Henry Grass, MD Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award

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2023 Rising Stars Award winner Hector Arciniega
Dr. Hector Arciniega

The Trustees are delighted to accounce that they have awarded the 2023 Henry Grass, M.D., Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award to Dr. Hector Arciniega, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dr. Arciniega’s graduate research focused on investigating the time course of recovery and degree of rehabilitation from concussion using behavioral, neuropsychological, electroencephalogram (EEG), and resting state fMRI approaches. In his postdoctoral position at the Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory, Dr. Arciniega is studying the cognitive and neural consequences that follow repetitive head impacts in former American football players using data from the DIAGNOSE-CTE Research Project using neuropsychological, neruopsychiatric, strucutural MRI, diffusion MRI, and resting state fMRI data.


In addition, the Trustees were pleased to make two Trustee Recognition Awards, to:

2023 Trustee Recognition Award winner Jessica Thomas
Dr. Jessica Thomas



Dr. Jessica Thomas, a postdoctoral researcher at Vanderbilt University, whose research involves researching how alterations in CaMKII expression and activity impact tactile behaviors to contribute to social and motor impairments in a mouse model of Autism. In addition, she is interested in how CaMKII shapes touch circuits in the central nervous system.



2023 Trustee Recognition Award winner Jessica Tsai
Dr. Jessica Tsai



Dr. Jessica Tsai, an Instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, an Attending Physician in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital, and a post-doctoral research fellow at Dana-Farber. Dr. Tsai studies oncogenic mechanisms underlying pediatric brain tumors, in particular diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma and low grade gliomas.



The Trustees also awarded Grass Foundation Achievement Awards to:

  • Dr. Marissa Co
  • Dr. Lisa Hiura
  • Dr. Kenyi Saito-Diaz
  • Dr. Supraja Vardarajan
  • Dr. Hannah Wirtshafter, and
  • Dr. Chuchu Zhang.

These awards recognize the excellence of scientific research and inspiring promotion of diversity of these postdoctoral neuroscientists! Congratulations to all of the award winners, and thank you to everyone who took the time to apply for the 2023 Henry Grass, M.D., Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award! Applications for a 2024 Rising Stars award will be accepted beginning in fall 2023, at a date to be determined. Please check this page, or the Foundation’s twitter account, for updates.

In 2022, the Trustees awarded two Henry Grass, M.D., Rising Stars Awards!

Dr. Valerie Darcey
Dr. Valerie Darcey

Dr. Valerie Darcey, PhD, MS, RD is a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the United States National Institutes of Health. Dr. Darcey is a neuroscientist and Registered Dietitian interested in how what we eat influences the brain activity and neurochemistry behind impulse control. Though her human neuroimaging studies using techniques like fMRI, MRS, and PET, Dr. Darcey demonstrates the link between omega-3 fatty acids, impulse control and prefrontal function in typically developing adolescents as well as the effect of reduced fat diets on increasing dopamine tone and palatable food choice in adults with obesity.

Dr. Darcey was a participant at the 64th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Physiology or Medicine, a 2021 Intersections Science Symposium Fellow and was awarded and NIH/NIDDK Pathway to Independence Award.



Dr. Freddyson Martinez-Rivera
Dr. Freddyson Martinez-Rivera


Dr. Freddyson Martinez-Rivera is a postdoctoral researcher in the Nash Family Department of Neuroscience, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Dr. Martinez-Rivera studies the behavioral, cellular and transcriptional processes of drug-associated memories. He combines the drug self-administration paradigm in rodents with RNA-sequencing, chemogenetics, electrophysiology, pharmacology and viral-mediated gene transfer approaches to characterize the neurobehavioral features of maladaptive seeking behaviors. In addition to the Henry Grass, M.D., Rising Stars in Neuroscience award, Freddyson has been recipient of several recognitions including the Neuroscience Scholar Program fellowship (SFN-NSP), ACNP travel award, CDI for Psychiatry award, and a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01-NIDA). He enjoys participating in enrichment and diversity activities at Mount Sinai and he treasures the time with his friends and family, in particular with his wife and twin children.



In addition, the Trustees were pleased to award five 2022 Trustee Recognition Awards, to:

  • Brionna Davis-Reyes
  • Kelsie Eichel
  • Anel Jaramillo
  • Shan Meltzer, and
  • Heather Snell;

as well as Grass Foundation Achievement Awards to:

  • Sweta Agrawal
  • Yanaira Alonso Caraballo
  • Tahra Eissa
  • Maria Gonzalez-Gonzalez
  • Barbara Juarez
  • Annie Park
  • Monica Santisteban
  • Valerie Tornini
  • Anna Vlasits
  • Lauren Walker, and
  • Hannah Wirtshafter.

All of these awards recognize scientific excellence and inspiring promotion of diversity in the field of neuroscience!

The inaugural 2021 winner, Nancy Padilla-Coreano, is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida.

Nancy Padilla-Coreano
Nancy Padilla-Coreano, 2021 winner of the Henry Grass, MD, Rising Stars in Neuroscience Award

In 2021, the Trustees awarded eight Trustee Recognition Awards, to:

  • Sweta Agrawal
  • Shana Augustin
  • Julio Chapeton
  • Yasmine-Marie Cissé
  • Kelsie Eichel
  • Kara Marshall
  • Caroline Palavicino-Maggio, and
  • Michael Wells.

Resources to learn more about diversity in neuroscience:




If you have questions, please contact info@grassfoundation.org.