Mentoring people from underrepresented groups in science is part of the DNA of the MBL’s Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics and Success (SPINES). So it is most fitting that the course’s co-director from 2017-2019, Carmen S. Maldonado-Vlaar of the University of Puerto-Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, has been honored for her mentorship of women in neuroscience.
Maldonado-Vlaar has been selected for the Society for Neuroscience’s Bernice Graftstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring, which recognizes “leaders who have aided the early careers of women neuroscientists and facilitated their retention in the field.”
A co-recipient of the award, Barbara Shinn-Cunningham of Carnegie Mellon University, was a SPINES lecturer in 2019. And Bernice Graftstein of Weill Cornell Medicine, who endowed the award, was an MBL Grass Fellow and Embryology course student in 1961. Grafstein was the first female president of the Society for Neuroscience.
Maldonado-Vlaar’s research combines molecular, behavioral, and neuroanatomical approaches to study cocaine addiction. In addition to her research, she is devoted to mentoring diverse female neuroscientists at all levels, from undergraduate students to faculty members. “She has mentored more than 100 undergraduate students, all of whom were Latinx and more than 70 percent women. Two-thirds of the graduate students trained in her lab have been Latinas and her mentorship has had a huge impact on Puerto Rican women pursuing neuroscience research. She leads and actively participates in many programs aimed at promoting increased access of women and members of underrepresented groups to careers in neuroscience,” the Society for Neuroscience announced.
In the clip above, Maldonado-Vlaar acknowledges both the colleagues who supported her nomination and “my dear students from all walks of life that have given me the privilege to mentor them towards successful careers in neuroscience.”