Alison Preston, Ph.D., is the interim vice president for research and the Dr. A. Wilson Nolle and Sir Raghunath P. Mahendroo Professor of Neuroscience at UT. She holds joint appointments in the Departments of Neuroscience and Psychology with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Psychiatry, and she’s also the director of the university’s Bioimaging Research Center.
Dr. Preston studies the cognitive neuroscience of memory, with a particular focus in how memory develops in children and teens. Her research team uses behavioral and brain imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, to understand how we form memories, recall past experiences, and how memories for the past influence learning in the present. In particular, her team studies how interactions between different regions of the brain — the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex — form new knowledge and how these structures affect problem solving, creativity, reasoning, and executive functioning skills as we grow from adolescents to adults.
She also chairs the Research Working Group, as part of the Executive Committee created by former President Gregory Fenves and Interim President Jay Hartzell, to safely reopen campus to faculty, staff, and students in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Preston received her undergraduate degree in psychology, summa cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania and earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University. Across her career, she has been recognized for both her research and teaching endeavors. She received an NSF CAREER Award and Young Investigator Awards from NARSAD and the Army Research Office as well as being inducted into UT’s Society for Teaching Excellence.
Jennifer Lyon Gardner
Jennifer Lyon Gardner, Ph.D., is UT’s deputy vice president for research and has led research capacity-building efforts at the university since 2008. She designs and implements programming that promotes collaborative research, such as UT’s campus-wide research grand challenge program, Bridging Barriers, and Associate Professor Experimental (APX), a three-day networking and proposal-writing retreat for newly tenured faculty. She also leads the Research Development group, which provides competitive intelligence and proposal development guidance to research teams pursuing major external funding. Together with Interim Vice President for Research Alison Preston, Dr. Gardner is responsible for planning the phased re-opening of research operations on the UT Austin campus in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Gardner received her undergraduate degree from Penn State University in chemistry with a minor in English, and she received her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from The University of Texas at Austin. She was a research-track faculty member at the UT Health Science Center in Houston before returning to UT Austin in 2008 to work in research development.
Before joining the Office of the Vice President for Research, Dr. Gardner founded the College of Natural Sciences’ Strategic Research Initiatives team and served as its director. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) and was an inaugural recipient of the organization’s Rising Star Award.