New research on effects of binge drinking earns Nikki Crowley early career award

November 10, 2022

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Penn State News. Nikki Crowley, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and of biology, was featured.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nikki Crowley, assistant professor of biology and of biomedical engineering at Penn State, is the 2022 recipient of the Neuropsychopharmacology (NPP) Editor’s Early Career Award.

This award, established in 2019 by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), recognizes the top peer-reviewed paper from an early career investigator published in the previous year.

Crowley received the award for her work, titled “Somatostatin neurons control an alcohol binge drinking prelimbic microcircuit in mice,” which was published in Nature in June 2021. The researchers in Crowley Lab established how somatostatin neurons regulate cortical networks and how this connection becomes dysregulated in mouse models of alcohol use. The work was led by Nigel Dao, former research technician in the lab and now a doctoral student in neural science at New York University.

“I am extremely grateful to the editors of NPP for recognizing our work as the top early career research to come out of the journal in the last year. Knowing they consider our science as some of the best they’ve seen is an honor,” Crowley said. “Joining a new research group is a risk, and all the students who joined my lab believed in my vision of running a group known for high-quality and rigorous science.”

This work formed the foundation Crowley’s recent award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the neurobiology of binge alcohol drinking.

“We’re very fortunate to have outstanding young scientists like Nikki among our research faculty,” said Andrew Read, director of Penn State’s Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. “She’s a perfect example of the kind of brilliance we want around us, and she could not be more deserving of this award. I can’t wait to see where Nikki’s work leads next.”

In December, Crowley will be honored with an award ceremony at the annual meeting of the ACNP. Her lab is supported by Department of Biology in Penn State’s Eberly College of Science, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

“This is great news for Nikki, and we are so happy to see one of our stellar faculty recognized,” said Elizabeth McGraw, department head of biology in the Eberly College of Science. “Nikki’s work and this award demonstrate the caliber of internationally recognized research at Penn State, focused on complex human health challenges.”

The ACNP, founded in 1961, is a professional, international organization of leading brain scientists. Selected primarily for their original research contributions, members are selected from diverse subfields of neuroscience, including behavioral pharmacology, clinical psychopharmacology, epidemiology, genetics, molecular biology, neurochemistry, neuroendocrinology, neuroimaging, neuroimmunology, neurophysiology, neurology, psychiatry and psychology.


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College of Engineering Media Relations

“Nikki’s work and this award demonstrate the caliber of internationally recognized research at Penn State.”

— Elizabeth McGraw