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10-09_role_1Lorna W. Role, Ph.D. and member of the Class of 1971, has been named a winner of the prestigious Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Director’s Pioneer Award supports a small number of investigators of exceptional creativity, according to the NIH, who propose bold and highly innovative new research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral research.

Dr. Role is chair of the department of neurology and behavior at Stony Brook University. Her work, according to Stony Brook President Samuel Stanley, “is marked by creative approaches to one of the most important questions in neuroscience today: How do we preserve the nerve cells responsible for keeping our brains working at full capacity?” The NIH has singled out her proposal for light-induced deep brain stimulation of cholinergic neurons that are involved in degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Role’s research goal is to find ways to activate neurons that are among those lost in diseases involving cognitive decline, such as with Alzheimer’s. The NIM Director’s Pioneer Award translates to $500,000 a year for five years to fund Dr. Role’s research. “Stony Brook will receive up to half that amount again as part of the award, which recognizes creative thinking and daring in scientific research,” President Stanley explains.  He noted that “The Pioneer Award represents recognition by her peers for her outstanding contributions to this field, but more importantly, the extraordinary potential of her research.”