Remembering neuroscientist Vivien Casagrande and statistician Dr. Warren Lambert

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D. and Edward "Warren" Lambert, Ph.D.

Neuroscientist Vivien Casagrande and statistician Dr. Warren Lambert are remembered for their exceptional contributions to their respective fields and to the work of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.

Casagrande recalled as neuroscience pillar, supportive mentor (by Bill Snyder)

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine noted for her contributions to the visual sciences, died peacefully at her home on Saturday, Jan. 21, surrounded by her husband, James Andrew “Mac” McKanna, and sons James and Paul McKanna. She was 74.

Known internationally for her contributions to evolutionary, developmental, and sensory systems neuroscience, Dr. Casagrande was a professor of Cell & Developmental Biology, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, and Psychology.

“She was a true pillar of our department for over 40 years,” said Ian Macara, Ph.D., Louise B. McGavock Professor and chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. “[She] gave her heart and soul to science. She has also been a good friend and a dedicated, supportive mentor to generations of her trainees. She will be deeply missed by us all.”

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D.

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D.

Dr. Casagrande earned her Ph.D. in physiological psychology from Duke University in 1973. After postdoctoral work at Duke and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Casagrande was appointed assistant professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1975.

She became a full professor in 1986 and also was an investigator in the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC). To view the VKC tribute to Dr. Casagrande, please use this link.

Dr. Casagrande was one of the first scientists to demonstrate that visual information is processed in distinct and functionally parallel streams. She is perhaps best known for discovering a third pathway in the primate visual system—a third distinct population of retinal ganglion cells—through which visual processing of form and motion occur.

By mapping visual circuitry in several primate species, she revealed clues to the evolution of the visual system and added greatly to current understanding of brain development and plasticity.

In the course of her research, Dr. Casagrande brought innovative technologies to Vanderbilt, including optical imaging of the cerebral cortex and multi-electrode recording, which helped her answer a broad range of questions about the organization of the visual system and the coding of visual information.

Her work helped reveal the origin of nearsightedness (myopia) and provided the mechanistic basis for diseases that cause blindness, including macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic neuropathy.

“Vivien has been a star researcher at Vanderbilt,” said Jon Kaas, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Distinguished Professor of Psychology, who knew Casagrande since her graduate school days. “She trained a number of neuroscientists, who became great in their own right, and they recognized that they had received the very best training. Most importantly, she made us all better and was key in developing the neuroscience community that we have here at Vanderbilt today. What a person and what a scientist. She will be remembered and greatly missed.”

Dr. Casagrande received numerous honors for her research, including the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists in 1981 and, from Vanderbilt University, the Charles R. Park Award in 2012 and a Chancellor’s Award for Research in 2013. She was a past president of the Cajal Club, the nation’s oldest neuroscience society, served twice as president of the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In addition to her research, Dr. Casagrande was instrumental in the creation of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at Vanderbilt, co-directed the medical school’s systems neuroscience course, and played an important role in the Vanderbilt Vision Research Center.

In November, Dr. Casagrande’s colleagues at Vanderbilt honored her distinguished career with a “Lifetime of Vision” symposium, a “fitting tribute” to her and to her community of fellow scientists, said Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., University Professor and Dean of Basic Sciences in the School of Medicine.

“Her legacy will live on,” Marnett said, “in the form of the Casagrande lecture and graduate student awards that she and Mac so generously endowed.”

Contributions in her honor may be made to the Vivien Casagrande Lecture & Scholarship in Systems Neurosciences; if you care to donate, please use this link. To allocate your gift to one of these funds, please make a note of the allocation preference (R#) in the special comments section of the online gift form.

