Nicole Scheff named Award in Pain scholar by Rita Allen Foundation

The Rita Allen Foundation named Nicole Scheff, assistant professor of neurobiology, a 2021 Award in Pain Scholar.

The award celebrates four early-career leaders in the biomedical sciences whose research holds exceptional promise for revealing new pathways to understand and treat chronic pain.

The scholars, nominated by the United States Association for the Study of Pain, will receive grants of $50,000 annually for up to three years to conduct innovative research on critical topics on the biological mechanisms of pain.

“With millions of people in the United States suffering from chronic pain, the pain research field holds increasing importance for public health,” said Elizabeth Good Christopherson, president and CEO of the Rita Allen Foundation.

Scheff’s research seeks to understand how peripheral neurons evolve and adapt during cancer initiation and growth. She will investigate whether therapy targeted to neurons innervating the cancer can alleviate pain and slow the formation of tumors.

“My father, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Kentucky, taught me at a very young age to score electron micrographs for synapse loss in different areas of the cerebral cortex,” Scheff said. “This ‘father-daughter quality time’ sealed the deal for me to become a neurobiologist.”

She thanked Brian Davis and Michael Gold, professors of neurobiology at Pitt, for their support. “Both continue to inspire me to go beyond normal limits and to try out new and different ideas that might contradict current views.”