Category Archive: Awards

Congratulations to SfN’s Next Generation Award Winner, Nicole Baganz

Nicole Baganz

Nicole Baganz, Ph.D., nominee for SfN Next Generation Award, received the award at the 2015 Society for Neuroscience meeting.

Dr. Nicole Baganz, postdoc with Dr. Randy Blakely (Vanderbilt University) was nominated by the Chapter and was chosen for the SfN Next Generation Award.  Below is a segment from The VUMC Reporter story by Leigh MacMillan.

For her contributions to public communication, outreach and education about neuroscience, Baganz received the 2015 Next Generation Award

from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) at the organization’s annual meeting last month.

“I’m completely honored and thrilled,” Baganz said. “I’m excited that the award gives us the opportunity to provide more outreach efforts through the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and the local SfN chapter.”

The Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, one of more than 150 local chapters around the world, nominated Baganz for the Next Generation Award.

Only two Next Generation Awards — one at the pre/postdoctoral level and one at the junior faculty level — are presented each year.

“It is quite an achievement to receive this award,” said Kevin Currie, Ph.D., associate professor of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology and president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter.

The award included an honorarium and travel award for Baganz to attend the annual SfN meeting and $2,000 to the local SfN chapter to continue outreach efforts in the coming year. Baganz will be joining the chapter’s leadership committee as outreach coordinator.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down with the group to brainstorm creative ideas for outreach,” she said.

“With Nicole’s passion and ability to simply get things done, we have high hopes that the Chapter will become a hub for some of these outreach efforts,” Currie wrote in the nomination letter.


We are proud to congratulate Nicole and look forward to future outreach activities through the Chapter. Additional announcements were posted by SfN, the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and the Blakely lab.


2015 Annual Chapter Meeting and Membership Drive

Lauren Bryant (left) and Nicole Baganz, Ph.D. (right), shake hands with chapter President, Kevin Currie, Ph.D. after being voted winners of the 2015 Data Blitz.

Lauren Bryant (left) and Nicole Baganz, Ph.D. (right), shake hands with chapter President, Kevin Currie, Ph.D. after being voted winners of the 2015 Data Blitz. Photo provided by Dipanwita Ghose, Ph.D. (MTNCSfN postdoc representative).


Our Annual Chapter Meeting was held on May 20, 2015, and we thank everyone who was able to participate.

Between faculty short talks by Brian Hock, Ph.D. (Austin Peay State University) and Ram Ramachandran, Ph.D. (Vanderbilt University), trainees presented their research in 3-minute talks for the fourth annual Data Blitz.  Winners of the Data Blitz were chosen by votes of the chapter members in attendance for a $50 prize! Congratulations to graduate student winner Lauren Bryant (Mark Wallace lab, Vanderbilt) and postdoc winner Nicole Baganz, Ph.D. (Randy Blakely lab, Vanderbilt)!



Below is the original meeting announcement with additional details.

The 2015 Annual Meeting and reception of The Middle Tennessee Chapter of Society for Neuroscience (MTNCSfN) will be held Wednesday, May 20th at 4:00pm in room U1220 of MRB3, Vanderbilt University. Join us for the following:


Faculty short talks

Brian Hock, PhD

(Austin Peay State University)


Ram Ramachandran, PhD

(Vanderbilt University)


Trainee datablitz competition
The Middle TN Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience (MTNCSfN) can nominate graduate students and postdocs for Travel Awards to attend the SfN meeting this year in Chicago.

Travel award nominees and mentors must be members of MTNCSfN and SfN, so join or renew today!

Nominees MUST participate in the Data Blitz at the MTNCSfN Annual meeting (May 20th). The Data Blitz will involve 3‐minute talks by graduate student and post doctoral trainees about your research.  Prizes ($50) will be awarded to best student and post doc talks as judged by the audience by ballot. The deadline to sign up for the data blitz is May 13th.  See flyers linked below for more details.

MTNCSfN travel awards 2015

MTNCSfN annual meeting 2015



Join us for the informal reception / social for all attendees following the talks with snacks assorted beverages!

Pooja Balaram wins SfN 2014 Graduate Travel Award

In more good news from the SfN 2014 meeting, our chapter nominee, Pooja Balaram from the Kaas lab at Vanderbilt, won the SfN Graduate Student Travel Award. She presented her poster separately at the Travel Awards Poster Session on Saturday, November 15, and received her award at the Chapter Awards Reception on Monday, November 17.  Dr. Eun-Sook Lee, MTNCSfN secretary/treasurer, attended the poster session and expressed the congratulations of the chapter.

