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Catherine Christian-Hinman, PhD ’08

September 1, 2023  — The UVA Medical Alumni Association is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Achievement Award in Biomedical Sciences: Catherine Christian-Hinman, PhD ’08.

Christian-Hinman is an associate professor of molecular and integrative Physiology (MIP) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She completed her PhD in Neuroscience from the UVA School of Medicine in 2008, after conducting research in the lab of Suzanne Moenter, PhD, investigating the mechanisms of the neuroendocrine signal for ovulation. She then completed postdoctoral training in the Epilepsy Research Laboratories at Stanford University School of Medicine, before joining the faculty at UIUC in 2014 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2021 and is now the director of graduate studies in the MIP department. As an independent faculty member at UIUC, she has been awarded multiple NIH grants, including an R01 grant, two R21 grants, and an R03 grant as PI, a NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, and grants from the Whitehall Foundation, Brain Research Foundation, American Epilepsy Society (AES), and Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas. She was also named a Center for Advanced Study Fellow, one of the premier honors for pre-tenure faculty at UIUC.

Her major research focus is in understanding the interactions between the brain and neuroendocrine systems in the context of epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Both men and women with temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common epilepsy in adults, are at higher risk for reproductive endocrine disorders, but the neurobiological and physiological mechanisms of epilepsy-associated reproductive endocrine issues remain poorly understood. Her laboratory’s work in this area includes the first direct recordings of hypothalamic neurons controlling reproduction and the first studies examining pituitary gonadotrope function and hormone release in an animal model of epilepsy. Graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs in Christian-Hinman’s lab have received research fellowships and awards from the NIH and the Beckman Institute, Neuroscience Program, and MIP department at UIUC. She is currently the chair of the Neuroendocrinology Special Interest Group and the incoming chair of the Merritt-Putnam Symposium Committee at AES. She has also served on multiple NIH and private foundation study section grant review panels and is currently a standing member of the NIH Clinical Neuroplasticity and Neurotransmitters study section.

Christian-Hinman’s ongoing projects are focused on determining the cellular and circuit mechanisms underlying changes in hypothalamic function with epilepsy and defining the downstream impacts of epilepsy on the pituitary gland, and on determining the roles of brain-derived estrogens in promoting seizure activity and hyperexcitability in epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

Congratulations to Dr. Christian-Hinman on this well-deserved recognition.