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NINDS Intramural Researchers Honored by National Scientific Organizations

Four scientists in the Division of Intramural Research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) have been recognized nationally for their exceptional research in the fields of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience.

Zu-Hang Sheng, Ph.D., senior investigator in the Synaptic Function Section, NINDS, was named a 2016 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Fellows are elected based on the merits of their work and its impact on the scientific field and society.

Dr. Sheng was recognized for his contributions to the field of axonal transport of mitochondria and other intracellular structures. This process is critical for maintaining axonal homeostasis and proper synaptic function and has implications in neural health and neurodegenerative diseases.

Antonina Roll-Mecak, Ph.D., principal investigator and unit chief, Cell Biology & Biophysics Unit, NINDS, was named a 2016 National Award Finalist in the Life Sciences category by the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. The award, which is presented by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, honors the country’s most innovative young faculty-rank scientists and engineers. 

Dr. Roll-Mecak also received 2016 ASCB-Gibco Emerging Leader Prize from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in collaboration with Gibco. The prize is given to honor emerging leaders in science, particularly early career, non-tenured faculty who hold independent positions research positions.

Dr. Roll-Mecak’s lab uses a combination of classical and cutting-edge techniques to study how the microtubule cytoskeleton is created and encoded within the genome. Neurons, more so than other cells, are dependent on the cytoskeleton to transport cargo across long distances, extend axons and dendrites, and migrate to their final locations; the dysfunction of those processes can lead to multiple disorders in the nervous system.  

Daniel S. Reich, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Translational Neuroradiology Unit, NINDS, was named the recipient of the 2016 Barancik Prize for Innovation in MS Research from the National MS Society, which is given annually in recognition of exceptional innovation and originality in scientific research relevant to multiple sclerosis (MS).

Dr. Reich’s research uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to study how MS produces its debilitating effects in patients. Recently, his lab developed a method for detecting inflammation within the meninges, the protective tissues surrounding the brain. This technique has led to a better understanding of how MS lesions progress and could be applied to future clinical trials.

Kevin L. Briggman, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, Circuit Dynamics and Connectivity Unit, NINDS, was recognized by the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. This program, which is administered by the Pew Charitable Trusts, honors young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.

Dr. Briggman’s research is focused on developing methods to visualize the function and connectivity of neuronal circuits. By combining light and electron microscopy-based techniques, his lab has led to a better understanding of how various neural networks like the retina are wired and how those networks compare across different species.