2011 Grand Prize Winner
Tiago Branco (right), for his essay "The Language of Dendrites." Dr. Branco received his M.D. from Lisbon University in 2002. He then joined the Wellcome Trust Four–Year Ph.D. Program in Neuroscience at University College London, where, in Yukiko Goda's group, he focused on neurotransmitter release properties of individual synapses. After receiving his Ph.D., he moved to Michael Hausser's laboratory, where he has been a postdoctoral research fellow since 2007. Dr. Branco has applied electrophysiological, optical, and modeling techniques to investigate how dendritic integration contributes to single-neuron computations. He plans to combine this approach with molecular methods to investigate the role of dendrites in controlling animal behavior.
Aaron Gitler, for his essay "A Simple Yeast Model Provides New Insight into a Complicated Human Neurodegenerative Disease." Dr. Gitler is an assistant professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, working with Jonathan Epstein on signaling pathways in cardiovascular development. In postdoctoral research with Susan Lindquist, at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, he performed yeast genetic screens for modifiers of toxicity associated with the Parkinson's disease protein α-synuclein. Dr Gitler's group at the University of Pennsylvania combines yeast and human genetics to elucidate novel pathways involved in neurodegenerative disease, focusing on the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Roger Clem, for his essay "An Uninstall Function for Fear Memory." Dr. Clem received his Ph.D. under the mentorship of Alison Barth at Carnegie Mellon University, where he investigated sensory-driven synaptic plasticity in the neocortex. During a postdoctoral fellowship with Rick Huganir at The Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Clem examined the role of glutamate receptor trafficking in emotional memory. His work explains how fear memories can be permanently weakened through behavioral training in a process akin to software uninstall routines. Dr. Clem has accepted an appointment to assistant professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he will investigate synaptic mechanisms in memory formation and updating, as well as how those processes might be manipulated to treat psychiatric conditions.
We thank our distinguished panel of judges: Dr. David Ginty (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MD), Dr. Earl Miller (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston MD), Dr. Morgan Sheng (Genentech, San Francisco, CA), Dr. Peter Stern (Senior Editor, Science) and Dr. Brad Wible (Senior Editor, Science).