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Women Scientist Profiles

Jennifer J. Manly, Ph.D.

Jennifer J. Manly, Ph.D.

Dr. Manly is an associate professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University. Her research aims to improve the diagnostic accuracy of neuropsychological tests used to detect cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease among African American and Hispanic elders. She is also conducting research to uncover the mechanisms underlying disparities in cognitive aging and Alzheimer's disease, including research on early life educational experiences and their influence on later life cognitive function.

Dr. Manlys work clarifies the independent influences of language, acculturation, educational experiences, racial socialization, and socioeconomic status on cognitive test performance. Her recent work focuses on the specificity of cognitive tasks in detecting subtle cognitive decline among illiterate and low-literacy elders. This work has important implications for determining the complex influence of reading and writing skills on brain function.

Dr. Manly has also been invited to speak at the NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, colloquially known as WALS, which is the highest-profile lecture program at the NIH. Each season includes some of the biggest names in biomedical and behavioral research.

Dr. Manly completed her graduate training in neuropsychology through the Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology offered by the San Diego State University and the University of California at San Diego. She also completed a clinical internship at Brown University as well as a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University. Dr. Manly is extensively published and has received various honors for her work.

How has mentorship (either as a mentor or mentee) shaped your career?

My mentors in college inspired me to pursue brain science. They showed me in a very informal way, through their interest and actions, how fun it was to explore the link between brain and behavior. They also showed me that science could be a very stimulating and satisfying career.

In graduate school, my mentors were amazing. They always had time for me, supported diversity, and embraced my interest in race and culture and their relationship to cognitive test performance.

As a mentor, I am constantly humbled by my mentoring experiences. Mentoring can be challenging. I always think of how I can help my trainees. Not necessarily how to create a mini me, but rather how I can launch a trainee in their independent research career. Im still growing and developing as a mentor.

What have been the most rewarding aspects of your career?

The most rewarding aspect of my career is the partnership we have with the participants in our studies. I am honored to be someone who is invited to speak to community groups, churches, or black organizations about maintaining brain health through the aging process. There is a lot of knowledge that we can share through those talks and partnerships.

What are some of the challenges of being a female scientist?

Sometimes I face challenges related to my sex and race but I try to overcome them as they happen and move on.

Do you have advice for young female scientists?

My advice would be to have a support group. Every week I have a call with two women scientists who are African American. We can talk about anything: career, family, balance, what were facing, or just blow off steam. I think that having a peer group to check in with regularly is important.

My advice to women at any stage of their career is to find colleagues across the country with whom you can form a peer group. Make a date every month, or every week, to talk.

What are the barriers to women in science?

The number of women in neuroscience has increased, which has translated into having peer groups such as those mentioned, as opposed to being the only female scientist. However, this hasnt translated to having more women in senior positions, in most environments. Parity in academic senior positions is still a challenge.

What do you do outside your work/the lab/the office?

Outside the office, I play LEGOs, read superhero books, and spend time at playgrounds with my younger children. I also love to cook and enjoy trying out new recipes with my older son. Sometimes we go out and play soccer as a family.

Has your research ever taken you to exotic or exciting locations?

Through professional meetings weve traveled extensively. I usually add a few days to the trip to include family. Weve been to a safari in South Africa, explored fjords in Norway, hiked in England, and biked in Amsterdam. Weve also visited New Zealand; Fiji; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

This page last updated: December 18, 2017

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