Neuroscientist Vanessa Ruta, a Class of 2000 graduate of Hunter College, has been named a 2019 MacArthur Fellow, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today. Selected for their brilliant creativity and originality, track record of significant accomplishments, and immense future potential, Ruta and the 25 other new Fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached $625,000 grant distributed over five years. The grants are awarded annually to writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs and other innovators.
Ruta’s fellowship follows the 2015 “Genius” grant awarded to Hunter College High School alumnus Lin-Manuel Miranda, and the 2016 and 2017 “Genius” grants awarded, respectively, to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Annie Baker, the theatre artists who co-directed Hunter’s Rita & Burton Goldberg MFA in Playwriting Program from 2017 to 2019.
Ruta’s award recognizes her for investigating how stimuli in the physical world shape the function of neural circuits and are translated into innate and learned behaviors. She is the previous recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship and a Pew Scholarship in the Biomedical Sciences, two top prizes supporting the work of outstanding researchers early in their careers.
“We are so proud of Vanessa,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “We’re especially delighted that she credits Hunter’s science faculty and research culture—and her own work in Hunter’s chemistry and biology labs—with helping her define her interest in neuroscience and supporting her pursuit of graduate education. Her achievements are an inspiration to the future scientists now studying at Hunter.”
Ruta received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College and went on to receive her PhD from The Rockefeller University. She was a postdoctoral researcher and an associate research scientist at Columbia University before returning to The Rockefeller University in 2011, where she is currently the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Associate Professor, heading the Laboratory of Neurophysiology and Behavior. Her work has been published in the scientific journals Cell, Nature, and Neuron, among others.
To learn more about Vanessa Ruta’s work in neuroscience, read her biography and watch a video about her research, visit the MacArthur Foundation website.