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HBI Alumnus of the Year Award Past Recipients

2015 Alumnus of the Year: Dr. Pamela Valentine

Dr. Pamela Valentine is the Chief Executive Officer (Interim) of Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions  (AIHS). She is a stellar example of an individual who has been able to utilize the skills she developed during her research training to build an outstanding career outside of the lab.

Dr. Valentine obtained her MSc from the University of Calgary in 1997 under the supervision of Dr. Cam Teskey, followed by her PhD with Dr. Jos Eggermont (97-01), also in Calgary. Following a brief period as a research assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, she took a position with the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) in Edmonton. Here, she started her career managing the traineeship competitions, but as new opportunities presented themselves, she moved to positions of increasing responsibility. With the dissolution of AHFMR and the establishment of AIHS, Dr Valentine became Vice-President Research & Innovation for 3 years and subsequently Chief Partnership Officer and Chief Operating Officer for 2 years, before occupying her current position as the corporation’s Chief Executive Officer (Interim). Throughout her career with AHFMR and AIHS, Dr. Valentine has been a strong supporter of Alberta’s medical research enterprise and has built strong strategic partnerships with industry and both governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in Alberta and Canada.


2014 Alumnus of the Year: Melanie Woodin

Dr. Melanie Woodin is a professor in the Department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto. As the 2014 Alumnus of the Year she visited the HBI in October and delivered a seminar entitled: “KCC2 blurs the lines between excitatory and inhibitory synapses”.

Dr. Woodin obtained her PhD from the University of Calgary in 2001 under the direction of Dr. Naweed Syed. Following postdoctoral study at Berkeley with Dr MM Poo, she joined the University of Toronto in 2004 where she is currently Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies. Dr. Woodin has been very active as a member of both CIHR and NSERC grant panels, as well as an executive member/ and or councillor of the Canadian Physiological Society and the Canadian Association for Neuroscience. She was also the president of the Southern Ontario Neuroscience Association. She is a Reviewing Editor of Frontiers in Cellular neuroscience and Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience.

The Woodin lab is focused on discovering the cellular mechanisms underlying inhibitory GABAergic synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus. The centre of these investigations is the K+-Cl cotransporter KCC2, which is essential for maintaining the Cl- gradient necessary for GABAergic transmission. The regulation of this transporter is important not only in such neurological disorders as epilepsy , brain trauma and stroke, but recent evidence suggests that it has important roles in the maintenance and regulation of dendritic spines and receptor localisation.


2013 Alumnus of the Year: Melanie Kelly

Dr. Melanie Kelly, Professor, Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie University was named the 2013 Alumnus of the Year. Dr. Kelly visited the HBI in January, 2014 and delivered her seminar titled: The ocular endocannabinoid system: Therapeutic prospects for cannabinoid drugs.

Dr. Kelly is one of five vision researchers housed in a collaborative multidisciplinary laboratory, The laboratory for Retina and Optic Nerve Research, within the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. Researchers in this joint research laboratory are involved in all aspects of vision research and have a mandate to understand normal retinal signal processing as well as retinal pathophysiology.

Dr. Kelly was a postdoctoral fellow with Drs. Ken Lukowiak and Mark Bisby.


2012 Alumnus of the Year: Inga Neumann

Dr. Inga Neumann, Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at the University of Regensburg in Germany, was named the 2012 HBI Alumnus of the Year. Dr. Neumann visited the HBI May 31 - June 1, 2012 and spoke at the HBI seminar on June 1.

Dr. Neumann obtained her PhD from University of Leipzig in East Germany. She carried out postdoctoral studies in Dr. Quentin Pittman’s laboratory from 1992-94 as the first ever Human Science Frontiers Fellow from the former East Bloc (she also was supported by AHFMR). Following several years as a Senior Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, she became Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at the University of Regensburg in Germany. She is on the editorial boards of several scientific journals and has organized a number of important scientific meetings and symposia.

As a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Neumann carried out pioneering research that investigated the dendritic release of the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin from the hypothalamic magnocellular nuclei. Her career since that time has built on these earlier studies, wherein she has published extensively on the stimuli involved in activating the release of these peptides and the consequence of their release on the behaviour of the animal. In particular, her recent work has demonstrated the involvement of the neurohypophysial peptides in aggression, maternal behavior, affiliative behaviour and in responses to stressful stimuli. The work has immense significance for our understanding of how the brain reacts to, and compensates for perturbation brought about by stress and lays the ground work for the development of pharmaceuticals targeted at neuropeptides.


2011 Alumnus of the Year: Angelo Vescovi

Dr. Angelo Vescovi, PhD, from the University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Biotechnology and Biosciences was named the 2011 HBI Alumnus of the Year.

Dr. Vescovi visited the HBI on Thursday, October 13 and Friday, October 14 and spoke at the HBI seminar on October 14. His topic for the seminar was “Neural Stem Cells: Calgary-Milan-Calgary, Twenty years later, from Benchside to Clinical Trials”.

Dr. Vescovi currently serves as Co-Director of Research for the Institute for Stem Cell Research in Milan, Italy.  He received his PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Milan in 1987.  Dr. Vescovi spent 2 years as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Sam Weiss at the department of Pathology of the University of Calgary, working at the isolation of neural stem cells.  From 1993 through 1999 he was the supervisor of two strategic projects on “Neural Stem Cell Transplantation for Neurodegenerative Disorders” funded by the Italian Ministry of Health while also acting as Vice-Director of research at Neurospheres Ltd. Calgary, Canada from 1995 through 1998.  From 1995 through 2001 he has been an adjunct professor at the course of Physiology at the University of Milan.


2010 Alumnus of the Year: Alastair Ferguson

Dr. Alastair Ferguson, Professor in the Department of Physiology at Queen’s University is the recipient of the inaugural Hotchkiss Brain Institute Neuroscience Alumnus of the Year Award.

Following his BSc in Birmingham, England, Dr. Ferguson came to Calgary in 1977 to complete his PhD in Neurosciences. He then completed a fellowship in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Montreal General Hospital and McGill University, and eventually moved on to Queen’s University in 1984, where he has held administrative appointments as Associate Dean-Life Sciences, Head of the Department of Physiology and Interim Directory of the Cardiac, Circulatory and Respiratory (CCR) Research Program.