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Sanford Institute Awards Endowed Professorships in Empathy and Compassion Research


Pictured from left to right: Monique Smith, PhD, and Fadel Zeidan, PhD

Date: January 29, 2024

Today, we are thrilled to announce the appointment of esteemed UC San Diego faculty members — Monique Smith, PhD, and Fadel Zeidan, PhD — as the recipients of the Sanford Institute's Endowed Professorships in Empathy and Compassion Research. These are the first two of four endowed professorships the Sanford Institute will award in 2024. 

About Monique Smith, PhD

Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor at UC San Diego's Departments of Neurobiology and Neurosciences. Her lab, namely The Smith Lab, is focused on providing mechanistic insights into the neurobiological relationships between social behavior, pain, and emotion, while identifying the neural circuitry that is disrupted in disease models related to empathy, addiction, and depression. 

Dr. Smith and her team specialize in developing novel behavioral models of complex and understudied social phenomena, like empathy, to ultimately identify and dissect the underlying neural circuitry. They utilize cutting-edge in vivo molecular-genetic, optical imaging, and pharmacological neuroscience techniques in combination with innovative behavioral approaches across multiple disciplines.



About Fadel Zeidan, PhD

Dr. Zeidan is an associate professor in UC San Diego's Department of Anesthesiology. His lab, namely Zeidan Lab, aims to determine the active neural, psychological, and physiological mechanisms supporting the self-regulation of pain and health. He and his team are particularly interested in targeting said mechanisms to create and optimize therapies that directly enhance well-being.

Their goal: to identify if changes in consciousness and awareness facilitate stabilized improvements in well-being. How do thoughts, feelings, and the contextual evaluation of our sensory environment affect the biopsychosocial aspects of health? They employ and combine a wide range of tools to answer these questions, including but not limited to functional brain imaging, psychophysics, pharmacologic innervation, and psychological assessments. 

The Zeidan Lab is currently running mechanistically focused, placebo-controlled clinical trials to examine the effects and mechanisms supporting self-regulatory approaches (i.e. mindfulness), natural product assisted therapies (psilocybin; cannabis), and the potential combination of these emerging therapies to target a spectrum of health outcomes such as chronic pain, trauma, and cancer.


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