The Department of Physiology and Biophysics would like to congratulate Dr. Gidon Felsen, Dr. Cathy Proenza, and Dr. Dan Tollin on their promotions!
Effective July 1, 2016 both Dr. Felsen and Dr. Proenza have been promoted to Associate Professor; and Dr. Tollin has been promoted to Full Professor.
On July 1, 2016 the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) named Assistant Professor Joel Zylberberg as a recipient of the Azrieli Global Scholar for Learning in Machines and Brains Award. Dr. Zylberberg is 1 of 2 recipients of this award in this research area in a world-wide competition for early-stage investigators. There are 9 research areas considered, with 2 recipients per area.
Congratulations Dr. Zylberberg!
Dan Tollin, PhD from the Departments of Physiology & Biophysics and Otolaryngology was elected into the American Otological Society (AOS) at the 149th meeting of the Society in Chicago in May 2016. The AOS is the oldest organized medical society in the USA, now 149 years of age. Election into AOS is characterized by exemplary service to the field of Otology and, in particular, extensive and sustained research contributions. Dr. Tollin's election into AOS is particularly unique as there are very few PhD Fellows in the Society.
Congratulations to Dr. Tollin!
At the May 2016 commencement ceremony, Department of Physiology and Biophysics Assistant Professor, Gidon Felsen, PhD. will receive a Graduate School Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring award. This award was created by the Graduate School to recognize and honor excellence in mentoring by the graduate faculty; and is particularly meaningful as nominations are based on letters from students.
The Graduate School and students offer their sincere thanks to Dr. Felsen for taking his role as a mentor so seriously and for providing an outstanding educational experience for his students.
Congratulations Dr. Felsen!6
On May 16, 2016, Department of Physiology and Biophysics Assistant Professor, Abby Person, PhD., received one of only six McKnight Scholar Awards from The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience.
The McKnight Scholar Awards are granted to young scientists who are in the early stages of establishing their own independent laboratories and research career; and who have demonstrated a commitment to neuroscience. The Endowment Fund seeks to support innovative research designed to bring science closer to the day when diseases of the brain can be accurately diagnosed, prevented, and treated.
In Dr. Person's project, Circuit mechanisms of cerebellar motor correction, her work explores how the brain makes movements precise as movement is central to all behaviors, yet the brain's motor control centers are barely understood. Dr. Person's lab is particularly interested in an ancient part of the brain called the cerebellum, asking how its signals correct ongoing motor commands. The cerebellum has been particularly attractive for circuit analysis because its layers and cell types are very well defined. However, its output structures, called the cerebellar nuclei, violate this rule and are much more heterogeneous and hence, much more confusing. Using a variety of physiological, optogenetic, anatomical, and behavioral techniques, her research aims to untangle the mix of signals in the nuclei to interpret how it contributes to motor control. Dr. Person anticipates that her research may offer clinicians insight into therapeutic strategies for people with cerebellar disease, and could potentially contribute to the class of technologies that use neural signals to control prosthetic limbs.
"A McKnight Scholar Award is one of the most prestigious early-career honors that a young neuroscientist can receive," says Anthony Movshon, PhD., chair of the awards committee and professor at New York University. "This year's Scholars are a superbly talented group, with as much promise as any selected in the past," says Movshon. "Their research spans neuroscience, ranging from the workiings of fundamental brain circuits to the ways that large groups of neurons represent the information we use to perceive, decide, remember, and act. Their work will help us to understand the brain's function in health and in disease, and will shape the neuroscience of the future."
Congratulations to Dr. Person!
The dates and speaker for the 20th Annual AR Martin Lectureship have been announced for next year. Dr. Wade Regehr, Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School will present his main lecture in the Shore Family Forum of the Nighthorse Campbell Building on May 11, 2017, at 4 pm. 4
November, Department of Physiology and
Biophysics Professor Kurt G. Beam, Ph.D.,
was one of only six CU system faculty members to be named Distinguished
Professor by President Bruce Benson. As
the most prestigious honor for faculty at the university, this honor recognizes
those who have demonstrated exemplary performance in research or creative work
and have a record of teaching excellence and outstanding service to the
profession, university and the community at large. Dr. Beam’s nomination was supported by
letters from more than a dozen professional colleagues from CU and from around
the world. The Distinguished Professor
designation is just the latest professional recognition for Dr. Beam. Foremost amongst his many distinctions, the
National Academy of Science welcomed him as a member for his pioneering work in
the molecular dissection of excitation-contraction coupling in striated muscle
and in the use of genetically null tissues for heterologous expression of
proteins in their native environment.
