March 8, 2022 – EMBO and FEBS are pleased to announce that Erin Schuman of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt, Germany, is the recipient of the FEBS Award | EMBO Women in Science Award. Since 2008, the annual award recognizes the achievements of a woman scientist who has made major scientific contributions over the past five years and who is an inspirational role model for future generations of scientists.
« Receive the FEBS | The EMBO Women in Science award is a huge honour. This recognition is the culmination of a long scientific history that has been revealed with the many talented scientists with whom I have had the privilege of working. I smile when I think of every past and present member of the lab who has contributed to this body of work. As a senior scientist, I am also proud that our efforts to improve the representation and respect of women in science have been recognized,” Schuman said of the award.
Schuman is receiving the award for her outstanding research into synaptic plasticity – the strengthening and weakening of synapses – and her commitment to supporting women in science on an institutional and personal level.
Amparo Acker-Palmer, EMBO Fellow from Goethe University Frankfurt, says of Schuman’s scientific achievements: “Schuman’s seminal work provided the first evidence that proteins made locally near synapses can be used to improve synaptic communication, a cellular correlate of memory. His past and recent work and his transformative technical contributions have had an extremely important impact: creating, extending and solidifying the field of local protein synthesis. »
In his recent research, Schuman demonstrated that local translation is used for the ongoing maintenance of synapses; it is the dominant source of more than 800 synaptic proteins. It revealed that surprisingly much of the protein synthesis in axons and dendrites is carried out by single ribosomes or “monosomes”. She also discovered that ongoing local protein synthesis occurs in mature mammalian axons, just as she did for dendrites in her early research. Schuman has been a tireless and vocal advocate for women scientists throughout her career. She transformed the recruitment of female directors within the Max Planck Society by coordinating the “20 x 2020” initiative which included changes in recruitment practices aimed at increasing the percentage of female directors to 20% by 2020 ( of 10% in it joined in 2009). She also established a nursery and baby rooms at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and is a long-term mentor to many scientists.
“Finding Erin as a mentor was like finding an oasis in a desert for me. It was a lifeline for me as a junior researcher trying to establish myself in a daunting world of competitive science. I was respected, trusted and supported as a person and a scientist,” says Soojin Ryu of the University of Exeter, UK, who is one of Schuman’s mentees. “I truly believe the world is a better place for female scientists thanks to Erin.”
Schuman will receive the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award, consisting of a prize of 10,000 euros and a bronze statuette, during the IUBMB-FEBS-PABMB Congress in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 11, 2022, where she will present a plenary lecture.
INFORMATION FOR EDITORS
Erin Schuman was born in California, USA in 1963. After earning her BA in Psychology from the University of Southern California, she earned her PhD in Neuroscience from Princeton University. She conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. In 1993 Schuman was appointed to the faculty of biology at the California Institute of Technology. From 1997 to 2009, she was a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2009, she moved to Frankfurt, Germany with her husband Gilles Laurent to design and found the new Max Planck Institute for Brain Research. Schuman has been a member of EMBO since 2014 and received the Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Neuroscience in 2018. In 2020, she received the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine as well as the ALBA-FKNE Diversity Award, and was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.
Schuman has long been interested in the molecular and cellular processes that control protein synthesis and breakdown in neurons and their synapses. The complex morphology of neurons, with most synapses located hundreds of microns from the cell body, presents a logistical challenge for synaptic proteomes. Neurons solved it by locating important cellular biological machinery in dendrites and axons. Following his discovery in 1996 that proteins made locally in dendrites are required for synaptic plasticity, Schuman pursued the identification of mRNA and ribosome populations in dendrites and axons. She also elucidated the population of translated mRNAs in subcellular compartments as well as the nature and format of ribosomes. Schuman has developed platforms to label, purify, identify and visualize newly synthesized proteins in neurons and other cells.
About FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award
The Women in Science Award is a joint initiative of FEBS and EMBO. It recognizes and highlights the major contributions of women scientists working in Europe in life science research over the past five years. The winner receives a prize of 10,000 euros as well as a bronze statuette and gives a plenary lecture at the FEBS congress.
Nominations for the FEBS | The 2023 EMBO Women in Science Prize closes on October 15, 2022.
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