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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

Combating COVID-19

The Fight Against COVID-19

From March 25th to May 6th, 2020, over 2000 young innovators from 74 different countries came together to join the fight against COVID-19. In response to the coronavirus outbreak and global shutdown, the New York Academy of Sciences invited creative problem-solvers from around the world to participate in the challenge for a chance to receive a $500 travel scholarship to attend the Global STEM Alliance Summit. The winning solution, GOvid-19, is a virtual assistant and chatbot that provides users with accurate pandemic-related information. Learn more about the winning solution and the solvers who designed them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic in March 2020. As scientists and public health experts rush to find solutions to contain the spread, existing and emerging technologies are proving to be valuable. In fact, governments and health care facilities have increasingly turned to technology to help manage the outbreak. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. Many countries are grappling with the rise in confirmed cases. It is urgent and crucial for us to discover ways to use technology to contain the outbreak and manage future public health emergencies.

The Challenge

The New York Academy of Sciences invited students ages 13-17 from around the world to participate in an open innovation challenge focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19 through technology-based solutions. Read the full challenge statement including the question and background here.

How It Works

After signing up to participate, students self-selected into teams and worked together on Launchpad, a virtual interactive platform that safely facilitates global collaboration and problem-solving. Using Launchpad, students from around the world participated, in teams or individually, to design a technology-based solution to the challenge question.

Grand Prize Winners

GOvid-19

A virtual assistant that provides users with accurate information about government responses, emergency resources, statistics on COVID-19 while utilizing grassroots feedback, streamlining medical supply chains with blockchain and AI techniques address potential accessibiliy issues among the most vulnerable groups.

Finalists

COVID Warriors – TISB Bangalore

A global centralized contract tracing solution that addresses the underlying issues of existing technology by integrating GPS and Bluetooth as well as combining RSSI modeling with analytics.

COVID COMBATANTS! (NoCOVID)

An AI-supported, 3D-printed rapid serological (saliva) testing kit and chest X-ray scan analyzer that detect SARS-CoV-2 in high-risk individuals, within the in- and out- patient settings.

Tracking Coronavirus

The Fight Against Coronavirus

From May 8th to June 19th, 2020, over 250 innovators from 21 different countries worked together to develop syndromic surveillance systems that help us better understand the current pandemic and prevent future outbreaks. The New York Academy of Sciences invited solvers from around the world to participate in the challenge for a chance to win a $5,000 USD grand prize. The winning solution, SYNSYS: Tracking COVID-19 created by Esha Datanwala, is a syndromic surveillance system that uses online data to predict outbreaks. Learn more about the winning solution and the solver who designed it.

In the last two decades three new Corinaviruses have jumped from animals to humans – called the spillover effect– causing serious illness and fatalities. Scientists and researchers in various sectors are racing to develop treatments and a vaccine while also investigating fundamental questions about the virus such as the seasonality, full range of symptoms, true fatality rate, viral latency, dose response curve of the viral load, long-term immunity, mutation rate etc.

The lack of Syndromic Surveillance for Coronavirus has grossly exposed the global and local preparedness for pandemics making us vulnerable as well as putting extreme stress on our government, healthcare facilities, medical supply demands and economies.

The Challenge

Participants were asked to think critically about the importance of Coronavirus basic research and design a surveillance network to better understand the current pandemic and/or prevent future Coronavirus outbreaks. Read the full challenge statement including the question and background here.

How It Works

After signing up to participate as individuals or teams, solvers worked together on Launchpad, a virtual interactive platform that safely facilitates global collaboration and program solving. Using Launchpad, solvers from around the world participated in teams or individually, to design a solution by answering the question proposed. Ten finalists teams were invited to a Virtual Pitch Event where they presented their model in front of a panel of judges. Watch the Virtual Pitch recording here.

Winners & Finalists

Grand Prize Winner – $5,000 USD

SYNSYS: Tracking COVID-19

SYNSYS is a syndromic surveillance system designed for the public & private healthcare sectors. This system uses public domain mined data from Google Trends, various social media sites, census data, and satellite data to predict outbreaks, both before they happen and while they’re happening.

Team Member: Esha Datanwala

Finalists

Ten finalists teams were invited to present their solution to a panel of judges at the Virtual Pitch Event on July 17th, 2020. You can watch the virtual pitch recording here.

Special Recognition

The judges gave special recognition to this team for its effort to address the fundamental issues regarding syndromic tracking systems.

Audience Favorite

Two teams were voted as the Audience Favorite during the Virtual Pitch Event and received bonus point(s) in the final judging.

