Morgan Sheng, an internationally respected molecular neuroscientist whose research of proteins at synapses has advanced understanding of learning and memory, has been named the inaugural holder of the Menicon Professorship in the School of Science.
Menicon Co., Ltd., the leading manufacturer of contact lenses and related ophthalmic products in Japan, established the professorship in 1996 to support excellence in neuroscience research in the Center for Learning and Memory (MIT Tech Talk, Jan. 31, 1996).
Professor Sheng's appointment was announced by Dean of Science Robert J. Silbey.
"Professor Morgan Sheng is an individual of great distinction who has already contributed significantly to our under-standing of the human brain. His appointment will encourage further advanced research and bring additional renown to the CLM and to Menicon. I welcome him to MIT and our expanding neuroscience community," Dean Silbey said.
The mammalian brain is composed of electrically excitable cells (neurons), which communicate with each other via specialized cell-cell junctions called synapses. In response to environmental changes throughout development and in adult life, the brain continually reorganizes itself by altering the pattern and strength of these neuronal connections. Such "plasticity" of synapses allows the brain to store information and is believed to form the basis of learning and memory.
Professor Sheng's research concerns the molecular architecture of synapses and the mechanisms by which synapses change their strength and structure. He focuses on glutamate receptors and postsynaptic signaling mechanisms that regulate membrane excitability and synaptic growth.
Professor Sheng received the BA and MA in physiology from Oxford University, a medical degree from London University and the PhD in molecular genetics from Harvard Medical School (HMS). He was appointed as an assistant and then associate professor in the HMS Department of Neurobiology and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is currently an associate investigator of the Howard Hughes MedicalInstitute. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Neuroscience.
Menicon was founded in 1951 by Kyoichi Tanaka who succeeded in developing the first plastic corneal contact lens in Japan.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2001.