Genetics tells us that abnormal synaptic and nuclear proteins are often at the root of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Autism, a prominent and often debilitating disorder of the brain, has been traced to small contributions of hundreds of genes, creating a formidable challenge for those interested in exploring pathophysiology and possible therapeutic interventions.
Richard W. Tsien, DPhil, is Director of the Neuroscience Institute, Druckenmiller Professor of Neuroscience, and Chair of the Physiology and Neuroscience Department at the NYU School of Medicine. Prior to joining NYU in August 2011, Dr. Tsien served as the George D. Smith Professor of Molecular Genetic Medicine at Stanford University. While there, Dr. Tsien founded and served as the inaugural chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology. After a six-year term as chair, in 1994 he co-led a successful Stanford-wide movement to establish an institute for neuroscience, the Stanford Brain Research Center, which he co-directed from 2000 through 2005. He served a 10-year term as the director and principal investigator at Stanford’s Silvio Conte Center for Neuroscience Research. As a scientist, Dr. Tsien is a world leader in the study of calcium channels and their signaling targets, particularly at pre- and postsynaptic sites. He studies how synapses contribute to neuronal computations and network function in both healthy and diseased brains. His research, generously supported by the NIH and private foundations, has contributed substantially to understanding how neurotransmitters, drugs and molecular alterations regulate calcium channels and has implications for diverse clinical areas such as pain and autism. His research has been published in over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, and he has served on editorial boards for numerous journals. He has also served as section chair for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Neuroscience Section) and the National Academy of Sciences (Neurobiology Section) and has been a member of scientific advisory boards for several institutes, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Tsien received both an undergraduate and graduate degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a Rhodes Scholar, graduating with his doctorate in biophysics from Oxford University, England after which he joined the faculty at Yale University School of Medicine and served for nearly two decades. He is a member of both the Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Julius Axelrod Prize by the Society for Neuroscience in 2012.