Learn more about other finalists’ solutions:

Celebrating Girls and Women in Science in NYC and Beyond

A woman works inside a science lab.

The New York Academy of Sciences has been promoting women and girls in science since at least 1877. Those efforts continue today.

A black and white photo of a woman.
Erminnie Smith

As the world celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, The New York Academy of Sciences is proud to reflect on its efforts of making the sciences more accessible for all.

The Academy began admitting women as members in 1877, more than four decades before passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Erminnie Adele (Platt) Smith, an ethnologist and geologist, was the Academy’s first female member in 1877.

With funding from the Smithsonian Institution, Smith established herself as a credible anthropologist through her work that examined American Indian ethnology. She published her research findings in Myths of the Iroquois in 1883. Smith founded and served as the inaugural president for the Aesthetic Society, a Jersey City-based organization that promoted “cultivation and education…in literature, science, and art.”

Women Scientists of the 20th Century

Eunice Thomas Miner

Moving into the 20th century, the Academy saw more of its women members making significant scientific contributions in their respective fields. Nobel Laureates Gertrude B. Elion and Barbara McClintock are honorary Academy members from this era.

Eunice Thomas Miner’s impact on the Academy was immense from the moment she became involved in 1932. At that time the Academy’s membership was a mere 300 and its finances were in a state of flux. Miner worked her way up to serve as the Academy’s Executive Director. By the time of her retirement, membership had grown to more than 26,000 worldwide. Miner also played a significant role in procuring the Ziegler-Woolworth Mansion (2 E. 63rd Street), which served as the Academy’s home from 1950 to 2006.

Margaret Mead

The Academy promoted the research of Margaret Mead, who holds the distinction of being one of the 20th century’s most prominent anthropologists. Her fieldwork in Bali utilized both photography and film, which was unprecedented for its time. Mead always had a concern about the place of science in society, contributing to the Academy’s mission of advancing science for the public good.

After becoming the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States, Marie Maynard Daly led innovative research connecting heart attacks and cholesterol. Daly served as a member of the Academy’s Board of Governors in the 1970s, helping to guide the Academy at a time when men outnumbered women nearly 10 to 1 in STEM fields.

A woman works inside a science lab.
Marie Maynard Daly

Charlotte Friend established herself as pioneer in cancer research decades before becoming substantially involved with the Academy. Alongside fellow female scientist, Cecily Selby, the duo was among the first to link viruses and cancer. She briefly served as Chair of the Fellowship and Honorary Life Membership committee for the Academy, before becoming the Academy’s first female president in 1978.

Under Friend’s leadership. the Academy hosted the Women in Science and Engineering Conference in 1972. Organized on the heels of the affirmative action ruling, the conference focused on women pursuing studies and careers in STEM fields, which remains an emphasis at the Academy today.

Continuing a Proud Legacy

Brooke Grindlinger, PhD, the Academy’s Chief Scientific Officer, recently wrote in the Washington Post about parallels between the popular 2023 Barbie movie and gender equity.

A woman poses for the camera inside a science lab.
Charlotte Friend

“As a former Barbie doll aficionado, I see a future in which the screen portrayal of diverse women in STEM careers is the norm, breaking free from stereotypical depictions,” wrote Dr. Grindlinger. “STEM characters in ‘Barbie’ could catalyze a transformative shift, urging society to embrace a reality in which life imitates art.”

The Academy continues to promote girls and women in its current programming. Sixty percent of Junior Academy program participants identify as young women, and 60 percent of Team Leads within the program identify as young women. Surveys conducted by the Academy have found a nearly 50/50 split of female-identifying and male-identifying attendees during Academy-sponsored conferences.

This year’s observance of International Day of Women and Girls in Science serves as a potent reminder of the Academy’s ongoing commitment to its founding principles to enhance access to science for all.

Innovations in AI and Higher Education, with Reid Hoffman and Nicholas B. Dirks

Join author Reid Hoffman and the Academy’s CEO Nicholas B. Dirks for a discussion about the potential of AI, especially the powerful Large Language Models like GPT-4, in shaping the future of education, business, and creativity—and Hoffman’s new book, Impromptu: Amplifying Our Humanity Through AI.

Through this interactive exploration, readers witness a compelling vision of the future, where AI becomes not a threat but a transformative partner, unlocking the full potential of humanity. Impromptu is an invitation to join the conversation on shaping our collaborative journey into an AI-powered destiny. Explore solutions, navigate uncertainties, and contribute to the evolving narrative of humanity’s partnership with GPT-4.

The discussion will also focus on the state of higher education in the US, in conjunction with the release of Nick Dirks’ newest book, City of Intellect: The Uses and Abuses of the University.

