Ginger Withers and Chris Wallace, Dr. Robert F. Welty associate professors of biology, have received a $225,000 Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Division of Child Health and Development. The grant enables them to continue their cutting-edge research on dendrite growth in brain cells.

This is only the second time that Whitman has been awarded funding from the AREA program. The grant will provide money for Withers and Wallace to continue their research into how brain cells interact to promote the formation of synaptic connections between neurons. Because these connections are important for brain function, understanding their development is a significant human health issue. The impact of this grant on their research, said Withers, is tremendous.

“The kind of research that we do takes money, but funding from the NIH brings Whitman much more than just dollars to run a lab.”

The grant will enable Wallace and Withers to perform technically sophisticated analyses as well as to create new opportunities to involve students though thesis projects and summer internships.

“That balance between advancing our individual scholarship and training students is important to us,” said Wallace, noting the proposal submitted to NIH included preliminary data generated by former students.

Both professors noted the momentum at Whitman to integrate teaching and scholarship. The success of this grant reflects an exciting synergistic effort on campus by faculty, staff and students, they said.