Looking ahead to 2016

A message from Director Ehud Isacoff


Ehud IsacoffThe past year and a half has seen substantial advances for the Berkeley BRAIN Initiative. We recruited an amazing trio of junior faculty: Stephan Lammel, who has hit the ground running in MCB studying how midbrain dopamine circuits change in addiction and neuropsychiatric disorders; Michael Yartsev, who joined BioE and BNNI over the summer and is already in flight, expanding from spatial navigation to acoustic communication; and Steve Brohawn, who will arrive in MCB in January to work on the structure and physiology of mechanosensitive channels. Several additional offers are in the pipeline and we hope to have further good news before the end of 2015.


Strengthening our community have been the addition of five members to HWNI: Andrew Dillin in MCB, who co-heads the joint UCB-UCSF Glenn Center for Aging Research, Evan Miller in Chemistry and MCB, who is creating ever more amazing optical voltage reporters, Ke Xu in Chemistry, who is using super-resolution microscopy to study the cell biology of neurons, Kaoru Saijo in MCB, who studies the role of microglia in brain homoeostasis and sex dimorphism in neurological diseases, and Corey Goodman, who initially created HWNI, went off to found biotech companies and run research at Pfizer and who returns as an adjunct faculty member to provide guidance and a link to industry.


We honor the retirements of Mu-ming Poo, who contributed so much to the understanding of synaptic plasticity and who is devoting himself to China’s Brain Initiative, Art Shimamura, pioneer of the study of memory and the psychology of art, and Bob Zucker, whose work on synaptic mechanisms and short-term plasticity was foundational. We are happy that all three are staying on as emeritus professors. We’d like to congratulate Shaowen Bao on transitioning from an adjunct position at Berkeley to a tenure track professorship at University of Arizona.


Our community has done well in obtaining grants from the federal BRAIN Initiative (NIH, NSF and DARPA) and Cal-BRAIN, and we continued into year two of funding of high-risk/high-gain neurotechnology development projects in the BRAINseed awards of our Tri-Institutional Partnership with LBNL and UCSF. We initiated our first public-private partnership the Zeiss Berkeley Brain Microscopy Innovation Center (BrainMIC), which contains some of the best commercial microscopes for fast, deep imaging and optical manipulation, and which will launch its first winter course in novel brain microscopy January 10-15.


In the coming year we will be starting a fundraising campaign with the aim of creating new kinds of research capabilities, as well as increasing support for students and postdocs. We are very fortunate to have recruited to lead this effort our new development officer Leti Light, who begins in December.



A message from Executive Director Barbara Peterson


Peterson3Stepping into the position of Executive Director of HWNI last January was something I never envisioned when I came to Berkeley as an eager young graduate student many years ago.  At that time, one of our premier neuroscientists and the co-founder of HWNI, Corey Goodman, had just arrived at UC Berkeley and was likely just beginning to nurture the possibility of an institute. Many of the faces of neuroscience at Berkeley have changed since then, and those remaining have aged, a bit, but I feel extraordinarily lucky to have joined this remarkable, campus-wide, multidisciplinary, and collaborative research community.


We are happy to let you know that we have succeeded in hiring our top candidate for the Neuroscience/Berkeley BRAIN Initiative Development position: Leti Light.  Leti was the hands-down favorite of both UREL as well as HWNI faculty and staff, and head and shoulders above the rest of the applicants.  She has a strong fundraising resume and an excellent working understanding of neuroscience. She understands how to approach diverse target groups with the different strengths of Berkeley research and to connect potential donors to our most promising and urgent plans for growth. I want to thank all of you who participated in this process and look forward to introducing her to the neuroscience community after her December 1st start date.


Georgeann Sack is joining me in launching several new HWNI communications initiatives. She is happy to continue supporting the Berkeley neuroscience community in this capacity for which she is ideally suited. One of our major goals is to better deliver relevant news about our latest achievements. To this end, we are improving the HWNI website and preparing to better utilize social media, as well as increasing efforts to stay in touch with our alumni, former postdocs, and industry partners. With these networks in place, we will begin to drive the news, rather than recirculating content. A particular goal is to get the word out about the excellent basic research happening at HWNI that is less likely to be covered by a traditional press release. Your involvement is critical to these efforts.  Please continue to email us information about upcoming publications, awards, special events and other news related to neuroscience at UC Berkeley.


We welcome your thoughts and ideas.


Barbara Peterson, PhD
HWNI Executive Director


Georgeann Sack, PhD
HWNI Communications Specialist