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Impact: How the Kavli NSI Is Taking Rockefeller Neuroscience to Greater Heights

Leslie Vosshall in the mosquito lab

Uniting the Rockefeller Neuroscience Community

Given that Rockefeller University has nurtured a culture of collaboration since its founding, the question naturally arises: What are Rockefeller’s distinct challenges? How does the Kavli NSI enable Rockefeller’s neuroscience community to ramp up its research and become even more productive and influential? Precisely because Rockefeller has an open structure, without departments, the Kavli NSI is an invaluable organizing mechanism for the University’s neuroscientists. Although the University has a vibrant neuroscience community, it had no common framework before the Kavli NSI to promote the field as a whole and encourage interactions between its many participants. The Kavli NSI creates a neuroscience identity on campus, and fosters more frequent and more diverse interactions among Rockefeller neuroscientists, with a leadership and governance structure that flows both downward from the directors and upward from the students and postdocs.

Through its activities and funding programs, the Kavli NSI also aims to influence many non-neuroscientists at Rockefeller. An active and visible Kavli NSI will hopefully inspire scientists in other fields to gravitate toward neuroscience, as have so many of the University’s current neuroscience researchers who trained in genetics, cell and molecular biology, physics, structural biology, or the medical sciences, and then became fascinated by the remarkable properties of the brain and nervous system.

Engaging Young Scientists in the Kavli NSI

A major goal of the Kavli NSI is to enrich the scientific and intellectual interactions of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the neuroscience community, promoting their professional development and scientific success at a foundational time in their careers. At present, more than 40 percent of the University’s 190 students and 350 postdocs are training in Rockefeller labs that conduct neuroscience research.

In the Kavli NSI, young scientists focused on neurobiological questions are invited to play key roles on the Steering Committee, serving as a voice for the younger generation, helping to set direction, and sharing in the responsibilities of the Institute. The goal is to build leadership and a shared identity in all young Rockefeller neuroscientists through their engagement in the Institute’s activities.

The Neuroscience Community at Rockefeller and Beyond

Despite the University’s efforts in creating an ideal environment for discovery, many of our neuroscientists still face considerable hurdles in their research programs. The Kavli NSI has established a grants program to provide targeted support for investigator-initiated, high-risk/high-reward projects launched by individual laboratories or small constellations of labs that wish to engage in new collaborations.