The Eva Mary Kavan Prize for Excellence in Research on the Brain was established in 1999 by a generous endowment from Dr. Eva Kavan.  Dr. Kavan earned her doctorate degree in medicine at Charles University in her native Prague, Czechoslovakia.  She came to UCLA in 1956 at a time when there were only five hospitals performing open-heart surgery with a heart-lung machine; UCLA had one of the first teams to do open-heart surgery in the West. Dr. Kavan was a pioneer in the administration of anesthesia, utilizing the electroencephalogram to perform important research on the effects of the heart-lung machine on brain function during open-heart operations.  Dr. Kavan created this award, which is to be announced at the H.W. Magoun Lecture, to encourage a talented young scholar to pursue scientific research on the brain.

Each year a prize is given to one graduate student who has demonstrated excellence in his or her field of basic research in neuroscience. The awardee is selected by a faculty committee, which evaluates nominations solicited from the UCLA neuroscience community. One student from any neuroscience research department at UCLA receives a cash prize and a certificate of merit. 


Previous Eva Kavan Prize Recipients
Year Student Mentor and Research Project
1999   1st Eva Kavan Prize Recipient  Albert Cha

Francisco Bezanilla Laboratory
Research Project: Ion channels

2000   2nd Eva Kavan Prize Recipient  U. Valentin Nägerl

Istvan Mody Laboratory
Research Project: Calbindin and other intracellular calcium-binding proteins in the calcium-buffering capacity of central neurons and the role of these proteins in temporal lobe epilepsy

2001   3rd Eva Kavan Prize Recipient  Michael Zeineh

Susan Bookheimer Laboratory
Research Project: Novel methods of increasing the resolution of functional magnetic resonance imaging

2002  4th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Christine Bredfelt

Dario Ringach Laboratory
Research Project: Focused on one of the basic transformations in visual processing observed between the lateral geniculate nucleus and primary visual cortex (area V1)

2003  5th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Jeffrey Gotts

Marie-Françoise Chesselet Laboratory
Research Project: Mechanism by which cortical lesions induce a large increase in cell numbers in the subependymal layer of adult rats

2004  6th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Alison Burggren

Susan Bookheimer Laboratory
Research Project: Alzheimer’s Disease

2005  7th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Kim Thompson

Kelsey Martin Laboratory
Research Project: Pioneering studies on the mechanisms whereby signals are retrogradely transported from distal synapses to the nucleus in neurons

2006  8th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Mary Kay Lobo

X. William Yang Laboratory
Research Project:  Application of  molecular genetic tools to study basal ganglia biology and disease

2007  9th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Joshua Johansen

H. Tad Blair Laboratory
Research Project: Groundbreaking work on the circuit and computational mechanisms of teaching signal processing in the fear conditioning system

2008  10th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Michael Oldham

Daniel Geschwind Laboratory
Research Project: Foundational research on the organization of the human brain transcriptome

2009 11th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Tiago Carvalho

Dean Buonomano Laboratory
Research Project: How excitatory and inhibitory synaptic plasticity interact in a concerted manner to govern neuron behavior

2010 12th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Kate Wassum

Nigel Maidment Laboratory
Research Project: Identifying dissociable roles for endogenous opioids in mediating reward palatability and incentive learning.

2011 13th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Erin Gray

Thomas O’Dell Laboratory
Research Project: Electrophysiological and molecular studies of the role of AMPA receptor phosphorylation in synaptic plasticity.

2012 14th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Austin Hilliard

Stephanie White Laboratory
Research Project: Human cognitive abilities that are articulated in the domains of music and language; neuromolecular networks involved in how the brain accomplishes vocal learning, such as speech, using the songbird as a model system.

2013 15th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Sangmok Kim

Kelsey Martin Laboratory
Research Project: How gene expression is spatially regulated within neurons during synapse formation and synaptic plasticity; addressing these questions in the Aplysia californica sensory-motor neuron culture system, in order to monitor synapse formation and plasticity at the level of individual neurons.

2014 16th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Jamee Berg

Daniel Geschwind Laboratory
Research Project: Defining the function of an autism candidate gene, JAKMIP1 with an extensive collection of experiments to characterize its developmental role via its proteomic interactors, showing that it regulates neuronal translation, and creating a knockout mouse, which has been extensively characterized.

2015 17th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Jennifer Kong

Bennet Novitch Laboratory
Research Project: The study  of interactions between Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Notch signaling within the developing ventral spinal cord.  Jennifer has found that Notch signaling has the ability to modulate the responsiveness of cells to Shh and in doing so plays a major role in the assignment of neural progenitor fates. She is furthering this investigation by identifying a host of genes that act downstream of Notch to regulate Patched and Smo trafficking.

2016 18th Eva Kavan Prize Recipient Esther Nie

S Thomas Carmichael Laboratory
Research Project: How the brain learns and recovers after injury, and how these two processes intersect during limb overuse therapy after stroke. Esther has identified molecular targets to improve cortical reorganization after stroke and uses cutting edge CRISPR/cas9 genome engineering techniques to further understand the underlying biology of these targets.

2017 19th Eva Kavan Prize Recipients

Hua Chai



Anne Collins

Baljit Khakh Laboratory
Research Project: Diversity of astrocytes within circuits of the hippocampus and striatum.

Kate Wassum Laboratory
Research Project: Exploring the role of striatal striatal cholinergic interneuron activity in cue-motivated behavior using a multifaceted biosensor recording, chemogenetic, and optogenetic approach.