January 15, 2015

Awards recognize crucial efforts of research staff

John Allison, Ph.D., Linda Horton and Elizabeth Roof are the recipients of the 2014 Research Staff Awards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., second from left, with Research Staff Award winners, from left, Linda Horton, Elizabeth Roof and John Allison, Ph.D. (photo by Steve Green)

John Allison, Ph.D., Linda Horton and Elizabeth Roof are the recipients of the 2014 Research Staff Awards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The annual awards, which recognize laboratory and administrative staff for research excellence, were presented Jan. 9 during a luncheon at the University Club.

“Today we honor three individuals who exemplify the importance of being dedicated to what you do, and they bring such great credit to Vanderbilt,” said Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences, who hosted the event.

The Vanderbilt research enterprise has “had the highest year-on-year rate of increase of research funding of any institution in the country” over the past 20 years, said Marnett, Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research.

“This enterprise is built on the foundation of a lot of bright, talented and hard-working graduate students, postdocs, faculty members and research staff — the people that we’re recognizing today, people like Linda Horton, John Allison and Elizabeth Roof.

“Without the dedication and service of staff like them, we would not be making discoveries, training future scientists and achieving the remarkable grant funding record that we have. It’s a great honor to recognize the people who make such a tremendous contribution to the growth of the research enterprise here,” Marnett said.

Allison, laboratory manager of the Murine Neurobehavioral Lab, received the Research Staff Award for Excellence in Contributing to Multi-investigator Teams.

He was nominated by Gregg Stanwood, Ph.D., assistant professor of Pharmacology and director of the Mouse Neurobehavioral Core, and Ron Emeson, Ph.D., Joel G. Hardman Professor of Pharmacology.

The core, which opened in 2009, is a state-of-the-art neurobehavioral phenotyping facility for mouse models, Stanwood said.

“John Allison was an integral part of the team that designed that facility, and he truly is the heart of the facility,” Stanwood said. “He’s simultaneously a neuroscientist, a mechanical and electrical engineer who keeps our equipment running, a customer service manager, a housekeeper…and an occasional therapist. Unabashedly, this would not be a successful facility without John.”

Horton, senior research specialist in the Department of Cancer Biology, received the Edward E. Price Jr. Award for Excellence in Basic Research.

Family members of Price, a longtime and internationally known research assistant in Biochemistry who died in 2007, attended the luncheon.

Horton has worked at Vanderbilt for 25 years and moved into cancer research 15 years ago following her own treatment for breast cancer. She works with Ann Richmond, Ph.D., Ingram Professor and vice chair of Cancer Biology, who nominated her for the award.

Richmond praised Horton’s expert technical skills and her ability to design studies, mentor students and postdocs and write regulatory applications for animal and human subjects research.

“Linda is really the thinker behind a lot of the work that goes on in the lab,” Richmond said.
Elizabeth Roof, senior research specialist at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, received the Vivien Thomas Award for Excellence in Clinical Research, named for the pioneering surgical technician who began his career at Vanderbilt in the 1930s.

André Churchwell, M.D., senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs, introduced the award and described Thomas’ contributions to cardiac surgery.

Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., Annette Schaffer Eskind Professor of Psychology and Human Development and director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, nominated Roof. Dykens praised Roof’s organizational skills and “amazing rapport” with families and patients with Prader-Willi and Williams syndromes, who are participating in longitudinal studies and clinical drug trials.

“Elizabeth is a one-woman clinic. If something comes up at school, or a psychiatrist in the community has a question, or a parent is just stressed out and needs someone to talk to, they call Elizabeth.

“Because of Elizabeth, we have out-recruited other sites, and we have the largest collection of people with Prader-Willi syndrome longitudinally … in the world,” Dykens said.
Each Research Staff Award recipient was given an award check and crystal trophy.