The Joe L. Martinez, Jr. and James G. Townsel Endowed Lectureship in SPINES

 

We are saddened to announce the passing of two giants in the MBL community: Co-Founders and Co-Directors of the SPINES course at MBL, Dr. Jim Townsel and Dr. Joe L. Martinez, Jr., passed away on June 22, 2020 and August 29, 2020.

Their contributions to improving the climate and ensuring excellence through diversity in neuroscience was monumental. Their vision, drive, and passion to diversify neuroscience with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds bore the fruit of today's diverse professors, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students. We still have a long way to gain sufficient representation, but without their efforts, we likely would still be light years behind.

TownselJames Townsel, Ph.D. was introduced to the horseshoe crab, Limulis polyphemus, as a potential research subject in 1963, as a graduate student in zoology/physiology at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana. Since there was not a ready supply of horseshoe crabs in Indiana, he became a regular recipient of shipments of animals from the MBL. He first traveled to the MBL in the summer of 1971, when, as a charter member of an NIH-funded initiative titled Frontiers in Research and Teaching Program (FRTP), he took the Neurobiology course. In 1972, he returned to the MBL as a FRTP research fellow. After completing a two-year postdoctoral fellowship with Ed Kravitz in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School in 1973, he accepted a faculty position at Meharry Medical College. In the summer of 1974, he returned to the MBL as the coordinator of the FRTP program. Among the FRTP recruits in that year was Joe Martinez. Funding for the FRTP ended in 1974. From 1974 until 1986, Townsel’s career trajectory included a six year span, 1978-1984, where he served as an associate dean in the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois and the last four years as an associate vice chancellor. In 1984 he returned to Meharry Medical College to chair the Department of Physiology. In 1986 he returned to the MBL where joined Joe Martinez in launching the forerunner of the SPINES course and return year after year. His personal commitment to providing educational opportunities to underrepresented minorities is reflected in the fact that he trained eight African American PhDs. His longtime commitment to the SPINES program at the MBL has been consistent with his life-long commitment to increasing diversity in the biomedical workforce.

MartinezJoe L. Martinez, Jr., Ph.D. trained students for over thirty years. In 1994 he received the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement. The inscription on the award reads, “For having guided the lives of literally thousands of students and hundreds of women and minorities to educational pursuits and careers in science as a teacher, advisor, role model, friend, and confidant.” A recent anonymous reviewer of one of his grants said, “Joe Martinez is one of the top mentors in the nation…Everything that Joe Martinez does is done extremely well and with passion. He is a national treasure.” For over 20 years he directed the American Psychological Association Diversity Program in Neuroscience funded by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to support the training of doctoral and postdoctoral students. He served as the co-Director (along with James Townsel) of the MBL Summer Program in Neuroscience, Ethics, and Survival (SPINES) course, supported by NIMH and designed to enhance the success of doctoral and postdoctoral students underrepresented in science. He served for 15 years, as a full professor, in one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, the University of California, Berkeley. Following that position, he held the Ewing Halsell Distinguished Chair at the University of Texas at San Antonio for many years, where he was also the founder and Director of the Cajal Neuroscience Institute. Several years ago he retired from his position as the Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Chicago. His research was directed towards understanding how the brain stores memories by investigating learning in animals, using behavioral, electrophysiological, and molecular techniques. He authored over 175 publications. Students at all levels (postdoctoral, doctoral, masters and undergraduates) have worked in his laboratory to discover more about the brain’s workings. His book, “Neurobiology of Learning and Memory,” edited with Ray Kesner, is in its third edition and is popular with students.


The MBL is a 501(c)3 organization. Donations to the Joe L. Martinez, Jr. and James G. Townsel Endowed Lectureship in SPINES are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

 
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