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The New York Academy of Sciences and the Leon Levy Foundation Announce the 2024 Leon Levy Scholars in Neuroscience

New York, NY, May 29, 2024 — The New York Academy of Sciences and the Leon Levy Foundation announced today the 2024 cohort of Leon Levy Scholars in Neuroscience, continuing a program initiated by the Foundation in 2009 that has supported 170 fellows in neuroscience.

This highly regarded postdoctoral program supports exceptional young researchers across the five boroughs of New York City as they pursue innovative neuroscience research and advance their careers toward becoming independent principal investigators. Nine scholars were competitively selected for a three-year term from a broad pool of applications from more than a dozen institutions across New York City that offer postdoctoral positions in neuroscience.

Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, said, “For two decades, the Foundation has supported over 170 of the best young neuroscience researchers in their risk-taking research and clinical work. We are proud to partner with The New York Academy of Sciences to continue to encourage these gifted young scientists, helping them not only to advance their careers but also to advance the cause of breakthrough research in the field of neuroscience.”

Nicholas Dirks, the Academy’s President and CEO said “Our distinguished jury selected nine outstanding neuroscientists across the five boroughs of New York City involved with cutting-edge research ranging from the study of neural circuitry of memory and decision-making, to psychedelic-based treatment of alcohol and substance abuse disorders, to the chemical communication of insects, to the use of organoids to study Alzheimer’s, to vocal learning research in mammals. We are excited to be working with the Leon Levy Foundation to welcome this new group of young neuroscientists to the Academy and the Leon Levy Scholar community.”

The Scholars program includes professional development opportunities such as structured mentorship by distinguished senior scientists, and workshops on grant writing, leadership development, communications, and management skills. The program facilitates networking among cohorts and alumni, data sharing, cross-institutional collaboration, and the annual Leon Levy Scholars symposium held in the Spring of 2025.

The 2024 Leon Levy Scholars


Tiphaine Bailly, PhD, The Rockefeller University

Recognized for: Genetically engineering the pheromone glands of ants to study chemical communication in insect societies.


Ernesto Griego, PhD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Recognized for: Mechanisms by which experience and brain disease modify inhibitory circuits in the dentate gyrus, a region of the brain that contributes to memory and learning.


Deepak Kaji, MD, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Recognized for: Using 3D organoids and assembloids to model abnormal protein accumulations and aggregations in the brain, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Jack Major, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Recognized for: Understanding the long-term effects of inflammation on somatosensory neurons, cells that perceive and communicate information about external stimuli and internal states such as touch, temperature and pain.


Brigid Maloney, PhD, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Recognized for: Identifying the transcriptomic (RNA transcript) specializations unique to advanced vocal learning mammals.


Amin Nejatbakhsh, PhD, Flatiron Institute

Recognized for: Statistical modeling of neural data to causally understand biological and artificial neural networks and the mechanisms therein.


Broc Pagni, PhD, NYU Langone Health

Recognized for: Identifying the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of psychedelic-based treatments for alcohol and substance use disorders.


Adithya Rajagopalan, PhD, New York University

Recognized for: Examining how neurons within the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, combine input from other brain regions to encode complex properties of the world that guide decision-making. 


Genelle Rankin, PhD, The Rockefeller University

Recognized for: Identifying and characterizing how thalamic nuclei, specialized areas of the thalamus responsible for relaying sensory and motor signals and regulating consciousness, supports working memory maintenance.

About the Leon Levy Foundation

The Leon Levy Foundation continues and builds upon the philanthropic legacy of Leon Levy, supporting preservation, understanding, and the expansion of knowledge, with a focus on the ancient world, arts and humanities, nature and gardens, neuroscience, human rights, and Jewish culture. The Foundation was created in 2004 from Leon Levy’s estate by his wife, founding trustee Shelby White. To learn more, visit: www.leonlevyfoundation.org.

For more information about the Scholarship program, contact: LeonLevy@nyas.org 

Media Contact: Kamala Murthy | Kmurthy@nyas.org

The Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience (LLSN)

The logo for the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience.

Promoting groundbreaking neuroscience research in the five boroughs of New York City. 

The scholarships support the most innovative young researchers at a critical stage of their careers—their postdoctoral research—as they develop the new ideas and directions that will help establish them as independent neuroscientists.

Overview

The Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience (LLSN) aim to promote groundbreaking neuroscience research in the five boroughs of New York City. The scholarships support the most innovative young researchers at a critical stage of their careers—their postdoctoral research—as they develop the new ideas and directions that will help establish them as independent neuroscientists.

The Scholarships seek to support exceptional young researchers as they pursue innovative investigations in neuroscience and advance their careers toward independent research by:

1. Cultivating excellence and innovation in a diverse neuroscience workforce and supporting postdoctoral Scholars, from all backgrounds, in preparing for a scientific career in the face of increasing competition.

2. Providing enhanced research autonomy to promote impactful scientific research.

3. Helping Scholars to develop wider professional skills such as writing grants and papers, project and budget management, promoting neuroethics, and enhanced community engagement.

4. Building and maintaining an engaged Leon Levy Scholar Alumni community to enhance collaboration and partnerships, encourage mentorship and networking, foster data sharing, and advance team science.

Applicants must be employed by an eligible institution (see below) in New York City.

Which institutions are eligible?

Applicants must be employed by one of the institutions listed below at the time the Scholarship begins, and should have the support of their proposed Research Advisor at the time of application. Institutions not listed here may contact leonlevy@nyas.org to request inclusion on the list of eligible employing institutions.

