NINDS announces 2019 winners of the Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship

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Photo of Dr. Story Landis, former NINDS director
Story Landis, Ph.D., led efforts at NINDS to establish programs for mentoring and training neuroscience researchers. Courtesy of NINDS.

Award named for former NINDS director recognizes dedication to mentorship and training

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, has announced the 2019 recipients of the Landis Award for Outstanding Mentorship.

“We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners of the Landis Award. Good mentors play a key role in inspiring and encouraging current and future scientists, but they don’t always receive the recognition they deserve,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., director of NINDS. “This award lets the community know how important mentorship is for sustaining the scientific research enterprise.”

Story Landis, Ph.D., was the director of NINDS from 2003-2014 and established programs to help promote the development of neuroscientists. Dr. Landis was known for her dedication to mentorship, providing guidance to researchers at all stages of their careers.

The Landis Award is granted annually, with five researchers receiving $100,000 each to support their efforts in advancing the careers of students and postdoctoral fellows in their laboratories. Nominations for the award are sent from current and/or former trainees.

Each year, nominations will be accepted for researchers who are at a specific career stage: junior, mid-career or senior faculty. The inaugural group of grantees, announced in 2018, were junior faculty members, who began tenure-track positions within the past 5-12 years. This year’s grantees are mid-career faculty, 13-20 years from starting their first tenure-track position.

“This year we recognize a superb group of mid-career scientists who have gone above and beyond to help their trainees and other young scientists they work with achieve their goals,” said Stephen Korn, Ph.D., the director of NINDS’ Office of Training and Workforce Development.

The 2019 grantees are:

  • Heather Broihier, Ph.D., Case Western Reserve University
    The Broihier Lab studies the formation of the nervous system and how certain proteins help control brain cell development. Trainees described the way Dr. Broihier would adapt her mentoring style to best meet each student’s needs. Trainees noted many instances when they were doubting their abilities and their interest in research and how Dr. Broihier helped them find confidence and remind them how much they love science. To help her students succeed, Dr. Broihier emphasizes the importance of frequent communication, being open minded when approaching experiments and results, and helping them identify their best career path.
  • Jonah Chan, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
    The focus of the Chan Lab is on myelination, including how myelin-forming cells develop and identifying molecules that may help repair myelin following injury or disease. Students described Dr. Chan’s passion for research and creative approach to science, which he tried to instill in them. They were deeply appreciative of Dr. Chan’s help as they navigated professional and personal challenges. Dr. Chan takes a strong hands-on approach to mentoring, spending hours working directly with his students at the bench, promoting teamwork and engaging in rigorous science. Also particularly notable is the practice by Dr. Chan of only writing future grants on graduate student projects. His expectation is that postdocs will take their work with them to their future position, and, by policy, considers their work to be entirely “owned” by them.
  • Mel Feany, M.D., Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital
    The Feany Lab uses fruit fly models of brain diseases to identify specific genes and molecular pathways that may play a role in disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Trainees noted that Dr. Feany is constantly on the lookout for potential mentees and has helped numerous students, at all career levels. She has provided tremendous and consistent guidance to her students, helping them steer through many professional obstacles. Dr. Feany strives to promote a collaborative environment in her lab, understanding that each member makes a valuable contribution to the team. Dr. Feany will often seek out colleagues who are effective mentors, for advice and strategies that she can take back to her lab.
  • Miriam Goodman, Ph.D., Stanford University, School of Medicine
    The Goodman Lab is working to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms involved in sensation, specifically pain, touch, temperature and position. Several trainees described Dr. Goodman’s deep devotion to mentoring and noted that she mentored not just students in her lab but provided support and guidance to others across the university. Students also noted her strong commitment to diversity; many of Dr. Goodman’s mentees have been women and underrepresented minorities. Dr. Goodman does not view her students as just researchers in the lab, but is eager to learn about their interests outside of science and what really motivates them, which helps foster creativity and productivity in science.
  • Louise McCullough, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas Health/McGovern Medical School
    The McCullough Lab focuses on stroke research, including sex differences in the brain’s response to damage and how aging and inflammation affect stroke recovery. Students noted that Dr. McCullough never let them give up when faced with obstacles or rejections, providing them with confidence to persevere and reach their professional goals. Many spoke fondly of their time in “Camp McCullough,” which provided younger students with experience working in a lab, while allowing senior students to practice their mentoring and training skills. Trainees admired her ability to be a devoted mentor while at the same time being a successful researcher, caring clinician, and mother of four children.
  • Matthew Rasband, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
    The Rasband Lab studies how axons are organized, including examination of proteins at different areas of the axons, how they function, and what happens if they do not work properly. Trainees described Dr. Rasband as a dedicated and thoughtful mentor, who inspired many of them to pursue their current career paths. Several former students noted that they still call on Dr. Rasband for advice, even years after moving from his lab. Dr. Rasband recognizes the importance of addressing wellness and mental health concerns in graduate students and led an initiative to provide those resources for students. He holds frequent meetings with his students, both on an individual basis and in a group setting, to maintain regular communication with him and all members of the lab.
  • Bernardo Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
    The Sabatini Lab focuses on synapses, how they are formed, how they work, and what happens when they are damaged. Trainees described Dr. Sabatini as an extremely talented mentor who prioritized diversity in his lab, not just including people from a variety of scientific backgrounds but also including many women and underrepresented minorities. They appreciate his emphasis on managing life’s priorities and encourages all in the lab to balance time at work with time for family and other fulfilling activities. Students also described numerous instances when Dr. Sabatini advocated on their behalf, with the department as well as other professors, and they were grateful for those times when he was their strong supporter.

Nominations for the 2020 Landis Award are now being accepted for senior faculty. Researchers who are 21 years or more from the start of their first tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions (i.e., started their first tenure-track position in 1998 or before) are eligible.

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