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Lipscombe to lead Brown Institute for Brain Science next year

Neuroscience professor will take reins from John Donoghue Jan. 1

Professor of Neuroscience Diane Lipscombe will become interim director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science Jan. 1, when current director John Donoghue, professor of neuroscience, embarks on a year-long sabbatical in Switzerland, Provost Vicki Colvin and Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Jack Elias announced Friday.

Lipscombe’s 24 years at Brown have been “remarkable,” Colvin and Elias wrote in the announcement. For each of the last 20 years, Lipscombe has received funding from the National Institutes of Health for her research. She has also been recognized with awards such as the Graduate School’s Faculty Award for Advising and Mentoring in 2010 and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Graduate and Postdoctoral Teaching and Mentoring in the Biological Sciences in 2013, among others, they wrote.

Lipscombe began her career at Brown in 1990 and joined the Department of Neuroscience in 1993, after Donoghue formed it. Lipscombe was one of Donoghue’s first hires for the new department, she told The Herald, adding that they have always worked very well together. “I admire him tremendously, and I admire what he’s built,” she said.

She was an “obvious” choice for the position throughout the decision-making process due to her past involvement in leadership roles, Donoghue said. For example, she played an extensive role in the formation of the BIBS Center for Neurobiology of Cells and Circuits and has “clearly demonstrated that she has strong leadership skills,” he added.

Lipscombe said she and Donoghue plan to work together up until January and will remain in close contact throughout his sabbatical. “This ability to dovetail with John, to overlap with him, is really smart,” she said.

During this period, Lipscombe will accompany Donoghue to all of his meetings, and Donoghue will directly answer any questions that Lipscombe has to ensure a “smooth transition,” Donoghue said. This period will also allow Lipscombe the opportunity to meet all the people she needs to know, which is essential due to BIBS’ interdisciplinary nature, Donoghue said.

But while Lipscombe said she hopes to learn from Donoghue’s experience over the next few months, she is also excited to bring “fresh ideas” to the institute. Since her academic work differs from that of Donoghue’s, Lipscombe said she hopes to continue strengthening certain areas of study at the institute with which Donoghue has not been as involved.

“This is a very, very, very successful institute, but it can be even more successful,” she said.

The change will “bring new eyes to the whole BIBS mission,” Donoghue said, calling it “extremely healthy” for the institute. Many similar institutions purposefully restructure leadership for this reason, he added, noting that “renewal is a good thing.”

Lipscombe said she looks forward to using the skills she has developed throughout her career to work with the variety of centers and people associated with BIBS.

“For me, I can’t think actually for a better thing to do right now at Brown,” she said.


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