  • Adelphi University
  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Barnard College
  • City College of New York
  • CUNY Brooklyn College
  • CUNY College of Staten Island
  • CUNY Graduate Center
  • CUNY Hunter College
  • CUNY Lehman College
  • CUNY School of Medicine
  • CUNY Queens College
  • Columbia University
  • Columbia University Irving Medical Center
  • Cooper Union
  • Cornell Tech
  • The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
  • Flatiron Institute
  • Fordham University
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Long Island University
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • New York Blood Center
  • New York University
  • NYU Langone Health
  • Pace University
  • The Rockefeller University
  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Weill Cornell Medicine
The logo for the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience.

Important Dates

The nomination period for the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience will open on October 4, 2023. All materials must be submitted by December 13, 2023. Scholarships for the 2024 cohort of Scholars will run from September 1, 2024 to August 31, 2027.

  • Applications OPENOctober 4, 2023
  • Applications CLOSEDecember 13, 2023
  • Leon Levy Scholarships period begins: September 1, 2024
Instructions

Program Guidelines

Eligibility

By the time of appointment on September 1, 2024, the applicant must:

  • Hold a doctoral degree (PhD, DPhil, MD, DDS, DVM, etc.)
  • Hold a full-time postdoctoral position at an eligible institution (see FAQs), or an institution that has obtained eligibility prior to the closing of the application period, in one of New York City’s five boroughs
  • Possess no more than three (3) years* of cumulative postdoctoral experience
  • Conduct research in Neuroscience or one of its sub-disciplines while they hold the Leon Levy Scholarships
  • Be able to meet at least one of the following designated criteria at the time of appointment: be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. permanent resident (holder of a Permanent Resident Card); holder of J-1 Research Scholar status or an H-1B Temporary Employee Status visa valid for the full tenure of the Scholarship; an individual granted deferred action status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program; Indigenous individual exercising rights associated with the Jay Treaty of 1794; Individual granted Temporary Protected Status; Asylee; or Refugee. Conditional Visas will be considered.

*Exceptions to this time limit will be considered upon a detailed written submission from the applicant received by the New York Academy of Sciences by Friday, November 17, 2023. For more information, please contact us at leonlevy@nyas.org prior to starting your application. We strongly encourage candidates requiring this exception to contact us as early as possible during the application period.

There is no upper limit on the number of applicants per institution or per laboratory. Previous recipients of a Leon Levy Fellowship are not eligible to apply.

Applications by Underrepresented Populations in STEM

In spite of tremendous advancements in scientific research, information, and education, opportunities are still not equally available to all. Women, persons with disabilities, and individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) and other groups continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields1,2. As such, the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience Program strongly encourages applications from individuals within these demographic categories.

1Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12984
2Pew Research Center, January 2018. “Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity”

Application Instructions

Application Form

Required information includes the applicant’s name, title, terminal degree, email address, phone number, and sub-disciplinary category within the field of neuroscience, as well as the name, title, and contact information of the applicant’s proposed Research Advisor (i.e. Principal Investigator (P.I.), the leader of the laboratory in which the applicant is/will be employed and perform the proposed research), the name and contact information for three potential mentors, and the start date of the applicant’s first postdoctoral position.

Disciplinary Categories

1. Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience

2. Systems Neuroscience

3. Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience

4. Computational Neuroscience

5. Translational & Clinical Neuroscience

6. Other (applicant will be asked to provide brief description)

Curriculum Vitae

Applicants are required to submit a CV that includes:

  • Applicant name, current institution(s), and position title
  • Education and training, including doctoral and prior postdoctoral training, with names of previous research advisor(s)/mentor(s)
  • Employment history
  • Honors and awards
  • Peer-reviewed publications from their entire research career
  • Patents and patent applications, if applicable
  • Research grants where the applicant is named as PI or Co-I (NSF fellowship or NIH NRSA, training supplements, foundation grants, etc.)
  • Scientific leadership (e.g. any significant roles in the greater academic community, including major editorial responsibilities, service on external committees, conference organization, technology licensing or company start-up, public outreach activities, and institutional administrative responsibilities such as departmental or student committee)
  • Invited talks and lectures, if applicable
Research Proposal

The Research Proposal (maximum 1400 words, excluding references) should be accessible to another scientist working in any sub-field of neuroscience and include:

  • Background & Significance
    Provide the rationale for the proposed research and explain any terms or information that may not be obvious to a neuroscientist outside of the applicant’s sub-field.
  • Aims
    Describe the main goals of the proposed research project and a tentative timetable by which the applicant expects to meet those goals. The Aims should be ambitious but achievable. We are particularly interested in innovative proposals that have the potential to break new ground.
  • Research Plan
    Applicants must present a clearly articulated plan of study or research. This should clearly link to the identified Aims and be achievable within three years. If any specialized equipment, reagents, etc. are required for the Research Plan, indicate if the applicant has access and if not, how and when that will be obtained.
  • Preliminary Results (not required)
    Describe any preliminary work and results regarding the proposed project, if available, at the time of this application submission. Clarify if these are already published or if they are unpublished findings, and if the preliminary work was done by the applicant or by someone else.
  • Future Directions and Impact
    Include a description of how the applicant sees the proposed research project progressing in the future. Applicants need not plan to continue the particular project after the duration of the Scholarship, but they should articulate what the next steps of the project would be. Describe the impact of the work outlined in the Research Plan, on the applicant’s field, on patient health, and/or wider society.
Professional Service and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

Applicants are required to submit an open-ended statement (maximum of 500 words) describing their outreach activities and/or professional service. Where possible, the applicants should focus on activities and services related to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the scientific community. Topics to discuss include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Teaching and Mentoring: Commitment to teaching and mentoring students, especially those of broadly diverse demographics and/or social backgrounds;
  • Collaboration and Leadership: Involvement or leadership in committees, task force groups, professional societies, and organizations;
  • Service, Engagement, and/or Outreach: A record of community engagement or outreach activities (e.g. volunteer activities, communicating science to the public, etc.);
  • Research: Current and/or planned research relevant to underserved populations or inequalities, or issues relevant to DEI, such as race, gender, sexuality, health disparities, human rights, educational access, ability, etc.
Career Development Plan

Description (maximum of 500 words) of the applicant’s short and long-term professional goals, identification of specific pathways or experiences necessary to achieve those goals, and an explanation of how the Leon Levy Scholarship Program will enhance the applicant’s ability to achieve the goals.

