Graduate School

Recipient of the 2019 Horace Mann Medal

Horace Mann Medal Awarded to Professor of Physiology and Biophysics

sharona gordonAs the recipient of the 2019 Horace Mann Medal, Sharona Gordon '90, '94 Ph.D. embodies the qualities symbolized by this award: academic achievement, leadership and a dedication to students, colleagues, community and profession. The Medal is awarded at Commencement to a Brown University Graduate School alum who has made significant contributions in their field.

As noted by Anita Zimmerman, Professor and Vice Chair of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology at Brown, “Dr. Gordon is a truly unique and brilliant scientist who has established a reputation as one of the top ion channel biophysicists in the world. Her approach to science is always very creative and yet quantitative and rigorous. She also has a talent for identifying important questions that are both feasible and fundable.”

Gordon will share her knowledge in her Commencement forum titled, “If I’m Not Safe, No Body Is: Science, Power, and Activism in the Age of #MeToo”. It is open to the public and takes place on Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m. in Salomon 001, on the College Green. 


Gordon is an accomplished educator with over 20 years of teaching and research experience. She is currently a Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, where she was promoted from both assistant and associate professorships. She has also served as an Assistant Professor of Physiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. As a postdoc, she worked as a Senior Fellow at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at UW on structure and function of cyclic nucleotide gated ion channels involved in sensory transduction. 

She inspires others to reach their potential through her own achievements. She is the first woman Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of General Physiology, which is the premier journal for ion channel research. She has served as Chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She has extensive experience reviewing grant applications of other scientists via her service on NIH study sections and other review panels, and she has been elected to various positions in scientific societies.

Gordon instills a love of learning through her extensive lectures at schools in the U.S. and abroad, including the Universities of California, Wisconsin and Arizona State, the Kobe University School of Medicine in Japan, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and at conferences including the Gordon Research Conference on Ion Channels, the Biophysical Society Meeting, the International Ion Channel Conference in China, and many others in the past 16 years. 

Gordon's passion for her work is clear, as she has published over 40 research articles in journals including Neuron, Biophysical Journal, Biochemistry, Journal of General Physiology (JGP), Journal of Neuroscience, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Biological Chemistry, and eLife.

Her dedication to her students and colleagues is without question, as she has consistently served the University of Washington community through work with the Faculty Senate, as chair of the graduate program in Physiology and Biophysics recruitment committee, as Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for her department, and as founder of Hit the Ground Running, a professional development program for postdoctoral scholars at UW. 

Gordon is an innovator, a mentor to students and postdoctoral scholars, a fantastic scientist, a valued member of the Brown University community and a colleague to scientists around the world. However, perhaps of particular note, is her commitment to enhancing the lives of others and her heightened sense of social consciousness.


Two editorials published by Gordon demonstrate her advocacy for women in science and, in particular, her dedication to correcting gender discrimination. One such example is in Getting nowhere fast: the lack of gender equity in the physiology community, (2014, Journal of General Physiology), in which she calls for a cultural change in the academic workplace to rethink policies and practices that result in the loss of diversity and to "...take personal responsibility for identifying implicit biases and acknowledging their potential for harm, and seeking out ways to ensure our actions reflect only the values of fairness and justice that we all share."

In 2018, Gordon published an article in the JGP, The Junior Faculty Networking Cohort: Filling a gap in support for our community. She stressed the importance of increasing the representation of women in JGP to reduce bias and sexual harassment. "I take responsibility for identifying and addressing equity needs within my sphere of influence."

As noted by Zimmerman, "in the Brown tradition, she doesn't just do her assigned job--she institutes reforms and constructive changes for the common good. She is a wonderful example of what we expect and value in our Brown graduates."