Kay Tye

Brain and Cognitive Sciences 
Building an inclusive culture

Kay TyeProfessor Kay Tye excels at setting a positive tone for her team. Her written expectations for all lab members begins: “Above all, I expect everyone to do their very best and to be aware and communicative of what you need to be happy and feel fulfilled.” Clear expectations coupled with generous time and support have led to a lab culture where members are not afraid to ask for help, and everyone is there to lend a hand.

The Tye lab employs a multidisciplinary approach to find mechanistic explanations for how emotional and motivational states influence behavior, both when the subject is healthy and ill. Behaviors are either motivated by seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. However, “we are only beginning to understand the underlying neural circuits and the plasticity that mediates the formation, revision or extinction” of a memory associated with a positive or negative environmental cue.

Though pursuing an ambitious research agenda, Tye’s students say that her door is never closed. “Our lab has grown very quickly in the two years since its inception,” writes the nominating team, “However, she still makes sure that she holds weekly one-on-one meetings with each of us to give us guidance and support.” Outside the lab, Kay is also dedicated to outreach, saying that “Encouraging younger generations, underprivileged or underrepresented populations, and establishing a culture of paying it forward is central to our lab philosophy.” Specific activities include lab tours for aspiring young scientists and a seminar to advise young women on how to succeed in science. Tye is also proactive about her own development, taking mentorship and management classes. Citing Tye as their inspiration, her graduate students endeavor daily to be mentors in their own way to UROP students and others.

By stressing open, honest communication and creating an environment where members support each other and pay it forward, Prof. Tye strengthens our community.