Scientist Colón-Ramos wins prestigious Early Career Award

Daniel Colón-Ramos, assistant professor of cell biology at the Yale University School of Medicine, has been named a recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. The organization recognized Colón-Ramos’ “commitment as an early career scientist eager to share his enthusiasm for science.”

Established in 2010, the award recognizes the achievements of individual early-career scientists and engineers who have demonstrated significant contributions to public engagement activities while simultaneously pursuing a research career.

Colón-Ramos founded the Ciencia Puerto Rico, LLC, in his native Puerto Rico. The organization provides a “virtual collaborative space” to bring together geographically dispersed members of the Puerto Rican scientific community. The organization has expanded and now promotes informal science education and outreach activities to lay audiences in Spanish-language media. Recent efforts include a book about science and Puerto Rico for young audiences and the first science podcasting channel in Puerto Rico.

“We all have a ‘scientific instinct,’ an innate curiosity, a need to know, which is a basic human trait,” Colón-Ramos said. “Connecting with other people through that shared interest is one of my biggest joys.”

In his research, Colón-Ramos studies the C. elegans nematode, and uses the latest microscopy technology to watch neurons locate a target and form precise synaptic connections, resulting in the neural circuits that underlie human behavior. The C. elegans system allows Colón-Ramos to visualize synapse development in vivo with single-cell resolution. Using this system, his team has discovered that glial cells are required for the assembly of behavioral circuits in the brain

The award will be presented at the 178th annual AAAS meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada being held Feb. 16-20.

View video of Daniel Colón-Ramos discussing his research.