Tatiana Pasternak, Ph.D., professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has been elected secretary of the Society for Neuroscience, one of the largest science societies in the world with more than 41,000 members.
Pasternak is one of three people elected this year to help lead the organization, together with a small group of elected councilors and other officers elected in the two past years. She will assume her post as secretary-elect at the organization’s annual meeting Oct. 12 in New Orleans and will be part of the group’s leadership for three years.
The Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to advancing understanding of the brain and nervous system. The society’s major event is its annual meeting, where a small city of brain-savvy people – usually about 30,000 scientists – converge to swap the latest findings about the brain from around the world, educating their peers, and devising new ways to keep the public informed about the rapidly changing field. Putting together the meeting in a way that serves the thousands of attendees the most is one of the major tasks of the society’s leadership.
One of the society’s goals is to consider ways to convey the importance of brain research to the public and to legislators, so that public support to tackle diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and multiple sclerosis does not wane. Another goal is to sustain the high quality of the organization’s journal, the Journal of Neuroscience.
“How the Society for Neuroscience operates affects every neuroscientist in the nation and many scientists around the world,” said Pasternak. “What the society does has a direct impact on what we learn about the brain, and what we do with that information, which affects everyone. It’s an honor to be elected to help lead this organization.”
Pasternak has been deeply involved with the society for more than a decade, leading a committee that spots talented neuroscientists for leadership posts and furthers their careers while also developing their skills for future contributions to the field of neuroscience.
Pasternak is an expert on the neural basis of cognition – how the brain works and what happens at a very basic cellular level to allow us to remember and to make decisions based on what our senses are telling us. She studies in exquisite detail how the brain makes sense of vast amounts of information to make such thinking and acting possible. Her work on cognitive function helps scientists better understand the part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, that plays a role in diseases like schizophrenia, depression, and attention-deficit disorder. She frequently leads discussions about the brain and cognition at prestigious gatherings known as Gordon Conferences.
A neurophysiologist by training, Pasternak is a graduate of the University of Warsaw, the Polish Institute of Experimental Biology, and the University of Copenhagen. She has been on the University faculty since 1983 and holds appointments in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Throughout her time at Rochester she has been a core member of the Center for Visual Science, one of the leading centers for the study of vision in the world. She is also a founding member of the Vision Science Society and served as its president for two years.