINDS mission.

As I have written previously, this award is named after my predecessor, Dr. Story Landis. Story established programs to help the development of neuroscientists, and she was a noted mentor herself, guiding researchers at all stages of their careers. Because extraordinary mentors make a lasting impact on their trainees, it is only natural for the award to be named on her behalf. This award reflects the importance NINDS places on mentorship and grows out of our strong commitment to the development of the next generation of neuroscientists. Moreover, we hope this prestigious award will send a signal to institutions that NINDS considers outstanding mentorship to be equally deserving of recognition as scientific accomplishments.

The Landis Award provides $100,000 (direct costs) to support selected investigators’ efforts to foster the career advancement of trainees. A hearty congratulations to all of the awardees who were selected from among a group of stellar nominees as highly deserving of this recognition. You can read more about each awardee’s research program, mentoring approach, and impact on trainees.

The NINDS Landis Award for Outstanding Mentoring will be an annual award. We are currently soliciting nominations for this year’s cycle which will recognize mid-career faculty (outstanding mentors who are 13-20 years from the start of their first tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions). Because this award is, first and foremost, an honor for those who’ve made a lasting impact on people’s lives and careers through mentorship, nominations must be made only by past or current trainees who have been mentored by the nominee. If you had an eligible mentor who had a positive, lasting impact on your life and career, please consider nominating her/him. Nominations for the 2019 award are due December 1, 2018.

And of course, I am also looking forward to numerous other events at SfN’s annual meeting. On Saturday, November 3, the NIH Blueprint initiative Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (ENDURE) holds its annual meeting, raising interest and opportunities in neuroscience research for individuals who are typically underrepresented in the field. On Saturday evening, there will be poster presentations of novel findings from our Diversity Fellows. Saturday night also features The Brain Bash: Celebrating the International Brain Initiative (IBI), and the launch of the new IBI website, which showcases ongoing BRAIN Initiative efforts around the world. Finally, on Sunday, please join me at the BRAIN Initiative Town Hall with BRAIN Initiative Alliance Networking Event, to hear updates from the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0, and to provide your input on the future of the NIH BRAIN Initiative.

I look forward to meeting you at any of the exciting events that SfN will have to offer – see you in San Diego!

Friday, November 2, 2018