Michael Fox

Michael Fox, PhD

Fox's neurons firing on all cylinders

Michael Fox, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, has been awarded the 2013 Jordi Folch-Pi Memorial Award by the American Society for Neurochemistry. The honor is given each year to a young neurochemistry investigator who has demonstrated success early in his or her career and shows promise for future accomplishments.

The announcement was recently made at the society’s annual meeting, this year held jointly with the International Society for Neurochemistry’s annual meeting in Cancun, Mexico. The award – named after one of the founders of both societies – includes a $1,500 stipend to travel to and organize a symposium at the following year’s American Society for Neurochemistry meeting.

“When you look at the previous 31 recipients, it’s an impressive list,” said Fox, who holds a dual appointment as an associate professor in biological sciences in Virginia Tech’s College of Science. “Many of these faculty members are now either department chairs or have run large-scale, successful research enterprises. It’s nice to know that the society sees a future in my research program.”

Fox’s research focuses on the formation of synapses in the central nervous system and, more specifically, on how neurons know where to grow and which connections to create. For example, recent studies by Fox’s laboratory have revealed clues as to the molecular cues that retinal nerves use to connect to the brain.

Aside from directing a successful research laboratory, the award’s selection committee considers an investigator’s entire body of work, including grants, teaching, and service to scientific societies.

“Even though the scientists considered for the award have been running their laboratories for only five to 10 years, they’ve all had papers published in prestigious journals such as Cell and Neuron,” said Fox. “It’s a very competitive award.”

“We were very fortunate to attract a leading young investigator of Mike Fox’s caliber and reputation who does groundbreaking research in the development of the brain’s visual processing circuits,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “This recognition of Mike by his peers in neurochemistry speaks directly to the growing international recognition of his original contributions to understanding the early formation and specificity of the brain’s cellular microcircuits.”

“Mike’s discoveries into how signaling molecules orchestrate the spatial and temporal refinement of the connections between the eye and brain are contributing to a much deeper understanding of how we develop,” Friedlander added. “This award brings recognition not just to his innovative work, but also to the entire scientific enterprise at the VTC Research Institute.”

Written by Ken Kingery