His ground-breaking research has revealed a unique type of cellular
signaling in which ion channels belonging to separate membrane systems
reciprocally control one another via conformational coupling. Dr. Beam is scheduled to be formally
recognized as Distinguished Professor by the Board of Regents in February 2015.
A University of Colorado School of Medicine professor on Tuesday was named
a Sloan Research Fellow for 2013 - a prestigious award that recognizes
Abigail Person, PhD, an assistant professor in CU School of Medicine’s
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, received one of the 126 Sloan
Research Fellowships awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
“The Sloan Research Fellows are the best of the best among young
scientists,” Dr. Paul L. Joskow, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,
said in a release announcing the fellows. “If you want to know where the next
big scientific breakthrough will come from, look to these extraordinary men and
women. The Foundation is proud to support them during this pivotal stage of their
Sloan Research Fellows are nominated by fellow scientists and selected by
an independent panel of senior scholars. Fellows receive $50,000 to be used to
further their research.
Person’s research interest is in understanding how the brain generates
precise movements. To do so, the brain keeps track of what it is doing using
specialized neural circuits called ‘corollary discharge pathways’ that carry
copies of motor commands sent to muscles to areas of the brain that process
sensory input. An example of how motor output influences sensory processing is
clear from our everyday experiences: We
know that identical sensory inputs are processed differently depending on
whether or not we caused the sensory event ourselves. If you move your eyes
left to right, the image on the retina shifts, but your brain does not
interpret this as the world moving in front of it, even though the sensory
information it receives is the same as if the world were moving.
Brain areas that control precise movement such as the cerebellum are
hypothesized to use corollary discharge information to compute rapid motor
command sequences. Very little is known about how these corollary discharge
pathways are organized and process information in mammals. Person’s current
focus is mapping the organization of a specific corollary discharge pathway
into the cerebellum and, using physiological techniques, determining its
functional role in modifying sensory processing.
This kind of internal monitoring of action is thought to be important in
generating precise movements, which is the focus of Person’s research. It is
also likely important in understanding various mental illnesses, such as
schizophrenia, where there is a breakdown in the ability to differentiate
self-generated events from external stimuli to the point that one senses that
external forces are controlling one’s thoughts and actions. Her studies will
test directly the role of corollary discharge in generating precise movements
and its role in sensory processing that may underlie certain types of
The Sloan Research Fellowships are awarded in eight scientific fields –
chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and
computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. The
2013 Sloan Research Fellows are drawn from 61 colleges and universities across
the United States and Canada.
On May 1st 2012 Professor Kurt Beam of the Department of Physiology and
Biophysics was elected by the National Academy of Sciences to join its
membership of Fellows. This is a singular honor reserved for the most
accomplished and influential living scientists in the United States, and Kurt
joins only David Talmage and Charles Dinarello as UCD-AMC members of the
Kurt’s selection to the Academy recognizes his many important contributions
to the understanding of skeletal muscle physiology. In particular, Kurt has
intensively studied excitation-contraction coupling, the process in which
electrical signals in skeletal muscle induced by the nervous system initiates
muscle fiber contraction. Thus Kurt’s work has shown that a complex of muscle
proteins work in concert to transduce voltage changes in the muscle cell
membrane to a fast release of stored calcium necessary for contraction. From a
historical point of view, Kurt’s work is especially noteworthy as one of the
first examples of the now common multidisciplinary use of recombinant DNA
mutagenesis, exogenous expression, and biophysical methods to analyze the
function of macromolecular complexes. For more details, see Kurt’s webpage on
The Synaptic Transmission Symposium was held on July 20th to honor the scientific contributions of Bill Betz, PhD. On July 21st a BBQ to celebrate his retirement after 43 years of service was held at his cabin in the Gore Range outside of Silverthorne Colorado.3