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Neuroscientist Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Neuroscientist Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Kristen Harris, professor of neuroscience, has been awarded the prestigious Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Neuroscience. The award recognizes neuroscientists with outstanding achievements in research who have significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in neuroscience.

Harris is among eight neuroscientists honored with four awards by the SfN this year.

"SfN is honored to recognize this stellar group of neuroscientists for both their groundbreaking research and their leadership in advancing women in neuroscience," said SfN President Barry Everitt. "These women are dedicated to both innovative, creative approaches to scientific questions and mentoring, advocating, and being role models for young female and minority scientists. They have all already made significant contributions to their fields, developing new tools for research or therapeutic approaches."

Harris, who is also an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, pioneered techniques for serial electron microscopy that have had a profound effect on the field of neurobiology. When she realized the limitations of two-dimensional electron microscopy (EM), she developed a software program for the reconstruction of serial EM images, allowing efficient analysis of hundreds of serial sections, as opposed to a handful when done manually.

Today the software, called Reconstruct, is free and widely used for three-dimensional reconstructions of morphological data. She has published a large body of careful, detailed analyses of synapse structure; hardly a neuroscience textbook published today does not include one of her beautiful three-dimensional images of dendrites. Her innovation and techniques have led to new understanding of synaptic structure under both normal conditions and in response to longterm potentiation, a cellular mechanism for learning and memory.

Harris showed in a 2018 study that the act of learning expands the capacity of synapses in the brain to store information.

Not only does Harris go out of her way to make her methods, resources, and teaching available to the neuroscience community, Harris works hard to promote and support the professional advancement of women in neuroscience, according to a statement released by the SfN.

She served in the Association for Women in Science for nearly two decades, was a member of Women in Science (WIN) from 1997 to 2004, and fostered the WIN merger into the Society for Neuroscience. She knew Mika Salpeter personally and thought of her as a mentor. She has also personally mentored over 85 students and postdoctoral fellows, many of them women, and actively promotes and fights for diversity in her lab and in the field of neuroscience.

Yasmin Hurd, the director of the Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai, was also honored with the Salpeter Award. Harris and Hurd will split the $5,000 accompanying prize. 

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Monday, 30 January 2023

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