Matthew J. Kennedy, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology, School of Medicine, was named a Pew Scholar in Biomedical Sciences. He is one of 22 early-career researchers to receive the honor this year from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The scholars receive flexible funding to investigate some of the world’s most pressing problems and they join a community of more than 500 Pew scholars whose ranks include multiple recipients of Nobel Prizes, Lasker Awards and MacArthur Fellowships.

Kennedy’s lab is investigating the molecular events that “strengthen” the connections between neurons during learning and memory. Strengthening neural connections is thought to involve the recruitment of molecules that enhance neural activity, including proteins that recognize and react to incoming neural signals.

Kennedy is combining techniques in cell and molecular biology with a novel approach he designed to control the movement of specific proteins in selected nerve cells to address whether recruitment of a particular protein to the site of signaling between activated nerve cells actually does promote learning and examine which cells are involved in memory storage.

Pew Scholars are selected based on proven creativity by a national advisory committee composed of eminent scientists, including Chairman Craig C. Mello, PhD, a 1995 Pew scholar and a 2006 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine.

“Scientific breakthroughs often come from seemingly unlikely origins, which is why it’s so important to give young scientists the freedom and the support they need to pursue their most creative ideas,” said Mello. “It is our privilege to help these outstanding investigators pursue new research paths and work with peers across disciplines in order to advance biomedical science and ultimately benefit human health.”

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