Big Smith Lab Updates!

March 2024 | In just the first two months of the year, the Smith Lab has already witnessed remarkable achievements and significant events unfold. The new year began with a joyous celebration as our Principal Investigator, Dr. Monique Smith, was honored with Sanford Institute’s Endowed Professorship in Empathy and Compassion Research. This distinguished recognition is bestowed upon individuals who are deeply committed to advancing the understanding empathy and compassion across all levels.

Thanks to the generosity of the Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion, Dr. Smith will receive $100,000 per year for the next five years, with renewal for 20 years post-tenure. We are incredibly grateful for the support from this exceptional institute, which shares our dedication to understanding the neural mechanisms of empathy to ultimately promote compassion in our society.

(Pictured: Dr. Smith at Sanford Institute Research Day)

A mere month later, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced Dr. Smith as one of the 126 scientists to be named as a prestigious 2024 Sloan Research Fellow, alongside two other UCSD faculty, Vineet Augustine and Abdoulaye Ndao. Announcing this accolade, Adam F. Falk, the president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, emphasized “Sloan Research Fellowships are extraordinarily competitive awards involving the nominations of the most inventive and impactful early career scientists across the U.S. and Canada.”

This highly coveted award, a testament to her outstanding contributions to the field of pain research, provides a $75,000/yr fellowship for a two-year duration, providing invaluable support to progress the advancement of our laboratory’s research.

(Pictured: Drs Augustine, Ndao, and Smith- 2024 Sloan Fellows from UCSD)

Amidst these amazing achievements, our laboratory was due for a celebration! Despite the challenges of Covid-19 plaguing our lab during the holidays, our anticipated inaugural annual holiday gathering had to be rescheduled to February. Nonetheless, the delay only heightened our enthusiasm and the party exceeded all expectations. It was wonderful getting to know our fellow lab members and their loved ones while eating Luna Grill and roasting s’mores. This was truly unforgettable and we cannot wait till next year!

(Pictured: Smith Lab members at the social event)

Last but not least, we have been fortunate to share our research across a multitude of events in the past two months. Dr. Smith has traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado for the 2024 Winter Conference on Brain Research (WCBR) and was invited to present her research for a Neuroscience Seminar series at Marquette University.

(Pictured: Dr. Smith Lab at WCBR 2024)

In addition, our PhD student, Jie Zhang, presented at our UCSD Social Neuro Series Seminar on February 16 on the “Neurobiological Mechanisms Behind the Social Transfer of Pain,” and she did phenomenally- especially for her first ever presentation on her own work! Every 3rd Friday of the month, social neuro labs across UCSD and Salk Institute gather to share our passion for social neuroscience- we are so happy to be part of such an awesome community here in San Diego 🙂

(Pictured: Jie Presenting at the social neuro series)

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