Letters of Support

Applicants are required to nominate three (3) individuals to submit a confidential Letter of Support. Letters of support will be electronically requested and submitted via the web portal to ensure confidentiality.

The letters of support should come from:

  •  Proposed Research Advisor (1 letter). This letter should detail the applicant’s strong record of significant scientific contributions and their promise of sustained or accelerated progress in the future. The letter should also stipulate that the applicant has the necessary institutional support and approval to conduct the proposed research if granted the Scholarship. The Research Advisor must stipulate that they agree to support the applicant and research project for the full duration of the Scholarship.
  • Other recommenders, including previous advisors, collaborators, etc. (2 letters). This is a standard letter of recommendation speaking to the candidate’s qualifications and previous accomplishments. We recommend that applicants petition Letters of Support from individuals who are experts in the applicant’s discipline, field, or sub-field and who are intimately familiar with the applicant’s most significant and important research contributions during their scientific career.

Letter writers will also be required to answer a brief, multiple-choice questionnaire upon uploading their Letter of Support, to ensure both qualitative and quantitative assessment of each applicant.

Scholarship Details

Stipend & Benefits

The Leon Levy Scholarship is a three (3)-year award. Scholars will receive: 

  • Annual stipend equals 125% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral rate, according to the postdoctoral year
  • Fringe benefits at the host institution’s rate for postdoctoral Scholars
  • US$2,000 computer allowance as a one-time award
  • Annual supplement of up to US$10,000 to support care costs (e.g. dependent care)
  • Indirect support to the host institution will be allowed at the standard published rate if less than 20% and capped at 20%.
  • 3-year Membership to the New York Academy of Sciences
  • Participation in a structured Mentorship Program for Leon Levy Scholars
  • Access to leadership and skills-building workshops through the New York Academy of Sciences
  • Access to the community of past and present Leon Levy Scholars and Fellows
  • Grant writing support

Duration

  • Each Scholar is expected to begin the 36-month Scholarship in September of the year in which the award is received (some remote orientation may begin before September/before arrival). Scholarships may be deferred or delayed only as an exception and will require prior approval of the Academy, the Leon Levy Foundation, and the applicant’s host institution.
  • Should a Scholar depart the institution in which they were awarded the LLSN, if the new institution is eligible, the Scholarship may be transferred, otherwise, it will conclude. 

Scholar Responsibilities

1. Attend New Scholar Orientation

2. Participate in the annual Leon Levy Symposium

3. Attend quarterly virtual Group Seminars; Scholars are required to present a research update at a Group Seminar at least once during their tenure

4. Participate in Mentorship and Career Development activities (detailed below)

5. Engage in Scholarship-related media activities and inquiries (e.g., video interviews, magazine profile interviews, etc.) as requested

6. Provide an Annual Report describing research and career progress for each year of their tenure; the Final Report must summarize the research project and state final conclusions. Report templates will be provided.

Mentorship Program

All Scholars will be required to participate in a structured Mentorship Program for the duration of their Scholarship. Scholars will receive their primary scientific mentorship from their Research Advisor. In addition, Scholars will benefit from advice and mentorship from a senior scientist, referred to as a Mentor, not directly involved in the Scholars’ research. Scholars will have access to both their scientific Research Advisor and a Mentor as part of the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience Program.

An essential feature of the Scholarship program will be this opportunity to learn from and be mentored by distinguished leaders across scientific fields. In this capacity, Mentors will provide guidance on the Scholars’ postdoctoral research and in their pursuit of an independent PI role or other scientific career paths. Each Mentor will have a successful track record of mentorship and will be paired with a scholar based on mutual scientific interests.

Once Scholars are chosen, they will work with the program team to find an appropriate senior Mentor from the Academy’s membership. Once matched, the mentoring pairs are expected to meet a minimum of once every other month (in person or virtual) and will have access to prompts and activities to help guide conversations if appropriate. Mentoring pairs will complete an expectations worksheet to help define how the pair will work together. All pairs will be expected to abide by the Academy’s Code of Conduct.

Quarterly Group Seminars

Each quarter, the Academy will host a meeting of all current Scholars to discuss ideas, share research updates and success stories, identify potential collaborations and help solve problems. These seminars will include Scholar presentations, interactive discussions, and informal networking. The Academy will work closely with the Scholars – through conversations, surveys, and other methods – to design programming that meets the short-term and long-term scientific and career needs of the Scholars.

Leadership and Skills Building Opportunities

All Scholars will receive a professional membership to the Academy, providing them with free and reduced-cost access to career development events, courses, and workshops. There is no requirement for Scholars to participate.  Leadership and Skills building opportunities include topics such as science communication, grant writing, Inclusive Leadership, teaching and pedagogy, and ethics. Scholars will also receive a newsletter and regular updates about these opportunities.

Leon Levy Community

The Academy maintains a robust virtual community for scientists via Slack. Scholars will have the opportunity to join our Slack community and have dedicated channels to network with other Scholars.

Membership to the New York Academy of Sciences

All Scholars will receive a (3) three-year membership to the Academy. Membership provides Scholars with access to our Global Member Directory, a deep archive of digital content, and access to free or significantly discounted registrations for over 100 symposia, webinars, and conferences annually.

