Warren Bickel, the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Professor, will receive the Scientific Translation Award from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA) on Saturday, May 25, in Chicago, Illinois. 

The SABA Award for Scientific Translation is designed to recognize distinguished research contributions that translate basic science discoveries to real-world applications or use clinical observations to inspire basic research. The society also funds awards and fellowships to support the Association for the Behavior Analysis International.

Bickel carries out research on the behaviors underlying addiction, probing how people discount the future in favor of immediate reward. By understanding the scale of valuation, Bickel’s work is providing an important path leading to new approaches to the development of therapeutic interventions to help people who have any one or more addictions, to enter and stay in recovery.

“I am delighted, but not surprised, to see Dr. Bickel receive this prestigious and well-deserved recognition,” said Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and the executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. “His work continues to move the entire field of addiction neuroscience forward, building on a sound platform for understanding the most fundamental processes that underlie how the brain makes decisions and how that process can undergo maladaptive perturbation, with devastating con sequences for individuals and their loved ones.” 

Bickel is the 30th person to win the award, and will be recognized at the opening ceremony of the association’s annual meeting on May 25 in Chicago, Illinois. He is the director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Addiction Recovery Research Center, co-director of the institute’s Center for Transformative Research on Health Behaviors, and is a professor at the institute and in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech’s College of Science.

“Dr. Bickel’s research career is remarkable in that his work has accomplished such translation in both directions,” said Mark Galizio, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an elected member-at-large on the executive council of the ABAI, which makes nominations for the award. The SABA board of directors makes the selection. “[His] contributions have inspired new research directions as well as novel clinical approaches and clearly warrant recognition for successful scientific translation.”

Galizo noted Bickel’s work is particularly significant for quantifying the functions of reward delay and the association with punishment as they relate to addiction, obesity, and gambling.

“His research showed that individuals suffering from these problems generally experience distortions of the basic behavioral process of delay discounting,” Galizo said. “Dr. Bickel describes such distortions as a form of ‘reinforcer pathology’ and notes that it may represent a ‘trans-disease process.’”

“I’m deeply honored that the society has considered me worthy to receive this award for my translational research,” Bickel said. “I’ve been a member of the organization since I was a graduate student, and I never dreamed I would even be considered for this award. I’m humbled and grateful that my research efforts have been deemed worthy of this recognition.”