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Essay on a Fruit-Fly's Smell Circuits Wins Eppendorf/Science Prize
Rachel Wilson has been awarded the 2007 International Grand Prize in Neurobiology by the journal Science and Eppendorf AG for her research suggesting that the brain identifies odor by decoding a pattern of impulses from a diverse set of receptor neurons.
"Our results reveal some unexpected complexities in the way odors are processed by the brain," said Wilson, a researcher at the Department of Neurobiology lab at Harvard Medical School.
In her essay, Wilson describes how she and her colleagues mapped the olfactory (smelling) circuit in the fruit-fly Drosophila melanogaster by combining genetic tools with measurements of neural activity in living flies. "Our experiments show that it is possible to deconstruct the function of neural networks in this tiny brain, using a combination of genetic methods and electrophysiological recordings," she said.
The Eppendorf and Science Prize in Neurobiology recognizes outstanding neurobiological research by a young scientist, as described in a 1,000-word essay based on research performed within the last three years. Wilson will receive $25,000 from Eppendorf and her essay will be published in the 26 October 2007 issue of the journal Science.
In addition, Wilson, and a finalist, Marianne Hafting Fyhn, will be recognized at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November in San Diego, Calif. Both will have their essays published online by the journal Science, at the Science Online Web site.
Confocal fluorescence microscopy image of a single neuron (green) in the fruit fly brain (magenta)
[Image courtesy of Rachel I. Wilson]
Born in Kansas City, Mo., USA, Rachel Wilson received her A.B. degree in chemistry from Harvard in 1996. She began her training as a neurophysiologist with Helmut Haas at Heinrich-Heine-Universität in Düsseldorf and continued as a graduate student with Roger Nicoll at the University of California, San Francisco. In her graduate work, she showed that endogenous cannabinoids act as retrograde messengers at hippocampal synapses.
In 2001, she joined Gilles Laurent's lab at the California Institute of Technology as a postdoctoral fellow. There, in collaboration with another postdoctoral fellow, Glenn Turner, she developed methods for performing whole-cell recordings from neurons in the adult Drosophila brain in vivo. In 2004, she joined the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. Her laboratory uses small neural circuits to study fundamental principles of sensory processing.
The other finalist being recognized is:
Marianne Hafting Fyhn
[Image courtesy of Torkel Hafting]
Marianne Hafting Fyhn, for her essay, "The Grid Map in the Brain." Fyhn was born in Morehead City, N.C., USA, and grew up in Bergen, Norway. She did her undergraduate studies in biology at the Universities of Bergen, Oslo, and Tromsø before completing her Master's thesis at the University of Tromsø in 1999 with work in Arctic biology at Spitsbergen. In 2000, she started her graduate work in neurobiology at the Centre for the Biology of Memory under the supervision of May-Britt and Edvard Moser at The Norwegian University for Science and Technology, Trondheim. She performed in vivo recordings of spatially modulated neurons from the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex of freely behaving rats and discovered "grid cells," which are neurons in entorhinal cortex with a remarkable hexagonal activity pattern. Since receiving her Ph.D. in 2005, she has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for the Biology of Memory.
For the full text of essays by the finalists and for information about applying for next year's awards, visit Science's Web site.The 2007 essays and new information will be accessible beginning on Thursday, 25 October 2007, at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the United States.
25 October 2007