  • Vivien Casagrande Scholarship in Systems Neuroscience (R16209) — To provide financial support based on need or merit for deserving graduate students studying and focused on research in systems neuroscience
  • Vivien Casagrande Lectureship in Systems Neuroscience (R16208) — To support annually the visit to Vanderbilt University of a distinguished systems neuroscientist for purpose of lecture

Remembering Dr. Lambert, statistician and friend (by Jan Rosemergy)

Edward “Warren” Lambert, Ph.D., age 71, passed away on January 13, 2017. Dr. Lambert was long-time statistical consultant at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) where he assisted countless VKC researchers and their graduate students and research assistants with complex quantitative issues.

“During his illness, I made sure that Warren knew how much we all appreciated his patience and wisdom as he taught us all things statistical,” said Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D., VKC director, Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair, and professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics. “Learning statistics from Warren was made all the easier because of his witty comments about life and academia, and his great sense of humor. I know that he took great delight in working closely with so many in our community.”

Dr. Lambert’s former Vanderbilt academic appointments included serving as senior research associate at Peabody College and as a senior associate in Biostatistics in the School of Medicine. He held a doctorate in clinical psychology from Indiana University Bloomington.

Warren Lambert, Ph.D.

(Right) Warren Lambert, Ph.D.

As assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Dr. Lambert began statistical consulting in 1980 by teaching two required statistics courses for doctoral students in clinical psychology. This provided an opportunity for him to develop skills in assisting non-experts to reason statistically, e.g., by using clinical examples and by teaching hands-on computer skills with SPSS and SAS.

Dr. Lambert was sought out by many VKC investigators because of his ability to communicate complex statistical applications to investigators needing specialized quantitative expertise. At Vanderbilt since 1992, he analyzed results for many large research projects and provided analytic plans. He was author or co-author of more than 70 peer-reviewed articles and over 17 peer-reviewed first-author publications, including articles in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Dr. Lambert was “the heart of the Statistics and Methodology Core” within the VKC Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center funded by NICHD, said Frank Harrell, Ph.D., professor and chair of Biostatistics, who directed the core for 10 years.

“Warren did great work as a statistician,” Harrell said. “To say that Warren was generous is a huge understatement. He helped a large number of investigators and trainees, and did it with a self-deprecating grace. In our core meetings, as well as all the other Kennedy Center meetings I attended with Warren, he made spirits bright and kept us going with his wry sense of humor. Losing him is a loss for all of us. What a fine man Warren was–a man who leaves behind a smile, a chuckle, and our appreciation for someone who was so very giving, considerate, and smart. I will always miss him.”

“Warren was first and foremost a teacher,” said Tedra Walden, Ph.D., professor of Psychology and VKC investigator. “When you walked into his office, you just wanted the answer. When you walked out, you had the tools to figure out what the answer was.”

“Warren was a friend, a confidant, a contributor, and a wonderful human being,” said Edward Conture, Ph.D., Vanderbilt professor emeritus of Hearing and Speech Sciences and VKC investigator. “Just look at the number of our publications he co-authored to drive home how important he was to our work. However, it wasn’t just the ‘amount’ of help he gave us, but the ‘way’ in which he gave it. The wit, the wisdom, a gentleman and a scholar. The mold was thrown away after Warren–we won’t see his like again; however, we are all the better for learning from, knowing, working, and laughing with him.”

Dr. Lambert loved to write, read (especially science fiction), do statistical research, and listen to classical music. A celebration of Dr. Lambert’s life was held on Thursday, January 19.

Dr. Lambert is survived by his wife, Dorothy “Dee” Lambert; niece, Terri Meyer and her husband Mike; grand nephews, Ryan and Douglas Meyer; sisters-in-law, Kathleen Kuperstock and her husband Stuart, and Barbara Jernigan.

Dee Lambert and the VKC would like to honor Dr. Lambert’s many contributions by supporting graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior investigators as they travel to professional conferences to present their work. If you care to donate, please use this link; on the Online or Mail-in forms, indicate that the gift is in memory of Dr. Lambert.

Bill Snyder is senior science writer, News and Communications, Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Jan Rosemergy is VKC deputy director and director of Communications and Dissemination.

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