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November 30, 2016

SVSU professor receives national neuroscience honor

Jeff SmithA Saginaw Valley State University educator has earned accolades from colleagues nationally for his commitment to support and empower students with research opportunities.

Jeffrey Smith, SVSU’s Malcolm & Lois Field Endowed Chair of Health Sciences, received the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience’s (FUN) Service Award, given to individuals who contribute to the development of the national organization and its mission of advancing neuroscience studies.

Smith received the award Sunday, Nov. 13, when he attended the Society for Neuroscience’s annual conference in San Diego.

He was nominated in part by students such as Zackary Bowers, an SVSU psychology major from Freeland. He said Smith’s leadership encourages an academic curiosity that enables students to succeed in classrooms and research laboratories alike.

“With Jeff, finding your passion in neuroscience is what matters,” Bowers said. “As long as you are willing to work hard, he will work twice as hard to provide you with opportunities.”

Bowers has experienced Smith’s empowering impact first-hand. This year, Bowers attended two national conferences to present research conducted with Smith’s help in the SVSU Brain Research Lab. Bowers received an Undergraduate Student Outstanding Poster Award from among 180 poster presentations at the Michigan Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience conference in May.

“He demonstrates, on a national scale, how our faculty are willing to go above and beyond for undergraduate education and the societies which support them,” Bowers said.

One of the societies Smith supports includes FUN, which Smith first joined in 1999. From 2013-15, he served in various leadership roles for the group, including as its president.

Lisa Gabel, another former FUN president, was one of the individuals who presented the Service Award to Smith in San Diego.

“For Jeff, it is all about the students,” said Gabel, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

“He worked tirelessly to develop lasting relationships with our sponsors to increase the number of travel awards we are able to offer to exceptional students to attend the Society for Neuroscience meeting. Jeff is dedicated to the development of undergraduate research and has provided the opportunity for SVSU undergrads to participate and lead award-winning projects that are presented at national conferences and ultimately published in peer-reviewed journals.”

Smith joined SVSU in 2010; he completed a Ph.D. at Emory University. He called receiving the award “a tremendous honor.”

“FUN is a great organization,” he said. “It’s not just an organization dedicated to research; members are very supportive of each other and are active in helping each other become better teacher and better practitioners of neuroscience.”

In 2016, SVSU added a neuroscience major to the curriculum. It features teaching and research activities of faculty members from the departments of biology, chemistry, health sciences and psychology.