Kia Nobre, Chair of the Oxford Neuroscience Strategy Committee and Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology is one of 120 new members and 26 new international members elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of her distinguished and continuing achievements in original research in cognitive neuroscience. She is the only international member elected this year from psychology and neuroscience.
Members of Kia's lab were asked to share their thoughts about this momentous achievement. Their affection for, and pride in, their PI came through loud and clear.
Sage Boettcher (4th year DPhil)
I think having a PI that can truly make you laugh is underrated. And not in the way that you laugh at the jokes of people that are more important than you, but really laugh. It seems small in comparison to all the wonderful things that Kia is as a scientist and a supervisor. She’s obviously brilliant, creative, extremely hard working, and incredibly supportive, I guess those sorts of things help to get you into the NAS, but they don’t make the lab fun, and for me that’s one of Kia’s most impressive traits, no matter what else is going on, as a lab we can truly enjoy each other’s company.
Nora Rouast (4th year DPhil)
One of the cornerstones of Kia’s invaluable mentorship is her deep compassion. She truly cares about the personal and professional well-being of the people around her and will go above and beyond to solve problems and support them through the highs and lows in life.
Kia, simply put, makes science fun. Her gift of childlike wonder at the workings of the universe and enthusiasm for every aspect of research brings joy into each step of the process: She will insist on getting the first nap in a newly built sleep lab, tell anecdotes of life and science in lab meetings, and even save the dignity of a poor duck stimulus by ensuring its tail wasn’t cropped off in paper figures.
While managing multiple departments, supervising a dozen DPhil students and overseeing the construction of a new building, Kia still somehow managed to find the time to knit a blanket for my newborn baby.
Nahid Zokaei (Postdoc)
One thing that has always stood out for me is that Kia is courageous in her science – she is not afraid to think outside the box, to link ideas and techniques to answer complex questions with simplicity and ease. As a mentor, she approaches new experiments and ideas with childlike excitement, listens carefully and deliberates on goals and aims. She gives each person in her lab time and space to grow in a supporting environment.
Giedre Cepukaityte (3rd year DPhil)
To me, Kia has always been someone who inspires great respect and she was incredibly encouraging to me when I needed it most. I remember her asking me about what was the take home message after one of our meetings. I replied that it was to wrap up my project, but she said “No, that you enjoy it.”
I think this endless love for what she does is one of the many reasons why she is such a brilliant scientist. In addition, she has a wonderful ability to gather an equally motivated group of people around her that creates a very friendly and supportive environment that makes the lab feel like home.
Freek van Ede (Post Doc)
Kia is a great mentor. Despite her jam-packed schedule full of important meetings, she always finds time for science and personal development. She is a real people person – putting herself in the perspective of the trainee (no matter at what level). She is fair, determined to allocate credit based on merit, rather than professional role and status. She is also always optimistic, with a real passion for scientific discovery. An e-mail after midnight saying a paper is shaping up well is not uncommon. She is honest, never tries to play the game or use her status to achieve something. I think I could not have wished for a better mentor and colleague for my postdoctoral training.
Dejan Draschkow (Post Doc)
I feel like there are descriptors (and even stories) that are very common to most extremely successful scientists and leaders. You seem to find many repeating words when others talk about these super-achievers. What I didn't expect about my highly-decorated supervisor (also head of department) who obviously has nothing left to prove, is that every Friday during lab meeting the real Kia comes out – it feels like you are interacting with an up-and-coming PI, who's enthusiastic and has everything to prove! She couldn't be further away from the distracted, head-in-abstract-concepts, "I am not interested in details", "Please, remind me 10 times about this", "What were we trying to do with this paradigm?" persona one usually gets to meet at the top of the food chain. Kia, instead, opens up her meticulously handcrafted notebook and meets you with a piercing level of attention and memory that immediately make you realise why she studies these cognitive mechanisms. And while you are trying to remind her about your paradigm, she asks you why you have changed some of the stimulus presentation times that you had discussed two weeks prior. Luckily, she does this with her signature level of self-deprecating irony or you would not be able to swallow the realisation that you are not the only person in this room who remembers every single quantum of your experiment. She doesn't only care about the cover, she cares about every page, about the footnotes and about how they all fit together.
Those elected bring the total number of active members to 2,403 and the total number of international members to 501. International members are nonvoting members of the Academy, with citizenship outside the United States.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the US nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. It was joined in 1964 by the National Academy of Engineering and in 1970 by the National Academy of Medicine.