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BC Psychology Assistant Professor Wins NARSAD Young Investigator Award

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (January 2011) – Boston College Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexa Veenema has won a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression for her work on her research on how the brain regulates juvenile social behaviors.

Alexa Veenema
Alexa Veenema

The NARSAD Young Investigator Award Program provides support for the most promising young scientists conducting neurobiological research.

“This is a great honor,” said Veenema, who joined the Boston College faculty last fall. “The Young Investigator Award represents my first external funding at BC, and is a very important symbol of recognition of my research.”

"This is a very prestigious award," said Professor Ellen Winner, chair of the Psychology Department. "It's terrific recognition for Alexa's basic research program aiming at understanding the neural basis of abnormal and impaired social behaviors."

Veenema's work centers on the neural basis of social behaviors, including juvenile play-fighting, adult aggression, social recognition and social anxiety. She is particularly interested in the role of early life stress in modulating these behaviors and in the neural circuits underlying the maturation of social behaviors. Her research ultimately aims to shed light on normal and abnormal human social functioning as observed in autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and schizophrenia.

She was one of 214 researchers from around the world chosen to receive this year’s Young Investigator Award grants, which are catalysts for additional funding, providing researchers with “proof of concept” for their work, according to NARSAD.

Veenema received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and did post-doctoral work the University of Regensburg in Germany and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is a regular referee of more than 15 international journals, and is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, and the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies. She has received two postdoctoral stipends from the Bavarian Research Foundation and an international research fellowship from the German Research Foundation.

Originally incorporated in 1981 as the American Schizophrenia Foundation, NARSAD was formed by three leading national mental health organizations: National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, National Mental Health Association and National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association. NARSAD funds research about schizophrenia and depression, as well as childhood psychiatric disorders, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders.

Read more on this story in the Boston College Chronicle.