Grant Writing Support, as needed

Scholars will have access to a grant writing professional who can consult with them on a grant and provide them with guidance.

FAQs

As of 2022, the Leon Levy Fellowship is independently administered by the New York Academy of Sciences as the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience (LLSN). These scholarships aim to promote groundbreaking neuroscience research in the five boroughs of New York City. 

Learn about Leon Levy Alumni

What are the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience?

The Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience (LLSN) aim to promote groundbreaking neuroscience research in the five boroughs of New York City by supporting the most innovative young researchers at a critical stage of their careers—their postdoctoral research—as they develop new ideas and directions that will help establish them as independent neuroscientists. The Scholarship is a three (3)-year award. Scholars will receive an annual stipend equal to 125% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral rate, according to postdoctoral year, a USD 2,000 one-time computer allowance, and an annual care supplement.

Who is eligible to apply?

By the time of appointment on September 1, 2024, the applicant must:

  • Hold a doctoral degree (PhD, DPhil, MD, DDS, DVM, etc.)
  • Hold a full-time postdoctoral position at an eligible institution, or an institution that has obtained eligibility prior to the closing of the application period, in one of New York City’s five boroughs
  • Possess no more than three (3) years* of cumulative postdoctoral experience
  • Conduct research in Neuroscience or one of its sub-disciplines while they hold the Leon Levy Scholarships
  • Be able to meet at least one of the following designated criteria at the time of appointment: be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. permanent resident (holder of a Permanent Resident Card); holder of J-1 Research Scholar status or an H-1B Temporary Employee Status visa valid for the full tenure of the Scholarship; an individual granted deferred action status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program; Indigenous individual exercising rights associated with the Jay Treaty of 1794; Individual granted Temporary Protected Status; Asylee; or Refugee. Conditional Visas will be considered.

*Exceptions to this time limit will be considered upon a detailed written submission from the applicant received by the New York Academy of Sciences by Friday, November 17, 2023. For more information, please contact us at leonlevy@nyas.org prior to starting your application. We strongly encourage candidates requiring this exception to contact us as early as possible during the application period.

There is no upper limit on the number of applicants per institution or per laboratory. Previous recipients of a Leon Levy Fellowship are not eligible to apply.

What are the important dates?

All materials must be submitted by December 13, 2023. Scholarships for the 2024 cohort of Scholars will run from September 1, 2024 to August 31, 2027.

October 4, 2023: Applications open for Leon Levy Scholarships

December 13, 2023: Applications close for Leon Levy Scholarships

May 2024: All applicants notified to the outcome of their application

June 14, 2024: Leon Levy Scholars publicly announced

September 1, 2024: Leon Levy Scholarships period begins (all Scholars expected to be in residence in NYC by this date)

October 2024: The nomination period for the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience opens.

August 2025: Scholars’ Annual Report due.

Which institutions are eligible?

Applicants must be employed by one of the institutions listed below at the time the Scholarship begins, and should have the support of their proposed Research Advisor at the time of application. Institutions not listed here may contact leonlevy@nyas.org to request inclusion on the list of eligible employing institutions.

  • Adelphi University
  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Barnard College
  • City College of New York
  • CUNY Brooklyn College
  • CUNY College of Staten Island
  • CUNY Graduate Center
  • CUNY Hunter College
  • CUNY Lehman College
  • CUNY School of Medicine
  • CUNY Queens College
  • Columbia University
  • Columbia University Irving Medical Center
  • Cooper Union
  • Cornell Tech
  • The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
  • Flatiron Institute
  • Fordham University
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Long Island University
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • New York Blood Center
  • New York University
  • NYU Langone Health
  • Pace University
  • The Rockefeller University
  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Weill Cornell Medicine
What are the terms of appointment, scholarship benefits, and duration?
  • Terms of Appointment
    • Selected Scholars must dedicate 100% of research time to scientific research projects unless they have a clinical obligation, in which case, they may spend up to 20% of the time on clinical obligations.
  • Stipend & Benefits
    • Annual stipend equals 125% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral rate, according to the postdoctoral year
    • Fringe benefits at the host institution’s rate for postdoctoral Scholars
    • US$2,000 computer allowance as a one-time award
    • Annual supplement of up to US$10,000 to support care costs (e.g. dependent care)
    • Indirect support to the host institution will be allowed at the standard published rate if less than 20% and capped at 20%.
    • 3-year Membership to the New York Academy of Sciences
    • Participation in a structured Mentorship Program for Leon Levy Scholars
    • Access to leadership and skills-building workshops through the New York Academy of Sciences
    • Access to the community of past and present Leon Levy Scholars and Fellows
    • Grant writing support
  • Duration
    • Each Scholar is expected to begin the 36-month Scholarship in September of the year in which the award is received (some remote orientation may begin before September/before arrival). Scholarships may be deferred or delayed only as an exception and will require prior approval of the Academy, the Leon Levy Foundation, and the applicant’s host institution.
    • Should a Scholar depart the institution in which they were awarded the LLSN, if the new institution is eligible, the Scholarship may be transferred, otherwise, it will conclude.
What are the Scholar’s Responsibilities?

Scholar Responsibilities:

1. Attend New Scholar Orientation.

2. Participate in the annual Leon Levy Symposium.

3. Attend quarterly virtual Group Seminars; Scholars are required to present a research update at a Group Seminar at least once during their tenure.

4. Participate in Mentorship and Career Development activities (detailed below).

5. Engage in Scholarship-related media activities and inquiries (e.g., video interviews, magazine profile interviews, etc.) as requested.

6. Provide an Annual Report describing research and career progress for each year of their tenure; the Final Report must summarize the research project and state final conclusions. Report templates will be provided.

What is the Mentorship Program?

