When the children of Ramona Jones set out to honor Ramona on her 95th birthday, they weren’t content giving her a Target gift card and an afternoon at the local nail salon.
Instead, they ponied up for a five-year sponsorship called the Ramona Jones Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon for the Center for BrainHealth, which is part of The University of Texas at Dallas.
The kickoff event for the Jones sponsorship was held at a local country club on Tuesday, October 2, with Ramona presiding over the head table together with her children Julie Oles (she was up from Austin) and Julie’s twin David Jones, Melissa Estes (in town from Fredericksburg) and Anne Helbing. A number of Ramona’s grandchildren were seated at a table nearby.
“I’m 95,” Ramona had said a little earlier, at a reception before the lunch. “The most important thing is, I’m enjoying good health.” All around her were well-wishing guests including Debbie Francis, Sarah Losinger, Jill Smith, Venise Stuart, Carol Seay, Chad West and Sarah Dodd.
The Scientist Selection Luncheon is a unique annual event for the Center. It’s presented like an episode of TV’s “Shark Tank,” with up-and-coming researchers proposing their projects in competition for funded awards.
The awards are made possible by members of the Friends of BrainHealth donor circle, which since 2008 has raised more than $4.3 million and provided more than 50 “seedling grants” to emerging young brain health scientists.
Before the competition began, it was announced that the 2023 Friends of BrainHealth members had contributed more than $414,000 to the campaign — a new record — under Co-Chairs Marena Gault and Ted Uzelac.
Center for BrainHealth Chief Director Sandi Chapman then noted that Ramona was “one of our earliest supporters and contributors,” before turning the raised stage over to BrainHealth Deputy Director of Research Dan Krawczyk, PhD.
One by one, Dan introduced four fledgling scientists to the audience, whose members would later vote to decide which two of their presentations would win a Visionary New Scientist Award.
The emerging researchers and their projects were:
- Micaela Andreo, who proposed a 360-degree virtual reality study to “investigate deficits in spatial navigation often associated with mental disorders and dementia.”
- Zhengsi Chang, who described a project using VR and biosensor technologies to measure how the organization of a workspace impacts mental health and task performance.
- Adarsh Ramesh Kumar, whose proposal involved creation of an AI-powered “SMART coach” to compare AI outcomes with traditional brain-health coaching methods.
- Tzu-Chen (Jane) Lung, who proposed a study to explore a possible connection between fluctuating blood pressure and cognitive dysfunction.
Concluding the inaugural Ramona Jones Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon, it was announced that Jane had won the 2023 Jennifer and Peter Roberts Visionary New Scientist Award, and that Zhengsi would be taking home the 2023 Maisie Heiken Visionary New Scientist Award.
* Photo provided by Center for BrainHealth