Dr. Cheryl Dreyfus Wins Weill Cornell Graduate School Alumni Award

Drs. Barb Hempstead, Cheryl Dreyfus, and Francis Lee

Dr. Cheryl Dreyfus, a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has been awarded the 2023 Weill Cornell Graduate School Alumni Award of Distinction.

The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences has been recognizing alumni with this award since 1997 in honor of their outstanding contributions to biomedical research in education, focusing on science and scholarship, leadership, mentoring and teaching, and service to society. 

Dr. Dreyfus, who earned her doctorate from the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in 1976, was recognized May 17 at the alumni award of distinction dinner and will receive the award April 18 at Weill Cornell Medicine’s 2023 commencement ceremony.

“The experience of going to Weill Cornell transformed me into a scientist, and I am honored to receive this recognition,” she said.

Dr. Dreyfus, who began her training as a master’s student at Cornell’s Ithaca campus, came to Weill Cornell Graduate School in part because of her passion for teaching. “I figured the path to teaching college students would be to get my Ph.D.,” she said. “But my mentor, Dr. Michael Gershon, was so inspiring—he got so excited about our research. He would jump up from his desk and run over to see what someone found under a microscope. And that introduced me to the excitement of research, as well.”

With Dr. Gershon, she worked on research examining the role of neurons in the intestine. This work led to her study of factors that regulate development of cells of the nervous system, as a postdoctoral fellow at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons—research that continues in the lab today. 

Dr. Dreyfus’ work has primarily focused on studying the regulation of brain cell development and brain cell death. Her current research identifies roles played by the growth factor, BDNF, which has been shown to reduce disease severity in models of multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. She explores how the synthesis and release of this protein is regulated by small molecules that able to enter the brain.

With more than 40 years of research accomplishments, Dr. Dreyfus has published over 100 manuscripts, reviews and book chapters, and more than 150 abstracts, and is the recipient of continuous funding from federal agencies and private foundations, including the NIH and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

With an ongoing dedication to teaching, she continues to play a vital role in educating students, many of whom have gone on to become scientists in academia, at law firms and in the health care industry, as well as medical writers, physicians and physician-scientists.

“I love to mentor people and help them find their direction,” Dr. Dreyfus said. “If there’s one message I would pass along it’s that you should be open to all the different possibilities that come your way. I was lucky that I had these incredible opportunities at Weill Cornell that led me to discover what I really wanted to do.”

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