Pooja also was honored by the Cajal Club at their SfN-sponsored social on Sunday, November 16, where she received the Kreig Cortical Scholar Award, which is awarded to a junior neuroscientist who has conducted exemplary research on the cerebral cortex and/or its connections.  Her advisor, Dr. Jon H. Kaas, was also recognized at the Cajal Club event with the Sanford L. Palay – John Wiley Award, given to Ray Guillery and Jon Kaas.  Pooja defended her dissertation on October 24th before the SfN meeting, and in January she will be Dr. Balaram, postdoc in Dr. Dan Polley’s lab at Harvard Medical School, specifically the Eaton Peabody Laboratories in the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.  Many congratulations, Pooja!

Thanks also to Pooja Balaram for information and Eun-Sook Lee for the photograph from the Travel Awards Poster Session at SfN!


Pooja Balaram presented her poster at the 2014 Travel Awards Poster Session on Saturday evening at the annual SfN meeting. Photo courtesy of Eun-Sook Lee, who attended on behalf of the chapter.

Alex Maier receives SfN Career Development Award

am2014logoCongratulations to Dr. Alex Maier!  From the Vanderbilt News story linked here, Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexander Maier received the Society for Neuroscience’s Janett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award for 2014. Although the award was announced in advance, the Annual SfN Meeting was held November 15-19 in Washington, D.C.

Chapter members, you may recall that Dr. Maier was a featured speaker at our Annual Chapter Meeting in May, where he briefly presented his research in his talk, Seeing the invisible – single neuron responses in visual cortex to illusory stimuli.  For more information, please follow the links above to the news story and the Maier lab web page. Congratulations again on this recognition of your research, Alex!

photo courtesy of Alexander Maier for David Salisbury's article on the Research news @ Vanderbilt site (

photo courtesy of Alexander Maier for David Salisbury’s article on the Research news @ Vanderbilt site (

Annual Chapter Meeting Highlights

Max Joffe Jennifer Walker

Max Joffe and Jennifer Walker, Ph.D. pictured after winning the Data Blitz at the MTNCSfN Annual Meeting for the graduate student and postdoc categories. Photo courtesy of F. Eddie Hickman at the reception for the annual meeting.

Our Annual Chapter Meeting was held on May 14, 2014, and we thank everyone who was able to participate. In between faculty talks from Dr. Brian Nelms (Fisk University)Dr. Akiko Shimamoto (Meharry Medical College), and Dr. Alex Maier (Vanderbilt University), trainees presented their research in 3-minute talks for the fourth annual Data Blitz.  Winners of the Data Blitz were chosen by votes of the chapter members in attendance for a $50 prize!

Congratulations to the graduate student winner, Max Joffe from the Grueter lab, and the postdoc winner, Dr. Jennifer Walker from the Harrison lab!

Pooja Balaram

Pooja Balaram, graduate student in the Kaas lab, is the student nominee for the chapter SfN travel award 2014. Photo provided by Pooja Balaram.

Data Blitz participants were eligible to compete as nominees for Chapter for SfN Travel Awards.  Congratulations and good luck to our graduate student nominee, Pooja Balaram from the Kaas lab, and our postdoc nominee, Dr. Sarah Baum from the Wallace lab.

Sarah Baum, Ph.D.

Sarah Baum, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Wallace lab, is a nominee for the chapter SfN travel award 2014. Photo courtesy of Sarah Baum from Brain Awareness Night at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Also at the meeting, chapter president Dr. Kevin Currie announced the SERPENT student (Summer Enrichment Research Program in Education and Neuroscience Training) selected by chapter officers for 2014. Kathryn Hook, from Belmont University, is joins Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin’s lab at Vanderbilt for the summer.

As part of the program, Kathryn will create outreach materials related to her summer research project and participate in the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy (VSSA). VSSA includes several different programs in which students conduct a research project under supervision of a faculty preceptor, attend weekly seminars, and present a research poster at a concluding symposium. Project resources from previous SERPENT students are posted on our website Resources page. Membership in the chapter and donations help fund this great program, so please check our website for more details about the SERPENT program and joining or renewing your Membership.

Here is a little more about this year’s SERPENT student from the McLaughlin Lab website. Kathryn says: My name is Kathryn Hook and I am currently a sophomore undergraduate neuroscience major at Belmont University. I’m pretty much obsessed with neuroscience and have a passion for helping people. I am leaning toward pursuing the medical side of a career in neuroscience (possibly neurology with clinical research).  At Belmont, I am a member of the Student Activities Programming Board, Psychology club, AED, Pathways STEM Scholarship program, Towering Traditions Leaders, and I am a tutor for the athletic department.

Kathryn Hook

Kathryn Hook from Belmont University was selected to as our SERPENT student for 2014. Photo from the McLaughlin Lab website.

