Brenda Milner Award Winner 2023
Dear SFB1315/2 Members and Colleagues,
we are very pleased to announce the winner of the Brenda Milner Award 2023. The SFB1315/2 Steering Committee voted in favor of awarding Alexandra Tzilivaki (project A01) the Brenda Milner Award 2023 with a monetary award of 15.000 EUR, for project consumables and/or travel for SFB1315 collaborations.
Alexandra is a PhD student at the Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin. She is currently obtaining her doctoral research in the laboratory of Professor Dietmar Schmitz at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Previously, she obtained, with honors, her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in molecular biology and biomedicine from the University of Crete in Greece.
Alexandra performed her predoctoral research in the well-known laboratory of Professor Yiota Poirazi on so-called active dendrites in inhibitory interneurons, and challenged the point neuron dogma that has dominated the field for decades. Specifically, she developed, and used state-of-the-art biological plausible computational models of hippocampal and neocortical interneurons. She predicted that these cells are capable of complex nonlinear dendritic computations that can advance their computational capabilities during memory engram formation. She is the first author of the publication in Nature Communication, 2019 (see also Neuroscience 2022). The above-mentioned prediction prompted her to dedicate her doctoral research endeavors to understanding how different interneuron subtypes contribute to memory-related oscillatory rhythms, namely sharp-wave ripples in the hippocampus. Given her background in biology and her expertise in computational modeling, she aims to investigate how the diversity of interneurons can serve the mammalian brain during memory encoding and consolidation (see also Neuron 2022). Her studies thus far, have been supported by prestigious fellowships, all based on academic excellence, leadership, and community skills. Alexandra is the recipient of the Onassis Fellowship and the Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities in 2015. In 2018, she was named as one of the Next Generation Women Leaders in Europe, by McKinsey & Company.
We are profoundly impressed by Alexandra’s dedication to science and her determination to succeed in academia despite her serious physical disability. She believes that science should be accessible to all people, irrespective of their gender, nationality, or physical abilities. Thus, she is actively involved in community work, by voluntarily mentoring in non-governmental organizations that promote science, and through awareness-raising public talks.
In summary, Alexandra’s interests in interneurons’ functions during memory processes, such as hippocampal network oscillations, complement the overall topic of our Collaborative Research Center. We award Alexandra with the Brenda Milner Prize 2023 to recognize and honor her achievements as a brilliant young scientist.
Please join us in congratulating Alexandra Tzilivaki!