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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Role Named NINDS Scientific Director

Dr. Lorna Role

Dr. Lorna Role

Dr. Lorna Role was recently named scientific director at NINDS. She officially joined the institute in February. She will oversee NINDS’s Intramural Research Program, which consists of 1,015 employees working in 48 labs on the NIH campus. 

Before coming to NINDS, she was a SUNY distinguished professor and chair of the department of neurobiology and behavior at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (SBU).

Role received a B.A. in applied mathematics and earned a Ph.D. in physiology from Harvard University. 

After completing her postdoctoral training with Dr. Gerald Fischbach, who served as NINDS director from 1998-2001, she became an assistant professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1985. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1992 and full professor in 1996. 

In 2008, Role became professor and chair of the department of neurobiology and behavior at SBU and, in 2016, she was named a SUNY distinguished professor.

The focus of Role’s research has been on the brain’s cholinergic system over the lifespan. Cholinergic signaling is essential for attention, cognitive processing and memory and is compromised in neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She has been the principal investigator on numerous NIH-funded grants, supported continuously since 1982, and the recipient of an NINDS Javits award. She has published more than 100 scientific articles. Throughout her career at both Columbia University and SBU, Role has mentored more than 50 postdoctoral fellows, graduate and medical students and nearly 20 undergraduate students. 

Role has also earned numerous awards and honors, including being named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 and a fellow in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in 2009. She received three separate awards from the McKnight Foundation at different stages of her career and was twice named a distinguished investigator by the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, now the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. 

In 2010, she received the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, which is granted to extremely creative researchers proposing innovative strategies for solving big problems in medical research.  

Role replaces Dr. Alan Koretsky, who had served as NINDS scientific director since 2006.

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