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Nurturing tomorrow's research leaders

Congratulations go to Cambridge Neuroscientist Molly Crockett, pictured right, who has recently been awarded a competitive Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship and will be exploring to what extent our altruistic inclinations are innate, arise out of habit, or are calculated. 

Ms Crockett is one of 18 outstanding researchers who have received one of the prestigious Fellowships from the Wellcome Trust. The Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowships provide £250 000 over four years so that researchers can pursue important biomedical research questions.

Humans have strong preferences for fairness and equality, and these preferences motivate altruistic behaviour. But what is it that makes us behave unselfishly towards others? Could neuroscience hold the answers? Molly Crockett, recipient of a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship, believes so.

Molly explains:

"my goal is to develop an updated account of human social preferences that considers reflexive and habitual, as well as goal- directed, contributions to prosocial behaviour".

She will combine sophisticated behavioural methods from animal learning theory and economics with advanced techniques in cognitive neuroscience including model-based fMRI, psychopharmacology and patient studies. Molly will begin conducting her research at the University of Zurich and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL (University College London) using the latest neuroscience tools to explore to what extent our altruistic inclinations are innate, arise out of habit, or are calculated.

Molly stated:

"This Fellowship will give me an unprecedented amount of independence at this stage in my career. I will use the Fellowship to work in several laboratories worldwide to learn different approaches to questions about human behaviour, from economics to neuroscience".

Molly is currently in the final stages of completing her PhD in the Department of Experimental Psychology and the Behavioural Clinical Neuroscience Institute here in Cambridge, working under the supervision of Cambridge Neuroscientists Dr. Luke Clark, pictured left and Prof. Trevor Robbins.

Molly explains:

"This Postdoctoral Fellowship opportunity would not have been possible without the fantastic training and support from my supervisors and the Cambridge Neuroscience community.  I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of a research environment that encourages creativity, collaboration, and cross-disciplinary thinking".

Molly anticipates to finish her PhD this September before taking up her new Award, and commented:

"I will be 'leaving the nest' for my postdoc and will no longer be formally affiliated with Cambridge though I will still have ongoing projects and collaborations here for some time".

Luke, Molly's Cambridge supervisor, is thrilled by Molly's achievement and accomplishments during both her PhD project here and in gaining this highly competitive Award, stating:

"Molly has successfully negotiated a very challenging career step, of taking the skills and ideas that she acquired through her PhD, and having the vision to develop them even further to approach some of the fundamental issues in human behaviour. In leaving Cambridge, she will now collaborate with several other international centres of excellence in this exciting area that blends cognitive neuroscience, social psychology and behavioural economics".

Dr Candy Hassall, who oversees the Fellowship programme at the Wellcome Trust commented:

"The Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship has helped us identify and nurture extraordinary early-career scientists in fields as diverse as neuroscience, molecular biology and infectious disease,"

Many of those funded to date have already made important discoveries and we look forward to the ongoing success of the Fellows in the future."

Molly's Award was made in the fourth round of the annual Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowships. The competition for the 2011 Fellowships is due to open on 30 July 2010. The Fellowships are intended to provide the support and flexibility necessary to foster a new generation of research leaders, allowing them to pursue independent careers, working with some of the world's leading scientists in the UK and overseas. For further information please click here.

Article by Dr. Hannah Critchlow, Cambridge Neuroscience Strategic Manager.

Posted on 29/07/2010

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