About the Author

Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn, co-founder of Inflection AI, and a partner at Greylock. He currently serves on the boards of companies such as Aurora, Coda, Convoy, Entrepreneur First, Joby, Microsoft, Nauto, and Neeva. He also serves on nonprofit boards, such as Kiva, Endeavor, CZI Biohub, New America, Berggruen Institute, Opportunity@Work, the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, the MacArthur Foundation’s Lever for Change, and The New York Academy of Sciences.

He is the host of the podcasts Masters of Scale and Possible. He is the co-author of four best-selling books: The Startup of You, The Alliance, Blitzscaling, and Masters of Scale. He earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar and a bachelor’s degree with distinction in symbolic systems from Stanford University.

Academy President’s New Book Explores Contemporary Challenges in Higher Education

The book cover for City of Intellect.

Published February 1, 2024

By Nick Fetty

Nicholas B. Dirks, President and CEO of The New York Academy of Sciences, reflects on the challenges he encountered and the lessons he learned during his long career in university leadership, from being chair of the Anthropology department at Columbia, to his time as EVP and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences also at Columbia, and then as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, in a newly published book.

The book cover for City of Intellect.

City of Intellect: The Uses and Abuses of the University was released in the United States by Cambridge University Press on Feb. 1. The book, described as “part autobiography, part practical manifesto,” details Dirks’ years in leadership roles at Columbia and Berkeley during an era of vast changes in the culture of academia.

Assessing Challenges in Higher Education

A distinguished historian and anthropologist and an accomplished academic administrator, Dirks offers a frank assessment of some of the challenges facing higher education. In a recent TIME Ideas column, Dirks wrote “There are far too many examples of the failure of universities over the past decade to defend academic freedom when it goes against conventional wisdom on campus.” The attempted canceling of provocative guest speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Bill Maher, and Ann Coulter are several examples that occurred during Dirks’ stint as the leader of the Berkeley campus.

While he acknowledges the need for change at the institutional level, however, he has also expressed concerns about external forces and attacks on the university that are exerting increasing pressure “[on] the overall climate for faculty governance, for academic freedom and for fundamental issues that…are definitely under…threat right at the moment.” 

Reinventing Universities

In addition to leading The New York Academy of Sciences, a position he has held since 2020, Dirks continues to serve as a professor of history in the Graduate School at UC Berkeley and is the Franz Boas Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Columbia.  Dirks has published major works on the history of the state in early modern South Asia, the colonial history of the caste system, the significance of the Indian empire for modern Britain, on social and cultural theory, and on debates in historiography.  He has been a lifelong advocate of the liberal arts, interdisciplinary studies, and India.  In the face of multiple challenges and changes, however, Dirks asserts that universities must “reinvent themselves” to remain relevant.

“[W]e also need to really rethink some of the legitimate concerns people have about how we [in higher education] conduct ourselves at every level—cost, administrative bloat, disciplinary silos, relevance, enacting academic freedom and free speech—across the board,” Dirks said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “All of those things have to be done in order to regain [public] trust.”

And yet, his new book extends remarks he made some years ago, that “The time has come to defend the university vigorously, even as we insist on seeking to open it up further: to new ideas, to even more vigorous debate, to more students who have never had the opportunity for advanced education, to engagement with the world, and to the public more generally for whom the idea that college is a public good needs stressing and demonstrating today more than ever.”

Daniel San Martin

A man poses for the camera.

Chile
Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María
Computer Science

In my work, it is difficult to access certain essential data. We need something like the ISR to help us with that, and for scientists to better learn from reach other regardless of their geographic location.

Vinicius Albani

A man poses for the camera.

Brazil
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
Mathematics

The ISR offers a way for scientists to come together and brainstorm on a model and the tools you will need. Like in our regular research, this is an opportunity for us to use our research tools and our knowledge — but to directly help society.

Fulya Aydin-Kandemir

A woman poses for the camera.

Turkey
Hydropolitics Association (HPA)

Ankara & Akdeniz University
Climate Science

We are scientists. We have no nations. It is crucial for us to collaborate across international borders, through organizations like the International Science Reserve. My hope is that the global scientific community will be able to solve some issues that cannot be solved on a national level.

Tracy Marshall

A woman poses for the camera.

Trinidad and Tobago
Department of Geography

The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine
Behavioral Science

I observed how the 2007 earthquake off the coast of Martinique changed people’s perceptions in Barbados towards earthquakes. Then, I thought about natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires that people know are coming and wanted to find out more about why populations act or do not act. By participating in the first ISR readiness exercise, I could see the usability of my work and its impact on a real-life situation — a phenomenal feeling.