Alumna Megan Dennis recipient of the NIH Director’s Innovator Award

Congratulations are in order for NIH OxCam alumna Megan Dennis! She was selected for the NIH Director’s Innovator Award. “This program supports exceptionally innovative researchers who have the potential to transform the biomedical field,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “[He is] confident this new cohort will revolutionize our approaches to biomedical research through their groundbreaking work.” Chosen as one of 89 grants awarded to extraordinarily creative scientists, Dr. Megan Dennis has been awarded $1.5M for her project Function of Duplicated Genes in Human Brain Evolution and Disease.

Dr. Megan Dennis joined the faculty at the UC Davis MIND Institute and the Genome Center as an assistant professor of medicine, exploring the underlying causes of neurological disorders. She received a bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Engineering from Michigan State University and a joint Ph.D./D.Phil. in Human Genetics from NIH/NHGRI and the University of Oxford, where she worked with Dr. Eric Green and Dr. Anthony Monaco on the genetics of dyslexia. Dr. Dennis continued as a post doc with Dr. Evan Eichler at the University of Washington, where she characterized complex genomic structural variation and its role in human evolution and neurological disorders. 

Through her experience in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program, Megan has attributed much of her independence, innovation, and communication skills through having to manage a thesis project between the US and the UK. “The diverse training environment of the graduate program enabled me to succeed as a post doc and, ultimately, land an assistant professor position,” said Megan. These experiences have propelled her to dive into research areas outside of her expertise, reach out to collaborators and experts to pursue diverse research endeavors, and embrace new technologies.

In addition to winning numerous prizes including the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award through NICHD, the NIH Pathway to Independence Award from NINDS, and a Sloan Research Fellowship in Neuroscience, Dr. Dennis is dedicated to the advancement of diversity in higher education. Her lab actively works with students in the greater Sacramento community to teach genetics and neuroscience through workshops at local high schools. Additionally, in her three years as an assistant professor, she has mentored as many of nineteen trainees from diverse backgrounds, the majority of which were women and/or individuals from historically underrepresented backgrounds. “As a first-generation college grad, I hope to give trainees the same opportunities that helped me successfully navigate my way through a research career,” stated Megan. Striving for inclusion and diversity, Dr. Dennis is surely a scientist to watch. We see a bright future for Megan and are thankful she is recognized for such achievements.