June 20, 2024

Hilary Marusak, Ph.D., wins Rosalind Franklin Society Special Award in Science for endocannabinoid research

Wayne State University School of Medicine Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences Hilary Marusak, Ph.D., is among the scientists honored this year with the Rosalind Franklin Society’s 2023 Awards in Science, which recognizes outstanding peer-reviewed research by women and underrepresented minorities in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Assistant Professor Hilary Marusak, Ph.D., is also an alumna of the School of Medicine's Translational Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Dr. Marusak directs the Trauma History Investigation of Neurodevelopment in Kids, or THINK lab, at WSU, which focuses on characterizing the impact of stress and trauma during childhood on brain development in children and adolescents, as well as, neurodevelopmental mechanisms leading to anxiety and other “fear-based” disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“As someone who values mentorship and strives to encourage the next generation of women and underrepresented groups in science, it is a tremendous honor to receive this award,” Dr. Marusak said. “This recognition reflects the achievements of each member of my fantastic team at the THINK lab. Their dedication and commitment have advanced our understanding of the neurodevelopmental underpinnings of psychiatric and substance use disorders in youth. Moreover, they have worked tirelessly to translate their science into tangible impacts on both the Detroit community and the scientific community at large.”

An anthology of the winners will be released July 24 in honor of Rosalind Franklin's birthday, digitally on the Rosalind Franklin Society website and in print. The anthology includes a biography of each winner and an abstract of their selected work.

RFS, in partnership with Mary Ann Liebert Inc., launched the awards three years ago for the best paper by a woman or underrepresented minority in science in each of the publisher’s more than 100 peer-reviewed journals to highlight the important contributions of the scientists.

“Our team is large, female-led and diverse, not only in terms of backgrounds and cultures but also in scientific perspectives, including psychology, neuroscience, computer science, medicine and social work. I am grateful every day for their research, community outreach and volunteer efforts, which significantly contribute to bettering our communities. I am incredibly proud of them,” Dr. Marusak said.

The award specifically recognizes the best paper published in 2023 in each of the journals.

Dr. Marusak was nominated for the award by University of California at Irvine Distinguished Professor and Chair in Neurosciences Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D.

“Hilary's work is groundbreaking, offering new perspectives on neurodevelopment and mental health. She is a deserving candidate for the RFS Award, exemplifying excellence in scientific research and communication,” Dr. Piomelli said.

Dr. Marusak was recognized her for two recent publications in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

 “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Exercise on the Endocannabinoid System” highlighted how exercise boosts endocannabinoid signaling, potentially explaining at least some of its mental health benefits. The second, “Impact of Childhood Trauma, Genetic Variation in Endocannabinoid Signaling, and Anxiety on Frontolimbic Pathways in Children,” used data from the nationwide Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study of more than 10,000 youth to reveal the impact of genetic variation on the cannabinoid system and trauma on youth white matter pathways, shedding light on anxiety development and potential intervention targets.

The Rosalind Franklin Society was established in 2007 by Mary Ann Liebert, founder and chair of Mary Ann Liebert Inc., an independent publisher of scientific, technical and medical content, now in its 44th year. The society is named for a British X-ray crystallographer whose work is considered central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, ribonucleic acid, viruses, coal and graphite. Her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA in particular were largely unrecognized in her lifetime.

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