Outside of school, I have been jump roping competitively for the past twelve years. I absolutely love the sport of jump rope! It has led me to many different areas of the world, introducing me to all kinds of people! I’m all for adventures-trying new things, meeting new people, and traveling. I couldn’t be more excited to get to work in the McLaughlin Lab this summer!”

Attend the Annual Chapter Meeting, Compete for Awards!

The annual meeting of The Middle Tennessee Chapter of Society for Neuroscience (MTNCSfN) will be May 14th at 4pm in room U1220 MRBIII, Vanderbilt University.

If you’re coming from off campus, you should be able to park in Public Parking Spaces in the Wesley Place Garage (spaces 52-170) on 21st Ave & Scarritt Place or along the street at the Garage.  See Visitor Parking Information here for more options and details.  MRBIII (Medical Research Building 3) is located at 465 21st Avenue S.


Data blitz competition: there will be a data blitz competition (3-5 minute talks) for graduate students and post docs. The winners, as judged by the audience, will each receive $50 (one student and one post doc). To participate in the data blitz please email before the May 9th deadline.


Short format faculty talks:

Alex Maier, PhD

Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University

“Seeing the invisible – single neuron responses in visual cortex to illusory stimuli“


Brian Nelms, PhD

Assistant Professor, Fisk University

“The transcription factor FKH-8 controls dopaminergic neuron function in C. elegans


Akiko Shimamoto, PhD

Assistant Professor, Meharry Medical College

“Individual differences in stress reactivity and its influence on cocaine self-administration”


Refreshments will be served following the talks.


Graduate student and post-doc travel awards: the Chapter can nominate one student and one post-doc for SfN travels awards to attend the annual meeting in Washington DC. To be considered for travel award nominations you must participate in the data blitz. See the files linked below for applications and more information.


MTNCSfN travel awards

Chapter Graduate Student Travel Award Application 2014

Chapter Postdoctoral Trainee Travel Award Application 2014

MTNCSfN-Membership form

MTNCSfN meeting program flyer

Apply for Chapter Travel Awards for SfN!

The MTNCSfN will be nominating one graduate student and one postdoctoral fellow for $500 travel awards to attend the SfN annual meeting. The following criteria are REQUIRED to be eligible for nomination. (1) Both the trainee and trainees mentor must be members of the SfN and MTNCSfN. (2) Nominee must be 1st author on an abstract for the SfN meeting. (3) Student nominees must have advanced to candidacy for a PhD, postdoctoral nominees must have a PhD. (4) Nominee may not be nominated for an award two years in a row. (5) The nominee may not be the recipient of another SfN travel award in the same year. (6) Only one applicant from a given laboratory may be considered by a chapter in any given calendar year.


To be considered for the MTNCSfN travel award you must send the following information to Dr. Maureen Hahn, Vanderbilt University ( by May 13th, 2013, 5:00 pm. (1) A copy of your SfN abstract (SfN 2013 abstract submission is April 18th thru May 9th). (2) A one-page CV including education, with date of advancement to PhD candidacy for student awards, honors/awards, publications. (3) One-page letter of recommendation from your mentor. (4) SfN membership number for yourself and your mentor. To be considered for a travel award, you need to register as a Data Blitz speaker for the annual MTNCSfN meeting (deadline May 13th).

Our local chapter for the Society for Neuroscience (MTNCSfN) is holding its annual meeting Wednesday May 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm in 1220 MRB III. There is no forum on that day, and we will use the forum time for our meeting. We will hold a brief reception with snacks and home-brewed beer after the meeting.


If you aren’t a current member of MTNCSfN, please renew your membership using this link: Also, we are actively fundraising for the chapter’s SERPENT undergraduate research program ( You can help support this important program with donations that can be made at the meeting or online at or by “flocking” a favorite colleague; see


At this meeting, we will hold the Trainee Data Blitz competition for graduate student and postdoctoral members of the MTNCSfN. Trainees will have the opportunity to present a 3-5 minute presentation of their work (zero to 4-slides max), to compete for $50 cash prizes and winners’ certificates. This Data Blitz is designed to give the whole membership an opportunity to appreciate the breadth of neuroscience research conducted in the middle TN area. Participation in the Data Blitz is required for travel award candidates.


To participate in the MTNCSfN Data Blitz you need to email your name, your mentor’s name, institution, and title of your talk to Dr. Maureen Hahn, Vanderbilt University ( by May 13th, 2013. All MTNCSfN trainees are invited to participate in the Data Blitz and compete for the cash prizes.


The MTNCSfN executive committee will review applicants for travel awards, and the selected nominees will be named at the Chapter meeting following the Data Blitz.


We appreciate your support of MTNCSfN!  See more details about the Annual Meeting and Spring Social below!


