The recipients of the 2019 Kavli Award for Distinguished Research in Neuroscience at Columbia University are Emily Bayer, a Biological Sciences PhD student who completed her thesis work in the laboratory of Oliver Hobert, and Abigail Russo, a Neurobiology & Behavior PhD student who completed her thesis work in the laboratory of Mark Churchland.
Emily’s thesis was entitled, “Sexually Dimorphic Development of the Caenorhabditis elegans Nervous System.” In her work, she elucidated the genetic control of sexual differentiation at both the organismal and cellular levels, and how sexual maturation intersects with nervous system development to generate sexually dimorphic behavioral outputs.
Emily is now training as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Schier Lab at the University of Basel Biozentrum, where she is studying how plasticity in social behavior is regulated at the level of neural circuits.
Abigail’s thesis was entitled, “Neural Dynamics and Geometry of Population Activity in Motor Cortices.” Abigail’s work resolved a decades-long controversy surrounding the relationship between neural activity in motor cortex (the seat of voluntary movement) and movement itself. Her work introduced a key computational principle that cortical activity must obey – low ‘trajectory tangling’ – and showed how obedience to this principle explains neural activity.
Abigail is now training as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University, working with the Brody and Pillow Labs to study how cortical regions coordinate to learn and perform complex decision-making tasks.