MCS Faculty Women in the Spotlight


Neuroscientist Alison Barth Receives Prestigious Sloan Fellowship

Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientist Alison Barth has received a prestigious 2003 Sloan Research Fellowship Award on the basis of her exceptional promise to advance knowledge in her field.

Barth, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the Mellon College of Science, conducts research on the synaptic basis for learning and memory in living animals. The two-year, $40,000 Fellowship will allow her to extend research on her recently developed technology to identify neurons that are active while an animal learns.

"This grant will give me a head-start on creating second-generation technology for imaging neuronal function," says Barth, whose overall goal is to understand the dynamic properties of living neurons involved in the learning process, including their electrophysiological properties and their connections (synapses) with other neurons.

"Alison Barth is a very promising young faculty member chosen as part of the College's increasing emphasis on neuroscience," adds Elizabeth Jones, professor and chair of biological sciences at the Mellon College of Science. Barth is one of 117 outstanding young scientists nationwide receiving the award, and one of only 15 neuroscientists so honored. Sloan Research Fellowships are also awarded in physics, chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics and mathematics.

Specifically, Barth is interested in how experiences modify the representation of sensory information in neurons in part of the brain called the neocortex, both during development and in adult animals. She has recently created a transgenic animal with enormous potential to study the activity of neurons as they "learn." The technology is based on the decades-long understanding that a neuron must transcribe new genes in order to firmly encode memories in the brain.

Barth has created a transgenic mouse where this memory-related gene transcription is coupled to expression of a "reporter" gene for the green fluorescent protein (GFP). Each time learning-related genes are activated, so is GFP. The result is an animal whose neurons literally glow when they are activated by stimuli and thus engaged in learning. Barth will use living slices of brain tissue to explore how different rearing conditions -- such as experiencing the world through one whisker - - transform the brain's circuitry. Such research ultimately could impact our understanding of neuron function and adaptability in diseases such as developmental disorders or stroke, and has broad implications for rational drug design in the treatment of many different psychiatric diseases.

Ralph E. Gomory, President of the Foundation, states in a Foundation release that "the Sloan Research Fellowships were created by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., in 1955 to provide crucial and flexible funds to outstanding researchers early in their academic careers. Through the years, these fellowships have helped the research careers of their recipients, and we are very proud to be associated with their achievements."

The Sloan Research Fellowship is the oldest program of the Sloan Foundation and one of the oldest fellowship programs in the country. It began in 1955 as a means of encouraging research by young scholars at a critical time in their careers when other support is difficult to obtain. Grants of $40,000 for a two-year period are administered by each Fellow's institution. Once chosen, Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry most interest them, and they are permitted to employ fellowship funds in a wide variety of ways to further their research aims.


Elizabeth Jones Named University Professor

Elizabeth Jones has been named university professor, the highest academic distinction faculty members can achieve at Carnegie Mellon.

In the course of her career, she has earned many honors including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Career Development Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. The NIH has continuously funded her research for 31 years. She has received the university-wide Robert Doherty Prize for Excellence in Education and the Julius Ashkin Teaching Award from MCS.

"Professor Beth Jones is truly one of the 'best of the best' here at Carnegie Mellon," Provost Mark Kamlet said. "She is a superb researcher who has made pathbreaking contributions in molecular genetics."

See the complete story in the Carnegie Mellon News.

Karen Stump awarded regional 2002 Responsible CareŽ Catalyst Award

Karen Stump has been awarded the regional 2002 Responsible CareŽ Catalyst Award by the American Chemistry Council honoring teaching excellence among college and university chemistry faculty. The award recognizes her extraordinary commitment to and accomplishments in teaching, curriculum development, laboratory design, safety training, mentoring, and outreach to K-12 science teachers and students.

Dannie Durand awarded a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship
and receives $1,000,000 grant grant from NIH

Dannie Durand, associate professor of biological sciences and computer science received a Genome Scholar Faculty Transition award from the National Institutes of Health for $1,000,000 to be spent over 4 years.

The award is intended to "promote exceptionally talented,new investigators in genomic research..." and will support her research program in computational genomics on the analysis of gene duplication in vertebrates.

See the complete story in the Carnegie Mellon News.

Elizabeth Jones awarded Endowed Chair

Elizabeth Jones, professor and head of the Department of Biological Sciences was awarded the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Professor of Life Sciences chair. Endowed chairs are the highest honor a university can bestow on its faculty.

Jones' research takes genetic approaches to learn how proteins in yeast cells reach their proper destinations. As proteins and functions have been almost obsessively conserved during evolution in all advanced cells like the cells of yeast and the cells of humans, what she learns about cellular assembly in yeast is almost always directly applicable to our own cells.

She is the author of two impressive textbooks about genetics and has edited a two-volume and a three-volume monograph on the molecular and cellular biology of yeast. Dr. Jones also has published more than 70 papers. In the course of her career, she has earned many honors including a NIH Research Career Development Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Her research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for 31 years. She has received the university-wide Robert Doherty Prize for Excellence in Education and the Julius Ashkin Teaching Award from MCS.

Dr. Jones is a member and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member and former president of the Genetics Society of America and a member of the American Societies for Cell Biology, Human Genetics and Microbiology. She was recently elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Microbiology.

Dr. Jones brought the journal Genetics to campus when she became its editor in chief in 1997. She is an associate editor of Annual Review of Genetics.

She is a member of the Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Center for Light Microscope Imaging and Biotechnology as well as an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.

She earned her Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Washington and joined Carnegie Mellon in 1974. Previously, she held teaching and research positions at MIT and Case Western Reserve.