Kavli Award for Distinguished Research in Neuroscience

Established to recognize the best doctoral dissertation in the neural sciences each year. We seek to reward work that is original, raises provocative questions about the field, and/or provides exceptional conceptual advances. Nominations are sought from all of the basic and physical sciences departments across the University. Graduate students who have completed their pre-doctoral work (successful thesis defense and deposit) in a given calendar year (from January 1 through the following February Columbia conferral deadline) are eligible for nomination (typically announced in January/February and due in April, awarded in May).



  • Emily Bayer
    Advisor: Oliver Hobert
    “Sexually Dimorphic Development of the Caenorhabditis elegans Nervous System,”
  • Abigail Russ
    Advisor: March Churchland
    “Neural Dynamics and Geometry of Population Activity in Motor Cortices.”


  • Blair Jenkins
    Advisor: Ellen Lumpkin
    "Elucidated molecular and cellular mechanisms that mediate touch receptor development in mammalian skin,"
  • Raphael Gerraty
    Advisor: Dapha Shohamy
    "Brain network mechanisms in learning behavior."


Jessica Jimenez
Advisor: René Hen
"The role of the ventral hippocampus in anxiety-related behavior."


  • Sze Yen "John" Kerk
    Advisor: Oliver Hobert
    "Diversification of Caenorhabditis elegans motor neuron identity via selective effector gene repression,"
  • Alana Mendelsohn
    Advisor: Tom Jessell
    "Specifying neurons and circuits for limb motor control."


  • Timothy Machado
    Advisors: Tom Jessell and Liam Paninski
    "Probing circuits for spinal motor control"
  • Chaogu Zheng
    Advisor: Martin Chalfie
    "Genetic basis of neuronal subtype differentiation in Caenorhabditis elegans."


Ann Kennedy
Advisor: Larry Abbott
"Representation and learning in cerebellum-like structures."


Fred Hitti
Advisor: Steve Siegelbaum
"Gentically targeted anatomical and behavioral characterization of the cornu ammonis 2 (CA2) subfield of the mouse hippocampus."


Xiaoyin (Robert) Chen
Advisor: Martin Chalfie
"Modulation of touch sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans."


Priya Rajasethupathy
Advisor: Eric Kandel
“Novel small RNA mediated gene-regulatory mechanisms for long-term memory.”


Ben Matthews
Advisor: Wes Grueber
“Dendrite self-avoidance is controlled by Dscam and counterbalances attractive guidance signaling in Drosophila.”


J. Nicholas Betley
Advisor: Tom Jessell
“Stringent specificity in the construction of a presynaptic inhibitory circuit.”


Yevgeniy Sirotin
Advisor: Aniruddha Das
“Multi-wavelength imaging of cortical activity patterns in V1 of alert monkeys.”