All Scholars will be required to participate in a structured Mentorship Program in Neuroscience Research for the duration of their Scholarship. Scholars will receive their primary scientific mentorship from their Research Advisor. In addition, however, Scholars can greatly benefit from advice and mentorship from a senior scientist who is not directly involved in the Scholars’ research; here we refer to this person as the Mentor. In the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience program, Scholars will have access to both their scientific Research Advisor and a Mentor.

An essential feature of the Scholarship program will be this opportunity to learn from and be mentored by distinguished leaders across scientific fields. In this capacity, Mentors will provide guidance on the Scholars’ postdoctoral research and in their pursuit of an independent PI role or other scientific career paths. Each Mentor will have a successful track record of mentorship and will be paired with a scholar based on mutual scientific interests.

Once Scholars are chosen, they will work with the program team to find an appropriate senior Mentor from the Academy’s membership. Once matched, the mentoring pairs are expected to meet a minimum of once every other month (in person or virtual) and will have access to prompts and activities to help guide conversations if appropriate. Mentoring pairs will complete an expectations worksheet to help define how the pair will work together. All pairs will be expected to abide by the Academy’s Code of Conduct.

How does this program support Career Development?
  • Virtual Group Seminars
    • Each quarter, the Academy will host a meeting of all current Scholars to discuss ideas, share research updates and success stories, identify potential collaborations and help solve problems. These seminars will include Scholar presentations, interactive discussions, and informal networking. The Academy will work closely with the Scholars – through conversations, surveys, and other methods – to design programming that meets the short-term and long-term scientific and career needs of the Scholars.
  • Leadership and Skills Building Opportunities
    • All Scholars will receive a professional membership to the Academy, providing them with free and reduced-cost access to career development events, courses, and workshops. There is no requirement for Scholars to participate. Leadership and Skills building opportunities include topics such as science communication, grant writing, Inclusive Leadership, teaching and pedagogy, and ethics. Scholars will also receive a newsletter and regular updates about these opportunities.
  • Leon Levy Community
    • The Academy maintains a robust virtual community for scientists via Slack. Scholars will have the opportunity to join our Slack community and have dedicated channels to network with other Scholars.
  • Membership to the New York Academy of Sciences
    • All Scholars will receive a (3) three-year membership to the Academy. Membership provides Scholars with access to our Global Member Directory, a deep archive of digital content, and access to free or significantly discounted registrations for over 100 symposia, webinars, and conferences annually.
  • Grant Writing Support, as needed
    • Scholars will have access to a grant writing professional who can consult with them on a grant and provide them with guidance.
Staff
Meghan Groome, PhD
Senior Vice President, Education
A woman smiles for the camera.
Sonya Dougal, PhD
Senior Vice President, Awards and Scientific Programs
Barbara Knappmeyer, PhD
Associate Director, Fellowships
Emily Kim, PhD
Program Manager, Awards
Zamara Choudhary, PhD
Program Manager, Education

Meet the Scholars

2024 | 2023 | Alumni

Tiphaine Bailly

The Rockefeller University

Ernesto Griego

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Deepak Kaji

Deepak Kaji

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Jack Major

NYU Langone Health

Brigid Maloney

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Amin Nejatbakhsh

Flatiron Institute

Broc Pagni

NYU Langone Health

Adithya Rajagopalan

New York University

Genelle Rankin

The Rockefeller University

Thiago Arzua

Columbia University

Ana Badimon

The Rockefeller University

Shai Berman

Columbia University

Cynthia Chai

Columbia University

Andrew Chang

New York University

Jonathan Gill

New York University Langone Health

Kelvin Q. Laracuente

New York University, Langone Medical Center

Pablo Lituma

Weill Cornell Medicine

Brian Sweis

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Geoffrey Terral

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Lost in Translation: The Underrecognized Challenges of Non-Native Postdocs in the English Scientific Wonderland

A postdoc presents his researcher and poster to conference attendees.

Scientific communication has transcended borders, yet scientists often encounter significant language barriers.

By Andrew Chang

Andrew Chang explaining his research to colleagues at the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition in Tokyo in August 2023. One is from Hong Kong, previously trained in UK, Germany, and Taiwan, now a postdoc in Japan. And the other is from Korea, previously trained in Germany, the UK, and the US, currently a postdoc in Germany. We communicated and chatted in English. Photo credit: ICMPC17 (https://jsmpc.org/ICMPC17/.)

Scientific communication has transcended borders, yet scientists often encounter significant language barriers.

English, hailed as the universal standard language of science, grants a significant advantage to native speakers. For non-native scientists, bridging this gap requires extensive preparation, and this journey can be isolating and anxiety-inducing, particularly for early-career postdoctoral researchers.

As a Taiwanese, Mandarin was my sole mode of communication until I embarked on my Ph.D. journey in Canada. While I was in Taiwan, English had only served as a tool for test-taking and reading imported textbooks.

My first semester in Canada proved to be an all-encompassing experience. Beyond adapting to English-based coursework, acclimatizing to the rapid and colloquial conversations of my peers presented a considerable hurdle. I had to familiarize myself with the natural flow of conversations, replete with slang and cultural references I had never encountered in a classroom in Taiwan.

Moreover, I lacked common ground with most Canadians/Americans, as I wasn’t familiar with their childhood pop culture, trivial facts, or internet memes. Despite being known for my sense of humor among my peers in Taiwan, I felt rather dull, unable to communicate beyond the realm of my science.

A Journey of Improved English Proficency

I vividly recall one evening when I was with fellow new graduate students. We were playing a party board game, and we drew a card that required my teammate and me to chat non-stop for a minute. Everyone anticipated the challenge it posed to me. I wore a reassuring smile, unwilling to disrupt the jovial atmosphere.