MTNCSfN and the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Student Organization invite you to the

2013 Annual Meeting & Spring Social

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

1220 MRB 3 Vanderbilt University


Featuring: Faculty talks + Student DATA BLITZ +
Reception with snacks and home-brewed beer

Special lectures by chapter-associated faculty:

Dr. Hugh Fentress
Fisk University
Identifying changes in serotonin receptor function due to naturally occurring single
nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)”

Dr. Brad Grueter
Vanderbilt University
∆FosB differentially modulates nucleus accumbens direct and indirect pathway

Dr. Eunsook Lee
Meharry Medical College
“Mechanism of Manganese-induced Impairment of Glutamate Transporters: Role of
Transcription Factor Yin Yang-1 (YY1)”

Vanderbilt Awarded Neuroscience Program of the Year

The Brain Matters series is one of the education and community outreach efforts for which the Vanderbilt Neuroscience Graduate Program was honored by the Society for Neuroscience. (Photo by Jesse Koska. Story linked within by Bill Snyder, VUMC Reporter)

The Society for Neuroscience named the Vanderbilt University Neuroscience Graduate Program the 2012 Program of the Year on Sunday, October 14 at the SfN Annual Meeting in New Orleans. According to the SfN website, “The Neuroscience Program-of-the-Year Award recognizes the accomplishments of a neuroscience department or program for excellence in educating neuroscientists and providing innovative models to which other programs can aspire. Award recipients excel in teaching and positively influencing the lives and careers of their students.”  Award recipients receive $1,000 and a plaque, presented at the Neuroscience Department and Programs Reception held during the SfN annual meeting.  Profiles of winning programs will be featured on the SfN website and “disseminated to the global neuroscience community as a means of sharing successful practices in neuroscience education and training.”

Director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute Dr. Mark Wallace and Associate Directors Dr. Ron Emeson and Dr. Douglas McMahon announced the award to the Vanderbilt community on Sunday evening, saying, “This award is a tribute to the outstanding efforts and achievements of our students and faculty, and we believe is richly deserved.”

The VUMC Reporter posted a great article by Bill Snyder about the honor, which can be found here. Andrew Hardaway, MTNCSfN Past-Trainee Representative, was mentioned in the article for efforts to develop content for the Brain Matters exhibit at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks to help bring neuroscience information to the community.  MTNCSfN is proud to be part of the outreach activities, including Brain Blast, which were honored by the Society as part of the graduate program’s contribution to neuroscience education in the institution and community through impact on and involvement of students in innovative ways.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and the Neuroscience Graduate Program!

SfN Postdoctoral Travel Award Winner

Ryan StevensonRyan Stevenson, postdoc in Mark Wallace’s lab, was selected as a recipient of the Postdoctoral Trainee Chapter Travel Award by the Society for Neuroscience. Ryan was nominated by our chapter for the travel award at the MTNCSfN Annual Meeting in May and was notified of his award on September 10.  He will receive $1,000 for travel expenses and complimentary registration for the SfN Meeting in New Orleans.  Congratulations, Ryan!

2012 SERPENT Program Student Announced

Our Annual Chapter Meeting was held on May 30 at 5pm.  We introduced Caitlin Nelms from Austin Peay State University, the student selected for the SERPENT program.  She will work in Dr. Mark Wallace’s Lab.  She almost didn’t receive notification of her selection due to her school’s email filters!  See the story at Austin Peay State University

Caitlin Nelms from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN was selected for the 2012 SERPENT program


Next Generation Award Nominee

Nicole Baganz, postdoc in Randy Blakely’s lab at Vanderbilt, was announced as our chapter’s nominee for SfN’s Next Generation Award.  The Next Generation Award recognizes SfN chapter members who have made outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education about neuroscience.  Each year, one award is given at the predoctoral/postdoctoral level and one at the junior faculty level.  Read more about how Nicole Baganz’s outreach story began in Vanderbilt’s House Organ.


Nicole Baganz, Ph.D. is our chapter nominee for the SfN Next Generation Award. Read more about how her outreach story began at Vanderbilt’s House Organ.

First SERPENT Program a Success

Summer 2011 we hosted the first student in our SERPENT (Summer Enrichment Research Program in Education and Neuroscience Training) program, Laurance Cain from Tennessee State University.  He worked in Dr. Bruce Carter’s Lab at Vanderbilt University and produced educational materials geared toward 5th and 6th grade students.  At the end of the summer, Laurance joined other students in the Vanderbilt Summer Science Academy for research presentations. Pictured are: President of MTNCSFN, Dr. Vivien Casagrande; Laurance Cain; and Secretary/Treasurer, Dr. Aaron Bowman. UPDATE: Since this announcement was posted, we have learned that Laurance is pursuing a graduate degree in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.  Congratulations and best wishes to Laurance!