Jennifer Bizon, Ph.D., chair of the UF College of Medicine department of neuroscience and an expert in brain aging, has been appointed director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida.
“Dr. Bizon is a brilliant researcher and a proven leader within our neuroscience and neuromedicine community,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “She has played a big role in the growth and expansion of McKnight Brain Institute programs and in facilitating cross-disciplinary research collaborations, and I am thrilled to appoint her as the next director of the MBI.”
Bizon succeeds Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., who served as McKnight Brain Institute, or MBI, director from 2016 to 2022 and is currently the director of Emory University’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease.
Since 2017, Bizon has served in key leadership roles at the MBI as a member of the UF Health Neuroscience and Neuromedicine Executive Committee and as co-chair of the MBI’s Education and Outreach Committee, which has provided new avenues for trainees and faculty members to boost their careers.
“I’m honored to be chosen to lead the MBI, which has been a catalyst for innovative neuroscience and neuromedicine research collaborations across UF’s campus and beyond,” Bizon said. “I look forward to working with everyone in our research community to take the institute’s momentum to even greater heights.”
As chair of the department of neuroscience, Bizon oversees an annual grant portfolio of over $21 million, and the department is ranked No. 5 nationally in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Within the UF College of Medicine, she’s helped create a college-wide mentoring program and serves as co-chair of the compensation committee and chair of the promotion and tenure committee.
“Dr. Bizon has been instrumental in driving several key initiatives at our college that have made an immediate impact on faculty and trainees,” said Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “She is the ideal leader at the ideal time to take on this role at the MBI, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.”
Bizon is a National Institute on Aging-funded principal investigator whose research expertise includes the exploration of neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive decline in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Her long-term research goal is to identify strategies and interventions aimed at promoting cognitive resilience at advanced ages. She has published more than 90 peer-reviewed articles, mentored over 15 graduate and postdoctoral trainees and been named both a UF Term Professor and a UF Research Foundation Professor. She is a fellow of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program and has served as co-director of UF’s Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory Clinical Translational Research since 2019.
A native of Burlington, North Carolina, Bizon earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a doctorate in neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
Prior to her arrival at UF in 2010, Bizon spent seven years as a psychology professor at Texas A&M University, where she was vice chair of the Neuroscience Executive Committee. She was recruited to UF as part of an initiative to expand the university’s research in cognitive aging, supported by the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, which provided a $15 million gift to UF in 2000, leading to the institute’s renaming. Founded in 1999 by Evelyn F. McKnight, the foundation supports research specifically to better understand and alleviate age-related cognitive decline and memory loss.
“With cognitive changes due to the normal aging process affecting nearly 87% of the population, our goal as the McKnight Brain Research Foundation is to translate laboratory discoveries into clinical practice in order to better understand the mysteries of the aging brain and help people achieve a lifetime of cognitive health,” said Michael L. Dockery, M.D., chair, McKnight Brain Research Foundation. “Dr. Bizon is an internationally known cognitive aging research scientist and the perfect choice to lead the MBI in these efforts.”
Opened in 1998, the MBI is a nexus for neuroscience and neuromedicine research at UF, with more than 200 scientists and physician-investigators working in cross-disciplinary collaborations across campus and with the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health to reveal new understanding of the brain. Collectively, these investigators seek to make a difference for those who suffer from disorders of the brain including neurodegenerative diseases, brain cancers, addictive and psychiatric diseases, stroke, sensory system disorders, acute spinal cord injuries and brain injuries, as well as memory loss associated with normal aging.
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