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Gonzalo E. Torres, PhD

Principle Investigator

Dr. Torres is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Sciences at the CUNY School of Medicine. Before taking a Chair position, Dr. Torres was Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Assistant Dean of Diversity and Health Equity, Director of diversity programs for the NIH-sponsored Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), and Director of Diversity for the Pharmacology and Therapeutics PhD graduate program at the University of Florida College of Medicine. 

In this capacity, Dr. Torres developed strategies to increase diversity in the Biomedical PhD program and as a result, under-represented student representation increased from 8% in 2015 to 30% in 2017. Dr. Torres received the Presidential Early Career Award under President Barak Obama, as well as several other honors, including the International Society for Neurochemistry Young Scientist Lecture Award (2004), the NARSAD Young Investigator Award (2006-2008), and the 2010 ASPET-ASTELLAS Award for Translational Pharmacology. In 2010, he was named an Emerging Scholar by the Diverse Issues in Higher Education Magazine. Dr. Torres has also demonstrated his commitment and interest in improving inclusion in both recruitment and retention in biological sciences through leadership roles at the national level, including serving as a member and Chair of Diversity Committees for both the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) and the Society for Neuroscience. He has helped to organize diversity committees that develop strategies for attracting more students of color to PhD programs in science and has been active in Career Opportunities in Research, SACNAS, and ABRCMS conferences. His research program investigates the regulation of brain dopamine and the molecular actions of psychostimulants and has been funded by NIDA since 2000.​


Genene Holt, PhD


Dr. Holt’s is currently Associate Professor and Director of the MS Program in Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Holt’s research examines ascending brainstem circuits and intrinsic molecular targets affected by noise induced damage of auditory and vestibular afferents.  The research program focuses on a) developing objective measures of hearing and vestibular dysfunction and b) Identifying novel therapeutic targets for prevention and treatment of hearing and vestibular disorders.  

To understand the biological basis of dysfunction in these pathways, Dr. Holt investigate behavioral, neuronal, molecular, and biochemical, data related to ion channels and neurotransmission. Specifically, Dr. Holt investigates the relationship between afferent fiber function and neuronal activity in central pathways related to posture and balance.  Her assessment combines chemogenetics and molecular genetics with in vivo methods that are can be translated to the clinic.  Dr. Holt has served in a leadership capacity for professional organizations to develop and implement diversity equity and inclusion programming relevant to their membership.


Tracy Baust, BA, CCRC

Program Manager

Ms Baust, the MINDS Program Coordinator, is also the Program Coordinator for Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Care at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Clinical Research Coordinator in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She has a background in human genetics, public health, neuroscience and clinical research. Over the past 20 years she has served as a research specialist, laboratory manager, clinical research coordinator, and now as program coordinators for clinical educational, and

research programs at both the University of Pittsburgh and CUNY. Ms. Baust has been part of the MINDS and CURA programs since its inception, and attends all the workshop and Advisory Board meetings, ensuring that the arrangements and that the events go smoothly. She is also in permanent contact with all participants, especially the Fellows. Prior to these events, she works closely with the directors to establish the agendas and select the materials to be provided. She also works closely with Fellows as needed, including overseeing the enrichment activities.


Michael J. Zigmond, PhD

Past Co-Director

Dr. Zigmond is Professor Emeritus of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. He began developing and leading professional development workshops in his capacity as the director of an NIH-funded training program in neuroscience at the university in 1985. This experience led him to establish the original “Survival Skills and Ethics Program” at the University, from which the current proposal eventually emerged. Dr. Zigmond has been actively involved in interdisciplinary training for more than 40 years. In 1986, he coordinated a survey of neuroscience 

training programs in North America for the Association of Neuroscience Departments and Programs (ANDP) (see Zigmond and Spear, 1992), and in 1990-91, he was president of that organization. In 1991, Dr. Zigmond introduced a program of professional development and ethics to a summer minority training at the Marine Biology Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA and continued to direct that program through 1995. He was Secretary of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) from 1994-96, served as the chair of the original SfN committee to establish guidelines for preparing research papers, and introduced a 11⁄2 - day workshop on professional skills and research ethics at just prior to the annual SfN meeting that ran from for more than 20 years until integrated into the meeting itself He has served on many NIH study sections for research and training proposals, on the Institute of Medicine Committee on Assessing Integrity in Research Environments, and on the National Academy of Sciences committee that wrote On Being a Scientist. Dr. Zigmond has received several awards, including NIH Career Awards and a MERIT award from NIMH, the Education Award from the ANDP, an award for contributions to education from the government of Senegal, and the Saltpeter award for lifetime achievements in research and mentoring from the SfN. 



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