Diana Bautista receives Young Investigator Award from neuroscience society

The Society for Neuroscience today (Monday, Nov. 17) presented one of two new Young Investigator Awards to Diana Bautista, UC Berkeley associate professor of molecular and cell biology, at the society’s annual meeting in Washington, DC.


Diana Bautista, associate professor of molecular and cell biology.

The $15,000 award recognizes “outstanding achievements and contributions by a young neuroscientist who has recently received his or her advanced professional degree,” according to a statement from the society.

A second Young Investigator Award went to Feng Zhang, an assistant professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Drs. Zhang and Bautista are two young neuroscientists who have demonstrated remarkable dedication to their work,” said society President Carol Mason. “Their creative research is advancing their respective fields, and their commitment to helping other scientists succeed is an inspiration to us all.”

Bautista is interested in how the body detects and responds to the surrounding environment. As a graduate student at Stanford University, she studied store-operated calcium channels, while as a postdoc she investigated TRP ion channels in the membranes of sensory neurons that are activated by stimuli such as cold.

While at UC Berkeley, Bautista has uncovered cellular mechanisms of itch that do not rely on the chemical histamine. Such findings may one day lead to novel treatments that block this mechanism, offering relief to patients with chronic itch that is insensitive to traditional antihistamine treatments. Bautista is widely recognized for her dedication to furthering the education of young and underrepresented scientists.

Zhang also was a graduate student at Stanford, where he was instrumental in advancing the development of optogenetic technology, which allows researchers to manipulate genetically modified neurons using light. He now develops new tools that modify the genome of animals so he can test whether such variations contribute to psychiatric disease.

The award was established in 1983 and is supported by AstraZeneca.