Researcher Advocates for Federal Neuroscience Funding

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March 16, 2020 | Downers Grove, IL

Marsha Pierce, Ph.D., and Mark Rasenick, Ph.D., Distinguished UIC Professor, Physiology, Bioethics, and Psychology, meet with Congressman Bill Foster (center) to discuss funding for neuroscientific research.

A Midwestern University faculty member on the Downers Grove Campus was among those selected by the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Society’s annual Capitol Hill Day on March 5, 2020. Marsha Pierce, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, was among the 10 Early Career Policy Ambassadors, representing all regions of the U.S. and many career stages, chosen for this honor.

“I was selected by the Society for Neuroscience as a neuro-advocate to meet with members of Congress to discuss the importance of neuroscience research and funding,” Dr. Pierce said. “We talked with lawmakers about a number of important topics across the neuroscience spectrum and how important it is that we work to find novel treatments for neurological disorders. The current financial burden of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and other neurological conditions is approximately $800 billion per year in the United States. Not only do these conditions have large economic or medical cost, they are also the major form of disability in the United States and impact people from all demographic groups,” she added.

The Early Career Policy Ambassadors were selected based on their dedication to advocating for the scientific community, their desire to learn more about effective means of advocacy, and their experience as leaders in their labs and community. “This experience gave me a greater understanding of how complex the challenges are that we face in relation to neuroscience research, development, and funding, as well as how important it is for us to adequately address these complex challenges. Science is a uniting force and it was exciting to see that there was strong support on both sides of the aisle for scientific research,” Dr. Pierce said.

Dr. Pierce joined the faculty at Midwestern University in 2019. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she studies how oxytocin affects neuronal structure and function in order to better inform oxytocin-mediated therapeutic development in humans.

The Early Career Policy Ambassadors program is a year-long commitment designed to create an extensive network of neuroscience advocates. Ambassadors are paired with mentors and receive training to gain the necessary skills to effectively discuss the need for scientific funding. Over the course of the year, ambassadors engage in additional advocacy-related activities. The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.