Vanderbilt Kennedy Center hosts first-ever virtual Science Day; winners announced

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The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) held its annual Science Day on Friday, Nov. 5. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s annual gathering was held virtually, with all poster presenters recording their presentations for advance viewing on a dedicated Science Day website, https://scienceday.vkcsites.org.

Participants submitted their work weeks in advance, some choosing to participate in competition to win one of seven Warren Lambert Memorial Awards, in the form of either a cash prize or additional travel funds to present at an upcoming professional conference. New this year, additional prizes were available for top presentations that exemplified the use of plain, accessible language, demonstrated interdisciplinary/multi-lab collaboration, and featured research focusing on diverse populations.

Science Day participants welcomed Brian Boyd, Ph.D., to give year’s keynote lecture, “Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research.” Boyd serves as director of the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project and professor Department of Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas.

The dual pandemics of COVID-19 and racism have served as stark reminders of longstanding inequities in our society. These pandemics have exacerbated disparities for more vulnerable and marginalized groups, including those occupying the intersection of race and disability. This is also true for the ongoing disparities in autism that we must reckon with and that have contributed to differential access to a timely diagnosis, experiences with services, and ultimately worse outcomes for children and families who are racially and linguistically diverse. Boyd’s presentation addressed how structural racism and implicit bias have likely contributed to these disparities as well as pose potential solutions and next steps for the field to address these vexing issues.

Following Boyd’s lecture, six exceptional presenters rapidfire lightning talks highlighting their research. This year’s VKC Data Blitz presenters (and links to their pre-recorded presentations) are:

After the Data Blitz, the Science Day participants moved into breakout rooms for four 30-minute breakout sessions based on poster topics. Closing out Science Day was the announcement of the winners of the Science Day Competition. Prizes were given for top Graduate and Postdoc presenters from each of the three Science Day themes (listed below), and, typically, one Undergraduate overall winner. This year, there were two Undergrad winners!

The winners of the Warren Lambert Memorial Awards are:

Winners of the three additional prize categories, and their prizes, are:


All Science Day poster presenters are considered VKC Affiliates and are eligible to request VKC Travel Awards up to $250 to present their research at a professional research conference within the next two years (extended a year due to COVID). More information on the travel award request process may be found here.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center supports basic/molecular, applied, and clinical research and training. The VKC has more than 300 faculty researchers, staff, and affiliate members working together across disciplines to create basic and clinical scientific discoveries, to translate research into best practices, and to train the next generation of researchers and practitioners. The ultimate goal is to make positive differences in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

For more information on Science Day, contact Science Day coordinator Elizabeth Turner at elizabeth.turner@vumc.org.

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