Katharine Thakkar named the SIRS 2021 Rising Star Awardee
A Message from Dame Til Wykes, SIRS President
The SIRS Rising Star Award recognizes early career researcher who shows exceptional research in the field of schizophrenia and a promising research trajectory. This year’s exceptional winner is Dr. Katherine Thakkar who is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University.
She has a number of accolades not least her degrees from Boston University in Psychology and Mathematics. After training at Vanderbilt University, a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship at Utrech University and a clinical internship at UCLA.
Dr. Thakkar has made a paradigm-shifting contribution to elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying abnormal agency, loss of control of action, and the role of oculomotor abnormalities in the core symptoms that define schizophrenia
When writing these introductions I thought I would run out of hyperbole, but Katy has raised the bar. Her research trajectory is indeed stellar, befitting a Rising Star. Not only is she intellectually rigorous, insightful, innovative, resourceful and a creative scientist but is willing to share these skills with others. Her support of the Michigan State University Mental Health Research Connect is helping to bridge the divide between mental health researchers and individuals in the community whose lives are affected by mental illness. Community members will not only serve as a research registry but will also have an input into research priorities and particularly to support research on underrepresented communities.
Katy embodies the essence of an ideal clinical scientist – someone with vast interdisciplinary knowledge and expertise, quantitative skills coupled with lucid writing who also understands and accepts input from the community the research will serve. We are really proud of her as a member of our SIRS community.
A Message from Sohee Park, Ph.D.
Dr. Katharine (Katy) Thakkar embodies the essence of an ideal clinical scientist whose vast interdisciplinary expertise and deep commitment to improving the lives of those with severe mental illness. Dr. Thakkar’s transformative research program in cognitive neuroscience of psychosis is anchored by a powerful framework that seamlessly integrates conceptual and methodological approaches from animal neurophysiology and visual psychophysics to computational theories of cognition.
Dr. Thakkar has made ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of self-disturbances by examining the neural correlates of sensorimotor prediction mechanisms underlying self-generated actions. This line of work characterizing oculomotor ‘corollary discharge’ impairments has established novel tools for deconstructing the self-disturbances, translating single-cell findings in non-human primates to complex human phenomenology. Thus, Dr. Thakkar has shown how surface-level symptoms arise from the consequences of specific sensorimotor abnormalities and how faulty building blocks of perception and action could result in aberrant self-experiences that cascade to disrupted social behavior. These discoveries open up a new pathway for rigorous empirical investigation of self-disturbances that have often been excluded from mechanistic accounts of schizophrenia and offer sensorimotor targets for therapeutic intervention. In addition to her stellar research achievements, Dr. Thakkar has demonstrated her passionate commitment to teaching, mentoring and enhancing diversity at Michigan State University.
A Message from Rising Star Awardee, Katharine Thakkar
It is a tremendous honor to receive the 2021 SIRS Rising Star Award. I have been a member of this organization since early in my graduate training, and it has had a major role in my scientific development. My work has focused on testing explanatory cognitive and neurobiological theories for the complex symptoms of schizophrenia, including self-related experiences, using basic sensory and motor systems as empirical test beds. This work has been very much a collaborative and transdisciplinary effort. I have been extremely fortunate to learn from brilliant mentors, including Sohee Park, Jeff Schall, Dara Manoach and Bas Neggers, and I am very grateful to work with talented and creative collaborators, students, and post-docs