However, when the timer began, my partner launched into a rapid, uninterrupted monologue, denying me the opportunity to contribute. Although I knew she did it out of kindness to spare me embarrassment, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated and excluded. It seemed that overcoming the language barrier was an insurmountable expectation, and perhaps people would never recognize my talent or charisma because I couldn’t adequately express myself in a foreign language.

Over the past decade, my English proficiency has significantly improved since the start of my Ph.D. I’ve also assimilated Canadian/American social norms, enabling me to engage with my peers while maintaining my individuality.

Now, tools like ChatGPT make proofreading and editing, including this very article, much more manageable. However, while I can attain good results to a certain extent, the process remains time-consuming and mentally taxing. It can even lead to anxiety: If I fail to make a lasting impression within the first 30 seconds on someone I meet at a conference, particularly a leading scientist in my field, using highly fluent language to express my ideas, I risk losing their interest and potentially missing out on valuable career opportunities.

Diving into the Research

It wasn’t until recently that I stumbled upon a study surveying over 900 scientists, which revealed that many early-career non-native English-speaking scientists encounter similar obstacles. Non-native speakers spend approximately 91% more time reading a paper, 51% more time writing a paper, are 2.6 times more likely to face language-related rejection, encounter 12.5 times more language-related revisions, and invest 94% more time in preparing and practicing presentations.

Also, unfortunately, it appears that overcoming language barriers has largely been left to the efforts of non-native English speakers (Amano et al., 2023). These statistics, based on academia, likely underestimate the extent of the challenges, as many promising scientists may have already abandoned their research pursuits due to language-related frustration (Ortega, 2020).

One might argue that language barriers should not be considered excuses since individuals willingly choose to pursue scientific careers in the United States. However, the reality is that when one opts to become a scientist, they inevitably commit to English as their primary professional language throughout their career.

Given the United States’ predominant position across various scientific disciplines and the fact that all top-tier scientific journals, including Science and Nature, are published exclusively in English, achieving a successful scientific career within the current academic landscape without proficiency in English is an extremely daunting, if not impossible, task. (Note: Perhaps the sole exception is Nobel laureate Tu Youyou.) Scientific findings published in non-English journals are often, if not always, overlooked (Amano et al., 2016).

Indeed, choosing to pursue a postdoctoral position in a foreign country is a deliberate decision, driven by the belief that it will benefit our careers. This choice entails willingly embracing the additional challenges of overcoming not only language barriers but also navigating various other obstacles, including cultural differences (where I’m expected to network in an American way, likely with plenty of socializing over drinks), geographical distances from family and friends (with round-trip flights between New York and Taipei consistently exceeding $2,000, and a 12-hour time difference), dealing with laws, costs, and bureaucracy for obtaining and maintaining a visa and adapting to different daily routines (such as handling taxes, accessing healthcare, and obtaining a driver’s license). However, as international scientists make greater sacrifices, the tolerance for failure diminishes, and it can evolve into unbearable stress.

Creating a Welcoming Environment for Non-Native Speakers

It is imperative for academia to recognize and address this issue to ensure that scientific progress remains unbiased and uninhibited by language barriers. Losing potential talent and dedicated international scientists due to these barriers is not only a disservice to individuals but also compromises the quality of scientific inquiry, potentially introducing biases rooted in the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of scientists.

Consider my research field of cognitive neuroscience of audition, which explores how the human brain perceives speech and music. Without contributions from international scientists, understanding the universal and culturally specific mechanisms underlying these perceptions would be severely limited and biased.

I extend my heartfelt appreciation to all my colleagues who have valued my contributions as a scientist and treated me equally, regardless of my occasionally peculiar English phrasing and my penchant for using amusing words. My hope is that other international scientists, especially those in the early stages of their careers, receive the support they need as they diligently work to overcome their barriers.

Ultimately, I aspire to witness a future in which language differences evolve from barriers into diverse perspectives that benefit the scientific community as a whole.

References

  1. Amano T, et al. (2016). Languages are still a major barrier to global science. PLOS Biology, 14(12), e2000933. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2000933
  2. Amano T, et al. (2023). The manifold costs of being a non-native English speaker in science. PLOS Biology 21(7): e3002184. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3002184
  3. Henrich J, et al. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466(7302), 29-29. https://doi.org/10.1038/466029a
  4. Ortega RP. (2020). Science’s English dominance hinders diversity—but the community can work toward change. Science. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.caredit.abf4697

Andrew Chang, PhD ,is a 2023 Leon Levy Scholar in Neuroscience.

This piece was originally published on the National Postdoctoral Association member blog as part of 2023 National Postdoc Appreciation Week. Current Academy Members can receive a 20% discount on a National Postdoctoral Association postdoc individual membership by emailing customerservice@nyas.org and requesting the NPA membership discount code

Supporting International Postdocs: “How Can We Make This Place More Like Home?”

Every international postdoc has a multitude of interests, experiences, fears and dreams. Supporting them means taking into account all of those things, as opposed to just focusing on their research project.

By Thiago Arzua, PhD, Academy Fellow

Even after doing this countless times before, I was still nervous waiting outside my advisor’s office to talk about some experiments that did not work.

“What if they ask for more data than I have? What if I picked the wrong project?” These thoughts quickly devolve into something darker like: “Do I deserve to be here? Have I done enough?” My own internal imposter syndrome aside, my advisor’s response was comforting, “Cool, now we know that doesn’t work.” By contrast, his feedback made me realize that support is something we need.

International postdocs leave behind all of their support systems – family, friends, culture – in their home country and are often expected to adjust and start working right away. In reality, the support international scientists need is not unusual. Instead, it is something we do not realize we missed or needed until it is gone.

