VKC researchers earn national accolades, new leadership roles

Stock photo of award

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) researchers are dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through research, education, and service. Recently, several VKC researchers have been recognized for their work by national academic societies, disability organizations, even Presidential Awards.

Headshot of Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D.

Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D.

Chris Lemons, Ph.D.

Chris Lemons, Ph.D.

Patel, Lemons receive Presidential Early Career Awards

Two VKC researchers were named by President Barack Obama as Presidential Early Career Award recipients in their respective fields. Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, and Christopher Lemons, Ph.D., assistant professor of Special Education, were among 106 researchers to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Recipients are employed or funded by Federal departments and agencies and the intelligence community who join together annually to nominate the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions.

Patel’s research focuses on the role of endocannabinoids in stress-induced neuroadaptation. He is attempting to uncover novel bio-markers and pharmacological targets for drug development. In addition, his research might provide insight into the pathophysiology of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders.

Lemons’ research focuses on enhancing reading interventions for students with learning and intellectual disabilities, including Down syndrome; improving special educators’ abilities to use data to adapt and to intensify academic interventions for students with severe and persistent learning needs; and integrating peer-mediated instruction as a method to improve academic outcomes of students.

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.”

The winners will receive their awards at a Washington, D.C., ceremony this spring.

Eric Carter, Ph.D.

Eric Carter, Ph.D.

Carter presents for President’s Committee, serves as expert speaker in D.C., earns CEC DADD Award

Erik Carter, Ph.D., conveyed a central message of ending segregation in education and beyond during his invited presentation to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) when it met in November. Carter is professor of Special Education. He is a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) researcher and faculty member in the VKC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD).

“The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Peabody College are so proud that Dr. Carter was selected as one of only three in the national panel of invitees to present before the Committee,” said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., VKC director.

The PCPID advises the President of the United States and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on a broad range of topics that impact people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and the field of ID. The goal of the Committee is to improve the quality of life that is experienced by people with ID by upholding their full citizenship rights, independence, self-determination, and life-long participation in their respective communities.

In March, Carter was invited to present at a Congressional briefing, sponsored by the Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences (FIES). Held in cooperation with Honorary Co-Chairs Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, and Rep. Michael Honda, the briefing addressed “Transition to Adult Productivity: Supporting Secondary Students with Disabilities in Successful Movement to College and Career.” Carter’s remarks were on the theme of “Toward a Future of Flourishing: Changing the Post-School Pathways of Youth and Young Adults with Severe Disabilities.”

In April, Carter will receive the 2016 Research Award of the Council of Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CEC DADD). Carter’s research focuses on promoting peer relationships and inclusive education for youth with severe disabilities; and on transition needs, services, and supports for youth with severe disabilities.

DADD is committed to enhancing the quality of life of individuals, especially children and youth with autism, intellectual disability and other developmental disabilities. The Research Award is given to an individual who reflects the ideals of the Division and who has made significant contributions to the field of autism and developmental disabilities through research.


Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph.D.

Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph.D.

Tharpe honored by American Academy of Audiology

Anne Marie Tharpe, Ph.D., professor and chair of Hearing and Speech Sciences and associate director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, has received the inaugural Marion Downs Award for Excellence in Pediatric Audiology from the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), which will be presented at the AAA’s April conference.

The Marion Downs Award recognizes audiologists for their exceptional contributions in pediatric audiology. Tharpe has devoted her career to understanding and mitigating the impact of hearing loss in children.

Tharpe is one of two Vanderbilt faculty members to be honored by the AAA. D. Wesley Grantham, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Hearing and Speech Sciences, is receiving the Career Award in Hearing or Balance. Tharpe and Grantham are among only eight AAA award recipients nationwide.

Mark Wallace, Ph.D.

Mark Wallace, Ph.D.

Wallace named dean of Vanderbilt Graduate School

Mark Wallace, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and a prolific and distinguished neurobiologist and mentor, has been named dean of the Vanderbilt University Graduate School, effective January 1, 2016. He holds the Louise B. McGavock Endowed Chair, is professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Psychiatry, and Psychology, and is a VKC investigator.

“As a brilliant scientist, an inspiring mentor, and a forward-thinking director of the Brain Institute, Mark has already bridged across multiple schools to strengthen Vanderbilt’s collaborative and interconnected teaching and learning environment,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said. “He is extremely well-positioned to raise the Graduate School to a new level of excellence.”

As Graduate School dean, Wallace serves as the chief administrator for all graduate programs within the University’s schools and colleges. In addition, he oversees graduate offices of diversity, professional development, placement, and postdoctoral affairs.

Headshot of Anna Roe, Ph.D.

Anna Roe, Ph.D.

Roe elected AAAS Fellow

Ten members of Vanderbilt University’s faculty were recently elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this year, among them Anna Roe, Ph.D., adjunct professor of Radiology & Radiological Sciences and VKC member. Roe was recognized for advancing understanding of the functional organization of the sensory cortex and its relation to vision, touch, and motor activity.

Roe is among 347 fellows from around the country selected by their peers “because of their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”

Paul Harris, Ph.D., M.S.

Paul Harris, Ph.D., M.S.

Harris honored by American Medical Informatics Association

Paul Harris, Ph.D., M.S., professor of Biomedical Informatics and Engineering, received the Donald A.B. Lindberg Award for Innovation in Informatics from the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) in November 2015.

The award recognizes individuals who make advancements that “dramatically move or change the field” of biomedical informatics and are widely adopted on a national or international level.

Harris devised and launched REDCap, a human subjects research data collection and management software platform that has been adopted by some 1,660 institutions in 94 countries. He also created and runs ResearchMatch, a national program designed to match people who want to volunteer in studies and scientists recruiting participants for research. The ResearchMatch program is currently serving 85,000 volunteers and 3,400 researchers across 113 institutions.

Headshot of Pablo Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA

Pablo Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA

Headshot of Samantha Goldman

Samantha Goldman

Juarez, Goldman recognized by AUCD for disability service, research

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) recognized the contributions of Pablo Juárez and Samantha Goldman at its Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. Juárez received the 2015 Young Professional Award, and Goldman received the inaugural 2015 CORE Research Award.

Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA, is director of the VKC Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) and is a behavior analyst in Pediatrics and Psychiatry. Juárez, who joined TRIAD in 2008 as an educational/behavioral consultant, quickly evolved into the leader of TRIAD’s training programs for Tennessee educators and for families, which have grown rapidly with the support of the Tennessee Department of Education. Similarly, Juárez has been instrumental in establishing a family-centered training model of service delivery for families of young children on the autism spectrum. He launched TRIAD’s Community Engagement initiative, in which TRIAD partners with cultural and educational organizations to provide training and supports to enable them to be welcoming for the autism community. He also is co-investigator on four autism-related research projects.

Samantha Goldman received the first-ever Network Trainee Research Award of AUCD’s Council on Research and Evaluation (CORE). This award recognizes outstanding research accomplished by a current or recent AUCD trainee and the AUCD Center/Program in which the research was accomplished. The AUCD CORE Research Award recognized Goldman as “an accomplished researcher who skillfully uses a variety of research methods to understand and help children with disabilities, their families, and parent-school partnerships.”

Portions of this article have been extracted from stories published by Vanderbilt News & Communications and VKC Communications.

Elizabeth Turner is VKC Communications coordinator.



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