Published: May 3, 2024 By

Angela Bryan, a CU Boulder professor of psychology and neuroscience who is nationally renowned for her innovative health and cannabis research, has been named the 2024 Hazel Barnes Prize winner.  

The $20,000 Hazel Barnes Prize is the largest and most prestigious single faculty award funded by CU Boulder. It was established in 1991 by former Chancellor James Corbridge in honor of the late Hazel Barnes, a longtime CU Boulder professor of philosophy, to recognize “the enriching interrelationship between teaching and research.” 

Nominees are regionally and nationally recognized, tenured faculty members who are not only outstanding teachers, but who also have distinguished records in research and scholarship. The Hazel Barnes Prize selection committee is comprised of past recipients. 

“For more than 20 years, Professor Bryan has contributed her knowledge, creativity and care to advance CU Boulder and improve the health of individuals and communities,” said Chancellor Philip DiStefano. “She is a role model for students and her peers, and she is most deserving of this year’s Hazel Barnes Prize.” 

Bryan, who joined CU Boulder in 1999, is co-director of CUChange, a center for health and neuroscience, genes and environment, which conducts transdisciplinary research to explore the psychological, neurocognitive, physiological, genetic and epigenetic factors that are linked with health and risk behavior.  

Bryan and her CUChange colleagues pursue research exploring the full range of influences on health and risk behavior. An overarching goal is to allow better tailoring of behavioral interventions to increase health behavior, decrease risk behavior and ultimately decrease morbidity and mortality and increase quality of life. 

Bryan also is a faculty fellow in the Institute of Cognitive Science at CU Boulder and faculty in the Centers for Neuroscience at both CU Boulder and the CU School of Medicine. She is a member of the CU Cancer Center and the Nutrition and Obesity Research Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus. 

“(Her) capacity to teach and mentor so effectively seems to proceed from her genuine desire and ability to share the strengths that have allowed her to develop into a successful researcher, teacher and mentor,” noted Cinnamon Bidwell, co-director of CUChange and a CU Boulder associate professor of psychology and neuroscience.

“Her investment in her own work has not diminished her capacity to help those around her develop, but rather has provided the foundation for it.  

“As such, the characteristics that have made Professor Bryan a successful scientist are the same that have made her a great mentor: her scientific creativity and love of her work, her ability to organize and structure this creativity into specific tasks and timelines, her capacity to appreciate and consider others’ ideas and her facility to distinguish ideas that have strong potential for translation into grant applications and publications from those that do not.” 

Bryan’s research has included monetary incentives to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, the effects of marijuana on running workouts, the effects of exercise on older adults’ brain function and the protective effect aerobic exercise may have on heavy drinkers’ cognitive function, among many other topics.

She is principal investigator on several ongoing National Institutes of Health-supported research projects, including one focusing on exercise adherence and cognitive decline, with an emphasis on engaging with the Black community to develop and test a goal-setting and exercise intensity intervention. 

A main thrust of her research has focused on a transdisciplinary approach to the study of health and risk behavior, and the development of theory-based interventions to improve health behaviors including physical activity and healthy diet and reduce risk behaviors including unsafe sexual behavior and substance use.  

She and her research colleagues in recent years have deeply focused on the public health implications of cannabis legalization, studying harm reduction in the context of high potency cannabis concentrates and the potential influence of cannabis on the obesity epidemic as well as potential benefits of cannabis on anxiety, pain, opiate use and the amelioration of side effects due to cancer and its treatment. They also study the relationship of cannabis to physical activity and the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use among older adults. 

Bryan also is noted for her passionate commitment to teaching and mentoring: “Angela is the most supportive, inclusive and available faculty mentor—with a focus on promoting inclusive excellence in and serving as a role model for women faculty and scholars—I have ever encountered in academia at large,” noted June Gruber, a CU Boulder associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, in recommending Bryan for the prize.

“Not once have I ever sought out advice from Angela and not had her respond immediately and with great care and thought.”