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Message from the Executive Director
Message from the Executive Director

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Masterminds

These pages are filled with stories of transformative neuroscience research and scholarship that is building the future of brain health and training the next generation of scientists. The spirit of generosity, team building and determination fueled our success in 2021: what will forever be a landmark year for this institute.


First and foremost, we had the distinct honor of formalizing our new name: FAU’s Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. Made official in June 2021, David J.S. Nicholson’s $10 million gift further enhances our research facilities and core technologies as our team works tirelessly to unlock solutions to devastating brain diseases and disorders, and expands on an initial $35 million investment from the State of Florida.

This gift also places a major emphasis on advancing the frontier of brain science education. Our work on the “Journey through the Human Brain” exhibit at the Cox Science Center and Aquarium, West Palm Beach, Fla., introduced us to David in 2016. His critical support for the exhibit enabled us to take the show on the road, seeding ASCEND (Advancing STEM: Community Engagement through Neuroscience Discovery). Now our signature community education program, ASCEND bridges the gap between advanced scientific research and STEM learning opportunities for our youth. David Nicholson’s vision of a community empowered and excited by brain science has challenged us to reach many more young minds, in-person and online.

His commitment also establishes the Stiles-Nicholson STEM Teacher Academy offering training programs for educators in our community. Under the direction of Joel Herbst, Ed.D, superintendent of FAU’s nationally recognized University Lab Schools, teachers across Florida will learn cutting-edge techniques to foster a passion for STEM among their students.

Inspiration is radiating among our fellow community leaders. We have welcomed key support from the Heidenreich Foundation and Impact the Palm Beaches, allowing us to expand MobileMinds, a mobile experience that transports brain science experiences to children who would not have the opportunity otherwise.

Palm Health Foundation also joined the effort this year, launching our new Program in Computational Neuroscience. Its $1 million gift supports our scientific research via graduate fellowships, pilot research grants, technologies, faculty recruitment and community education.


The year 2021 also brought new faces to the Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. Chad Forbes, Ph.D., joins our team as the associate director. He led the Forbes Social Neuroscience Laboratory within FAU’s department of psychology for years and brings depth in human neuroscience research. His work applies brain science to address prejudice toward and stigma amongst the disenfranchised suffering from brain disorders in our society.

FAU’s Center for the Future Mind took shape with the arrival of Susan Schneider, Ph.D., William F. Dietrich distinguished professor of philosophy in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. A collaborative venture of the college with our institute, the center is dedicated to exploring scientific and philosophical innovations to achieve a richer understanding of emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence and the future of the mind.


After five years of determination, planning and preparation, we achieved final approval for FAU’s doctoral program in neuroscience, only the second such program in the state of Florida. More than the new buildings, labs and technologies now transforming FAU neuroscience, I am most excited by the inaugural class soon to join our family of scholars.

FAU’s Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute researchers are driving discovery in brain science from molecule to man. The critical support of community champions and investments ushers in a new era of research and collaboration that originates in South Florida but will touch all corners of the world. Whether you are just staying abreast of our latest news or working alongside us, thank you for being a part of this exciting journey.


Randy D. Blakely, Ph.D.
Executive Director, FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute
Director, Neuroscience Ph.D. Program
David J. S. Nicholson Distinguished Professor in Neuroscience
Professor of Biomedical Science, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science

Amid the grip of a global pandemic, our affiliated faculty, students and staff persisted, moving research and education programs forward. Masterminds 2022 is dedicated to all of you, for your determination, spirit and care for your colleagues, staff and trainees.

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