The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT has announced that Cornelia Bargmann PhD '87 of The Rockefeller University is the winner of the 2016 Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience. The prize is awarded annually by the McGovern Institute to recognize outstanding advances in any field of neuroscience. Bargmann is recognized for her work on the genetic and neural mechanisms that control behavior in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
Bargmann is currently the Torsten N. Wiesel Professor at The Rockefeller University and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She was a faculty member at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) for 13 years before moving to Rockefeller in 2004.
Bargmann received her PhD from MIT, where she studied with Robert Weinberg, making important contributions to cancer biology including the identification of the HER2/neu oncogene that is now an important target for the treatment of breast cancer. For her postdoctoral studies, she joined the MIT laboratory of H. Robert Horvitz, now a McGovern investigator, where she began to study the nervous system of the microscopic nematode worm C. elegans. With just 302 neurons whose connections are known, C. elegans is ideally suited for understanding the genetic and neural mechanisms that control behavior, with a level of precision not possible in more complex organisms. At MIT, Bargmann demonstrated that worms can sense volatile odors via specific chemosensory neurons, and she identified genes that affected the animals’ responses to specific odorants, setting the stage for a genetic analysis of chemosensory behavior that she subsequently pursued in her own lab at UCSF and The Rockefeller University.
Bargmann has received many awards and honors for her work, including the Kavli Neuroscience Prize and the Breakthrough Prize for Life Sciences. She has been elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences, and she served as co-chair of the advisory committee for the NIH BRAIN initiative.
The McGovern Institute will award the Scolnick Prize to Bargmann on Wednesday, March 30. At 4 p.m. she will deliver a lecture entitled, “Genes, neurons, circuits and behavior: an integrated approach in a compact brain,” to be followed by a reception, at the McGovern Institute in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex, 43 Vassar Street (Building 46, Room 3002) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The event is free and open to the public.