There is a new face in the director’s office of Nebraska’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior inside Memorial Stadium.
But Cary Savage is already familiar with the groundbreaking research underway and the infinite possibilities the center represents.
“The research is completely across the board and multidisciplinary,” Savage said. “That’s key for success these days. I got here and there were people here from multiple departments, from multiple colleges, doing all kinds of research in the same building. The very structure of the building is meant to enhance collaboration.”
Savage, who most recently was a senior scientist at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Arizona, is hitting the ground running. He succeeds Dennis Molfese, the founding director of the center, and David Hansen, who served as interim director until Savage’s arrival.
Since taking the director’s reins in January, he’s been familiarizing himself with all the faculty and staff in the center and getting his lab set up. His research, which he began while on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and then the University of Kansas Medical Center, focuses on the brain basis of health behaviors and how those may be modified to improve health.
For example, Savage has scanned individuals with MRI before they embark on weight loss programs and identified biomarkers that predict whether or not the individual will be successful. He has also looked at why some people adhere to exercise programs and others drop out. The goal is that eventually MRI can be a part of identifying biomarkers to help make treatment decisions.
“Possibly, we could be putting people on the most effective treatment for them based upon what we know about their brain function,” Savage said.
Savage also studies traumatic brain injury and is excited to work with the Athletic Department to further concussion research with athletes.
“One of the things that really won me over was the unique relationship with athletics,” Savage said. “I want to enhance that relationship and really get research started in a bigger way than we’ve had and formalize it more than it’s been.”
Savage also has his eye on the long game for the center. He said an ongoing goal for him will be to help faculty increase grant funding in the center, especially federal funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
“That will go along with increasing our public profile and the profile of research at Nebraska,” Savage said.
When he’s not within the walls of CB3 or on campus, he’s often running. While in Arizona, he found running in the mountains to be particularly satisfying, so he’s on the lookout for hilly, natural vistas and is taking recommendations.