BSR Issue 21 – Reader’s Choice Award voting deadline set for February 28

All good things must come to an end – in this case, the voting period for the BSR Issue 21 Reader’s Choice Award. Votes will be tallied on February 28, so visit this site before then to cast your vote for your favorite article from the Fall issue. The winner will receive a cash prize and a special interview by the editor-in-chief that will be posted online.

If you have yet to read the issue (either in print or online), you can get started below with an excerpt from a Faculty Profile on Karen De Valoise, written by Amanda Alvarez:

Karen De Valois knows the benefits – and pitfalls – of scientific collaboration. During her three-decade career as a Berkeley professor of psychology and vision science, questions about her research were often directed to her husband, collaborator and fellow professor, the late Russell De Valois. Though she worked for a decade as an independent principal investigator and adjunct professor through Russell’s lab, she eventually became a professor in her own right in the early 1980s, establishing a research program that investigated human and animal color vision. While she may be best known for Spatial Vision, a cornerstone text in the perception field co-authored with her husband, she estimates that they collaborated on only two experimental publications over the first 20 years of her career.

Originally from Georgia, Karen De Valois completed her psychology PhD at Indiana University in 1973. A highlight of her graduate experience was receiving a key to the department’s calculator room, which housed the expensive and large devices of the day. At Berkeley, Karen was the second female faculty member in physiological optics (as vision science was then known), and served as chair of the psychology department from 1998-2003. At the 2010 vision science group retreat, Karen gave an eye-opening keynote on the history of women in vision science, and this inspired the formation of cross-departmental ‘Women in Vision Research’ meetings to discuss barriers, mentorship, and career issues.

And a note on pronunciation: Nobelist David Hubel humorously rhymed her surname with ‘hoi polloi’ in his book Eye, Brain, and Vision.

AA: What got you interested in color vision? Are you an artist?

KDV: A very bad one, only for fun! There are a number of things about color that I think make it particularly interesting. One, a trivial point, is that it’s beautiful; it makes the world more interesting to look at. Although color vision certainly is not necessary for life, or for survival, it is of all things in vision, or any sensory system, or indeed any behavior, the one area in which we may be likely first to understand the relationship between the behavior and the underlying physiology. It’s that question that really drives me. Once we really understand that, then that opens up a world of possibilities. If we truly can understand the biology as it’s related to the behavior, then we have done something really remarkable.

AA: How would you advise young researchers to approach scientific collaboration?

KDV: There are many virtues to collaborative research, particularly as things become more complex; we need to collaborate with people whose expertise is in areas other than our own. There is a danger in doing so. If you are a young faculty member trying to get tenure and your name comes out on lots of papers but they’re all collaborative papers, particularly if you published with other scientists who are senior to you, then no matter where your name is on the list of authors, you will not get the same kind of credit for it. So collaboration is a great thing, but you have to make sure that you as an individual are given adequate credit. And I don’t think there’s any evil intent, it’s a legitimate question but it’s going to very hard to get the credit that you need when everything you do is done in collaboration with someone more senior. This is why I encourage young faculty members not to continue publishing with their advisor for very long. You can go back and do it again later. You have to develop your own independent strain of research, which is very hard if you are still publishing with your advisor, before you have your own lab.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

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