A study in longevity: Dr. Don Caspary earns new 5-year NIH grant
In January 2023, SIU professor Don Caspary, PhD, received official notice from the National Institutes of Health that his latest proposal to study how aging impacts how we hear speech-like sounds, would be funded for the next five years. This is welcome news to any medical researcher who wants to be productive and stay employed. But for Caspary and the school of medicine, the new grant is yet another historic achievement. It marks an incredible 38-year run of federal funding for Caspary’s scientific experiments. When the new studies conclude, it will have spanned 43 years.
Associate Dean for Research Don Torry, PhD, is very familiar with all the challenges that medical researchers face, being one himself. “This is rarified air for sure — just amazing when you stop and think about it,” he says. “Don’s discoveries are one part of why SIU is world-famous in the field of auditory research.”
What is just as remarkable is Caspary’s ongoing passion for the work, his admiration for his teammates and for the institution he calls home. He is one of SIU School of Medicine’s original research faculty.
In 1973, Caspary was invited to join a new medical school being built on the site of a defunct brewery in Springfield. The postdoc from SUNY-Albany would be tasked with teaching and initiating the research programs at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
A half-century later, Caspary is an SIUC Distinguished Scholar and professor of pharmacology and neuroscience. His research throughout has focused on age-related hearing loss, central sensory plasticity, tinnitus, sensory pharmacology, anatomy, physiology and neurochemistry of the auditory pathway.
During the medical school’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2020, Caspary was asked about the secret to his academic longevity.
“That’s an easy question,” he said. “If I couldn’t get my grants funded or my papers published, I wouldn’t still be doing this. Science is a fairly competitive game, and if your colleagues allow you to compete and you have wonderful people working with you in the lab, it’s kind of hard to stop.”
(pictured: Lynne Ling, Rui Cai, Don Caspary, Kevin Brownell)