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The Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Association and Office of Postdoctoral Affairs announced its 2022 award winners at a ceremony May 24 in Alumni Hall.
POSTDOC OF THE YEAR
The Postdoc of the Year Award recognizes a postdoctoral scholar who demonstrates excellence in research and scholarship. The nominee must demonstrate excellence in several criteria, including publications, presentations, awards/honors, service and mentoring. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs solicited nominations from faculty in each school, and the Postdoctoral Fellow Advisory Committee reviewed and voted on all nominations.
This year’s recipient is Harry Barbee, Ph.D., supervised by Tara McKay, Ph.D. (Medicine, Health and Society) and colleagues Kitt Carpenter, Ph.D. (Economics) and Gilbert Gonzalez, Ph.D., MHS (Medicine, Health and Society, Health Policy) in the LGBT Policy Lab.
Barbee’s research is making new advancements in aging and medical sociology. Barbee was described as “truly unique … one of the few sexualities scholars focused on aging.” Most notably, their work, which uses population health data to respond to timely policy concerns for transgender youth in the United States, was recently published by JAMA Pediatrics. Barbee is currently funded by an NIH Diversity Supplement, the first-ever Diversity Supplement awarded on the basis of sexual or gender minority status. This has contributed significantly to the culture and conversations about diversity at the NIH. “Few among us can say that we have changed the culture of a government institution through our work, and Harry has been exceptional here,” McKay noted. Additionally, Barbee also has become an NIH Butler-Williams Scholar in the past year.
An honorable mention was awarded to Abigail LaBella, Ph.D., mentored by Antonis Rokas, Ph.D.
POSTDOCTORAL MENTOR OF THE YEAR
Recipients of the Postdoctoral Mentor of the Year Award must demonstrate a willingness to share expertise and advice; service to the community at large, including other mentoring activities; and scholarship within the mentor’s own career, including publications, awards, presentations and honors. The Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Association solicits nominations from all Vanderbilt postdocs, and the VPA Executive Board reviews and votes.
This year’s recipient is Neelima Wagley, Ph.D., mentored by James Booth, Ph.D.
Wagley is described as “a great and inspirational mentor.” Wagley received two different nominations from her lab. One nomination letter described her as “a consistent resource for all our lab members, guiding them on any problems and questions that arise.” Another nomination noted, “She really values mentorship and wants to help people from all backgrounds to succeed in academics and promote science.”
An honorable mention was awarded to Nina Hernitschek, Ph.D., mentored by Keivan Stassun, Ph.D.
POSTDOC SERVICE AWARD
The Postdoc Service Award goes to a postdoctoral scholar who has demonstrated sustained service to Vanderbilt through service to the community at large—through professional societies, scholarly work outside regular lab responsibilities, or by leading within and promoting the postdoc experience at Vanderbilt. The Vanderbilt Postdoc Association solicits nominations from all postdocs, and the VPA Executive Board reviews and votes.
This year’s recipient is Brianna Yamasaki, Ph.D., mentored by James Booth, Ph.D.
Yamasaki is a fourth-year postdoc in Psychology and Human Development. At Vanderbilt, Yamasaki has served on several committees that support both the postdoctoral community directly and the Vanderbilt community at large. She was heavily involved with the 2020 VPA Annual Symposium Planning Committee, which pivoted from an in-person to a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also has participated in the VPA Diversity, Equity and Justice Committee, and most recently, she was senior co-chair for the VPA for the 2021-22 academic year. Outside of the university, Yamasaki has engaged in community outreach events to bridge the gap between the scientific and public communities.
An honorable mention was awarded to Anirban Sengupta, Ph.D., mentored by John Gore, Ph.D.
FACULTY MENTOR OF THE YEAR
Recipients of the Faculty Mentor of the Year Award must demonstrate a willingness to share expertise and advice; service to the community at large, including other mentoring activities; and scholarship within the mentor’s own career, including publications, awards, presentations and honors. The Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Association solicits nominations from all Vanderbilt postdocs, and the VPA Executive Board reviews and votes.
This year’s recipient is Erin Calipari, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology.
Calipari is described by a mentee as “without a doubt, one of the best mentors I have had the pleasure to work with on my academic journey, spanning my undergraduate, graduate (master’s and Ph.D.) and postdoctoral years. Erin is an exceptional person who is extremely intelligent, passionate and enthusiastic about science, and takes mentorship of her trainees very seriously, which is of extreme benefit to the plethora of formal and informal trainees, here at Vanderbilt and beyond, that seek her advice and guidance.”
An honorable mention was awarded to Adam Wright, Ph.D., professor of biomedical informatics.
Watch the full 2022 Spring Postdoc Awards ceremony. >>
For more information on past winners, please visit the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs website.
Vanderbilt postdoctoral fellows, commonly known as postdocs, are professionals who have earned doctoral degrees and are, in most cases, temporarily pursuing additional scholarly training, experience and research progress necessary for a wide range of career paths. Postdocs play an important role in Vanderbilt’s research enterprise and are integral to the discovery and learning mission of Vanderbilt University and Medical Center. At any given time, Vanderbilt has 450 postdocs across both VU and VUMC.