At the most fundamental level, supporting international postdocs looks like increasing support for all postdocs – temporary visa holders still represent a majority of postdocs in the U.S. It can be a bit of a conundrum. Being involved with science policy and advocacy for a while, a conversation with a political consultant once made that clear to me – “No matter how rational it is to fund international scientists, in some politicians’ minds, you are constituents ­– you are not voters”.

In that sense, support comes from peers, advisors, and the universities themselves fiercely advocating for their international researchers at every level. Internally and institutionally, this can also look like providing reliable advice and resources for international postdocs who need to navigate a new world of healthcare, taxes, visas, and more that people born and raised here in the United States take for granted.

At the core of this international postdoctoral account of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” are the basic things every postdoc needs, e.g. fair salaries, good working conditions, etc. At the top of this hierarchy, there is something less tangential – something that took me a while to realize I needed.

The U-Shaped Curve of Culture Shock

There is a famous U-shaped curve used to describe the emotional states of culture shock. In it, people go from a happy honeymoon stage, then through anxiety and adjustment periods, to finally get back up to an adapted stage. I went through that whole curve at least three times since leaving Brazil; once for every career level which came with a location change.

At every stage, the excitement for science was so front and center that I would lose track of the fact that everything was culturally changing around me. During those times, the support I needed had nothing to do with scientific research, but receiving an abundance of humanity and compassion from others.

Case in point, Thanksgiving of my first year in grad school, I was, in essence, adopted by the family of another student for the week. Years later, as a postdoc in a new city, almost as a repeat, other international postdocs and I were stranded by visas or simply by the weather and decided to host a potluck Christmas. So, when the next holiday season comes up, make sure to ask the international postdocs around you if they have plans, and if not, make a point to invite them.

Do Your Part to Make International Postdocs Feel Welcome

Having spaces where international postdocs can thrive means not just helping them adjust to the U.S., but fully acknowledging and incorporating their individualities in how they work, and above all, understanding that people cannot dissociate their personality from how they do research. In my case that has sometimes looked as simple as having my peers text me when they hear some news from Brazil.

It also means having an advisor who knows I enjoy science communication and connects me to opportunities I would not find by myself. Every international postdoc contains a multitude of interests, past experiences, current fears, and future dreams. Supporting them means supporting all of those and not just a finite research project.

At the end of the day, the question “So, do you think you’ll go back home?” is always present whether in talking to people or back in my internal voice. We all have our reasons either way, but in thinking critically about how my international peers can be supported while in the U.S., I think a much better question might be “How can we make this place a little more like home?”

Thiago Arzua, PhD is a 2023 Leon Levy Scholar in Neuroscience. You can learn more about him and the Leon Levy Scholars HERE.

This piece was originally published on the National Postdoctoral Association member blog as part of 2023 National Postdoc Appreciation Week. Current Academy Student Members can receive a 20% discount on a National Postdoctoral Association postdoc individual membership by emailing customerservice@nyas.org and requesting the NPA membership discount code

New York Academy of Sciences, Leon Levy Foundation Name First 10 Leon Levy Scholars in Neuroscience

New York, NY, June 14, 2023 — The New York Academy of Sciences and the Leon Levy Foundation announced today the first cohort of Leon Levy Scholars in Neuroscience; a continuation of an earlier fellowship program started by the Foundation in 2009 that has supported 160 fellows in neuroscience.

This highly regarded postdoctoral program supports exceptional young researchers across the five boroughs of New York City as they pursue innovative investigations in neuroscience and advance in their careers toward becoming independent principal investigators. Designed to broaden the field and to support researchers who might otherwise not have equal opportunity to secure postdoctoral funding, ten (10) scholars were selected for a three-year term from more than a dozen institutions across New York City that offer postdoctoral positions in neuroscience.

“My husband, Leon, had a keen interest in studies of the brain after taking a psychology course as an undergraduate at City College of New York. He was fascinated by the minds of scientists,” said Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. “We see these Leon Levy Scholars as the pathway to making great strides in neuroscience, so we are proud to support these gifted young researchers, providing them financial and career support, along with recognition, to advance their careers.”

“New York is an epicenter of neuroscience, with some of the best brain research being conducted in the United States,” said Nicholas Dirks, the Academy’s president and CEO. “Our distinguished jury selected 10 outstanding neuroscientists across the five boroughs conducting cutting-edge research. We are excited to be working with the Leon Levy Foundation to usher in this new group of young neuroscientists, providing guidance and financial support to encourage ground-breaking discoveries that will ultimately result in growth in this crucial field.”

The Scholars program features structured mentorship by distinguished senior scientists. Workshops will help Scholars with grant writing, as well as developing leadership, communications, and management skills. The programs will encourage networking, data sharing, cross-institutional collaboration and an opportunity for networking at an annual Leon Levy Scholars symposium.

The 2023 Leon Levy Scholars

Recognized for: How information about stressful events is encoded in the brain and how it can be passed through generations.

Recognized for: How contact system activation could affect the brain, and most notably the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease.

Recognized for: How the body’s physiological states—particularly hunger— affect value-based decision making.

Recognized for: Identifying the neural circuit and genetic elements that undergo the strongest selective pressures to enhance survival through the study of escape responses in closely-related fly species.

Recognized for: How music and speech is perceived, processed and distinguished in the human brain and its relevance for individuals with communication disorders.

Recognized for: Distinguishing the neural circuits that are correlated with odor identity and behavioral choice.

Recognized for: The neural circuitry of how we perceive visual social signals and how it relates to and integrates with other somatic sensory social input to shape social awareness.

Recognized for: The role of RNA regulation in non-neuronal brain cells and its impact on neuronal function.

Recognized for: Combining neuroeconomics and transcriptomics to examine decision-making dysfunction underlying regret processing in rodent stress models.

