Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health Chosen as MOSI’s 2012 National Hispanic Scientist of the Year

Share Article

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse ( at the National Institutes of Health, is the 2012 National Hispanic Scientist of the Year. Volkow was chosen by Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry because of her incredible representation of the mission of the award, which is to recognize an outstanding Hispanic scientist who promotes a greater public understanding of science and encourages Hispanic youths' interest in science. Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain.

Dr. Nora Volkow, 2012 National Hispanic Scientist of the Year

Tampa’s Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI), along with presenting sponsor Bright House Networks, has chosen their 2012 honoree for the National Hispanic Scientist of the Year, Nora D. Volkow, M.D. Volkow is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

MOSI will present this year’s National Hispanic Scientist of the Year Award to Volkow during a gala award ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. Visit for more information.

The original development of the award was prompted in 2000 when statistics showed an alarmingly high dropout rate for Hispanic students. Department of Education research shows that Hispanics are more likely to drop out of high school than any other ethnic group in the U.S. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 2008 dropout rate for Hispanic students was 18.3 percent compared to 9.9 percent for African Americans and 4.8 percent for Caucasians.

In an effort to combat this type of disparity in the Hispanic community, proceeds from the event help provide more than 1,300 students from underserved communities and low-income schools an exciting day of mentoring with Dr. Volkow and access to over 450 MOSI hands-on exhibits during Meet the Hispanic Scientist Day, which will take place on Friday, Oct. 26 beginning at 10 a.m. Event proceeds also help to fund MOSI’s YES! Team (Youth Enriched by Science), an educational enrichment and vocational training program designed to help at-risk youth develop and progress in a supportive peer-group environment.

Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate toxic effects of drugs and their addictive properties. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting the actions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive, and pleasure and the decline of brain dopamine function with age. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, ADHD, and the behavioral changes that occur with aging.

Dr. Volkow was born in Mexico, attended the Modern American School, and earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she received the Premio Robins award for best medical student of her generation. Her psychiatric residency was at New York University, where she earned the Laughlin Fellowship Award as one of the 10 Outstanding Psychiatric Residents in the USA.

During her professional career, Dr. Volkow has been the recipient of multiple awards, including her selection for membership in the Institute of Medicine in the National Academy of Sciences and the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science. She was recently named one of Time Magazine's “Top 100 People Who Shape our World” and was included as one of the 20 people to watch by Newsweek magazine in its “Who’s Next in 2007” feature. She was also included in Washingtonian Magazine’s 2009 list of the “100 Most Powerful Women” and named “Innovator of the Year” by U.S. News & World Report in 2000.    

“It’s an honor for MOSI to present this award to Volkow,” said Wit Ostrenko, MOSI President. “As the Director of NIDA, we feel Volkow’s background directly ties into our current visiting exhibition from the DEA, Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause, and demonstrates MOSI’s core values our youth on drug prevention and education.”

For the past 11 years, MOSI has recognized nationally distinguished Hispanic science and engineering professionals to serve as role models and mentors for Tampa Bay’s Hispanic youth.

Past honorees include a former U.S. Surgeon General, a Nobel Laureate of Chemistry, a NASA astronaut, a marine biologist, a Harvard professor of pathology and former chief of immunogenetics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a seismologist and former director of the Carnegie Academy for Science Education (CASE), Washington, D.C., an industrial engineer and the first Hispanic to serve as acting head of the Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF), a molecular biologist and founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Director and Chief Executive of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and most recently the Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

About MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry)
MOSI is a not-for-profit, community-based institution and educational resource dedicated to advancing public interest, knowledge, and understanding of science, industry, and technology. With a total size of over 400,000 square feet, MOSI is the largest science center in the southeastern United States, and home to the only IMAX® Dome Theatre in the state of Florida. Kids In Charge! The Children’s Science Center at MOSI is the largest children’s science center in the nation. Disasterville, featuring Bay News 9 WeatherQuest, combines education and 10,000 square feet of interactive exhibits on the science behind natural disasters. MOSI’s newest permanent exhibition, The Amazing You, presented by MetLife Foundation and sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, explores the fascinating world of birth through end-of-life. Conquer your fears and experience an adrenaline rush like no other on MOSI’s permanent attractions, the Sky Trail® Ropes Course and Zip Line. Also, guests can now Dream it – Make it – Do it in MOSI’s technology playground & inventor’s studio, Idea Zone. MOSI is the proud winner of the 2009 National Medal for Museums by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the nation’s highest honor for museums. For more information on MOSI, visit

Former MOSI National Hispanic Scientist of the Year Award honorees:
Cristián Samper (2011), Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Dr. Dan Arvizu (2010), Director and Chief Executive of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Dr. Nils J. Diaz (2009), chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff (2008), molecular biologist; Dr. Louis A. Martin-Vega (2007), industrial engineer; Dr. Inés Cifuentes (2006), seismologist; Dr. Edmond J. Yunis (2005), physician, researcher, Harvard professor; Dr. Antonia Coello Novello (2004), former U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. Mario Molina (2003), Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Fernando “Frank” Caldeiro (2002), NASA Astronaut; Dr. Alejandro Acevedo-Gutiérrez (2001), Marine Biologist.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Shannon Herbon
Follow us on
Visit website