December 1, 2006

VUMC’s Casagrande elected AAAS fellow

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Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D.

VUMC’s Casagrande elected AAAS fellow

Vanderbilt University professor Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D., has been elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

Casagrande was honored by the association for her “distinguished contributions to our understanding of the cellular patterns and connections of the mammalian visual system, including its embryological and early postnatal development.”

“It is a special honor to join the company of such eminent scholars,” said Casagrande, who is professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and Psychology, and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Investigator.

“Achievements in science are, of course, the result of the hard work of many and not one single individual. I owe a lot to my talented students, assistants and colleagues, and to Vanderbilt University and the federal government for support. The best part is that I still have fun actually doing experiments!”

Casagrande's laboratory studies how visual information is processed by the brain, specifically within the visual cortex. She has mapped visual brain circuitry in a variety of primate species, and has used comparative approaches to examine similarities and differences in the organization of the visual systems of these species. Her studies have revealed clues to the evolution of the visual system.

Casagrande was also instrumental in bringing in vivo optical imaging, a technique used to observe brain activity in awake animals, to Vanderbilt in the late 1990s.

Casagrande earned her doctoral degree in physiological psychology at Duke University in 1972. After her postdoctoral training at Duke and the University of Wisconsin, she joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1975 as an assistant professor in Anatomy and Psychology. In 1980, Casagrande became a Senior Fellow and Investigator for the John F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development and served as the co-director for Biomedical Sciences at the Kennedy Center from 1988 to 1992.

Founded in 1848, the AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal Science ( With 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, the association works to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more.

The tradition of the AAAS Fellows distinction began in 1874. Casagrande is among 449 members elected this year by AAAS for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Fellows Forum at the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco. She joins a group of 21 current and emeriti Vanderbilt faculty members who are Fellows of the AAAS.