NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar wins MacArthur Fellowship

dani bassett
Dr. Dani Bassett

The International Biomedical Research Alliance is proud to congratulate a remarkable NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program graduate, Danielle Bassett (nee Perry), on her recent acceptance to the MacArthur Fellows Program.  The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation’s “no strings attached” award is made directly to individuals rather than through institutions.  Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out over five years.  Typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. In 1981 when the first class of fellows was named, the media coined the nickname “Genius Grant” to describe the fellowship.

Home-schooled from age 4 through high school, Dani received her B.S. (2004) from Pennsylvania State University and was a member of Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College. She received a Certificate of Postgraduate Study (2005) from the University of Cambridge through a Winston Churchill Scholarship and Ph.D. (2009) from the University of Cambridge through the Alliance supported NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program where her research in Meyer-Lindenberg’s NIMH lab focused on the human brain, particularly involving alterations in neural circuitry underlying psychiatric disease.  At Cambridge, her mentors were Professor Thomas Duke (now deceased) in Physics and Professor Edward Bullmore in Experimental Psychology. She was a postdoctoral associate (2009–2011) and a Sage Junior Research Fellow (2011–2013) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, before joining the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where she is currently the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in the Departments of Bioengineering and Electrical & Systems Engineering.  She is considered is one of the foremost investigators of neural networks designed to understand how humans think.

It is important to note that Dani completed her Ph.D. in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program in just under the average time to completion rate of 4.0 years. When asked about Dani and the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program, mentor Dr. Ed Bullmore noted that “The quality of the students in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program is truly outstanding. These are some of the smartest young people at the start of their careers in science and it is a privilege to work with them. But even by the exalted standards of this program, Dani Bassett was exceptional. She was remarkably productive, scientifically innovative and efficiently focused. She wrote some terrific papers herself in Cambridge and she was also a generous and effective collaborator and guide to other students in the lab. I was very proud but not very surprised when she won the MacArthur award. I think the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program deserves a lot of credit for creating a unique opportunity for highly talented people like Dani to make a flying start to their lives in science and medicine.”