Graybiel Laboratory Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
McGovern Institute for Brain Research
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2002 James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award

The James Rhyne Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award was established by the faculty of MIT in 1971 when Dr. Killian retired from active service. Its objectives are:

“to recognize extraordinary professional accomplishments by full time members of the MIT faculty, to provide a means for the communication of these accomplishments to the faculty, students, and other members of the MIT community and to the general public, and by so doing to honor the contributions made by Dr. Killian to the intellectual life of the Institute.”

The recipient this year earned the doctorate at MIT in 1971, following undergraduate study at Harvard and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Tufts University. As a graduate student here she worked with the late Hans Lukas Teuber, himself a Killian Award recipient, and the late Walle Nauta, an Institute Professor. Initially appointed a Research Associate here in the Psychology Department, she joined the faculty in 1973, and now is the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

The 2002 Killian Award recipient is Professor Ann Martin Graybiel.

Professor Graybiel has had a profound impact on research on the functional anatomy and physiology of the brain. She and her group made the pioneering discovery of the fundamental architecture of the large forebrain region known as the basal ganglia, and delineated the neurochemical organization of the system of neurotransmitters there. This work is of great significance because it represents the first time that a mechanism for directed neurochemical control of complex brain circuits was demonstrated. Recognition of this work is worldwide by neurologists and psychiatrists as well as basic scientists.

This work is important because the basal ganglia are the key structures disabled in a range of neurologic disorders including Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease and also in a range of neuropsychiatric disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit disorder (ADHD), major depression and schizophrenia. This work is of truly fundamental human importance.

An extraordinary feature of Professor Graybiel’s work is the breadth of her scientific efforts. She is indefatigable in her effort to understand the functional role of this large, behaviorally significant brain system. Her more than 200 publications span several disciplines including neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, molecular biology, biochemistry, psychopharmacology, and experimental psychology. In all those fields she has been an important contributor. Her skills and methods are up-to-date, and her work is of the highest quality, characterized by careful quantitative measurements and thorough, thoughtful analyses.

In recognition of her extraordinary scientific accomplishments, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1988, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991, to the Institute of Medicine in 1994, and as a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology in 1997. Just last week, Professor Graybiel was named a recipient of the National Medal of Science – this nation’s highest award for great scientific accomplishment.

Professor Graybiel guides and teaches undergraduate students who work with her in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Although her department has only recently expanded its undergraduate major to include Neuroscience, she has for many years made special efforts to expose undergraduates to research in her laboratory. Several of her students have gone on to become successful physicians, scientists or members of the industrial community, and her laboratory is very popular among UROP students in neurobiology because of the attention and care she gives her students.

Professor Graybiel is widely sought as a speaker because of the clarity and energy of her presentations and her ability to make the complexities of the brain accessible to persons who are not experts in the field. She has been unfailingly generous in speaking to MIT groups, on-campus and off as well.

As a passionate advocate of Neuroscience at MIT, as one who reaches out to create and strengthen ties between MIT and medical faculties in the region, as a teacher and mentor of undergraduate and graduate students, Ann Graybiel is a very special member of the MIT faculty. Combined with her extraordinary scientific accomplishments and worldwide reputation, these outstanding contributions and her longstanding dedication to the Institute make Ann Graybiel the 2002 recipient of the Killian Award.