The Marcy Speer award is given out at each meeting of the International Neural Tube Defect Conference to the pre-and post-doctoral trainees whose presentation was ranked the best by a panel of distinguished scholars. The competition is always intense, as all of the participants bring their finest work to the meeting. This year there was a tie for the best presentation by a pre-doctoral student. Ms. Amanda Baumholtz from Dr. Aimee Ryan’s laboratory at McGill University in Montreal and Ms. Micah Ross of Brigham Young University Provo, Utah ran away with the award. Amanda’s work on Claudins and neural tube defects is about complete and she will be on the postdoctoral job market soon! Ms. Ross works on redox potentials in embryos challenged by developmental toxicants. Amanda and Micah have both attended the conference before. A first-time attendee who impressed the judges enough to win the Speer Award for postdoctoral trainees was Dr. Jitao Zhang of the University of Maryland. His presentation on measuring stiffness in embryonic tissues microscopically was extremely impressive! Force matters in closing the neural tube. Congratulations to Jitao, Amanda and Micah, and really, to all of the trainees. The efforts they put forth give us great hope that the future looks bright for the NTD research community.