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NIDCD Grantee Wins Presidential Early Career Award

NIDCD grantee Alfredo Fontanini, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y., received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), as announced by President Obama in November.

Alfredo Fontanini, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Fontanini is a recipient of the PECASE Award,
the highest honor by the U.S. government to young
scientists and engineers.

Dr. Fontanini's research focuses on how the processing and perception of taste is affected by prior experiences and emotions. He studies neuron activity in sensory and emotional areas of the rodent brain, trying to understand how much of taste sensation is predetermined by expectation and what part is due to the actual stimulus. His research may help us better understand the neural basis behind food preferences and selection choices, in addition to understanding the role expectation plays in addictions and mood disorders.

The PECASE award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government upon outstanding scientists and engineers in the early part of their independent research careers. Established in 1996 by President Clinton, the PECASE is intended to recognize researchers who show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge. The award helps support the continued development of the winners and fosters innovative and far-reaching developments in science and technology.

“I am very honored and humbled to receive such an important award,” said Dr. Fontanini. “Besides the personal satisfaction, I feel a great debt of gratitude toward my mentors, my collaborators, my colleagues in the field of chemosensation, and last but not least, NIDCD. This award is a tremendous stimulus to continue our research on the relationship between expectation, emotion, and taste processing and it is a big opportunity for my lab to push toward more and more innovative and ambitious directions.”

Nominated by the NIDCD for his prior work and community service, Dr. Fontanini is one of 18 NIH grantees and two intramural scientists to receive the award this year. A total of 85 scientists and engineers will be honored during a ceremony at the White House at a later date.

Alfredo Fontanini received his M.D. and Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Brescia Medical School in Italy. He has received several additional prestigious fellowships and awards, and is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the Association for Chemoreception Sciences. Read more about Dr. Fontanini's research and visit his laboratory's website.