2022 Neuroscience and Behavior graduate student awards

Award winners, Madison Riffe, Joe Dwyer, and Wayne Barnaby

Distinguished Student AwardWayne Barnaby

Meg Sratton, Wayne Barnaby, Heather Richardson

For over 25 years, this distinguished award has paid tribute to a more advanced doctoral student in the NSB PhD program, honoring academic performance, research performance, and contributions that enhance the quality of the NSB program.
Wayne continually sets a new bar for quality and rigor for his science. Wayne’s latest publication in Genetics titled “The GABAA α subunit control of hyperactive behavior in developing zebrafish.” This paper describes a set of eloquent studies that used a multiplex CRISPR-Cas9 somatic mutation approach to screen for hyperactivity phenotypes linked to GABAergic alpha subunit mutations. Wayne discovered that a3 and a5 subunits regulate distinct aspects of zebrafish swimming behavior, which are important steps to identify circuit mechanisms of how GABA controls locomotion.

Genetics issue with Wayne’s work on the cover.

The value of this work and Wayne’s keen talent in putting together beautiful scientific illustrations was recognized when it was chosen for the cover of an issue of Genetics as well!

During his years as NSB president, Wayne made focusing on awareness and education of diversity and inclusion within NSB and the other Interdepartmental Graduate Programs one of his top priorities. Notably, his leadership and impact go well beyond NSB, as was evident with his role in spearheading and promoting the widely endorsed petition to our Chancellor to address inequality and racism in our university and community. As one of his nominators said so perfectly about Wayne, “he models for all of us a patient yet persistent approach that brings people into this awareness, into conversations, and into actions.” Finally, on top of all these achievements, Wayne was also praised for his stellar teaching skills in the classroom and mentoring of undergraduate students in the Downes lab.

Early Career AwardMadison Riffe

Madison Riffe (center)

This award is designated for a 1st or 2nd year student in the NSB PhD program showing excellence in academics, research, and/or outreach.
Madison’s service to the University has been invaluable, through her roles on various high-level committees at the College and Departmental level, as well as in the NSB program. According to one nominator, “Madison simply does it all, and she does it well!”. She got As in all of her classes in her 1st two years, she was nominated for a distinguished teaching award for her work as a TA, and has mentored or is actively mentoring 5 undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students in the Downes lab. Her research productivity is excellent, and she has a coauthored paper in press with another on the way out the door.

Golden Neuron AwardJoe Dwyer

Joe Dwyer (center)

The Golden Neuron Award celebrates an exciting new finding from any PhD or MA student in the NSB program. The finding must have been published or presented at a conference within the last year.
Joe used viral circuit mapping and whole brain imaging and found over 50 brain regions that synapse onto aromatase neurons in the medial amygdala. The breadth of these connections is exciting and suggests these pathways are tying social behavior states like mating to states relating to stress, parenting, social recognition, and aggression. The paper associated with these findings was published in eNeuro in 2022, titled “Brain-Wide Synaptic Inputs to Aromatase-Expressing Neurons in the Medial Amygdala Suggest Complex Circuitry for Modulating Social Behavior.”