Date January 10, 2017
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Brown researcher, psychiatrist wins White House science award

Dr. Eric Morrow, a Brown University faculty member specializing in neurodevelopmental biology and autism treatment, won the nation’s top honor for a young scientist.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In recognition of his work to understand and improve treatments for psychiatric conditions including autism and severe intellectual disability, the White House on Monday, Jan. 9, named Dr. Eric Morrow as winner of a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering.

“I congratulate these outstanding scientists and engineers on their impactful work,” President Barack Obama said in the announcement of all 102 winners nationwide. “These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy.”

Morrow is an associate professor in Brown’s departments of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry and of psychiatry and human behavior. He also sees patients at the E.P. Bradley Hospital. His research focuses on normal molecular mechanisms of brain development and genetic perturbations that underlie disorders of human cognitive development, such as in severe autism spectrum disorders.

"I am really honored," Morrow said. "We bring multidisciplinary teams together -- in the lab at Brown and with the patients at Bradley Hospital -- I am particularly appreciative of the efforts of the families. Also, while some of the genetic conditions seem rare, the award recognizes that these conditions are important in a multitude of ways."

His recent published findings have included tracing the genetic origins of a previously uncharacterized brain disorder, establishing diagnostic criteria for Christianson Syndrome and showing how a genetic mutation of a gene associated with some autism forms in humans can hinder the proper growth and connectivity of brain cells in mice.

Morrow, a member of the Brown Institute for Brain Science and the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute, has also been instrumental in helping to bring together communities of patients, including The Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research & Treatment and the Christianson Syndrome Association.

The Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering is the government’s highest honor for a young scientist. It typically comes with an award worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and a visit to meet with the president at the White House.