Erin Schuman wins FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award 2022
Many congratulations to Vallee Visiting Professor Erin Schuman of the Max Planck Institute for
Brain Research, Frankfurt, Germany, who has been named this year’s FEBS | EMBO Women in
Science Awardee. Since 2008, the annual award recognizes the achievements of a female
scientist who has made major scientific contributions in the past five years and is an inspiring
role model for future generations of scientists.
“Receiving the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award is a huge honour. This recognition
is the culmination of a long scientific story that has been revealed together with the many
talented scientists I have had the privilege of working with. I smile when I think about each
past and present lab member who has contributed to this body of work. As a senior scientist,
I am also proud that our efforts to improve the representation and respect for women in
science have been recognized,” Schuman says about the award.
Schuman receives the award for her outstanding research on synaptic plasticity – the
strengthening and weakening of synapses – and her commitment to supporting women in
science at both the institutional and personal level.
EMBO Member Amparo Acker-Palmer of the Goethe University Frankfurt says about
Schuman’s scientific achievements: “Schuman’s seminal work provided the first evidence
that proteins made locally near synapses can be used to enhance synaptic communication,
a cellular correlate of memory. Her early and recent work as well as transformative technical
contributions have had an extremely important impact: creating, expanding, and solidifying
the field of local protein synthesis.”
In her recent research Schuman demonstrated that local translation is used for the ongoing
maintenance of synapses; it is the dominant source for over 800 synaptic proteins. She
revealed that a large proportion of protein synthesis in axons and dendrites is surprisingly
carried out by single ribosomes or “monosomes”. She also found that ongoing local protein
synthesis occurs in mature mammalian axons, just as she did for dendrites in her early
Schuman has been a tireless and vocal advocate for women in science throughout her
career. She has transformed the recruitment of female directors at the Max Planck Society
by co-ordinating the “20 x 2020” initiative that outlined changes in recruitment practices with
the aim to increase the percentage of female directors to 20% by 2020 (from 10% when she
joined in 2009). She also established a childcare facility and infant rooms in the Max Planck
Institute for Brain Research and is a long-term mentor for many scientists.
“Finding Erin as a mentor was like finding an oasis in a desert for me. It was a lifeline for me
as a junior investigator trying to establish myself in a daunting world of competitive science. I
was respected, trusted, and supported as a person and a scientist,” explains Soojin Ryu of
the University of Exeter, UK, who is one of Schuman’s mentees. “I truly believe that the
world is a better place for women in science because of Erin.”
Schuman will receive the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award, consisting of a prize of
10,000 euros and bronze statuette, at the IUBMB–FEBS–PABMB Congress in Lisbon,
Portugal, on 11 July 2022, where she will present a plenary lecture.
About the FEBS | EMBO Women in Science Award
The Women in Science Award is a joint initiative of FEBS and EMBO. It recognizes and
highlights major contributions by female scientists working in Europe to life sciences
research in the past five years. The awardee receives a prize of 10,000 euros as well as a
bronze statuette and gives a plenary lecture at the FEBS congress.