Recognized for Examining the morphology and connectivity of inhibitory neurons and subsequently, their functional ability to generate brainwaves.

About the Leon Levy Foundation

The Leon Levy Foundation continues and builds upon the philanthropic legacy of Leon Levy, supporting preservation, understanding, and the expansion of knowledge, with a focus on the ancient world, arts and humanities, nature and gardens, neuroscience, human rights, and Jewish culture. The Foundation was created in 2004 from Leon Levy’s estate by his wife, founding trustee Shelby White. To learn more, visit: www.leonlevyfoundation.org

About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science for the benefit of society. With more than 20,000 Members in 100 countries, the Academy advances scientific and technical knowledge, addresses global challenges with science-based solutions, and sponsors a wide variety of educational initiatives at all levels for STEM and STEM-related fields. These include prestigious science awards programs. The Academy hosts programs and publishes content in the life and physical sciences, the social sciences, nutrition, artificial intelligence, computer science, and sustainability. The Academy also provides professional and educational resources for researchers across all phases of their careers. To learn more, visit www.nyas.org.

For more information about the Scholarship program, contact: LeonLevy@nyas.org

Media contact: Kamala Murthy | Kmurthy@nyas.org

New York Academy of Sciences Partners with Leon Levy Foundation to Expand Opportunities for Young Neuroscientists

Applications for postdoctoral researchers at New York City institutions will be accepted between October 5 and December 9, 2022.

New York, NY, September 29, 2022 — The New York Academy of Sciences and the Leon Levy Foundation announced today that the Academy will be accepting applications from October 5 through December 9, 2022 for the Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience program. The program will support exceptional young researchers across the five boroughs of New York City as they pursue innovative investigations in neuroscience and advance in their careers toward becoming independent principal investigators.

Up to ten Scholars will be selected in the inaugural group, each receiving support for three years beginning September 1, 2023. The Scholars will receive stipends of 125% of the National Institutes of Health minimum salary for postdoctoral fellows.

Women and young scientists from groups historically underrepresented in the sciences are especially encouraged to apply. The program features self-nomination and is designed to broaden the field and to support researchers who might otherwise not have equal opportunity to secure postdoctoral funding.

“Neuroscience has been a field of remarkable progress, and the Leon Levy Foundation has long been a leader in supporting research in this field,” said Shelby White, Founding Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. “To continue to make great strides in neuroscience, we need to make sure the most gifted young researchers have every opportunity to advance in their careers. Working with The New York Academy of Sciences, we can support talented postdoctoral scholars, and remove barriers to their success.”

“These Scholarships provide a unique level of autonomy and support for promising young scientists, to promote creativity and collaboration,” said Nicholas B. Dirks, the Academy’s President and CEO. “Working with the Leon Levy Foundation, we will use the Scholars Program to help young people from all backgrounds gain the skills and access to resources they need to succeed in competitive academic research. This will help diversify the community of successful, professional scientists in this field.”

“The Academy has significant experience supporting graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career scientists,” said Amanda Sadacca, PhD, Director of Awards at the Academy. “And we will use our strength in these areas to provide significant additional training and career-building opportunities for Leon Levy Scholars.”

The program features structured mentorship by distinguished senior scientists. Elective workshops will help Scholars with grant writing, and in developing leadership, communications, and management skills. The programs will enhance collaboration and partnerships, encourage mentorship and networking, foster data sharing, and advance team science.

“There are often many stresses in a young scientist’s life, and we want to remove as many early-career barriers as we can,” White said. “So in addition to the annual stipend, the scholarships also provide generous supplements for child or family care, an allowance for computer equipment, and other benefits to help ease financial burdens. We know that the strongest possible science will result.”

Applicants must hold a doctoral degree (PhD, DPhil, MD, DDS, DVM, or the equivalent) and possess no more than three years of cumulative postdoctoral experience as of September 1, 2023. Scholars will be funded for research in neuroscience or one of its sub-disciplines, including (but not limited to):

  • Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience
  • Systems Neuroscience
  • Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Translational & Clinical Neuroscience

Applicants must be employed by one of the institutions listed below at the time the scholarships begin, and should have the support of their proposed research advisor at the time of application.

  • Adelphi University
  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  • Barnard College
  • City College of New York
  • CUNY Brooklyn College
  • CUNY College of Staten Island
  • CUNY Graduate Center
  • CUNY Hunter College
  • CUNY Lehman College
  • CUNY School of Medicine
  • CUNY Queens College
  • Columbia University
  • Columbia University Irving Medical Center
  • Cooper Union
  • Cornell Tech
  • The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
  • Flatiron Institute
  • Fordham University
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Long Island University
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • New York Blood Center
  • New York University
  • NYU Langone Health
  • Pace University
  • The Rockefeller University
  • SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Weill Cornell Medicine

The Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience program is the continuation of an earlier fellowship program started by the Foundation in 2009. To date, the Foundation has supported 155 fellows in neuroscience. The new program broadens the list of eligible institutions, and will bring together both new Scholars and past program alumni into one group for networking, collaboration, and the dissemination of scientific research.

For complete information about The Leon Levy Scholarships in Neuroscience program, visit: https://nyas-dev.cleardev.com/shaping-science/fellowships/the-leon-levy-scholarships-in-neuroscience-llsn/

For additional information or to become an eligible employing institution, please contact: LeonLevy@nyas.org.

About the Leon Levy Foundation
The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from Leon Levy’s estate by his wife and Founding Trustee, Shelby White. The Foundation continues Leon Levy’s philanthropic legacy and builds on his vision, supporting the preservation, understanding and expansion of knowledge in the ancient world, Arts and Humanities, Nature and Gardens, Neuroscience, Human Rights, and Jewish Culture. To learn more, visit: http://www.leonlevyfoundation.org